Monday, May 18, 2015
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Callista Hunter
1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?
I didn’t decide to become a writer! A novel attacked me. I was sitting on a plane next to my husband, bored and without a good book to read. I started wondering how authors think up the plots of their novels, and I started diagramming out some ideas. When the idea for Goddess occurred to me, I just wanted to read that book so badly, and there was no one to write it but me!
I wrote the first draft of the book in about six weeks. I have a full time job as a librarian, so I had to sneak in writing time in evenings and on weekends, and I just had an amazing time writing the book - it was SO much fun. I was new to writing fiction, so there was a pretty steep learning curve, but I had a lot of support from some great critique partners and they set me straight.
2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?
I have a habit of re-reading my favorite books again and again. When it comes to YA literature, I was really obsessed with Little Women, the Anne of Green Gables series and the Little House on the Prairie series. Which all have strong female protagonists, come to think of it. When it comes to fantasy, I read Anne McCaffrey and Harry Potter and of course nothing can ever top A Wrinkle in Time.
Today I try to be as diverse as possible in my reading while still making time to re-visit the classics that I love.
3. What was the inspiration behind your novel Goddess?
I had just finished reading Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique for a book club and I was still thinking about all the points she made. The “feminine mystique” is the idea, propagated by post-WWII advertising and media, that a woman’s highest calling is in the home. This is not a new idea, of course - it has been around for thousands of years. I started thinking about the Vestal Virgins, a religious order in ancient Rome where virgin priestesses guarded the flame of Vesta, the “hearth of the nation.” It occurred to me that worshipping Vesta was really the Roman version of the feminine mystique, with the added yucky idea that virgins are somehow more pure and valuable than other women (which seems to be a really pernicious belief that lots of people still have today).
I really liked the idea of a main character who has to confront and undermine those ideas on a journey to assume her full identity. And then I realized what the ending to the book would be, and I decided I just had to write it. I started it as a project for fun, and it turned into a real live (electronic) book!
4. Will we ever see these characters or the theme of Roman goddesses/gods again in the future?
Yes, I think you will! At first, I thought there wasn’t a chance that I could ever write a sequel. But I’m giving it a try and I have some enthusiastic cheerleaders who are really egging me on!
I’ve actually just set up a Wattpad account and I’m thinking about writing the sequel in installments, so you can follow me on Wattpad (username @CallistaHunter) if you want to know what happens next.
5. What do you want teens to take from Olivia's story, her rising to power and questioning what she's always been told was right?
I hope that the book isn’t too heavy-handed in terms of message. Primarily, I want people to be entertained when they read it! But I hope I have managed to weave some positive things into the background of the story. I think the book is very sex-positive - even though Olivia is told time and time again that her worth is tied to being a virgin, she refuses to stay in that belief system once she realizes it’s all a lie meant to manipulate her. And I know that the title “Goddess” is actually a terrible name for an indie book: it’s far too generic for marketing purposes! But I chose it because the whole theme of goddesses is really important in the novel. It’s about women discovering their own abilities in a world that really does not want them to. (You see, the goddess is a metaphor…)
6. Were any of the characters personalities or emotions taken from real life (aside from mythology)?
Someone once told me that every first novel is an autobiography. I think there’s a lot of truth to that. I hated to admit it at first, but I’ve given it some thought and I think all five of my main characters, Olivia, Marta, Lucia, Cassius, and Gaius, are all pretty much just (very) diverse aspects of my own personality. Olivia is the “good girl,” Marta is the pessimistic perfectionist, Lucia is the shopping-obsessed playful one, Cassius is the librarian and educator, and Gaius is the anxious worrier.
Sometimes I cringe to think about my friends and family reading the book, and wonder if they’ll read something and go “oh, that’s so Callista.”
I’m also short and have a terrible memory, so I share a lot of Olivia’s frustrations in that regard!
7. What other genres would you like to try your hand at?
I would love to write stories about a female detective, a la Janet Evanovich. I would want to do something light and fun with a lot of humor.
8. Would you ever want to have powers like Olivia? If you did, what would you do with them?
Well, my garden always needs a little help.
9. Why make this YA?
I love YA. I love the voice commonly used in YA novels, which is very accessible and doesn’t make you work too hard. It doesn’t get between you and the story; it’s pure enjoyment. I’ve gotten so much happiness from good YA literature and I just gravitate toward it. Also, maybe it’s because teens are at a time in their life where they’re ready to grow as people. An author can put emotional challenges in front of them that we’ve all been through and can all relate to.
10. Would you like to see Goddess as a film? If yes, who do you want to see play your characters?
Yes I would love it so much. At one point I did Google around and pick actors out for the roles. I’m including links to their image search pages so you can get an idea of what they look like (some of them are more unknown than others).
Olivia - Shailene Woodley (with long hair!)
Gaius - Drew Roy
Marta - Aubrey Plaza or Alia Shawkat
Lucia - Ashley Benson
Cassius - a younger, shorter Bradley Cooper
11. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
I would love to see myself with a long list of novels to my name. If they’re successful, great. If not, I just want to know that I’m still writing (and having fun with it).
12. What would you be doing if you weren't writing?
I am a full-time librarian, and I also love gardening and traveling. I would be doing some mixture of those things!
13. Can you tell KSR what you're working on next?
I am currently working on the sequel to Goddess. I’m also hoping to keep my blog updated on my research into the ancient world, and on my journey as I write the second book. I’m planning a tour of Greece to see some ancient sites, and want to blog about my dream itinerary and create Pinterest boards about the destinations. I just got my domain at www.callistahunter.com, and I really don’t want to be a boring blogger!
14. What authors, dead or alive, would you like to collaborate with?
I would like to collaborate with a brilliant author I know named Meghan Stigge who is as yet unpublished but working on her first book. Keep an eye out for her. She tweets at @StiggeMe.
15. Thank you for participating in the interview. Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
In addition to loving YA, I am a huge Jane Austen fan. I studied Latin in high school… but Chinese in college. And I belong to a bluebird society with a project to monitor bluebird boxes in my neighborhood this spring.
Find Ms. Hunter online via: