Sunday, July 27, 2014

Author Spot Light: Maria Rachel Hooley

   I have been hoping to interview one of my favorite authors-turned-friend for some time now; but it was not until recently that I was afforded the opportunity.  I had mentioned my idea about this interview to Maria Rachel Hooley a couple of weeks back and she was enthusiastic to let me pick her brain.

     For days I have poured over the questions that I should ask, to the point of anxiety. Finally, armed with a set of questions that I thought eager minds would be thrilled to learn; I hit enter and sent those questions spinning through the internet via Facebook chat.

         Let’s take a trip down memory lane for just a moment, shall we? About a year ago, I came across Maria Rachel Hooley’s Facebook fan page after reading four books in her Sojourner series.
     I gained a strong appreciation for the depth of her writing, how easily it flowed, and the characters she created. The emotions that she was able to convey created such an intense feeling of emotions for me that I felt almost as I was in the story. When an author is able to impact you in that way, you want to read more of their work; to say in the least.

     I left Mrs. Hooley a message on her Facebook fan page wall, regarding the series, and within minutes she had responded to me! I was elated and from that moment our friendship began to blossom.

         I value Mrs. Hooley’s opinion and criticism tremendously and I have gone to her for advice regarding my own creative writing. When the opportunity came to light in which I could really pick her brain while introducing others to her and her incredible talent, I jumped at the chance.
         Now spring forward to the night that I nervously sent my questions out into cyber space. Eagerly I awaited Mrs. Hooley’s response as I wondered if my questions would elicit the answers that I hoped for.

      A small beep from my phone alerted me to a message on my personal Facebook account and with shaking hands I opened the message to find that Mrs. Hooley had responded.
The conversation that follows is the transcript of our interview.

KIM: How long have you been writing?

MRS. HOOLEY: Probably close to thirty years.

KIM:  What/who inspires you?

MRS. HOOLEY: I guess there are two ways to answer this one. The people who inspire me in my day-to-day life are those who try to make a difference because that’s what I’m hoping my life amounts to even on a small scale. Some of those people are Harry Chapin, Kurt Klein and Gerda Wiessman Klein, among others. There are so many, and I have a Pinterest board devoted for that in hopes to inspire other people. As far as my writing goes, I draw inspiration from books I read, such as The Hate List by Jennifer Brown, or movies like The Host or music like VAST. Again there is so much great stuff out there.

KIM: What genre do you prefer to write and does it differ from what you prefer to read?

MRS. HOOLEY: First off, I read almost everything. That said, I know there are genres that I read that I won’t write well so I don’t even try that. My favorite genre to read is young adult. Love it! It is also my favorite genre to write, and most of the people who beta or edit for me tell me it is actually the genre that I write best.

KIM: How difficult was it for you to hand over your first book to another person for critique?

MRS. HOOLEY: Because I wrote so many novels before I ever had one critiqued, it wasn’t all that hard. I was probably working on novel six or seven. I think that all the writing before-hand made that transition to the next step so much easier. The first time your work became published, what emotions did you experience? Well, I’d probably call it elated panic. First I thought: YES! It is FINISHED! Then I thought Oh My. What have I done???

KIM: How do you deal with negative criticism from your audience?

MRS. HOOLEY:  I try not to read reviews very much because even if you get ten great reviews and two bad ones, I think the bad ones are those that you take to heart. Not everyone will like what you write and not everyone will be eloquent or polite about that dislike, but I don’t have to let those comments poison what I do. My favorite quote by Eleanor Roosevelt sums it up nicely: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I try to take what I can that will help me grow as a write and let go of the rest. I think that’s all any of us can do with any type of negativity.
KIM: What is the most rewarding part of your career as an author?

MRS. HOOLEY: When someone tells me a novel matters to them because it made a difference in something they had to deal with, that’s the best thing anyone can say to an author. I’ve been fortunate to have people tell me that about October Breezes.

KIM: I have read October Breezes and I can say that I am one of those people in which you made a difference. This is something we have spoken about before and I truly mean it when I say thank you for writing such an inspirational story.

MRS. HOOLEY:  Kim, that is why I write. There isn’t a higher compliment you can give me, and I am honored.

KIM: Tell me about your top 3 favorite books; why are they your favorite? (Books you’ve written that is.)

MRS. HOOLEY: Books that I have written. October Breezes will probably always be my favorite because of Devin. He’s a character I really love. Summer Sunsets is my second again because of Devin. Probably my third favorite book is Second Sight because that’s the book in the series when I really had to figure out who Lizzie and Lev were both as a couple and as individuals.

KIM: Who do you write for? (Ie: Family, friends, fans, yourself?)

MRS. HOOLEY: Typically when I start a novel, it’s because an idea has intrigued me. A lot of people pick the kinds of stories they want to tell by genre. I don’t. I let the story pick me. Sometimes, it’s not always easy because it’s outside of my comfort zone, but because I’m picking that project based on the story, I think it’s really for me on the first draft. I want to know what is going to happen and I want to be a part of that journey. That said, this summer I will probably be embarking on a middle grade book, something I never, ever planned to write, but my younger daughter wants me to write a book for her, so we will see that how that goes!

KIM: Give me 5 fun facts about yourself.

MRS. HOOLEY: Fun facts? Mmmm. 1. Strange as it sounds I like photographing statues and cemeteries are usually my favorite places for that. 2. I never used to pick out celebrities to use as models for my characters, but I always had ideas for them. I never could find someone I thought fit Devin in October Breezes. As he is my favorite character, that was a tough one. Then, one day, I was sitting there watching Supernatural, and I realized I had just found Devin—Jared Padalecki. It was the strangest feeling. It had never happened to me before and it hasn’t happened since. 3. My favorite store is Staples, followed closely by Office Depot. I think it comes from the whole writing thing. I tend to shun shopping as much as I can unless I’m in one of those two stores. 4. At one point when I was younger, I thought about being a Christian rock singer. Unfortunately, I don’t like getting up in front of people, so you can tell how long THAT lasted. 5. I used to sew a lot. I’ve actually made Renaissance costumes for both myself and my husband.

KIM: Tell me about your “day job” as a teacher.

MRS. HOOLEY: Day Job. Teacher. Well, I spend the day with high school students as an English teacher. We have about forty kids in an alternative type of suspension school. Most days are never boring and never go the way I think they are going to go. Because we have a lot of kids coming and going, it can be pretty challenging. Still, I enjoy working with teenagers. They tend to make me laugh a lot.

KIM: Lastly, what are your top five books by other authors?

MRS. HOOLEY: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt Ariel—Steven Boyett Thirteen Reasons Why—Jay Asher To Kill a Mockingbird—Harper Lee.
In a follow up the next morning, I sent Mrs. Hooley a quick message.

KIM: I have to thank you for taking the time last night to answer my questions. I appreciate it tremendously.

MRS. HOOLEY: I’m really glad, Kim.

As I read through the transcript of my interview with Mrs. Hooley, I realized just how much her passion shines through her work and just simple conversation with her. She writes because she loves it; plain and simple.

There is no hidden agenda and she doesn’t aspire to make millions. She writes for the love of writing and storytelling. I think that passion is what makes her stories so enjoyable for her fans.
She writes what she loves and she doesn’t allow negativity to take that love from her.

I would like to thank Mrs. Hooley for being one of my personal writing inspirations and for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer all of my questions. Not only is she an author who has written and published a plethora of books, but she's a mother and a teacher. Her schedule is typically quite hectic yet she constantly finds the time to be a friend and writing mentor to me. She also responds to her fans and is very active on her social media sites. She's such a down to Earth person and someone that I am glad to consider a friend.

To find out more about Maria Rachel Hooley and her work be sure to follow the links below to follow Mrs. Hooley on her social media sites, check out her personal website and pinterest for a look at her work and also some insight into what inspires her! Above all be certain to check out the many books she has, you won't be disappointed! (I've read many of her books and two of my favorite series are The Sojourner and Dreamwalker series. ) 

Maria Rachel Hooley's Facebook 

Maria Rachel Hooley's Twitter

Maria Rachel Hooley's Website

Maria Rachel Hooley's Pinterest Page

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