Rummanah Aasi
   I mentioned yesterday that I was working on a couple of surprises for the blog. Here is the first surprise: an author interview with Joelle Anthony, who wrote Restoring Harmony. You can read my review of Restoring Harmony here. Joelle is currently in the middle of editing her sophomore novel and graciously allowed me to interview her at this very busy time. Please welcome Joelle to my blog.

Rummanah: Joelle, welcome and thank you so much for stopping by. Restoring Harmony is your debut novel. What inspired you to write your novel?

Joelle: Lots of things inspired it – the end of oil, my personal interest in sustainability & self sufficiency, music, and the island I live on. It all just came together for me.

Rummanah: You're book is marketed as a dystopian novel, but it's much more hopeful than a typical novel of that genre. How would you describe your book?

Joelle: I like to think of it as a family story about courage and hope. The futuristic setting, after economic collapse, was always suppose to be just that...the setting, not what the story is suppose to be about.

Rummanah: Speaking of the setting, Molly's world is very dark considering there is no oil left in the world, food is scare, and crime is rampant, but the characters are optimistic and struggle to survive. As a writer, how do you balance the light and dark aspects of your novel?

Joelle: I am generally a very upbeat, happy, and optimistic person, so my problem has always been creating enough hardships for my characters, making things darker than I’m naturally inclined to do. A lot of people don’t see this book as very dark, which is fine with me

Rummanah: Music is a very important theme in Molly's life. Why did you choose the fiddle as Molly's instrument and folk music for her to play?

Joelle: A fiddle is portable, which was one of the big deciding factors. Also, while my husband plays pretty much every stringed instrument except the fiddle, we do listen to a lot of it here at home. He plays fiddle tunes on his guitar and mandolin, and we are big fans of old-time string music. It seemed like a natural choice.

Rummanah: There is lots of debate about what makes a strong character, especially a strong heroine in young adult novels. How would you define a strong heroine?

Joelle: Someone who rises to meet challenges and comes up with the solution at the end and is not rescued by someone else or some outside force. It doesn’t mean she can’t get help, but in the end, it has to be the heroine who saves the day (or herself, or the world, or whatever needs saving).

Rummanah: I would say that Molly fits those characteristics perfectly. What was your writing and revision process like?

Joelle: Writing new stuff is slow for me. It’s definitely the hardest part. I like to revise though. Revising is just a matter of breaking it into chunks and working through them and then going back and trying to see if everything is all linked together and has a good pace. Sounds simple, right? Haha! It’s terribly simple and terribly hard at the same time. Mostly, it’s just about staying after it.

Rummanah: Did you always want to be a writer and write for young adults? If so, why?

Joelle: I actually used to be an actress, but I’ve always written. Back then, I wrote sketch comedy and acted in it. When I did decide to write books though, it was always YA that interested me. Honestly, it’s my favourite genre to read, so it seemed like a natural choice.

Rummanah: Mine too. :) Are there any writers that inspire you?

Joelle: Any writer who’s actually written a book, published or unpublished, inspires me. When you work in this business, you know so many writers that you tend to forget it’s not really a normal, everyday thing to write a book, but it’s not. Everyone wants to write a book, but few actually do it. Those who do it are an inspiration. Also, the kids I teach writing to inspire me with their stories and their ability to really show interesting details in their writing.

Rummanah: I'm always looking for next great read, what is your favorite book that you've read so far this year?

Joelle: I really liked Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu and I loved all the Spellman Files books – they’re HILARIOUS. Those are books I wish I’d written. So much fun. It’s kind of hard for me to remember what I’ve read this year because for the first time ever, I’m just reading and not keeping note cards or lists of the books I read, or blogging about them. I just got tired of the paperwork. I wanted to read like when I was a kid…for fun. It’s been really liberating, at least until I have to answer a question like this!

Rummanah: Tell me about it. I'm doing a reading challenge and it's hard to distinguish all the books I've read this year. I just have to know whether or not you're a vegetarian. I can't tell you how many times I got hungry while reading your book. And if you are, can you please share a recipe with us?

Joelle: I am a vegetarian and I love to cook. I’m pretty “well-known in these parts” for my soups, so how about I share one of the most simple and delicious recipes I know for soup. I make up most of my recipes, but this one comes from Julia Child (for the most part).

4 Cups red or white potatoes, roughly chopped (you’re going to puree them, so they don’t have to be small)
3-4 Cups of leeks, sliced, and rinsed well
7-8 Cups of water
1.5 tsp salt (you’ll probably need more at the end)

Throw everything into the pot, bring it to a boil, turn it down to simmer. Cook for around 30 minutes until everything is soft, blend with a hand blender or do in small batches in the a blender (large batches will blow the top off!). Season with salt and pepper. Yum. You could add some cream or half & half at the end, but I don’t usually bother.

Rummanah: That sounds delicious! You mentioned earlier that you were an actress. Do you have a favorite movie, actor, or actress?

Joelle: I have to admit that I’ve only seen about three movies in the last three years and two of them were the Harry Potter movies (which were huge disappointments, if you ask me) and one was Shrek 3 with my niece. I used to go to the movies all the time, but now I live on an island it requires a ferry trip and my car to get to the theatre. I can’t be bothered! Before, though, my favourites were always Dame Judi Dench, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Emma Thompson, and Hugh Laurie.

Rummanah: Before you go, can you tell us a little about the next book you're working on?

Joelle: My second novel is called The Right & The Real. It’s about a girl whose father gets mixed up in a cult and when she won’t join, he throws her out onto the street. Like Restoring Harmony, it’s a bit of an adventure, and there might just be a bit of romance, but it’s mostly about family. It should come out in 2012, but I don’t have a firm release date yet.

Rummanah: Sounds interesting. I'll be sure to check it out! Joelle, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us.

Joelle: Thank you so much for having me.

To learn more about Joelle, please visit her website.
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