Tuesday, February 19, 2013

10 Questions with Emmy Award-winning YA writer Jeffrey Blount (@JEBlount)


This Author Spotlight features Jeffrey Blount, author of the young adult novel HATING HEIDI FOSTER.



Jeffrey is an Emmy award-winning television director and an award recipient for scriptwriting on multiple documentary projects. Born and raised in rural Virginia, he now lives in Washington, DC with his wife, Jeanne Meserve. They have two children, Julia and Jake.

1. How did you get into writing?
Everything started in a high school English class. I had always loved a really good story. From Savage Sam, the first novel I read, to Black Boy, the first non-fiction story to truly touch me. I'd often dreamed about being able to create stories like the ones I read, but I never even considered really doing it. How or why would I have that ability? In that English class, we were given the task of writing a descriptive paragraph. I chose to write about a homeless man and to this day, I don't really know why I made that choice. At any rate, I wrote it and at some point it was my turn to read my work to the class. When I finished, there was silence. My teacher smiled and nodded at me. I recognized that I had rendered my smart and cynical classmates speechless. That alone told me that I might have the ability to move people through the written word. That's how it all began.

2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?
I like the art of creating the story. I like the opportunity that I have through the story to speak to and about the human experience. The only thing I dislike about writing is that I can't do it full-time.

3. What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?
After the lightning bolt strikes and the light bulb comes on, leaving me with my next idea, I just carry the story. I think and think and think. In due time, I have a story and then a plot line. I don't do a detailed outline. I do write a synopsis of each chapter, hitting the major points and events all the way to the story's conclusion. Then I begin writing. I don't have a daily word count and I don't write every day. Putting family first and being in the news business doesn't leave time for eight hours of writing a day. At least physically. I do carry the story with me at all times. Whenever I have free time, I allow myself to let the story grow. So throughout the day, the characters are growing and I'm taking notes in my head and on my smartphone. When I sit down to write, I always read the writing from the previous sitting to help me carry the voice and tone forward. Many times I will use music to help me get to where I need to be emotionally. For Hating Heidi Foster, I used the soundtrack from the movie "Road to Perdition."

4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?"
John Irving, James Baldwin, Alice Hoffman, Toni Morrison, Pat Conroy, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Larry McMurtry, Lori Lansens, Steve Piacente and Christine Nolfi.

5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
Outside, but hey, isn’t this why we have editors?

6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
While its use is still debated by writers and teachers, it seems to me that modern American writing excludes it more and more. I no longer use it.

7. What is your book HATING HEIDI FOSTER about and how did it come to fruition?
Hating Heidi Foster is about the depth of the human connection and how important it is in our lives. And about how we take it for granted until that connection is tested. This story is about two girls, two best friends – Mae McBride and Heidi Foster. Mae’s father dies while saving Heidi from a house fire. Mae blames Heidi and to a lesser extent, her father. She is disabled by her grief and her hatred. Heidi is beset by guilt and depression. The girls are driven apart by the emotional strain caused by the death of Mae’s dad. What could possibly bring these two girls back together? I was motivated to write the book by a brief moment in time. Seeing my daughter, Julia and her best friend Emily, share a short inside joke, ending in the knowing and special laughter of long-time companions. I recognized how special the relationship had been over the years and set out to create a story that would remind them of the importance of their friendship.

8. What’s your current writing project?
I am only beginning to think about the next project. There are ideas percolating, but I’m putting all my energy into Hating Heidi Foster right now.

9. What book(s) are you currently reading?
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.

10. Who or what inspires your writing?
I just love to write. I don’t really need much inspiration. But I guess I would say that life experiences inspire me to create stories around them.

Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.
People can check me out at www.jeffreyblount.com to see additional reviews, etc.

Hating Heidi Foster is available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and at a bookstore near you!

Thank you, Jeffrey. Congratulations on the novel, and keep writing!

Be sure to visit Jeffrey's website (www.JeffreyBlount.com) and grab a copy of his powerful novel.

And follow him on Twitter: @JEBlount

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