She's a poet and a novelist, and she's bursting with personality. Dubbed "The Hate-Mongering Tart", she runs a website of the same name (you'll have to check it out to see if she's really hate-mongering or not). She has an amazing connection with the young adult audience, and it is a pleasure to know her. Everyone... meet Emily Kristin Anderson!
Cayla: Welcome Emily! You write under the pen name E. Kristin Anderson, and on your website dare readers to Google your given name, Emily Morse. Naturally I did. Would you mind telling us the story of when you discovered you share a name with the host of “Sex with Emily”?
EKA: Well, to be completely honest, I started toying with the idea of using a pen name a little before I learned about Sex With Emily. I mean, for one, I had a friend in college whose last name was Morse, and his sister’s first name was Emily. So it was like 2 degrees of separation from someone with my name who wasn’t me. I started Googling and found out that there was a screenwriter named Emily Morse. And it wasn’t long before that screenwriter rose to prominence as the top-googled Emily Morse…and it turned out that she was the Sex With Emily lady. Le sigh. I really wanted to not be confused with someone else who was famous for something that was really different from what I do. And when I started writing for young readers (I started using Anderson when I was only writing poetry for adults) I was really glad that I’d chosen a pen name. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with talking about sex, but it’s not necessarily what teachers and librarians and parents want their teens to find when they Google you for a book report.
Cayla: Your poetry has been published quite extensively – congratulations! When did you start writing poetry, and why?
EKA: I have been writing poetry since I can remember. I actually wrote a lot of song lyrics when I was in high school, nursing delusions of grandeur that I would one day win a Grammy for songs I wrote with Foo Fighters and Hanson. I was totally going to tour with them, too, in my band called the Cinnamin Twists (cinnamon is intentionally spelled wrong there, it’s how you made a good band name in the 90s). In college though, I went back to straight up poetry, taking classes, writing drivel that I thought was just, like, totally amazing. Then I graduated, met some real poets, figured out I was crap, and started over. I think poetry is just this amazing art – it’s a lot like sculpture, but using words as clay. To me, writing a novel is more like painting a mural, but poetry is more like taking a block of wood or a hunk of clay and pulling away everything you don’t need until you have what’s left and what makes it beautiful and important.
Cayla: You also write novels, primarily for the young adult market. What makes you passionate about writing for teens?
EKA: I’d been trying to write short stories for ages, and I’d always wanted to write a novel. I tried NaNoWriMo for the first time when I was 20, a sophomore in college, and having an existential crisis somewhere along the lines of “my friends are mean girls and I think I have social anxiety and I don’t know what to major in and holy crap I’m not going to be a rock star.” So I wrote about that. I didn’t get very far and went back to poems. I attempted some horror stories (mostly based on Buffy) in high school and tried to go back to them for fodder a few times, but could never get it right. I tried to write edgy stuff about like sex in pick up trucks, and that didn’t work out because I’d never had sex in a pick up truck, or, like done anything remotely edgy ever. So I put novels aside for a while. Then I started reading YA. Like, really reading it. And it was like a lightbulb went off. My horror stories, my edgy fiction – it was missing the honesty of YA. The voice of my fifteen year old self was all like HEAR ME OUT, WOMAN! And I listened. And now I write these books for my teen self, and for the other teen selves, and it’s awesome.
Cayla: Tell us a little about the books you have completed. Was there one that was particularly special to write?
EKA: The first book I wrote is called MYSELF BEHIND MYSELF, and it’s a novel about a girl struggling to get over her ex boyfriend, who was in the military, while writing a History paper on him in order to “stick it to the man,” or rather, her evil History teacher. This book was really special for me to write, because I set it at my own high school (a fictionalized version), and I gave Jody, my protagonist, a lot of the same small-town, art-freak hang ups that I did. While Jody and her cohorts are not me and my friends, she was a great outlet to me. It will always have a place in my heart, even if it does end up a trunk book.
I just finished revisions on my second novel, 1999, which I like to call my Y2Kpocalypse novel, but which my critique group has recently dubbed “The Breakfast Clubpocalypse,” which I consider an amazing compliment. It’s the story of Y2K actually happening in all its techonological disaster, taking place in a record store on December 31, 1999, with a love triangle and a friendship crisis. I loved writing this, it’s so fast-paced and I got to drop all kinds of music references. It’s sort of my love letter to Nick Honby, to be honest. I like to pitch it as “High Fidelity meets The Day After Tomorrow, but with less ice.”
Up my sleeve I have first drafts of ME AND THE JERSEY DEVIL, a summer camp love story with mean girls, mental illness, cryptozoology, and alien abduction (maybe). And I recently finished a draft of VISITED THE SEA, a love story taking place on an island off the coast of Maine with a magical realism twist. You know, with, like, sea people. Looking forward to revising both of these.
Cayla: You’ve had some fascinating job experience, in all different areas of the workforce. Anything stand out in your memory as being especially strange, hilarious, poignant, or life-changing?
EKA: Gosh, I have had some weird jobs. The New Yorker obviously gave me a lot of insight into publishing and the magazine world, and I gained a lot of experience there when it comes to editing, writing, and especially layout and design, as I worked in the page makeup department. But I think the job most valuable to my career right now was as a bookseller, where I was the manager of the children’s section. I read and read and read and I got to know kidlit very intimately. So important for a writer to know her market, and to love it.
Cayla: You are a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Why do you recommend others join?
EKA: Because SCBWI is the best way to find a supportive community, to hook up with like minds and find critique partners and writing groups. It’s an invaluable resource. I can’t say enough how amazing SCBWI has been for me. And maybe the Austin group is just special (no – I KNOW the Austin group is special) – but guess what? There are lots of special groups nation- and worldwide. Find yours!
Cayla: Okay, it has to be asked: what inspired you to name your blog “The Hate-Mongering Tart”?
EKA: So in my online poetry group I was sort of the nice one who got picked on for being too nice and gave not that harsh critiques to new kids and all that jazz. So one afternoon, in our chat room, I gave a constructive critique to someone new to the group. She complained about me to an admin, not knowing that that admin was a personal friend of mine. He came on and lambasted me – I of course knew he was kidding, the entire group knew he was kidding, but the new kid took him completely seriously. The admin said, “yeah, ignore Emily. She’s a regular hate-mongering tart.” To anyone who’d been around a while, the message was clear: If you ignore critique, you’re not doing yourself any favors. But the monicker stuck. Here I am, mongering hate.
Cayla: As a reader, what is your favorite genre of books? Who are some of your favorite authors?
EKA: God, I’ll read anything. Seriously. I mostly read YA, but I also love girlie or quirky middle grade. I like literary adult novels, I love issues books and paranormal fantasies. I love anything weird or kind of off. I loved mixed media and verse novels. I love books that punch you in the face with crazy awesomeness. I love Judy Blume, Francesca Lia Block, Lauren Myracle, Laurie Halse Anderson, Douglas Coupland, Nick Hornby…I could list forever and ever.
Cayla: Do you have any advice for young adults wanting to make a career out of writing?
Write. Write every day. Write and put it away and look at it a while later and see if you can improve on it. And don’t write in secret. Show people. Scared people will laugh? Anyone who laughs at you for trying to make art isn’t worth your time. Show your friends, ask for feedback. Show your teachers, ask for feedback. Check out local writing groups at cafes or even at places like SCBWI. Go to author events and readings and ask questions – authors are really accessible these days! Join Twitter, interact with other writers in #kidlitchat and #yalitchat and #poetparty and #scribechat. Put yourself out there. Be shameless.
Cayla: Anything you’d like to add before we wrap things up?
EKA: I’d love to encourage people to visit my blog this month. April is National Poetry Month and I’m looking forward to the star-studded list of guest posts I’ll be hosting from poets, editors, verse novelists, and the like. There will also be tons of giveaways, so you might get lucky!
Thank you so much for being here, E. Kristin Anderson! Make sure you check her out at the following sites and follow her (I do - I LOVE reading her blog):
The Hate-Mongering Tart (Official Website)
Have an amazing Saturday, everyone!