In today’s hectic world, it seems almost impossible for one to sit down, collect his or her thoughts and write a novel from pure imagination. Even more rare is when that person puts everything they’ve got into their work and sees their story published to the very last page. But amazingly, Tamar Hela has done it. This twenty-something young lady has put her heart and soul into her novel Feast Island for the past three years and, finally, it has hit bookshelves across the country and online. But how did she do it? What made her pick up that pen (or open up her laptop) and begin writing? What were her inspirations? And who is the girl behind this fantastically new coming-of-age fantasy novel? Well, I had the chance to talk with Tamar and not only is she incredibly talented, but she’s fresh and fun to listen to.
You’ve been writing since the age of ten… At what point in your life did you realize that writing was the path you were going to follow in life, abandoning the idea of a stable career in another field?
Honestly, it’s still something I am realizing. I have a day job, among other projects and endeavors, and I’m so busy that I sometimes forget I’ve written a novel! I don’t think I would be happy in life by sticking to just one thing. However, I am working on some plans to get to the place where writing is the top priority in my life, as I take on other projects to give back to others. That’s really why I do what I do: I want to give back to others, to the community, while utilizing the gifts I’ve been given. Writing is one of those gifts and I hope that I can be an inspiration to others.
Life is as busy as ever nowadays. How did you find the time to sit down and write the first novel in your series?
This was especially hard for me, especially since I am involved with many things. I had to schedule writing into my planner like an appointment. I must admit, I couldn’t always stick with it, but I tried my best. Also, trying to stick to word count deadlines helped, as well as being pushed by a good friend. She continually asked for more and more material from my novel and that kept me on track the most.
What events in your life led you to Feast Island? What were your inspirations for writing such a novel?
I had a dream about Feast Island over three years ago. I have the craziest dreams, all the time. This one in particular would not go away, however. Since I could not get the images out of my head, I decided that it was time to check something off my bucket list: writing a fictional novel. And that’s just what I did.
Who were your biggest supporters for this first novel? How did they help you?
My biggest supporter was my friend and now manager, Jessica. She read the story from the very beginning and was the one who continually prompted me to finish. And here I sit, answering interview questions, all because of her support to get me to this point. The book would not have been finished without her.
As you began to write Feast Island, what were your fears?
My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t finish! I tend to take on too many projects and sometimes end up leaving a few hanging here and there, unfinished. Another fear, which is something I think most writers can relate to, is whether I would have an audience. Just because YOU think your writing is good, or at least decent, doesn’t mean that someone else will. Once I began to receive positive feedback, however, those fears were assuaged.
What challenges and obstacles did you face as you wrote your novel? What was surprisingly easy for you?
Writer’s block was a HUGE setback. That’s why it took me almost three years to finish the novel. Mostly, it was the dialogue portions that were the most challenging. The easiest thing was putting the overall storyline and the rest of the series together. Outlining is my best friend when it comes to building a story and new worlds.
What was your writing routine like? Did you listen to certain types of music? Drink certain beverages? Write in certain locations?
I would try to write on the weekends at local coffee shops and in the evening, when everyone in my house was asleep. As for music, one of my favorite bands to listen to while writing is Radiohead. The droning sounds actually help me concentrate. I also have a playlist for Feast Island as well. The song list in my iTunes library is one that evokes emotion with many developments or actions in the novel. Each song helped me visualize a character or scene in the story. And my favorite beverage to drink while writing was a soy white mocha!
What has your writing experience been like so far?
It has been amazing and has far outweighed anything I’ve imagined. It is still surreal to sign books for people. I recently had a signing at a local Barnes & Noble and that was a huge deal! The people my team and I have connected with have been mostly warm and friendly and so inviting. I look forward to continue to build these relationships, especially in my community, and grow my business of writing.
In a Tweet-sized summary, tell me what Feast Island is about!
Feast Island is to where seven teenagers are magically transported on the planet Cantelia. If they want to go home, they must break a curse.
What is the most important lesson readers can take away from Feast Island, and what will surprise them?
One of the most important lessons is that it doesn’t matter how insignificant you think you are; you can make a difference if you are willing to take a leap of faith. What may surprise readers are the gory and gruesome scenes.
Just for fun, I want to know your five favourites: author, musician/musical group, city, historical moment, animal — and why.
Author: C.S. Lewis because his writing is so diverse and intriguing. I am still in love with the Narnia series to this day and used it as part of my teaching curriculum over the past three years.
Musical Group: Keane because I love their sound and style.
City: Alicante, Spain because I lived there for a little bit in the summer of 2008 while studying abroad. I fell in love with the culture and people there.
Historical moment: When America was recovering from the 9/11 attacks. In a time where great tragedy occurred, my country stood firm and really became a community again. It’s sad that we don’t always keep that spirit of camaraderie, however.
Animal: A bear. I’ve just always thought they were cute since my childhood.
How would it feel knowing that your hard work, your passion and your time has finally resulted in something that you only dreamed about: a novel? What if, before your eyes, you felt the excitement of your future fans and saw your words being bound within covers and printed online?
All those feelings and more are exactly what Monica Leonelle’s heart and mind overflows with, and she stopped by at A Novel Place to share her thoughts, feelings, challenges and favourites — and to preview her first trilogy Socialpunk. In the first novel in the trilogy, social media and technology take a whole new turn when lives become trapped in a virtual reality.
About the Book: Socialpunk
Ima would give anything to escape The Dome and learn what’s beyond its barriers, but the Chicago government has kept all its citizens on lockdown ever since the Scorched Years left most of the world a desert wasteland. When a mysterious group of hooded figures enters the city unexpectedly, Ima uncovers a plot to destroy The Dome and is given the choice between escaping to a new, dangerous city or staying behind and fighting a battle she can never win.
About the Author: Monica Leonelle
Monica Leonelle is a well-known digital media strategist and the author of three novels. She blogs at Prose on Fire and shares her writing and social media knowledge with other bloggers and authors through her Free Writer Toolkit.
10 Not-Always-Serious Questions For This Seriously Talented Author:
I was inspired by the city of Chicago, by social media issues in our current world, and by the cyberpunk genre. The book is a bit like the Terminator series and I reference that a couple times just for fun. James Cameron is basically my favorite director ever, and he really inspires me with his world-building and storytelling skills.