Today, Dean’s Den welcomes author Sophia Whittemore, one of the younger authors I’ve met who’s gotten published the traditional route. She’s an interesting young woman and her YA fantasy novel, The Funnyman, just released this week from Clean Reads.
Sophia, tell us about yourself, where you live, and what you do when you’re not writing.
I grew up in the Midwest with my mom from Indonesia (rich bloodline of Taiwanese aboriginal and Javanese, among other things) and my dad from Minnesota. Suffice to say, mixed country dishes like rice with turkey bacon and anchovies were a common food item in the house. I now live in the Chicago area, which is good because we have a lot of close friends here. However the majority of my relatives live in other states or Indonesia, but that’s okay. Distance doesn’t matter in family love. And I love traveling! All of the world is so incredibly vibrant and amazing. When I’m not writing, I’m being a teenager. I’ll dance in front of a mirror, sing in the shower, or be fairly angsty while finding the poetry behind calculus in order to make each class fascinating.
Calculus? You’re likely to lose a journalist like me on that topic. So, uh, when did you start writing, and when did you start writing fiction?
I started writing for fun in first grade with an epic saga about pencil wars with illustrations and everything. I started my serious writing stage when I was at the end of my sixth grade year. A teacher pulled me aside and said she cried when she read my essay and that I could do this for a living. From then on, I joined online writing forums, wrote furiously everywhere I could, and drooled over fancy journals and pens shaped like swords. I wrote fiction because fiction was the main genre I read. As a child, gods roamed between the pages of fiction novels while I imagined I could control the wind, earth, and skies if I only willed it hard enough. That same imagination told me there were fairies living in tree holes and rocks that sang lullabies to princesses. Wizards turned into hawks while hawks turned into kings. It was a wonderfully prolific time.
Is The Funnyman the first novel you’ve written?
The first novel I’d written actually involved love from beyond the grave, with similarities to the Funnyman, only with an entirely angst-driven set of tween characters. I actually called this novel (the eighth or so novel I’d written) “The Funnyman” based on a superstition I had. A girl told me the first novel I ever got published would start with the letter F. She told me that her grandmother could see the future and she could too. Therefore, I wrote all my other novels and granted them titles with the letter F in them. Who knows, maybe I made the prophecy come true all on my own…or maybe it really was magic.
Which genres is it and what is it about?
The genres the Funnyman falls under include YA adventure, fantasy, and romance. Think Prince Charming meets a serial killer meets a battle of the gods meets kidnapping, escape, and an ending that leaves you enchanted. Here’s a more formal summary: It isn’t a laughing matter when Diana starts to see things in the mist which other people don’t: monsters, gods, and deadly shadows. Yet now she sees another thing, the world of the Impetus, a reality where humans are enslaved and the once-beautiful gods are actually tyrants. Diana must find a way to escape before the exiled king Fear, a vengeful murderer, hunts Diana down to get back something she’s stolen from him. But will her growing feelings for the Prince Isak, the oddly sullen god of comedy, draw her into an all-out war?
A god of comedy. Brill! What inspired you to write The Funnyman?
The inspiration for The Funnyman came while walking from school my sophomore year of high school. There was ice on the grass and the sky was a startling shade of frosted blue. Suddenly, a prince who had a Peter-Pan-complex popped inside my head. He floated somewhere beneath the rafters of the exit to my school building as I stated off into space and closed the door behind me. But his eyes were sad, hiding some sort of dark secret. And I felt very alone and emotionally wanting at the time. Isak helped me through that. I just had to find out more about his fantastical, epic story.
How and where do you like to write? That is, in private or public? With music or in silence?
I like to write wearing shorts and sitting in front of a heater while sprawled out on a shaggy rug. (I pretend I’m on a tropical island in the winter). And in the summer, I write by the breeze of a creaky, old fan. My laptop is in an unnatural position so I can “get comfy but not too comfy” and get to work. In order to write, I mostly need silence and privacy. Writing in public or with too loud of music serves as a distraction. I only play music during fight scenes when my heart rate literally needs to be racing or when I need to drown out any outside noise to choose the lesser of two evils.
Do I take it that this is a series? How many more in The Impetus Rising series or have you not decided?
I am most definitely taking this to be a series. Prince Isak is a cunning sort of trickster. He slips between the cracks of my imagination as quickly as a thief in the night. His story just plays out sort of naturally inside my head. It’s like a movie viewing for one. I’ll write as many books as are necessary until the end credits finally roll onto the scene or until Isak demands it of me. Sigh. Imaginary princes can be so bossy.
What time-saving advice can you give to teenagers who are driven to get a novel published as soon as possible?
Don’t wait. Write now. Write often. But don’t feel pressured. Don’t get stressed. Your health is more important than having an ultimate due date. If you can handle the hard work, then by all means, write in journals. Write both in and outside of your designated writing classes. Spend less time talking about how one day you will write and WRITE NOW. There’s no time like the present, but don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away. You shouldn’t hide your writing from the rest of the world if your final goal is publication. Let parents, teachers, and the bestest of friends help you work through it. Edit your stories to perfection and put yourself out there. Enter contests. Send your polished “babies” (your novels) out there to good, caring publishers that are right for you. Finish writing personal and educational projects. And don’t give up. Some of the best, most inspiring letters you get as an author are rejections. It shows that you are out there and you are DOING something, living something, and making dreams come true. Also, one more tip. Don’t delete your old projects. I know you might think old writing is the worst writing ever, but some of your most creative stories can come from your past. Don’t forget it.
Tea or coffee?
Both. One cup of each. No sugar. Almond milk. Yes, I know, very intensely caffeinated. 🙂
If a teen could only read one line from this interview, what would you want that line to be?
Leave mediocrity at the door. It has no place in the wide, open spaces of such a golden imagination.
Thanks! Folks, to check out the book, visit:
The Funnyman will be available at additional retailers soon.
To learn more about Sophia, visit the social media sites linked or provided below.