Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What, Where, When, Why, How with A. Y. Stratton

Give a hearty HOWDY to today's guest, A. Y. Stratton!

What do you want for your birthday?

There's never enough time to get through my whole book stack, so I want a Kindle for my birthday so I can carry a dozen books wherever I go. (And because it's such a nifty tool.) The only problem is, the book stack will still be there while I'm working on the Kindle stack.

When do you make a wish?

On warm, humid summer nights, when stars fill the dark sky and the air smells like my childhood, I whisper "Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight." My wishes have changed over time, but inside I'm the same me, though wiser and even more blessed. Now that I think of it, the stars don't change at all, do they?

Where did you go on your first date?

My first date was in sixth grade, when Jimmy who lived two blocks from me, asked me to go with him to the Saturday afternoon movies in our church basement. He was nice, but not as exciting or cute as three other boys I'd been thinking about, and I was flattered, rather than thrilled.

We met on the corner near our house and walked the four blocks together. Normally too talkative, I couldn't think of anything to say, while he blushed and couldn't decide whether to walk next to me or in front of me.

At church Jimmy paid the twenty-five cents for each of us and then bought me a soda and a candy bar, far more than I ever could afford at the movies. As we watched the movie and munched our snacks, several boys behind us poked and heckled poor Jimmy for going "with a girl," while I wished I could magically evaporate. At school on Monday Jimmy told the boys I never even thanked him after he'd spent all that money on me, and I was ashamed that I had been too embarrassed!

That's how I learned my first lesson for dating: always say thank you. By the way, he didn't try to kiss me. My first kiss from a boy was a few weeks later at a spin-the-bottle party in my friend's basement.

Why didn't Christine choose the Phantom?

In the Phantom of the Opera, Christine had to choose light and sweetness over the magnificence of a beautiful voice, and true love over darkness and seduction.

However, if Phantom of the Opera had been written in 2008, the breathless and beautiful Christine would have chosen the Phantom for her life and after-life partner. Then she would get to meet the rest of his relatives. Perhaps she would even fix up the Phantom's sister with her former suitor.

How do you choose your character's names?

For my female characters I choose names with several syllables, because they sound more interesting than Jane, Pam or my first name, Anne. Lauren is my niece's name. I've always thought the letters look pretty on the page. Besides, Lauren Richmond sounds enigmatic, a name a poet might choose for his daughter, which is ideal for the character in Buried Heart.

I choose male characters' names from books or movies I've enjoyed. About the time I reach the middle of my manuscript, when the two protagonists realize they are in love and I've been living with them awhile, sometimes I try out new names. In Buried Heart, Luis (which is pronounced the Spanish way, "Loo-ees," like Louise, but with an "s" rather than a "z" sound) had several different last names, including a German one, since he is only half Mexican. However, I realized my dark, handsome, quirky and sexy man just had to have a Latin surname too. My daughter's college roommate's last name was Hernandez. "Luis Hernandez" sounded perfect to me.

Last week I began writing a new book that begins with a murder accidentally witnessed by my two protagonists. Right away I chose Emily for the woman's name and Jake for the man's. This morning Emily became Jennifer, a solid, reliable, stick-to-the-rules name, not that Emily isn't. My newly-named Jennifer has just broken into a house to steal a document that will restore her grandmother's honor, an act that a woman with that name would surely do. A guy named Jake would be attempting the break-in for more nefarious reasons, and he'd be grinning as he did it.

I grew up in Glenview, Illinois, moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin when I was in high school, and then attended college in New York, where I majored in English literature. (I wrote my senior thesis on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.) My husband and I have lived in a suburb of Milwaukee long enough to see the farmers’ fields around us burst into subdivisions.

When I was a child and had trouble sleeping, I’d make up adventures starring me as the heroine and imagined I’d write stories like those some day. Once our three children were older, I began writing free-lance for local periodicals, including a regular baseball column for the website of my beloved Milwaukee Brewers. I still make up stories as I go to sleep, but now I save them in my computer.

I got hooked on ancient ruins the moment I stood among the spirits of the sacrificed virgins at the top of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan near Mexico City. Eventually I visited other ruins in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras, where I conceived the idea for what has become my first published novel.


Anonymous said...

Great interview.

I got my kindle back in feb (I think lol) and it was the best investment ever. Totally love it! I now def prefer to read from it rather than paperbooks!

Linda Kage said...

Cool Interview. I like how it was set up with the What, where, when, why, how theme.

Brandy said...

I found the choosing of names quite interesting. Thanks for the informative and fun interview.

Mary Ricksen said...

I want a kindle too!!!
Funny that you change names, I always keep the original one I pick.

Debra St. John said...

Names are always interesting to choose. Sometimes I go on-line and scope baby name pages until something strikes me. Other times I just know right off the bat.

Oh, and waving hello from Mount Prospect, IL: Glenview is our neighbor!