Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tessa Emily Hall

Tessa Emily Hall is a 20-year-old who has been telling stories since before she could read. Her first YA Christian novel, Purple Moon, was published fall, 2013 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She also writes a teen column for Whole Magazine, is a contributing writer for More To Be, and the PR for The God of Moses Entertainment. Other than writing, Tessa loves acting, youth ministry, coffee, music, and her Teacup Shih Tzu—who is named Brewer after a character in her book, as well as her love for coffee. Tessa owns a blog, ChristisWrite.blogspot.com, where she posts weekly with devotions for teens, book reviews, writing tips, and more.


Welcome, Tessa. I'm so glad to have you here. I'm excited that your book is out now, because it will make a lovely Christmas present for anyone with teen readers on their shopping list. So let's find out a bit about your book and you.

This is your debut novel. What sparked the story?

It was initially inspired by the skit that many churches have performed to the song “Everything” by Lifehouse. I wanted to write a character-driven story about a teenager who had fallen way from the relationship she once had with God after her dad kicked her and her mom out of the house. 

I didn’t want this to be just a clean, Christian read for teenagers—I wanted it to be one that they could relate to. I incorporated much of my own teen experience into the story as well, so it was nice being able to express myself through my protagonist. In the story, Selena is forced to leave her apartment in Brooklyn, NY and stay with her snobby cousin in Lake Lure, NC while waiting for her mom to get out of rehab. Selena has also agreed to quit her bad habits, but she soon realizes that it is not that easy.

In what ways can you relate to your protagonist, Selena?

Even though Selena has a completely different past and family situation, I did incorporate a little bit of “me” into her. For example: she’s passionate, a dreamer, an artist, somewhat of an introvert, has the same style as I do, a romantic, and she loves coffee a little too much. I have also given her some of my flaws. However, when I wrote Purple Moon I tried to craft Selena in a way that I hoped many teenagers would relate with—whether they share the same backstory as she does, possess some of the same qualities, or experience the same struggles Selena deals with in Purple Moon.

Share a bit of your journey to publication.

It started when I was 14 and decided to switch to online schooling in order to pursue writing. I took a Christian Writers Guild Squire course, as well as a creative writing class through my school, to learn more about the craft. I also studied several books on the writing craft, followed writing-related blogs, and read books in the genre I write.

I wrote the first version of “Purple Moon” when I was 15. I then changed the title, as well as the plot, and I completed the book at 16-years old. It was also then that I attended my first writing conference (Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference), which is where I met my publisher. After showing much interest my book, he asked me to send him the next chapters. He eventually offered me a contract, which I didn’t sign until several months later, after much prayer and consideration.

Since I continued to learn more about the writing craft, I wanted to revise “Purple Moon” a few times before I sent it to my editor. Being the patient man that he is, he was completely fine with this. (One of the many perks of having your first book published by an indie publisher.)

In the summer of 2012, I forced the perfectionist in me to let go and send the manuscript to my editor. “Purple Moon” was then published a year later—fall, 2013.

What would you do if you didn't write?

I’ve always thought that being an elementary teacher might be fun. I’m also very interested in the production side of things—radio, television, films, etc. I would also love to open a coffee shop. And a Christian teen magazine. Haha =) 

I seriously have so many things I’d like to do in life—and although I might not be able to do every single one of them, I am hoping to at least find a way to satisfy the desires. For example, I hope to teach creative writing lessons to kids, partake in the filmmaking process, work at a coffee shop, and maybe start an online Christian magazine some day. I’m not exactly sure how I’d find the time for all of this, but I guess I’ll worry about that when I get there. 

What issue makes you struggle as an author? How do you handle it?

At first, writing a book didn’t come as naturally to me as it did to more experienced writers. I had to study the craft constantly by reading books on the subject, as well as following blogs in the industry. The only thing I don’t necessarily enjoy about publishing as teen is being looked down on by some adults in the industry. Although there are several adults who are supportive of teens pursuing publication, there are also many professionals who feel as if teenagers only become published because of their age. 

I do understand where they’re coming from. Sure, other teens may want to be published for popularity—but many teens, such as myself, only wanted to pursue writing simply because writing is a huge desire. 

It was also difficult to sacrifice a lot of teen experience—such as attending public school in grades 9th – 11th, or hanging out with my friends on the weekends—in order to pursue writing. But anything worth having is worth making sacrifices for. And although there have been many hard aspects of getting published as a teen, it was definitely worth it. =)

You know, Calvin wrote the Institutes at the age of 24. God calls us at different times to do different things. And we're all part of one body. So we are all happy that you're publishing, Tessa. We're happy to see God do great things in your life. 

What are your top 3 recommendations for a new writer?

Any new writer should first know where they are headed before beginning their publishing journey. It is essential to know the publication course before you take it. Otherwise, you might end up lost, confused, and tempted to give up. 

There are three things I think every aspiring author must do before beginning their journey: Read. Research. And most importantly, write. Read books in your genre. Research by studying books on the writing craft, as well as following industry blogs. And write as much as you can, and then a little more.

What are your writing rituals?

I tend to get the most writing done in the mornings, when I am able to think clearly. You’ll hardly ever see me writing without listening to music or sipping coffee. For some reason, listening to music helps me to stay focused on the story I’m writing. It also helps evoke certain emotions into my scenes, and can even inspire a completely new scene idea. And, of course, chocolate is always a great thing to have handy during my writing time. =)

What do you hope to accomplish in your writing career?

I hope to never stop writing, whether or not that includes having my work published or seeing my name on the best seller list. I hope to never stop encouraging people—especially teenagers—to follow their dreams. But more than anything, I hope that my stories will represent the power of God’s unending love and His transforming grace. That’s my number one goal, my number one reason for wanting to pursue writing for the rest of my life.

About Purple Moon

Selena's life isn't turning out to be the fairy tale she imagined as a kid.

That hope seemed to vanish long ago when her dad kicked her and her mom out of the house. This summer might finally hold the chance of a new beginning for Selena ... but having to live with her snobby cousin in Lake Lure, NC while waiting for her mom to get out of rehab wasn't how Selena was planning on spending her summer. She soon begins to wonder why she committed to give up her "bad habits" for this.

Things don't seem too bad, though. Especially when Selena gains the attention of the cute neighbor next door. But when her best friend back home in Brooklyn desperately needs her, a secret that's been hidden from Selena for years is revealed, and when she becomes a target for one of her cousin's nasty pranks, she finds herself having to face the scars from her past and the memories that come along with them. Will she follow her mom's example in running away, or trust that God still has a fairy tale life written just for her? 

8 comments:

Ane Mulligan said...

I'm so glad Nicole posted this interview. Tessa, congratulations on your contract and even more on following your dreams. What a career you have ahead of you!

And I'm delighted we're with the same publisher. What's so interesting is that we're at opposite ends of ... well ... life! You're so young and I'm older than dirt, yet Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas gave us both a chance. I can't wait to read your book.

sally apokedak said...

Yay, Tessa! Great interview.

Nicole said...

I'm so glad SALLY posted this interview. What a talented young lady. You go, girl. Love your passion. Keep following God's leads, and you can't miss!

Elaine Stock said...

What a nice and motivating interview! Tessa, may you be blessed with many more successful novels and a long career.

Holiday blessings.

Julie Garmon said...

Wow!! Sounds like an incredible book. Huge congratulations to you! I believe you have many more novels inside your heart. Blessings!

Tessa Emily Hall ~ Christ is Write said...

Thank you, Ane! So cool that you are also with LPC. =) They're wonderful, and I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to publish with them.

Tessa Emily Hall ~ Christ is Write said...

Thanks for letting me stop by, Sally! =D

Heather Day Gilbert said...

What a great post! So glad to see how you pursued writing, even at your younger age. I have a writer-daughter who also loves science, so it's hard to know which way to steer her. But I think the key is following the desires God gives you. All the best to you, Tessa!