Friday, January 17, 2014

An Interview with Ann Hunter, Author of The Subtle Beauty

Looking for a great, easy weekend read?How about a book that, in its first week of release, ranked in the top 20 of Amazon's hottest new releases, outranked the bestselling Leven Thumps by Obert Skye, received a 5 star review on Amazon, and was nominated for a Whitney Award?Look no further than Ann Hunter's The Subtle Beauty!

A cursed prince. A vain beauty. Glory is the seventh daughter of Balthazar, High King of the Twelve Kingdoms. Glory hopes that - of all her sisters - she can escape the fate of a loveless marriage. But on the night she plans to elope with the royal falconer, her world comes crashing down: Her father announces Glory's betrothal to Eoghan of the Blood Realm - a prince no one has ever seen. The prince is said to be a recluse, cursed and deformed by the gods for the sins of his power-hungry father. Yet when Glory is trapped in Blackthorn Keep, she discovers that not everything is what she expected. An insulting gryphon, a persistent ghost, and a secret plan to usurp the prince keep Glory reeling. Can she overcome her vanity to learn that what you want isn't necessarily what you need--and save the cursed prince?

The Subtle Beauty by Ann Hunter is available as an e-book from , , , , and .Also, check it out on .In today's post, I have the honor of interviewing Ann Hunter about her debut novel, The Subtle Beauty.I also had the honor of working on this book as a freelance editor, and I'm thrilled with how well it has done in its first week of release.In the following interview, I am A.J.S. and Ann Hunter is A.H.


A.H.:I'm a mom first and a writer second.I have two brilliant girls.Let us call them Thing 1 and Thing 2.Thing 1 is 5 &.She's smart as a whip and a big ham.Often she'll purposely write the answer wrong on her schoolwork and laugh about it when she's bored.It drives the teacher nuts.She says she wants to write books when she grows up.Thing 2 is one-year-old and equally smart.She's currently obsessed with bananas and manically signs banana, points at the counter, and says, "na-na" all day.When she's not dreaming of bananas like a rabid monkey, she's whirling around the house causing chaos and destruction.

I spend most of the day chasing them around, and I write after they go to bed.

So that's my life at the moment.Now let me tell you about my LIFE.Long story short, I ran around barefoot with a herd of Arabian horses as a kid and stuck butter knives down electric toasters while in use several times.Both make for great stories (and explain my insanity issues).

I won't pretend to be a great intellect or sophisticated to any degree during this interview because that's not me.I'm goofy and fiercely loyal, and I don't have one of those internal filter thingies that tells you that you probably shouldn't say certain things.

I have a secret identity. (I've even been asked by a stewardess if I was the secret agent on the flight)!

I like cherry soda with chocolate ice cream.

The Twilightmovies are my guilty pleasure.They're cheesier than cheese whiz.

I love the movie Stardust, especially when the king laughs after one of his sons offs his own brother.

I have at least 50 books planned for the coming years.

My goal for 2014 is to write 5 of them.


A.H.:I hated school!I struggled with it so much.School was physically uncomfortable, but it wasn't until I got to college that I was diagnosed with ADD.It explained a lot.I was bullied, too, until I couldn't take it one day and beat the stuffing out of a kidla Ralphie on Scut Farkus in A Christmas Story.I remember sitting in the principal's office.I got a warning.The other kid got detention.

I was a voracious reader up until I was a young teenager when I started to write more than I read.

I could not get a handle on math for the life of me.By the age of twelve, writing consumed me.I received multiple awards for my writing during my teen years.One of my English teachers flunked a story of mine, and the story ended up getting published in the local paper and going on to win awards as well.Never let anyone tell you you're not good enough!

In my senior year of high school I graduated with honors on the California State Writing Exams.I didn't even realize I was taking a big state test at the time and made up a bunch of junk about Rumplestiltskin.That was my forte.Faking it til I made it.It frustrated my Brit Lit teacher to no end.One day she called me to her desk.She told me I was absolutely brilliant when I turned work inbut I rarely turned work in.I blame my ADD for that.From fourth grade onward, I had a really hard time remembering that I had homework (or to even take it home for that matter).To this day I joke that I have "Dory Brain." [Dory is a character from the movie Finding Nemo].I only retain the most random information."P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney!" [Dory quote].


A.H.:I have a major girl crush on Belle from Beauty & The Beast.Despite how much of a tomboy I was as a kid and always will be, I secretly wanted to be Belle.I wanted to be smart like her and beautiful because she was everything I wasn't.I'm such a dork that I totally swooned when a cast member at Disneyland walked by dressed as Belle in that crazy yellow gown.

Now that you know that, we can move on.

It was either fall of 2010 or 2011, and was fast approaching.I had no ideas.Literally NONE.My daughter was watching Disney'sBeauty & The Beast when it hit me.That was it.I wanted to write Beauty & The Beast.I had to make it my own, though.I love writing characters who are their own worst enemy.My protagonist, Glory, was not the first character I've written where I purposely wanted the reader to sort of hate her.I wanted her to be the girl that you love to hate but then hate to love.Another tidbit about me:I'm half Irish.It partially explains the craziness.I'm loud and nutty when I get to know you (not unlike Donkey from Shrek.By the way, I LOVE the movie and musical versions of Shrek! I cried like an idiot when they revealed the princess was an ogre and how she felt was exactly how I grew up feeling, but I digress).I knew I wanted to learn more about my Irish ancestry, so I used this opportunity to incorporate Celtic mythology into my retelling of Beauty)

Moonlight is the retelling of The Swan Princess. During The Subtle Beauty, I felt that Aowyn was a strong but gentle soul.To me she is innocence and purity.It made sense when she showed me a simple image of a trumpeter swan swimming in ripples of moonlight on a mirror pond.It was that picture, that moment, that Moonlightcame to me.I am excited to share her backstory with you, as well as her romance with Xander before Idegwaed corrupted him.


A.H.:I love the way I receive ideas.I believe they come from a higher power, something bigger in the universe than just little old me.I try to begin my writing each evening with a prayer that I might be open to whatever comes to my mind.The characters talk, and I listen.I simply write what I see on the movie screen in my head.The hardest thing is writing daily.Life happens.Sometimes by the end of the day I just want to curl up with a book, unwind, and go to sleep.NaNoWriMo 2013 taught me that I CAN write daily, even with kids and a busy schedule.I have no excuses.But that doesn't stop me some nights from grunting, "I don't wanna!"


A.H.:I mentioned before that I'm a mom first and a writer second.Some days I'm exhausted, and my alarm clock goes off before I'm ready to get up.And by alarm clock I mean my one-year-old babbling, and blowing raspberries over the baby monitor, and complaining about the contents of her diaper.But every once in a while I wake up before the alarm and think, "Wow, I really want to get some writing done beforeah, shoot, she's up."

So we go about our day, and if I'm not buckling under the two o'clock lull, I write a little during Thing 2's nap.Otherwise I wait until they go to bed, and I have nothing but silence and can concentrate on those still, small voices chattering away about what they want written.


A.H.:I think I have similar ambitions to most writers.I want to be able to earn a living wage doing what I love.What really brought it home for me this past year is a moment I shared with my oldest daughter.My husband and I have been living in a small mobile home since we were wed in 2001.Needless to say it's getting a touch too cozy with the 4 of us crammed in here.Thing 1 and I were driving by some really nice houses while running errands one day, and her sweet little voice said quietly from the back, "Mommy, I want a bigger house."It about broke my heart.I knew I had to overcome my fears and reservations as a writer and start working toward publication.So I sniffled and told her, "Okay, honey, Mommy will try."That's all I want.I want to write, and I want to be able to provide a better life for my family.So I will write.And write.And write.


A.H.:Marion Zimmer Bradley.I love her Avalon books.Gregory Maguire is a favorite as well.I really enjoyed Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.His twisted retelling of fairytales made me want to do spins on fairytales as well.Joanna Campbell is not to be discounted.I grew up reading the ThoroughbredSeries.They were the first books that inspired me to write my own horse racing series.Between the ages of 12 and 16, I had written twenty novels, all in my little horse racing series, North Oak.Oh, and a few on the side that I never finished (but plan to in the coming years)!


A.H.:That dream of making a better life for my blossoming family.I think Don Quixote says it best:

"To dream ... the impossible dream ...

To fight ... the unbeatable foe ...

To bear ... with unbearable sorrow ...

To run ... where the brave dare not go ...

To right ... the unrightable wrong ...

To love ... pure and chaste from afar ...

To try ... when your arms are too weary ...

To reach ... the unreachable star ...

This is my quest, to follow that star ...

No matter how hopeless, no matter how far ...

To fight for the right, without question or pause ...

To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause ..."

--The Impossible Dream from the musical Man of La Mancha, lyrics by J. Darion.


A.H.:I have a weekly newsletter I send out with updates on current works in progress and would love to have more readers join it!They can visit the or subscribe directly by emailing

They'll also be privy to exclusive short stories and flash fiction once a week in addition to the weekly newsletter.

Oh, and The Subtle Beauty is available [as an e-book] on , , , , and .Your easiest way to get it is to visit .It links directly to the book at all of those retailers.Don't be afraid to friend me on and , and be sure to leave a review when you read The Subtle Beauty!


A.H.:Well, A.J.S., I'd sure like to hear your thoughts and insights on spending the last two years editing The Subtle Beauty!You worked just as hard on it as I did, and I think you deserve to toot your own horn. ;)

A.J.S.:It was a major learning experience for me as a novice freelance editor.It was the largest project I've ever worked on both in terms of the number of pages that we exchanged and the amount of time that we spent on them.I learned a lot about myself.If Ann has ADD, then I have the exact opposite.I can become very intensely focused on one thing.This is good because it makes me a thorough editor, but it's also bad because sometimes I can "not see the forest for the trees."I constantly have to remind myself to back up and look at the book as a whole.

I also think I have a tendency to be a controlling perfectionist.That isn't helpful when you're working on someone else's project.When I'm freelance editing, the author is in total control of the book.I'm just there to help as much as I can.I don't get to make any changes to the book myself.I can't even change obvious typos or grammatical errors.My job is to offer my suggestions on how to improve the book and to point out any errors.The author is responsible for fixing the errors and deciding whether or not he/she wants to take my advice.I can't get offended if the author doesn't agree with me or doesn't want to change or fix something.Luckily, Ann is a very easy author to work with.She was respectful and open to hearing my ideas, even if she didn't agree with them.That made it much easier to resist my urge to take control of the project.Thank you to everyone who read this interview, and thank you to Ann Hunter for allowing me to do the interview.Please check out The Subtle Beauty on , , , , , , , and .
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