Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Author Interview: Lenore Appelhans

Y'all, I'm so excited to have Lenore Appelhans here on the blog today.

Many of us who are book bloggers know the name Lenore Appelhans because she fulfilled a dream that many of us have: to be a published author. Lenore's book, LEVEL 2, comes out in January and it is one of the most amazing books I have ever read! (Check out my review here.)

I was so amazed by this book that I had to sit down and write out some questions for her. And with her busy schedule, I am so grateful that she took the time to answer them for me.

Foodie Bibliophile: Your initial vision for LEVEL 2 was a stand-alone novel but your book deal included a sequel. Since you weren't expecting to write a sequel, what has the process been like for writing LEVEL 3?

Lenore Appelhans: Before my agent went out on submission with LEVEL 2 to editors, he asked me if I could imagine more than one book.  I brainstormed for a few days and came up with a vision of a second book that I thought could work, so fortunately that was already in place when then the two-book deal came about. 

I just finished the draft of LEVEL 3 and turned it into my editor. It was a huge relief. Nearly every author will tell you that the second book is a beast, and LEVEL 3 was no different.  You’re working under these high expectations and trying to write something better than you did before, and yet, if you compare your rough draft of book 2 to your finished, copyedited book 1, it can get very discouraging because obviously it can’t measure up.  But you keep at it, and at some point, everything comes together and you think “hey – this might be pretty kick-ass after all! – Woo hoo!”

FB: Seeing how your love for travel manifested itself into your main character, what other parts of Felicia do you think are like you?

LA: Actually, Felicia takes travel for granted because that’s been her life and she doesn’t quite realize how lucky she is (until she gets to Level Two). I was much the same growing up as an “Air Force Brat”: I tended to see the negative -  like having to leave friends behind and dreading being the new girl at a school where everyone has known each other since kindergarten. Obviously it’s a trade-off and it was only when I got a bit older that I appreciated the good parts to the fullest.

Felicia says something at one point that could be one of my own thoughts:

“That’s what moving so often can do to you. It makes you continually question your place in the world, and seek out those few who understand what you’re going through.”

But for the most part, Felicia is very unlike me.  She does writing projects with her friend Autumn, but Autumn is more the instigator and Felicia is more the slacker. The book they’re writing together “The Three Seasons” is based on one I wrote with my friend in high school. Except my friend, like Felicia, never wrote her parts. So in that regard, I am sympathetic to poor Autumn.

FB: There's a scene in LEVEL 2 where Felicia relives a memory of a trip she took to Turkey with her dad. I don’t want to give too much away about this scene but I found it so unique and memorable that I can't help but wonder what inspired it. It seemed almost autobiographical.

LA: The Turkey trip is one of my favorite scenes, and it is the only trip of Felicia’s I didn’t take myself. It is based on a trip my husband took with his stick fighting trainer.  The town (Cam Basi) really exists, as does the roofless ruin they stay in. Daniel described this trip so vividly to me, I knew it had to go in a book someday.  The prancing goats are pure fiction though.

FB: How did being a book blogger help you on your road to writing and publishing a novel?

LA: Book blogging was a massive help, and it would be accurate to say I don’t think I’d be where I am today without it.  For one, reading and reviewing hundreds of books was an education in plot, pacing, character development and other writing fundamentals.  But for another, being able to have contact with authors made me realize that with hard work, publishing a book is an attainable goal.

FB: When did you realize that you had a gift for writing?

LA: Teachers always praised my writing in school, but I don’t think I realized until high school that being able to write was anything special. I do also like to tell the story of how my grandmother got my astrological chart done when I was ten, and the report said that because I have a grand trine in air signs (sun=Gemini, moon=Aquarius & rising=Libra) I was destined to be a writer.  I’ve never put much stock in astrology, but you have to admit, that was eerily accurate!

FB: In the acknowledgements of LEVEL 2 you credit a Tori Amos interview for inspiring you to think about bees and eternity. Can you share some of what she said that got you thinking in that direction?

LA: It was an interview about her album The Beekeeper, and the title track is all about infinity and how even if Tori’s mother dies, her spirit will wake up on another plane. You can see the interview here:
Tori does a hand movement to show how bees fly in figure eights, and I think that’s the part that stuck in my brain all these years.

In the same series of interviews from The Beekeeper, she says, “Wisdom does not come without the sting.” This is an important theme in LEVEL 2 as well.  One of the reasons no one can move on in the novel is because they are only reliving their happy memories. That doesn’t cut it. You have to face and make peace with your bad experiences too.

FB: Not only are you a YA author but you are a soon-to-be picture book author with your husband Daniel. How is the process for writing a picture book different from writing a novel?

LA: In a novel, you only have your words (and subtext) to tell your story whereas with a picture book, the illustrations make up at least half of the narrative.  As a picture book writer, you have to learn to create space for the visual aspects.  In some ways, this is easier with a direct author-illustrator collaboration (rarer than you might think) because you draw up storyboards together and it’s easier to know what you can leave out. But then, it’s also more give and take because the illustrator has a lot more say in shaping the story too.

With CHICK-O-SAURUS REX (Simon & Schuster, Summer 2013), Daniel did most of the early story development by himself because I was deep in edits for LEVEL 2. He would show me his ideas and then we would discuss them and he’d go back to the drawing board until we came up with something we both liked. Easier said than done!

FB: You must have a strong marriage to work alongside your husband on a daily basis. What's your secret? :)

LA: Daniel and I met at work (at an advertising agency) where we worked together on projects long before we started dating. We were used to working together outside a relationship, so I think it was an easier transition for us once we were married. Also, we have both have a healthy respect for what the other does and we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders.

FB: Who would be your dream cast for LEVEL 2 the movie?

LA: I should start looking into this shouldn’t I? I don’t know a lot of the younger actors and actresses that could play the main characters of LEVEL 2.  I picture Neil as someone like Anton Yelchin in LIKE CRAZY or Logan Lerman.

For Julian, someone like Max Irons or Ethan Peck with blond hair.

If you look at the LEVEL 2 cover, you might picture someone bad-ass like a young Summer Glau or Lyndsy Fonseca for Felicia, but she’d probably be softer than that.

In any case, I made sure I included an older character in LEVEL 3 – specifically with Ian Somerhalder in mind. 

FB: Describe LEVEL 2 in one sentence.

LA: I call it an afterlife thriller. You’ve read it – how would you describe it in one sentence?  

FB: Putting me on the spot here. Hmm... in one sentence, I would describe LEVEL 2 as The Matrix meets the afterlife. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by Lenore! I have no doubt that LEVEL 2 will be a HUGE success come January!

So do your part dear readers in making sure it's a success. Pre-order your copy of LEVEL 2 today!


  1. Sounds like Tori is inspiring more than just me!

  2. I am truly proud & happy for Lenore! And cannot wait to read Level 2, it looks and sounds fantastic! <3