Welcome back to Inside The Authors Studio. Today I’m talking to another writer and sharing our conversation with you! To find out who I’ve interviewed so far and what this series is all about, check out the original post by clicking here.
Hello everyone! Welcome back to my Inside The Authors Studio series. Today I am happy to introduce you to A.C. Land.
A.C. graduated from Missouri State University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. After taking some time to consider her future, she realized she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life working in a lab. Instead, she drew on her love of literature and tried her hand at writing fiction. She had only a background of high school drama and eighth grade journalism to guide her creative endeavors, but, sure enough, she stuck with it.
In addition to writing, A.C. also works for BGI images, a company which specializes in photography and videography. In her free time, she makes and decorates cakes that are both vibrant and creative. Here are some of her most proud accomplishments:
These days however, A.C. finds herself moving away from photography and cake baking in order to focus her time and devotion on writing.
It was so much fun to interview A.C. Land. In our conversation we talk about her history with small town life and how it has impacted her writing. We investigate the challenges she has faced and celebrate her success. I hope you enjoy our conversation and that it helps you get to know this talented writer. Without further ado, please enjoy my talk with A.C. Land.
Jamie: Hi A.C.! Welcome to my blog. I’m excited to have you here today to celebrate the launch of your first novel, A Shot Of Bourbon, and to share with my readers a bit about who you are. Let’s start things off with an introduction. How would you describe yourself to people who don’t know you?
A.C.: Hi! Thanks so much for hosting me and A Shot Of Bourbon! I’m excited to get to chat with you as well. And to start of, we’re going to talk about the awkwardness of me! Much like A Shot of Bourbon’s MC, Charli Valentine, I cannot walk in high heels to save my life. I’m an introvert and unless someone else starts a conversation with me then I’m probably not talking.
I heard a quote one time, I can’t remember who said it, but it said something to the effect of ‘I can perform in front of three-thousand people without breaking a sweat; I can’t talk to three.’ That’s me. I have no issue getting on a stage, or sitting behind my computer, but I’m such a dud in real life, so if we ever meet, I swear, it’s not you it’s me.
Tell me about your childhood growing up in Missouri. How did that early environment shape you into who you are today?
I think there’s something to be said for small towns. When I went away to college and met people who’d been raised in big cities, I learned that there’s a quickness to them. I probably sound like a silly hick, but the truth of it is when you grow up living with hay fields lush enough to lay in and stars that explode and twinkle every night, you learn to take a minute to appreciate those little moments in between stop and go.
Let’s talk about reading. Can you remember the very first books you were introduced to as a child? What type of impression did they leave on you?
My mom always encouraged us to read. I remember that we weren’t allowed to get toys from the store, but if we wanted a book then she would buy it no questions asked. This form of manipulation didn’t work on my brother, but I never looked a gift horse in the mouth. My bookshelves were loaded.
The first book that ever touched my heart was Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. I remember reading it and then explaining everything to my mom, and then to my brother, and then again to my grandma. That’s when I knew it was good, when I wanted to re-tell the story to other people.
The next one was Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. To this day, I remember the way my heart hammered when she held that necklace inside her palm, leaving the impression on her skin. Again, I told everyone I knew about that beautiful work of art.
I liked telling stories. Even then.
When I think of Missouri, I can’t help but think of Mark Twain. What kind of role did Twain play in your school experience in rural Missouri? Was there a strong focus placed on his life and writing at any point in your education? Were there any other authors you were particularly drawn to at this stage in your life? What about their work appealed to you?
Ha! You mean Samuel Clemens? He’s from Hannibal which is about two hours from Bourbon. We had quite a few field trips to his home town. I remember a school play in fourth grade where we outlined his life and some of the boys in the class got to dress up like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I’d say he had a pretty big influence.
We Missourians are actually pretty proud of the people who come from (or resided in) our state so we also celebrated (quite heavily) Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maya Angelou, Tennessee Williams, T.S. Elliot, and if she’d been around when I was a kid I’d have taken extreme pleasure in studying the intricate mind if Gillian Flynn.
I had a particular fascination with Tom Sawyer. He was the original bad, wasn’t he? 😉
What was your first experience with writing? Can you remember the circumstances surrounding the first time you created a story or came up with an idea for a narrative? Describe them to us.
Ah, yes. I probably wouldn’t remember if my grandma hadn’t always talked about it. After I first read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe I was so taken by Aslan the Lion that I thought there should be more stories with talking lions. (Cut me some slack, I was nine.)
I wrote a play about a girl who was dreaming of a talking lion that took her to an imaginary world. I don’t exactly remember the details, but according to my grandma it was the most magnificent thing any nine-year-old had ever written. She supposedly kept it, but I seriously hope that’s not true. That’s the sort of thing that could haunt a girl.
On your blog you call yourself a lover of stories. I think a lot of us out there find comfort in associating with that description. What does this title mean for you in particular? What are you drawn to as a result of this passion for stories? How has a love of stories manifested in you?
I like to be taken to places far away from reality. It’s nice to live in a different world for a few hours or days. I think it’s sad when people say they don’t read. I think I heard it one time: I’ve lived a thousand lives in the stories I’ve read and you’ve only lived your one.
It isn’t just reading. Writing also takes me to another world. When I write I’m able to sieve the characters inside me from a place that I never knew existed. Some of them are kind of dark and I have to wonder when I splash them down on paper if I’m not letting go of a little bit of darkness inside of myself, and now that it’s gone if I won’t be some better for it. And I love that story telling has helped me feel this way, whether it’s true or not.
You’ve described your interest in writing as a desire to tell big stories about small towns. What does that realm of small town life represent to you in writing? How do you play with the environment of small towns in your work?
Aww, I love this question. I don’t know if I’ve said it yet, but in A Shot Of Bourbon I created a world that doesn’t exist in a town that does. In that respect I created characters and an economy that simply aren’t real. The geography is the same.
Bourbon sits on Historic U.S. Route 66, just a few miles parallel to the Meramec River. All of that is accurately depicted in the Bourbon Series. There’s a certain taste that comes with small towns that you can’t find in big cities. A tomato in July, squishing mud between your toes, the smell of fresh cut grass, the high of jumping into a pile of leaves…big things, small town.
Last year you tweeted this phrase: “The invincible feeling of finishing a rough draft.” There’s nothing truly like that moment. I think I would agree with your word choice as well. The word invincible seems to hit the nail right on the head. But talk to me about everything up until that rewarding feeling. What is the experience of writing a novel like for you?
Oh my gosh, I don’t think there’s anything like it. Until you finish a rough draft you’re completely full of doubt. I can’t tell you how many unfinished novels I have lying around. Some of them are 60,000 words along and I walked away from them because self-doubt set in and I couldn’t finish. But the second the words THE END and that blinking cursor stare back at you…there really is nothing like it.
I go through this momentum that I call the ‘high’ nothing can stop me. Until I hit word 40,001. Everything until that point is beautiful and untouchable. I love it all. After that it seems like garbage and I push myself through the next 20,000 words. Most of my novels are 80,000+ maybe a little less. So you can imagine what it feels like to get to 60,000 and have no resolution, no feeling of completion, no clue where to go from there. But once I make it to word 60,001 I know I have traction. I know I can do this. I just…I know. And there is nothing that can stop me.
In your experience, what has been your biggest struggle with writing so far?
Pleasing other people. In this business there’s a balance between art and customer satisfaction. I guess that’s any business, huh? When I first started writing I wrote for me and me alone. If I wanted my story to stand out and have crazy wild fight scenes, then that’s what the story would have. That’s just not how the world works.
What have you done to work through it?
Balance. Just like anything else. I’ve had to learn what my story can live with and what it can live without. I want people to like my stories, but I want my voice to be true. There’s a balance in there that I had to find. It took walking away, wringing my fists in the air, drinking a lot of pumpkin spice coffee, and then sitting back down at my desk and getting over it.
What would you say to other writers out there who find themselves courting the same issue?
I would say this is an issue for a lot of authors. It’s something no one wants to give in on. You don’t want to compromise your art for other people, but at the same time you have to. It’s not your art if you’re trying to sell it to people. At that point it’s theirs. Learn what you can live with and what you can’t.
What is one thing you are most proud of in your writing?
Oh, that’s a tough one. I don’t really take much pride in myself. I constantly think I could do something better. If you ask my editors I’m always asking if I can have my manuscript back so that I can re-work it before they have to.
As far as my books are concerned, however, they get to a point where they’re my children. I couldn’t be more proud of them.
How would you like to set up the sample you’ve brought with you today? Is there any context you’d like to give us before we dive in?
A Shot Of Bourbon is part of a series. BookFish Books took four books (one of which is a standalone; three are part of the Shot Series) another standalone, Bourbon On The Rocks, that I’ve decided to self-publish is coming out this May. This sample is from one of the early chapters from Bourbon On The Rocks a character named Barry (a character that people will recognize once they read A Shot Of Bourbon). There are no spoilers in this and Shot and Rocks can be read in any order, though I think A Shot Of Bourbon is best enjoyed first.
Here is an excerpt from A.C.’s work:
“Barry! Get down!”
My heart was inside my ears. I could barely hear my friends yelling. “You’re going to kill yourself, dude! No one jumps from up there.”
My fingernails scrapped into the rocks as I climbed just a little bit higher. “Don’t be an idiot. You’re gonna fall.” That was the plan. The toe of my shoe slipped, and my heart dropped as I thought, I could die from this height. Every nerve ending inside my body fired at the same time. This was the kind of high I usually had to purchase.
I liked getting up to get down.
I kicked off the rock and back flipped through the air.
Adrenaline was one of the best fucking drugs in the world. I didn’t even feel it when my shoulder clipped the edge of the cliff. “Barry!” one of the girls yelled.
“Fuck!” one of my friends added. Then I splashed face first into the water. My cheek connected with a boulder. I could taste blood as my teeth tore into my lips.
But God, I felt nothing. I felt no pain. Nothing but sheer adrenaline.
Then the lights went out.
_ _ _
There was a steady beeping sound.
I was at the hospital. I’d landed myself here a few times before so I knew what it sounded like. I vaguely remembered being dragged out of the river and something about lying across Charli’s lap in the backseat of Bo’s car. There was something else. It was vaguer. Just a picture: Hair. Strawberry blonde hair. With the image came the smell of strawberries, but I was pretty sure it was only because I thought that hair should smell that way.
“Am I alive?” I mumbled. It came out, “mlive?”
No one understood.
I could hear them, though, so I knew they hadn’t left me. My best friends; my non-blood brothers. Bo said, “Dude, you were supposed to keep an eye on him. You know how he gets.”
Tyler snorted. “Did he die?”
“That’s always your defense,” Gage laughed.
Bo huffed, and I could imagine him scrubbing over his face with his palms, or maybe tearing through his hair with his fingers. He was a worrier. “You’re gonna let the idiot kill himself.”
“Mlive,” I mumbled again.
A hand smacked over my forehead, keeping me flat against the bed. Bo. Had to be. “Shut up, moron. There’s a gauze wrap around your face, and we can’t understand you. Ty, go get that hot nurse. Tell her he’s awake.”
Tyler groaned. “Why do I have to? I’m hanging out here for Bare’s mom to show up. Make Gage go.”
Bo’s fingers twitched against my head. “Because you’re the fucktard that let him climb up there. There’s a reason we watch him. He’s too stupid to take care of himself.”
Ouch. Thanks brother.
There was a squeaking sound as a cart was rolled into the room. I opened my eyes just enough to see the tall, slim angel walk through the door. Light beams burst from the ends of her strawberry blonde hair. Whoa. A halo glowed around her head. Holy shit. She had wings made of pure, unending white light. The wings rose out of her bony shoulders and spread toward the fluorescent bulbs.
I blinked a couple times. Swatting Bo’s hand off my face, I leaned up to get a really good look at the beautiful creature who’d come to take me home.
Everything came into sharp focus as a sterile smell stung my nostrils. I’m. An. Idiot.
What inspired you to write A Shot Of Bourbon?
As I’ve said, Bourbon is a real town. The town I grew up in as a matter of fact. I love Bourbon—everything from the smell of honeysuckle in the spring, to the taste of juicy snap beans in august, to running my toes through thick grass, to a bright starry night.
We’re a farming community, so of course the opportunities that one would find in a city just don’t exist here. A lot of people that I grew up with hated this place. They waited until we graduated high school and they took their first opportunity to flee.
My inspiration for Shot? I created an imaginary world that simply doesn’t exist. I wanted a place that people would love, a place that people would talk about, a place that people would want to stay in, and thrive in, and learn to live in. It’s a sheer work of fiction inspired by my adoration of the small town I grew up in.
Now that it’s finished and out on the shelves, how do you feel about the book? How has the experience of releasing the story into the world altered your personal connection to it? Does sharing the novel with an audience create a distance between you and the story, or has it drawn you even closer to it?
I’m very proud of Shot. I don’t know if I can truly explain the connection I feel to this book. But, honestly, I’ve felt a disconnect from it since the moment I decided to give it to a publisher. There’s a bond between a writer and characters. I didn’t go into writing this series with the intention of giving it to the world. That’s why I wrote the whole series before ever considering publishing. Once I decided to seek out BookFish Books, it was like sending my kid off to college. I still love it, of course, but I had to distance myself from it so that I wouldn’t mourn it. Does that make sense?
As far as sharing with an audience, I’m hoping to distance myself. I’m going to try not to take critique too seriously. Obviously it will hurt, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I respect that. I imagine being too close to my characters will just make me defensive when that isn’t necessary.
As a writer, what are your plans for your future? What do you hope to do next?
Right now I’m just working through getting the Bourbon books out there. I’ve been writing, but I haven’t been pursuing publishing too heavily. I have several books that I’m ready to shop around, but I’m waiting for the right time. I’m mostly feeling the industry out just to see what it’s like. I can’t really say what I hope to do next, but I can say that this has been an amazing experience so far. I’ve truly enjoyed working with everyone at BookFish Books and I can’t wait to see how things play out.
Do you have anything else you’d like to leave my readers with?
Thank you for interviewing me. I hope I haven’t bored you to death talking about my small town. Rest assured A Shot Of Bourbon has much more suspense than my real life.
Thank you so much to A.C. Land for joining me here today and giving you all a glimpse at her work. Now it’s time for a giveaway!
To celebrate the release of A.C. Land’s A Shot Of Bourbon, BookFish Books is giving away an iPad Mini to one lucky blog post reader in the United States. If you’d like the chance to win this awesome prize, use the Rafflecopter link below to enter.
Enter the giveaway here:
Also, if you enjoyed our conversation today and want to hear more from A.C., make sure you check out her links below. Have a wonderful day and good luck to those of you who enter the iPad Mini giveaway!
Where you can find A.C. Land: