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Author on the Couch: Christina Hoag - Abbie Roads
Author on the Couch: Christina Hoag This week I’m conducting a session with… Christina Hoag Me: Tell me about an experience that had a profound impact on your life. Christina: A relationship with an abusive guy. This not only formed the inspiration for my YA novel “Girl on the Brink,” but also was a turning point in pushing myself to focus on myself and my goals, believe in my own talent and opened my eyes to the dark side of human nature. Me: What personality trait of yours helps you most as an author? Christina: Empathy. I happen to be very empathic. Things can move me to tears very easily and I have deep compassion for others. Somewhat like an actor, this allows me to inhabit my characters, even when on the surface they’re totally unlike me. Me: What personality trait of yours hinders you most as an author? Christina: A tendency to doubt myself. I still find myself daunted by what genre is hot, what’s not, whether my book will sell, and so on. I have to force myself to block it out. Me: What was your high point as a writer—a time when you were happiest, on cloud nine, flying high? What happened? Christina: I’d have to say it was my blog tour for my YA novel “Girl on the Brink.” After getting an excellent “recommended” review from Kirkus, I went on this tour and the response was overwhelming. It’s a novel about a teen girl who gets involved with the wrong guy and chronicles an abusive relationship. It really hit a chord with both teens and adults, more than I had ever hoped but exactly what I had aimed for. I was elated. Me: What was your low point as a writer—a time when questioned your path, a time when you felt really crappy about your writing? What happened? How did you get over it? Christina: I think this was when I handed my now-former agent a too-early version of a manuscript of “Girl on the Brink.” I naively thought she was going to help with it. Instead, she was really scornful and wanted me to spend $500 to have a friend of hers, who wasn’t even a writer or in the publishing industry, read it. I plunged into a depression. At the end of a week, I decided I had to pull myself out of it. I put that novel aside and went back to “Skin of Tattoos,” which hadn’t sold and the agent was doing a lousy job of trying to sell. I knew it was going nowhere with her. I started rewriting that novel. By the time the contract ended, I had a new novel ready to go out with again. I never heard from that agent again, not even when I write to terminate the contract. I knew I had made the right decision. Me: How did you know you wanted to be a writer? Christina: I won a prize for writing interesting stories when I was five-six years old so I suppose the desire to write stories was something I was born with. Teachers always commended my vivid imagination growing up. I was also a voracious reader. I would spend hours reading. Nothing made me happier. Early on, maybe at the age of seven or eight, I knew I wanted to write books. In high school, I discovered journalism, which I immediately knew was for me because it was a career that would pay me to write. So I became a journalist and write fiction on and off until about 12 years ago, when I plunged into it seriously. Me: What’s the secret to your success? Christina: Persistence. You really have to keep going no matter what. Early on in my fiction career, I was derailed once by a rejection, twice by negative comments from beta readers. I’ve learned not ignore such comments, to believe in myself, as well as to surround myself with supportive people. I’m inspired when I hear authors say that their first book published was their eighth novel. It means you really have to remain undaunted and true to your goals. Me: What do you collect? Why? What personal meaning does this item have for you? Christina: Travel is my other passion. I grew up around the world as my family moved with my father’s job, and as an adult, I lived in several more countries. So I collect handcrafts from different places I’ve visited. My home is so full of stuff from around the world that people say it looks like a museum. I love art in all its forms. Things made by hand carry so much more meaning than machine made stuff. Someone put their sweat and soul into these items. They may not be worth much monetarily, but to me they’re irreplaceable. Each represents a little story of where I went, what I did, how I came to buy the item. Me: Tell me about your Noir crime novel Skin of Tattoos Christina: Los Angeles homeboy Magdaleno is paroled from prison after serving time on a gun possession frameup by a rival, Rico, who takes over as gang shotcaller in Mags’s absence. Mags promises himself and his Salvadoran immigrant family a fresh start, but he can’t find either the decent job or the respect he craves from his parents and his firefighter brother, who look at him as a disappointment. Moreover, Rico, under pressure to earn money to free the Cyco Lokos’ jailed top leader and eager to exert his authority over his rival-turned-underling, isn’t about to let Mags get out of his reach. Ultimately, Mags’s desire for revenge and respect pushes him to make a decision that ensnares him in a world seeded with deceit and betrayal, where the only escape from rules that carry a heavy price for transgression is sacrifice. Me: Tell me your favorite paragraph from Skin of Tattoos. Christina: I found Blueboy’s …