Name: Andrea Perno
Where are you from: I’ve lived in the United States my entire life, but I’ve lived in a few different states. I’ve lived in Florida, Pennsylvania and Maryland the longest.
A little about yourself ie your education Family life etc: I grew up with a fairly large family. I have two brothers, Michael and David. One is older and one is younger, I got stuck right in the middle. We are all five years apart and are true terrors when we get together, but have a ton of fun. I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania where I studied Art Education. Currently I am an Art teacher in Baltimore City. I’ve been teaching for eight years. I am a full time artist, art teacher and author. In my free time I like to paint, hike, and travel anywhere and everywhere on horseback.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My latest book news is that my debut novel, The Last Drop, was published by Beau Coup publishing on May 5th. It is the first of a planned trilogy. Right now I’m working on the second book in the series. I’m also working on a totally unrelated science fiction thriller, romance which will most likely be completed prior to the second book in The Last Drop series. I hope to have the second book finished in the summer of 2015.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing at a very young age. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Hess, made me keep a journal in school. I can’t really read my writing from back then, but I wrote a lot and that spilled into my middle school and high school experiences where I participated in Journalism, debate and newspaper clubs. My senior high school English teacher told me fondly that I was the only student in his 27 years of teaching who needed a page limit for writing papers. (I tend to write prolifically.) I also attribute a lot of my inspiration for writing to my parents. They provided tons of opportunities to love writing on camping trips where my siblings and myself were each charged with writing short stories to share around the evening campfire. My writing dropped off after college while I worked as an Art teacher and then was sparked again after reading The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins in part inspired the writing of my first novel, The Last Drop.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I considered myself a writer, officially, when the first contract offer for the acceptance of my manuscript was made.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I was inspired in part by reading Suzanne Collin’s, The Hunger Games. I loved her first person portrayal of the dystopian world. The inspiration for my story concept itself came from working at my school in Baltimore. It was an unseasonably warm day in April and our building lacked working air conditioning at the time. The outside temperature was pushing the low hundreds and the interior temperature was pushing around 110. My room, of course, lacked both air conditioning and windows. It was a sweat factory that I quite possibly made worse by filling spray bottles with cold water and routinely squirting myself and my students to prevent us from melting away in my classroom. To make matters worse, I was teaching fifth grade at the time. Fifth graders are less than human on a normal day with perfect temperatures. By noon, our building was completely devoid of water, which is normally shipped in office-sized drinking stations because our building’s pipes are lead based. Pandemonium as you can imagine ensued and The Last Drop was born.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I love first person. First person writing tends to lend itself well to a grittier, down to earth, portrayal of a story. I will be dabbling with third person after my trilogy is finished.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title just seemed to fit with the lack of water portrayed in the book. I wanted something short and catchy that people could have an immediate, visceral reaction to.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The Last Drop is a coming of age novel with quite a few messages and underlying themes the most prevalent of which is the idea that people are in charge of their own destiny and no matter what background you come from, you have the power to make your own choices. The book also focuses on water conservation as well as how people use Earth’s finite valuable resources.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I did extensive research on water conservation and followed several news stories unfolding in the Middle East and Mid Western United States to inform the realistic portions of my book. Readers should know though, that the novel is Science fiction and a lot of the technology described in the book is not in existence…yet.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
A little bit of both. I think as an author it’s really difficult to fully separate personal experiences from the writing, bits of yourself creep inside the books in pockets. The whole novel itself is based on an experience I had teaching middle school students on a hot day that our school building ran out of water. I took the concept and ran with it, elaborating a complex sci-fi backdrop that my students can relate to without browbeating them about the seriousness of water conservation.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, Wilson Rawl’s Where the Red Fern Grows, and of course, Dr. Seuss’ stories.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Suzanne Collins, hands down, would be my mentor. Although I would also have to say Isaac Marion also truly helped me realize my ability. We corresponded through email once or twice while I was writing my book. He gave me some of the best advice as a writer and it seems simple: Stop talking about it and just DO it.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Dean Koontz’s Intensity. And let me tell you it is… intense.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I really enjoy the writing of, Curtiss Robinson. He is a fantasy author also published by, Beau Coup. I had the pleasure of sitting next to him at my first author book signing. We had a blast. I learned a lot from him and I’m enjoying his writing immensely.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Right now my project is to survive life. I’m working full time as a teacher in Baltimore city, I’m promoting a small glassware business that I created, I’m taking online teaching classes to further my degree all the while trying to simultaneously write two books. It has been…intense. Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun since I’m currently reading Dean Koontz’s, Intensity. I hope to have one of my books in editing by January and the other in editing by the end of the summer.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
A lot of people have supported me through the writing process. I corresponded with a few authors who were nothing but helpful and gave me great advice. I was supported by an editor and friend who took the first, second and third looks at my novel as it was being created, Camille Carlisle. The whole process was a bit like giving birth and Camille was definitely there for me through each trimester, so to speak. I even got support from agents and publishers when I first started mailing manuscripts. While a lot of what I got back was an initial rejection a lot of agents offered me very sound advice that I used to revise my novel and the resubmit. Some agents even liked the story line enough to offer a second look if I made revisions. The process had a lot of ups and downs, don’t get me wrong, but there was also a ton of support along the way from people I’ve never even laid eyes on in person. It was very inspiring.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I see it as a potential career, yes. I think to be a successful author you have to have several novels in the pipeline and a solid fan base before writing can be realized as a career. Unless of course you are also writing for a magazine or newspaper or publishing company etc. With a ton of hard work and perseverance, I hope to make writing my sole career in a year or two.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I think to do it again I might like to try writing it in the third person perspective for comparative purposes. First person allows for a grittier true to life view point, but third person allows for more complete descriptions of each character’s thoughts and intentions. It might be nice for readers to know what’s going on in some of the other character’s heads.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’ve always liked writing. I guess I would have to say my true interest in writing originated through my parents and the camping trips we took. The places I got to see and the things I got to experience have really shaped who I’ve become and how my writing will continue to develop as I get older. I have a lot more background knowledge of places and cultures and experiences to draw upon for my writing that I wouldn’t have if my parents didn’t pack us into the back of the pickup truck, sometimes kicking and screaming, and drag us to places. I got the experience of hiking in the deep woods off trail with my father and hunting and fishing. I got the experience of museum hopping and shopping in unique places with my mom. I got the experience of building tin foil boats and floating them in down rivers because we could only bring one or two toys on a camping trip and you just had to make do with conversation, a journal and pen, and the materials you found around you for entertainment. Then my brothers and I wrote stories and shared them around the campfire. We had a blast even if we acted miserable about traveling to places other than the beach for a summer vacation. A lot of those experiences (although embellished for the stories) have found their way into my books.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
The Last Drop is a young adult, coming of age novel that is told from the perspective of a 16 year old boy growing up on a military base that controls some of the last remaining fresh drinking water on Earth. The teenage boy, Avery, doesn’t really agree with the idea of fighting other countries to the death over a resource that everyone should have access to, but his father is the military commander where he lives so he and his brothers are pretty much forced to join the army at a young age and fight for the cause. It’s very much a survival novel as much as it is about an individual’s choice in life to do what’s right. As the story progresses, Earth is left in shambles and the only way to survive is to travel to the next habitable planet. What the boys don’t know is that the rarity of water extends far beyond Earth and they aren’t the only ones fighting for survival.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Right now, the challenging thing for me is making sure I am factually true in my writing. I do a lot of research for each of my books because I have a passion for writing Science fiction which is rooted in fact. Often I spend hours just surfing the net or reading articles for factual value to enrich my plotline. I tend to get hung up on medical jargon and technical terms that need further research or phone calls. The plus side is I’m learning a ton as I go along.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favorite author is Suzanne Collins. What strikes me most about her work is the way she can expertly weave a first person perspective novel that sucks your right into the heart of the moment in the book. It doesn’t matter which page you open one of her books to, she takes your right into the moment and you’re hooked. I can’t count how many hours I’ve lost to reading and re-reading The Hunger Games trilogy. Anytime I need a refresher on how to write in the first person and write it well, I open one of her books and start reading and that is often the end of my day because I get lost in the characters and her worlds all over again.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I don’t have to travel much for the writing of books, but it absolutely enriches the experience of writing. I traveled to several different places while writing The Last Drop, the most important of which being the desert in Las Vegas. I went there with my husband both for pleasure and also for research so I could physically see and feel the desert, and to take a long hike without water or sun block (sorry Mom) and have that experience.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I got to help design the cover which is awesome, but the fabulous team at Beau Coup publishing put the cover together for me.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Often the hardest part about writing is finding the time to dedicate to it. I work nine hour days battling the raging hormones of middle school city kids and then spend two hours in the car commuting to and from work. By the time I get home, I’m pretty much ready to eat dinner and fall into bed. I have to literally set aside an hour (sometimes it’s more like half an hour) before my eyes start to droop to write. My best writing times are over holiday breaks and our school’s outrageously short 5-week summer vacation.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned a lot about water conservation and military tactics. It did help that one of my roommates at the time was retired military and could dispense a lot of information (some of which was very gruesome that keeps me up at night) for my novel.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
No matter what you do, write a little bit every single day. Even if it’s only a few words and you feel like you’ll never finish the book. Just do it. That and talk to everyone you can about writing. Ask for advice and take it with a grain of salt. You don’t have to follow every piece of advice you get, but any help is good help.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading. Without you guys, I don’t have even the smallest possibility of making writing a career. Thank you for reading and passing my books around and writing wonderful reviews on Amazon for me.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Sadly no, I don’t remember the first book I read. The first novel to really make a resounding impression on me was Hatchet.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Pretty much anything my husband says or does makes me laugh. He’s a ham and I love him for it. He brings more joy into my life than he is aware of. I will cry at the drop of a hat to any Sarah Mclachlan themed ASPCA commercial.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I would love to meet Tom Hanks. His ability to play any type of character and his seamless ability to portray human emotion is the most realistic way possible is strikingly inspiring. Plus, he seems like an inherently interesting person who would be fascinating to talk to and get to know.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
I would want something short and sweet. My headstone doesn’t need to be elaborate or say anything special. A head stone is a head stone. The important things in life are the relationships you make with the people around you. They are the ones that will carry and share the good or the bad things about me.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I love to paint and I love to go horseback riding. Learning equestrian techniques is a passion and a hobby I hope to continue for a very long time.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Right now the TV shows I’m enjoying most are: How to Get Away with Murder, Grey’s Anatomy, Big Bang Theory, and Scorpion. For films, I’m highly anticipating the next installment of the Hunger Games.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Food: Tie between Pizza, Mozzarella Sticks, and Pickles Color: Orange Music: Anything expect rap (although I do like a little bit of Eminem)
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I love Art and animals so right now I’m an art teacher and I like teaching the subject of art immensely. I would also have probably become a Veterinarian if I were not writing and creating art.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it? Yes, www.AndreaPerno.com