IWIC: Tell us about yourself.
Anna: I’m a sociology adjunct by day and an author by night – and day. Really whenever there’s time. I’ve got three jobs, so I can’t be picky about when the work gets done. I’m from Huntsville, Alabama, the Rocket City. It’s an area that has an unusually high number of rocket scientists per capita. Sadly, my STEM skills aren’t on a par with many of my neighbors. I tend to end up hanging out with artists and musicians — some of whom are also rocket scientists. As far as interesting tidbits from my background, I met the original yellow Power Ranger, Thuy Trang, back in the 90s. I was a huge Power Rangers fan, so this was a pretty big deal for me.
IWIC: What prompted you to become a writer?
Anna: I was born and raised in Alabama and went to college and grad school in Mississippi. I never really connected with what most of the people around me defined as being Southern, so I’m pretty familiar with the feeling of being a fish out of water. That feeling of being out of step with the people around me is probably what led me to writing. It’s definitely a recurring theme with my work. I spent a lot of time playing around with stories and characters. I guess it’s sort of one of those “lonely kids make stuff” kind of things. I did eventually make friends with other kids who were interested in making things, stories, art, music and they became something of a lifeline for me through middle and high school. I had a great deal of support from friends and family who helped to keep me going and helped me finish (some of) the work that I had started.
IWIC: What do readers like about your writing?
Anna: When I’ve asked readers about my writing they usually say that they like my characters. I’d imagine that’s true for most writers, in some way or another. I try to write characters who live and breathe. Sometimes it doesn’t work out as well as I hope, but on the occasions that it does, the result is something really beautiful. Plot is important, obviously, but characters are the reason that people keep reading. Nothing beats a reader saying they connected with a character I created.
IWIC: Is there a message weaved into your writing?
Anna: Almost always. Sometimes it’s more explicit than others. With EVIN, I was interested in exploring the idea of imposter-syndrome and how people manage to get things done in spite of it. My short stories usually have more straightforward messages – don’t assume you know everything about a person, be careful what you’re willing to sacrifice. My next novel is exploring colonialism through different lenses (and in space).
IWIC: What is it that you want to inspire in others or change in the world through your writing?
Anna: Mostly, I want to encourage empathy. Books are one of the best ways for people to put themselves in other people’s shoes. Sci Fi and fantasy especially have always been the way that we as a society talk about issues that we are not ready to deal with directly. Books get us to think outside of ourselves and view issues in terms of how they affect people other than us. Empathy, being able to put a face to a set of experiences, can absolutely change the world.
IWIC: Tell us about your most recent book and why you wrote it.
Anna: I wrote EVIN as an exploratory exercise. It follows a college freshman named Eva as she discovers that she’s one of a handful of people who has a special connection to a place called the Forest of Evin. This connection means that she shares responsibility for saving the forest from an imminent threat. Eva, though, is pretty sure that she’s a terrible choice for this task. I wanted to look at what people do when they’re faced with a challenge that they think they can’t face. I relied on my own and my friends’ experiences as a starting point. In college and graduate school, many of my peers and I experienced the phenomenon of imposter syndrome – that thing where you feel like everyone in the room knows more than you do. As each of us described these feelings, the rest were so surprised. “But you’re so smart!” or “You’re so good at that, though,” we’d say to each other. “You always seem to manage it.” It got me thinking about how people are so frequently able to get things done even though they think they can’t. I was reading a lot of YA dystopia and fantasy at the time, so that was the type of world I wanted to create. I wanted to write the journey from self-doubt to determination.