Heather Anastasiu is the author of the young adult sci-fi Glitch trilogy (St. Martin’s Press). She grew up in Texas but recently moved to Minneapolis with her family. She spends all her time writing, reading, and dreaming about getting new tattoos.
Random Facts about Me
- I played the piccolo in my high school marching band.
- I paint a little bit, mostly portraits in oils.
- So, the last name, I know it looks like Anastasia, but it has a U on the end: Anastasiu (rhymes with ‘so-nice-to-see-you’). It’s Romanian in origin.
- I like tattoos. I know, you’re shocked 😉
- I was in a wheelchair for a year during college because of health problems. Being wheel-bound and knee-high for a year certainly changed my perspective on life (pun intended).
- Yes, I am a fan of cheesy puns.
- I’ve wanted to be a missionary, a psychologist, a professional flautist, a college professor, and now I’ve ended up being a writer – the secret secret thing I always wanted to be but never told anybody because I thought it too much of an impossible dream!
- My favorite book is East of Eden because it blew open my world when I first read it at age 20.
- I read more than I do anything else. Like hours and hours a day.
- Wanna know how I get my hair so pink? It’s HARD and it took me a long time to perfect my system. Here’s a step-by-step blog about the process 🙂
Q & A
Questions about the Glitch Series
Q: Where did the idea of writing a dystopian novel (if you are classifying it as that genre) come from?
A: I’ve loved dystopias ever I read 1984 as a sophomore in high school. I started watching every even remotely dystopian movie I could get my hands on: Gattaca, Terminator, Total Recall, Logan’s Run. I always knew that I wanted to write a dystopia and when The Hunger Games came out and started getting popular, I realized I had to write it sooner rather than later or I’d miss the resurgence of the genre. Dystopias are fun because you get to write in this high stakes setting where your characters are constantly in danger. It lent a certain thriller aspect to it just from setting alone. And you can make very dramatic things happen and drop the floor out from underneath your characters at any point. All in all it was just such a fun genre to write in.
Q: How long did it take you from first draft to publication of Glitch?
A: Glitch was a book I had rattling around in my head for most of my spring semester of college in 2010, but I didn’t have time to write it until the summer. I sat down in July and banged out the first draft, edited for one insane week, then I was sending queries in August. This is not the advisable way to do things and I don’t think I could possibly write a book in the same crazy way now, but it worked well enough to get bites from agents. I went through SEVERAL rounds of editing with the fabulous Charlie Olsen who ended up signing me as a client in September of that year. After more edits, we went on submission in January, and sold in a few weeks. It was a whirlwind!
Q: What gave you the idea for Glitch?
A: My husband mentioned a Popular Science article about scientists researching the possibility of implanting something akin to memory chips for Alzheimer’s patients, and I was instantly creeped out and intrigued. I started wondering what other bits of technology we might start implanting in our bodies in the future, and how people in power might use it as a means of control. Mwahahaha, a dystopian society is born!
Q: Who would be in your dream cast for Glitch?
Zoe: Vanessa Marano (from Switched at Birth)
Adrien: a younger Gael García Bernal
Max: Alexander Ludwig (most recently seen as Cato in The Hunger Games):
Q: Who’s your favorite character to write and why?
A: My favorite character, and I know people hate him, which partially was the fun of writing him—is Max. I think I have a lot more sympathy for him than my readers do, lol. I really understood his struggle in the first book as a teenage boy suddenly being flooded with emotions (and desires) and how he went about acting on them ALL WRONG. And oh my gosh, writing him in book 2 was so much fun because of the sneaky things I was doing with his character. And in book 3, oh Max. Max, Max, Max. I understood why he was making the decision he was making even though I so wished he would take a better path. Lol, even though I’m the one making him take the wrong path! We writers are a little nuts, you see 😉
Q. What about the most difficult character to write?
A: Funnily enough, the character I had the hardest time with was Zoe. We’re first person in her head the whole time, but I’ve paradoxically found it’s actually easier characterizing people when you’re watching them from the outside. It’s hard actually being in their heads and figuring out how to SHOW the transition from a naïve girl to a more hardened kick-butt leader. There were a lot of times, especially during the writing of the second book since it was the most transitional, trying to get a handle on Zoe. It took three entire drafts of that book for me to finally figure her out and get her right!
Q: Which book of the Glitch series was the hardest to write, and which was the most fun?
A: Oh Lord, Override was hands down the HARDEST BOOK IN THE UNVIERSE to write. Well, I should say Rewrite, since I wrote that sucker from scratch three times. I just could not figure out the characters for the longest time and the plot kept changing and gah, it was a HUGE mess for a very long time. And then, ironically, it got the best reviews of the whole series! Easiest one to write was Shutdown. I’d just spent over a year fighting with Override, and suddenly it just clicked with Shutdown. I knew my characters backwards and forwards, I knew where I wanted to take them emotionally and plot-wise, and it was just a real pleasure to write.
Q: How do you feel about finishing the Glitch series?
A: It’s funny, I’ll hear other authors talk about finishing their series and missing their characters. And I do find myself missing Zoe, especially as I move on to writing other books—I’m like, dang, I finally figured Zoe out and now I have to start all over and completely understand a NEW character inside out? That’s so haaaaaaard *insert whiny voice* Ahem. I mean, it’s an exciting to move on. Erm, yeah. But also what I feel is a sense of being satisfied that I really told that story the best it could be told. There were times there in the middle (*makes sideways eyes at book 2*) where I didn’t think I’d be able to figure it all out in time and it would all just end up a heaping, embarrassing mess. But by some grace or magic, even in the scrunched up time period I had to write this series, I managed to put out three books I’m really proud of. Which makes me feel not really proud so much as immensely relieved 😉
Q: Playlist for Glitch?
The Drumming Song (Florence + the Machine)
Awake My Soul (Mumford & Sons)
Come What May (the lover’s secret song in Moulin Rouge)
Hazards of Love (The Decemberists)
Set Fire to the Rain (Adele)
I Follow Rivers (Lykke Li)
Heavy (Florence + the Machine)
Questions about Writing
Q: When did you realize that you were a writer? Have you always loved writing?
A: Lol, I superstitiously refused to call myself a writer until I got an agent. I’d call it ‘my hobby’ or a ‘writing project I was working on.’ But really, I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 12, and even though I didn’t let myself say it out loud, I kept chasing after the dream, continuing to write even after piles of rejection until I finally had the experience and perfect idea to turn the dream into a reality.
Q: What’s your writing process?
A: Lately I’ve been writing from home instead of at coffee shops. So I get up in the morning, check email and twitter, then try to start writing as quickly as I can so I don’t get stuck wasting time. It feels good to get several pages written and meet my daily word count early, then anything else I write throughout the day feels like gravy, and there’s no stress. I got into this habit partially because I know how easy it is to get stuck, so I try to head it off before I get to that point of feeling a lot of resistance. When I really feel stuck after sitting there and trying for awhile, then I’ll sometimes skip ahead to a scene I’m more excited about. Other times I might pause to try to get inspired by reading a good book about writing, or by listening to music, or by looking out the window and just letting myself daydream for awhile. But I try not to get up before I’ve hit that word count, one way or another.
Q: How personal is your writing?
A: It differs depending on so many things, like the mood I’m in, what kind of week I’m having, what part of the book I’m working on. A lot of times I’ll be so into my character’s worlds I’m not really thinking much about myself. Other times I’ll intentionally go into a scene and try to draw on some emotion that I’m feeling or have felt in my personal life.
Q: What are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?
A: During the course of the trilogy, I became very acquainted with my strengths and weaknesses (especially the weaknesses!). These are things that are part of the discovery process of being a writer. You never know what they’ll be ahead of time. So for strengths, I’d say plotting. I can plot like nobody’s business and think of five ways to get myself out of any plot knot I find myself in. I always know the ending of a book before I write a single word and like to work in cool twists. On the other hand, creating a character’s voice is friggin’ HARD for me. Some authors talk about how these characters will come to them already fully-formed in their head. I’m in awe of those kinds of authors. Because then there’s writers like me, who struggle the most with voice and how to make the character sympathetic and believable and well rounded. It can take me an embarrassing amount of pages to figure out WHO my protagonist is and what makes them tick. I’ve written entire first drafts without figuring it out, and it’s only in the editing process, I’m like, oooooooh, that’s who they are, and that’s what they want, their driving motivation. But it takes me a lot of drafts and wasted pages, so I’m always trying to figure out ways to do it better.
Q: What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
A: First of all: WRITE! Write regularly and get into the habit of it. Second of all: really listen to critique and be willing to incorporate it, even if it means big changes and rewrites to your piece. The most basic building block of being a writer is learning the discipline of sitting down to put in the hours it takes to write. But once you’ve mastered that, the next biggest obstacle is hearing what others have to say about your writing and really listening. It can be painful to hear that people don’t love your work right away. Often we have dreams that our first book will be a masterpiece. But that’s just not the way it works. It takes a lot of time to learn how to write scenes, natural dialogue, and a compelling plot. For every other artistic endeavor we accept that it takes years of practice before you’ve mastered it—learning an instrument or being a painter. Writing is no different. But try to find a critique group where they mix in positivity with constructive criticism, because being a writer also takes dogged determination, and it’s important to have others who will encourage you along the way.
Q: How does it feel to be a published author?
A: It feels cool to be a published author, but really I don’t think about it much. Mostly it’s just whatever I’m working on each day that gets my focus. Before I was published, I thought I’d feel that sense of, I don’t know, having arrived. But it’s not like that at all, lol. If you’ll allow a little cheesy, but what seems very true: I thought it was all about the destination (wow I have a book published!), but instead it’s much more about the journey (what am I working on next, how will I stay in the business and keep getting published?). That said, it felt insane and surreal to do the book signing for Glitch. I’d been going to book-signings regularly for the past six years, and suddenly it was me up there at the front signing books! Crazy cool. Then with Override, I literally looked and the calendar one day and was like, oh wow, look my book is published tomorrow. Huh. But then I generally treat big life events in a kind of understated way. I remember after I gave birth to my son they handed him to me and it was less ‘oh my gosh, oh my gosh, it’s my baby and I feel ALL THE THINGS!’ and more like ‘wow, hey little alien dude, okay, let’s try to figure out how to feed you now.’
Q. What is the one thing you’ve taken away, as a debut novelist last year to the release of your third novel?
A: Gosh, I have learned SO MUCH through this entire process, I feel like I’ve learned ten thousand things! Overall experience-wise, I learned that being a professional writer is about a mix of endurance and keeping ahold of inspiration. There are times when you will not love your book but have to keep writing it anyway. You write through it. But at the same time, if you don’t fill up your creative well by finding inspiration wherever you can, you can lose touch with what makes your characters vibrant and alive. It’s a difficult line to walk, forcing yourself to produce words and also trying to key into the life and heart of the novel at the same time, but it’s doable.