10 Questions With Annie Lisenby
Annie Lisenby is a native of the Missouri Ozarks and has traveled to exciting places that she brings into my writing. She primarily writes for teens and young adults, but also enjoys expanding into other areas too. In most of her work, you’ll find a generous dash of romance.
With an MFA in theatre, she has taught and performed professionally and is a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild. As an author, she is a regular contributor to a local magazine and she is a board member of the Missouri Writers’ Guild and active with the Joplin Writers’ Guild. She has won multiple awards in local contests and has been published in the Joplin Writers’ Guild Anthology and in Chicken Soup for the Soul. When not writing and teaching, she can be found reading and exploring nature with her husband and two children.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself! Where do you call home and what do you write?
Hi, I'm Annie Lisenby, a YA author from the Ozarks of southwest Missouri. I was born in this area but ventured away for graduate school in Mississippi where I earned my MFA in Theatre Performance. I've worked professionally as an actress and stunt performer and am a member of the Screen Actors Guild. I found my way back to the Ozarks after starting my family and love sitting at my desk, watching the birds in the birdbath outside my window, and writing young adult novels that always have a thread of romance.
2. What drew you to that particular genre and/or age group?
I was drawn to write YA because that's what I love to read. There is something beautiful about first experiences, first loves, and newly found independence. I also chose to write YA because I wanted to write books that my kids would enjoy reading.
3. What’s your best known work?
My debut novel A Three-Letter Name was released in May 2022. It's a survival romance featuring two characters with disabilities.
4. What inspired you to write it?
My experiences with the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities inspired me to write a hard-of-hearing character. Her love interest has a damaged foot and walks with a crutch, which was inspired by my personal experience living with crutches for four months after having surgery to fix my broken leg. The idea that started this story was this question: What would happen to someone if an ability that identified them was suddenly ripped away? In the book, Els uses her hearing to protect her village from beasts roaming the forest. Becoming hard-of-hearing and no longer being able to contribute in the one way that gave her purpose sends her life in a very different direction.
5. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a plotter, pantser or somewhere in between? How do you research?
My writing process is to plot the main points of a story and pants my way between them. And then edit the manuscript at least five times adding to the story to fill it out, clarify plot points, and emphasize the characters' stakes. Researching for me is capturing the feeling of the space where the book takes place. A Three-Letter Name takes place on an island strongly based on a place I lived years ago when I worked as a stunt performer at a theme park. My newest WIP takes place in eastern Missouri, so last summer my family stopped there for the night when we were passing through. I need to feel, to hear, to smell the location. And sometimes, I need to know something specifically. This led me to spend five minutes touching and feeling a cedar tree in my friend's yard. I'm lucky to have friends like her who indulge these oddities of mine. Once I have an overall feel of a story, then I focus on the specifics and research those things. For "A Three-Letter Name" I did a lot of research on native plants in the area where my book is based.
6. What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you’ve researched for your writing?
If I told you this one, I'd give away some secrets to A Three-Letter Name! But I will say that for my novel I researched a lot about natural healing, using herbs, honey, sap, and other things from nature to heal wounds. For another book I wrote, I researched vampire history. That book hasn't been published...yet.
7. What’s the most personal story/scene you’ve written and why?
I feel that I share a lot of my frustrations with the world around me in my characters. They are frustrated too. They feel hopeless sometimes. They fall into pits of despair. But it's cathartic to also write them finding their ways out of these places. I also wrote a scene of great loss in A Three-Letter Name. That was based on something that happened to a friend. My heart was broken for her, so I wrote Els's experience watching her friend nearly overcome with grief. It gave me the opportunity to write Els's response in the way I wish I'd been able to respond.
8. Who are your literary influences? In what way?
I read a lot of different subgenres, so I have quite a few. One of my favorites is Lois Lowry. She knows how to capture emotion and weave a creative story. For romance, I really enjoy Meg Cabot, JoJo Moyes, and Sophie Kinsella. They are all different writers that bring layers of realism, quirkiness, and human connection to their books. And a new favorite is Katharine McGee, who wrote the American Royals trilogy, amongst others. She captures teen character motivation in a way that always has me turning pages.
9. What books are on your bedside table right now?
Oh, wow! That TBR stack is piled high! I am reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, a book on women heroes of the revolutionary war, an author friend's new book Hard Start: Mars Intrigue, and Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys.
10. Last and most important, where can we find your books/stories?
My debut novel A Three-Letter Name is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Booksamillion, and most other online book stores. If you check out my website, www.annielisenby.com, you'll find exclusive bonus materials including a discussion guide, a map of the island, a deleted scene, and more. On the books tab of my website, you can find a list of my other work with links. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and am a regular contributor to a local magazine. For the magazine, I started an old-fashioned serial in August 2022. It's a YA adventure about a girl who discovers that her absent mom is in the FBI and is pulled into a dangerous chase. There will be a new chapter printed each month for a year.
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