Friday, 28 June 2013

Author Interview: Teshelle Combs

Please welcome the lovely Teshelle to my blog today! We're talking inspiration and criticism (ouch!) 
For the benefit of my readers, what is your name and where do you live now?
My name is Teshelle Combs and I live in Cape Coral, FL, though I grew up in the beautiful St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

First off, how has your week been?
My week has been filled with ups and downs (though mostly ups). I’m a wee bit preggo, which means I get to tussle with hormones and being extra toasty hot in the SW Florida summer heat. But my baby boy, Jaxter is cooking nicely (I’m 30 weeks along), and my debut novel, “Core,” was just released on kindle and in paperback!

Oh wow, congratulations! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
Well, I’m 24 years old and I’ve technically been writing since I was a munchkin. I started out my college career as a chemistry major, then changed to philosophy almost immediately. Finally, two years in, I gave in and decided to go for it. I majored in English with a focus in Creative Writing. And that was it. I knew I wanted to write for the rest of my life.
So I started out freelancing and worked for a firm or two, then nannied on the side as I pounded out my first few novels.  When I came up for the concept for “Core,” I knew I’d found my first publishable piece. Fast forward a few months to today, and I’m a full-time professional indie author. So far, I love it.
I also write full time, it's the best! Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?

Oh boy. When I was a kid, I was nuts. I wanted to be an astronomer, a teacher, an inventor (I couldn’t understand why my parents kept laughing at my milk toaster idea; it toasts your bread and heats up your milk at the same time; you catch the milk in a mug as it pops up!).
Later on, in high school, I was convinced I was going to be a forensic pathologist. I was prepared to exhume corpses and dissect the dead for the rest of my days. And I was pretty good at all of the sciences in school. I even loved dissecting in lab classes and watching surgeries on TV.
But English was always there, poking at me, pulling at my shirt sleeve. After I took my first creative writing course in college, my boyfriend (now my hubs) just looked me in the eye and said, “This is what you love, Tess. Just do it, already.” So I did. And I will until I can’t anymore.

That's great that you've got the support of your hubby! Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Oh, how I wish I could say that my whole book was based on real life experiences! In fact, I first decided to write “Core” because I just wanted to be able to ride my own dragon so badly it hurt. And yes, I was a 23 year old adult at the time, but I’d put my hand out the window as I drove along and imagined what it would be like. I imagined wanting to want to fly, if that makes sense. What would it be like if I was born to fly, or if my destiny ran me smack into a dragon?  And since I couldn’t find that dragon, I did the next best thing: wrote a book about it.
Many of the combat scenes in the book come from my experiences with my Dad. He’s always loved martial arts and even when I was a teenager, my family took classes together. He was the kind of Dad who would sneak up behind his 16 year old on her way out to the movies and pretend he was a mugger. “What would you do if I came at you like this? How would you defend yourself?” And I’d have to deflect his mock attack if I ever wanted to make it to the theatre on time. So yes, I owe my fight scenes to that crazy man.
Also, the rock climbing, the long plane rides, the loud family meals are all inspired by the amazing life I’ve been blessed to lead.
Did you have any say in the title / cover of your book?

YES. I’m lucky enough to be an indie author, which means that I got to choose literally everything before we published. I decided to name the book “Core” (which took forever because titling is not my gifting; I have no clue what I’m naming the sequel. Suggestions?).  I actually had my husband, Nate Combs, design my book cover from scratch. I got to title every chapter, alter my own scenes, edit my own way. There’s a lot of work that goes into being indie, but so far, it’s been worth it.
I enjoy the freedom of indie publishing too although I have no imagination when it comes to covers to sometimes handing it over to a publisher is fun! Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Absolutely.  I want my readers to remember that love is not always easy. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows and kisses. It is, however, always a choice, and it’s often hard work.
For my main character, Ava, it is difficult to understand what it means to be loved, what it means to trust someone, to need someone. She’s used to people, like her foster mother, Miriam, needing her, but not the other way around. She’s been used and abused and damaged and it made her too strong and too tough to let her guard down. But to be loved, one must be vulnerable and open and honest. And frankly, that’s scary. If it isn’t scary, you’re doing it wrong!
Also, I want people who’ve had tough lives, who’ve been disappointed or hurt or even abused, to know that it doesn’t have to be that way forever.  Hope leads to change, and change leads to healing.  Sometimes, to be brave, we have to open up to help. I hope Ava is a good example of that.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Toughest criticism: “I just don’t get this.” Oh to be misunderstood. How do you even fix that? To know you haven’t connected with your reader… well, you’ve missed the whole goal of writing. (Note my use of second person POV here to deflect the sting of the criticism?)
Best Compliment: It wasn’t actually something anyone said to me. It was that moment when my little sister finished reading my first draft of “Core.” (She’s been reading my work since she was little and I’d write just for fun. I’d have her sit on my lap and we’d go over it together.) Anyways, she finished reading “Core,” and then sent me a Word document. When I opened it, there was her story inside.
To inspire. To know that when people read my work, they decide they want to do it too. Is there anything better?
Yes, I understand the 'don't get it' criticism. Ouch!! But to inspire others is a wonderful gift! What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
For God’s sake, do what you love.
I haven’t lived very long. Not yet. But I know this: with every piece of me, I love to write. I am a dreamer, and that makes me crazy. It makes me foolish and nonsensical and irreproachable only in that I can’t be told to give up. I can’t be told “it won’t happen.”  I can’t be told I’m unrealistic or unwise or irresponsible. Search until you find what it is you love, what it is you must be. And then be that. Keep being that until it’s all you are.
It’s that simple. It’s that hard.
Thank you for interviewing me, Samantha! Your questions were awesome and I actually had a lot of fun answering them.
Find Teschelle on her blog, Facebook and Twitter and purchase Core on Amazon.
From the moment Cale sets his eyes on Ava Johnson, he catches fire to their fates, locking them both in a wild spiral, tied to a world of betrayal and chaos.
Cale Anders lives a normal life–as normal as any eighteen year old dragon could hope for. He has always managed to straddle two worlds, one of underground fight clubs and siren hunts, and one of family barbecues and backyard football. Still, for as long as Cale can remember, he’s been the middle man –the ambassador for his own family–bent on reconciling the stark differences between his fiercely intelligent blue dragon relatives and the boisterous, passionate red dragon nesters.
But when Cale picks the steely-eyed human, Ava, to be his rider, he must choose between the family he’s always loved, and the only girl who can unlock his potential and spark his core. 
Ava, her heart entrapped in a prison of callouses, is caught off guard by the rawness of the Anders’ life and the honesty of the boy who claims to belong only to her. But even more alarming than her immersion in a world she never knew existed, is the realization that love can grow slowly, steadily, and painfully, no matter how furious her resistance. 
Together, Cale and Ava upturn the balance of the dragon world, leaving their very lives vulnerable to the wiles of forces neither of them truly understand.

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