Tessa Emily Hall is the 21 year old author of the YA Christian fiction novel, Purple Moon. She spends her days sipping on lattes, cuddling with her Shih-Tzu and singing along to country music. She sacrificed her high school years to write about a teen whose life was far more interesting than hers. This resulted in her debut novel, Purple Moon, which was published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and was a finalist in the 2014 Selah Awards. Also, she runs an awesome blog for teen writers called Christ Is Write, in which she talks about faith, fiction, and coffee.
Now, onwards to the interview!
1. When did you start writing?
I started dictating stories to my mom when I was 3-years-old. That's when my passion for storytelling began. Throughout my childhood, I would spend my free time sitting at the dining room table with a stack of paper, a pack of crayons, and write book after book. I did it for the pure enjoyment that came from using my imagination to create a story, with only a pen and paper as my tools.
2. How long did it take you to get your first book published?
I started writing the first version of Purple Moon when I was 15. I completed it at 16, and it was also then when I attended my first writing conference. I wasn't intending to pitch the book at the time; however, a published had asked to see the first chapter after hearing that I wrote YA fiction. He proceeded to ask a few questions about the story, then asked if I could send him the entire manuscript. OF course, I couldn't say no! I was ecstatic. A few months later, he offered me a contract, which I signed when I was 17. Purple Moon was then published when I was 19. =)
3. Who was/is your biggest inspiration?
As a writer, I would have to say that my biggest inspiration is the Christian fiction author, Karen Kingsbury. I admire the way she is able to write stories that are entertaining yet life-changing, ones that radiate God’s love and grace on every page. Even though she is known as the “Queen of Christian Fiction”, Kingsbury has remained humble and treats her readers as if they are her close friends. I am also inspired by the way that she doesn’t just settle for only writing books; rather, she also enjoys screenwriting, has her own radio talk show, and creates a card & gift line with her daughter.
4. Is there any one of your stories/characters that you like above the others you have written or are they loved all the same?
So far I have fallen in love with every full-length novel I’ve written, and the same goes with the characters as well. But that’s not to say that I don’t strive to make every story better than the one before. In fact … the book I’m writing now is one that is really close to my heart. I’ve been working on it for the past three years, and I still enjoy it just as much as I did when I first had the idea. It’s going to be very hard to pry this one away from my hands … lol!
5. Were you ever discouraged by anyone from writing? Who encouraged you the most?
When I was 14, I emailed a best-selling author asking if she had any advice for an aspiring author. The response I received was not the one I’d expected. Instead of encouraging me to pursue this career, she told me that it was a difficult profession and that it might be best to pursue another area instead.
Looking back, I can see that in some ways she was right: Being an author is not as glamorous as some may assume. However, my passion for writing is far greater than the difficulties, and I am very thankful that I did not follow to her advice.
My parents have always been supportive of my writing. When I was little, my mom completely supported my dream of being an author; in fact, it is her belief in my writing that convinced me I would become published some day. I was also blessed with teachers growing up who recognized my writing ability and encouraged me to pursue it as well. But honestly, if it wasn’t for my parents, there is no way I would be where I am today.
6. What kind of writer are you? (Plotter, Pantser, Plantser)
I could never be a panster. I have to at least have an idea of what Act 1, Act 2, and Act 3 will consist of before I start writing. I can’t map out every scene of the book without writing it first, either. So I would definitely say that I am a planster: I don’t plot without writing, and I don’t write without plotting … if that’s even possible! Haha. In other words … my writing process is very complicated. Let’s just leave it at that! ;)
7. What parts of a story are your favorite to write?
Great question! I absolutely love writing endings: The part of the story when everything comes together. No, it might not end “happily” since that’s life; however, the character has learned through the process. She has fought a battle, which in return has helped her grow into a stronger person. I don’t always know exactly how a book will end. But that’s another reason why I find so much joy in writing the ending: It’s incredible to witness how God helps me tie up the loose ends and put every piece of the puzzle into place.
8. Where is your favorite place to write/what time of day do you write best?
My favorite time to write is in the mornings—my brain seems to be less cluttered at that time. I also love sipping on coffee as I write. ;) My current favorite place to write is in my bedroom, at my desk that overlooks a pond.
9. What inspired you to write Purple Moon?
I wanted to write a character-driven story that followed the journey of a teen girl struggling to overcome her past and longing for a new beginning. It was very much inspired by the song “By Your Side” by Tenth Avenue North, as well as the skit that many churches have performed to the song “Everything” by Lifehouse (which you can watch on YouTube). The setting of the book—Lake Lure, NC—was inspired simply based on a picture that I found of mountains over the lake.
10. You run an awesome blog for teen writers. Do you have any advice for bloggers that are newer to this (like us)?
Thank you! Blogging is a great way to connect with other readers and writers. First of all, I would advise trying to stick to a certain schedule. It can become easy to think of blogging as a hobby rather than a priority. But if you want to establish a readership, then readers will need to know when they can expect to see a post. Once a week? Twice a week? Blogging is also great practice for striving to reach a deadline.
While trying to build a readership, it also helps to only write in specific categories. For instance—on my blog, I try to only write posts that could fall under the categories of faith and fiction. This will help to keep your blog focused, build a consistent audience rather than just spontaneous readers, and establish your brand (which always looks good to a potential agent/publisher).
11. Finally, if you could be any fictional character, who would you be?
That’s a really good question! Growing up, I always wanted to play Wendy in the musical Peter Pan. It’s one of my absolute favorite Disney stories. And Wendy seems to have such a maturity and boldness about her that I admire. Besides, who wouldn’t want to fly away to a land where you would never have to grow up?
That's it for today! Thanks, Tessa for answering our questions!
That's it for today! Thanks, Tessa for answering our questions!