Welcome, Artemis Grey! Thanks for being here today to share about yourself and your latest release, Catskin.
Artemis Grey was raised on fairytales and the folklore of Appalachia. She’s been devouring books and regurgitating her daydreams into written words since childhood. She can most often be found writing by a crackling fire or rambling barefooted through the woods and mountains, napping (yes, napping) on horseback, searching the depths of random wardrobes and wriggling into hollow tree trunks. In her downtime, she herds cats, which is just as entertaining as it sounds. She hopes to make her readers look at the world they’ve always seen, and see the world they’ve always envisioned.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I literally cannot remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I mean, my twin sister and I were feral children, and we didn’t much think about careers, or growing up until later in life (for me, I didn’t even consider the fact that I might not be able to avoid becoming an adult until I was about 14) but even when I was put on the spot, it was an instant and immediately natural understanding that if I couldn’t actually travel to other worlds, then I’d write about them.
What genre(s) do you write?
I’m open to literally any genre within the age of YA. I also write environmental articles for a nonprofit conservation group called ICARUS (The International Consortium for Animal-welfare United in Stewardship) and I’m working on several memoir-type (I’m unsure of precisely how they should be classified) books. At least one of them will utilize some of the amazing photography my sister has produced.
How many books have you written and how many of those have been published?
Um… good question… Let’s see, the easy part is that so far, only one has been published. As for how many have been written, I’m going to go with five-ish. That’s counting Catskin, but not counting two So-Terrible-They-Are-Beyond-Redemption manuscripts.
How many hours a day do you devote to writing?
If only it could be hours every day… Right now, I devote whatever time I can to writing. I worked on a large estate for about 13 years, and that was lovely because I could literally be mucking out stalls, have a plot revelation, and dash into the employee lounge and jot it down in my notebook. Catskin was written while I was working there. When the farm was sold in 2013, and I had to find a more “normal” job, it got more difficult to balance work and writing. Now, I might get up, get the animals fed, and then get a few dozen words out while I’m drinking coffee before work. Since I write all of my first drafts in longhand, it’s a little different from working on the computer.
What is the hardest part of writing?
The hardest part of writing, for me, is defending writing itself–not writing for publishing, but writing for the love of writing–as an art form. Luckily, my immediate (and extended) family is incredibly supportive, and has always just accepted me for myself, but so many people I meet see writing as a hobby, or pointless if I’m not going to live off of it, or become rich through it. I’ve been told that my writing is a waste of time, or that it’s meaningless unless I make money on it, that it “doesn’t count” if it’s not validated somehow. It’s like if you spend your time writing without becoming Stephen King, then you’re just “playing around” and it’s immediately relegated to being invalid as a form of art.
What does your family think of your writing?
As I said above, my family has always been very supportive. I think there have been some quiet, long-drawn sighs at various points, not because anyone thought that writing wasn’t worthwhile, but because they knew what an uphill battle making a living on writing would be, and that I’d more than likely end up working my entire life, just to be able to afford the time to write.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Well, it used to be (when I was working on the farm) that when I wasn’t writing, I was riding horses, roaming the estate (all 600 acres of it) or possibly dancing badly to questionable music. Now, if I’m not writing, I’m usually playing Aunt Waguli to my niece, catching up with yard work or herding cats. My best friend has just bought land nearby, though, so I’m hoping that in the next year, it’ll be shifting more back to riding horses, enjoying brunch on a back deck with my bestie and playing outside on the farm.
What authors do you like to read?
Not fair. I love so many! I’ll cheat and say (without intending to name-drop) that I absolutely love reading authors whom I’ve met and had fun with in real life. It’s hysterical, and amazing, to see their own personalities, beliefs, and even sayings, shine through their characters. It’s like reconnecting with little bits of them even when we’re not together. I’m currently working my way through all of Rosemary Clement-Moore’s books, and I’ve already read (and reread) most of Tamora Pierce, Janni Lee Simner, Cindy Pon, Rae Carson and Malinda Lo’s books. There are so many others, but those are off the top of my head. Side note, I met all of these amazing writers at the annual Sirens Conference. If you’re at all hesitant about attending conferences, I urge you to check out Sirens, it’s an amazing place.
Do you have future projects in mind?
Always. I’m a multiple WIPs at a time person, so while I might be buckled down working on one specific project, it’s completely normal for me to be thinking about another one, or maybe roughly outlining several. I’m mostly a panster, but I like to know my main characters, and have a least a few points leading toward where they’ll eventually end up.
Do you write every day?
Virtually. I’ve had some health issues the last couple of years, and it’s interrupted my obsessive Must Write Every Day compulsion simply because there have been days (sometimes several in a row) where I was in too much pain and discomfort to do anything but rest and feel horrible that I wasn’t writing. But *normally* I write something every day, even if it’s just one sentence or a jotting down a story idea.
How did your writing journey begin?
If you mean literally my writing itself (not journey to publication) it started out with oral stories. My Mother is from up in the mountains of West Virginia, and I grew up listening to my Grandmother’s stories, both accounts of things that had happened in her childhood, as well as ghost stories, and hollow tales, and then I’d tell my own stories to my toy horses. Eventually I started writing them down, and that turned into a “book” which was never finished. I finally stopped working on it when it was well over a thousand pages long (all hand written) and I realized that it was just me as a character with all of my favorite other characters from other books tagging along on endless adventures with no actual plot.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
I think the best thing about being a writer is that when I was younger, I can remember arguing with adults (not my parents) about growing up, and I swore vehemently that I would never grow up and forget what it was like to be a child. I can remember vowing to forever defy anything that looked down on childhood and the innocence of it. I would be the way I am no matter what, but being a writer means that I can share all of those cherished bits of childhood with people all over the world. And, in a world where the majority of adults look at you like you’ve had a break with reality if you go climbing trees, or running through botanical gardens barefooted, saying “I’m a writer.” usually stops them from calling security on you!
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read whatever genre you write, and write until your fingers bleed. Also, look inside yourself and learn why you’re a writer. Some people write to say things, some write to enlighten others, some have the goal of being a best seller, and others write just because they need to bleed words onto paper even if it never gets them a dollar and no one ever reads it. No one type of writer is better, or more correct, but knowing what matters most to you about your writing, and what your goals are will help you structure how you go about putting your writing out into the world, and how you develop your own platform.
Social Media Links:
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/Artemis-Grey-851681138247610
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Artemis-Grey/e/B0089BO30U
Shy, eighteen-year-old albino, Ansel, thought that letting the runaway girl with the injured ankle sleep in his parents’ shed was a good idea. That was before she passed out in his shower, woke up in a panic and accidentally attacked him. Any average guy would have called the cops but average isn’t Ansel’s style.
When she refuses to tell him her real name, Ansel nicknames the girl Catskin, after one of his favorite fairytale characters, and begins the dubious task of earning her trust. It’s not an easy thing to do, but a few awkward conversations later, one thing is clear: Catskin doesn’t want to be the way she is, she just doesn’t think she can change. Ansel knows from his own experiences that seeing the world around you differently doesn’t mean that you’re wrong, something he intends to teach Catskin.
While the details of her past remain elusive, Catskin creates a new place for herself with Ansel and his family, and develops her own brand of normalcy. Then a terrible accident leaves her hovering near death, and Ansel is forced to contact her estranged parents. But there are secrets hidden in the life Catskin left behind. Dark secrets that chased her all the way to Healy, Alaska and Ansel’s actions unknowingly provoke a shocking confrontation between the wealthy world Catskin was born into, and the starkly average one she now shares with Ansel.
Refusing to give up the imperfect girl who fits perfectly inside his heart, Ansel prepares to go to war with Catskin’s father. But in the end, Catskin might be the only one who can save herself.
(Ansel and his husky-dog Zombie have just convinced Catskin–who has yet to be nicknamed–back to the shed where she slept so she can eat the breakfast Ansel made for her.)
Fighting off another blush, I stood and turned back for her. Ethan would have swept her onto her feet. But I wasn’t Ethan, and I didn’t have the gonads. All I could manage was to hold out a hand. She ignored me and got to her feet alone, finding her balance. She favored the injured ankle but it held when she put weight on it. My fingers itched with a sudden desire to support her, to help her bear her own meager weight.
Who was I kidding? This entire help-the-crazy-waif idea had disaster written all over it in letters ten feet high. But somehow, knowing it was a bad idea made me like the idea. For some reason, doing what didn’t make sense just felt like the sensible thing to do. She needed help, and I wanted to give it to her. Instead of wanting to avoid the girl, like I did everyone else, I had an absurd desire to throw myself in front of her like Superman stopping a train before it crashed.
The eggs were stone cold by the time we got to the book shed. The girl didn’t care. She snatched up the plate and sat on the floor using her fingers, rather than the fork, to shovel food into her mouth. Zombie made like he intended to share breakfast with her, forcing his head between her elbow and side. He had second thoughts when she grumbled at him in a wordless growl. I wanted to talk to her, but I didn’t know where to start. Well, besides the obvious.
“My name’s Ansel,” I said.
By then I didn’t expect her to respond. I didn’t expect her to be interested in whatever I said, either. So when she looked up from her food with those hollow eyes I was stupefied for a moment.
Finally, I managed to say, “My brother, Ethan, calls me Ans.”
She cut her gaze around, wary and untrusting.
“He’s not here,” I assured her. “No one comes to the book shed but me, usually. Pipe Dream, the bookstore my parents own, is a hundred yards that way.” I pointed to one wall, shivering when she fixed her eyes on me again instead of looking where I was pointing. I felt my skin turn the color of hot sauce and gritted my teeth.
“I live above it most of the time, since I finished with school. My family’s house is a couple of miles outside Healy. Ethan’s there with our younger brother, Ellis. My parents are up north visiting family for a few weeks.”
Just go on and babble, Ansel. Throw out your whole life story in the first five minutes.
She released me from her penetrating gaze and let Zombie pre-rinse the breakfast plate. You’d think I’d have figured out not to gawk at her by then, but my eyes kept getting stuck. More scars transected her hands and fingers. Most were almost flat. Just ghostly silver lines. But some were newer. Bright pink. Maybe the same age as the messy one on her neck. The ones on her neck. I could see, now, there were really two of them. One ran straight down to her collarbone and one branched off, curving under her jaw.
Something—or someone—had cut her throat.