I’m excited to introduce you to my friend, Annie Lisenby, who just released her debut novel, A Three Letter Name. I had the pleasure of being one of Annie’s advanced readers and I didn’t want to put the book down. She kept me enthralled until the end.
I’ve known Annie for a few years, and I’m proud to say that she recently became one of my critique partners. She is incredibly talented and tells spellbinding stories that leave you wanting more. Annie was kind enough to grant me an interview and be featured here on Ozarks Maven.
A native of the Missouri Ozarks, Annie has traveled to exciting places that she brings to her writing. She primarily writes for teens and young adults, but Annie 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, Annie has taught and performed professionally and is a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild. As an author, Annie is a regular contributor to a local magazine and a board member of the Missouri Writers’ Guild. She is also active with the Joplin Writers’ Guild. Annie has won multiple awards in local contests and has been published in the Joplin Writers’ Guild Anthology and in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Annie’s debut YA novel A Three Letter Name was released in May 2022.
When not writing and teaching, Annie can be found reading and exploring nature with her husband and two children. Find out more about Annie and sign up for her newsletter at: www.annielisenby.com
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Ozarks Maven Author Spotlight Interview
1. For those readers who are unfamiliar with you, please tell us a little about yourself.
I am a native of the Ozarks, born and raised in SW Missouri. I left the state for graduate school and work, but after living in California and Asia, I was happy to move back to Missouri to raise my family. My training is in theatre, I have a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Performance. I’ve traveled the U.S. working at theatres and ended up in California to work in the film industry. I’ve spent about 10 years teaching theatre and English as a second language. When I’m not writing or part of a theatre performance, I enjoy hiking the Ozarks with my husband and two children.
2. What kinds of writing do you enjoy?
I am somewhat eclectic with writing. When I read, I always enjoy a good romance and tend to read a lot of young adult literature. That’s why I tend to write young adult novels. I have won awards for short stories and have been a regular contributor to a local magazine too. I’ve tried my hand at poetry a little, but it’s not the place I start when I’m writing.
3. What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
I’ve joked in the past that I enjoy writing because I’m creating a world that I can actually control! Did I mention I have two kids? With the world as it is today, it’s refreshing to be able to sit at my keyboard and create a story where I know there will be a happy ending… or at least it’s possible.
4. When did you start writing?
I’ve always enjoyed stories and appreciated people who could create. It wasn’t until college that I did much writing. I took playwriting and screenwriting to meet requirements of my double major in theatre and mass communications/television production. I enjoyed writing for the theatre and the screen, but the format used to tell the stories didn’t speak to me. I guess I’ve just spent too many years reading novels. I seriously started writing in 2018. I wasn’t sure if I had any talent. But that year a short story I’d submitted was chosen as honorable mention and was published in the Crowder Quill. Then, I entered a writing contest through the Joplin Writers’ Guild and that short story won first place. At that moment I thought I might be able to do this well and started writing my first book.
5. To what or whom do your attribute your love of reading and writing stories?
I was taught to love books by my mom and my grandparents. Mom took us to libraries and shared books she loved. My grandparents always had a large bookshelf brimming with books and one open next to their recliners in the living room. I learned that books could take me places and show me things I wouldn’t find otherwise.
6. How have your past experiences impacted your writing?
My past has impacted my writing in that I often write about small-town Missouri but I also add a dash of elements from outside the area. Living on the west coast and in Asia, I met all kinds of people from many cultures and enjoy sharing that in my writing too.
7. What are some jobs that you have held?
Oh, wow! I’ve had a lot of jobs. I’ve worked as a professional stage actress for small theatres and a theme park; as a “background actress” in the film and television world; as a tutor; as a theatre teacher; as an ESL teacher; as a tour guide at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, CA; as a server at a restaurant; as a church receptionist; and currently as a remote administrative assistant to a book editor/coach.
8. Does your past employment experience ever make its way into your books?
My work experiences often show up in my books. One area I trained in as an actor was stage combat and stunt work. When I worked at the theme park, I was in a stunt show and helped choreograph fight scenes. That experience has helped me anytime I had to write a fight scene, which I particularly enjoy doing with strong female characters.
9. What inspires you?
My family inspires me to keep going with writing. Because of our life situation, I’m not able to work much outside of the home. Knowing that my writing can help provide for my family, even if it’s a small amount, keeps me pounding away at the keyboard.
10. What made you decide to write about the subjects or themes of your books?
I find that there are some consistent themes in my books: strong women, bucking the system, environmentalism, for example. These are things that are important for me. I want to write strong women that my daughter can look up to. I write about bucking the system because that needs to be done from time to time. I write with environmental undercurrents because I was raised to conserve and recycle to protect our planet. In my new novel I also write about two characters with disabilities. One has a mangled foot and walks with a crutch. I used my experience of recovering from a broken leg and having a metal plate screwed into my shin for this character. I lived on crutches for four solid months. The other main character is hard of hearing. I went to an elementary school for a few years in Springfield, MO that was a magnet school for deaf and hard of hearing children. We were all integrated together. I was able to learn some sign language that I’ve used over the years to speak with those with hearing loss. Those experiences have a special place in my heart.
11. Have you met any interesting people while researching your books?
I haven’t done a lot of research for my books, but I have met a lot of interesting people in my day-to-day life that end up in my books. That’s one of the beauties of living in the Ozarks. Interesting people with wild stories abound here.
12. What is the most difficult part of writing?
For me, the most difficult part of writing is finding the time to do it. It’s a true struggle. My kids keep me quite busy, so it can be hard for me to etch out time to find a quiet place with my laptop.
13. Who are some of your favorite authors and why do you enjoy their work?
I have enjoyed Katharine McGee very much. She has written two young adult trilogies. I enjoy her writing because she creates all kinds of characters and finds ways to make me empathize with even the worst ones. She also has great concepts for her novels. One trilogy, American Royals, is based on the alternate history if George Washington had actually agreed to be king of America. Her books show the modern way that family would operate and the challenges they’d face. I also really enjoy Sophie Kinsella. Her quirky romances often have me laughing.
14. What writing advice did you find most useful when you were honing your craft?
Just get the words on the page and edit them later. I often chant this in my head when I get to a place where I’m not sure if the story is working. Usually, I outline my books to help me keep flowing, but sometimes I write characters into a corner. The only way to get them out is to keep the book going and the words flowing.
15. Do you have any new work just released or coming out soon? If so, would you please tell us a little about it?
My debut young adult novel was released May 31, 2022 from Parliament House Press. It’s a dystopian romance with hints of horror and fantasy. When the main character, Els, loses much of her hearing she is forced to marry a stranger. She learns at the wedding that he is also disabled, walking with a crutch due to a mangled foot. They both had worked to protect their villages from vicious beasts roaming the forest at night. Now together, they can’t find their purpose…until the beasts attack during the day and set off a panic. Working together, even though they didn’t want the other, they fight to rid the island of the beasts once and for all.
16. Can you tell us a little about your current project?
I have a list of about 20 book ideas! I started a middle grade book but might be putting it aside for a little while to work on another young adult book. This time it’s a contemporary fantasy that also, of course, has a generous amount of romance.
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