When most of us were 15 years old, we were busy thinking about prom and whether our parents would buy us those new jeans we saw at the mall. But not Anna Caltabiano. No, she was already publishing(!) her first book, All That is Red. Since then the teenage wunderkind has gone full-steam ahead with her sophomore novel, The Seventh Miss Hatfield (EpicReads Impulse, August 11). It’s the first in a fantasy trilogy, with the second book scheduled for release around the holidays.
The Seventh Miss Hatfield tells the story of Cynthia, an 11-year-old girl who’s lured into her neighbor’s apartment and finds herself drinking from the Fountain of Youth. Now she’s immortal, and must travel back in time to recover a stolen painting. But along the way she finds a boy, and begins to question her decision to become the next Miss Hatfield. BookTrib had the pleasure of chatting with Caltabiano about what it’s like to be a young writer and whether immortality is a blessing or a curse.
BookTrib: You published your first book when you were only 15 years old. How did you become such a young published author?
Anna Caltabiano: Believe it or not, this all started with a bet with my dad. I’m an only child, and normally every summer my dad does what most parents of only children do—sign their kid up for summer camp so they don’t spend their summer on the couch. One summer, to escape camp, I told my parents that I was going to write a novel. I loved to write short stories, and I had always meant to write a novel someday, so I decided that that was as good a time as any. I’m not sure if my dad believed I would actually follow through, but I ended up parking myself right in the middle of the dining room table all summer to write the first draft of what would later become my first novel, All That is Red.
This bet helped me take action and actually do what I had always hoped I would do. I was always in awe of the power of stories. I loved how I could pick up any book and be transported into a different world, just like that. Writing naturally followed from reading. I love creating my own world, and interacting with my characters as if they’re real people. After that, publication was all about finding people—agents, editors—who believed in me and the stories I wanted to tell. Since then, I haven’t been able to stop writing!
BT: The Seventh Miss Hatfield tackles both time travel and immortality. If you could travel anywhere in time, where would you go?
AC: Such a hard question! I think traveling to the 60s would be interesting. The 1960s were a time of great change, from the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Cuban Missile Crisis. There was despair and a good deal of tension from the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Protests, but there was also hope from momentous events such as the first man on the moon. Also, I think the dresses in that time period were fantastic!
BT: Immortality is a big topic in this book. Do you see immortality as a blessing or a curse?
AC: If someone gave you the chance to live forever, who wouldn’t take it? It sounds like a pretty good deal to me. But on the other hand, it’s how you spend your life, rather than the length of it, isn’t it?
BT: If you could only bring one novel with you on a desert island, what would it be and why?
AC: I think I’d go with [F. Scott] Fitzgerald’s Tender Is The Night. It’s one of my favorite books because of Fitzgerald’s writing style. It also has a vivid cast of characters, so I won’t feel too alone on the deserted island!
BT: What advice would you give to other young writers?
AC: The most realistic dialogue comes from the real people around you. Dialogue should be so simple that it doesn’t slow the reader down. We normally use stark, straightforward language in our everyday conversations. That should be what the dialogue in your writing is like. So listen to the people around you carefully. Everyone’s teaching you something, whether they know it or not!
For more from Anna Caltabiano be sure to join our #BTLiveChat with her on Friday, August 14 at 4 PM EST.