Today's interviewee is Jesse Sutanto, author of INITIATION. You can read about Ms. Sutano's successful quest for an agent over on her blog, Putputt Eats and Writes.
Thank you for journeying all the way to Elflandia! Why don't you tell us a bit about your book?
Ms. Sutanto: It's a YA fantasy about a shy, fat girl trying to survive the final test in assassin school.
What inspired you to write this story?
Ms. Sutanto: When I first started it, I was addicted to World of Warcraft and Airbender (the series, not the movie), so I suppose those were my two inspirations.
Who was your favorite character to write?
Ms. Sutanto: Hands down, Mara. I love reading YA books, but I noticed a lack of non-skinny, non-feisty female MCs, and I kept thinking, "What about the shy fat girls? Why can't they have exciting adventures too?" Can you tell I was a shy fat girl growing up?
What motivates your characters?
Ms. Sutanto: Friendship. I went to an all-girls Catholic school, and one of the best things about it was the strong friendships it fostered. I value my female friends above many things in life, and I guess that leaked into the story. Throughout the novel, Mara and Lia fight against all odds so that they could maintain their friendship. Of course, there are all sorts of twists and delicious betrayals...
Have you ever hugged a sloth?
Ms. Sutanto: Strangely, no, but I have hugged an octopus. Or rather, the octopus hugged me and I tried to pry myself off. They're very huggy, did you know that? Octopi, I mean, not sloths.
Do your characters ever wrestle with the morality of assassin as an occupation, or is that outside the novel's scope?
Ms. Sutanto: They do, actually. Well, Mara does. At first, I thought it would be all James Bond-ish and they'd just whiz through assassinations, but as it turned out, that wasn't what happened. Mara feels really crappy about what she's being trained to do and rebels against it, which is one of the main things motivating her.
Do you ever kill characters? (You don't have to answer that!)
Ms. Sutanto: *evil grin* Yes. Hur hur. My agent actually resurrected four characters throughout the book, but there's still quite a high body count by the end of the novel.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Ms. Sutanto: Um...I am a pink hippo who likes to terrorize people on QLH.
What are you reading these days?
Ms. Sutanto: I just finished reading John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, which was pretty frikkin' excellent. Now I'm reading I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, because Pratchett.
Where did you grow up?
Ms. Sutanto: Everywhere! I was born in the States, but then my parents moved back to Indonesia and I lived there until I was about seven. Then my parents sent me to Singapore, where I lived until I was sixteen. That was when I moved to California, which is my favoritest place in the world. I moved to Oxford for my Masters, and that's where I'm at now.
What's your favorite kind of coffee?
Ms. Sutanto: You know, I wish I could say that I love some exotic brand of coffee, but to be honest, my favorite coffee drink is the kind with lots of milk and sugar and chocolate and possibly a couple squirts of that horrible artificial hazelnut flavoring. It's my observation that books seem to reflect their writers. What aspect of you is reflected in your book?
Ms. Sutanto: I was somewhat chubby as a teen, and pretty shy. Being chubby in Asia is a Very Bad Thing, and I got a lot of crap over my weight. Even strangers would tell me I needed to lose weight. That's very much reflected in Mara. Lia was someone I wished I could be: outspoken, confident, graceful. Other than that, I don't share their hobby of looking up 101 ways to kill a person or anything. Hur hur.
Would you like to leave us with a quote from your book/query?
Ms. Sutanto: The pitch: Mara the Clever, Mara the Fatty, Mara the Clumsy. If she doesn't pass the final test in assassin school, she'll be Mara the Dead.