1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I grew up in a household where everyone was always reading and stopping by the library. I was quickly inspired by the books I read, and knew that I wanted to create stories of my own. I kept stacks of notebooks throughout elementary school and filled them with more short stories than I can count, but began writing The Shadow Hour as my first novel when I was ten. Since winning the Secret Kids Contest and having The Shadow Hour published, I’ve continued working on several longer projects, and can’t envision a future where I’m not writing!
2) What inspired you to write your book?
I had wanted to write a longer work for several years and had attempted it many times, typically foregoing the projects halfway through. Ultimately a conversation with friends sparked the basic idea for The Shadow Hour, and with that creative inspiration, I was able to turn the concept into a fully-fleshed story. I was also inspired greatly by the dystopian adventure novels I read throughout middle school, like The Hunger Games and Divergent. I wanted to create a dystopian novel of my own, combined with more fantastical elements.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I hope that readers might learn from Amber, the protagonist, whose journey results in the realization that her fierce independence will not be the key to her success. Even if we may not have to face autonomous shadows or different dimensions in our lives, I hope readers can learn from Amber that the world and its challenges often aren’t meant to be faced alone.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
I have always been drawn to the fantasy and dystopian genres because I like the creative elements of world building, and the ability to consider how characters might react to the new environments I create. I love the creative liberties I can take with fantasy especially, stepping away from the limitations of the real world through my writing. Fantasy and dystopian have always been my favorite genres to read as well, and the many books that I have read have constantly influenced me and my style of writing.
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
I think I would sit down with Ender, one of the more mysterious characters in my book. Ender has been trapped in the Shadow Realm – an alternate dimension in the book – for years. If he were somehow brought to life, I would want to hear all about his years in the Shadow Realm and how they’d impacted him, as well as what kind of mysterious phenomena he’d witnessed in the strange dimension. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’ll have to keep some of the questions I’d ask him to myself!
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
During the editing process, I was able to participate in blog posts where I could share my experiences with writing and editing The Shadow Hour. With the book now published, it has been more difficult than expected to get used to the self-promotion aspect of sharing my story. After much recent encouragement, though, I have decided to start an Instagram page to promote The Shadow Hour, as I take many book recommendations from the Instagram reading community myself!
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
I would tell any aspiring author that writing requires practice – if you have an idea, try to get a first draft onto paper. Don’t be disheartened if it’s imperfect. You can rewrite the story as many times as you want, and each time holds endless room for improvement. I rewrote The Shadow Hour in its entirety three times before submitting it to the Secret Kids Contest. I then edited the manuscript over several rounds, rewriting as many as a hundred pages in some edits. Each editing round and rewrite was a chance to practice and to improve, so if you’re looking to write a book, get the first draft down and don’t worry about the details.
My second biggest piece of advice is to be open to criticism. The more opinions you receive about your writing, the better. Bringing in new perspectives is always helpful, even if it is scary. I had to move past that fear when working with an editor and sharing my book with family and friends, and found that I improved much faster when I began taking feedback. There is always room for improvement with writing, and outside opinions make those improvements much more obtainable.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Are any new books/projects on the horizon?
I have quite a few Google Docs filled with story ideas and some longer projects that are more complete. I’m not sure which I’ll end up pursuing further, but I certainly want to share more stories with the world in the future!
I’ll be starting college next year as well, and I’m looking forward to more formally studying creative writing and honing my skills. I hope to be able to take what I learn and apply it to the projects I’ve already started. Writing is certainly not leaving my life anytime soon, and I’m eager to see where my current projects take me in the coming years.
About the Author
Anya Costello is a teen author whose manuscript won first prize of the International Writing Contest of Stone Soup magazine and Mackenzie Press.
Anya says: I have been writing stories since the age of four and at age ten, I attempted my first full length work of fiction, The Shadow Hour. I have always been drawn to writing fantasy and fiction. Building worlds that follow different rules from our own, like the Shadow Realm, and creating the characters that live within them allows me to put aspects of my own life, experiences, and thoughts in an entirely new context.
Anya has been presented at the Frankfurt Book Fair and has received a citation from United Sates Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III.
Anya was born and raised in Massachusetts where she currently resides with her family.