Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Young Oregon Author Defies Classification
Don’t try to pigeonhole MaCherie Doerfler or her writing. When she self-published her first book with iUniverse, Tabitha, as a high school sophomore, she generated comparisons to young writing phenom Christopher Paolini. While Tabitha fell into the romance category, Doerfler’s latest effort, Internal Gold, is in more of a fantasy vein. It’s Fairy tale–themed plot may invite comparisons to one of her heroes, Gregory Maguire.

How long have you been writing stories? When did you begin to think about publishing your work?
Like most writers, I suppose, I started out as a reader. Read everything, everywhere, all the time. Nearly got ran over by a car once. Then I began writing short stories in sixth grade for school, and found out I loved it. In seventh grade, I made a few feeble attempts at writing a novel, and in eighth grade I did it. I'm definitely ambitious; and I knew right away that if I was going to put so much time and energy, and so much of my soul, into writing this novel, that I wanted to publish it.

Who are some of your favorite authors? How do they influence your work?
I love Robin McKinley's books. She has strong, independent heroines, realistically flawed in a rather endearing way, and she has a unique sense of magic: vague, yet a part of life. Lately, I've also become a fanatical fan of Gregory Maguire. What I love most about his writing is his sense of irony, his edgy dialogue, and his insight on human nature. And yes, I'm a Harry Potter fan. The characters and places in Harry Potter seem to truly exist. I feel like I've gone to Hogwarts with Harry. These are all things I value a lot in a story, and I think that they definitely show up in my own writing.

How do you approach writing. A newspaper article mentioned that you try to write at least 300 words a night? How much revision do you do? Do you have a group of people that read through the work for you?
My 300 hundred words a night became: "Okay, so I'll write 1,000 words a day over the break, and uh, 800 on Saturday, and 1,500 on Sunday, and I could probably fit in 200 words a day over the week after I finish my homework, tomorrow's impossible..." I don't really have much of a revision plan. I rewrite when I feel like I need to rewrite. As long as I don't hear that little voice screaming, "This sucks! Go back! It stinks like your brother's gym socks!" I usually just keep going. When I complete a chapter, I send it to a friend whom I can trust to be honest to read it for content. My first novel was read by a teacher, while Internal Gold was read by a classmate/friend who reads almost nothing but fantasy novels. Still looking to join a writing group...

Who are your biggest supporters? (friends/teachers/parents)
I'm fortunate to have people around me who support me at school, at home, at iUniverse, and around the community, but when it comes down to it, I am my own biggest supporter. It's because I have to be. I'm the only person who knows how serious I am about writing. I can't ever doubt myself because there's always someone else to do it for me: "But it'll be really tough writing as a career...You should have a back up plan...It'll be a hard life..." People with back up plans fall back on them. I just have to remind myself during the difficult parts that this is what I want to do, and that I can do it. And when I'm feeling really overwhelmed, I tack a photo of the person on the wall and throw darts at it. (To those who haven't tried it, it's a blast.)

What do you enjoy most about writing? What do you feel you’re best at? What is the most difficult part of writing?
I've been told by teachers that I have a rare gift for dialogue. (Which is funny, because I never know what to say in real life.) I enjoy writing dialogue; I think it moves the story along in a way more interesting than stating what's going on, and it gives more personality to the characters. This can be translated into playwriting, and I've written a few plays and have won an award for one. However, with plays I have a lot less freedom because I must always be conscious of whether it can be easily staged and how it will look performed.

I think my other strong point is creating funny, interesting, believable characters that readers grow to care about. I love having people who have read my books come up to me and talk about Tabitha and Gleda as if they were real people, or say they cried when...well, I don't want to give anything away.

The most difficult is making enough time. With school, art, chores, and rehearsals if I'm in a play--well, it's no wonder I'm already a coffee nut.

What kind of goals do you have for your books and your writing career?
Nothing huge. New York Times Bestseller. Maybe a Pulitzer one day. That's about it. But in all seriousness, I want to grow as a writer throughout my life, learn all I can, and shoot for as high as I can.

How did you feel when your first copy of Tabitha arrived?
Probably how my parents felt when they first held me: "Isn't she beautiful!" And then, "Is it just me, or is she a funny color?" And finally, "Now what do I do?"

What kind of reaction did you get from your classmates when Tabitha first came out?
Mostly, "Did you write a book?!" The most surprising reaction I got was "You're my idol!" The notion that I was anybody's idol seemed absurd and made me laugh for quite a while once I got home. However, what I will always remember most is, "I read you're book and...and it was really funny! I never knew...wow, it was funny." Yes, I do have a sense of humor. Shocking, isn't it?

What kind of media attention did you get when Tabitha came out?
A lot of local papers did articles, and the school paper, etc. The biggest appeal to reporters, I suppose, is my age, and the articles tended to focus on that. While "Wow, she's only fifteen!" is totally fantastic, sometimes I secretly wish they would have put, "Wow, what a great read!" regardless of my age. The reporters didn't seem to have read even the back cover. I'm grateful for any publicity, but "She's so young" doesn't necessarily translate into "She's a good writer"--and I believe a lot of people have low expectations of my work, which is really frustrating. An article came out in the Stayton Mail today about Internal Gold, and there was about one to two short paragraphs about my actual book, which didn't really capture what it was about at all.

Internal Gold is science fiction/fantasy while Tabitha was a romance. Was it difficult to switch genres? Was it your goal to do something completely different the second time out?
The first novel I ever attempted was fantasy. Then I got stuck and tried a Regency romance, because I was in phase where I positively adored Jane Austen's books and anything else in the same time period. I still enjoy her books, but fantasy is my first love. While Tabitha was fun, writing Internal Gold was more adventurous, magical, and an altogether transforming experience.

What are you working on currently?
I'm currently working on another fantasy, called Ice Everlasting. I'm about halfway through. Like Internal Gold, it takes basic elements of a fairy tale--this time Snow White--and turns it into something totally unique. It has magic, a heroine who can beat up a guy twice her size, cheeky monkeys, an evil queen, a company of performers, a bohemian city located within an enchanted mountain, a wronged prince seeking revenge--all the fun stuff.

What are some of your other interests outside of writing?
Art and theatre. I've been doing art before I was writing. Shortly after, I got involved in theatre, and I've done several plays at school and at a community theatre. Art helped me become more creative. Theatre taught me about people. It taught me to be open-minded, and not to be afraid of failure. I believe art and theatre have helped me become a better writer. I also consider art and acting as career options in addition to writing.

How did you go about researching your publishing options? What led you to choose iUniverse?
Simplicity. Friendly people who didn't say on the phone, "Uh, could I talk to your parents?" And an amazing package! Nothing really compared.