Allison's Book Bag

Interview with Heidi Ayarbe

Posted on: November 13, 2013

HeidiAyarbe_TeaserAs promised, I’m going to interrupt November Zombie Fest with author interviews. Today I like to introduce you to Heidi Ayarbe, the author of Freeze Frame. As a child, she hated to sleep over at the home of friends or at summer camp or any place but home. On her Bio and FAQ, Ayarbe writes, “My parents thought I’d NEVER leave the nest.”As she grew older, Ayarbe also ran the gamut of many jobs: paper girl, babysitter, day camp counselor, backpacking guide, barista, library/cultural consultant, office assistant, runner, secretary, seller of jewelry at craft fairs, teacher, translator, to name a few. How did a girl who hated to leave home end up in Columbia? And how did writing end up as her career?

The move was actually a crap shoot. One weekend, she sent out random resumes to places all over the world. Six months later, she got a call from a bi-national institute in Pereira, Colombia, offering her a job. Ayarbe looked at a map, saw the mountains, and accepted with the plan to stay only two years. When she met her husband there, she stayed and started creating new memories. 

Her career choice was also a fortunate choice. When Ayarbe was twenty-seven, the local arts center posted a sign at her workplace, inviting people to come listen to young adult author Ellen Hopkins. Not only did Hopkins make  writing sound possible, Hopkins invited Ayarbe to join a writer’s group. Ayarbe began writing ANYTHING anybody asked her. She also started writing novels, the third of which became Freeze Frame.

ALLISON: What is your happiest moment from childhood?

HEIDI: Happy? SO SO MANY! Roller skating up and down Elm Street (remember where Jason’s sister gets her scar? That bush exists … even though it’s not a rose bush.) … Sledding on C-Hill. Christmas tree hunting in Brunswick Canyon. Road tripping to my grandma’s farm in North Dakota and spending weeks sliding down haystacks and getting eaten by Blackhawk-sized mosquitoes. So many!

ALLISON: What about your saddest moment?

HEIDI: Sad? I am so so so fortunate. I never had a “saddest” moment in childhood. Sure. I sometimes ate lunch alone or hid out in the library. I sometimes wasn’t invited to something. But overall, I went to school with really nice people and grew up in AN AMAZING FAMILY.

ALLISON: You have a close relationship with your sister. Did sibling rivalry ever effect the two of you?

HEIDI: Not really. We’re very different. I always wanted to do everything she did and wear all her clothes. I drove her NUTS … in the little sister way. And she was definitely a nicer big sister than I was a little sister (even though she’s bossy!). But we really got along well, and she’s one of the most important people in my life.  She’s my best friend!

ALLISON: If anyone were to visit Nevada, what is the ultimate tourist site? Now what are some special spots that only you could show visitors?

HEIDI: Wow!! So many. Where do you want to begin? Burning Man in September in the Black Rock Desert? Lake Tahoe and the myriad of hiking and mountain biking trails in summer, ski slopes in winter? The JT Basque restaurant in Minden? Central Nevada is PHENOMENAL …and not as touristy. Beautiful mountains and ghost towns … so many places. Ely, Nevada, in the east is so pretty. My dad was born near there and grew up in this mining town. Lots of Basques, lamb stew, and … so many things! I would definitely take visitors to the JT Basque restaurant. Then up to Virginia City for a sarsaparilla …

ALLISON: You’ve held many jobs. Which was the best? Which was the worst?

HEIDI: I get to write!! This is, by far, the best job ever. EVER … The worst: I was a runner for an accounting firm when I was in high school and I really REALLY didn’t like it. I worked until late and got home tired. It just wasn’t my thing. (I don’t think I’m good at the “office” thing.)

ALLISON: You’ve listed favorite treats on your bio page. Now what about foods you absolutely hate?

HEIDI: I don’t like seafood. At all. (Bugs of the sea … slimy and strange and too many eyes and crusty things and stuff). What else? Anything liver-like, intestines, heart … all those animal parts. And I find gum drops to be beautiful but highly overrated and incredibly disappointing candies.

ALLISON: What’s an unusual quirk about you?

HEIDI: Hmmm … I have bad dreams almost every night and sleep walk. I don’t think I’ve had more than a half-dozen good sleeps in forty years. Honestly. *sigh*

ALLISON: What are your pet peeves about others?

HEIDI: I hate when people talk on their cell phones or text while driving (my sister was in a HORRIBLE accident because a girl was texting and missed a stop sign and used my sister’s car as her brakes), or talk or text while having coffee with me, or in restaurants … I kind of am anti-cell phone because I think people are stupid with them. They forget to just BE in the moment. It’s frustrating to me. (I sound crotchety, lamenting the downfall of civilization!)

ALLISON: Do you prefer mountains or oceans?


ALLISON: What besides books inspire your ideas? Do you ever draw on personal experiences?

HEIDI: Lots of moments in my books are taken from my childhood or my husband’s or friends’ … Snippets and scenes that add depth to character … But, at the end of the day, I think inspiration comes from hard work and (a little) desperation. Honestly. Sometimes the ideas aren’t there, things don’t come together, but the more you sit and write, the more crap you get on the page, you might find a little jewel in the mess. Just as an example. In my latest novel (I’ll talk about later), I have almost two hundred pages of sludge I’ve cut. Add that to a 300+ page book, I’ve had to cut almost half of the stuff to get to the jewels. Work, work, work … tedious but worth it!

ALLISON: Why did you choose to replay the final scene between Kyle and his best friend from different director viewpoints?

HEIDI: This is something I learned from my editor, Jill Santopolo. Everybody sees the world through a lens – and for our readers to love our characters, we need to explore that lens in every which way we can. Kyle’s is film. So it was natural for Kyle to settle into something he knew so well and felt comfortable with to try to understand what happened in his life. Had Kyle been Kohana … Kohana would’ve probably explored that moment through photos.

ALLISON: How did you decide when and what to reveal about Kyle’s involvement in his best friend’s death?

HEIDI: I don’t think it was so planned. The book had to reach its climax, move toward Kyle’s understanding, so I guess I just worked through it scene by scene until it felt natural for Kyle to be willing to remember and accept what happened.

ALLISON: How did you come up with the idea for Freeze Frame? How much time went into writing it? How long into revising it?

HEIDI: I was at a poetry group, and a woman came in and said her four-year-old grandson had asked, “Which way is tomorrow?”

I LOVED that! How beautiful! So … I started to think about a character who might ask “Which way is yesterday?” And what would be something so powerful to make a kid want to go back in time and change everything. The book’s original title was FINDING YESTERDAY.

My first draft took a year … a little more. And between finding an agent, revising, and revising for my editor (8 rounds of revisions, I think?), another two years passed. Overall three years!

ALLISON: What’s next?

HEIDI: Right now I’m hard at work on my fifth novel, called AFTER THE ASHES. In fact, you’re the first person outside of my editor, agent, friends and family to know about the final title choice. It’s a mystery… my first try with this … about Cate, an insomniac, who is trying to find out who was responsible for setting fires in her hometown the summer before. She’s following a trail of clues left by a geocacher who calls himself, AWAKE. I’m pretty excited about it but expect another couple of hardcore revision rounds. This book has taken me even longer than Freeze Frame! It’s been a lot of fun.

Here. I’ll give you a snippet:

I die in my dreams. Almost every night. Mini deaths, hundreds of moments where I fall into nothingness, where I don’t see a light or a God or an angel waiting to guide me away from the pain.
Just blackness.
So now I stay awake.

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