Amy Ewing: No shrinking violet

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SHE STUDIED acting but dismisses the thought of pursuing that craft. She likes Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and, well, let’s say Keira Knightley, too. Meet Amy Ewing, timid as a child, purple-haired as an adult. Her dynamic character cannot be simply summed up in one persona. A good conversant, lively, and warm, Amy plays string instruments and enjoys watching films. It was when she was watching a movie when her thoughts gave way to what is now New York bestselling trilogy “The Lone City” series. And when a person is skilled in reading music notes and in weaving the words, you can bet she won’t just be strumming the strings of a guitar; she’d be pulling on your heartstrings, too.

“The Jewel” is the dark enchanting debut about Violet that is depicting the ugly realities of her existence and survival in the glittering but cruel facade of royalty. She must stay alive and find escape but love stormed in an unexpected manner—so real and very much forbidden. And like how a good romance should be, it makes the struggle less unbearable. The consequences though entails much more than she thought.
Behind that amiable face, Amy has had her fair share of struggles. She used to constantly battle with guilt and self-doubt before she made peace with her own reality that, indeed, not all that glitters is gold. To pass through the dark undertakings and into the light, you will have to stand up tall, put one foot in front of the other and just keep doing your craft. (BHQ)

Tell us more about your purple-colored hair.

(Laughs). Definitely it’s a standout, having purple hair in the Philippines. And in Brazil I even had it pink (laughs). I just can’t stop doing it (dyeing her hair) after few months, every three months, actually.

We saw that video where you said you’ve been coloring your hair since you were young?

Yeah, since I was in eighth grade. I think when I was 13. I want to be a redhead my whole life. So I dyed it in every imaginable shade of red. Then I dyed it blonde and then brown…. And I cut it all off, since it had grown a little too long.

What is really your natural hair color?

Blonde, like dirty blonde. I can’t even imagine how it would look like, but probably if
I grow it right now, I can get a light brown since I haven’t been exposed to the sun for so long because of the dye.

We heard you sing and compose songs, too.

Yes, I do. It’s like processing how I feel.

What type of songs do you write?

They are really folksy. I play Bob Dylan.

Any plans of pursuing music as a career?

A friend really is convincing me, telling me that she’d be my manager and will get to record my sound and put it on the Internet. But I said no. I mean, I guess I am not
interested because when I do it, it’s something personal. And that would mean I have to practice again. I can’t really see
myself trying to make a career out of it.

What instruments do you play?

I just play guitar. I used to play piano and some cello in fifth or sixth grade I think.

Let’s get into writing. How did you start?

I guess I have always written but I never considered it as a career. I wanted to be an actor so I studied acting in undergraduate. But I didn’t really audition because I was scared to do it. I just took odd jobs like in restaurants and then the economy collapsed in 2008 and I lost my job. So I sort of had a lot of time thinking what I really wanted to do and I don’t want to go back where I was laid off from, and that was not working. So when a friend of mine suggested, “You love books, you love fantasy books and YA books. Why not write one?” So I did. I wrote a whole book by myself. When I first looked at it, it was terrible but then it got me to graduate school, and that was when my life sort of changed. I spent the first year revising my book and met a group of incredible women, we all came from different walks of life and all of us had published our books. And they are my heart, I could not write without them. We are really determined to change our lives. I tried with the first book and then I failed and I found out that unlike with acting when I sort of failed I wouldn’t even try, I really cried a lot, I was really too devastated. But I was like “Okay, you can keep crying or you can write another book.” Like those were the options. So I write another one and that was “Jewel.” It was my thesis book for graduate school. After
experiencing failure, it is so scary to pick yourself up. But I told myself that this is what you have to do, this is what you are suppose to be doing. This is the way that I could be creative, writing is much better for me like temperament wise, I guess I can do what I want, whenever want. And I like creating worlds, you just can’t be one character, you can be the hero and the villain, and everyone in between. And that is really fun.

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Aside from YA, have you considered other genre?

I’m really down with YA fantasies. I like creating different societies and like almost all my friends write contemporary, and I love reading their work.

We help and critique each other and I am just like, “I don’t understand why you have high school and no magic? (laughs) That seems impossible to write something like that. So for now I’m sticking with YA but I’m not saying I’m never going to write an adult book or something else. If got an idea for it (another genre), I will pursue it.

But when you wrote ”The Jewel,” were you thinking that it would be a trilogy or a series?

Yes. That would be really mean if it’s going to be one and done. (laughs)

How do you restrain yourself from having favorites among your characters?

Sometimes, it’s easy because I love them all. I’d go, “Oh, I love this part about this character,” because if I didn’t, then I’m doing something wrong.

If I am writing a character that I don’t really have an opinion about, then I’m doing that character a disservice until the story ends. I love the Duchess, the woman who purchases this Violet. I think that I would always go to her if I had to choose. Obviously, Violet is in my head. We’re like buddies on the same boat together. But the Duchess… she has incredible vulnerability that comes out occasionally and she is at the same time horribly cruel. And I think that it’s really fun that you can’t just
dismiss her as the big bad villain, because she’s not.

As an actor, you want to play the roles that aren’t just one thing.

Have you given up on acting, with finality?

It’s actually weird to hear you say it like that. (laughs). But, yes, I have.

Who are your favorite actors?

I love Cate Blanchett. I think that she is just amazing. My favorites? Every time, I am asked about my favorite, every single person comes out the window. (laughs) I love Hugh Jackman, too. He’s Australian, and also Russell Crowe, he’s wonderful too. And Keira Knightley. I used to not like her but she earned my respect. I’m actually at the stage that if someone comes up to me and asks, “Do you want to
do this play?” I’d be like, “Waaah! That is so scary!” Being in front of a whole bunch of people in a different character, how would I ever want to do that? That is some kind of intimidating.

What were the first stories you have written?

It seemed like I was always writing a fan fiction about myself like I would write stories about two girls who moved to New York City to become actors. And I clearly knew nothing about New York (laughs). Doing a lot of that sort of writing, I would never show it to anyone and just keep it to myself. So I never thought of it as a career ever. Did I waste that much time? Maybe, but I spent most of my 20s figuring things out and failing or not trying things. So when I thought that I was finally ready, I went to grad school and I was really committed, pushing myself that I really have to do it. To become a writer, you have to be self-motivated and self-disciplined… These were two things that I never had… only to discover that I had them deep within me.

When writing a book, which comes first—the characters, the plot or is it the mood?

It is usually about one scene, for now I have conceived two different stories at this point, the other one is coming out. Both of my series, actually came from one scene, “The Jewel” series came from an action scene from the movie “Taken.” It’s a weird correlation but there’s this scene when his daughter was being lured by these guys to become a sex slave. And I envisioned that instead of men buying these women, it would be women. And why would a woman buy another woman? So, that was the first thing that I wrote. I have a clear vision of what I wanted. I can see a woman standing on stage, looking at an ampitheater, the last stage you want to be standing on. That’s how the first line was written, I did not change it. I loved that line, I think it sets the tone of the girl’s last day as herself. I do feel the character and the setting when they come. Generally, I already know the few points and things that I want to hit but I don’t do outline at all. Sometimes, I wish I could.

Do you always know the ending?

I don’t. For example, I think the ending of “The Jewel” changed. I kind of have to push it back because it ended in a place that is really unsatisfying. I think the last book had an epilogue and I’m happy about that. My editor helps make my stories really better or tells me some things that I no longer have to do. I sort of start writing like in a skeleton, and as I write, I sort of fill it in. It’s really fun discovering and it’s sort of overwhelming like doing it now and starting from the beginning of something. There’s so much possibilities to explore.

Have you tried going back to rewrite a scene?

I don’t regret anything that I have done and in the books, there are definitely parts that I would have liked to do better, especially my first book, knowing that it is my first book. I have learned a lot more since the publication of “The Jewel.” Writing books, you can learn more about yourself as a writer and how to become a better storyteller. There are even questions that end up unanswered in the book. Someone even tweeted me, “Do we ever find out the answer to this?” I know the answer but there was literally no way to put it in the book. But I did answer his question. Well, not in the book. You have to get it from me. (laughs)


Do you spend time a lot of time on Twitter?

I do. I’m not really that interactive. I just check my feed. And Twitter and e-mail are the best way to get in touch with me. I rarely check my Facebook and I never check Instagram for messages.

You have similarities with Violet?

I do, although we are not by any means the same person. She is definitely better than me. We are both stubborn in subtly different ways. We are both definitely romantics, huge romantics and I would like to think that we both want to see the best in people, I mean, that is who I am. I think one of her biggest strengths is her compassion. She sees everybody as an equal. I also admire her selflessness.

Who would you want to play Violet?

I have no idea. I can’t cast Violet because I’m too close to her. I can almost even see her because she is always in my head, but I say the Duchess should be Lucy Liu, like hands down, a million percent. I can even imagine her while I was writing it. She’s just so beautiful, fierce and scary and that’s how Duchess should be.

How would you describe the series?

Well, I think that the most important word is “choice” as the huge theme. The whole play with this world that’s so glittery and beautiful is at the same time so dark and violent. That’s really the juxtaposition that I enjoyed—the glittering facade, when deep inside, it’s rotten.

What’s the book you are working on?

It’s about the city in the sky that is populated by a magical race of alien women. They
are all female, they are all gay, their unit is composed of three mothers and one daughter and they are tethered to the planet. They have magical blood, their blood is blue. In order to break the tether, they have to sacrifice one of their own. So this girl was chosen to be sacrificed, but something went wrong. So instead of dying and breaking the tether, she lands on a planet and gets kidnapped by twins—a boy and a girl, whose father runs a high-end freak show in essentially 1930s New York. She was hurled into it and she has to figure out a way to escape. It’s a sort of undertaking, has multiple perspectives, locations and cultures. For now, it’s like in a baby larva stage… it’s slated for early 2018. I’ve been reading through it and there’s so much work to do, but I am really excited about this project because it’s fun jumping into different perspectives—something that I did not do in“ ”The Jewel.”This female sky city is a theocracy I did not get to explore at all in “The Jewel.” It’s some utopia with some other stuff going on. There are so many cultures I get to create so there’s a lot of responsibility. I’d always think that maybe someone can do the hard lifting then I just can come, fix it. (laughs). Again, it is daunting to start again from scratch, so we’ll see in 2018.

Is it going to be a series?

Yes. It’s now in two books. There’s so much to explore about it with three different
locations. And you only get to see two of them in the first book, so there’s just a lot more. But you guys should challenge yourselves, right? Because if I was not challenging myself, I would be writing the same book over and over again and that would be dissapointing for me as a creative writer, and to the readers as well.

What’s the best thing being in the YA genre?

The readers are so wonderful and hearing them connect to the characters, to the stories, is such an incredible experience that I was not prepared for, thinking that someone who’s not my friend nor my mom has actually read my book. That is just amazing! And I have this community of YA authors that I love deeply. We are really supportive of each other, and that’s really special. It’s nice to know that you have them in good times or in those times of struggle—the support is truly valuable. I mean it can get lonely. You can’t really write a book by yourself but you do write the book by yourself. It’s a weird juxtaposition. I have this best friend that I would just suddenly message with a draft and ask if it was any good. For my best friend just to tell me to keep writing and that it’s okay and it’s not the worst thing that anyone has ever written… We all need that sometimes. We need to be reminded that it’s okay to keep going. When you are alone, just you and your computer… it can be very daunting.

TAGS: actor, amy ewing, bhq, books, color, conversant, ewing, fantasy, hero, magic, natural hair color, purple, struggle, Young Adult
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