*throws confetti* SURPRISE! This post is still part of my series! 😃 I’ve been hinting at something awesome coming, and here it is! A mix of a review, tips, an interview, and a giveaway, it’s sure to be one of the more epic posts in this series. 😉
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I do not sugar coat, and all content in the book is mentioned down below at the end of this post.
↓ ↓ ↓
It is time. People have been adding this book to their TBR piles for the past couple of months, and I think we’re all super ready to see the blog tour for this book: 100 Days of Sunlight, by Abbie Emmons!
*throws confetti again*
It is my honour to host the authoress on a stop of the blog tour for her debut novel. It’s a sweet, fluffy contemporary with some deep themes threaded through it. I won’t say more than that for now, because I get to review the book and interview Abbie!
However, I decided to take the review from a different angle than usual. 😉
Last October, I wrote a post where I used a book as a good example of what not to do in a story. It was Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull. I’ve been wanting to write another post like that for a while, and a great opportunity has just been dropped in my lap.
Today, I’m going to talk about how 100 Days of Sunlight made its characters seem real the right way, and how we can do the same. It’s Part 2 on this particular subject during this series, so make sure you’ve checked out Part 1!
When readers read a story, they see the whole world through the character’s eyes. The best way to let them slip in easily to the character’s mind is to make the character relatable. After that is done, however, it makes it even better to make them seem real. Most writers skip this step, simply because they don’t even think of it. It’s incredibly special to bookworms, then, when they stumble across a book that pulls this off. Let’s see how 100 Days of Sunlight does it.
When most people try to make their characters relatable, they go big and broad. It’s like they’re opening their arms to hug the world – their audience – and they think they can hold them all up.
Spoiler alert: they can’t.
I wrote a post about this two weeks ago if you want to brush up on step one of getting the reader truly into the character’s mind. But here’s the rundown: you’ve got to niche down on what that group of people you’re writing for are like.
The next step is to find their small quirks.
The funny thing is, so many young writers like to begin with this step, and then it’s a complete overload of information so they cut it all out. I’m talking about those questionnaires with things like:
- What is their favourite color?
- What would they most likely be carrying around in their back pocket?
- What will you most likely find in their fridge?
- What type of laundry detergent do they use?
These could actually be useful, except that the writer is determined to know their character through and through. They go overboard with the questions, and then they know way too much about the character. Would you even know all the answers to those questions for yourself? You’re a real human, but you probably don’t know the answers to all those weird questions.
In an attempt to make the character 3-dimensional, young writers lose out on it. It’s too much information, and they eventually decide to ignore it altogether.
The thing is, you have to first figure out how to make the character relatable, and then figure out the quirks of those types of people the character will be relatable to.
Here are some random small things that I read throughout 100 Days of Sunlight that made Tessa seem human to me:
- She’s a homeschooler. I am a homeschooler as well, so I related to that.
- She loves waffles!
- She is a blogger.
- I clearly remember one part where she just zipped a zipper on her sweater up and down. I do that a lot when I wear sweaters.
So some of those are targeted toward a specific group of people that will make her character more relatable than making her seem human. Can you guess which two they are?
If you’ve finished guessing, it was the first and third ones. Tessa was made relatable to a group of people, but then there were more facets to her character – being a homeschooler and a blogger – that made me specifically relate to her. I’m a homeschooler and a blogger.
The other two – loving waffles and zipping her zipper – were two tiny things that made her seem human. Let’s take a closer look now at how.
How the Small Things Work
There are tiny random facts accumulated by writers, as we discussed earlier, like what a character’s favourite color is and what their first word was that are totally useless to the storyline. I mean, exactly how interesting would you find a conversation that went like this?
“It’s so nice to meet you. I love that blush pink blouse that you’re wearing; it’s so cute, but also professional.”
“I know, right? Blush pink is my favourite color, though rose gold is my second favourite. Purple was last year, but it changed when I saw this one flower in a field. It was the only pink one in the middle of this field of blue. Actually, maybe that was a dream. I tend to mix up dreams with reality, which can be weird.”
Okay, maybe that was *slightly* exaggerated. But, like, that’s basically what would happen. What would you do with that information except dump it into the story? You went through all that work to figure it out, after all.
But who cares that blush pink is her first favorite and her second favorite is rose gold? Sneaking in a big facet of her character – sometimes mixing up dreams with reality – can make writers feel like they’ve justified the unnecessary stuff.
But imagine if it was put it in with good context! That would make them seem human.
If the character was choosing out her dress for her best friend’s wedding, that’s important. Then, as she’s looking, it could easily be mentioned that her favourite color is blush pink. Ta da! She has a favourite color, just like any other human.
Another thing that makes characters seem human are habits. If they do the same thing a lot, that’s like their own little quirk. It makes them unique in that way. You could bring them in a lot, or only once, like Abbie did with the zipper. It was a small quirk that people randomly do, and it made Tessa feel more like a human.
And, speaking of Abbie… I think it’s about time we got to the awesomely epic interview! 😉
Hey Abbie! Thank you so much for letting me interview you.
Thank you, Julia! I’m so happy to be here. It’s a total honor to be interviewed by you on your lovely blog.
So first off, why 100 Days of Sunlight? What made you want it to be your debut novel?
That’s a great question to start off with! The moment I got the idea for this book (which I’ll talk about in a minute) I knew there was something special about it. The story captured my heart before I even knew what the whole story would be about. And then, after I finished writing it, I was extremely happy with it. I wish I had a better reason for choosing this to be my debut, but there’s really no logic behind it! I just knew this would be my debut — it’s the one novel to date that I am most proud of, and I consider it to be my best work.
What was your original first inkling of an idea for this book?
One day I was thinking about my own lifestyle and how much I use my sense of sight for everything I do: blogging, writing, making videos, reading, everything — and then I thought how different all that would be if, for some reason, I suddenly went blind. I pondered this thought for a few hours, and then suddenly the idea struck me: blogger girl loses her eyesight, meets a boy with no legs (unbeknownst to her) and he helps her overcome her struggles. That was all I had at the start, but it was enough to totally steal my heart and make me want to write the book IMMEDIATELY.
I know the feeling! Was there any person or place that inspired you while you wrote it?
People inspire me constantly. It’s almost impossible to create a coherent list of all the people who inspired me while I wrote this book, but my “support squad” (my mom, dad, and sister) are definitely at the top of that list. They are my inspiration and constantly push me to write better and stronger.
Places also inspire me! Although Rockford NY (Tessa and Weston’s hometown) is a fictional place, it’s very much inspired by the area which I call home, a small town in the countryside with idyllic sunny summers.
How much research did you have to do for this book? Both Tessa and Weston have disabilities, so you must’ve had to do a lot.
Oh yes, I did so much research before writing, while writing, and after writing this book. It was a fascinating and educational journey to explore all the different experiences my characters went through, and I really enjoyed learning about everything! I’m a bit of an information sleuth, so it was cool to dig up all kinds of blog posts, personal experiences, firsthand accounts, vlogs, articles, more blog posts, and more videos. I think the most interesting thing I learned throughout the researching process is: no two experiences are exactly alike. Which meant I was able to craft unique experiences for my characters, while still holding true to what other people with these disabilities have gone through, and have so kindly shared via their blogs and YouTube channels. Another bonus was that my editor had actually worked as a sighted guide at a center for the blind — so she had all kinds of helpful input on Tessa’s condition and ability to navigate her world.
That’s so cool! Would you say you have a favorite moment in the novel?
Oh man! I have to pick just ONE? Okay…although I absolutely love the moments between Tessa and Weston, I would have to say some of my favorite moments are the ones between Weston and his brothers. I loved being able to write the different dynamics of the relationships Wes had with each of his brothers; Henry, Aidan, and Noah all have their own unique dependence on Weston, and through his journey he had to learn how to keep those relationships healthy and strong — and mend them when things fell apart. I love writing emotional family themes, so this element was super special to me.
How long did you work on this book for? (from just the idea to the finished product)
About 2 years. The idea first sparked in my head April 2017 and by the time October rolled around, I knew exactly what I was writing for NaNoWriMo. I finished the first draft in 27 days (still my personal record!) and then began the journey of editing… which took a while. On May 1st 2019, I announced the novel — almost exactly 2 years since I first got the idea!
What made you decide to make the cover yourself? (love the yellow, by the way)
Aw, thank you! While writing the book, I kept having this vision of what the cover would look like (exactly how it looks now lol.) Being pretty handy with Photoshop, I knew right from the start that I would be able to turn my cover idea into a reality much better than I could explain it to someone else. So I started gathering images from the public domain and working with an illustrator for extra designs (you have Stasia to think for that adorable waffle!) I wanted the cover to be like an explosion of pretty things and happiness and sunshine — and I wanted it to be like a hidden picture that you only truly understand after reading the book.
I really love how it’s so pretty to look at, at first glance, but after you read the book it takes on a new meaning; very clever! What would you say is the number-one-most-important-thing to have when self-publishing a book?
Perseverance. Self-publishing a book is hard. It takes long hours and endless effort. It’s really a labor of love. I chose indie publishing because I want full control on my art — but there’s a flip side to that, of course: you have to do all the work yourself. Or hire out what you can’t do yourself. I work with a professional editor, proof-reader, and other talented people who help me so much. I definitely couldn’t do it alone, but at the same time…none of it would happen without me. That’s why I believe perseverance is the most important thing to have when self-publishing a book. You can do anything you set your mind to! As Weston says, “nobody is standing in my way except for me.” < my mantra!
What is one thing that makes all the work of writing a novel and then getting it out into the world worth it?
The people who need it. The readers who review the book and say that it made them feel — that it touched their soul. That it made them laugh and cry and believe in love again. Just yesterday a review came in from an ARC reader who has Cerebral Palsy; he said that 100 Days of Sunlight is the first book he’s read that he could really relate to. Reviews like this… that’s what makes it all worth it.
That’s amazing! What did it feel like to read the first review that your book got?
Pretty surreal. It took a few days for it to really register that people all over the world are reading my book! I was freaking out, but at the same time it kind of felt like it wasn’t real. Actually, it still kind of feels that way! I almost can’t believe this blog tour is happening and I’m doing this interview right now! It’s amazing.
Where are you planning on going from here? Are you going to self-publish again, and are there any other books you want to write for Tessa and Weston?
I like to live by that old adage “never say never” — but I feel like I have told the story I needed to tell for Weston and Tessa, and readers can imagine the rest of their happily-ever-after! As for future books, you better believe I have more where that came from… and I’m definitely going to self-publish again!
Finally, what would be your best tip for young writers?
Don’t write what you know — write what you know emotionally. Take the passion in your heart and write that into your story. Remember the theme and the message you want to proclaim to the world, and make sure that is your story’s heart, pumping life into every page, every sentence, every word. Never forget your “why” for writing a story — it will take you far.
Thank you so much for letting me interview you, Abbie! I wish you all the best with your books!
Thank you so much for having me today, Julia! The pleasure is all mine.
The fun doesn’t end here, though! Abbie has graciously agreed to host a giveaway for you. Three e-book versions of 100 Days of Sunlight are going to be given away. Click this link and enter!! The giveaway runs for all of August, so make sure you get as many entries as possible!
Some Other Links You Might Want to Check Out 😉
There was some content in this book including:
-Swearing and taking God’s name in vain
-Female character being harassed
-Characters fighting (physically)
-Main character having depression
-Some emotional trauma being described
Are you excited to read 100 Days of Sunlight?
Did you enjoy the interview?
Have you entered the giveaway yet?!