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The Edge of Everywhen Author Q&A

Andy Whisenant | Apr 28th

What gave you the idea to write The Edge of Everywhen?

It all started with a social media post! I saw a random post early in 2015 in which someone wished that there was such a thing as, “The Book of Requirement.” The Harry Potter reference, of course, is the Room of Requirement, which is a magic room that appears only when the student needs it. So I decided to craft a story about a magic book that tells each reader the story they need to hear. 

How long was this writing process?

I spent about 3 or 4 months doing research (making a chapter outline, fleshing out the characters, etc). I wrote the first 50,000 word draft during the month of November (2015) as part of NaNoWriMo, and I spent a year editing it and sharing it with beta readers. I queried the novel in 2016 to 43 agents and got nothing but rejections, so I set about making the novel better (took a writing class; did market research on books in my genre; read many books about the craft of writing.) I completely rewrote it in 2017 from the 1st person perspective of the magic book, and landed an agent in October. So from rough outline to publication date, it’ll be about 4 ½  years.

Who did you write it for and why?

I had two audiences in mind. In my opinion, there is a gap on the bookstore shelf that exists between Harry Potter and Laura Ingalls. Some Christian parents don’t want their kids to read Harry Potter because of how it portrays magic, but I feel as though modern kids may be bored by the Little House stories due to cultural irrelevancy. The Edge of Everywhen bridges that gap, and points to Biblical truths while weaving a story about the supernatural that kids on both sides of the spectrum will love. The second audience is the hard-core book lover. I have been a book nerd since long before the term was cool, and I love all things literary: libraries, bookstores, and the stories about them. The Edge of Everywhen celebrates all of those things, and was written for the kid who simply loves to read.

Tell us about the main characters, Piper and Phoenix. Why are they special to you?

Piper has seen more than her share of tragedy in life, but she hasn’t let it make her bitter or angry. She loves her little brother, in spite of (or perhaps because of) his special needs, and she is fiercely protective of him. Though just thirteen years old, Piper is mature and responsible as a result of the trauma she’s endured, and she’s what I would aspire to be if I were in her shoes. She is on a journey of faith, a journey similar to the one many of us take when faced with hardship.

Phoenix is a brilliant enigma, and he reminds us that “normal” for one person is not necessarily “normal” for another. Phoenix’s family life depicts the close bond that siblings of special needs children can share, and he lives life on his own terms. He carries a bit of the supernatural within himself, perhaps because he doesn’t give in to the expectations and limitations of the “normal” people around him.

Your narrator is a fascinating book with a personality of its own. How did you create Novus Fabula, and what do you think its voice sounds like: male or female?

His voice is absolutely male, and 100% British! When I decided to redraft the novel and change it from 3rd person POV to 1st person POV, I would hear his voice narrating the story to me in my head. The most perfect voice I’ve heard that matches Novus Fabula in real life is that of farmer turned author John Butler. Jeremy Irons, Benedict Cumberbatch, or Colin Firth come close.

What are the key themes in the story? Why do you think these themes are important for young readers today?

The key themes are grace, hope, and reconciliation. We are all faced with difficult people or difficult situations at times in our lives, and grace is what enables us to be kind, to offer forgiveness, and to keep our circumstances from making us untrusting and bitter. Hope is the evidence of things unseen. Hope dispels fear, and holding onto hope, even in the face of confusion, is an act of faith that better days are coming. Reconciliation is the heart of God, and He longs to see broken families restored, and many of us today have estranged family members with whom we long to be reconciled. All of these themes are present in one way or another in readers’ lives. The Edge of Everywhen doesn’t answer every deep question or offer pat answers to questions of trauma. But we’re all on a journey, and I think that Piper’s journey will resonate with readers of all ages.

How do you hope middle-grade readers grow from reading it?

I hope readers will look up every single book mentioned in the story and go read them all! (I do that when I’m reading a good book; I will hop on Goodreads and add the books to my “want to read” list, then head to the library.) I also hope that readers will expand their compassion and understanding for children with autism, and for grumpy older relatives who’ve dealt with loss and trauma. 

What do you hope they walk away thinking about?

I hope they think deeply about their families; the good parts, the confusing parts, and the broken parts in which they may have a role in mending.

What do you hope they learn about God and faith?

Mr. Greene’s sentiments in the book address issues of faith with explanations that mirror my beliefs. We serve a mysterious, supernatural, living God. God was a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day for an entire generation of people. He spoke through a donkey; He walked on water; He healed the blind; He raised the dead. And the Bible doesn’t say that God’s supernatural qualities are any less today than they were thousands of years ago. I hope that readers will embrace the truth that God is limitless, and that He can make His presence known however and whenever and wherever He chooses. And I also hope that readers will see that faith is for everyone. Piper is a normal girl with normal fears and big questions, just like every other middle schooler. I hope readers will begin to ask those big questions of God, because I know He will answer them.

What are some topics that parents can discuss with their kids as they read?

Parents can ask their kids if there are any special needs students in their class. This book can be a launching point for kids, who are often very self-focused, to begin to think about how their classmate with autism might see the world, or how they might even befriend such a student.

Spiritual topics would include hope, faith, and prayer. Gordon is faithful to pray daily, despite horrendous circumstances, and God is faithful to answer those prayers.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
  1. Read. A LOT. Especially award-winning fiction, in all genres.
  2. Write. A LOT. Repeat steps 1 and 2 over and over and over.
  3. STUDY YOUR CRAFT.  Take classes. Read books. Never stop being teachable. The books I recommend are: On Writing by Stephen King (warning; lots of F-bombs, but read it anyway); Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott; The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass.
What are your favorite resources for writing?
  • I highly recommend Scrivener – it’s software that really helps organize the novel-writing process. I have used it for 3+ years. (I don’t get any kickback LOL!) Purchase here
  • I keep an online thesaurus open constantly while I’m writing, editing, etc.
What do you wish you had known before you did it, or what's one thing you would have done differently?

I would have pursued publication many years earlier if I had believed in myself as a writer. I thought I wrote well, but didn’t believe in myself enough to send out query letters.

Were there any lies you believed about being a writer that held you back for a while? How did you overcome that?

I believed that you “had to know someone” or have some personal inside connection to get published. I read books on querying and polishing the manuscript, and I stumbled across one publisher’s advice, which is that the wheels turn VERY slowly in the traditional publishing world. But if you write a stellar novel that is unique, and you are persistent in your querying, and you go through the steps, you will find a publisher if you’re patient. You just need that one champion who loves your book.

Do you have any other jobs?

I worked for years at a commercial insurance broker, but I quit work in 2017 to focus on writing full time. In 2019 we bought a house so I went back to work three days a week for the insurance broker (teleworking; my home is in Alabama, and the office is in Atlanta.) My husband and I are also planting a church, so that’s definitely like another job.

What's the best thing about being a writer?

There is a scene in “Chariots of Fire” where Eric Liddell says, “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” He’s talking about God creating him for a purpose. To me the best thing about being a writer stems from my relationship with God. When I write and create, I feel His pleasure. I get to weave stories that entertain, or challenge, or inspire. I get to create worlds, and mostly the best thing is knowing that the words I’ve written have moved the reader. (It was a great day when the marketing editor at Lifeway said my book made her cry!)

Worst thing about being a writer?

You know the adage, “Don’t pray for patience?” The worst thing is waiting. It takes TIME, and lots of it, to be published traditionally. Time spent honing skills, or researching, or editing, or waiting for responses to queries, or waiting for the editors to have a pitch meeting that only happens once a month, etc. Know up front that your timeline and the publisher’s timeline are not in sync.

How do you balance writing with family, a social life, and other hobbies?

I’m fortunate to be married to a wonderful man who believes in me, and without his willingness to eat takeout or frozen meals all through NaNoWriMo, I don’t think I’d be here today. You do have to make writing a priority, but self-care is actually even more important. My husband and I go work out regularly. I love to garden, and honestly this last year, I haven’t spent much time doing that. But there are times and seasons for everything, and I can still plant a few flowers or a tomato here and there.

What's one or two of your favorite writing prompts?

We did this exercise at the Shoals Writers Guild in Florence last year, and I loved it. Bring a painting to class; any painting at all. (The painting we used was of a waterway scene in Venice, Italy .) Set the painting up front for a few minutes, and then everyone is given 5 minutes to write a brief synopsis of a story for which that painting might be the cover. Have each student read what they’ve written. The different perspectives were so, SO entertaining, and so vastly different!

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I have to tell viewers and listeners that Jesus gets all the credit. I prayed over every query letter and every submission. When I knew an agent was looking at it, I prayed for blessing upon that agent, and for favor and for God’s will. In Psalms it says, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart,” and I’ve made it a daily priority to spend time with God and be in His presence. This book is the fruit of that, because I just can’t explain it any other way.