It’s All About the Book…
Interview with Philip Hoy, author of THE REVENGE ARTIST
Please tell us about your current or upcoming release.
The book is called THE REVENGE ARTIST and it is the story of Evelyn Hernandez, a bullied teen who discovers she has the power to make bad things happen by drawing them. The novel explores the emotional pain, isolation, and self-hatred caused by bullying as it follows the self-destructive path taken by one teen attempting to defend herself from bullies.
What is this book’s genre? Is this the genre you usually write in? Are there any genre’s you haven’t written that you’d like to try?
Although there is a bit of the supernatural, or paranormal, in the book, it is mainly a contemporary young adult novel. There is definitely romance in the story, but the plot is more concerned with the protagonist finding her voice than finding her man. I find that I’m attracted to characters that tend to drastically underestimate themselves. Characters who, for some reason or another, temporarily become their own worst enemies until they realize the strength they needed, or the answer they were looking for, was inside them all along.
So far, my stories all take place in contemporary settings. The second novel in the Evelyn Hernandez series already has more paranormal elements than the first, and as I continue writing, I foresee even more of the supernatural entering the story as Evelyn’s powers continue to evolve and mature.
What inspired you to write this book?
Mostly, my high school students inspired this book. My characters are teenagers. And like my students, they are just as much discovering themselves, as they are inventing themselves: still finding their voices, still realizing their powers, and still exploring their purpose in the world. In my novel, the high school dean complains, “You kids live in the extreme, in the moment, and why not when everything is happening to you for the first time?” I feel this is so true of young people; although, unlike the dean in my story, I believe this is exactly what makes teenagers so fascinating and so refreshing to be around.
How did you pick its title? Did it come first or did you have to write the story first?
A few years ago, I was able to teach an elective English class on horror film. As one of their projects, my students produced and acted in a three-minute screenplay I wrote about a bullied teen who gets revenge on her tormentors when she discovers she can make things happen by drawing them. When I eventually sat down to write the novel, the first two minutes of the film became the first chapter of the book, and the story just took off from there.
How did you create your characters? Did you use any real life people in their making?
Evelyn Hernandez is a little bit of my daughter, Erin, and a little bit of many of the young ladies that have been, or currently are, my high school students. When I set out to create a character, I am usually motivated by the personality traits or physical characteristics of a particular student, or combination of students. Although once I place these student-inspired characters into the conflict of the story, they soon take on their own unique identities and I begin to see them as real people. Real, as in, I’m not always sure what they will do in a given situation until I write it.
In writing fiction, it’s hard to say which comes first, the character or the conflict. It seems like once I have a character established, then I just need the right conflict to initiate the story and see how that character will react. I have experienced this many times in my writing. I think I know what my character will do in a situation, but I have to start writing in order to find out. Dialogue can be especially surprising. I may have certain specific lines that I have in mind, things that must be said to develop the characters and the plot, but once two or more characters begin to speak, the conversation often takes on a natural, spontaneous rhythm that makes unexpected turns and arrives in unexplored territory. Writing can be as much an act of discovery as reading…sometimes maybe more.
Who is your favorite character of this book and why?
Evelyn Hernandez. She is talented and intelligent and she has people in her life that love and care about her. She wants to fit in and feel normal, but at the same time she doesn’t want to be like everyone else. She wants to follow her own style and follow her own heart. Sometimes this gets her into trouble, shakes her self-confidence, and causes her to doubt herself. But mostly, Evelyn is just … herself, still finding her voice, still discovering her powers, and still learning how to use them.
That said, the characters that are the most fun to write are probably Denise and Karen, especially when they are in the same scene:
"Wuz up, my bitches?"
Evelyn and Denise turned as a girl with long, wavy, blonde hair that was just starting to show dark at the roots came strolling over.
"Ay, Karen," said Denise, "do you have to talk that way?"
"What?" Karen rolled her eyes at Denise. "Oh, la purísima, I beg your pardon."
"Karen!" a guy's voice called. "Your ass looks great in those shorts!"
Karen placed her hands on her hips and gave a little shake of her butt. "You like? I'll let you borrow them!" She turned back to discover the look on Evelyn and Denise's faces. "What? It's only Lalo. And he's right, they do look good on me." She continued to model the shorts for her friends. "See how high the waist is? High waists are in."
"They're adorable," Denise said. "Can we go now?"
What is your favorite part of this book? Can you share an excerpt from that part?
Some of my favorite—and easiest—parts to write were the classroom discussion scenes, probably because as a high school teacher I have so much experience with this. Writing the dialogue for these classroom discussions is very similar to teaching: I try to move in one direction while the students tend to move in another. Somewhere in the middle, we come together … and wonderful, unexpected things happen. In this scene, for example, the class is attempting to discuss The Crucible:
"Mr. Schwartz?" Angel asked, and everyone, including Evelyn, turned to look at him. "Did they use any, uh ... protection, back then?"
Mr. Schwartz just stared at him for a long second, probably wondering whether Angel was attempting to redeem himself with his teacher, or with his classmates. "Well, no," Schwartz finally said. "At least nothing like we have available today."
"They had like herbs and plants ... all that natural, you know, homo-pathetic shit."
"Valerie," said Schwartz, "language."
"Oh, no, Mr. Schwartz," she said, "I didn't mean homo, like gay an' all that..." She tried to make sense of the baffled look on Schwartz's face. "Am I saying it right?"
"Homeopathic," Evelyn clarified, stressing the long e in the middle.
"Oh, ah, no. I mean, yes, homeopathic. No, you're exactly right, Valerie," he said. "Thanks, Evelyn."
"So, did they have condoms or not?" someone else asked.
"No," Schwartz said. "No, they did not."
"I thought they weren't supposed to have sex at all," someone said.
"Then how do they have kids, stupid?"
"I meant it's against their religion, Jasmine. I'm not stupid."
"Ladies," said Schwartz, "please."
"It's against your religion too, Liz," someone else said, "and that doesn't stop you from—"
"Te callas, pendejo!" Liz shouted. "No one's even talking to you!"
"Yes, their religion!" said Schwartz, still trying to salvage the discussion. "Let's talk about that, their religion."
What was the hardest part of this book to write? Can you share an excerpt from that part?
Oh, wow … the hardest part to write was probably the scene between Evelyn and Garvey alone together upstairs at Brianna’s party. I’ll try not to give any spoilers, but here is a very brief excerpt:
Her heart beat madly in her chest. Her mind, a straight-jacketed lunatic, was screaming nonsensical warnings at her, throwing itself against the padded walls of her rebel body.
Did you have any special rhythm or quirks while writing this?
When I write, I find I work best with a basic outline of where I want the story to go. With rough notes, I talk myself through the plot and then go back and write it. These are two very different things, plotting and writing. The first is mostly planning, but the second is creating. Creating is the most difficult. The plan will never be read by anyone else, but the creation must be as close to perfect as possible before it can enter the world.
Is this a stand-alone book or is it part of a series? If so, we want to hear about it and what’s next in the series. If not a series, what comes next to be released?
THE REVENGE ARTIST is the first book in the Evelyn Hernandez series. In the second book, although high school isn’t any easier, Evelyn is in a very different place than she was just a month earlier. Her new self-awareness allows her to notice things she never would have, it lets her see beyond herself, and it takes her places she would never have gone before. She knows enough about her powers now to want to avoid using them, but how can she simply stop drawing?
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The Revenge Artist
56K, Evernight Teen
Hernandez is a high school junior who reads Shakespeare for fun, sews her own dresses, and keeps a sketch journal of her daily life. When Varsity quarterback Garvey Valenzuela breaks her heart, she sends him to the emergency room with a busted hand.
Add black magic to her resume...
Evelyn embarks on a dark journey of revenge when she discovers she has the power to make bad things happen by drawing them. Her emotional pain, isolation, and self-hatred lead her down a self-destructive path with dire consequences.
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Evelyn Hernandez knew what it was to be invisible, but this was different, this was being ignored ... being avoided. She tried to tell herself it was just her imagination. How many mornings had she walked through the halls of this school feeling exposed and on display? Knowing the redness of her lips, the blunt cut of her bangs, the pleats on her floral print skirt, everything down to the dark hair on her arms was being criticized by a hundred judging eyes. She wondered why they bothered, because the truth was, no one really cared. But there it was: a glance, a turn, a change in volume, a lull in some conversation as she walked by.
In first period, it had been hard concentrating on her painting. Even in the sanctuary of Ms. Shipley's, it felt like she had been on display in the center of the room, like one of those nude models, the ones Ms. Shipley said she had painted in college.
Second and third were even worse, and by the time she made it to Schwartz's, the tardy bell had rung and she entered the room a full minute late. She had been praying all morning that Garvey Valenzuela would at least have the decency to be absent today, but there he was, looking just as surprised to see her as everyone else. Too many sets of eyes stared at her in silence as she moved toward the front of the room and took her seat directly across from him at the table they shared. She immediately opened her binder against the edge of the table and slouched low enough to protect most of her face from his. There was obviously some kind of writing assignment on the board, but Evelyn couldn't focus to read it.
She had tried so hard not to think about this moment that she was completely unprepared. What should she do? Say something to him? Tell him how much he had hurt her?
What did she expect him to do, anyway? Whisper an apology? Laugh it off like a joke she should have been able to take? Ignore her?
What she could never have prepared for was the open hostility she heard in his voice when he finally said to her, "I can't believe you even came to school today after what you did."
The contempt. That’s what did it. That's what it finally took to break his spell on her. She lowered her folder just enough to meet his eyes and let him see the hate she had there for him. He looked away. Determined to rip him out of her life, she pulled her sketchbook from her backpack, prepared to remove every page with a memory or picture of him on it. But when she opened it to the sketch of his hands, she stopped.
Never before had she considered destroying any of her drawings. They were memories, mere moments, yes, but more than that, they captured her life as she was living it. For better or for worse, this book represented all that she’d done. If she denied her mistakes, wouldn't she be doomed to repeat them?
But as she stared at the hands on the page before her ... the hands she had allowed to touch her, their creases and lines, their scars, their prints, almost more real on the page that captured them ... she did something she had never done before. She turned her pencil around and began to erase. Not too much, just a little, a few lines here and there, part of this shadow, the edge of that one. And then, leaning closer, the drape of her hair shielding her actions from prying eyes, she began to add to the drawing, altering and recreating it. She wanted to hurt him, punish him for what he’d done to her, and this was the only way she knew how.
Just as Evelyn completed her revision, the sound of Vanessa Galvan's voice from across the room brought her back to the moment. "Hey Garvey," she said, loud enough for everyone in the class to hear, "throw this away for me, please."
A wadded up ball of paper hit Evelyn hard on the back of the head. She flinched, but didn't turn around.
"Do not throw things in this classroom!" snapped Mr. Schwartz from where he sat at his desk. More than likely he had not seen it hit Evelyn.
"Yeah, Vanessa!" Garvey said, also for everyone's benefit. "That's not the trash can."
"Close enough," Vanessa said, getting a few laughs.
Evelyn remained bent over her drawing, teeth clenched, refusing to give either of them the satisfaction of a response.
"I'll pick it up," Garvey sighed, playing the teacher's pet.
He got out of his seat and walked around the table to Evelyn's side. There, he bent over to pick up the ball of paper that had settled near her chair, saying with disgust, "There's too much trash in here already."
She turned on him at that, tears of anger welling up in her eyes.
Now standing in Schwartz's usual place in front of the class, the center of attention, Garvey continued to entertain his audience. "And the quarterback takes the snap!" he said, backing away from Evelyn and imitating the movement with the paper as his football. "He falls back, finds his receiver, and there's the pass!" Lobbing the ball of paper high above his head, he jumped up, twisting in the air with hands open close to his chest to receive his own paper pass ... when somehow, he lost his balance and came crashing down on Schwartz's wooden podium and the frail table next to it.
Papers, books, pens, and pencils literally went flying as the podium spun and toppled, and the table was crushed beneath the weight of Garvey's body.
The class erupted into astonished laughter and applause, but a gradual hush came over the room as Garvey's cry of pain shifted from an embarrassed and genuine groan to hysterical screams of shock.
"Everyone in your seats!" shouted Schwartz as he maneuvered his way to the front of the room.
Garvey, struggling to sit up, had rolled onto his left side. His right arm was extended and supported at the wrist by his left hand. A brand new, freshly sharpened, yellow number-two pencil had pierced the center of his right hand, stabbing clean through and out the other side. The eraser end stuck straight up in his palm and the sharpened point protruded from the back of his hand. An impressive trick, Evelyn thought, except as Garvey held out his hand, blood began to roll down the bottom half of the pencil, gather at the pointy end, and drip messily onto the floor. A small puddle of red was already darkening the carpet beside him.
Schwartz sprang into action as Garvey rolled back, fainting. "Frank! Go get security! Valerie! Call the office and tell them what happened and to call 911! Erick! Grab that roll of paper towels in the cabinet behind you!" He knelt down beside Garvey, telling him to hold still, and then he took the injured hand below the wrist and lifted it up over Garvey's head. His other hand he wrapped around Garvey's bicep and squeezed, pressing his fingers against the inside of the injured arm.
The class was mostly quiet after that, waiting for the paramedics to arrive. Phones were out, silently documenting the event, but Evelyn didn't need a photo; she had her own picture ... only she had not remembered drawing so much blood.
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About the Author:
Philip Hoy is a high school English teacher by day and a short-story author, novelist, and poet by night. When he is not creating lesson plans or grading essays, he is writing. He lives in Southern California with his wife Magdalena, also a teacher.
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