I couldn't be more excited for this interview!
Tessa is a fellow writer, friend, and AMAZING person! One who shares my passion to write fiction that changes lives. Stories that touch the heart, encourage, strengthen, and leave an impact that lasts a lifetime.
Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who writes inspirational yet authentic YA fiction to show teens they’re not alone. Her passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as an Associate Agent at Hartline Literary Agency, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PursueMagazine.net. Tessa's first teen devotional, COFFEE SHOP DEVOS, will release with Bethany House in 2018. She's guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, decorating art journals, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website: www.tessaemilyhall.com.
Tell us a little about your younger self. When did you first start writing? Did you always know that you wanted to be an author?
Yes, I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to be an author (at least for as long as I can remember!). My love for storytelling officially began when I was three years old. Before I could write, I dictated my first story, “The Colorful Dolphin”, to my mom--and the rest was history! ;) Any time I was bored throughout my childhood, I would sit down at the dining room table with a stack of computer paper and crayons and pen story after story.
Writing was how I “played” as a kid. I loved the freedom it gave me to go on adventures and become different characters. I dreamt of seeing my work in print even then; in fact, I would constantly beg my mom to publish my books for me.
I remember the feeling of longing for my stories to come to life in the imagination of others. “Being an author” was a dream of mine for as long as I can remember--and thankfully, I never doubted that the dream would unfold someday. (Not because of pride, but because I knew there wasn’t anything else I was good at or interested in!) It’s because of this faith, I believe, that led me to where I am today. =)
Did “Coffee Shop Devos” turn out how you thought it would? If not, what was different?
Great question! I initially had the idea for the book in 2015. I’ve always wanted to write a devotional for teenagers, but I wanted to give it a particular theme that could appeal to teenagers. Coffee was the obvious choice, of course. Not just because of the popularity amongst teens, but because it’s a passion of mine as well. As soon as I discovered the “theme”, several similarities between coffee and the Christian faith began to pop into my mind. I wrote down as many as I could.
I thought it’d be cool if the teen could choose their devotion “flavor” in a menu of contents at the beginning of the book. This would be similar to a menu at a coffee shop: teens could select their current need in the table of contents. Each need--such as “comfort in trials”--would be paired with a specific coffee drink. I chose ten coffee drinks for the menu, so ten chapters/needs total. And I couldn’t have a coffee-themed devotional without including coffee recipes inside!
Surprisingly, the original vision I had for the book remained the same. The only thing that majorly changed was the total number of devotions. I originally pitched the book to contain 50 devotions, but the publisher requested 180 instead. This required a lot more writing on my part--but in the end, I was very thankful for this! Apparently I had a lot more to say to teens about pursuing a relationship with Christ than I thought. =)
Did you have any imaginary friends as a child? If so, tell us a little about him/her!
None that I remember! However, I did at times pretend as though my friends were with me when they weren’t. Maybe that counts? ;) I also remember asking God to allow my baby doll, named Cassie, to come to life. Lol! In a way she did, because several years later I wrote a book about a teen girl named Cassie (in my YA novel, UNWRITTEN MELODY). Haha
Has a certain author influenced your writing life?
Karen Kingsbury has definitely served as an “author role model” throughout my writing life. She’s proven to me that it is possible to have a book ministry through writing life-changing fiction. I also love how she interacts with her fans, treating them as if they’re her friends. It’s inspiring to see that she’s built such a big readership by writing character-driven books that are emotionally-charged and inspirational. Those are the kind of stories I’d like to write as well--specifically for teens.
What do you find to be the hardest in the writing world? Is it the writing process, the editing process, waiting to hear back from publishers, etc?
Hmmm … all of the waiting seasons are the hardest, in my opinion! Waiting to hear from publishers, waiting to sign the contract, waiting to make the announcement, waiting to see the cover, waiting to receive the book in the mail, waiting for the book release, etc. That’s why I’ve realized it’s best to enjoy the journey, every step along the way. Instead of having impatience and eagerness to reach the next milestone, I’ve decided to instead appreciate how far I’ve come. This has helped me to stay content and grateful along the way. Although I don’t think it’ll ever stop being difficult to hear responses from publishers!
Do you write down story ideas as you think of them? If so, how many do you have written down/in your head?
Yes, I keep a list of potential story ideas in a folder on my phone’s notes app. But I don’t allow myself to work on the project until I’m ready for a new one. Also, as I’m writing a book, I usually have in mind about 1 - 2 book ideas that I’ll probably write next. =)
What is one thing about your MC that we might not know?
Selena--the main character in PURPLE MOON and FALLEN LEAVES (to be released in October)--is a 17-year-old who doesn’t yet have her driver’s permit. This is partially due to the fact that she lived in Brooklyn, NY during her teen years, but she also isn’t a fan of driving in general. It tends to trigger her anxiety attacks.
What project are you working on right now?
Right now I’m in the brainstorming/plotting stages for two fiction projects: one stand-alone novel, as well as the third book in the PURPLE MOON series. I’ve recently begun to work on a new devotional project as well. =)
What is one piece of advice that you would give to an aspiring author?
It’s always hard to nail down only one piece of advice! I like to tell aspiring authors two things: one, don’t give up. As cliche as it sounds, it’s often exactly what us writers need to hear--especially when the publishing journey seems endless. It’s only those who persist that actually reach the finish line.
And two, do your research! There are so many writers out there who dream of writing, and yet they never take the necessary steps to achieve this dream. I believe this could be avoided if writers would simply do their research before seeking publication.
If you’re an aspiring author and you want to impress an agent, you might want to first understand how you should craft a query letter and format a manuscript. If you want to be a children’s book author, first double check that your word count is within the standard word count range.
Remember that writing is an art, but publishing is a business. There are general guidelines set by agents and editors that writers must follow if they hope to sell their book. And please don’t assume that you’re the exception! It’s that attitude that often keeps writers from seeing their dream unfold.
But regardless of the “hoops” you might have to jump through (such as building a platform)--rest assured, it is possible to succeed in today’s industry. So going back to that first piece of advice: Don’t give up!
Where can we find you on social media?
I love to connect with readers on social media!
Especially on Instagram (www.instagram.com/tessaemilyhall). My Twitter is typically geared toward writers (@tessaemilyhall). I also write a blog for aspiring authors, Christ is Write, where I encourage, inspire, and instruct young or aspiring authors.
Readers can also receive book updates, free coffee recipes, giveaways, book extras, and more when they sign up to receive my newsletter at this link.
Thanks so much for the interview, Aleigha! =)
Did you enjoy getting to know Tessa better? I know I did!
Don't forget to connect with her on social media and sign up for her mailing list. =)
Until next time, friends,
Keep letting your light's shine! <3