It’s amazing how words can change our perspective of life, that’s the reason why I chose to be a writer in the first place, because I truly believe in the transforming power of words! I did not have the chance to personally meet Alexis but there was necessary only a few emails for me to become a huge admirer of this beautiful soul. It’s a pleasure to present you my interview with Alexis Jones, a.k.a THAT GIRL, for the Brazilian website Hollywood is Here.
Luana Mattos: You are an internationally recognized public speaker, author and media personality. But I am sure that achieving this required a lot of hard work from you. How did you start your career?
Alexis Jones: It was an astronomical amount of work, but all so worth it! I did my undergrad and Masters at USC and launched IATG out of grad school. I started my career by just telling people I was a speaker (before I ever spoke) and I think there is so much to say for manifesting your own dream. You have to just start somewhere and enroll people in the reality you want.
LM: You also founded I AM THAT GIRL, could you tell our readers what this movement is about.
AJ: I founded I AM THAT GIRL with my best friend, Emily Greener. IATG is a 501c3 non-profit solely committed to creating community for girls on and off line. We are passionate about inspiring girls to be the best version of themselves, to dream big, to pursue their passions, to discover their purpose and to encourage collaboration over competition.
LM: Recently you announced that you are producing “The Lizzie Project“, a documentary about Lizzie’s life, could you tell us a little bit about this project?
AJ: I organized and hosted the first TEDxAustinWomen with my dear friend Sara Bordo. I asked Lizzie Velasquez to be one of our speakers and her talk went viral with over 9.5M views (in English and Spanish). She’s now been on The Today Show, Katy Couric and most recently, the View. She has a rare syndrome that only two other people in the world have which doesn’t allow her to gain weight. She’s 25 years old and never weighted more than 64 pounds. She was severely bullied at 17, when she found an 8 second YouTube video of her (with 4 million views) posted online calling her, “the world’s ugliest woman.” However, despite her unique appearance, the inhuman comments posted about her online and the stares and whispers she gets on a daily basis; she refuses to allow her life challenges to define her. Instead, she used her adversity as fuel to her fire and checking off one dream after another. Lizzie is on a mission to inspire unconditional self love and a kinder world both on and off line. Her story is one of the most inspiring things Sara and I have ever seen and it’s our honor to produce a documentary capturing her life story.
AJ: Yes, Hill, Kirsten and Soph are dear friends so it was a really honor to have them support my book. You can purchase it online on Amazon and they ship anyway, including Brazil (I think)! Haha.
LM: You have traveled the world and spoken to many girls. Would you describe the girls’ issues as being the same or they are different from a culture to another?
AJ: I’ve worked with girls from the Bronx to Beverly Hills, from California to Cambodia, from rural to inner-city, domestic to international. In short, I’ve seen just about everything and while the challenges girls face may have different names; the one thing that bonds all of us together is the face that we all struggle with our self esteem. Whether it’s abuse, neglect, poverty, impossible beauty expectations, eating disorders or any thing else, girls are struggling everywhere and it’s just an honor to hear their stories and remind them that they aren’t alone.
LM: You are definitely an inspiration to many people, but what/who inspires you to be who you are?
AJ: My faith, my family, my fiancé and my dearest friends!! I have an AMAZING team in my corner and NOTHING would be possible without them! I am who I am because of the caliber of people I’m surrounded by!
LM: Do you have plans to expand your talks to South America? Would you include Brazil?
AJ: I love South American, especially Brazil!!! I speak all over the world and am just awaiting the invitation! Hehe.
I Am That Girl: How to Speak Your Truth, Discover Your Purpose, and #bethatgirl is available on Amazon and Claire’s. Grab your copy! (I already got mine!)
I am a huge fan of Nicholas Sparks, I recall crying myself to sleep at the age of twelve after reading the tragic end of “Message in a Bottle“. But it was last year at the age of twenty-one that I allowed myself to be overwhelmed by his beautiful, tragic, full of ups and downs novels. For those who say his novels are predictable I say, they are not predictable they are realistic! They are human-centered stories, therefore, they are prone to repeat themselves at some point and so are we. Check it out my interview with Nicholas Sparks for the Brazilian website Hollywood is Here.
Luana Mattos: Last year I read seven of your books and I felt deeply touched, especially by three of them– “Dear John”, “The Best of Me” and “True Believer.” 1) Dear John is one of the most genuine love story, with a quite unfinished end that makes us ask for more, do you plan to continue writing this story one day?
Nicholas Sparks: At this moment, I do not as I am currently working on my next novel. I am happy leaving it the way it is at the moment. However, you never know what may happen in the future.
2) The Best of Me, left me speechless, we definitely didn’t see that finale coming. Where did your inspiration to write this book come from?
N.S: When I set out to write The Best of Me, I knew I wanted to focus on middle-aged characters—people in their forties who are really beginning toconfront the “what-if” questions, and who are starting to second-guess the choices they made when they were younger. For Amanda, this is asking herself what would’ve happened if she married the man she loved rather than the someone else? I actually first used a funeral to bring old friends together in an old, unfinished manuscript, but I used it again in The Best of Me because it was a natural fit with these characters. When someone dies, it really prompts those what-if questions—it makes you look long and hard at the life you are living in a way that I think is essential to Amanda’s and Dawson’s growth throughout the book. With these big questions in mind, the story began to develop in my head and, eventually, on the page.
3) True Believer brings existential questions to the table, like God and what’s the meaning of our existence. Were you planning to share your own beliefs?
N.S: No I was not. Though I’ll be perfectly honest, I did find myself doing quite a bit of research into two different areas. The first was what might be causing the mysterious lights, particularly in eastern North Carolina. The second regarded Jeremy Marsh and exactly what it was that he generally wrote about as a debunker. To accomplish this, I read or skimmed approximately thirty books, looking for legends and ghosts in North Carolina. While I did find some interesting stories and legends, most were simply that: stories that seemed to have faded away over the years. After some time, however, I discovered the legend of the Brown Mountain lights, a mysterious phenomena of lights that occurred regularly in western North Carolina. Not only did I read about the legend in detail, but I was also able to find a scientific explanation by someone who’d spent a great deal of time investigating them. It seemed to be the perfect scenario that I needed—with one exception. Note the name of the legendary lights—Brown Mountain lights. This was a problem; in eastern North Carolina, there are no mountains. In fact, there’s barely even a hill anywhere within a hundred miles of the coast; the biggest inclines around tend to be freeway overpasses. Yet, the Brown Mountain lights were perfect, and as a novelist (not a non-fiction writer), I’m allowed certain privileges, one of which is the ability to “lie” for the sake of the story. Thus, I created a fictitious town with a fictitious mountain (Riker’s Hill). (Note: For all those who want to come to Eastern North Carolina to visit Boone Creek and Riker’s Hill, please don’t bother. Really and truly, it’s all made up.)
L.M: I couldn’t help noticing that each of your novels bring a different plot based around some controversial issues like the Asperger disease, the Alzheimer, the ABS, women abuse. How do you choose these subjects? Would you like to raise awareness about this?
N.S: In some ways the life experiences I had did indeed inspire me to write, and I sometimes wonder whether the tragedies in my own life have allowed me to add emotional intensity to the stories I tell. With that said, a story needs conflict in order to be interesting. All of the great loves in my novels have some sort of conflict or struggle that the couple has to overcome. More than just being part of a good story , every couple has to struggle, on a smaller scale, with each other’s flaws. The good though – people love each other, even with their imperfections. And that’s a very liberating thing.
L.M: Your characters are consistent and all of them have strong personalities. In the books “Safe Haven” and “The Lucky One“, we could see the world through three different characters, three different minds, how was your writing process for these characters in these books? Was that a challenge for you?
N.S: Like all my novels, whenever I set out to write, I do my best to create an interesting and compelling story that feels fresh and original as well. For Safe Haven I wanted to introduce the theme of danger and a growing sense of intensity that rises – and surprises- until the very end, and little buy little the story came to life. The Lucky One was actually inspired by an image I had of a marine serving in Iraq finding a photograph of a woman and deciding to find that woman, and it stuck in my head. Next, I knew he’d be different when he returned to the US. WHY? That’s really how most stories are developed: Why? So, what if he starts to think of this photos as his luck charm? Why And then you begin to piece together a story.
L.M: Kevin (Safe Haven) is a psychopath, hypocrite; he is different than all the other characters you’ve written. How did you create this one? Did you based him on a real person or a story you’ve read somewhere?
N.S: Kevin was not based on a real person. It’s a bit of a balance. The characters have to feel real and the readers should eventually want them to fall in love….and yet, the whole story has to be set up to shirt towards the addition of suspense and tension. I find it challenging to get the balance right and it’s always a struggle and I think in the end, most readers very much enjoyed Safe Haven. It was the same situation with the film of course – the most challenging part was getting the balance just right, so that neither story overwhelmed the other.
L.M: Speaking of characters: do you have a favorite? If so, why? After finished a book, have you’ve ever felt that a character changed your vision about the world?
N.S: As for a favorite novel or character – in any genre – I can’t choose one. As for authors it’s relatively easy: I think Stephen King has done amazing. Though none have changed my vision per say.
L.M: How do you feel watching your novels on a big screen? Do you usually have any inputs on the script or in casting the actors?
N.S: I’ve been fortunate that the films adapted from my novels have all beenwell-made and successful, so for me, it’a always fun. Obviously, as the project moves forward, there’s always a lot of work as well, and at times,that isn’t always easy. I am involved in everything from the script development to selection of the director and casting. Technically, I’m now a producer on my films, but I’ve always been involved, and think all adaptations have been amazing, and I couldn’t be happier.
L.M: You’ve been in Brazil and you’ve met some of your fans there. How did you like the experience? Are you planning to come back anytime soon?
N.S: I had a wonderful tour in Brazil the last time i visited; the people were incredible, the culture was welcoming, and I think it’s simply a beautiful country. I will absolutely return in the future, and maybe bring my family the next time.
L.M: You are a best-seller writer. People from all over the world, all ages are fans of your books. Do you have any advice to give to someone who dreams about pursuing a career as a writer?
N.S: You have to research the craft of writing, read a lot, and write. I can’t imagine being an author without doing those things. I read A LOT. I read over 100 books a year, each one has taught me something different. Ask yourself questions about the books you are reading. FInally write, you can’t be a writer without writing. I write five or six days a week, usually a minimum of 2000 words. No matter what I try to maintain consistency in my work habits, I am always trying to improve, to write a new story, to try new things. And to finally write a story that has never been written.
Nicholas Sparks’ new novel: The Longest Ride
Nicholas Sparks’ upcoming movie: The Best of Me
Luana: Why did you choose this genre? What is your connection with the supernatural world?
Lisa: Um, see above! I love fantasy of every kind. I adored the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis when I first read them when I was nine years old. I made up a land like Narnia in my head, and it was named Felicity, which means “happiness.” It always made me happy to think about my fantasy world, which was ruled by a beautiful white unicorn, who could turn into a boy with white hair named Julian (I suppose that this was one of the beginnings of The Forbidden Game).
When I was ten or eleven I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. I was breathless from beginning to end. By then I was realizing that I wasn’t going to actually find real magic, and that I would just have to think up my own magic in my head.
My first two books, The Night of the Solstice and Heart of Valor, were pure fantasy. Although I wrote them for children around 12 years old, they were sold to an editor at MacMillan who didn’t like fantasy and they were marketed as middle-grade books, for kids ages 8-10. Also the cover of Solstice was hideous! The beautiful mansion Fell Andred looked like a giant spaceship, and Alys was black-skinned with yellow hair! I was so disappointed that I cried. Even the people who wrote me fan letters (and there were a few) said that it was the ugliest cover they had ever seen and that they almost hadn’t read the book because of the awful cover.
Those books sold very few copies, but they did get some nice reviews, and also they were read by Elise Donner. Elise worked for Alloy Entertainment (it was called Daniel Weiss Inc. back then). They were doing some books for HarperCollins. She called me to say that she had read my books and enjoyed them very much and that they were looking for a writer to do a “special, high class vampire trilogy.” I thought it sounded like a good offer since she guaranteed that my books would appear in lots of bookstores, something that hadn’t happened with my first two books.
I had to write each book—and edit it—within three months. I worked harder than I ever had, to get three books finished within nine months I had finished the entire trilogy. After that I took a little vacation in the far East, and soon after I got back the first Vampire Diaries book came out and my whole life changed.
So I guess my connection to the supernatural world is half chosen (by me even as a child) and half accidental (by being asked to write what became The Vampire Diaries series).
Luana: You started writing “The Vampire Diaries“, around 1991 (am I correct?) I wasn’t even born and you were making history in the entertainment business. How cool is that, huh? What I am saying is that the story you wrote in the nineties became even more successful in the 21st Century. Twenty years ago, when you started writing the book did you expect it would be a huge success, even on TV?
Lisa: Well, you see even back then I had TV offers and options and things. There was a Secret Circle TV pilot that almost got made—the producer would call me and ask me for ideas and tell me how wonderful the books were (quite different from what eventually happened on the TV show). So I was content with being on the bestsellers list with every book I did back in the 1990s. I didn’t know it could all get bigger.
But no, I didn’t really imagine the happiness (and sadness) that could come with even greater exposure. Back in those days there was no question of my own website, my books being on TV (even if the series flopped like Secret Circle), of getting messages from around the world or doing interviews with Brazilians! I didn’t know that I was a big fish in a very small pond back then. Now I know how big the pond is and that I’m only a guppy!
Luana: The TV producers had to make some changes to adapt the story you created to TV. For example, Elena is blond on the book, but Nina Dobrev has dark hair. I heard the fans complained about it in the beginning. But after watching Nina’s performance on the pilot, everyone felt in love with her. How do you feel about the changes that were made by the writers?
Lisa: As I said, I honestly can’t say, as I don’t watch TV! I’m so sorry!
I also felt very sad when an actress claimed that they “had” to change Elena because in the books she was “mean.”
I don’t think of Elena as mean in the books. She is a very intelligent, very strong young woman. Yes, she evolves in the books from being selfish and spoiled to being unselfish and willing to give her life to save Damon and Stefan. That’s because in every book the main character needs to learn and grow, so they don’t always start out as perfect. But I like my characters to be strong young women from the start, even if they don’t know it themselves, like Cassie in TheSecret Circle. Cassie thinks she’s weak, but she is brave enough in the opening chapters of The Initiation to hide Adam from witch hunters and to undergo having her wrist twisted and bruised without giving any information about him. I think this shows Cassie as being a girl with a core of true strength. By the end of the trilogy, Cassie fully accepts herself as a strong young woman. Anyway, to get back to my original point, there are too few truly strong young women on TV and in the movies. I suppose that’s another reason why I don’t watch TV and why I am often critical of movies I watch. I think that it is sad when a strong character “has” to be made weaker or more “vulnerable” before she will appeal to a TV audience.
Luana: Your characters are all mystics, mainly vampires. But the plot of the book is about family, friendship, love, revenge, which are all human feelings. Why did you choose the vampire universe to discuss family matters?
Lisa: Are we talking about The Vampire Diaries here? If so, see my answer above as to how I came to write it. As for why my books deal with family, friendship, love, revenge, optimism, and fighting for what’s right—well, that’s because each book is just a disguise so that I can get in a bunch of preaching about how everyone can make a difference if they will work together and how strong young women are better than weak ones.
As to why use vampires to talk about human feelings—well, I can’t speak about anything besides the books, but in the books the vampires were all once human (in The Vampire Diaries) and they have feelings about family (like Stefan and Damon’s connection as brothers); friendship (as in the way Stefan is friends with Matt, Bonnie, and Meredith); love (obviously!); revenge (obviously!) and so on. The vampires are just metaphors for humans who deal with all these themes.
Lisa: Are TheForbidden Game trilogy and the Dark Visions trilogy not available in Brazil? How sad. I will have to speak to my agent about this and see if maybe they can be released there. A lot of people pick The Forbidden Game as their favorite of all my works, and I will do a sequel to it when I have time. Meanwhile, I am working on three new works. One is Strange Fate, the last book in the Night World series. Another is The Last Lullaby, which sold a year ago to Farrar Straus and Giroux in the USA, and to many foreign publishers (maybe even to a Brazilian publisher—I don’t remember). It will come out in the fall of 2014. The third is . . . a secret project. I think many people will be surprised when I unveil it. I hope they will be excited. I can’t give an exact date right now as for when it will come out, but it will be sooner than next fall! As for a little taste, below is a short explanation of what The Last Lullaby is about and I will attach the first chapter of Strange Fate (I doubt you’ll want to translate it all, but I’ll give it to you anyway).
Luana: Your books are a huge success in Brazil. The TV show is a hit there too. Would you like to send your Brazilian fans a message?
Lisa: Yes! I’d like to say to them that I love all the readers from Brazil who write to me (email@example.com ) or visit my new Facebook Page: (https://www.facebook.com/ljsmithauthorofvampirediaries). I cherish all my Brazilian fans and hope that I can come to see them for a book signing when I am not writing three books at once! I thank them for their support and loyalty, and I send them the best of wishes for the future.
Luana: I would like to thank you for responding all these questions.
I wish you all the best, on behalf of all your Brazilian Fans.