Hope Bolinger is younger than my children and makes me jealous to see all she’s accomplished in her young life. Now that I’ve confessed it, LOL, on with the interview. Welcome Hope, it’s so fun to have young blood on my blog. It reminds readers we can follow our writing dreams at any age. Tell my readers a little about your writing journey.
I started writing novels in high school. I buried myself in books and wrote just about everything I could.
Fourteen novels later, I found myself at Taylor University’s professional writing program, which offered a student scholarship to attend the Maranatha Christian Writer’s Conference. Having just completed Blaze (a modern-day Daniel) over the summer, I decided to pitch it to every editor I could fit a one on one for. Eddie, the editor at LPC, gave me some edits to fix the three-chapter sample but encouraged me to send it to the YA imprint of LPC.
It made it past Pub Board, but had a number of edits needed after they reviewed the full. After I went back and forth several times with the managing editor, it was polished and ready to go.
I remember getting the acceptance email in the college parking lot after my friends and I had seen a rather solemn viewing of Avengers: Infinity War. It was going to be published.
Tell us about Blaze
Blaze is being released in June. It essentially is the first three chapters of Daniel plopped into an American high school. It follows the story of Danny as he, and three of his closest friends, are transferred to their rival after his school mysteriously burns down.
Great story idea. How did you research to create your story?
This one was unique because it involved a lot of research into the time of the Babylonians, commentaries on Daniel, and just about everything in the 500-400 BC range. For this one, I spent a lot of time buried in books in the Old Testament to make sure I included as much symbolism and historical references as possible. Also, having written this from a male’s perspective, I made sure to have some male friends look over the manuscript to make sure Danny walked, talked, and sounded like a high school sophomore.
Yeah, guys gotta sound like guys. Why a retelling of the Book of Daniel?
I was sitting in an Old Testament class in which we blazed (buh dum tssh) through the Old Testament in a semester. On the day we covered the book of Daniel, my professor said something along the lines of, “Daniel and his friends would’ve been about 14 to 16 years old when the Babylonians took them into captivity.”
I sort of jolted in my seat, thinking, “Wait. Fifteen years old?”
Here are these four brave men who stood up to Kings, and they were just teens. Not to mention they were extremely involved in Babylonian culture and had to be adept at just about everything.
Then I thought, “What would that look like today? To get involved in a completely different culture but still stand up for what you believe in . . . as a teen?” Blaze was born.
When did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?
It’s hard to pinpoint a certain time when I didn’t write. I have copies of three-page stories I made in first grade buried somewhere in my room. But I didn’t actually take it on as a full-time calling until my AP Lit teacher in high school, in a passing remark, noted I wrote well. Granted, she gave me a B on that paper, but it stuck with me. In that moment, I thought, “Wow. I could actually do this.”
Taylor’s professional writing program helped solidify that. We had articles published our first semester (I got a little too into it and had 300 published by the time I graduated), and we walked through just about every aspect of the publishing industry. I’m forever indebted to the instructors there.
Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?
It used to be Colossians 3:17. I loved the idea to do everything for Christ.
But lately the whole chapter of Psalm 103 has helped. Like Danny, I struggle with anxiety, but those verses have helped keep me calm and at peace, especially during some very dark spiritual episodes this past semester.
I usually ask this question to much older authors. 😊 But I’m curious about your answer. If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?
Learn to accept criticism. It took me a while to realize that writing takes a lot of work. I think I had this idea that I would just write a book, throw it through spell check, and viola! Off to the publisher it went!
. . . not quite. It takes an insane amount of time and dedication, and more often than not, the editor is always right.
Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?
I always throw it back to my best friend James. I’ve known him for four years, and every time I want to quit, he refuses to let me. He reads just about everything I send him and is my biggest cheerleader.
What is your favorite genre to read for fun?
Of course, YA. I think YA writers have way too much fun. I also love diving into the Classics. I love to know why a book stood the test of time.
Here’s the back cover copy of Blaze
If you can’t stand the heat, don’t walk into the fire.
Danny knew his sophomore year would be stressful . . . but he didn’t expect his school to burn down on the first day.
To make matters worse (and they were about to get a lot worse), he — and his three best friends — receive an email in their inboxes from the principal of their rival, King’s Academy, offering full-rides to attend the town’s prestigious boarding school. Danny wants nothing to do with King’s Academy and says no. Of course his mother says yes. So off he goes to be bullied and picked on for not being part of the popular and rich “in crowd.”
From day one at King’s, Danny encounters hazing, mocking insults from girls at the “popular and pretty” table, and cafeteria food that, for such a prestigious school, tastes as if it were purchased from a military surplus supply warehouse. If he survives, Danny will have to overcome his fears of failure, rejection, and loneliness–all while standing strong in his beliefs and walking into the fire.
Intriguing . I want it read.
Who is Hope Bolinger?
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University’s professional writing program. More than 300 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer’s Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column “Hope’s Hacks,” tips and tricks to avoid writer’s block, reaches 2,700+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young’s blog, which receives 63,000+ monthly hits. She is excited for her modern-day Daniel “Blaze” to come out with IlluminateYA (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas). She enjoys all things theater, cats, and fire.