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The Daily Tar Heel

Q&A with author and 2013 graduate Taylor Hartley

Taylor Hartley, a 2013 UNC graduate, recently released her first of what she hopes to be many novels. Hartley was a staff writer for The Daily Tar Heel during her time at UNC and is originally from Atlanta, but moved to Charlotte at the age of 15. When she isn’t writing, she works as a marketing assistant in Charlotte for a consulting firm.

Staff writer Bradley Saacks spoke with Hartley about her writing career and sources of inspiration.

DTH: What’s your book called and what is it about?

Taylor Hartley: My book is called The Penkeepers. It is probably more targeted for the 15 to 18-year-old age group, but that doesn’t mean college kids can’t enjoy it. It is about an 18-year-old girl named Hollie Selix who has this special ability that only one person in the entire world possesses. She is the current Penkeeper, which means that once she writes a story and imprints it on the tablet, it becomes an actual event in the world. In writing the story, I wanted to create a heroine that depicted a “normal” girl. For instance, you have Bella Swan, who is weak and dependent on a man to save her and is always in love, but on the flip-side, you have Katniss Everdeen who is so strong and so independent. I wanted, with Hollie, to provide a more normal heroine.

DTH: When did you start writing it?

TH: I started writing the first draft in the summer of 2006, so I hadn’t yet turned 16. I finished it probably around winter of that same year. I sent it out to publishers and didn’t hear much from them so I stored it away.

DTH: Wow, so this has been a long process!

TH: Oh yes, of course I have made significant changes since I have gotten older and matured as a writer.

DTH: Who would you say was your inspiration for this book?

TH: My inspiration definitely came from my parents. They were always supportive of my writing and always picked me up when a creative writing class at UNC got me down, because the creative writing classes at UNC are very tough. I remember I would call them and say, “They don’t like my writing, I am never going to be a writer!” and my parents would calm me down and be like, “Taylor, you are gifted. You can do this.” It was my mother who said that I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel when I got out of college and told her that I wanted to write a book. She sat me down and said, “Taylor, you’ve already written a book,” and that’s when I became serious about rewriting and publishing The Penkeepers.

DTH: Who were some of your mentors at UNC?

TH: I had two. One was Bland Simpson. I took intro to fiction writing with him and did my honors creative writing senior thesis with him. He was always very encouraging with his feedback and just let me write what I wanted to write. His edits could be strict at times but mostly he guided me through the writing process without truly altering my style. The other was Pam Durban. I took three semesters with her and one of the things she told us was that we weren’t going to write fantasy and of course, I am sitting there like, “of course I am going to write fantasy!” but then I ended not writing any in her class but I learned a ton from her.

DTH: Who published your book?

TH: It’s actually self-published through Amazon. I did not want to wait to go through the queries and the process of sending it to a publishing company so I self-published it through Amazon and it is available as an E-book on Kindles. I set my own price and have been promoting it through Facebook and other social media outlets.

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