Tell me a little about yourself…
My name is Amber Tonelle Lee. I’m a Pisces and a nomad. Right now I’m based in Herndon, VA, but I do a lot of my work out of Brooklyn and Washington D.C.
How long have you been writing?
Honestly, since I learned how. My grandparents still have copies of stories I wrote in elementary school. My dad’s favorite is this parody I wrote about the Cyclops in the Odyssey when I was in middle school. It’s pretty funny.
How’d you get your start, or get discovered?
I made it for myself. I left college in 2011 after my junior year. It was the most freeing, life changing experience of my life, and also a constant pain in my @$$. Not having a degree frees you up to do whatever you want to do. The kickback is that plenty of doors are closed to you as a college dropout. You have to make your own opportunities. I’ve done that through Originelle, my production company. Publishing my first book under my own letterhead is an amazing feeling.
What prompts or inspires you to write?
I have two major inspirations. One is the little fairy that comes and whispers an idea in my head. She comes around and excites me with a visual or a story. She’s very coy, though. She leaves quickly, which is why I need my second inspiration, which is an overwhelming, all-encompassing fear of living a mediocre life. It helps me to power through the part of writing or production when it’s not fun anymore, because I enjoy the life I’ve chosen to lead. I get to have adventures and create things and share them, and my only price is to make something worthwhile to give back to the world. I’ll work hard for that.
Do you have any advice or solution for writer’s block?
Write. Everyone says this. That’s because it’s true. If you’re reading this because you want to be a writer, go away. Grab a notebook and write something. Right now! I mean it. Go.
Where can we check out and buy your work?
What do you think sets you apart from other writers?
Everyone who writes has a unique voice. I’m just able to express mine without an attempt to imitate others. My D.N.A. is imprinted on every character I write.
What do you get out of being a writer? How has it improved your life or been a benefit to you and/or others?
I like to write. Being a writer allows me to have a job doing one of the things I love to do most in the world. I love the lifestyle of an artist. We get away with so much. And it gives me a positive outlet for my schizophrenia. (No, I don’t have schizophrenia). (Yes she does). (Shut up Ted)!
What’s the weirdest or most astonishing and controversial work that you have ever written and how so or why?
Everything I write is pretty weird and controversial. Heliophiliacs, which is coming out this month, is a “choose your own adventure” novel for adults. It’s all about a girl’s slow slip into dementia and her mutually abusive relationship with her boyfriend. And it’s pretty tame. I have a serial story about a bartender in hell, and a web series coming up about two hit women. All guaranteed weird fun.
What do others seem to love about your writing, as far as feedback you have gotten?
It’s funny. I love dark subjects like death, murder, heaven and hell, existential bullshit, but I take it all with a very light hand. I use humor as a way to explore heavier subjects.
What is your advice to fellow writers if any, to encourage them to begin or to keep doing what they do?
I’d say, don’t feel sorry for yourself and don’t give up. The fact that you’re not where you want to be just means you need to grind harder. Eventually your opportunity will come. You’ve just got to be in place to take it. So stop looking over your shoulder and keep writing. Promote yourself. Make good work. You will have success if you keep hustling.
How would you describe your writing style?
Poetically frank. A line from Heliophiliacs “It sounds a little fucked up when I write it out, and maybe it is, but I believe that there’s a sacredness, you know, a sacredness and a beauty that come from chaos.”
Do you have any future plans for your writing?
Yes. I have a few projects coming up, but I’m really excited about a new animated web series I’m writing called CLEAN. I mentioned it earlier. It’s about two sisters working as hired guns, who cross the wrong crime lord and start a war for their lives. It’s a dark comedy. We’re pulling animators and voices from all over. So far, we’ve lined up people from the U.S., Estonia, and Perth, Australia to be involved. I’m hoping to cover even more of the globe. It’s going to be awesome.
What do you want others to take away from your writing, if anything?
That life is beautiful despite all the ugliness, and because of all the ugliness.