NiFtY Author Donna Cooner

I met Donna at Katherine Longshore’s book launch, after I’d been stalking following her and her fellow muses via the YA Muses blog. Her debut young adult novel, SKINNY, will be released this coming Tuesday, October 1st, and I’m thrilled for her, and can’t wait to get my hands on that book!

BH: Welcome, Donna! I am so looking forward to reading SKINNY. What was the biggest joy of writing the book? What was the biggest challenge?

DC: My biggest joy in writing this book has been the personal connections people seem to have with the story.  Readers have shared some amazing struggles with self image and many of them have nothing to do with weight.  I love the fact people are able to relate to the story in so many different ways.  The biggest challenge for me was just completing the story.  My full time job as a  university administrator is hectic and time consuming, so finding time to write is always difficult.

BH: I heard from a little bird (or two birds) that SKINNY wasn’t your first choice of a book to work on. Can you share why it was more difficult to commit to this one than the other ideas you had?

DC: This book is incredibly personal.  In many ways, that made it a difficult choice to write.  I’ve tried to avoid the topic of obesity all my life.  The thought that I was actually going to write about it for the whole world to see was terrifying.  It probably would have been much easier to work on something that wasn’t so close to my heart, but I also think that’s the very reason it connected with readers.

BH: If you had a daughter, which of Ever’s attributes do you wish she shared? Which ones would you never want to see her display?

DC:  Ever is a talented singer. I would definitely hope any child of mine would be involved in the performing arts in some way.  Singing solos in church and performing in school musicals as a choir member gave me the self-confidence to be in front of people.  I learned to prepare well, practice, and perform under pressure.   As an adult, I still draw on those skills today when teaching and speaking to groups.

Ever is so extremely self-absorbed and self-critical that she almost misses out on some fantastic opportunities and potential friendships. Her journey is all about learning that lesson and coming to some positive realizations about herself.  I would hope my daughter wouldn’t have that same, so so difficult, struggle.  Reflection and introspection might be good for writers, but there definitely needs to be a healthy balance.  Especially when you are a young adult.

BH: Do you have a new project in the works you can tell us a little about?

DC:  It’s a little too early to talk about yet, but there is definitely a book two in the works.    It’s not a sequel to SKINNY, but will be set in the same Texas town.  You might even get to see Ever and Rat again.

BH: What does your workspace look like?

DC:  I have a second floor loft in my house that is my study.  My cat, Stu, tries his best to get in between me and the computer screen (see picture).  Roxanne and Cassidy, my chocolate labs, are usually lying on the floor near my feet.  The wall is adorned with notes and scene cards for my next project.  I also tack up pictures from teen magazines to represent what I think my current characters might look like.

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

DC:  Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

BH: Any words on advice to aspiring writers for keeping the hope alive?

DC: SKINNY is my third completed novel.  If anyone had reasons for giving up, and not writing book three, it was me.  But the story was there.  Waiting.  And so was this amazing journey.   I’m just so grateful for good writing friends who encouraged me when I most needed it or I would have missed it all.  Don’t give up.  Write your stories and keep writing your stories.  You never know what might be waiting for you just around the bend from your next “The End.”

BH: Thank you, Donna, for visiting and sharing about SKINNY and your writing adventures. For more on Donna and her writing, you can visit her website by clicking here. You can read the first chapter of SKINNY by visiting the YA Muses Blog here…and you can buy it on Tuesday!

NiFtY Author Seven N. Blue – Reprise!

Today we have with us Seven N. Blue, author of young adult fantasy The Lunatics. I met Seven through the (now disbanded) Sacramento Writers Group when we were the lone young adult fantasy writers, hashing out our first drafts and craving feedback to improve our writing. See how far Seven has come with that manuscript!

BH: What inspired you to write The Lunatics?

SNB: In four words: Defiance and a Boy.

BH: What are some of the things readers like most about The Lunatics?
SNB: Besides Christian Lunatic you mean 🙂 I think the one thing that comes up over and over again (and I know this is cliche but it’s what I keep getting), “I could not put the book down until the very end!” I think it’s because it’s sort of episodic in nature…like Alice in Wonderland, but a bit more connected. It’s definitely a ride.

BH: Which of the characters is most like you?

SNB: I think there’s a lot of Josephine in me…but then again…I think there’s a little bit of Josephine in all of us…doll!

BH: What are the benefits you experienced with self-publishing? What were the disadvantages? 

SNB: Advantages: I get to call the shots on story, title, marketing…etc. The disadvantages…I get to call the shots on story, title, marketing…etc. Well, you get the picture! But all in all…I love being an Indie Author.

BH: Any forthcoming sequels for The Lunatics?

SNB: Yes! I recently came up with the whole outline for the sequel of The Lunatics…but don’t plan to dive into it until later this year – as I am in the midst of my next project.

BH: A new project? Can you give us any details?  

SNB: I am currently revising a completed first draft. It’s a young adult novel…but not fantasy…in fact…it’s as real as it gets. Sort of Girl Interrupted meets Crank…but you know…funnier 🙂

BH: What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve received as a writer?

SNB: Butt. In. Chair. (just sit down and write)!

BH: Thanks for coming back for a second visit, Seven!
To find out more about Seven and to get your very own paperback or digital copy of The Lunatics, visit Seven’s website here!

NiFtY Author Katherine Longshore

I’ve had the immense pleasure of getting to know Katherine through SCBWI and through following her (and her critique group) through their blog at the YA Muses. Here today, we get some questions answered about her upcoming debut novel, GILT, due out in May from Viking/Penguin.

BH: Welcome, Katy!

KL:  Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Beth!  It’s a pleasure to be here.

BH: Tell us a little about GILT. (To our studio audience, click here to read about Katy’s agonizing title-selection process.)

KL: I came up with the idea to write “something” about Catherine Howard several years ago.  She is often depicted as an air-headed little tramp, and I just felt there was something else about her that needed to be told. And then the voice of her best friend came to me, to do the telling.

BH: What were some of the joys of writing this book?

KL: I love being able to reach deeply into history, to live and breathe it. I love that I can find a connection to historical characters, and hopefully create that connection for my readers as well.

BH: If you had a daughter, which of Kitty’s attributes do you wish she shared? Which ones would you never want to see her display?

KL:  I love Kitty’s loyalty.  She has strong convictions and believes that friendship is sacred.  But it’s that same loyalty – a misguided loyalty – that gets her into trouble.  So I would wish for my daughter to value friendship, and to be loyal to it, but to have the insight to apply it to worthy people.

Katherine's Critique/Blogging Group - yes they are wearing endearingly dorky sweatshirts at SCBWI-LA 2011

BH: The other day we were discussing a writing slump you’d been in with the second book in this series. What do you do to get yourself out of a slump? Or do you wait for it to pass?

KL:  I think it depends on how deep the slump is. Sometimes, I can get over a block by just continuing to keep my bum in the chair, my fingers on the keyboard, and my mind spinning. Sometimes I have to write a kissing scene. If it gets really bad, I bake. If it gets worse, I clean. But the one we were talking about the other day is the worst I’ve ever experienced, and I cried. A lot. It helped to be able to talk about it with a good, close writing friend. But the only thing I could do was wait it out. My house was pretty clean that week.

BH: What does your workspace look like?

KL: No matter how hard I try to keep it tidy, my workspace is always a mess. It’s a little desk in the window bay of my bedroom, looking out into the back garden, where I can watch the hummingbirds and scrub jays. I’m surrounded by books, and a giant poster on the wall with the entire genealogical heritage of the British royal family on it. Plus my storyboard.

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

Katherine's Storyboard

KL: Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. She is so honest. I suppose the ultimate appeal isn’t her description of craft, though her take on character, dialogue, and setting is spot on. For me, it’s the fact that she gives me permission to write a shitty a first draft, she acknowledges the radio station that plays constantly in my head, and she understands the pain and joy of it all.

BH: Any words or advice to aspiring writers for keeping the hope alive?

KL: Love what you do.  Don’t try to write to trends or stay ahead of them.  Don’t second-guess whether or not your concept will sell.  If a story and character come to you, write them down.  That passion will come through in your writing, and it won’t matter if it’s another vampire book, or that mermaids were so last year or that historical novels don’t sell.  Good writing sells.  Passion sells.  And in the long run, writing what you love is the ultimate reward.

BH: The end. Seriously,  just read Katherine’s response above, over and over again. Thanks, Katy!

ETA: Today through Tuesday, December 12, you can enter to win an ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy) of GILT. See this post at the YA Muses for details!

Blog:  http://yamuses.blogspot.com

http://katherinelongshore.blogspot.com

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/KALongshore

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/katy.longshore?ref=ts

NiFtY Author Caragh O’Brien

A few weeks ago, I read this excellent book. The first couple of chapters, though, were pure torture, and not for the reasons you might think. The eerie coincidences between the first chapter of this book, Birthmarked, and the first chapter of my own manuscript were so similar it was sickening. (To read my review, click here.)

After I got over my nausea, I really got into the story. Caragh O’Brien has crafted an excellent tale, and in the interview below, she’ll tell us a little about it, and a little about her writing in general.

Interview with Caragh M. O’Brien March 3, 2011

BH: We have a really exciting sequel to look forward to in November, but in the meantime, can you tell us a little bit about Birthmarked here (for those in our audience who haven’t already read my review)?

COB:  Sure.  Let me first say thanks, Beth, for inviting me by.  Your review made me laugh so much when I first read it.  I was completely drawn to your honesty and the awful coincidences between our books.  Birthmarked is the story of Gaia, a teen midwife who is compelled to “advance” babies into a privileged society within a walled city.  In a dystopian future after climate change, Gaia’s society is divided by the wall into haves and have-nots.  Justice is uncompromising, and Gaia spends much of the book trying to save her parents from the Enclave.  It’s a pretty dark, twisted, fun book.

BH: Tell us a little about your path to publication.

COB:  Starting when?  Ha.  The short version is that I wrote a lot, quit to become a teacher, started writing again because I couldn’t help it, and then wrote Birthmarked while I was on a leave of absence from teaching.  I sent out forty-five email queries to agents, received four offers of representation, and ended up with Kirby Kim of William Morris Endeavor.  He sent out the book, and a month later we had three offers.  The best was a three-book deal with Nancy Mercado at Roaring Brook, and I was delighted.

BH: When you wrote Birthmarked, did you plan to create a series?

COB:  No.  I thought Birthmarked was a stand-alone.  When Nan offered me a three-book deal, I discovered it was a trilogy.

BH: Your blog post about Birthmarked being translated and published in Spain is truly inspiring (click here to read it)—even more amazing is that you got to meet Eva Rubio, the woman whose blog and Facebook page started the fire. What can other writers learn from your experience here?

COB: It was such an unusual situation, and I was so fortunate to meet Eva and her friends in Salamanca.  It isn’t the sort of thing I could have ever prepared for.  I suppose it helped that I sometimes do a Google search for my book, and when reviews turn up in other languages, I’m willing to push that translate button to see what’s there.  As you know, I’ll sometimes write to express my thanks to a blogger who posts an outstanding review, and that follows for overseas bloggers, too.  I am genuinely grateful for the kind reviews Birthmarked has received.

BH: What other project ideas do you hope to pursue after the Birthmarked series is finished? (Um, not too many details please…although, what are the chances we’d have another duplicate Agnes birth scene?)

COB:  We are doomed to write identical books no matter what we do, Beth.  I’m pondering three different ideas, all YA, but they’re inchoate at this stage.  I need to finish up a solid draft of Book 3 before I can let my mind go play in a new place.

BH: What does your workspace look like?

Gerbils!

COB:  I have a MacBook on my lap.  Sometimes I sit on the plaid couch in the library where I can see the gerbils, and sometimes I sit on the brown couch in the living room where I can see the slope of the yard.

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

COB:  I learned from Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. Other than that, I read a lot of fiction so really everything is a lesson in craft.

BH: What is the best writing advice anyone has given you?

COB:  I’ve been thinking about this lately, actually.  The most important writing advice I received was from Ed Epping, an Art teacher at Williams college, when he told me “Paint only what is interesting to you.”  It freed me.  It redefined what art was supposed to be.  I never again had to waste time on what I thought was unimportant, or if I did, I understood it was an assignment for someone else, not for me.  I can still do boring work for others if I must, but there’s no room for it in my own writing, ever.  On a practical writing level, this means I skip any sentence, paragraph, scene or book that doesn’t interest me.

Thanks again, Beth, for having me by, and good luck with your own writing.

BH: Caragh, thanks for visiting, and for laughing at the sad coincidences between our books. Now that I’m not throwing up about it anymore, I can laugh with you!

To visit Caragh’s website, click here. To check out Birthmarked on Amazon, click here.

NiFtY Author Yvonne Prinz

Joining us today is Yvonne Prinz, author of young adult books The Vinyl Princess and All You Get Is Me (reviewed here and here on my blog). As a reader, I loved the instant connection I had with Allie and Roar, the main characters in each book, and as a writer I was thrilled at how well Yvonne created their voices and told their stories. Anyway, no more blather, let’s hear from Yvonne herself!

BH: Your latest book, All You Get Is Me, is getting glowing reviews online. What seems to be the element people like most about the book?

YP: I’m surprised but it seems that most readers seem to like the romance aspect of the book the best. If you had told me that while I was writing it, I’d have laughed out loud but Forest and Roar have become readers’ favorite summer romance.

BH: Your first book, The Vinyl Princess, was also a huge success. What do you think makes Allie so appealing? I need to learn your secret, and so do a lot of other authors out there!

YP: Well, I wouldn’t call it a huge success but it seems to have taken on a life of its own. I think readers are drawn to Allie’s work life, her weird comfort zone, and her honesty about who she is in the world. Also, falling for the wrong guy is always an appealing topic because we’ve all done it.  I don’t know that I have a secret. I think getting the voice right is paramount in creating characters but I probably heard that from a publisher. Here’s a tip but it’s not a secret: If you fall in love with your own characters I think you’re probably on the right track.

BH: I absolutely loved the setting for All You Get Is Me. I kinda want to move to that organic farm. Is the farm based on someplace you know? Is there really a monastery nearby? Can you give us a map with driving directions, as well as real estate information?

YP: The farm is in a fictional town. I plucked bits from several locations in Northern California. The Monastery is in Marin County (outside San Francisco) and the farm is in a place sort of like Brentwood CA’s farm community (East of the City) but it’s much smaller. I’m pretty sure you can get a house there for a song as the developers grossly overestimated the amount of development that could be sustained and there’s a lot of new houses sitting empty. As for old, lovely farmhouses, I think you need to head to the Sebastopol and environs area.  I sort of based the house on some great old farms I’ve seen in that area.

BH: Are you working on something new at the moment, and if so, can you share anything about it?

YP: I’ve just finished a thriller that takes place in a Northern California seaside hamlet. It’s foggy and gloomy and a girl named Georgia loses her brother to a surfing accident. Shortly after the funeral, a very charismatic stranger arrives in town who seems to know a bit too much about her brother…(Cue scary music here)

BH: Ooh, sounds exciting! And huzzah for Northern California settings! What does your workspace look like?

YP: I can’t post a photo because I’m away from home right now but suffice to say, it’s your usual writerly chaos. My imaginary workspace is spectacular, however, and features a massive fireplace and a big sleeping dog at my feet. I think it might be in Colorado or Montana.

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

YP: I like Stephen King’s [On Writing] because it’s so easy to understand. I don’t write like him but he just makes sense.

Like me, he doesn’t think that there are any secrets involved. He’s a believer in hard work.

BH: I’m reading his book right now – so far I like what he has to say. Do you have any words or advice to aspiring writers for keeping the hope alive?

YP: Remember that publishing is a business and a rejection is only one person’s opinion of your work. Don’t take it personally.

Get out there and live. Get some great stories under your belt. Fall in love, get your heart broken, get in trouble, see the world. If you don’t have a book to write when you’re done at least you’ll be more interesting at cocktail parties.

BH: Thank you, Yvonne, for the interview. It has been a joy getting to know you and your books! Studio audience: for more on Yvonne, check out the links below. Also, I don’t know for sure, but Yvonne said she might be around to answer questions today in the comments section, so if you have any, feel free to ask!

links:

www.allyougetisme

www.thevinylprincess.com

www.caughtinthecarousel.com This is a website that the Vinyl Princess reviews music on.

Buy the Book:

http://www.amazon.com/Vinyl-Princess-Yvonne-Prinz/dp/B0046LUF4U/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1299180161&sr=1-1

Or visit your local Indie bookstore.

NiFtY Author: Mike Orenduff

Joining us today is NiFtY (Not Famous…Yet) author Mike Orenduff, creator of the Pot Thief mystery series. His first book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, won the Epic eBook Award for 2010, and The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy is up for the award this year…we’ll know soon if it wins!

BH: What’s your one-paragraph pitch for the latest novel in your Pot Thief mystery series, The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier?

MO:  Against his better judgment, Hubie agrees to design, throw, and fire chargers for a soon-to-open Austrian restaurant in Santa Fe. The $20,000 fee probably had something to do with his decision. But when one of the workers winds up dead in the back of Hubie’s old Bronco, he wants to take his edelweiss design home and not come back. His entry into the high stakes game of upscale dining turns even more dangerous when the coroner discovers that the poison that killed the cook was one of Hubie’s glazing compounds.

BH: When you wrote the first novel, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, did you plan to create a series mystery?

MO: Yes. Mystery readers love series. I know because I’m a fan myself, and there is nothing worse than finding a mystery you love then discovering there are no more books from that author to read.

BH: I agree! Do you have a “series bible,” or some sort of record of facts so that you can keep details straight among (and within) the different novels?

MO: I do, and it comes in handy. I had Hubie twenty pounds heavier in Escoffier than he was in Pythagoras until I looked in the “bible” and saw my mistake. If I hadn’t caught it, maybe I could have just claimed he gained weight?

BH: Hubert Schuze is a thief, but he is also the protagonist, so you want the reader to like him and maybe even identify with him. How did you go about making him into a sympathetic character?

MO:  I try to make his rationalizations of what he does interesting and funny. And I show the good side of his character in other ways. Except for comic books, protagonists have flaws.

BH: Can you tell us about your path to your first publishing contract?

MO:  Long and winding, but then that is probably true of most writers. I tried querying those publishers who were accepting queries. I also queried agents, which are about as difficult to get as publishers. I finally found an agent who was excited about my work and signed on. Then she suggested I enter contests to get my name out there. I won the Dark Oak contest with The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras. The prize was a publication contract. I hope the judges who selected my work are pleased that the book has since won the “Eppie” for the best eBook Mystery of the Year and the New Mexico Book of the Year.

BH: What does your workspace look like? Do you collect antique pots?

MO: If I posted a picture of my workspace, my wife might file for divorce. It is a mess on one wall of the kitchen, and I am under orders to relocate. Except for those on the New York Times Best Seller List, writers don’t make enough money to collect antique pots.

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

MO: I have never read a book on writing. I have nothing against them, and I imagine there are some that people find helpful. I prefer to observe the craft rather than read about it.

BH: What is the best writing advice anyone has given you?

MO: My dissertation advisor, Dr. Harold Lee, told me not to fret about the opening of a book because you’ll never get started if you keep trying to make the start perfect. “Just start writing,” he said, “and keep writing until you finish the last chapter. Then go back to the first chapter and throw it out.” And that’s exactly what I do.

BH: Any words on advice to aspiring writers for keeping the hope alive?

MO: If you have a passion for writing, that should be enough to keep you going. And if you keep going, you keep alive the possibility of that break we all dream about.

BH: Thank you, Mike, for sharing your insights into your writing and your books with us today, and best of luck with the EPIC Award! For more about Mike Orenduff, you can visit his website by clicking here!