Thursday, December 17, 2009

Author Interview - J.A. YANG

Everyone welcome author J.A. YANG! His debut YA book EXCLUSIVELY CHLOE came out this year from Puffin/Speak. The book is about a girl adopted into Hollywood royalty.

The illustration is of Chloe-Grace, the main character of EXCLUSIVELY CHLOE. She's sixteen, Chinese, and in the book she describes herself as (in comparison with her parents): "Bad enough I wasn't statuesque like my mom or the owner of chiseled cheekbones like my dad.  My face was a bit too oval, my nose a tad too flat, and my eyes a little too narrow to be considered classically beautiful."

1) Welcome to The Blog, Jon! What is EXCLUSIVELY CHLOE about?

Exclusively Chloe is about a girl who is adopted from China by two members of Hollywood royalty, a movie actress mother and a rock star father.  Chloe-Grace is now sixteen and she's tired of every undesired moment of the world's attention.  She's been on the cover of magazines since she was a baby and even had her embarassing middle school pictures plastered in glossies everywhere.  Now she's wondering what it's like to be a "normal" kid and on the heels of her parents' impending media drenched divorce, she decides to get a make-under and enter the real world.

2) What inspired you to write Exclusively Chloe?

Awhile back, my friends and I started a celebrity fantasy league (like fantasy football but with celebrities).  It was a long slow summer and we all worked together so this gave us something to look forward to every Friday, which was when the new issue of US Magazine would hit the stands.  For her team, one of my friends drafted "Maddox Pitt-Jolie" while another one drafted "Sean Preston Spears."  As it turned out, they were both on the covers of the magazine so much that they scored a ton of points.  That got me thinking about how these kids had their every step since childhood documented and what it would be like to grow up like that.

That was the beginning of the idea and my agency knew a publisher who was looking for young adult queries about celebrities and child adoption.  I was like, "I just spent the whole summer following this stuff in detail.  Pick me! Pick me!"

3) Can you tell us about some of the challenges you encountered while writing Exclusively Chloe? How did you overcome them?

The hardest part was making sure that I was capable of writing a whole complete work of fiction.  I wasn't an English or Literature major, had avoided any papers over twenty pages in college, and didn't have much professional experience writing until I did my non-fiction book on blogging in 2006.  But that was a very different experience so doing a work of fiction was new and that felt scary.  Things turned out well though because I naturally liked telling stories and creating characters and found that creating a fictional world, even one set in reality, was very enjoyable and fun to do.

4) What was your journey toward getting published at Puffin/Speak like?

It's been really great.  We submitted an outline, a synopsis, and a few sample chapters and Penguin/Speak came back with some revisions and then was kind enough to contract me to write out the full story.  So the process was actually really smooth, and I've only found out afterwards that it's not always that easy.  I consider myself really fortunate.

What's strange in this industry is that you can build these relationships with people over email and phone calls and never see them in person.  So I never actually met my editor until Exclusively Chloe was already done but it felt like we were already friends because we'd worked so closely together over the months.  And then when I visited their office my editor took me to their book room and just started handing me all these amazing books to read and take.  It was incredible.

5) Very nice! Please share with us your best writing advice!

Write every day, build that habit.  I know everyone says that but after having written two books, it's only dawned on me now that it's so much easier to just write a little each day, or when you can, instead of waiting for inspiration to strike and trying to capture everything before the feeling goes away.  I used to approach writing in great big bursts.  Wait and wait and then shut down the rest of my life for two weeks and just cycle between writing, eating, sleeping and then at the end of the tunnel I would be finished but exhausted.  Now I've learned to just take it a little bit at a time and to build the habit.  Even if it's just writing in a private blog, a few hundred words a day, I think it really helps a lot to have that repetition.

True advice! Thanks so much for joining us today and I can't wait to read EXCLUSIVELY CHLOE!

If you're interested in checking out EXCLUSIVELY CHLOE, you can purchase it here.



If you're an author, editor, agent, or illustrator and would like a five question interview and a drawing of your character (or of yourself), email me at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com. Check out the FAQ page for more information! 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Recent Read - SOME GIRLS ARE

I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of
SOME GIRLS ARE by Courtney Summers and enjoyed reading it. Do you guys remember Courtney? I interviewed her over the summer--if you haven't seen it, check it out here! I am here to tell you how much I recommend SOME GIRLS ARE! First, here's the blurb:

Available January 5th, 2010 from St. Martin’s Press

Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard–falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High… until vicious rumors about her and her best friend’s boyfriend start going around. Now Regina’s been “frozen out” and her ex-best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumors are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn’t come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend… if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don’t break them both first…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As soon as the first chapter opens, I am swept up in a realistic teen scene. Memories of high school years were swimming. I'm immediately gripped in suspense. I couldn't stop reading Some Girls Are!

Along with SE Hinton, Courtney Summers is an author with one of the most realistic YA fiction there is. There's survival, social consciousness, bullying, blackmailing, and all the gritty realities of what teen life can be like.

Not only is Courtney an honest writer with a strong voice, she is the master of pacing. She knows just the right amount of details to use. She is confidant in her prose, turning simple words into something strong, like a hammer driving the nail right in. Regina's tears of frustration were mine.

Courtney also has an excellently designed story arc for Some Girls Are. She starts the story straight away, knowing when to raise the stakes, and when to ramp up to the finale. Her scenes were so well constructed, a movie of it was playing in my head while I was reading.

I highly recommend Some Girls Are! It's coming out in January 2010, so get ready!

You can pre-order is at this independent book store or on Amazon here.

I'm looking forward to more work by the awesome Courtney!



Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Agent Appreciation Day!

Today is Agent Appreciation Day, brought to us by my agent sister, Kody Keplinger

Here are top five reason why I appreciate my hardworking agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe to pieces:

1. Honesty. I can always count on Jo to tell me her thoughts on my writing and art.

2. Friendship. She is truly kind and supportive.

3. Awesome. She is fun to work with and makes me laugh pretty often. I enjoy bouncing ideas off of her.

4. Smart. Her feedback is always spot on. She helps me grow as a writer and storyteller.

5. Consistent. She is always there for me.

I'm so grateful to have Joanna as my agent and that she believes in me. Cheers to all agents everywhere! :)


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Author Interview - GWYNNE GARFINKLE

Today we have author and poet Gwynne Garfinkle joining us! She has written a literary novel with vampires called THE POSTHUMOUS LIFE OF ELEANOR BELL, which she will tell you more about. Her agent is none other than the fabulous Diana Fox--whom was interviewed here not too long ago! Also, be sure to check out Gwynne's blog.

The illustration featured here is of Eleanor Bell, the main character of Gwynne's book. Since she was inspired by Sylvia Plath, I wanted to make Eleanor a little haunting and mysterious.

1) Thanks for joining us, Gwynne! What is your book about?

THE POSTHUMOUS LIFE OF ELEANOR BELL is about a sort of "vampire 
Sylvia Plath."  Eleanor Bell is a poet who becomes famous after her death.  Everyone thinks she killed herself, but she actually became a vampire.  She can't publish any new work, because when she sends it out under a pseudonym, the editors all think her work too derivative of herself!  In order to reclaim her career, Eleanor must "come back from the dead" and deal with the daughters she left behind.

2) I've always wondered what it'd be like to be an immortal author! What inspired you to write it?

I've been interested in the work and life of Sylvia Plath since I was a teenager (like many teenagers, I suppose).  I've been a fan of horror tropes for even longer, since I fell in love with the 1930s Universal monster movies when I was a kid.  Many years later, Buffy the Vampire Slayer reawakened my interest in those tropes, and I got to thinking about what a natural vampire Sylvia Plath would be!  When I began to write the novel, the character of Eleanor diverged from Plath in a number of ways, which gave me the freedom I needed to tell the story.

3) What did you learn from writing poetry and short stories?

From poetry, I learned to focus on the rhythms, sounds and meanings of words at a micro level, which is useful to a writer no matter what genre you're working in.  I don't write as many short stories as I would like to (though I have one coming out in the new Clockwork 
Jungle Book issue of Shimmer Magazine, and last year Strange Horizons published my story "In Lieu of a Thank You," about a mad scientist).  Generally when I come up with ideas for fiction, I gravitate towards the long form.  Working on a novel doesn't leave me much mental space for short stories, though I do sometimes write poems while writing a novel.  In the case of ELEANOR BELL, I included poems that were "written by" Eleanor.  Writing Eleanor's poems was quite a challenge, since Eleanor's poetic style is different from mine!

4) How do you like working with Diana Fox?

I love working with Diana.  During my agent search, I kept hearing advice about how important it is to find just the right agent for you, and I didn't quite get what that meant.  Then when I first talked to Diana, we really clicked, and I got it!  I feel so lucky to have the benefit of her expertise and advice, as well as her moral support.  She really gets what I'm trying to do with my writing, and her critiques of my work are spot-on.  The publishing business can be tough, and it really helps to have an advocate who is also a lot of fun to talk to!

5) Say you have a scene you are about to write...What's your process for writing it to your satisfaction? Do you plan it beforehand or explore the scene as you write it?

It varies from scene to scene.  I will have an idea of what purpose(s) a scene is going to serve, but I do like to leave room for the unexpected.  My characters often have strong minds of their own.  Sometimes I need to lay down the law, but sometimes it's better to let them have their way--if they surprise me, they may well surprise the reader too!

My scenes often begin as dialogue.  That's what comes easiest to me, and it's what I change the least.  (My dad was a screenwriter, so I may have inherited some kind of dialogue gene from him.)  Sometimes I'll write the dialogue, action and minimal description first, then go back and fill in what's needed.  At that point I may close my eyes and visualize the scene, then revise accordingly.  My fiction is often set in past time periods, so I also need to do a fair bit of research to include just the right evocative details.

I always begin with dialogue myself! It changes the least as well. Thank you so much for joining us, Gwynne! It was so great to interview you and draw Eleanor!



If you're an author, editor, agent, or illustrator and would like a five question interview and a drawing of your character (or of yourself), email me at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com. Check out the FAQ page for more information!