Saturday, October 31, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
BONESHAKER is the story of Briar Wilkes, whose son Zeke runs away ... and she goes running right after him. They live outside what's left of in the late 1870s, after the city has been destroyed by an industrial accident--and then it filled with a toxic gas that turns people into zombies. So the city was walled off, and general wisdom says that no one lives there anymore ... but general wisdom is rather wrong in that regard. Inside the city are the walking dead, of course, and also a criminal underworld with a cache of tough survivors called the "doornails."
So really, this is the tale of how Briar and Zeke stumble upon these people (the good ones, the bad ones, and the ones who have yet to choose a side), and how they accidentally incite a revolution inside the walls.
Be careful with your world-building. Don't focus on it to the exclusion of all else; because at the end of the day, most people won't stick around for a story about a place. People keep reading stories about people. So although the setting in a steampunk story is obviously very important, try not to overwhelm the reader with too much background and too many details.
Keep in mind I maintain a part time day job as well--so mostly my workday looks like this: I get up when my husband leaves for work about 8:00 a.m. and I do day-job work until noonish (depending); then I take a break and get some exercise, make myself some lunch, and whatnot; and then I sit down about 1:30 or so to write until my husband gets home from work around 5:30 or 6:00 p.m.
I do not naturally have a whole lot of discipline--and left to my own devices, I'd rather watch TV or surf the net than be productive. But if I treat my two jobs like one regular 40+ hour-a-week day job, it's easier to stick with it. And I have to stick with it. I have too many deadlines to just hang around and eat ho-hos all day.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
After dying in a car accident at the crappy age of 13 and witnessing her own funeral, Gabby becomes a Bright-in-Training (BIT) and Transfers up to Cirrus, where SkyFones, SkyPods, and InnerNets are all the rage. As if her unexpected death isn’t bad enough, Gabby is immediately assigned to protect her school rival, Angela Black, who is now dating her lifetime crush, Michael.
As Gabby moves through her Bright Training, she is deeply tortured by her mom’s sorrow and the possibility of losing her first love forever. But instead of protecting her Assigned Mortal as pledged, Gabby goes on probation for illegally sabotaging her. In a desperate attempt to interfere with Michael's new relationship and helping her mom move on, Gabby triggers a series of “death-changing” events and learns what happens when you hate someone to death. In the end, Gabby must decide her own fate, be banished to Ignitus or take her place as a Starling committed to protecting Cirrus for all eternity.
To be honest. There is not one thing. But I remember when I first got started. It was Dec 08. Right after I read Lisa Schreoder’s “I heart you you haunt me”. I was subbing Grace Under Fire to agents and needed to pass the time. And I started to think about an angel book and wonder, what if the reader got to see the perspective of the angel who was longing for life again. So I played with flipping the roles. The book started out as a YA. But when other YA angel books started to sell. I realized MG doesn’t have many paranormal books. So I switched it. The question became “what if an angel is forced to protect someone she doesn’t like. That became much more interesting when I threw in the love triangle. I knew if I was going to do a middle grade, I wanted to do something fun and light and hip. Something more like Meg Cabot or Ally Carter. All the other ones were dark and sad and depressing. On the Bright Side is funny and light even though death, loss, forgiveness, and the fear of moving on are at its core.
3) An angelic theme has a lot of depth. Can you tell us about the research you did?
Well everyone has either lost someone or is scared of losing someone. That is where the death theme comes in. My challenge came in how to make the subject of death light enough for tweens. It was important to me that I create a book that was not associated with any religion so kids could step away from what they have been taught or what they believe and open their minds to a new world. That is why I renamed angels as Brights and Heaven as Cirrus (meaning feathery clouds). There was no research except searching my own heart and wondering what a cool heaven or Cirrus could be. I took in the major theme of kids, eco-friendly, technology, and fashion and built a place that kids would find fun and cool. Not scary or sad or even perfect. I do know a lot about philosophy and the beliefs of different religions so a lot of the things in the book pull from that breadth of knowledge. Oh yeah, and I also remember all the things girls did to me and thought “if I could get revenge – how would I do it in a way that was funny”.
4) Very awesome. I love how you tackled the challenge of making death light enough for MG. And I bet your agent appreciates how you got this so well thought out too. So, how do you like working with Alyssa Eisner Henkin (Trident Media Group)?
OMG I LOVE LOVE LOVE her (and her secret assistant!). Even though I just started working with her in May, I think we’ve gotten to know each other’s style pretty quickly.
What’s so great about Alyssa is that she was an editor for 7 or 8 years. She has a great eye/ability to for spot those things (small and large) that prevent a manuscript from getting offers . She knows first hand what editors look for in a book? What sells? How to pitch? She has a rare glimpse into the editor side of things that makes her a very strong agent.
In addition, I love her passion and enthusiasm. I’m a VERY passionate and determined person. Alyssa is too. I really get the feeling she loves my books as much as I do.
Oh yeah and not only does she LOVE to brainstorm, she has awesome, funny ideas. Not to mention, she is very communicative (which again so am I) and turns my stuff around quickly. I am a fast writer. I tend to jump in as Alyssa would say “whole hog”. I think she does too but she also knows when to slow me down. I need that.
Can you tell I really like her? We just clicked from the beginning – she got my books and voice and style immediately. And she had a very strong vision of the books, their market and my place as an author. I like that liked my stuff enough to think through all that before she signed me.
I could go on and on about Alyssa. She rocks. I highly recommend her.
5) Alyssa sounds rockin! She must be proud of you too. You have a very popular marketing blog for authors. Do you have a marketing tip to share with us today?
I started my blog along time ago but stopped during my frustrations with the industry. Last fall, I kicked it off again. It’s amazing how it has grown. In jan, I started doing interviews on marketing and it has been amazing to see it grow. I had more than 30,000 visitors in just 6 months. I guess I’m addressing a gap that authors are desperate to fill.
As far as one piece of advice. Goodness that is hard. I could talk about marketing all day.
I would say - Don’t be afraid of marketing!!!.
Get out there. Make mistakes. You can always redo them. It drives me CRAZY when authors say, “Im just not good at marketing” but then I realize they haven’t tried to do anything. It is an author’s responsibility to sell their books. Your books deserve your time and dedication. If not, they just sit on shelves instead of touching that one kid that can benefit from your message. If you want to sell books, you need to be marketing yourself and your work. Always. No excuses.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Seventeen-year-old Bianca knows she’s the Duff (the designated ugly, fat friend). So when Wesley, a notorious womanizer, approaches her at a party she knows he wants to score with one—or both—of her hot friends. God, the man-whore’s arrogance really pisses her off! But Bianca needs to escape from some personal drama, like her mom’s abandonment and her dad’s denial, and a steamy fling with Wesley seems like the perfect distraction. Bianca makes it clear she’s only using Wesley, as if he cares. He’ll sleep with anything that moves after all. Unfortunately, the enemies-with-benefits plan totally backfires.
When her mom files for divorce and her father stumbles into a downward spiral of drinking and depression, Wesley proves to be a surprisingly good listener, and Bianca finds out that his family is pretty screwed up, too. As sickening as it sounds, she has to admit that she and Wesley are a lot alike. Soon she becomes jealous of the pretty girls he flirts with and his cocky grin begins to grow on her. Suddenly Bianca realizes—with absolute horror—that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated.
2) Sounds like a clever and fun story! What inspired you to write it?
The title started as a joke. A friend of mine came to school one day complaining about a boy calling her best friend "the Duff" and when she told me what it meant, I was amazed. I had no clue that word existed, but my first thought was "Oh, that's me. I'm the Duff." And every girl I knew felt the same way. So, jokingly I told my friends, "I'm going to write a book called The Duff."
Really, after that, I got the characters in my head, not knowing they fit the title until way later. I knew Wesley first, and then Bianca just appeared in the back of my mind, this cynical, sarcastic girl who rolled her eyes a lot. Haha. I didn't know where they belonged for a while.
Then I heard the song "I Can't Stay Away" by The Veronicas, and it all just clicked. I had the plot and knew THE DUFF was my title. Everything just came together from there. I was officially inspired.
3.) It's amazing how sometimes a story just swoops down. What's your writing process like?
In a word - Unpredictable.
Sometimes, I plan. I write a full synopsis then use that as an outline and have character sheets and everything.
Other times, I start with a line and just keep writing. That's what happened with THE DUFF. The first line (which is now the second line actually) came to me, and I just started writing everything Bianca said in my head.
Once I get a rough draft -- which I can usually do pretty quickly - I go insane editing it. I love editing. I love revising. I love being critiqued and getting new ideas. So really, the first draft is the hardest part for me. The most exciting, but the hardest. I never know how I'll start a new project, but once I've got that draft, I know how I'll edit.
4) Same here! Sounds like all your work was worth it. Can you tell us about your journey to getting a deal with Little Brown/Poppy?
Well, I should start by saying that I'm a very, very lucky girl. I know many writers who are way more gifted than I am who haven't made it this far yet, and I realize everday how blessed I am. So I feel like a great deal of luck went into this journey.
I wrote the first word of THE DUFF on January 6, 2009. I finished in March and began querying at the start of April. On May 12, I signed with my agent. And by the end of that summer, the book had sold. So, I guess it was a quick journey in some respects, though I feel I'm still on the journey, too.
But this never would have happened without people. My train never would have left the station, you could say, without the great support from people on AbsoluteWrite. They taught me EVERYTHING. Seriously, I grew as a writer so, so much from talking to others and sharing work. I had amazing beta readers who shaped the book in a lot of ways. I had great allies who gave me the names of agents to query (I found my agent through a member of my critique group who had a nice list of agents they were either interested in or had queried), and they pretty much taught me everything about query letters. So without all the help, I don't think I would be anywhere.
Again, I'm very lucky.
5) Talking with others and sharing work definitely helps. I think I know the answer to this question, but others would love to know, I bet. So, how do you like working with Joanna Stampfel-Volpe?
Oh, geez, I should be careful what I say in case she reads this...
Haha. Just kidding, Joanna!
Seriously, she has been amazingly perfect for me and my book. She was the only agent to request the full manuscript, and since my only other request--a partial--had been rejected, I was sure nothing would come of it. So when I got the email saying she wanted to "talk" to me, I knew what it must mean, and I flipped out. I woke my mother up (I found out late at night) and I called my best friends. And then, of course, I was nervous. So, so nervous.
That nervousness went away, though, the second Joanna started talking. It was so easy, and her enthusiasm for the book was overwhelming. I could tell she loved it--maybe even more than I did--and that meant a lot. That enthusiasm STILL means a lot.
Joanna has really been a godsend. I cannot imagine another agent being more fitting for me or my writing. Heck, even my mother (I was 17 when all of this happened, so my mother was involved) adores her. Moms are inclined to be overly protective and worried of anyone else managing their babies' art, because that is the mom's job for so long. And my mother was scared at first, but after speaking to Joanna on the phone for the first time, she just raved. She still raves.
So, yeah. I ramble way too much. But Joanna is amazing. I think EVERYONE agrees with that statement.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I’ve been busy ever since returning from Japan, but I’m finally getting free time again. I’m still catching up on interviews for authors. There's still spots for this month and the next open though.
There's an art post coming up!
Book2's first draft is sitting to be cooled. I started Book3's first draft while I wait until I can re-read Book2 with fresh eyes.
This isn’t exactly book news, but I’m on an article/interview for the fall issue of SC science magazine talking about art in the game industry:
--ICE by Sarah Beth Durst is out! Isn't the cover pretty?
--Little Willow says The Baby-Sitters Club prequel is being published in 2010. (I remember those books from when I was twelve! I met the actress that played Kristy once.)
--Speaking of nostalgia, Archie is still a two-timer.
--I'm sure the buzz already went around about book bloggers and free books conflict.
--Ever heard of a booking agent? Here's an interview with Jean Dayton with info about it.
--I love this article by Rachelle Gardner about unplugged time and creativity. It's true stuff. I swear...I get most of my ideas while grocery shopping.