Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Interviewed over at JA Yang's!

I'm so excited that YA author JA Yang interviewed me! I got to talk about my hero, CLAN, what I think about the Seattle Freeze, and other fun stuff! It's not everyday I get to be called "Astro Girl."

Read the interview here.

I interviewed JA Yang a while back for his book EXCLUSIVELY CHLOE.

Thank you, Jon! You rock.


Author Interview - MAUREEN SHERBONDY

Today we've got something different! An author of a short story collection! Maureen Sherbondy just released THE SLOW VANISHING (Mint Hill Books/Main Street Rag). Maureen also has a couple of poetry books published: AFTER THE FAIRY TALE and PRAYING AT COFFEE SHOPS. She will be telling us about her short stories, her process, and how writing poetry improved her writing.

The illustration is of Maureen! I enjoyed drawing her long hair and putting in a slight vanishing effect on it for fun.

1) Thank you for joining us, Maureen! What kind of stories are in THE SLOW VANISHING?
The stories in THE SLOW VANISHING are a combination of flash fiction pieces and longer, more traditional stories. The flash fiction pieces are very short, some as short as one page. This form allows for a perfect melding of poetry and prose. Short pieces are often surreal and image-driven. I try to create a unique universe where anything can happen. The characters have to deal with bizarre events. Subject matter varies. In "Head Above Water" a young tsunami survivor is adopted by parents in Georgia who don't understand how terrifying it is for her to be in water. In "A Comic Tale" all the funny people drop dead and the world is not a better place. In "Vanishing Sarah" a woman physically begins to vanish after too many people place too many demands on her. In "Party Planner" a woman who has devoted her entire life to planning parties for other people, plans her final event-- her own funeral.

2) What's your favorite story in THE SLOW VANISHING?
I like different stories for different reasons. "Flamingo Fling" is one of my favorite stories in the collection. The story is about a married woman whose husband has been unemployed for a long time and no longer wants to work. To make ends meet, she opens a Flamingo business. She sets out fake flamingos in her clients' yards to celebrate birthdays, retirements, and births. She is lonely and unhappy in her life. Eventually, the flamingos come alive and talk to her.

3) A talking flamingo! That sounds amusing. What's your process for coming up with a short story? Is your process any different for flash fiction?
Sometimes an idea will pop into my head. A thought begins and then is followed by a question. For example--in "Creatures" someone knocked on my door and I began to wonder what would happen if an animal showed up instead. Then I asked: What kind of animal? What happens next? Does another animal show up? How would the character react? This turned into a story about animals taking over the world. Sometimes I'll see a person doing something strange and ask: What's going on in that person's life? I have a very strong imagination. I play games in my head. With flash fiction it's a similar process. Longer stories require more character development and closer attention to the arc of the story.

4) How did your experience with poetry help you grow as a writer?

I think that all fiction writers should start as poets. When you write poetry-- so much attention is paid to the sound of the language, to images, conciseness of language, and clarity. Every word matters in poetry. Writing poetry has informed my fiction, has made me a better prose writer. My two poetry books are AFTER THE FAIRY TALE and PRAYING AT COFFEE SHOPS.

5) You also do open mike readings. What's your advice for reading to an audience?
Be funny! If you have a funny piece--begin with that. It warms up the audience, it puts them at ease, it puts the reader at ease. Don't speak in a monotone voice. Give a short background story before reading a poem or prose piece, something memorable and interesting. Be human. Connect with your audience. If you don't read well--you don't sell books.

Fantastic advice! Thank you, Maureen!

THE SLOW VANISHING can be purchased 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, February 8, 2010

Author Interview - KATHARINE BEUTNER

Today we have Katharine Beutner talking to us about her book ALCESTIS that just came out this month. ALCESTIS is about a Mycenaean princess that was inspired by a Greek mythology. She will also give us advice about using mythology as a diving board and tell us about her first book deal. Katharine's agent is Diana Fox and her book ALCESTIS is coming from Soho Press.

The portrait is of Alcestis! She's in her mid-teens. I love trying to capture a dated feel with art, so this was fun to do.

1) Thank you for joining us, Katharine! What is ALCESTIS about?

ALCESTIS follows a young Mycenaean princess, a granddaughter of the sea-god Poseidon, from her childhood through her marriage and finally to the underworld. She marries her cousin Admetus, a favorite of Apollo, but only a year later Admetus discovers that the Fates have proclaimed it his time to die. Alcestis, who lost her beloved sister Hippothoe when she was young, volunteers to go to the underworld in his place. She thinks she knows what will happen there, but she's
completely wrong -- nothing in the underworld is what she expected, especially not the goddess

2) How did the Greek mythology inspire you?

Well, when I first learned of the myth, I didn't know the end of the story. I thought it ended with Alcestis going to the underworld -- but in fact, in most versions, Heracles shows up to rescue her. I was specifically inspired by the Euripides version. I love Euripides, but the end of the play really irritated me because it skips over Alcestis's time in the underworld and focuses primarily on how her death and rescue affect the men in the play. I wanted to write a story that followed Alcestis into the underworld, which seemed far more interesting to me than her husband's angst.

3) That does sound intriguing! What's your advice for retelling a myth?

I'm not sure I have any universal advice for how to write a retelling or an adaptation of a myth. As with any story, I think you as the writer have to be passionate about your version -- having a clever idea is a good start but might not be enough to carry an adaptation. I am a huge fan of certain retellings that shift the plot of a myth, play, etc., to a different time period -- Baz Luhrmann's ROMEO + JULIET, for example -- but I decided to keep this story in Mycenaean Greece and to treat the gods as real characters rather than as an element of her culture/religion only.

4) What was your journey toward your first book deal like?

The main thing I remember about the journey toward my first book deal is waiting! The publishing business does take a long time, which makes sense when you think about how much reading has to be done at each step in the process. My lovely agent Diana Fox diligently queried a number of publishers, and I collected a few nice rejections before Soho Press made an offer. I finished revising ALCESTIS in spring 2006 and Soho bought it in fall 2008. (And I can't say enough positive
things about Soho -- everyone I've worked with there has been wonderful.) I felt fortunate to be busy during those two years. I've been working on a Ph.D. in English, so I always had plenty of work to do. I've seen other authors and agents talk about the importance of moving on to something new once you've finished a first book, but I think moving on to something new while you work on queries is also good for your mental wellbeing.

5) Very true. Speaking of your PH.D...You have experience teaching an English class and a MA in ficition writing. Can you impart advice on what helped you the most in the writing process?

I'm an unrepentant outliner. When I was writing my first novel -- which was not ALCESTIS -- I didn't really have an outline in advance, mainly because I had no idea it was going to be a novel when I began writing. (This seems to be a common experience among first-time novelists!) For ALCESTIS, I wrote a 14 page single-spaced outline detailing the structure of the story, and a few shorter outlines of smaller sections within the book. Because the basic plot wasn't my own creation, I really needed that structural map to help me shape my own version of Alcestis' story. You can outline first and then merrily deviate from your plan, or you can write the whole book and then outline it afterward in order to see what you've written -- but I really recommend giving outlining a try at some point during your
writing process.

Thanks for telling us about ALCESTIS and imparting your wisdom with us, Katharine!

Readers, if you're interested in ordering ALCESTIS, it can be done so 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!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Author Interview - LA CARMINA

Kawaii! Today we have something different--a non-fiction author! La Carmina is a Harajuku star for Japanese pop culture, fashion, and cuisine. She's come out with two books from Penguin: CUTE YUMMY TIME and CRAZY, WHACKY THEME RESTAURANTS. Doesn't that sound fun? I love bento-making and Harajuku! She's very good at building her platform so be sure to check out her site.

The illustration is of La Carmina! You can see her cat in the upper corner.

1) Thank you for joining us, La Carmina! What is CUTE YUMMY TIME about? And what are bentos?

Imagine opening up your lunch to find
Hello Kitty or Pikachu made out of rice, eggs and ham! Cute Yummy Time is inspired by Japanese “charaben” bentos, or box lunches that are arranged to look like cute faces. I created my own characters -- including one based on my Scottish Fold cat Basil Farrow -- and made recipes that focus on healthy, Western ingredients. You can find out more and order Cute Yummy Time here.

2) I enjoy making bentos! I'll have to try some of your recipes out. What are some examples of how you adjusted bento-making to suit the western palate?

My cookbook builds on the Japanese trend by “thinking outside the
bento box.” There are 72 recipes for all occasions: breakfast, meals, desserts, holidays. You don’t need any special bento equipment to make the cute faces (almost everything can be decorated in under 10 minutes). And I focus on healthy ingredients that are easily found in all Western grocery stores; recipes include a baby chick egg salad wrap, cow-faced cheeseburgers and hobgoblin dark chocolate cupcakes. Cute Yummy Time is a whimsical new approach to cooking that all ages can enjoy.

3) You also have a book called CRAZY, WACKY
THEME RESTAURANTS: TOKYO. It sounds like something I want to bring next time I visit Japan! Can you tell us about the book and some of your favorite wacky restaurants?

In Tokyo, a theme dining experience isn’t complete unless you’re molested by monsters, attacked by ninjas, or charmed by cross-dressing maids! I endured and photographed over 30 such cafes -- and wrote about my ridiculous adventures in
Crazy, Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo. My favorites
are Christon CafĂ© (which features church relics and a “disco Jesus”) and
Alice in Wonderland (you'll see how my friends cosplayed as the characters). I also visited the haunted jail restaurant, Alcatraz ER, with Andrew Zimmern for an episode of Bizarre World (airing this May on Travel Channel!).

4) What aspects of the Harajuku culture inspired you and drew you in? And what exactly is the Harajuku scene like?

As a teen, I remember walking through Harajuku and feeling like I was on Mars. I love the neo-Rococo fashions, cute-meets-Gothic aesthetics, towering Visual Kei hair and theatrical makeup… there’s an exhilarating, experimental pulse heard all through this district. I post street snaps and store photos from Harajuku in this section of
my blog.

5) You've got a popular blog and you have been on TV such as The Today Show and NHK, as well as writing articles for CNN. What's your advice to other writers on building an effective platform to promote themselves?

My blog and YouTube channel are ongoing portfolios for my creative work. I often land writing and TV gigs when people find my site and dig the spooky-cute adventure palace I’ve built. Social networks and blogging are great ways to be in touch with readers and make connections. Be personal, reach out, write diligently about what excites you -- and opportunities will naturally unfold.

Thank you, La Carmina!

CUTE YUMMY TIME can be ordered here. CRAZY, WHACKY THEME RESTAURANTS can be ordered 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!