Tuesday 29 June 2010

Interview with Dea Southward

Boy, it's hot out there. So stay inside for a few minutes and enjoy an interview with another great aspiring author. Today we're talking to Dea Southward.

Dea is a YA Writer of Paranormal and Horror, a Converse enthusiast, a gamer, coffee lover, and insomniac. Any of those traits sound familiar? :)

Welcome, Dea! Let's dive right in. What is the name and genre of the manuscript you're currently pitching?

The manuscript I am currently pitching is called The Face of Death, it is a young adult Paranormal Romance with elements of horror.

What’s the story about?

Daisy Fitzpatrick is 17, a psychic, and has been targeted by a cult who thinks she is the Anti-Christ. The cult wants to sacrifice Daisy to bring about the rapture. If that wasn't enough to deal with, she's also fallen head-over-heels for a boy with only one month to live.

Wow, sounds mysterious and exciting. How did the idea of the story come to you?

The story came to me while I was finishing up my last manuscript. My muse and I really fought on when I was going to start it. Like most of my ideas, I was out getting coffee at 2am. It came to me that I really wanted to write a story about a psychic, and I've always been fascinated by cults. It just came together from there.

Those pesky muses, always picking inopportune times, lol. What stage are you at now?

The manuscript is completed, I just finished some agent requested revisions. Hopefully if the agent agrees with the changes, I will have representation soon.

That's awesome! Good luck to you. So do you have a critique partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?

I go to bi-weekly writing networking meetings where I read some of my material. Other than that I have two amazing beta readers that give me insight.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Editing is the worst part for me. If I don't sit down and really force myself to do it, I will put it off forever. My 5th finished manuscript has been waiting on edits for about a month now.

Let’s get to know you on a deeper level. What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

Coffee, and my iPhone. Hands down. Everything else I can pretty much live without.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

That's a tough one. But I would have to say the ability to teleport.

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: styrofoam, turnips, and killer whale.

Yesterday, I tried to feed my styrofoam killer whale turnips, he hasn't spoken to me since.

Heehee, yeah I guess he wouldn't. Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Who would you like to give a shout out to?

My best friend and amazing beta reader Meg, The Writers Network of Central Connecticut, and everyone who has believed in me throughout this process.

And finally, where can people find you online?

Twitter: dsouthward
Website is coming soon.

Thanks so much for the interview, Dea. It was great chatting with you. And I'm crossing my fingers that you get The Call soon from that agent.

Sunday 27 June 2010

Interview with Aimee Walker

Welcome back, my friends. I hope you're all feeling well today. Where I am, the sun is shining and the kids are miraculously staying out of trouble at the moment, and I actually got some writing done. Woohoo!

Let's continue with the woohoo-ness by chatting with the wonderful Aimee Walker.

Welcome, Aimee! Tell us a bit about yourself.

Whenever I've been in a group or classroom environment, whether I was 5 or 35, this questions always sent me into immediate mental paralysis. If I was smart, I would have typed up a bio years ago and memorized it.

I'm a visual artist specializing in pencil drawing and acrylic paints, a writer (but you know that, silly me), and music junkie. I wish I could sing and dance, but no one can have it all so I'm stuck with karaoke instead of the big stage. My favorite job is being Mom to my two awesome and scary-sneaky grade schoolers.

How long have you been writing?

I tried and failed with NaNoWriMo (06' and 07') before I wrote an entire manuscript in February of 2008. But I've always dabbled with words--I won a statewide poetry contest when I was 12 years old. It didn't occur to me that I could write long pieces until I'd had a blog for a couple years. I had some pretty enthusiastic followers that let me know I had a way with words, so I dove in hands first.

That's fantastic! What is the name and genre of the manuscript you're currently pitching?

The working title is I FATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS, and it's a young adult paranormal. I'm actually waiting to hear back from a few agents and the suspense is killing me!

Oh, yes, waiting sucks, doesn't it? Tell us what your story's about?

It's about two teenagers who were never supposed to meet, but they have, and now one is destined to kill the other.

It's a very loose interpretation of the three fates from mythology. The only thing that's substantial in comparison was using three characters and fate itself, so it's not a retelling. It is high stakes and fast paced. The whole novel takes place over a couple days and there's dead bodies involved.

Ooh, I love mythology-linked stories (I'm writing one of those myself). Your novel sounds extremely intriguing. How did the idea come to you?

Little ideas pop into my head and I fit them together like puzzle pieces until there's enough for a book. I should be a better note taker, I can tell you that much! My next project involves schizophrenia and talking spiders, but I have no idea what the plot is yet.

LOL, unique elements indeed. Do you have a critique partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?

Oh my, this is the best question of them all. YES, I absolutely have critique partners, writing pals, beta readers, the whole shebang. My novels would be the puppy nuggets on the shoe of life without my writer buds. I highly recommend any writer have at least one person who can read their works and give them good feedback.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

First drafts make me cry. That is all.

LOL, okay then. Let’s get to know you on a deeper level. If you could have any super power, what would it be?

I want to be psychic! I've always wanted to be psychic. Now, what I would do with that power is another story. What do psychic people do besides have a hotline or weird cable show? No thanks! I want to be the circus wagon version with the weird little monkey on my shoulder.

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: skateboard, lobster, and pirouette.

I tried to do a pirouette on my brother's skateboard, but it flew through the front door of Winn Dixie, over a pyramid of green beans, and into the lobster tank.

Awesome! Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Who would you like to give a shout out to?

The guys and dolls from Verla Kay's message boards. The people there are amazing and so helpful. If you ask me (Oh! You are!) it's the best learning place for kid-lit writers. Special thanks to Jamie King and Darlene Pearson. They've put up with far too many hours of my writer babble and given me some great ideas over the years.

And finally, where can people find you online?

I just started a blog for beginning novel writers. If that's you, come check it out!


Thank you so much for chatting with us, Aimee. It was a lot of fun getting to know you. I wish you lots of success with your agent search, and good luck with your books!

Friday 25 June 2010

Interview with Rachel Jameson

Happy Friday, everyone! I don't know about you, but I'm so glad the week is over. What's that you say? You are too? Well all right then!

Let's start the weekend early by enjoying a nice interview with aspiring author Rachel Jameson.

Welcome, Rachel! Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Rachel Jameson, and I’m an aspiring author; I write both Georgian-set & Regency-set historical romances.I have always loved books – starting with an early love of fairy tales and mythology. However, until 2007, I had never read a romance novel.I was full of misconceptions about their quality and content. How wrong I was! I picked one up at the book store for a lark, and was lucky enough to fall head-over-heels for the fantastic genre. An even bigger bonus was that reading these great stories got me excited about my own! It had been years since I’d written anything, but suddenly the stories started pouring out. I’m looking forward to writing more each day, getting published, and of course, reading everything I can get my hands on! Originally from Sun Valley, ID, I’m now living in Los Angeles, CA.

What is the name and genre of your current manuscript?

This is kind of funny. I can do titles like *snap* that. And this one? I keep going between titles. I think I need to get a little further into the story before I can figure out what title solidly belongs to this story. The genre is Regency-set historical romance. I’m arguing with myself and the characters as to whether it should be set in 1811, 1814, or 1818. I need to figure out just what the hero and heroine will be doing around town, as that plays an important role. Depending on the year, there are different events taking place. I’m leaning towards 1814 because this was the year of the Grand Jubilee, a celebration over what was thought to be the victory of Napoleon.

Here’s the part where you pitch it. What’s your story about?

This was a great exercise! It really helped me pare down some issues I was having with my story. And talk about tracking an aspiring writer’s progress! This is my first time blurbing/pitching. Here goes! *Gulp*

Accident-prone Kate Delaney might never have been labeled an Incomparable, but with her father's money behind her, and a scandalous pair of vermillion undergarments to boost her confidence, she set out to take London by storm. On the day of her Presentation, everything went wrong when she fell head over heels, skirts flying up, and she became a Town joke. Years later, she discovers a devastating secret about the popular and handsome James, Marquess of Wingate. Kate's just desperate enough to make him an offer he can't refuse.

Ruined by his late father’s debts, James knows he’ll have to marry for money. Until Kate approaches him with a proposition. She'll settle his debts if he'll pretend to court her. He can't fault her logic: everyone knows whoever Wingate woos, all of London adores. He agrees, even though Kate is the last person with whom he’d ever consider getting involved.

Now the most unlikely pair is falling in love. But can James pledge his love after accepting her money? And can cautious Kate risk another fall, this time into love?

Sounds like a great story! How did the idea of the story come to you?

I saw a very strong image of a girl in full court dress carefully maneuvering across the room to be presented to the Queen. She’s very klutzy, and in the little movie playing in my head, she trips on her gown at the most inopportune moment, and goes head over end, her skirts flying up, and the whole court is witness, especially to her very unconventional undergarments. It gave me a great view of the heroine and I just went from there.

Do you have a word count goal, and how far along are you at this point?

I do have a word count goal, of about 90,000-95,000 words. I recently came to the hard conclusion that the WIP I was working on, while very dear to me, is not the right book to pitch for a first book. It needs to be the third book in a series, not the first. So I just recently started this WIP, and I’m about 2,000 words into it at the moment, with a few plot kinks to work out.

What will be your next step?

As soon as it’s finished and ready to go, I intend to search for an agent.

Do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?

I do have a critique partner; she’s fantastic, and I can only aspire to be as talented a writer as she is! One day soon I will have completed enough of my WIP that she will let me use my Wii! I’m under strict orders to write before I get any Wii in. I haven’t had any beta readers read my writing yet, but I have a few lined up for when I’m ready. I always self-edit and then self-edit and then self-edit some more.

Wow, that's some strict partner you have there. And by strict, I mean smart, lol. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Wow. The hardest part of writing for me is definitely getting the story I see in my head out onto paper, and having it match up to the vision. I can see it so vividly in my mind, but often when I go to write it, it falls flat. I have to then work hard to layer it and develop it; but that’s also one of the most fun parts of writing for me – once I get past the initial aggravation, of course!

Who are your inspirations?

My fellow writers and authors inspire me. Their talent and perseverance always help me to get past my doubts and fears. I’m also inspired by the ideal and goal of me – what I can become, what I can accomplish. Whether those goals are attainable or not, they still inspire me to try and reach them.

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: jogging, dinosaur, and iPhone.

As I was jogging, I glanced down at my dinosaur of a cell phone, wishing it would magically transform itself into an iPhone.

(Oh I how I wish! My phone really is a dinosaur – it makes and takes phone calls, and that is it - not even texts!)

Oh my, that is a dinosaur. Good luck with that. ;p Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Who would you like to give a shout out to?

I’d love to give a shout out to The Romance Divas. It’s an online writing community, with amazing resources, including tons of published authors, and many more who are working toward being published. It’s such a welcoming and supportive place. I’ve met so many wonderful people through it, including a bunch who live in Los Angeles, and we have regular in-person get-togethers, often for brainstorming sessions. Divas is truly an invaluable resource. Also, a big thank you to Twitter, where I’ve made such wonderful friendships with many writers, readers, and more! It’s an addictive, time consuming mess, but I love it, and all my twits!

And finally, where can people find you online?

You can find me at my website, www.racheljameson.com.
You can also find me on Twitter, at www.twitter.com/racheljameson
and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/rachel.jameson.

Rachel, thank you so much for letting us get to know you, and I wish you much success with your books!

Thank you, Dorothy, for inviting me here today! I had a great time!

Tuesday 22 June 2010

In Between Days

Most aspiring writers I've come into contact with have many coals on the fire. I'm talking about manuscripts and WIP's, of course. Either they have multiple works-in-progress, or a finished manuscript and one or more WIP's, or more than one finished manuscript and a WIP or two to boot. This is, as far as I'm concerned, normal writer behavior.

But how do you get into the right mind-set when you've got multiple projects?

What do I mean by mind-set? When I work on a story, I try to really get to know the characters. I get involved with what's happening to them. I invest myself in their lives. And when I'm finished with that story, although it's still with me, I have to let it go a little in order to move on to the next story. Not completely, of course, but enough that I can concentrate on my next batch of characters and situations.

So let's say, for example, you're querying your finished manuscript and working on one of your WIP's. Now what happens when you get agent feedback for that finished manuscript and you decide to make appropriate changes. How do you switch mind-sets from one story to the other?

You tell me. Do you find it easy to keep all your characters in check? Do you stop working on a new project for a while when you're faced with feedback on a project you're currently pitching? Or are you an expert at juggling these things in your mind? And most importantly, how do you keep from going crazy in the process?

Sunday 20 June 2010

Interview with Medeia Sharif

Today we're chatting with a fabulous author whose debut novel will be released next year. How exciting! Let's welcome Medeia Sharif.

Hi, Medeia. Great to have you here. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Miami Beach and teach high school English. BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. will be my first published novel, but it’s not my first book. I wrote my first book when I was seventeen going on eighteen. It was really bad, but over the years I persisted through several flawed books, rejections galore and representation from different agents.

It's great that you didn't give up. Let's hear about BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. Wow, what a title! What’s your story about?

Almira Abdul, a Middle Eastern mutt of Syrian and Iranian origins, is fifteen going on sixteen and she’s fasting for Ramadan for the first time ever. Coinciding with the holy month is her first major crush with a boy named Peter, whom her best friend Lisa also is in love with. She also has a new enemy at school, catty Shakira Malik, a fellow Muslim who trades barbs with everyone. Her dentist father also proclaims that she needs braces. Along with the hectic month her grandfather, who knocks down mailboxes and garbage cans when parking, is teaching her how to drive in his tank-like car.

Sounds original and intriguing. How did the idea of the story come to you?

At first I wanted to write a children’s or MG book centering on Ramadan. I knew I wanted a book with Ramadan in the title. The failed novels that I wrote in my teens and twenties mainly had teenage characters, plus I started reading more YA, so I decided to write a YA novel with a Ramadan theme. The more I thought about it, Almira’s voice became stronger and stronger. I had to write about her.

It's always motivating for aspiring writers to be reminded that even published authors had once had to deal with rejections during the querying process. What tips can you give those of us still querying?

I went through plenty of rejection. In the 90’s I collected mounds of rejection letters and after the millennium my inbox was full of e-jects.

My tips for querying include looking over query samples in books and online. I found a pattern that worked for me. On a side note many times my queries were fine, but my partials and fulls were not. For the writing itself, I advise getting out there and meeting people. I wrote in a bubble for a long time before discovering critique groups, conferences, blogs, and online forums. Another side note is that a writer shouldn’t say yes to an agent immediately. I learned this the hard way when I had two failed relationships with agents before getting my current agent.

Excellent tip! What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Editing. It’s hard on my eyes to read the same project over and over again for mistakes. I’m getting better at putting away a manuscript for longer periods of time. It helps to look at it again with fresh eyes.

I agree. Let’s get to know you on a deeper level. What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

My Blackberry, a bottle of water, my planner, and lip balm.

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: amphibian, bandages, and rollercoaster.

As the roller coaster spun upside down, the girl’s bandages fell off and an amphibian flew into her mouth.

Ahahaha, whoops! Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Who would you like to give a shout out to?

I’d like to thank my agent Marlene Stringer and my Flux editor Brian Farrey. I’m sure that there will be more people to thank from now until my 2011 debut as different players come into the picture.

And finally, where can people find you online?

My website is http://www.sharifwrites.com and my blog is http://www.medeiasharif.com.

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Medeia. And I look forward to the release of your debut novel.

Friday 18 June 2010

Author Update

Back in April I interviewed writer Kevin McGill who will be self-publishing his novel The Legend of Nicholaus & Co.: A Creature Most Foul. Kevin now has a monthly newsletter with updates on the book. You can sign up for the newsletter here.

For more information, including an excerpt of the book, you can take a look at the website.

Good luck, Kevin!

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Interview with Nikki Katz

Hello, my wonderful followers. I'm running on four hours of sleep, so please excuse me if I make any mistakes or start to ramble. Why four hours? Let's just say I was caught in a battle to save my computer from evil viruses. *swings a sword* Ugh.

But at least I was victorious ... at 3 in the morning. Double ugh.

On a happier note, I've got a great interview for you! Let's all welcome Nikki Katz.

Nice to have you here Nikki. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a freelance writer, blogger, rocket scientist, and work-at-home mom of 3. I’ve been an avid reader since I can remember, and have always dabbled in writing. I can fondly remember sitting on the playground in elementary school during recess, writing plays with my friends. Of course, that was mostly to avoid any sort of physical activity – I’ve never been good at sports or hand-eye coordination. I have written one YA novel that will never see the light of day, have started (and stopped) several young reader books and a chick lit novel, and last year I wrote two YA novels – Shoreline and SoulCatcher. I have representation for Shoreline and am currently editing SoulCatcher.

Let's hear about Shoreline. What's the story about?

When sixteen-year-old Maya Georgiou moves with her family back to Bar Harbor, Maine she expects to easily remedy the sickly marine life developing offshore. After all, she is an ocean nymph and this is her territory. But nothing goes as planned. The poor creatures continue to die, rain falls whenever she’s upset, and her cousins whisper cryptic comments behind her back.

After her family nearly drowns her boyfriend, Nate, Maya demands to know the truth. Of course, when she hears their response, she wishes she never confronted them. Because the truth is that Maya is also a Siren and must sacrifice Nate to appease the Goddess Persephone. Until she does, the marine life will continue to die, and ultimately Maya will too.

Maya has only days to make her decision. Does she spare Nate by succumbing to the sickness that is literally drowning her alive? Or does she convince him to plunge into the ocean abyss to fulfill her ancestral obligations?

I love it! Can I read it RIGHT now? LOL. How did the idea for the story come to you?

I’ve always been a fan of Greek mythology and I got it in my head that I wanted to write a story about ocean nymphs ... NOT mermaids. In fact, Maya alludes to this misconception in the book. Her family does not have fins! From there I began researching different myths and merged three together to come up with my own little world. I took a few months to mull this idea in my head, and made it a New Year’s Resolution to start writing a page a day starting January 1, 2009. Instead, I ended up writing several pages a day and finished my first draft in May.

If you were Maya from your story, would you make the same choices she did?

I’d like to say yes, but honestly – I don’t know if I’m that strong!

Before you landed your agent, did you have a long and grueling querying process? And what tips can you give those of us still querying?

It’s been an interesting process. I’m the first to admit that I’m extremely impatient, the kind of girl you see tapping her toes, arms crossed over her chest, glaring at the people slowing her down. So I made the major mistake of querying too soon. For the most part I received immediate rejections, and when I did get a request for a partial, that was rejected too. So, I immediately went in search of beta readers, joined a critique group with two girls from my local SCBWI chapter, joined YALitChat, polished, revised, polished, and revised some more. Throughout the process, with every change, I would query a couple more agents. Because, did I mention I’m impatient? I received a little bit more interest, even a couple requests for full manuscripts, but ultimately all were rejected.

Then in April I did a major edit. I took out part of a storyline (Maya working at the resort and Nate leaving town), rewrote the entire beginning of their relationship, and really worked on the characters and voice. I queried Bree, she immediately asked for a two week exclusive read, and then offered representation a few days later!

So my biggest tip is ... Make sure your book is exactly where it needs to be. As a writer, we hear it time and time again, but I’ll be another person to drive that nail through someone’s thick skull. You WILL get representation when your book is where it needs to be, and not before.

Excellent tip, and great motivation for those of us still trying to make it. Tell us about Bree Ogden.

Bree is a sweetheart! She was very open to talking with me on the phone before I made my final decision, and as an agent she’s very flexible. She is as hands-on or hands-off as you want her to be. I prefer hands-on, so I’ve already run ideas past her for future ideas for novels, and she’s helped narrow my next WIP to what she thinks is going to work best in the upcoming marketplace (although she did like all 3 ideas!)

Bree is also great at dealing with my frequent emails (did I mention I’m impatient) nudging her for details on submissions and the process!

She sounds perfect! Let's talk about your writing process. What's the most difficult aspect for you?

I am not a plotter, which is odd because I’m an organizational freak by nature. But if I plot, I find that it strips all of the creativity out of me and I don’t want to sit down and actually write the book!

I don’t start writing from the beginning. With Shoreline I began about 2/3 through the book because I knew that scene the clearest in my head (although it completely changed through revisions). I knew where the characters were, so I didn’t have to do all of that “first chapter” writing. You know, the chapter of backstory that gets tossed because it’s all telling, not showing!

When I’m writing, I do it every day. I skip around so that I don’t really get writer’s block. If I’m fumbling on a scene, I jump to a new one.

The most difficult aspect for me is revising. I don’t mind the rewrite and ripping apart the manuscript to piece it back together again – because that’s all still creative to me. What I don’t like is the line-by-line editing. The word choice, looking for duplicate words on a page, grammar check. It bores me to no end, and makes it tough for me to read!

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: parachute, theater, and kangaroo.

I grabbed my stuffed kangaroo and sent a silent prayer that the parachute would open; whose idea was it to jump out of a Cessna and land on the theater red carpet anyway?

Awesome, hehehe. Here's the part where you thank the people who've supported you. Who would you like to give a shout out to?

Oh gosh, is this my Academy Award speech? I’d like to thank my parents, my husband, and my children, my director and producers and all my fellow actors. Oh wait, I never did become an actress, did I? Well, I’d still like to thank my family for allowing me to lock myself in a quiet room for hours on end! And I have to give fairy dust and buckets of thanks to my writing group and anyone and everyone who has given me feedback (and reread and reread and reread the manuscript). There are too many names to name, but you know who you are!

And finally, where can we find you online?

Personal Blog: http://www.nikkikatz.com
YA Know: http://yaknow.livejournal.com
Oasis for YA: http://oasisforya.blogspot.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/katzni
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nikkikatz
GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/katzni

Thank you so much for chatting with us, Nikki. Give us a heads up when Shoreline is out, and good luck with your future books!

Click here to see the book trailer for Shoreline.

Monday 14 June 2010

Interview with Larissa Hardesty

Happy Monday, everyone. What's that you say? Nothing happy about Monday? Sure there is. An example, you say? Well I've got one! Here's a very cool interview with an up and coming aspiring author that's sure to please.

Welcome, Larissa! Tell us a bit about yourself.

I'm a wife and mother of three (7, 5, and 3). I teach preschool, direct the handbell choirs at my church, and I'm a Creative Memories Consultant. Oh, yeah, and I write, too!

Fun fact: I met my husband at Disney World while on a family vacation during my senior year of high school. He was working for his dad at the silversmith booth in the Marketplace. I spent the whole vacation with him, and he was part of the reason I decided to come to Florida for college. We got married two weeks after I graduated, and our ten-year anniversary was last month.

Wow, there's a story! Congratulations on ten years! Let's talk about your writing. What is the name and genre of your current manuscript?

LURE is a MG Paranormal novel.

Here’s the part where you pitch it. What’s your story about?

LURE is about a thirteen-year-old boy who hates to read, and what happens when a book starts literally taking over his town. You can see the full query here and here.

How did the idea of the story come to you?

I was reading an agent's blog about making your story compelling, and I thought, "What if a book really was compelling?" It grew from there.

I love the concept, and the title fits perfectly with the premise. Bravo! Is your manuscript complete or still a work in progress?

It's complete. I have a couple of partials and queries out now. *fingers crossed* *maybe toes, too*

I'll cross my fingers and toes for you too, though I don't think you need my help, what with all the contests you keep winning. Do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?

A little bit of all of that. I have two critique groups, one in-person and one online. They get stuff two chapters at a time, and there's a lot of line-editing involved in that. I also have some beta readers. They are best for big-picture stuff. In between those, I do a lot of self-editing. LOL. It seems never-ending some times.

I hear you. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Finding time to write (four part-time jobs and three kids'll do that to ya). As for actual writing, I think knowing when something is done and ready to send out.

Any tips you’ve learned about writing you’d like to share?

I recently attended an SCBWI conference, and Kathleen Duey has some of my absolute favorite tips for writing. I blogged about the conference I attended in January here and June here. And if you ever have a chance to go to a conference where she's speaking, GO.

Great advice. Tips right from the source. Let’s get to know you on a deeper level. What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

Not much. I'm pretty easy to please. I need to be comfy, have coffee if it's daytime and water if it's night, and have my trusty laptop.

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: submarine, push ups, and giraffe.

Lack of head room makes it difficult for a giraffe to do push ups in a submarine.

LOL, why yes, that's true. Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Who would you like to give a shout out to?

Wow. Great writing buddies are Jackie Dolamore, Jessica Souders, Mindy Alyse Weiss, Aimee Bussard, Ruth Donnelly, Nikki Loftin, Jessie Harrell, and tons of people from the Verla Kay Blueboards.

And of course, my wonderful husband and children, who put up with me constantly being on my laptop. LOL.

It'll all pay off when you're a best seller. :) And finally, where can people find you online?

I blog. I tweet. I post on the Blueboards. Come say hi!

Thank you so much for chatting with us, Larissa. I really look forward to reading LURE, so hurry up and get published! ;)

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Overwhelmed ... in a Good Way

This morning I received an email that made me do a double take. I seriously had to read it twice to make sure I hadn't misunderstood. Even now, my head is swimming from joyous shock.

I've been awarded first place in the Write On! Online query contest for May where I submitted my query for Pretty Girls Make Graves. I also won a gift certificate for iScript, but I don't even know what to do with that yet, lol. The funny thing is I entered this contest on a whim and then completely forgot about it. When you're used to rejection emails or stiff competition in online contests, you kind of don't put a lot of faith in just one contest. So I entered and then forgot. And wow, the results are overwhelming me.

I'm so grateful. May was an excellent month for me, because not only did I win this contest, but I also was named Honorable Mention in two Secret Agent contests on the blogosphere. It might be safe to say I'm on a roll!

Friday 4 June 2010

Interview with Lacey J Boldyrev

Happy Friday, everyone! Let's get an early start to the weekend by having a fun chat with a fantastic aspiring writer. I've seen her around the blogosphere and was immediately intrigued by an excerpt of one of her stories. The talented Lacey J. Boldyrev is sure to be a hit.

It's nice to have you here, Lacey. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a 25 year-old wife and mom. I grew up in Pennsylvania but spent most of my adolescence in North Carolina. Now I reside in NY. When I’m not writing, I’m doing the mom thing. My kids are young, so if I manage to get *me time* I spend it reading. I’m so exciting!

How long have you been writing?

Funny you should ask. I feel bad admitting this, but I just started writing seriously in February 2009. Within 30 days I had a rough (like #50 grit sandpaper, rough) first draft of a YA historical I call FATED. I’ve revised it for over a year and it’s still not ready.

What is the name and genre of your current manuscript?

I have a number of them stashed around my house and on a few hard drives (and thumb drives and disks), but the one I will be seeking representation for in the near future is titled GREYSKIN. It is a YA paranormal (my favorite kind of book) but it’s not heavily saturated in paranormal.

Perfect title, I love it! Here’s the part where you pitch it. What’s your story about?

When sixteen-year-old Charlie Waite falls for Jack O’Donnell, an older guy and a bounty hunter for the supernatural, she decides the only way to get close to him is to start salting bones herself. But things go wrong fast when Charlie tags along on a dangerous greyskin hunt. The bokor, a voodoo sorcerer who hired Jack to catch the greyskin, sends hell hounds after him. When Jack goes missing, Charlie knows if she ever wants to call him hers she’s going to have to hunt down the bokor herself.

Awesome. And having seen a quick peek, I have to say I love the voice in your manuscript. How did the idea of the story come to you?

The first line--There’s a dead girl in the trunk and all I can think about is how white the trees are—came while cruising down I95 and passing a bunch of trees that were, well, white. No, I did not have a dead girl in my trunk. Promise. When I started writing it, the voice of my narrator, Charlie, really came to me. More so than with any other character I’ve written. Charlie is me in a lot of ways and she and I really connected.

What point are you at now?

I’m going to submit to my critique partners for their input and probably do another round with my readers, and then it will be ready to query agents. I hope.

Do you rely heavily on critique partners and beta readers, or do you do a lot of self-editing?

I do as much self-editing as I think I can before I send it to my critique partners, Valerie and Kristi--the Sisters in Scribe. We can be found at our shared blog sistersinscribe.blogspot.com.
With the first manuscript I wrote—FATED—I sent them a very rough draft. And I still apologize for it, even though they never complain.

I polish the manuscript and then when my turn comes up with the group, I send it and wait about a month for their notes. I have amazing critique partners and they catch everything. After I’ve filled in my plot holes and readjusted some sentences or whatever else needs fixed, I feel comfortable submitting to my beta readers. As of right now, I have two. One is a very good friend and fellow YA writer, A.J. Spindle, and the other is a book blogger. Her name is Jess, formerly of bookreviewsbyjess.blogspot.com which is now thecozyreader.com.

Sounds like good detailed process. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Aside from trying to write while I have a toddler at my side pretending she’s a cat, it’s writing the bad guy showdowns. Action scenes are so hard to get right! You want to convey the right amount of emotion, but at the same time it’s got to be fast paced and concise. And it’s tempting to allow the villain to break into a monologue to explain his evil plot.

Yes, I have the same problem, lol.Any tips you’ve learned about writing you’d like to share?

Simple is usually best. Don’t use big words or lengthy sentences to explain simple thoughts. Just spit it out the way your character would.

Do you have an idea of your book’s cover art?

GREYSKIN is very new so I haven’t toyed with that yet, but I did mock up one for FATED. I don’t own rights to the image so I’ll just explain it. It has a white background with a (very pretty) eye in the center. Inside the eye I put a reflection of the Nazi flag. Underneath it reads FATED in blood-red.

GREYSKIN would be cool if it had Charlie holding a sawed-off shotgun with her Bull Mastiff, Odin, standing beside her and Jack’s 1966 Chevelle convertible in the background.

Sounds great. Who are your inspirations?

Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books were what really made me think, Hey I want to do that! But there are so many great authors I look up to and admire. Two name a few: Maggie Stiefvater, Carrie Harris and Richelle Mead.

Let’s get to know you on a deeper level. What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

Coffee. So stereotypical, I know. And I have a small metal elephant (I love elephants and I have a lot of them scattered around my house) that my husband bought me at a motorcycle event. He’s about 3” high and he flips open to reveal a small compartment inside. When I get stuck I flip him open and closed. Somehow it helps. And I chew on my red pen.

With GREYSKIN, I need a giant bowl of Good & Plenty candy. When (not if) you read it, you’ll know why.

Ooh, I'm intrigued (and I love Good & Plenty).

Okay, quick writing test: Use the words funnel, chipmunk, and encyclopedia in a sentence.

In one sentence? Wow, lol!

The crafty chipmunk made a funnel out of the torn pages of an encyclopedia, and used it to pour the nuts into his burrow.

Clever! Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Who would you like to give a shout out to?

My husband, because without him I wouldn’t be writing. He pushes me to follow my heart and he believes in me every step of the way. And he works hard so that I can spend my time doing what I love.

Also, my family for not locking me away when I talk about my characters as if they’re real people. My friends, both writers and non. My critique partners and beta readers and the endless support I’ve gotten from the writing community.

And finally, where can people find you online?

I can be found in a myriad of places under the name L.J. Boldyrev.


And I am also a member of the Blue Boards, SCBWI, and the YAlitchat community.

Thank you, Lacey, it was so great talking with you. I'm really crossing my fingers for you on your publication journey, and I can't wait to get my hands on GREYSKIN!

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Interview with Kristan Hoffman

Today we're chatting with a brilliant writer currently on the rise. Let's welcome Kristan Hoffman.

Hi, Kristan. So glad to have you here. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I'm a 24-year-old writer of Young Adult and “New Adult” fiction. Taiwanese halfie. Born/raised in Houston. Living/working in Cincinnati. I love Spain. And I dabble in design & photography.

Recent activities: querying agents, coming up with tons of new ideas, and eating a lot of cookie doh. I mean, dough.

Sounds like you've got your hands full, lol. Let's talk about Twenty-Somewhere. How did you get started writing it?

I started writing Twenty-Somewhere completely for fun. I had no idea where it would take me. But I was hitting a lot of mental walls with my novel, and I desperately wanted something I could see, something I could share, something I could finish! Something that would bring a smile to my face, you know, and hopefully to the faces of readers. So I thought, Why not write about the misadventures of 3 twenty-something girls? Obviously I knew a bit about that.

I also decided to use 20SW to experiment with an online serial format. I had seen a few done, not always well, and I wanted to try it out myself. It’s very hard, actually, writing fiction specifically for the web and an online audience. Hard in a different way than novels or short stories.

What are the webisodes about?

Twenty-Somewhere tells the story of 3 best friends: beautiful and confident Sophie Lin, goody-goody aspiring writer Claudia Bradford, and boy-crazy nerd MJ Alexander. They were inseparable throughout their schooling, and then suddenly they’re graduating and going to new places all over the country and even the world. 20SW really shows what modern friendship is like, across thousands of miles and several time zones – how hard it is to keep connected, but how special it can be too.

And of course there are cute guys, and relationship drama, and career problems, and all that good life stuff.

Can you tell us more about the New Adult genre?

Well, let me start with a warning: “New Adult” is not established yet. Agents do not like to hear about it. Do not query with your “New Adult fantasy novel” or your “New Adult memoir” or anything like that. New Adult has no credibility yet.

Now, the explanation: “New Adult” is a term coined by one editorial team at one publishing house (St. Martin’s Press). They believe that there is a need for more literature that deals with people approx. 18-26 years old, who are transitioning out of adolescence and into “the real world.” Of course, that’s fairly broad criteria and covers a large landscape. “New Adult” could be literary, fantasy, mystery, etc. “New Adult” could be anything.

I hate to plug myself, but for more information I recommend checking out my guest post at Guide to Literary Agents, as well as Uncreated Conscience, the blog of St. Martin’s editorial assistant Sarah Jae-Jones.

When did you decide to make your books available on Amazon?

I decided to make 20SW available on Amazon as an experiment, after reading about screenwriter John August’s success with publishing his short story “The Variant.” On his blog, August openly discussed the process of formatting and publishing “The Variant,” as well as the results (i.e., purchases).

Now, August had his clout as a screenwriter to help sell his work without additional marketing efforts, and of course I didn’t. But I still wanted to see what it would be like to put something out there for people other than my friends and family (who, at the time, were the majority of my blog audience).

The reality is that self-publishing to Amazon was not a financial success for me, but that’s not what I was looking for. What I got out of the experiment was worth much more than money: I got experience. After 20SW went live on Amazon, I went to forums (at Amazon and KindleBoards.com) and “publicized” it a bit. A very little bit. Enough to get feedback from people about what they liked (the idea, the characters) and what they didn’t (all the episodes they had to download). Enough to reconfirm that I didn’t want to go this journey alone; I want an agent and a publishing house to stand beside me and my books.

Understandable. So then, what's your next step?

Truthfully I never intended for 20SW to be a book, but the opportunity arose to submit it to St. Martin’s through an online contest (via JJ’s blog and YALitChat), and to my surprise they were interested. After reading the full story, they have asked me to create a proposal for turning the episodes into a more traditional book. That’s what I’m working on now, and I’m very excited! Through these revisions I am delving deeper into Claudia, MJ, and Sophie’s characters, raising the stakes in their stories, and really honing in on what makes life in your twenties so significant.

Do you have a critique partner or beta readers?

You know, I don’t have an official critique group or partner, but I definitely don’t do this alone. I love bouncing ideas off people when I’m trying to work through plot issues. I also belong to a local writing group, and I have a lot of friends and family who are willing guinea pigs – I mean, readers! That said, I have yet to establish an order: who reads as I go, who reads the first full draft, who helps me nitpick, who cheerleads, etc. I suspect it may be different for every project, depending on people’s tastes (and schedules).

What’s the hardest part of writing that you've struggled through?

What’s the hardest part? All of it!

No no, I’m kidding. Well, mostly.

For me, the hardest part is focusing. If I can get myself to sit and focus for 20 minutes, then I can usually sail through the next hour without even noticing. But those first 20 minutes? Oh man, they are agony. And so hard to come by. If it’s not the phone interrupting me, it’s an errand, or my dog, or something.

Time. Time is the hardest part. It’s hard to get, and then when you do get it, it’s hard to make good use of.

Yeah, I keep hearing about this mysterious thing called "time" but I have yet to find it. *wink* Any tips you’ve learned about writing you’d like to share?

Learn to say no. Say no to the things that tempt you away from your writing. Say no to your doubts and fears. Say no to anyone who doesn’t support you. This biz will give you enough rejection; you need it from the people around you, nor from yourself.

Wow, brilliant advice. Who are your inspirations?

My mother. My father. My boyfriend. They’re all tireless workers, I don’t know how they do it. Plus they give me guidance and encouragement, and they’re such good people, you know?

My closest friends (you know who you are). They believe in me so completely. And they don’t mind when I borrow from their real lives. (Not that I ever do that…)

As far as writers go, I adore Jhumpa Lahiri, Amy Tan, and Suzanne Collins. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd totally blew me away – it was the first book I ever wished I had written. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery set a foundation for me as both a person and a writer. And my first ever favorite book (I have many favorites now) was Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts – yes, a romance author, and one of the best storytellers and most prolific writers I can think of. I would die happily if my career were like hers.

I happen to own a LOT of her books, and I agree with you. Let’s get to know you on a deeper level. What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing.

Truthfully? Not much. Either my computer, or a pen and paper. I don’t have any rituals or lucky underwear or anything like that.

So boring, I know, but it’s all I got!

LOL, not boring. It's obviously working for you.

Quick writing test! Use these words in a sentence: tadpoles, merchant, and serendipity.

I examined the tadpoles in the tiny tank and then looked up dubiously at the merchant of Serendipity Sea Life. He had a dirty mustache and a lazy eye, and they made me uncomfortable. I shook my head. “I don’t believe you.”

He shrugged. “Fine. Some other little girl can become a princess then.”

He started to take the tank away, but I put my hand out to stop him. “Wait!” I grimaced at the thought of kissing some slimy toad, but wasn’t it worth a shot?

I dug into my backpack and pulled out all my piggy bank money. Coins and bills dropped noisily onto the counter. “I’ll take two,” I said. “Just in case.”

Wow, it's like a mini story. I love it! Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Who would you like to give a shout out to?

Oh crud, I did that already, didn’t I? Well, I’ll add Riley, my crazy little panda-faced pup. Because he’s adorable and cuddly, and every writer needs someone like that.

How adorable! And finally, where can people find you online?

Everywhere, haha, which is probably a bad thing. My website (kristanhoffman.com – writing dreams into reality) is the central hub, though. From there you can go to my Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Amazon author page, etc.

Oy, I’m sort of an internet junkie…

Aren't we all? *wink* Thanks so much for chatting with us, Kristan. It was great having you here, and good luck with publication!