Thursday, August 27, 2015

On Having an Adult Narrator in Kids' Fiction - Linda Fausnet Guest Post



If you're like me, you enjoy reading middle-grade books. Many of them are funny, entertaining, and yes, even educational. The vast majority of middle-grade fiction is written from the perspective of a middle-grader, the idea being that a reader of that age can best identify with a similar character in a book.

While it may be true that it's easiest to identify with a character who is most like you, part of the fun of reading is learning about other people and experiencing new adventures. For my middle-grade novel, THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX, I decided to mix it up a little and write from the perspective of an adult; an adult who is forced to deal with kids who know absolutely nothing about the sport she loves. I thought it might be for fun for young people to hear the inner thoughts of a grownup who is often annoyed by the young baseball players she's saddled with. In reading this book, we get to see how the main character, Konnie Mack, goes from being extremely frustrated with the kids to becoming very protective of them. By the end of the book, she considers the young players her kids, and anyone who messes with them had better look out!

Naturally, the traditional publishing world passed on THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX, mainly citing that the POV was from an adult perspective. That idea was different and, therefore, it was no good to them. Of course, this judgment was passed without reading a single word of the manuscript...

One of the best things about self-publishing is that we are allowed to take risks. We can publish a book with an exciting new idea or a unique perspective, then step back and see what happens. If it sells well, great! If not, a good author will do what she does best. Write another book. In the meantime, it's possible that the first book will eventually gain traction. That simply won't happen in the traditional world. If a book doesn’t sell well immediately, it will be yanked from the shelves and you'll just never know what might have been.

The trouble with never taking risks is that you can end up with a lot of lookalike, cookie-cutter –type of products. The movies are a prime example of this (that's why there is such a glut of superhero movies and bad sequels. It's safer. They are pretty much guaranteed to make money, even if they’re terrible).

I am a married, mother of two. If every book I read was from the perspective of a mother who is the same age as me, I think I would get bored pretty darn quickly. I love to read – and write – books from a totally different perspective from my own. I also write adult fiction, and my debut novel was written in the first-person perspective of a gay man. My second adult fiction book was mainly written in the perspective of a single woman in her 30s. I am currently writing a paranormal romance about Civil War soldiers, and I deliberately made the Confederate soldier the romantic hero, the "good guy" if you will, because I knew that would be a challenge.

Challenges are fun. Writing and reading about people who are different than we are can be challenging, but it can be also be a rewarding experience. I already know how a married woman with kids might see things because I am one. Kids already know how kids their own age see things, so why not give them a new perspective to consider? In THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX, they can hopefully laugh along with Konnie as she rolls her eyes, pops her gum, and mutters sarcastic comments under her breath while she struggles to keep from losing her temper. I also hope the kids reading the book will feel a little tug on their heartstrings as Konnie comes to love and protect the kids in the end.

Reading is a wonderful way to be transported to exciting new worlds and to explore different ways of thinking. It is my hope that there are lots of kids out there who will enjoy going on this special journey with Konnie and me. 

~

I thoroughly enjoyed THE JOYVILLE SWEAT SOX--sweet, funny, and incredibly cinematic. Be sure to grab yourself a copy. And keep up with Linda: @LindaFausnet, wannabepride.com.

Monday, August 24, 2015

THREE REASONS YOU MIGHT WANT TO PLACE YOUR BOOK IN A FICTIONAL SETTING

I’ve published books with both real settings (New York / Queens; Peculiar, Missouri; Fair Grove, Missouri; my hometown of Springfield, Missouri, Lake of the Woods, Minnesota) and fictional cities (“Willow Springs” Missouri). Even in my real settings, though, I take plenty of liberties—especially in my YA, FERAL, in which I completely fictionalized the town of Peculiar, Missouri. (I just had to use that name!)
 
While many authors gravitate toward setting their books in regions or cities that they’re familiar with, I’ve discovered some definite advantages to placing my work in fictional cities:
 
1.      You don’t get mired in research. As I said, many authors prefer to write about locations they’re already familiar with—but if it’s a new-to-you location, or if you’re writing about a different time period, you can get lost in learning the details—which streets intersected, which businesses were present, names of schools, etc. It can take some serious time away from actually getting your writing on the page.
 
2.      Your town becomes a character. If you aren’t relying on what already is, you have to craft your town or location just as you would a main character. This can help add a new, often metaphorical dimension to your novel as well.
 
3.      Your reader isn’t pulled out of the story. If you pick a real location, you’re bound to have readers who live in (or are well-versed with) the area where your book takes place. Bloggers and reviewers always mention the spots in which my own fictional world deviates from the real world when I pick actual cities for my novels. But if your location is fictional, your readers will be immersed in the story only, and won’t be comparing your own setting to the city they know.
 
How about you? What’s your preference as a reader or a writer? Fictional locations or real ones?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

HIGH SCHOOL / TEEN LIBRARIAN BOOK TALK: FERAL

School is back in session in my hometown--well, schools are opening back up all over, actually--and I've been spending quite a bit of time talking to some fabulous school librarians.

For those who are looking to get their teen or high school students geared up for some new adventures in reading, I've filmed a short book-talking vid on my last YA, FERAL:

Monday, August 10, 2015

PLAY IT AGAIN - MY PROGRESS

My editor and I are hard at work getting PLAY IT AGAIN (the sequel to PLAYING HURT) in tiptop shape. That's one of the absolute best parts of indie work, I think--being able to work on a manuscript without a set time limit, making sure all the pieces are just as you want them before releasing your latest book to your readers.
 
In the interim, though, I wanted to share what kind of questions I'm addressing in this new book...
 
There’s no love quite like the first. Ever. But what if you could go back? What if there was a chance to pick up where that first love left off? What if you could revisit the most powerful summer romance of your life? The one that changed you for the better? Would you do it? Or would you prefer to leave well enough alone, thinking that you could never possibly tap back into what you once had? Would you be afraid that if it didn't live up to what you remembered, you'd be forever disappointed--you'd even think differently of that time in your life?
 
Or: What if your former love walked back into your life out of nowhere? After you had put that chapter of your life behind you? How would you feel about seeing that person again?

Don't miss out! Find out how these questions work their way into the plot of PLAY IT AGAIN. The official release date will be announced on my newsletter (tinyletter.com/hollyschindler). I'll also be hosting giveaways for subscribers.

Monday, July 27, 2015

LIBRARYCON AT THE LIBRARY CENTER


A delightful time was had by all at LibraryCon at the Library Center here in Springfield, MO last Saturday. I signed copies of FERAL, and met two fun YA authors during an author panel. And since costumes were welcome, Chewbacca and Captain Jack Sparrow were there, too--a definite plus on a scorching Missouri afternoon.

The signing:

A reader was crackin' me up.


The author panel:


Chris T. Acadian, author of THE SHIFTER

Bathany Hagen, author of LANDRY PARK


Check out a short snippet of our conversation below--and be sure to visit both Chris T. Acadian and Bethany Hagen online as well.

Monday, July 20, 2015

LIBRARYCON AT THE LIBRARY CENTER


LibraryCon Info
Beat the heat and come say hi! I'll be at the Library Center in Springfield, MO this coming Saturday, July 25. I'll be joining two other authors for a panel discussion on our work at 2:30, in the auditorium. (I'll be the one in the FERAL T-shirt).

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

INTERVIEW WITH CATHERINE LINKA, AUTHOR OF A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS / A GIRL UNDONE

I recently got my hands on A GIRL UNDONE and was so impressed, I had to chat with the author, Catherine Linka:


Having never tackled a series myself, what was your process? How do you decide on the proper dividing point for action? Do you outline two books at the onset of writing? Were both books finished at the point at which the series was acquired? Or did you write the second book once youd found a publisher?

Well, I bumbled though my process, because I didnt intend to write a sequel, but St. Martins insisted when they bought A Girl Called Fearless. After saying yes, I was slammed with writers block. 

Several characters had unfinished business, so I started thinking about what needed to be resolved. Then at a retreat with the Plot Whisperer Martha Alderson, I realized that since Avie was on the run in A Girl Called Fearless, she had to be caught in A Girl Undone, because that was the worst thing that could happen, and shed be forced to face her nemesis. 

But my biggest obstacle was identifying Avies emotional journey. Avie says, I am fearless, at the end of book one, so where could she go from there? Then I realized Avie had to go from being intent on her survival to sacrificing herself for the good of others. 

While I havent written a series, I am in the midst of tackling the sequel to one of my YAs. I know firsthand what a balancing act it is to filter in backstory without relying on the dreaded info dump. What techniques did you rely on to provide backstory in book two? How much backstory was necessary?

Ugh. Its so hard to know how much backstory is enough. A Girl Undone begins two days after A Girl Called Fearless which helped limit the amount of filling in that was needed. I tried to get the reader engaged immediately with my main character, Avie using the high stakes threat of the police looking for her. Bringing Luke back in the first chapter meant that he and Avie could catch the reader up as they caught each other up. 

I like to deliver backstory in dribbles and focus on the dangers of the moment, so I kept asking myself: what key pieces of information does the reader need NOW  to understand what is going on in the scene and to get why the characters are acting the way they are. And its good my critique partners for A Girl Undone had a long break after reading A Girl Called Fearless, because they reminded me of what theyd forgotten.

Do you feel your prior experience as a YA book buyer gives you special insight into what your readership wants from a novel? (I dont feel as though I can ever turn off the writer in meeven when Im reading a book for enjoyment. Do you ever get to turn off the bookseller inside you? Do you look at your own work the same way you looked at work as a bookseller?)

Oh, my gosh. As part of my job, I ran a teen board, so for seven years I listened to kids complain about sequelshow the main character changed in the second book in a way they didnt like, or how the love triangle was getting annoying, or how the first book was amazing, but the third was boring. I realized fans set the bar really high, and I had to work my butt off to satisfy them.

Even though I know whats commercial doesnt mean I write for that. In fact, I didnt submit a number of manuscripts, because I knew they werent commercial. I write because I love to write, and I write what interests me.

What are you reading now?
 
Its a memoir by a hummingbird rescuer in LA. We have tons of hummingbirds in our neighborhood and Im fascinated by them.

I love that you speak on girl power. Your protagonist Avie is the perfect symbol of girl powerwhat a hero! Having seen how you approach the subject of girl power in your fiction, Im curious: how do you approach it as a speaker?

I want kids to know they do not have to be ninjas or superheroes to be amazing. We love these characters, but I try to get across to kids that it isnt martial arts training or weapons skills that makes a girl a kickass chickits the will to not give upeven when youve fallen down or messed up or been the victim of something awful. Surviving makes you a survivor and that is powerful. I want kids to know they have power inside them they may not realize they have, because it hasnt been tested yet. 

As authors, I know we both cringe at the idea of book banning. In what ways have you spoken regarding book banning? Have you ever stood in defense of specific works that were in the process of being banned? 

I think our librarian friends are on the frontlines in that fight. As a bookseller, Ive set up displays for Banned Book Week and advised a Girl Scout for her Gold Award project on book banning,  but I cant claim to be a hero. 

What I love about your series is that its set in the future, but the themes are reflective of todays world. How did the idea for this series beginwas it born from a headline? Current events? Personal observation?

It was born from frustration with the futuristic stories I was reading, because the characters and situations felt less and less real. I thought Id play with what I thought would really happen to a regular girl if a pandemic changed the US. 

How much research was involved in putting the series together?

Not that much, actually. Im a news junkie, so Id already been following stories about womens issues around the world. But I had to research how to shoot a gun, and how survivalists live and think when I wrote A Girl Called Fearless. I even went to shooting range to fire a Glock and a semi-automatic. Research like this makes you wonder if youre on a Homeland Security watch list.

Congrats on the series being developed for TV! How did that happen? Are you involved at all in writing and developing the story for television?

I live in LA, so a friend connected me to an agent, and to my shock, he loved A Girl Called Fearless. Ive consulted on the pilot script, and if the series sells, then I will continue to consult. Its fun to think about, but nothings guaranteed in Hollywood. 

As a dog lover, I have to ask: Did you get that puppy?

Yes. Carter (named after John Carter of Mars) is a 15 week old yellow lab, and hes as athletic and determined as his namesake. He could be the next ruler of Mars!

Be sure to keep up with Catherine at her author site and Twitter: @cblinka. And don't hesitate to snag your copies of the truly incredible A GIRL CALLED FEARLESS and A GIRL UNDONE.

Monday, July 13, 2015

READERS' TOP THREE PET PEEVES ABOUT SEQUELS

Reader feedback has been utterly invaluable throughout my writing career--at times, I would argue, even more illuminating than some feedback I've received from industry insiders.

As I make my way through the rewrites of PLAY IT AGAIN (the sequel to PLAYING HURT), I decided to ask readers for a bit of feedback before my book released.

Specifically, I asked, "What's your biggest pet peeve about sequels--and, conversely, what do you love about them?"

The top three most frequently mentioned pet peeves were:

1. The dreaded info dump - Giving a giant synopsis of the previous book right at the beginning of the sequel, rather than funneling bits of information or reminders regarding previous plot points throughout the text.

2. Rehashing the same plot - Refusing to put your characters in a new set of circumstances, relying instead on a retelling of the previous story.

3. Forgetting who your characters are - Readers often indicate it's the characters that bring them back to a sequel, rather than the story line. They want to spend more time with the people they fell in love with in the first book. Bringing back characters who have changed too drastically since the last installment can be jarring and disappointing for your readers.

My absolute favorite response came from a reader who said she knew a sequel had been a success when it felt both "unexpected and inevitable." What a great point to keep in mind as I work on my rewrites...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

SKYPE WITH CHAPTERS BOOKS & GIFTS

I recently had a super-fun Skype visit with young readers at Chapters Books & Gifts in Seward, NE. We had an incredible time talking about THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, what we like most about reading, and what it's like to be a full-time author.

And to make it all even better, just yesterday, I received these lovely thank-you notes from the readers who chatted with me. Seriously--what's better than knowing someone took the time to draw you a thank-you note?



Monday, July 6, 2015

INDIE AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: JENNY B. JONES



I met Jenny B. Jones back in 2010--at my first-ever author event, shortly following the release of A BLUE SO DARK--and have been a fan ever since. It was a delight to catch up with her recently about her move toward indie publishing. 

Tell us about your indie release(s). Latest book? What genre is / are your indie(s)?
 

My indies are mostly New Adult and women’s romance. While they all check the box on having romance, they’re also clean or what we call “sweet.” My latest, Just One Summer, is a novella collaboration with three other authors. It’s a New Adult book that contains four novellas. Four best friends have spent every summer together since they were young, but this summer, they all go their separate ways, finding adventure, and of course, romance. 

Where can we order your work?
 
The usual spots: Amazon, iBooks, Nook, GooglePlay, my mom’s web-based business called “Please Buy My Daughter’s Books So I Can Take a Cut and Retire in Tahiti.” 

Tell us all about your own writing journey. How did you come to independent publishing?
 
I was first published in 2006, so I’m rounding the ten year mark soon. I was about to hit a significant birthday milestone back in the ancient years of 2005 (and by ancient, I mean none of us had smart phones), and I realized I had done nothing but WISH I was a published writer. And wishing had gotten me nowhere. So I decided that year I would get pro-active. I joined a writing organization, read everything I could get my hands on that was even close to my genre, and went to my first writing conference. At this conference, I had a paid critique with a favorite author, and long story short, she passed my measly 25 pages of my unfinished manuscript on to a publisher. The publisher offered me a contract. That launched my Katie Parker Production series and started my traditional publishing career. In a nice full-circle moment, that same series would also start my indie career when I republished it after getting my rights back within the last few years. 

What were the tools you used—for formatting, cover art, etc.?
 
I firmly believe in doing what you can do yourself and hiring professionals to do what you can’t. I initially hired out formatting, and still do sometimes. I have a great, great person for that. I have hired out every cover and can’t ever see myself taking that on. I’m a big believer in putting money into covers and editing. I now hire at least two editors for every book. Over the last year, I’ve assembled a great team, and I couldn’t do it without them. 

What was the biggest expense?
 
Editing is definitely my biggest expense. But like covers, you usually get what you pay for. I know it’s money well-spent, so I don’t want to scrimp on that. 

What was the most difficult aspect?

Finding the time to write. I work full time, and at one point in the journey was a full time grad student as well. It’s hard to sit down and do the work. I don’t seem to have trouble sitting down to watch TV though…

Most enjoyable / most rewarding?
 
I love that you can finish a book on Tuesday (as in gone through all the edits, formatting, etc.), and have it up and available to readers within 24 hours. Readers no longer have to wait a year after you’ve turned in that book. That’s exciting to me. 

Biggest surprise?
 
My biggest surprise is that it’s going really, really well. I’ve out-earned my traditional income, and while I would never say never to returning to traditional publishers, at this point I couldn’t afford to. I love that we have choices in publishing—indie, trad’l, hybrid, short stories, novellas, full-lengths, genre-blending, whatever. It truly is the best time to be a writer. 

How have you spread word of your work? 
 
The best thing I’ve done is put my first book of my Katie Parker series, In Between, permafree. I know there’s a lot of talk of permafree not working anymore, but I would disagree. 

How important have reviews been? Have you listed your book with NetGalley or Edelweiss? Would you do it again?
 
I have not done any review services. I don’t think I will at this point, though I certainly enjoy them as a full-time librarian and find them helpful for purchasing decisions. For reviews I utilize a group of influencers from a list I’ve created (and a lovely friend and VA helps me with this now), and I have prompts/links to review in the back of each book. 

If you’re publishing a backlist, what was your process of rights reversion?
 
I got the rights back to three books from one publisher when my former agent just asked for them. I still thank God for everyone involved in that. Nobody had to give me anything, yet they did. I have a handful of books with another publisher and have been told to kiss them goodbye forever. These are the sort of things that make authors want to stay away from traditional publishers. I’d love to see more of a compromise with backlists that are collecting digital dust, yet bound in archaic contracts. Many authors would pay significant dinero to get old books back. 

Are your independent releases in e-format or print? If print, how are you distributing?
 
Both. I use Createspace. I’ve yet to investigate other paperback options, but probably need to. 

Have you been able to make use of the library market? If so, how?
 
I have not. As a purchasing librarian myself, I stay away from books that aren’t hardback and specially bound for libraries and heavy use. So I’ve yet to try to make inroads in the library world, but would love to. I think we’ll see more indies in libraries in the next 5 years. 

If you’ve written a series, how have sales and promotions for a series been different than sales and promos for a standalone novel?
 
Series is KING in indie right now. As a reader, I love series as well. With a series you can really effectively use permafree, setting that first book to free, then letting readers decide if they want to continue with the series. It’s been a great tool for me, and I’m excited to get a few more books up in my new Sugar Creek contemp. romance series, so I can implement permafree again. 

Do pre-orders work for you? How do you advertise / implement them?
 
My co-writers for Just One Summer and I just used pre-orders for the first time in June. I’m not sure any of us will be using it again. Amazon does not apply pre-orders to first day sales (instead choosing to divvy out the pre-order sales during your first week), so that can hurt that first day’s sales and list targets. 

What’s one preconception about indie publishing that you find to be completely untrue?
 
I think we’re all learning that the old idea that “self-publishing equals crap literature” just isn’t true anymore. There are some great authors writing great books and publishing them themselves.

Where can we find you online, in order to keep up with all you’re doing? Do you have a newsletter we can subscribe to?
 
I just had my website redone! You can find me at
www.JennyBJones.com. I have a newsletter that I send out only when I have new books or when I’ve got a book super duper cheap I want to tell everyone about. I’m also on Twitter (JenBJones), Instagram (JennyBJonesAuthor) and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/jennybjones.
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