But...when I'm not writing, I'm a music fanatic of (seriously) infinite proportions. And in my book, "Turning Home" by David Nail (a fellow Missourian, I might add) is the song of the year. I've played this one enough, all my neighbors know the words. Love it, love it, love it...
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
But...when I'm not writing, I'm a music fanatic of (seriously) infinite proportions. And in my book, "Turning Home" by David Nail (a fellow Missourian, I might add) is the song of the year. I've played this one enough, all my neighbors know the words. Love it, love it, love it...
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
…I’ve been watching the mass exodus of jobs in Springfield since Zenith left in the late 80’s / early ‘90’s…And I cringe when local newscasts glorify job creation at call centers and sandwich shops. Sandwich shops? That’s no career for an adult with a family to support. That’s a job you get for gas money when you’re still in high school.
As the granddaughter of a couple who both worked in a Kansas City steel mill (and who made enough money at that mill to send their kid to college and live a comfortable life in the process), I have to say it’s time to bring manufacturing back to Missouri. We need jobs in Missouri. Real jobs. NOW.
…In the meantime, I’m going to be thankful this holiday for the basics: a hot meal, a warm house, a puppy dog smile…(Really—what can bring a smile to your own face quicker than a happy grin from your pup?)
Here’s to a peaceful, satisfying, and happy Thanksgiving…
Friday, November 19, 2010
Rules of the award:
1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Write 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic.
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked to let them know about the award.
Okay. Seven (surprising!) things about me:
1). I met every member of every hair band who played in Springfield, MO in the late 80’s / early 90’s.
2). I end just about every phone conversation with my brother by saying, “Go with eggs!” (It’s a reference from Paul Newman’s NOBODY’S FOOL.)
3). I have a serious love of chicken pot pie. Serious. Serious love.
4). My elbows hyper-extend, bending back the wrong way. Freaky.
5). I have been knitting the same sweater since 2007.
6). My body temperature is actually a few degrees below “normal,” and I have a tendency to get cold very easily.
7). I’ve always loved to dress up—heels, the works. But my single favorite piece of clothing is my twenty-year-old Harley Davidson T-shirt, complete with a giant swirling dragon…
And my fifteen blogs?
One Sparkling Star
…Thanks to The Mod Podge Bookshelf! An award makes a gal’s Friday…
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
When I was a little girl grocery shopping with my mom, I insisted on grabbing a new Little Golden Book before she steered the cart toward the check-out. And I still find myself buying books this way—picking up new paperbacks from Walmart or Walgreens or my local Price Cutter when I run in for a gallon of milk or (as has been the case these past few months) house paint…While the selection might not be so widespread as the selections in bookstores, somehow, I still really like to come to books this way—to buy my books in non-book locals. THE BLUE BISTRO was a recent Walmart purchase. (And a book I devoured on the elliptical.)
What I really love about this book is Hilderbrand’s ability to write about a physical location in such a way that the location itself becomes a main character…as I made my way through the chapters, I became so invested in the restaurant—I swear, I could reach out and touch the ambiance—that I found myself, in-between bouts of reading, wondering about the fate of the bistro in the same way I usually wonder about characters I become invested in.
I don’t know that I’ve ever actually had that experience as a reader—being so wrapped up in a book’s setting. I honestly felt that the true romance of the novel—the sparkle, the tingle—existed in that restaurant, just as much as I felt it existed between Thatcher and Adrienne. And when the restaurant was dismantled, I felt that was the real death in the book—as a reader, I mourned for the restaurant just as much as I mourned for its owner, Fiona.
Hildebrand reminds us that location is more than just a two-dimensional backdrop for our characters. Location, when handled right, becomes a breathing entity—a driving force for the plots of our novels.
Monday, November 15, 2010
She's here! My pub-sister: Cissa-Jean Chappell! Crissa was actually the very first person to blurb A BLUE SO DARK (and her blurb was so kind, I actually got a little misty-eyed when I read it…)
...Wait, you're saying. Pub-sister? Did you say pub-sister? Yup. Read on...
Please tell us about TOTAL CONSTANT ORDER.
My first book is about a girl who struggles with obsessions. Fin’s world is like a movie with the volume cranked up. Her need to keep count becomes a way of controlling the chaos inside her head. I think a lot of teens feel out of control in high school. Your life doesn’t belong to you.
When I wrote Fin’s story, I wanted to show a strong girl, not a victim who needs “fixing,” a girl who channels her nervous energy into something positive (in this case, art).
In some ways, TOTAL CONSTANT ORDER was autobiographical…Where’s the point at which Fin ends and you begin?
Every character is part of me. For two years, Fin was my alter ego in cyberspace. I wrote about my own goofy experiences in the present tense—like bumping into a mariachi band at the dentist’s office— and channeled them through the eyes of my fifteen-year-old self.
In a way, the creation of Fin’s Diaryland blog wasn’t much different than writing a novel: You cut and paste your observations (mental snapshots, bits of dialogue, and, of course, the people you meet along the way) and remix them, DJ-style, into something that feels true.
Did writing a book that blurred the lines of fiction and reality alter your reality in any way?
After the book came out, some of Fin’s readers sent emails, asking, “Is this a real person?” And I answered, “Yes.” I am real. The feelings and the observations posted there are real. And the novels I write are “real” in some way…if only because the “raw footage” started somewhere in the world before it was “edited” (not with iMovie software, but through characters and conflict and the dramatic structure of a narrative).
I taught a few courses myself—I know it’s so, so hard to keep half your head in classroom activities and half in your current work of fiction. How does teaching help you as a writer?
I write young adult novels…and I’m fortunate to spend my days surrounded by crazy college kids who make me think/laugh/all the above. In my screenwriting classes, we workshop together (reading out loud really helps. You instantly know whether dialogue sounds stilted or expository and when a scene drags on too long). Then I go home and work on my own stories. Sometimes I’ll stop and think: “Well, I wouldn’t let a student get away with this…”
You’re a visual person—does drawing ever aid your writing? Do you ever brainstorm by sketching?
Yes, I love to draw my characters and daydream about what they’re doing, like a short clip from a film. It charges both sides of the brain (the creative and the analytical). Writing is a right-brained, freestyle thing for me, while the editing that comes after the first draft is a totally different process.
I’m also intrigued by the shrunken manuscript process you pictured on your blog. (I’ve met so many authors who claim to be pants-ers. And I’m often jealous of this, because I tend to be a methodical plotter…But the shrunken manuscript seems right up my alley...)Where did you learn about the shrunken manuscript—and did it work for you?
Darcy Pattison featured the Shrunken Manuscript Technique on her website (http://www.darcypattison.com/revision/shrunken-manuscript/). When you’re used to staring at a computer screen, it’s easy to feel intimidated by the size and scope of a three-hundred page novel. When I print out the pages and throw them on the floor, I still feel a little overwhelmed. So I tried Pattison’s method of shrinking the font and simply looking at the book like a map. I taped different colored Post It notes to each chapter (representing the goal of each scene, who’s there, and what are they doing). Then I stepped back (after nudging my cat off the papers!) and realized that certain scenes repeated or felt unnecessary (I tend to write a lot in my early drafts and cut later). It was a huge help. Finally, I could “see” the whole book.
I love the mention on your website of recording stories on a Panasonic cassette recorder (my brother and I used to act out stories on our own cassette recorder)! Do you feel those early recordings helped shape your writing in some way?
I dragged that thing everywhere…and recorded non-stop, creating my own sound effects (think: crinkled Mylar balloons for rain). I tossed my clunky Panasonic in a bicycle basket, hauled it into trees, and carried it in a Ziploc bag at the deep end of the pool. I’d splice the soundtrack between chunks of epic storylines involving elves or ninja turtles. But I also recorded long, random conversations with my cousin (Who kept whispering, “Is that thing on?”) No doubt, it helped me develop an ear for dialogue. And it forced me to make choices about editing—what to include, what to leave out.
Sometimes I’d ransack my dad’s office in search of blank, white cassettes, which I painted with nail polish. Out of desperation, I’d record over his business tapes (once in a while, you could hear a man’s monotone voice droning on about mutual funds). The best part about stories on tape: it’s like having somebody read to you, just like when you’re little. I still love to close my eyes and imagine the spaces between the words.
In the Miami Herald interview posted on your website, you describe what it’s like to have OCD. Does OCD ever benefit your writing in any way?
When I’m working on a manuscript, sometimes I have to push myself to move forward. Otherwise, I’ll just keep combing over the previous scenes. The OCD side of my brain won’t let go. It gets stuck on repeat. But a hardcore revision involves scrutinizing every word choice, every sentence and paragraph. So in that way, the intense mental spotlight of OCD is actually beneficial. It’s all about directing your concentration.
Your debut received fantastic reviews…does that make writing the second book intimidating at all?
There’s a kind of freedom in writing your first book. No expectations. Now I’m working on several different stories. I was fortunate to receive positive reviews with my debut. But I don’t want to tell that same story over and over again. There are new narratives to explore, although I believe that writers often return to their favorite themes, whether consciously or not. For example, I will always be interested in characters who are on the outside, looking in…
Entice us—what’s the next Crissa-Jean Chappell book to hit the shelves?
My second book, NARC, just sold to Flux. It’s loosely based on the Trojan Horse (a little darker and older than my debut…and it’s a male POV). The plot revolves around a boy in his senior year who gets a chance to reinvent himself…with a price. It’s the ultimate fairy tale wish. Who wouldn’t want to zap back to high school and change things? As a teenager, your life revolves around creating an identity. Now, with technology (cell phones, social networking, etc.) you’re juggling multiple identities. And that doesn’t make one more “true” than the other.
What’s one idea or impression you hope your work leaves on readers?
Often, it seems like people don’t give teens enough credit. When little kids ask questions, everyone says, “Isn’t that cute?” But when teens ask questions…especially difficult questions..I think it makes adults uncomfortable. Inside, I still feel like I’m a kid, asking questions. And if I never find the answer, that’s okay. It’s the asking that matters.
I, for one, can't wait to read NARC. It's already shot up to the top of my TBR pile. (And as a fellow Flux-er, I have to say we're lucky to have her...)
...You can check in with Crissa while NARC is in development at her website.
Hey, guys—wanted to let you all know about a great new blog…Alyssa over at Readers Unite / Book By Book Summer is going to take part in the PLAYING HURT Blog Tour, and I really love her reviews, especially her recent reviews of Blume's FOREVER and the “Anonymous” classic, GO ASK ALICE. I always wonder how the reads from my own teen days stand up today…and Alyssa gives us some no-holds-barred insights!
A few words from Alyssa, about herself and what you can expect from her blog:
I'm sure you've heard this hundreds of times but honestly, what else can I say? I'm just another reader who loves to lose herself in the world of great scenery, adventure, strong heroines, and yeah - hot guys. I'll read anything from adventure to historical fiction, with paranormal and general fiction, fantasy and thrillers everywhere in between. When I'm not reading, I'm experimenting with my writing talents myself or watching old 80s horror flicks. (But because those make me so crazy, as in "don't-go-to-sleep-without-the-lights-on" crazy, I like to stick to paper and the words that end up on them.)
Head on over to Readers Unite, and give Alyssa and big ol’ welcome hug…Or become a follower, as I have…
And stay tuned for tomorrow’s interview with the super-cool Crissa-Jean Chappell!
Sunday, November 14, 2010
...For those of you who are new to the blog, you can get the lowdown on the challenge here. Check out the sidebar for links to previous entries...
Fill out the form below, or email your prompts to writehollyschindler (at) yahoo (dot) com!
Friday, November 12, 2010
My incredible, fantastic, ever-enthusiastic (in all honesty, there just aren't enough glowing adjectives in the world to describe her) agent, Deborah Warren, just gave me the go-ahead to share this piece of news:
My debut middle grade novel has been acquired by Dutton Children's!
Keep an eye out for THE JUNK-TION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY (a tentative title, of course) in 2012!
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Also, for those of you up to your eyebrows in NaNoWriMo, a guest post just went live at Reading, Writing, and Waiting on silencing your inner editor...
Can't wait to read more BLUE blurbs!
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
To see what the pros (Catherine Ryan Hyde, Carrie Jones, Crissa-Jean Chappell) wrote about BLUE, you can head on over to my website…To keep up with my updates on the BLUE Blurb Project and other happenings, be sure to follow me on Twitter (just joined yesterday)…
Fill out the form below (if you'd like to view the form on a larger screen, click here). Write one blurb or several...no limits! And thanks in advance...
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Ta-da! November’s flash fiction’s here! This month’s prompt comes courtesy of Melody at Melody’s Reading Corner…When I asked for objects to write about, Melody suggested magic. Love that idea! Love…
“Free Of Charge”
I’m not a kid person. Not a coochie-cooer. Maybe I don’t have much age on the boy behind the cash box who eyeballs me. Maybe the last time I went in for a haircut the stylist said, “There you go, kiddo,” when I stepped out of the chair. Still. The way the little boy just keeps staring—like he’s about to say something to me—gives me a tight, uncomfortable tug in my gut.
Not sure why I even walked up the drive to their garage sale. It’s not like I have any money in my running shorts. And I’m not exactly presentable. In the mirror attached to a ladder (“only $25!” the tag screams,) I look like some trampled-through, tortured puddle, the way sweat rings cling to my underarms, sweat splatter dots my back and chest. I’ve run five miles—far longer than I’d intended—and now I’m the kind of exhausted that makes me wish I could just flop down on the nearby duct-taped bean bag chair ($2).
Five miles from home—feels like a hundred, but it’s nothing compared to the distance between Missouri and Puerto Rico, where Dad’s dragging me to live.
“Part of the US,” he insisted. “English is an official language.” But Spanish dominates. I’ll learn it, sure, but a word at a time. Casa, I’ll say. Gracias. Si. And nod, a nervous smile on my face because I can’t keep up with full-sentence Spanish. My classmates will avoid me the way I dodge little kids, because talking to someone too inexperienced to truly understand you is just plain boring—and too much work. I mean, a conversation shouldn’t involve heavy lifting.
Folding tables around me support the used-up fragments of life: Frayed sweaters folded into puffy rectangles. Tarnished candle holders. Old cassette tapes.
I’ll be a trinket, too, after I move. A birthday card in the bottom of a junk drawer. A photo yellowing behind fifty Post-its on a bulletin board.
I’ll be some dated, lame thing that eventually gets sold or pitched. Some girl I used to know, my boyfriend will call me, if remembers me at all.
I’m still sweating. Four miles ago, I was crying. Puerto Rico...
The little boy slides off his plastic chair, slips behind his mother, who’s defending the price of a cracked McCoy vase, and reaches into a fish bowl. I see a glass grave. Wonder if they even remember their long-ago pet’s name.
I start to back up, but he rushes, screams, “Wait!” His mother’s watching, too, so I feel compelled to stoop and cup my sweat-sticky hands. The mysterious little creature pours old goldfish tank pebbles into my palms.
“Genuine magic rocks,” he insists. “Free of charge.”
I almost snort a laugh when the pebbles—and a new rushing tide of belief—start to warm in my palm. Calm spreads through my chest.
“Gracias,” I whisper, surprised to find the word doesn’t sound so awkward coming from me, after all.
…Remember, December will be the last month to get in on the Flash Fiction Challenge! I’ll be putting up details soon…
Monday, November 8, 2010
Friday I promised—today I’m delivering…She’s here! The extraordinary Catherine Ryan Hyde.
Catherine’s latest novel, JUMPSTART THE WORLD, was released in October…and because she’s truly one of the coolest YA authors out there, she agreed to chat about her newest release, and to give us the straight-skinny about her feelings on Hollywood, reviews, and the blogosphere…
Congrats on the recent release of JUMPSTART THE WORLD—which, as it turns out, deals with timely subject matter. Tell us a little about the book, and about where the spark of inspiration came from.
Timely because of all the recent suicides in the LGBT community? I hope so. I hope it will add some small shred of comfort to those who are being bullied and vilified. A strong positive portrayal in fiction is better than no hope at all.
It's about a barely-sixteen-year-old girl, Elle, whose mother dumps her in her own apartment to smooth over some problems with the new man in her life. Elle ends up making a few friends at her new school, almost all of whom are gay (being mistaken for gay herself, she finds herself with an open welcome to that group and not much of any other). She falls in love with her next door neighbor, Frank, because he listens to her and he looks out for her. He's much older, and in a long-term relationship. So she knows they won't be together, but she just adores him. And then her friends make the observation that he might be a transman. Which she does not want to hear. Not because she has a problem with transmen per se, but because she has a seed of a doubt about her own sexuality and isn't sure what that would say about her. But when it proves true, she learns to deal with it. And, much to her discomfort, it doesn't make her love for Frank go away. (Spoiler: Frank's friendship is worth the discomfort.)
I grew up with a transgender sibling. And now, in adulthood, I have a very good friend who is a transman. So this has been part of my experience for as long as I can remember, and doesn't seem the least bit weird or scary to me. So I guess I wanted to say, for those with less experience, "Hey, guys. It's really not that weird or scary."
JUMPSTART THE WORLD is the fourteenth title listed on your website (how good must that feel!)…Do you have a favorite book among all that you’ve published?
I think I mostly feel...tired. No, just kidding. I'm very happy that the body of work is getting so big. Unfortunately, that only makes it harder when people say, "Oh, I've heard of you! You wrote that book. Pay it Forward." (Usually followed by, "I loved that movie!" But don't get me started.)
My personal favorite has always been my YA novel Becoming Chloe. Now I have to search inside and see if Jumpstart the World changes that. It could only be a tie, I think. Or Jumpstart the World is a very close second. Yeah. I think it's a very close second. I adore Jumpstart. But there's something about Chloe and Jordy and my heart. We're tied together in some way.
Do you have any manuscripts in a drawer that haven’t been acquired, that you still have an affinity for or believe will find its publishing “home”? How do you fight for those projects as an author?
Hmm. Yes and no. All the books I've put in the drawer over the years have come out now. Usually, using the tool of time and distance, I was able to revise large sections (typically the last half or the last 1/3) to keep what was good and fix whatever made me put it in the drawer.
Interestingly, Jumpstart the World was such a novel. My young adult editor rejected two very different versions of the story. My way of fighting for this project was to raise the bar for myself, do better with it, and then go back to the same editor and ask her to read it again. Of course, looking back at that first version, I'm very glad I did.
I have one other YA that my editor passed on. I suspect it will go the same way. I'll raise the bar, jump higher, and then we'll see.
For writers, I want to note that I strongly advise you, in most cases, not to rewrite based on rejection. It doesn't always mean there's anything wrong with the work. But I trust my editor a great deal and have worked with her for a long time. And I know that in the long haul, I can usually look back and see she was right all along.
Are reviews important to you? I know you read blog reviews (and even post quotes from blog reviews on your website)…Do you value print reviews over blog reviews (or vice versa)? Do reviews ever change or shape the way you write? In what way? (Or: Why or why not?)
Reviews are important in that they introduce people to the book. They get it out there. Most of my reviews have been good, and of course I love to read a review by someone who really gets the book. But I don't want them to become important to me in an unbalanced sense. I can't base my self-esteem as a writer on them. Then again, they're reader feedback, and can't be safely ignored.
Complex. Isn't it?
I think the answer here is to value the aggregate. The reader reaction as a whole. There will always be some readers who don't like a book. I gave up on pleasing everybody a long time ago. So, for example, I used to read Amazon reader reviews and get upset by anything negative. Now I just look at the star rating, and if it's in the 4-5 range, which I think they all are, I know I'm doing okay.
Print reviews and blog reviews are separate but equal. They are both hugely important. I need Kirkus and School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, because that's what the libraries and book stores use for direction. But in the teen lit field, to influence an individual reader, there is nothing like the blog review. They are taking on more and more importance, and in time might pass print reviews on the road. But for the moment I love them both equally.
There's only way I can feel myself possibly change the way I write based on reviews. Sometimes readers will say, "I wanted to know more about..." referring to a character or bit of backstory. And sometimes I'll hear that in my head while writing a subsequent work, and I'll go a little deeper.
I love your appreciation for readers and the way you highlight your fans on your website—you’re one of the absolute most approachable authors out there! How much extra work does it take to stay in touch with readers?
Thank you! That's just the kind of compliment I value most.
I really don't think of it as work, because these are, for the most part, really wonderful people. It's like I have my actual friends and my virtual friends, but of course they're every bit as real. It's just our communication method that's virtual. I'd say I spend a minimum of 45 minutes a day communicating via my computer (email and social networking). I'd be hard-pressed to think of what else I could do with that time that would be more important or productive. (I know some would say writing, but nobody writes every waking moment without a 45-minute break in there anywhere. At least, nobody I know.)
Some authors are reluctant to establish an online presence, but you really make the most of it…Were you always open-minded about social media, blogging, etc.? Or are you surprised to be so active online?
I think I resisted at first. A few years ago, my agent suggested a MySpace page (yes, MySpace was king back then). I didn't do it right away. I didn't know how and I guess I felt intimidated. Then I offered a piece to a little online zine, and I began corresponding with the young woman who creates it, and--long story short--she helped me create a MySpace page. Once somebody got me started, it wasn't hard to keep skiing downhill on my own. I've always been open-minded about setting aside time for readers and communicating with them, so I think that helps.
What’s the best contact you’ve ever had with a reader?
Oooh. That's hard. So many to choose from. A teen girl who had been feeling close to suicidal, but found hope in Becoming Chloe. A teen boy who told me Chloe made him "want to tell his friends he loved them." An adult whose life would have been very different if Jumpstart the World had been available years ago. The mother of a transman in transition who said I had no idea what a difference it makes to have a tender and positive portrayal of someone like Frank. And about a million people who caught the kindness bug from Pay it Forward. I could go on, but you get the idea.
Every writer dreams about the day Hollywood comes knocking…What was it like to see PAY IT FORWARD on the big screen? Do you feel you’re still associated with that title more than any other? Why or why not?
I have other titles? Okay, just kidding. See question #2.
In some ways, being deadly frank, many of my "Pay It Forward fans" let me down. Not all of them, by any means, but maybe nine out of ten. I thought they would go on to give my other books a try, but the vast majority never even read Pay It Forward! They just saw the movie, or liked the concept, and they tell me they're my fans without reading anything I've written, which doesn't quite work for an author. I've noticed that the new edition is selling surprisingly steadily and well, so I hope that this is beginning to change. But all in all I've been left with the sense that we, as a society, value movies far more highly than books, which is too bad.
All that said, the movie raised my name recognition greatly, and that's no small favor to an author. So there is definitely a positive side, despite my overall snarkiness on the issue.
I knew I wanted to write shortly after birth. When did you come to writing? How long did it take to snag the first publication?
I came to writing in a big way when I was a sophomore in High School (I tend to be a late bloomer). Here's a link to a little story about that: http://www.catherineryanhyde.com/blog/2009/4/3/i-owe-it-all-to-lenny-reprint.html
It took me well over two decades to snag my first publication. But I should qualify: First I dropped two decades of my life to alcohol and other drugs. I wasn't 100% absent, but I wasn't getting much done. Then I got clean and sober at around 34. Then I got serious, about not only writing but doing something with my writing. Then I began getting short stories published after a couple of years of rejections.
I love the slideshow of your dog on your website…What does Ella know about you that others might be shocked to learn?
Thank you. (And Ella thanks you.)
Ella knows how much of a recluse I really am. She knows that, despite my knowing thousands of people, I'm close with her in a way I'm not with any of them. And I expect that's fine with her. But I think I could use a little work in the human relationship department.
So many relationships in a writer’s career turn out to be long-term. Who have you worked with the longest—an editor? An agent? How has that relationship grown and developed over time?
I've changed publishers quite a bit. First Russian Hill Press, then Simon & Schuster, then Doubleday. Knopf for my YA novels is my most stable relationship: six or seven years and five novels so far. And I'm developing a good, long-standing thing with TransWorld, my UK publisher, who now publishes original adult novels I still haven't sold here in the U.S.
I've been with my agent, Laura Rennert, since late 2003. And I feel like that relationship just gets better. Even when sales are slumpy, she believes in me completely...and lets me know it. It's very heartening. I wish all authors had that support.
Do you have any writing quirks? Any tricks you personally use to pull yourself out of any slumps?
I always assume that a slump has a purpose. If I can't get going again on a novel, I take that as an indication that I'm moving in the wrong direction. That helps a lot, though not always instantly.
Surely you must work on multiple projects at once, as prolific as you are…how many are you working on now? How do you successfully juggle?
Seriously? I don't even walk and chew gum at the same time. I manage to be "serially prolific." Not sure how, but I think obsessive-compulsive behavior works in my favor.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Fourteen pages. Or six to eight hours on the trail in the great outdoors, looking over Half Dome or the Grand Canyon. These are my separate but equal perfect days.
…I really wasn’t joking when I said Catherine’s one of the absolutely most approachable authors out there…Head on over to her website and blog—send her a message, leave her a comment, or check out how to get some of her signed author swag. Check out her reader slideshow project—she’s actively looking for new photos now! And whatever you do, don’t leave this interview without reading her Five Ways to Jumpstart the World. (I especially love #4).
Friday, November 5, 2010
What does have me all wound up is that the incredible Catherine Ryan Hyde will be making a stop to the blog on Monday!
Thursday, November 4, 2010
For instance, the incredible writers who took time out to blurb by book—I want to celebrate their work, too…
Today, we’re talking to Brian Katcher, author of PLAYING WITH MATCHES and ALMOST PERFECT. (YA is such a predominately female genre, I find myself absolutely relishing work from the male POV. I especially love the way Brian can address such serious subject matter with a dose of humor. Trust me—that ain’t easy.) Brian’s got a new book in the works, too (and those of us who are familiar with his previous books will be (as we might say in the Ozarks) chomping at the bit for the new release!
Congrats on the sale of you next novel, MYSTERIOUS WAYS! Can you tell us about it, or are you just going to BE mysterious?
Sixteen-year-old Katrina Aiden does not have a great life. Her parents think her dreams of art school are ridiculous, and have recently driven her older brother out of the house. Katrina's best friend, Darren, is the biggest geek to ever hurl a ten-sided die...so why is she suddenly jealous when he starts dating the fattest girl at the Fantasy Shop?
Enter Jonah. Jonah claims that the internet does not report reality, it controls reality. People believe whatever they read online, regardless whether it's true. Jonah demonstrates this by starting internet rumors and planting false news stories to get Katrina and Darren out of a couple of jams. Too late does Katrina realize that Jonah expects payback. Jonah wants revenge on those who've wrong him, and Katrina is going to help, whether she wants to or not.
I knew shortly after birth that I wanted to be a writer…but you began writing a little later on in life…How did you come to write that first book? What made you think you had a book in you?
2001. I was broke and broken-hearted in Puebla, Mexico, my girlfriend having just decided to move to Germany. Since the Zapatista Rebels had recently become a political group and were no longer accepting new recruits, I did the only logical thing...decided to write a book. I was 25.
What was the path to publication like with PLAYING WITH MATCHES? And what was the development process like? Were you a ball of nerves as the release neared, or did you just celebrate?
I had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, I managed to find a great writers' group that helped me get my thoughts in order. After that, it was the typical story of rejection after rejection, form letter after form letter. I was about ready to shelve MATCHES when I entered it into a contest. It didn't win, but caught the attention of an editor, who helped me work out the many remaining issues (thanks, Claudia).
Ball of nerves? Not really. I guess I kind of never expected it to really happen in the first place, even after I got paid. It just seemed so unreal, that any minute someone would say 'Sorry, looks like it won't be published.' I didn't even tell a lot of people until after it was in print.
Writing’s a career that has some serious ups and downs…and that doesn’t end with your first publication, either! What’s been the highest high and the lowest low since PLAYING WITH MATCHES was released?
The high: Coming back to my old high school to talk to the reading club. It was a great honor to be invited back, especially considering what a vandal and thief I was as a teen. The low point? After both MATCHES and ALMOST PERFECT came out and made the Best Books for Young Adult lists, I thought I could do no wrong. That's why it was so jarring when my third book was rejected. It made me realize that no matter how successful you become, people still expect high quality work from you. I still haven't given up on EVERYONE DIES IN THE END, A ROMANTIC COMEDY, though.
How does writing compare to other jobs you’ve held—currently, or in the past?
Writing, getting paid to do something I love...nothing can compare with that. I really enjoy teaching, though, and the year I worked in a group home was also rewarding. My other jobs: fry cook, market researcher, plastic molder, sample cook, telemarketer, usher, and security guard don't come anywhere close.
How does life experience play into your writing? For example, does being a parent or librarian change the way you depict parents or school faculty in your novels?
Well, anyone who knew me in high school realizes where Leon Sanders from MATCHES came from. And a lot of the places I write about are real life locations. As for portraying schools and parents in books, I find most teens don't want to hear about how adults only want what's best, and someday they'll think us. That being said, I hate it when YA authors introduce adult villains for the sake of having bad guys. Sometimes I read a book and think 'If I were the principal of that school,' I'd call that teacher on the carpet for being so unprofessional.
Fifty years down the line: Still writing?
Hell, yes! Not even the grave will stop me.
We met at Teen Book Mania in Springfield last summer (my first author event ever!)…The day went smoothly…but did you ever have an event that didn’t? What’s the funniest, weirdest, or goofiest thing that’s ever happened at an author event?
My first couple of library events in St. Louis, no one showed up. Kind of humbling. Reminded me of that scene in THIS IS SPINAL TAP, when the puppet show got top billing over the band.
Writing can be your absolute best friend…and, at other times (when you’re strapped to the keyboard to meet a deadline), it can be the most demanding thing in your life. Are you glad writing’s a part of your life now? What does writing add that other jobs, etc. never could?
I love writing. However, it sometimes feels like I'm working two jobs. Whenever I have free time, I know that I should be parked in front of my computer, coming up with new chapters. It makes me feel guilty for enjoying myself. Wouldn't trade it for anything, though.
We’re both Missouri people…what’s your favorite thing (or biggest pet peeve) about the area?
Favorite thing: Best damn sports teams and fans in the world. Worst thing: Sometimes I feel like I live on the edge of nowhere. I've corresponded with so many neat people since I became a writer, but most of them live out of state.
What’s the biggest challenge for you as a writer?
Finding the time to write, while not neglecting my teaching or family duties. Luckily, I have summers off.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a writer?
When someone writes me and says they enjoyed one of my books. Nothing compares to that.
What quality to admire most in other writers?
Making it look so easy.
If you go back to the person you were when you drafted PLAYING WITH MATCHES and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you say?
You're not writing your autobiography here. Also, they stopped making Vegas in the 1970s (a reader called me on a reference to a 1980 Vega in MATCHES).
What’re you going to do immediately after this interview?
Pick up my wife from work. I'm late as it is.
…Man, I love the title EVERYONE DIES IN THE END, A ROMANTIC COMEDY! I certainly hope that one finds a publishing home…and I can’t wait for MYSTERIOUS WAYS…
In the meantime, be sure to check in with Brian at his website…
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
When I was a little girl grocery shopping with my mom, I had to have a new Little Golden Book before we checked out. Nothing's changed...my hand still grabs a new paperback before leaving Walmart, Walgreens, etc. (I've discovered some incredible authors in bizarre places...Actually, I kind of like finding titles in non-bookstore locals!)
Looking forward to talkin' books with fellow lit junkies! Head on over: Holly on Goodreads.