KL Going – a personal favorite for Friday!

Joining us today is KL Going. Former editor for Curtis Brown and author of YA favorites with several picture books in the works! Welcome! www.tuesdaywriters.com

I love your writing, and I especially fell in love with Fat Kid Rules the World. Following the whole movie process was awesome. And the movie was terrific in so many ways. Of all your books, which one do you feel teens most connect with?

Thank you so much! The movie process was so much fun. Attending the premiere at the SXSW film festival in Austin, TX, will always be one of the highlights of my career.

I think Fat Kid Rules the World is definitely the title that teenagers connect with the most. Although many people think that the story is about a boy with a weight problem, it’s actually about a boy with a self-consciousness problem, and that’s something that so many people, regardless of their size (and even their age) can relate to. We all know what it feels like to be on the outside looking in, or to question whether we fit in with the status quo. I think Fat Kid has connected so well because it says, don’t worry about the status quo! The facades people wear aren’t telling you the truth about what’s hidden underneath, and if you look deeper you’ll find out what we all have in common.

What is the single most important piece of writing advice you’ve taken?

Omit needless words.

I learned this early on when I did a program in college called The Oregon Extension. They really drilled this classic advice (from Strunk & White) into us, and I practiced making my writing concise, forcing me to choose the most powerful words possible.

We’re a critique group, so we’d love to know your experience with them. What can you tell us?

I have a small critique group that I’ve kept up with for years. There’s just three of us, but my critique partners are invaluable! Honestly, finding people you trust who can give you feedback that goes beyond simply saying, “I liked this book” or “I didn’t like this book” is a treasure. Many people are good readers, but they don’t know how to articulate why they feel a certain way, which is the most important feedback a writer can receive.

I also do professional critiques as a side job, and I always tell people not to invest in a professional critique until they’ve given their work out to at least one or two good readers for feedback. In my opinion, you’ll get the most from your investment when you’ve taken every single step possible on your own before paying a professional.

Having said that, when I do take on a critique job, I’m aware that the most important thing I can offer is my ability to see beyond the surface of a book. Years of experience as a writer and as someone who has worked in the publishing industry has taught me that often, what seems to be the problem is actually indicative of a larger element that’s out of line. For example, a lay reader might say, “I don’t like this particular character” and that’s valuable information, but in order to make significant changes, a writer needs to know what is happening on a deeper level that might make that character fail to connect with a reader. How does the character embody the Hero’s Journey? Is their backstory strong? What makes them sympathetic or unsympathetic? Are they driving the plot or is the plot driving them? Why do certain character choices work over and over again throughout literature (archetypes) while other character choices seem to fail no matter how skilled the writer might be (ie: passive characters)?

What is your writing schedule like?

I have a seven year old son, so I’ve just begun to get a writing schedule back in place. For years, when he was small, I settled for sporadic hours wherever I could find them. I spent a lot more time writing picture books since that’s what I was reading with him. (I have five picture books under contract, with two of them coming out next fall!) It was a huge challenge to learn to write in smaller blocks of time.

Now that he’s in school, I have the hours from 9 AM to 2:30 PM available, but almost every week there’s a day off or a sick day… Life happens! I have to remind myself that a messy, inconsistent schedule is better than no schedule at all.

What is your favorite part about a school visit?

I love visiting elementary school age children because they are pure enthusiasm. They have no inhibitions about telling you they loved your book, and they all want to be writers… They take in the message of a book and really think about what it means. Meeting young readers is such a wonderful reminder of why I write.

These days, I also do Skype visits, and I love having access to schools all over the world without having to leave my home. I recently did a Skype visit with a school in Saudi Arabia!

Of all your books, which is your favorite?

Tough question! I’d have to say that it’s The Liberation of Gabriel King. This book draws most heavily on my own life experience – not in the exact details, but in the emotional brush strokes. I also love the themes that this story has allowed me to discuss with young children. I’ve had kids send me their fear lists, and schools have made bulletin boards about how they intend to be Peace Warriors. I love that the book has become a tool for teachers to tie-in subjects like history, race, and activism. If I had to choose only one of my books to pass along, it would be this one.

Thanks for joining us today! If you haven’t read any of KL’s books, you need to get one right now! KL also has a book for YA writers: www.tuesdaywriters.com

Our Writing Playlists

Everyone knows that music helps create mood, but we wondered… How many of us actually listen to music while we write? And what kind of music do we listen to? If you’re a writer, do you have a writing playlist? We’d love to hear from you.

Faran FaganFaran: I actually put a lot of thought into the music I listen to when I write. If I’m creating an action scene, like a pivotal baseball game, I stick to heavy, fast-paced music with a lot of bass, like Eminem, All-American Rejects, old school rap like RUN DMC and the Beastie Boys, and grunge rock like Green Day and Social Distortion. Fast music with some angst gets my heart pumping like my characters’, which can make the scene more authentic. If it’s a slow scene, like a romantic moment or something sad, I like to turn on Cyndi Lauper, Norah Jones, or slow stuff from Michael Jackson—anything soft with a message about acceptance. Basically, I like to match the mood of my characters in that moment in the book, and music helps me do that. This, of course, could all just be a superstition. Angst for the memories.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: I have learned to write in whatever noise there may be. I have sat with a notebook in the middle of a My Gym kind of place with kids running around and parents sitting around the sides of the place talking about pediatricians and daycare while I wrote. I sat at my dining room table with my son watching Sesame Street while I wrote. I have written while my husband learns the words to a song or programs his keyboard to the opening chords of Van Halen’s Jump or Maroon 5’s Moves Like Jagger as he repeats those same chords over and over until everything is just right. I have written in my writing room, which is our Florida room, while music plays by our pool or the guys in the recovery house next door talk about their addictions. No matter what the noise, or music, I write because I have to, no matter what.

Melody Maysonet

Melody Maysonet

Melody: I love music, but I prefer to write in silence because sometimes I get caught up in how the music makes me feel rather than the words I’m putting down. I do make exceptions, however. When writing the climactic scene for my work in progress, I played Junip’s “Line of Fire” on repeat. There’s an underlying sadness and urgency to that song that was perfect for stirring up the desperate feelings of my characters.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: Sorry, Tuesday readers. I hate to be a party pooper, but I’m going to have to say that I do not listen to any music when I write. I usually have the television on, oftentimes listening to movies I’ve seen over and over again, or any kind of sports. I like the predictable language/dialogue in the background or the white noise from games.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: I don’t listen to any instrumental or lyrical music when I write. I listen to the music of the words coming out on the page. I edit as I go along, according to how those words sound to me. This does slow the process though, especially for a first draft. Perhaps I should strap a set of headphones on and bang away at the keys  like people do with weights at the gym.

Wrapping-Up and Revisiting Characters!

Hello Tuesdays!

Welcome to another edition of Wrap-it Up Wednesday!

As you all probably know by now, our group meets every Tuesday, thus our name. Whenever we begin our reads, some of us tell the group what we want them to be on the lookout for. These are things that in the back of our minds, we know something needs fixing or tweaking, but we can’t quite put our fingers on it. As I’ve stated previously here, it isn’t until we’re reading it out loud, that we hear what it is. We could read that same piece when we’re alone, for like fifteen to twenty times, and never pick up what needs fixing until we read it out loud with the group. Everyone has their own things that they’re focused on, because we’re all at different points in our Works-in-Progress. Even though we all have the same goal, we have to go through our own ways to get there. Every week, we rely on each other to help us out with feedback to make our work better.

As for me, the last few weeks have been a little strange. Normally, when I’m done with a book, I start a few new ones at once to see which one takes over. That’s the one that I’ll stick with. I did it this time as well, and something did jump to the front, a funny, scary book. Well, during this time, after getting a couple of chapters in, I was reminded that I had to get in some work for a possible sequel to Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies. So, I had to set aside my new work, to revisit the old. It’s funny, because I’d never written or thought about sequels before. So, while I started a new book, I had to keep in mind that there would hopefully be people that read the original.  The task at hand, would be to not beat the people who had read the original over the head with information about the first book, while also giving just enough information about the first book out, to get new readers interested, while not giving away spoilers.

I had a lot of fun doing it, and found it to be a good writing exercise as well. I even got to give it a test ride during class and felt good when there was positive reception to it. But, the most fun thing about it? Was getting to revisit characters, who I loved, and “catching up” with what they’d been up to since the first book ended.  It just felt really comfortable. Like visiting old friends. As I said, I’d never worked on sequels before, but I found myself really enjoying it. Things the characters did, and giving little winks to the people who had read the original. I can see why writing for a television series can be so rewarding. When you have these characters you enjoy so much, because they’re your creations and you love writing for, it’s great fun to see what exploits you can get them into next and the time after that and the time after that. I know that I have to write other books and want to, but there’ll always be a soft spot for revisiting this particular cast.

I don’t know how other writers feel when revisiting their characters, but I really had a great time reconnecting with mine.

Have any of you revisited your characters for new stories?

Tips from Faran-Flashbacks

I’m at the point in my new project where I’m about to add a flashback, so I thought why not toss that into the Delorean for Tuesday Tips.

delorean

Before we get started, I promise no mention of flux capacitors, Lybians or Lone Pine Mall (if you got that reference, you’re beyond cool)
flux
The first thing I’ll say about flashbacks is you want to be careful where you put them. You can’t put them too early because your reader won’t care enough about your character to muddle through a flashback.
 I’m on the sixth chapter and I think my reader’s ready for one.
 It’s a good idea to relate the Fb (flashback will be fb from now on due to laziness) to something going on in that part of the story.
 For instance, my main character just had an inciting incident due to his problem with anger.
anger
 The fb will show a time in his past that illustrated why he’s so angry. It may have been a childhood memory that pushes him into anger when faced with a tough situation from that point forward.
 Here’s an example (probably my favorite fb of all time and the catalyst for my using fbs): In “Ball Don’t Lie”, which is a book made into a movie, author Matt De La Pena names his main character “Sticky”.
ball-dont-lie
Sticky is not his real name, and the whole novel the main character refuses to be called anything but Sticky, even on the basketball cloudy.
A fb late in the book reveals that his mom called him sticky because when he eats ice cream, it sticks to his hands, and his mom calls him Sticky just before she commits suicide. Brilliant, right?
This fb is not only a huge revelation, but also connects us with the heart of the character.
Another reason I like fbs is they are the epitome of show don’t tell.
If you’re like me, you’re always trying to let the story tell itself without the infamous info dump. fbs are ideal for this because it’s a flash from the past that “shows” what happened.
You can also use fbs for further insight into supporting characters, which can be fun for both you and the reader.
Probably the neatest aspect of flashbacks is that after writing them, I get to know my characters even more. And if I learn more about my characters, chances are readers will too.
Faran
Oline-Cogdill-suspense-fiction-critic

Interview with syndicated Book Reviewer, Oline Cogdill

Oline-Cogdill-suspense-fiction-criticOline H. Cogdill reviews mystery fiction for Mystery Scene magazine, the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Publishers Weekly, Tribune Publishing and the Associated Press. Her mystery fiction reviews appear in more than 300 newspapers and publication sites worldwide. She blogs twice a week at MysterySceneMag.com. She has received the 2013 Raven Award from the Mystery Writers of America, the 1997 Pettijohn Award from the Sun Sentinel and the 1999 Ellen Nehr Award for Excellence in Mystery Reviewing by the American Crime Writers League. Oline was a judge for three years for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the mystery/thriller category and is a beloved lecturer at Sleuthfest.

JB: How did you get involved in being a critic?

OC: In 1990 I changed jobs at the newspaper. I wanted to do some writing so I asked the book editor if there was something I could review. He said he didn’t have anyone doing mysteries. I always loved mysteries. Even when I was nine I didn’t read Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys I went right to Agatha Christie and Rex Stout. The editor gave me five paperbacks, I reviewed them, the column ran and the next month he gave me more. A few weeks later that column ran and before I knew it, the column was running every week.  I started doing between one and six book reviews a week then he moved me into hardcovers.

JB: Do you ever read for pleasure?

OC: I know someone who reviewed for another newspaper that got burned out and left the business but I find every book I read is a pleasure. I love it. If I didn’t I’d quit. I get so much enjoyment out of it. I take it very seriously. It bothers me when reviewers are amateurish and they don’t review in earnest.

JB: Book reviews are rampant on the internet. Who should readers trust with a review?

OC: We have gone into a crisis of ethics. Lots of unethical people are doing reviews. Some of the reviews are so bad, you wonder if they even read the book. People with agendas are posting critiques on Goodreads, Amazon and blogs where the reviewer just wanted a free book.  Some authors buy book reviews to help boost their numbers.

I would trust reviewers with a legitimate newspaper or magazine.  Tom Nolan at the Wall Street Journal does good reviews, as does Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times.  There are some bloggers out there that offer good book reviews. Kristopher Zgorski at BoloBooks.com and Dru Ann of DrusBookMusings.com both do.

I once read a review where the reviewer had heard the author talk about his book while it was being written. As anyone who writes knows, you start with one idea, but you frequently end up with something different. Part of what the author had talked about was in his book, but the whole novel wasn’t about that subject. The reviewer had no idea about the creative process and gave a horrible critique for a good book because it wasn’t what he wanted written. Talk about an agenda!

JB: In our critique group we have a method of critiquing when someone reads a chapter. What’s your process in reviewing a novel?

OC: I don’t look at any other reviews out there until I’ve finished mine and filed it because I don’t want any outside influence. I read every word and I take notes as I’m going. If it’s not an advanced reading copy, I  take the book cover off so I don’t have the author staring at me. I look for the plot of course, but more than that I look for how much it connects me with the characters. There are only so many plots out there. It’s all about what you do with the characters. I look for things that are fresh and original. It bothers me when established authors fall into a pattern of using a template where they just fill in the blanks. For that reason, I love debut authors and series characters.

JB: Last year at Sleuthfest you talked about how you liked author CJ Box and his Joe Pickett series. What is it about his writing that you like?

OC: There are two well-known authors who write mysteries about Park Rangers. I like how CJ Box looks at environmental issues and I like his writing voice.  He brings a human aspect to his characters. The characters are complicated and their problems aren’t easily resolved. His hero is a family man who struggles with family issues and not having enough money. Almost everyone can relate to that struggle so it brings a human element to all of the action going on in the story.

JB: Within a year, half of the Tuesday Writers were agented and published or pending publication. The other half are getting close. What’s your best advice for those hoping to be published?

OC: Treat it like a job. It’s hard work to get published so be realistic. Once you get to that point, do your own publicity. Get involved with social media. Visit local bookstores and libraries and events associated with your story.  If you write a children’s book about cats go to functions and libraries for children, attend a cat show. There is no magic formula. It takes a while, don’t be discouraged.

JB: Is there anything else you would like us to know?

OC: I pick up every book I review with the hope that I will fall in love with it. My Best of the Year column due out in the Sun Sentinel this week will show the most outstanding novels. Check it out to find some that you might fall in love with too.

 

 

Long Journey Here

Hello Tuesdays!

How have you been? Has it really been almost a month since we last connected? Wow, does time fly! Let’s see what’s happened in the world since I last posted and try to figure out what would be appropriate for Fun Friday.

Hmmm….well, there were some deaths of famous celebrities from my youth, Florence Henderson and Ron Glass, which made me sad.

florenceron-glass

Thanksgiving happened and that made me grateful and appreciative.

happy-thanksgiving

Oh, there was the Presidential Election, but nobody really seemed to care too much about that one, so that came and went without a peep.

election-2016

So, let’s see, what else…OMG, I nearly forgot! I got a website done at HouseofRosen.Com AND my book appeared on AMAZON for the first time!

website-4amazon

You might be asking, “Jonathan, what’s the big deal about that, other than the disgusting, and shameless, self-promotion?”

disgusting

Well, I’m going to tell you.

It feels so incredibly surreal to me that this is happening. I know I joke about it a lot, but to see it all coming together, a step at a time, is mind-blowing. You put so much work and effort into a story, without ever knowing if it’ll pay off or not. In a way, you have to write just for you and then hope for the best. I’ve written around four manuscripts before Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies sold. (I know, I know, it’s nauseating how I worked that in, but you have to forgive me this month!) Anyway, each of those stories, I loved and felt really good about, but they just didn’t make it through. In a couple of them, I now see why and if I hope to attempt to rekindle them, I’ll have to make changes. In the other two, I still think they were good, but everything is subjective and I have to believe that it just wasn’t their time.

But, then comes the one which finally does make it. It’s such an odd sensation. Even disbelief. Each step of this one, I’ve tried to take in each thought and feeling. The acceptance from an agent. Then, the affirmation of your work from a publisher. Followed by an amazing feeling of seeing your name on a contract, with your book’s title on it. Setting up a website for yourself to showcase your work. And now, just this week, I actually saw my book for sale on AMAZON. Honestly, I really was a little numb when I first saw it. I stared at the page for, I don’t know how long, and smiled. It all started to feel real. And then, when a couple of friends posted photos of their purchase order, I couldn’t believe it. It was really happening. People were actually buying something that I wrote! Wow!

kirk-stunned (This is pretty much how I looked, only my toupee isn’t as good)

 

I needed to take that in, because each one of these things are going to be memories that I’ll have for the rest of my life. A few of my friends, including Melody and Stacie from The Tuesdays, have already had books published, and almost everyone has told me to sit back and enjoy this process, and that is exactly what I’m trying to do. I’m going to let it all happen and savor every little moment.

You see, while I hope to have multiple books out one day, I’ll never forget each and every experience I’m having with this one. No matter what, this will always be so incredibly special to me. And I thank you all for bearing with me in this repulsive display of emotion and happiness. But, please know that I’ve put in the time for this. I swear. So, just indulge me for the next few months, and then I promise to become one of those jaded authors, who are impressed by nothing.

But until then, I thank you all for sharing this ride with me and I’ll try to make it as tolerable for you as possible.

journey-road

 

Deal?

 

The Superpowers We Wish We Had

superheroesWhat superpower do you wish you had? Here are ours.

jonathan-headshot

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: If I had to pick one superpower, it’d probably be super-strength, and let’s please add in invulnerability to bullets! There are so many cool superpowers, like flight, which would be second, but in all of them, there are still ways that you are vulnerable and could get hurt or killed. I kind of don’t like the thought of getting hurt or killed, so with super-strength. I can not only go after the bad guys, but also feel a little safe about doing it.

Melody Maysonet

Melody Maysonet

Melody: When I played Dungeons & Dragons back in college, I always thought teleportation would be a great superpower for real life. In D&D, there was a chance you’d miss your mark and teleport into something solid (such as a mountain), thus dying instantly. My teleportation superpower wouldn’t have that drawback. In fact, there would be no drawbacks. I would snap my fingers, and voila!—easier than Dorothy clicking her heels. With teleportation, I could visit my family in Illinois as easily as I visit my friend in Florida. Or go to writing conferences in the blink of an eye. Or get home instantly after a long, hard day. What could be better?

Joanne Butcher

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: I would love to be able to speed read. I have a huge stack of books I want to read and I would love to zip through them. I suppose I could take a class in it, but I’ve heard you have to skip words to go faster and I don’t want to miss anything. I want to get every word!  It would be great to be able to type super fast too. I’m not one of those people who peck at a keyboard with one finger, but I’m not that fast, and there are a few chronic errors I make. If you’re a Fairy Godmother, please bestow these two superpowers on me. I’m sure it will pay off in your reading of The Tuesdays’ blog.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: I of course want a non-traditional superpower. I want the ability to heal the sick. I hope that doesn’t mean I have a Jesus complex. It’s just that since becoming a parent I hate those moments when my son is sick. When all you can really do is wait it out for the cold to pass or the fever medicine to kick in. And you look at that little face and you wish, more than anything, that you can take away the pain.

Faran Fagen

Faran Fagen

Faran: If I could have one superpower, I’d be a chameleon, like Rogue from X-Men or Peter Petrelli from Heroes. Their power enables them to “borrow” other people’s powers. I think it would be cool to try out all the different powers that were out there. Some of the cooler powers, though, would have to be the ability to read other people’s minds or to be invisible. I always wonder what people are really thinking and doing behind their public persona. I’d like to think they have the same insecurities, faults, and hopes as I do, and the only way to really know is with these superpowers.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: If I could have any super power, I’ve gotta say that I’d like to be able to talk to animals and have them talk back. I mean, if you’ve spent any time with me or in my house, I actually ‘talk’ for my dogs all the time. Three dogs. Three different voices. Different personalities. Different motivations. But how cool would it be to be able to talk to the possum that was throwing things at my dogs last night? And If I can’t have that, I’d like to never have to sleep.

Wrap-it-up Wednesday

Faran Fagen

There was some sharp writing this Tuesday, especially from Jonathan, but we all came away with ways to improve.
Wait a minute, isn’t that what critique groups are all about?
I batted lead-off with the first 10 pages of my second baseball-themed YA. Even though everyone agreed it was solid writing, each member of the Tuesday’s found ways for me to trim my first pitch. At times I tried to stuff in too much info for the reader, and my critique chums caught it.
I’m even going to throw out a piece of a car scene and use it later to go easy on the reader in the opening.
Joanne batted second and everyone agreed that her pacing and storyline are medically sound. But there were remedies to her character motivation, and she pumped too much blood into some of her descriptions, which included some riveting scenes of a downward spiral nature.
Stacie cast a spell as always with her latest YA. Her MC took the ice with power and life, and her character’s motivation to score the winning goal was authentic. Other than a few tweaks here and there, the only worthy suggestion was to trim a few repetitive internals in the second period.
As far as Jonathan, our clean up hitter, I couldn’t find anything to critique as far as his plotting, character development and funny quips. Nothing to change. He was so good, he blew me out of his house with his best curveball. Actually, I had to leave early, so I never heard his turn. It’s too bad, because normally I laugh my butt off when he reads.

Oh well. I’ll just have to buy his debut book once it’s out.

Happy Wednesday!

tension-novel-script-book

Tension on Every Page

I’m in the fourth revision of my current work in progress and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Something that I’m looking for at this point is tension on every page. It’s something we all strive for, so how do you make it happen?

Conflict

When conflict is high the reader doesn’t want to put a book down. conflict-for-novel-revisionMaking things urgent, unavoidable or immediate not only creates tension, it slows the reader down, making them not want to miss a word. Every scene needs to show conflict. Each scene should have a mini-arc of its own with an inciting incident, a rise in tension, a climax and resolution. Don’t let your character slip into a long period of contemplation, digesting what just happened. Leave things unresolved with lots of mixed feelings to ramp up the tension. Complicate and frustrate the goals of all your characters.

Suspense

suspense-in-fiction-writingSuspense comes from the knowledge that something bad is going to happen. It’s magnified tension. The reader needs to know that a pit has been dug and covered with fabric and leaves as the little girl is running down the path. For a reader to feel anxious they need to see what’s ahead, anticipate the disaster. Create scenarios where the reader knows what the penalties will be if your hero’s strategy fails, then make him fail.

Stakes

Stakes increase drama and excitement. Can you pinpoint exactly where the stakes escalate, forcing your character into a particular course of action with a higher propensity to fail than earlier? Stakes fall into two categories, personal and public. Both should be intertwined to create tension.

Personal Stakes                                                                                            raise-the-stakes-in-your-novel

Personal stakes matter only when the reader is sympathetic to them. As yourself why would I care about this character? We cared about Harry Potter because we didn’t want him to have to back to his nasty Aunt and Uncle and live under the stairs. Are the stakes high enough for your character? Joyce Sweeney has a great on-line class on revision in which she talks about Stakes. Joyce says stakes are what pushes your main character to do something different. Stakes make him change. When the stakes are high your main character is propelled and your reader can feel the discomfort in your hero.

Public Stakes

Great thrillers have grand public stakes like the water system being poisoned by a madman in a major city, but that doesn’t usually happen in real life. How do authors make it seem real? They use a grain of truth in the premise and expand from there. Mystery writers do it on a lesser scale bringing a hidden criminal to justice. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald made Jay Gatsby extremely wealthy, transporting us to a place where most will never be, then threatened to take it away. Fitzgerald created high public stakes by getting readers so involved in Gatsby’s personal world we felt like we were living it.

Creating tension on every page is a challenge. Knowing what a character has at stake, putting them in conflict and ramping up the suspense can have people saying “I couldn’t put that book down.”

Media Monday with Cyn Balog, author of Unnatural Deeds

Tuesday readers, I can hardly contain my excitement as I introduce our next guest. Please welcome Cyn Balog. Cyn and I haven’t officially met each other, but we share a publishing house and a love for YA books. I recently read her latest release, Unnatural Deeds, and I loved it! I asked her to speak to us about her writing. Let’s hear what she has to say. First, her bio…

Cyn Balog is a normal, everyday Jersey Girl who always believed magical things can happen to us when we least expect them. She is author of young adult paranormals FAIRY TALE (2009), SLEEPLESS(2010), STARSTRUCK (2011), TOUCHED (2012), and her most recent release: DEAD RIVER (2013).e. She lives outside Allentown, Pennsylvania with her husband and daughters.

She also writes under the pen name Nichola Reilly. Nichola Reilly is Cyn Balog’s post-apocalyptic fantasy-writing alter-ego. The first book in her series, DROWNED, will be releasing from Harlequin TEEN sometime in 2014, followed by a sequel, BURIED, in 2015.

cyn-balog

 

SR: I am so excited to have you on our blog today. I have to admit I read Unnatural Deeds in two days. I ignored my husband and my kids and even my dogs! Our being Sourcebook siblings and release-day-sisters aside, I loved your book.

unnatural-deeds

Enough of my fan-girling. Onto the questions.

Your book is about obsession. It’s a word we overuse and yet we each have known that feeling at least once in our lives and most times we view obsession as dangerous, but sometimes it can also be a good thing. In your book, does obsession serve the Victoria, the main character in the book, or does it harm her?

 

CB: Aw, thank you so much!! I loved THE HOMECOMING too! It made me cry, and not many books do that to me!

I think with Victoria, there was a point up to which her relationship with Z. was helpful to her, getting her to break out of her shell and do things out of her comfort zone, like try out for the school play. The only problem with that was that it caused her to rely too much on Z., and to see him as the source of all her happiness. I don’t think it’s a good thing to have one person mean so much to you that they can make or break your entire day, and while it’s happened to all of us, I think it’s a million times worse when that other person doesn’t feel the same way.

SR: I felt that same way, that in many ways he was exactly what she needed until it became too much. Do you feel there are certain people/characters that are more susceptible to falling under someone’s ‘spell’ like Victoria does when she meets Z?

CB: Oh yes, people who have a hard time making connections with others are more susceptible. They realize those connections are not easily made, so when they do make one, they tend to guard it, sometimes so fiercely that they can break it, like Victoria does.  I totally don’t write this from experience or anything (grin).

SR: Know what you mean. But back to the questions. The story, itself, is a letter, written from Victoria to her boyfriend, Andrew. How did that particular structure serve the story?

CB: It wasn’t that way at first, because the particular twist ending wasn’t always the ending. Once my agent suggested the current ending, it made complete sense for her to be confessing to Andrew, since he’s always been her best friend and confidant. Part of her feels guilty for betraying him, but part of her is just happy to recount the story and tell someone what happened.

SR: Throughout the story, you intersperse news articles, and police interviews, and yet, none of these give away the surprising ending. Can you talk about how you managed that?

CB: I have no idea. Ha ha. I had about 10-15 published authors read this book and give me feedback. And then my editor read a few parts of it and suggested some things that were giving away too much or not telling enough. Then the copyeditor, as well. I think that was the most challenging thing—to try to get into the mind of my reader and see what they might be thinking as they’re reading the story, especially considering I’ve read the book 4 billion times and know how it ends. BUT, the good thing about interviews is that they’re each based on just one viewpoint and there will be plenty of conflict, since none of them is entirely reliable, which really helped to keep things in the dark.

SR: Now onto the ending. Wow. When you write a story, do you always have the ending in mind? Does it change as you develop the story?

CB: I DID have an ending in mind for this book, unfortunately, it was not the one I ultimately went with. This book was originally supposed to be a simple contemporary issue book about a girl getting obsessed, it leading to tragedy, and her having to get her life back together again. I thought that would help a lot of teens would connect to that story, especially since first loves have a tendency to sometimes grow obsessive. But it spiraled away from that, and when my agent suggested the new ending, it was almost like my subconcious had been telling me that was how it needed to end, because it required very little doctoring to make that ending work.

SR: I love the ending. It felt really satisfying and also inevitable. Although I’d love to get an idea of the alternate ending now! Now onto writing. As far as your writing routine, do you write every day? Do you have special writing rituals?

CB: Oh, gosh no. I hear that all the time, “In order to be a writer you MUST WRITE RELIGIOUSLY.”  Maybe some people need to. But me? I started writing books when I was 5 year old. It comes more naturally to me because I’ve been doing it so long.  When I meet someone, I am usually thinking of how I would describe him in a novel, or when I’m talking to someone I’m thinking of how I would write that as dialogue. If you get to that point in your life (you’ll likely be insane, but) you won’t have to write every day because writing will kind of be a part of you. Not to say I haven’t written A LOT. To get to that point in life, you have to have put in the time. But now, I have a full-time job and kids and other demands, so I do not actually sit in front of a keyboard every day.

 

SR: Your control on the page as you navigate very complex situations and relationships is amazing. I read the book once as a reader and am now re-reading it as a writer, as kind of a master class. Do you teach writing workshops? And if so, can you share the whens and hows so we can all sign up?

CB: Thank you! I honestly don’t feel like I am best equipped to teach writing workshops. I did speak at a number of conferences when my first book came out, but the more I did that, the more I realized I still have so much to learn, myself. Even though I started when I was so young, I feel like I will never be done learning. Plus, I’m shy—I’d much rather be in the student end of the classroom, than the teacher!

SR: Do you have any writing advice to people trying to break in?

CB: The only key is persistence. My daughter is 10 and said to me that she wants to be a published author, one day, too. I told her that the great thing about writing novels is no one will ever tell you you’re too young. You just need to put in the time. Yes, there may be people out there who are graced with the talent to compose bestselling novels in their sleep, but I am not one of them, and most people aren’t, either. Learn the mechanics, then read, read, read, write write write, emulate the authors you love, until you can write your own stories. Then send your stuff out. Keep sending it out. Do not quit. As easy advice as it is, the process will be hard. But nothing worthwhile is ever easy (unless you are one of those few who can compose bestselling novels in her sleep!).

SR: What’s your favorite Netflix series or binge? And why?

CB: I don’t watch TV!!  I used to watch The Walking Dead up until last season but they lost me after some pretty gimmicky plot twists. Glenn hid under the dumpster? Come on. I hate plot twists!! Oh, wait…

SR: Yeah, I gave up on The Walking Dead after a couple of seasons because I was like who wants to live in this zombie filled world?

This may be an indelicate question, (but I asked Jeff Strand this so I feel compelled to ask you) can you tell us your numbers? Specifically how many books, stories, and anthologies you’ve written or been part of?

CB: Oh, gosh, hundreds? I have enough trunk manuscripts to fit under a dozen king-size beds. Like I said, I think I’ve put in the time! I can even direct you to the books I wrote as a kid . . . like the one about the cat detective, or the YOUR BUILDING IS ON FIRE Choose Your Own Adventure book. Some of them are truly, truly awful. I don’t consider that to be time wasted, though . . . every book I wrote got me closer to becoming published. Like I said . . . persistence is key!

I 100% agree! Thanks so much for joining us today, Cyn, I think our readers will get a lot out of this interview.

Readers, leave a question in the comments section and we’ll see if we can get it answered.