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.
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.
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.