Happy February, fellow book lovers! Each Tuesday in this, “the month of love,” I’ll be celebrating one of our greatest loves, YA fiction, by interviewing an author of one of 2016’s BEST YA DEBUT NOVELS.
Today’s Must-Read Debut YA Author is. . .
The talented and super-smart Kristy Acevedo who, in addition to writing YA fiction, works as a high school English teacher and is a huge Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter fan.
Consider (Holo Series #1) is set to release in April 2016.
Why Consider is a must-read:
Great writing, a distinctive voice, holograms, “a girl with anxiety disorder meets the end of the world,” and chapter one kicks booty–check out the excerpt here.
Eve: Kristy, your debut novel, Consider, has already won the prestigious PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery (CBD) Award. Congratulations on this well-deserved win. How did it happen?
K.A.: Funny story. 2015 had record breaking snow in New England. I was home from teaching due to a snow day, and Michelle from my critique group texted me about the award, telling me the deadline was soon. I had the extra time, so I put a package together and walked three blocks through ridiculous snow banks, literally falling twice, to the post office. A month later, I got a call that I won.
The same week that I won the CBD award, I also got the call from TJ da Roza, Editorial Director for Jolly Fish Press, offering a two-book deal.
Talk about an amazing week.
Eve: What made you fall in love with your novel?
K.A.: Alexandra Lucas, the main character. Her honest struggle with general anxiety disorder and panic attacks, and the complex relationships in her life give the story a gradual depth that hits at gut level. Alex is strong, vulnerable, compassionate, flawed, and becomes the hero of the series. I love that. She also doesn’t need to kick butt or have a weapon in her hand to wield her strength. I think it sends a good, relatable message to people struggling in their own lives. The idea of recognizing the individual power you have to create change.
Eve: Your Twitter pitch for #PitMad [a way for writers & agents to connect through one-line pitches on Twitter] was genius: “If a hologram said it could save your life, would you believe it?” Okay, maybe that’s not a question, but care to comment?
K.A.: Normally for #PitMad, the advice is to focus on character in your short pitch and never pose a question. I broke the rules, and it worked out for me. The best advice I can give about #PitMad: Make sure your manuscript is finished and edited before participating. Ten days after submitting, I received “the call” offering a two-book deal.
Eve: What’s something you really hope people say after they read your book?
K.A.: I hope they finish reading and send me Tweets like:
WTF–I need book 2 NOW.
On a real note, I hope people read Alex’s story and find empathy for those struggling with anxiety disorders. I hope readers with mental health issues see Alex’s story as a step toward acceptance and courage.
Eve: You have a GORGEOUS author’s photo [see above. . . right?]. What was your experience with getting the author’s photo done? Who sets it up? Hair and makeup? Photographer? How do you decide which picture you like best?
K.A.: One of my best childhood friends, Jessica Lavoie, happens to be a NY model and photographer. She was visiting family back in Massachusetts and offered to do my author photo. Ha, I did my own hair and makeup, so it shows you how good she is 🙂
She sent me tons of digital photos using a special password, and I was able to heart my favorites to narrow it down. It was so hard, I asked friends for help, but my author photo popped out as the clear winner.
Eve: Who is one of your favorite fictional characters and why?
K.A.: Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. She thinks differently and doesn’t care what people think about her. I love people who know themselves and live their truth without needing the approval of others. It’s admirable to be unique and lovely under tough circumstances.
Eve: What’s your typical writing schedule? Do you reward yourself for meeting writing goals?
K.A.: I write 500 words a day minimum. I teach high school English full-time, so I usually write after 8pm. On vacations, I do writing marathons. My typical reward is dark chocolate or ice cream and Netflix.
Eve: Who came up with the title of your novel? Was it the same title you used when querying agents?
K.A.: I came up with CONSIDER early on. It refers to a repeating line in the text, and it’s thematic since the novel is thought-provoking.
For book 2 of the series, I couldn’t think of a good, companion title. Then the Apple commercial came on TV, the one where Robin Williams reads Walt Whitman’s poem. The line, “The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse” jumped out at me, and I thought, “CONTRIBUTE–that’s perfect.” Weird how inspiration works.
Eve: Many writers have dark moments while working on their novels, times when they’re not sure they’ll ever finish. If you encountered hurdles like this, how did you overcome them?
K.A.: For me, this happened as soon as I thought of the concept. It was so epic and big (two-book series with apocalypse and time travel), that it scared me as a writer. I didn’t feel ready to handle a story on that scale.
To overcome this fear, I broke up the story into a three-part structure and used small events in Alex’s life to represent the whole of society breaking down. The overarching structure gave me a framework to build on creatively.
Eve: How did you find your critique group?
K.A.: Four years ago, I was lucky to find a local critique group through NE-SCBWI [Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators]. Our group leader is non-fiction PB writer and school visit guru, Michelle Cusolito (repped by Jill Corcoran; michellecusolito.com), PB and MG writer, Peter Arenstam (author of several books, including The Mighty Mastiff of the Mayflower; peterarenstam.com), YA writer, Scott Blagden (repped by Rubin Pfeffer. Author of Dear Life, You Suck), and me, YA writer with a 2016 debut series.
Eve: Was there any particular epiphany you had while writing your novel when you said to yourself, “Hey, I can do this. I’m going to publish this thing.”
K.A.: Yes, I jumped out of a sound sleep with the missing link for the middle of the book that made everything finally click. I scribbled it into a notebook, went back to bed and thought, “Holy crap, this book works.” Like magically, every gear suddenly aligned, and I knew it could be something great.
Eve: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I enjoyed your answers.
K.A.: No one has asked those questions yet. It was fun.
Eve: Where can your fans reach you?