The Truth about Diverse Books I Read in 2016

diverse-books-2016

Hello, fellow book junkies! See that collage of books up there? Those are the diverse books I read in 2016. As I reflect on this topic, two key things come to mind:

#1 What exactly is a diverse book?
My friend Naz @ Read Diverse Books explores this topic well in his post here, where he defines diverse books as those which “represent the variety of voices traditionally marginalized and underrepresented in the (Western) publishing industry.” Elsewhere on the ‘net I ran across a definition of diverse books as including books written by authors from minority backgrounds.

#2 I must read more diverse books!
During the course of the past year, I thought I had read many more diverse books, but as I reviewed the list, I was surprised that only 12% of them qualified as books written by minority authors and/or representing marginalized voices. I love fiction that explores new cultures and alternate ways of perceiving the world. Expanding awareness is one of my favorite things, so toward that end, I will make a concerted effort to read more diverse books in 2017.

Without further adieu, here are the diverse books I read in 2016.

Books written by authors from minority backgrounds:

Angelfall by Susan Ee (Korean-American author)

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (African-American woman and the queen of modern poetry)

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi (Filipina/Indian-American author, Indian mythology)

Legend & Prodigy by Marie Lu (Chinese-American author)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Afghan author, story set partly in Afghanistan)

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexican-Canadian author, story set in Mexico)

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh (Scottish/Korean-American author, Middle Eastern setting)

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older (Latino author, Afro-Latina main character)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Indigenous American author)

Books representing marginalized or underrepresented voices:

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (fat main character)

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson (transgender main character)

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Asperger’s main character)

Timekeeper by Tara Sim (gay main character)

Wonder by R. J. Palacio (main character born with facial deformity)

I am especially interested in reading more books that feature bisexual female characters. If you have any to recommend, I’d love to hear about them.

–Eve Messenger

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Writing a Book is Hard #amwriting

Writing a book is hard. Wait, let me clarify: writing a good book is hard. The thing to remember is that people do it. People actually publish books, good ones–even while working full-time, even while raising families. Publishing a good book is doable and worthwhile. But it takes

A

Lot

Of

Work.

Start Your Book

First you need to come up with a story, something unique that can grab readers (and agents) in an elevator pitch of 15 words or less. Yes, you’ll need to write that elevator pitch and synopsis, but first the book…

You must decide how to start.

If you’re a natural-born plotter and/or smart enough to learn how, you plot your story in great detail before beginning to write the actual book.

On the other hand, if you’re a pantser, your book-writing journey will be much longer. If, like me, the only way you can come up with story ideas is by letting them flow organically while writing, so be it.

In other words, pantsers:

  • write a lot of pages just to get an understanding of the story and characters.
  • Read through all that pre-writing, take notes, plot everything in a way that makes sense.
  • Then write the real first draft.

-You create characters, each with their own quirks, histories, fears, goals, and desires–and conflicts, especially conflicts, both external and internal.

-You write all three acts of your book, yes, all three, even when you reach act two and realize, whoah, a book is big, so super big, way bigger than the original story idea I had. At this point you remind yourself that you are not a bad writer, you are not a bad writer, you are not–that the first draft is always bad. Verify this by reading what all published authors say. (ALL writers say their first drafts are bad.)

-You write all the scenes for your book, all of them, around a hundred. You ensure that each scene has a dramatic arc and an emotional arc and that the pacing is right–not too slow, not too rushed.

-You make sure your book falls within the standard word count for your genre, aware that agents and publishers are more receptive to first books with word counts that fall into the lower range. You remain calm as you logically deduce that the reason publishers prefer shorter books from first-time authors is so they don’t waste as much money on you in case your book bombs.

Revise Your Book

  • You rearrange all the scenes in your novel until the narrative makes sense. You add scenes, delete scenes, and completely rewrite scenes.
  • You make sure dialogue for each and every character is distinctive and packs a punch.
  • You craft your story in such a way that it’s not too ambiguous but also not too on the nose because you’re aware readers like figuring out things on their own.
  • While editing your book, you take multiple passes through it, each time focusing on only one or two elements to avoid becoming mired in an overwhelming mass of details that will make you. . .

Losing mind - businesswoman

Maintain Sanity

Balance is everything. While writing and editing, you maintain your sanity through:

  • social interaction
  • commiserating with fellow writers
  •  physical exercise
  • spiritual whatever.

Work with a Critique Partner (CP)

After you’ve written, revised, and brought out the shine in all elements of your novel, you hand your manuscript over to another person, preferably a critique partner (CP). But first, you must find said CP. This means putting yourself out there on social media, websites, local writers’ groups, workshops, wherever you can find fellow writers/potential CPs who understand your genre and are willing to swap full novel critiques.

You must read other people’s works in progress (WIPs) so they will read yours. It’s a fair exchange, and the time is well spent. When critiquing someone else’s work, not only are you helping out another writer, you are learning a LOT about what makes a manuscript work.

You make more changes to your novel based on CP feedback. 🙂

Work with Beta Readers

You send your manuscript out to beta readers. Again, you need to do the legwork first. Interact with fellow book lovers on blogs, Goodreads, wherever readers of your genre dwell in the wild. When your book is ready, summon the courage to ask those people if they’d like to read and provide feedback on your novel.

Make further revisions to your novel based on beta reader feedback. 🙂

Read, Read, Read

All the while, you read as many published novels as you can, not only because you love to read, but also to gain an understanding of what’s being published in your genre, what the trends are, and to get ideas on what you’d like to strive for and avoid in your own writing.

Research Literary Agents

In between all the writing, editing, and networking, you also research potential literary agents. And they can’t be just any agents. They must be agents who: represent the kinds of books you write, are good at what they do, are open to queries. Which means:

  • Every time you pick up a novel, you read the acknowledgment page (often it’s the first page you turn to), keeping an eye out for agent shout-outs.
  • You visit promising literary agents’ Twitter accounts and blogs, agency websites, and check out their #MSWL (manuscript wish lists). And you do web searches for their interviews to ensure they’re looking for what you’re writing.
  • You create a free account on querytracker.net to check out what other querying writers are saying about agents you’re interested in.
  • You study agents’ submission guidelines and follow them to a T, fully aware (without letting it freak you out) that literary agents are so inundated they’ll look for any reason to reduce their submission load. This means that every detail of the query letter, email, manuscript format, synopsis, etc. that you send prospective agents must exactly conform to their specifications.

Network with Other Writers

You make friends in the writing community who will console you when you’re overwhelmed with how hard it is to write a book, especially when you need to write a synopsis, which means summing up your entire novel up in 1-5 pages. That is really hard.

Follow Your Favorite Authors (not required but, oh, so fun)

Another thing you’re probably doing—though not specifically required—is daydreaming and getting ideas for your own writing career by following your favorite authors; seeing what they’re up to on their blog and tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest,Vine, Goodreads, Facebook, maybe even meeting them at book signings (a thrill every writer and reader should experience).

Maintain an Online Presence

While writing, revising, networking, reading,and researching agents, you also maintain your own blog and social media accounts, hoping that by developing an online presence as an author you’ll look legit to future agents, publishers, and fans.

Whew, good luck. Write and publish that book!

–Eve Messenger

 

 

 

“My Intimidating TBR” Tag & A New YA Release I’m Dying to Read

My new friend, Sean @ KingdomBookBlog, gave me a fabulous reason to think about books by tapping me for this “My Intimidating TBR” book tag. If you would like to join in the fun, please consider yourself tagged!

1.) What book have you been unable to finish?

I’m sorry to say my only DNF of the past year was a book many people adore, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.

2.) What book have you yet to read because you just haven’t had the time?

So many books fall into this category! I’ll go with Legend by Marie Lu because I really want to read it! In fact, it’s been sitting in a TBR stack right here on my desk beside where I’m typing at this very moment, but poor Legend hasn’t made it to the top yet.

Legend (Legend, #1)

3.) What book have you yet to read because it’s a sequel?

I don’t think my blog would be my blog if I didn’t mention V.E. Schwab in at least every other post so, yes, the book I read because it was a sequel was A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. 🙂

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4.) What book have you yet to read because it’s a new release?

If I positively can’t wait to read a new release, I do this silly thing called BUY THE BOOK. However, there is a new book I’m dying to read but can’t since it’s not scheduled for release until September 2016–The Reader by Traci Chee. Protagonist Sefia vows to save her kidnapped relative, but rescue means learning to read in a world where literacy is forbidden.  A sample chapter is available here–you’ll need to scroll past several other sample chapters to get to it.

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5.) What book have you yet to read because you read a book by the same author and didn’t like it?

I can’t remember a specific book I went out of my way to avoid because it was written by an author whose writing I didn’t care for.

6.) What book have you yet to read because you aren’t in the mood?

Hmm, good question. Probably The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks. It’s the kind of whimsical, fantastical, well-written story I would enjoy, but something about the dense typeface gives me pause.

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7.) What book have you yet to read because it’s humongous?

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. At 579 pages it isn’t ridiculously long, but I’m a little on the fence about reading it–if it were shorter I would fall off the fence on the side of reading it. 🙂

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8.) What book have you yet to read because it was a cover buy with bad reviews?

I adore pretty book covers but don’t buy books purely based on them.

9.) Which book on your TBR is the most intimidating to you?

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)

–Eve Messenger

Delightful Interview with Roshani Chokshi, Author of The Star-Touched Queen

In honor of this week’s release of the gorgeous new YA novel, The Star-Touched Queen, I am re-Roshani at ALA Midwinter Conferencerunning a delightful interview I did with author Roshani Chokshi back in February.

 

Why The Star-Touched Queen is a Must-Read:

The Star-Touched Queen is one of the most talked-about YA debut novels of 2016 for good reason. Sarah J. Maas calls Rokshani Chokshi’s writing “flawless.” Then there’s Indian mythology, great world-building (trees that bear memories instead of fruit!?), a unique protagonist you want to root for, plus a cover so beautiful it makes you feel like you’re stepping into a dream.

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Interview with Rokshani Chokshi

Eve:   Roshani, YA fans are already talking about your gorgeous Pinterest page. Where did you find such beautiful pictures to represent The Star-Touched Queen?

RC: Thank you! I guess I got ridiculously lucky on Pinterest. But I also typed in strange things in the search box, like, “gothic jeweled fruit” and “bloody hands.” You’ll get some interesting stuff…

Eve:  What made you fall in love with your novel?

RC: I love this question! I fell in love with it because of its ease. It’s not a new story. It’s threaded with a thousand and one familiar tales, from fairytales to folklore all across the world. But what made me so excited about writing it was tweaking little things and pushing the worldbuilding farther.

Eve:  Are you planning a book tour? If so, what is a question you hope someone asks?

RC: Not sure yet! I know we’re doing a blog tour, and I’m very excited for that. I hope someone asks me what my job would be in the wizarding (and witches!) world of Harry Potter.

Eve:  Now I have to ask. . . What would your job be in the wizarding world of Harry Potter?

RC: I would love to be MINISTER OF MAGIC!!!  Thank you for asking. 🙂

EveThe publishing industry is a notoriously slow-moving machine. From writing to publication, how long was the “birthing” process of your book? What have some of the highlights been?

RC: From writing to sale…about two years. The highlights have been working with my agent and editor who have been incredible champions throughout all my doubts, rewrites and crazy revision ideas.

Eve:  Many YA writers also seem to be music lovers. Did you create a playlist for your novel and, if so, what are some of the songs on it?

RC: Yes! “Satellite” by Guster, “Nagada Sang Dhol” from the Bollywood film Ram-Leela and, don’t laugh, “679” by Fetty Wap. My brain is a many-fangled beast…
spotify:user:227tl52wwdhignryikiunkm2y:playlist:3hE4yTjI7YOKBSMDtrDRve

EveYour eclectic song choices make me want to read the book even more! Speaking of music, YA authors Libba Bray, Natalie Standiford, Barnabas Miller, and Daniel Ehrenhaft have been known to perform at publishing industry events with their band, Tiger Beat. If you were in an authors band, what instrument would you play?

RC: Glass harmonica. It’s just so strange. I must possess it.


Eve:  I LOVE the glass harmonica. Great pick. . .  What are some books you recently read that you loved?

RC: UPROOTED by Naomi Novik recently ate my soul (in the best way possible) and I also loved RADIANCE by Catherynne Valente.

Eve:  Having an online presence is a big deal for writers. How do you balance writing and social media?

RC: I think putting my phone on Do Not Disturb has been the most helpful. Maybe it’s just me, but I  can get anxious on social media. So, if I’m not careful, it can take up way more hours of my day than it should.

EveIn the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

RC: Very much!!! But that’s part of the beauty of writing. We want it to be read, seen and felt. So taking that first step with beta readers and critique partners is a wonderful and terrifying moment.

Eve:  Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

RC: Yes. I found them on sites like Ladies Who Critique or Twitter!

Eve:  Your novel has such an evocative title. Who came up with the title, The Star-Touched Queen? Was this the same title you used when querying agents?

RC: When I queried agents, I used the title “THE GLASS GARDEN.” After signing with my agent, we sold the book when it was titled THE BRIDE OF DUSK AND GLASS. AFTER selling, we changed it to THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN thanks to the geniuses over at MacMillan.

Eve:  What’s your typical writing schedule? Do you reward yourself for meeting writing goals?

RC: I try to get most of my writing done in the morning-early afternoon. The light in myRoshani Chokshi fave reward cadbury bar favorite room is at its softest, and it makes me feel deliciously inspired. I do reward myself! Every 1k gets me half a Cadbury bar. I do, however, frequently break these rules…what are rules for after all…

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?

RC: When I get this way (and it does happen), I read my favorite books. I return to the worlds of Neil Gaiman, Laini Taylor and Catherynne Valente. I let them guide me back to why I love writing.

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.”

RC: No, actually! And I WISH I DID! When I finished TSTQ, there was a great surge of “wow. I did the thing!” But that was what I was celebrating. Not the idea that I could actually find it on bookshelves one day.

Eve:  Lately, YA book lovers seem to be saying there is an overemphasis on romance in YA fiction. What are your thoughts on this?

RC: I love reading romance in YA. But I don’t think it’s critical to a plot. There are some books, like SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo, which deftly handle characterization and takes the focus away from the characters’ romantic entanglements. Other beautiful books, like ALL OUR PRETTY SONGS by Sarah McCarry, have romance but focus on the friendship and the experience of growing. I have no problem with romance, but I personally prefer books where romance is not the ONLY motivation for the character.

Eve:  Who are some of your favorite fictional characters and why?

RC: Howl, from HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE because he was vain and wonderful and my first serious book boyfriend.    Howl from Howl's Moving Castle

Kaye, from Holly Black’s TITHE because she was fierce and gritty.      Kaye from Tithe

Razgut, from Laini Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy because he was pitiful and deranged and wildly funny.

Eve:  What’s something you really hope people say after they read your novel?

RC: I hope they forget they were reading. I hope they think they’ve tasted fairy fruit and fallen in love and spent time wandering through Otherworldly palaces.

Eve: Best of luck to you, Roshani. Ever since I read your short story, The Star Maiden, in Shimmer magazine, I knew you’d be a great success. Thank you for all your fantastic answers to my questions.

RC: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about writing. I deeply appreciate it.

Eve: Where can your fans reach you?

RC: Pretty much everywhere!

 

 

Interview with Brenda Drake, YA Author & #PitchWars Rock Star #amwriting #amreading

Brenda Drake is a rock star of the writing community. In addition to being a fabulous YA writer in her own right, Brenda is known by authors far and wide as the mastermind behind the Twitter writing contest phenomenon known as #pitchwars. This year saw the publication of Brenda’s YA novel, Thief of Lies, which has a concept book lovers everywhere will adore: characters who time-jump between the world’s most beautiful libraries. Brenda was kind enough to take a moment out of her busy schedule to answer questions about the new book.

Brenda Drake Author Photo1

Interview:

Brenda, you’ve interviewed MANY writers and other industry professionals as part of your involvement in the amazingly successful phenomenon known as Pitch Wars. As a writer who has just released her first book, how does it feel to be on the other side?

It feels great! It’s been such a long journey, but I’ve been distracted enough by the contests and celebrating other writers’ successes that it almost flew by. The community has been so wonderful to me, and I love giving back to writers. I’m humbled by the generosity of the mentors and the participants behind Pitch Wars. It’s been a great run!

What made you fall in love with your novel?

So many things made me fall in love with it. First, there’s the libraries and the ability to jump through pages and end up in another beautiful library anywhere in the world. Then there’s the characters, especially Gia. I’ve been in Gia’s head for so long, she feels real to me.

The publishing industry is a notoriously slow-moving machine. From writing to publication, how long was the “birthing” process of your book? What have some of the highlights been?

This story has taken a long journey. Full of mistakes that took me off the path and on detours before bringing me back to the right road. I started writing this book in 2009. It’s seen me through changing agents and publishers. There were heartbreaking moments and many highlights. I think going through editing and molding the story to what it is today was definitely a one highlight. And when a reader loves your work, that’s a wonderful feeling. I try to tune out the negative now, though it’s hard. I have to say, my journey is what it was supposed to be. It’s what molded me into who I am today. And I couldn’t be more thankful.

The best writers are also huge readers. What are some books you recently read that you
loved?

I’ve been reading many of the Pitch Wars mentors’ books lately. Everyone should try them. They are so good! If you want to try them, they’re listed on my website on the sidebar. You’d be happy you did. A book other than from my Pitch Wars friends? I finished Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Loved it! It was so amazing. You all should read it.

Having an online presence is a big deal for writers. How do you balance writing and social media?

Lately? Poorly. I’m sort of all over the place nowadays, and I just hop on social media during breaks. When I don’t have so much going on, I schedule my day. In the morning, I grab coffee and do social media while I’m waking up. Then I write, hop on social media during lunch, run errands, or clean if I have to. When I’m done, I write until dinner. I’ll usually hop on again at night if there’s nothing going on or haven’t passed out.

In the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

I was terrified about sharing my work with others. I would take critique personally and want to give up. It was horrible. Then I grew up. Now, I tell my critique partners not to sugar coat their critiques of my work. I take it with a shot of whiskey and dive in.

Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

I have a small group of critique partners. I found them online. I met one during NaNoWriMo and the others during my contests. I don’t meet with a group here where I live. It’s all online. I have met my critique partners in person at conferences. They are my writer soulmates and I feel like I’ve known them all my life.

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?

I’ve been through many dark times. I can fall into a depression that will take me time to get out of, so I’m careful. I change my setting – go to a Barnes and Noble or Starbucks to write. If that doesn’t work, I reach out to my writing friends who understand what I’m going through. After I talk it out and get in a better mood, I can jump (pun intended) over those hurdles and plow through what I have to get finished.

Bio:

Brenda Drake is the author of Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers Book 1) and Touching Fate (Fated Series Book1) both available now from Entangled Teen. She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up are of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Links:

brenda-drake.com
Twitter: @brendadrake
Instagram: @brendadrakeauthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrendaLeeDrake
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7012713.Brenda_Drake

 

Best YA Debut Novels of 2016. Giveaway & Author Q&A: Kathryn Purdie – Burning Glass @KathrynPurdie #amreading

Hello, book lovers! As a special salute to this month’s Q&As with authors of 2016’s BEST YA DEBUT NOVELS, this final February interview includes a special GIVEAWAY of book swag from Kathryn Purdie’s debut novel, Burning Glass. For a chance to win, all you have to do is “like” this post before Saturday 2/27/16. The winner must also be willing to provide a mailing address so I can, you know, send you the swag. 🙂

Today’s Must-Read YA Debut Author Is . . .

Kathryn Purdie who, in addition to her obvious talent for writing, is a classically trained actress. Kathryn was inspired to write the Burning Glass debut trilogy while recovering from donating a kidney to her older brother.

Kathryn Purdie

Why Burning Glass is a Must-Read:

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An immersive page-turner with luscious writing and a complex heroine. Because of Sonya’s unique ability to physically and emotionally feel what those around her feel, she is forced into the employ of the emperor where she must protect him by sensing the intentions of would-be assassins.

The Interview

Eve: What made you fall in love with your novel?

K.P.: How surprising and flawed Sonya is as a character. She constantly shocked me and delighted me as I wrote her. Her unpredictability is my favorite thing.

Eve: When is your book’s official release date?

K.P.: My book releases March 1st. I haven’t seen the finished copy yet. I’m on pins and needles!

Eve: Many writers also seem to be music lovers. Did you create a playlist for your novel and, if so, what are some of the songs on it?

K.P.: I LOVE music, but I can’t listen to vocal music while I write, or I just want to sing along! So I write to soundtracks. I wrote almost all of BURNING GLASS to the film score of BELLE by Rachel Portman. The best vocal song that embodies the mood of BURNING GLASS is “Can’t Pretend,” by Tom Odell. I allow myself to listen to it while I revise, because revisions take less brainpower than drafting for me (so the vocal music isn’t so distracting).

Eve: Speaking of music.. . included in your book swag is a novel-inspired song you wrote and performed called “Song for Anton.” Clearly you are a musician. If you were in an all-authors band (like YA authors Libba Bray, Natalie Standiford, Barnabas Miller, and Daniel Ehrenhaft’s “Tiger Beat”), what instrument would you play?

K.P.: I would play the guitar—and I do play the guitar! My dad taught me when I was sixteen. I spent the rest of high school torturing all my friends with renditions of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” One funny thing about my guitar playing is I am the world’s worst strummerMy dad taught me folk songs and how to finger pluck, and that’s still the way I play.

Tiger Beat all-authors band Nicole Brinkley-YA Interrobang
Tiger Beat all-authors band – YA Interrobang/Nicole Brinkley

Eve: The best writers are also huge readers. What are some books you recently read that you loved?

K.P.: THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD by Emily Henry (Pure magic and a sweeping feeling of nostalgia, intellect, and true love.)

A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE by Brittany Cavallaro (Awesome twist on Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is a modern girl in this version.)

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir (Amazing world, execution, and the concept of Masks fascinates me.)

Purdie three recent favorite reads

Eve: Having an online presence is a big deal for writers. How do you balance writing and social media?

K.P.: I don’t balance it! I’m still trying to figure that out. I’ve recently downloaded the “Freedom” app to force me to stay offline while I write and revise. Wish me luck!

Eve: In the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?

K.P.: I’m always shy about sharing what I’ve written. I’ve learned that I like to stay very alone with my concept and draft until I’ve made it the best it can be. Of course, I can’t do this anymore since I’m having a trilogy published. I have to discuss my future books often with my editor. But I don’t mind. She loves these books and is as equally invested in them as I am.

Eve: Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?

K.P.: I met my critique group at the first writing conference I attended a few years ago. We hard core critiqued each other’s manuscripts the first years we were together. Now our schedules don’t allow for us to have time to critique everything (some of us are published and have tight deadlines), so we’re more of a support group now. But these ladies are very special to me and have gotten me through some intense times!

Eve: Who came up with the title of your novel? Was it the same title you used when querying agents?

My editor, together with the sales and marketing team at my publisher, came up with the name, BURNING GLASS. They wanted something moody, atmospheric, and symbolic. It’s not an obvious title. When you read the book, you have to think hard about why that’s the title. That’s why I love it! My original title for the book was AURASEER, which is the type of empath Sonya is in the story. That term remains in the book, but it didn’t stick as the title. 🙂

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.P.: I didn’t experience this for BURNING GLASS (a rare exception to my norm), but I have for the next book in the trilogy, which I’m still working on. To get through all that, I lean on my support group of author friends and my amazing husband, I get practical advice on things I’m struggling with (like turning off my inner editor), and I cling to a strong vision that somehow I’ll succeed. Writing a book is hard, and it truly takes a village.

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.P.: From the moment I had the idea to write BURNING GLASS, I knew this book would be special and different. I had another book planned and outlined, and I set it all aside when this story popped into my head. It flowed out of me with little difficulty, compared to previous novels. In all ways, it really felt “meant to be,” and I had high hopes for it.

Eve: Where can your fans reach you?

Website: kathrynpurdie.com
Twitter: @kathrynpurdie
Instagram: kathrynpurdie
Tumblr: kathrynpurdie

Best YA Debut Novels of 2016. Author Q&A: Kristy Acevedo – Consider (Holo Series#1)

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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.

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The Book:

Consider (Holo Series #1) is set to release in April 2016.

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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.

The Interview:

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? YA fangirl.jpg

K.A.: I hope they finish reading and send me Tweets like:

                      “Whhhhhaaaaattt????!!!     
                                          Devastated.
                                                   Book. Hangover.
           WTF–I need book 2 NOW.
                                                    OMG—dying!!!!!!

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?  Luna Lovegood

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.

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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?

K.A.: Kristyacevedo.com (You can read Ch 1 of CONSIDER there.)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kristyace
Tumblr: http://kristyace.tumblr.com/

 

A brief word about writing success, featuring Eve 1 and Eve 2

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EVE #1: How are you ever going to publish novels if you keep spending too much time online?

EVE #2: But going online is fun! I’m learning about all kinds of books I’d like to read, and I love talking with other book lovers and writers.

EVE #1: Seriously, though, as soon as you progress to a point where you might actually complete a really good novel–as in ready to send out to agents–you get distracted and start spending more time online. What’s up with that?

 EVE #2: Yeah, what IS up with that? I think I may have a fear of success.

EVE #1: Fear of succe–what even is that? . . . Okay, here. . . Susanne Babbel, Ph.D., M.F.T., could you please tell us what you wrote on Psychology Today about fear of success?

Susanne BabbelSusan Babbel, Ph.D., M.F.T.: People who have experienced trauma may associate the excitement of success with the same physiological reactions as trauma. They avoid subjecting themselves to excitement-inducing circumstances, which causes them to be almost phobic about success.” 

 

EVE #2: Whoah, that’s deep. Is anyone else finding it difficult to ignore that “Babbel” is a hilarious surname for someone who probably engages in a lot of talk therapy?

EVE #1: Focus, Eve. You’ve been through trauma. It’s something to keep in mind. You don’t want it to hold you back from your dreams.

 EVE #2: Alright, I will definitely keep it in mind. Now. . . I have an admission to make.

EVE #1: Uh-oh.

 EVE#2: I think today might have been first.

EVE #1: A first? So you made good headway on the novel?

 EVE #2: A little. But, nope, this is about headway I made on someone else’s novel. . .

EVE #1: So you’re reading other books? That’s great. They say reading lots of novels makes you a better—

 EVE #2: Better writer, blah-blah. Listen. . . today I may have made my first book purchase based purely on the gorgeousness of the author.

EVE #1: You bought a book because the guy in the picture was cute?

 EVE#2: Sort of, well. . . definitely. He had great hair and looked really clean. He was wearing a sexy winter coat, and his face had this perfect expression between serious and smiling. And he was on the chubby side —you know how I love those teddy bear guys.

EVE #1: Care to tell us who it was?

EVE #2: No way!

EVE #1: So you bought this guy’s book? You just went and bought it based purely on his looks?

EVE #2: Well, I read the excerpt first.

EVE #1: And you’re probably HOPING his writing is as “cute” as his looks.

EVE #2: I cannot disagree with that statement.

 

–Eve Messenger

Writer Do Nots

This advice is so spot on that more writers deserve to see it.

Samurai Novelist

Take this advice to heart:

  1. Never write a novel to prove something.
    If you are going to be a novelist, then just do your job. Publishing a novel is not a way to prove something. The objective of a work of fiction is to transport the reader to another world created in print. It is not meant to impress people who have no intention of being transported and probably only will be looking for faults in your work anyway.
  2. If you write for your own therapy, it’s not for publishing.
    Every writer has a book that is not meant to be published. We might call them private journals, notes, fiction for my own consumption, whatever. If you write something for yourself, keep it to yourself. There is nothing shameful about writing something that cannot be published. And things that are written for your mental well being rarely accomplishes the objective…

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