El Libro de Monica!

Big news on the blog today, and it’s about EL LIBRO DE MONICA! Why the Spanish? Well, in my house, we speak only Spanish. When my critique partner, Monica Ropal, called with THE BEST NEWS EVAH, my little girls hovered, asking. “¿Qué pasa, Mamá?” So in the midst of general hysterics, I told them, “¡EL LIBRO DE MONICA VA A SER UN LIBRO!”

Translation: MONICA’S BOOK IS GOING TO BE A BOOK! 

That’s right! My amazing critique partner, Monica (aka @MonicaYAWriting) has scored a book deal for her debut YA novel, THE BODY OF COOPER MCCAY! Her whip-smart agent, Barbara Poelle, did the deal with Running Press Books, and COOPER will be coming out in 2014! Yaaaaay! *passes around champagne and brownies*

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Monica and I met as roommates at a novel-writing retreat at VCFA (deets on this excellent program here: http://www.vcfa.edu/programs-faculty/postgraduate-non-degree/writing-novels-young-people-retreat), where we began our hopefully-lifelong friendship as critique partners. I fell in love with her characters in THE BODY OF COOPER MCCAY then, and fell even deeper in love as she revised. Let’s talk with her about the book!

Kip: So, hey, Monica! What’s your book about? *cues spotlight*

Monica: The Body of Cooper McCay is about Cass, whose secret boyfriend is murdered, and one of her best friends is the prime suspect. But it’s not your typical murder mystery–because it’s also about how Cass deals with violence, mourns her loss, and learns to emotionally trust again in the midst of trying to figure out who killed Cooper!

Kip: You definitely have a way with characters, but I think I’m not alone in my head-over-heels love for your MC, Cass’ best friend, Mattie. Can you describe him through Cass’ eyes?

Monica: Mattie is … everything. Mattie is the one constant that has been in her life. He’s mute, and the challenge is their communication. But the challenge was for me, not them, because they have known each other so long, that every quirk of the brow and twist of the lips is worth lines of dialogue to them. 

Kip: Your novel takes place where you live, in Minnesota. Did the setting become a crucial character for you, or do you think your story could have played out anywhere?

Monica: The part of St. Paul that I chose is, I suppose like many city neighborhoods where rich and poor meet within a very small number of blocks and creates a very interesting but troubling dynamic. The space in which it’s set is very iconic. Everyone around here knows the shops on Grand, and the houses on Summit, and they understand the struggles of those in the Midway area.<

Kip: Now for some fun questions! What’s your writing routine like? Top three favorite authors? And how did you celebrate your book deal?

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Monica: Writing routine: I’m not superstitious, but I do like to have my Hermione coffee mug and music . . .  there’s always music. Moody, emotional, emo-type music. Something to get me closer to the emotional truth that I’m writing in that day. Top three authors: JK Rowling, Stephanie Perkins, and Megan Miranda. Celebration: We celebrated by going out for ice cream on Grand Avenue and I gave them a little tour of landmarks from the book. While we were there, a guy called out to his friend whose name was MATTIE! I nearly choked on my root beer float. We will have extensive celebrating next week in Disney World. And of course Harry Potter World! We’ll toast with Butter Beer!

Sounds great! THRILLED for you, Monica, and so glad to get to take part in this journey with you!!
 

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Interview with an Alien

In celebration of the release of Ace Hansen’s seriously funny middle grade story, JULIUS CAESAR BROWN AND THE GREEN GAS MYSTERY with MuseItUp Publishing, my girls got the opportunity to steal my blog and ask Ace a few questions about the book and what it’s like to be an alien.

crazy alien

Lyra: I love your picture. You look silly like me.
Ace: Are you green, too?

Lyra: Is it true that aliens communicate with their eyeballs?
Ace: Doesn’t everyone communicate with their eyeballs? ***rolls eyes***

Lyra: Do you speak any languages with each other?
Ace: We speak a secret language known only on my planet. That way you Earthlings don’t understand when we make fun of your funny skin and hair. 

Lyra: Does it sound something lie “jugga-jugga-jugga?”
Ace: Jugga, jugga, jugga? That’s the sound my belly makes when I’ve eaten several pounds of gummy worms!

Violeta: What is your planet like? Is it like Earth?
Ace: My planet is nothing like Earth. All the food on my planet is sweet. The rivers taste kinda like your grape soda and we have three suns. Our rain is orange and tastes like your mangoes. Our clouds are bright pink and it only rains at night. All of us have one baby every seven years. I have a pet wumblybumble. He doesn’t have legs, but bounces like a rubber ball. 

Lyra: What’s your spaceship like?
Ace: My spaceship is like a canoe with a bubble-like canopy on top and is it ever FAST! 

Lyra: What kind of food do you like to eat?
Ace: I love to eat gummy worms, of course!

Violeta: What’s your book about?
Ace: One day you Earthlings stop passing invisible gas and start farting green like us aliens and it causes chaos!!! Someone has to solve the mystery of the green gas!

JULIUS CAESAR BROWN AND THE GREEN GAS MYSTERY 300dpi

Aliens, farts, and chaos! As you can tell, the book is a lot of fun for young readers, so my Lyra and Violeta are looking forward to the day they get to read it! In the meantime, thanks, Ace, and thanks for your questions, Violeta and Lyra!

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If you’d like to learn more about Ace (of course you do!) you can find him on:

If you’d like to purchase JULIUS CAESAR BROWN AND THE GREEN GAS MYSTERY it’s available as an ebook now and is coming in print Fall 2013:

Yalitchat Success Story: an Interview with Gayle C. Krause

Today I’d like to welcome Gayle C. Krause. I first met Gayle at the Falling Leaves Writers’ Retreat in 2010, and we both had short stories included in the TIMELESS anthology of YA romance published by Pugalicious Press last year.

Gayle

Kip: Gayle, it was great reading your work in the anthology, and I was so pleased to see that your debut YA novel RATGIRL: Song of the Viper will be published by Noble – Young Adult. Congratulations!

I’d love to hear more about your novel. It’s a dystopian with the setting providing a really unique twist. Can you tell us a little more about what the world is like in your story?

Gayle: The year is 2511 and global warming has affected the entire world. Six of the seven continents are devastated by intense daytime heat, and the 7th, Antarctica, is known as the New Continent, because the ice has melted to reveal a temperate land beneath. It is the only sustainable land left, and produces food for the rest of the world.

The rich have fled Metro City, in favor of the New Continent. Those who couldn’t afford passage are forced to live in abandoned sewer tunnels, or subway stations by day. Nighttime, as dangerous as it is, is the only time they can come to the surface to barter for food or trade their services.

Our heroine is a descendant of one of the ECOS, an environmental group who tried to save the earth from global warming in earlier generations. She has learned from her grandmother how to survive on foods from the wild, so she and her brother do not rely on the roasted rats or rotten vegetables that feed the rest of the homeless.

Kip: I’m personally not a fan of rodents, so your character’s talent to hypnotize rats made me shudder a little. Would you say your story is a retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, or is that the only similarity?

Gayle: It is a retelling of the Pied Piper set in a dystopic future. It loosely follows the premise of the fairy tale, but is darker than the original, and the subplots give reason to the elements of the story. It’s part thriller, part mystery, part love story.

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Kip: Who is RATGIRL and how did she come to you?

Gayle: Jax Stone is Ratgirl. She is a sixteen-year-old streetwise orphan, with a hypnotic singing voice, who has the responsibility of raising her five-year-old brother in a dying city, where food is scarce and rats are plentiful. When the tyrannical mayor kidnaps her little brother, Jax schemes, along with her ragtag band of friends, to save her brother and secure passage to the New Continent for all of them, but her plan puts all of them in danger.

Jax came to me a few years ago during NaNoWriMo.

Kip: I’d love to hear more about your journey to publication.

Gayle: Four years ago, I received my first contract with a major publisher, Scholastic, and they published my seasonal, rhyming picture book ROCK STAR SANTA. To date it has sold over 139,000 copies. Then, last year, Pugalicious Press published my short story, The Storyteller’s Daughter, in their YA historical romance anthology, TIMELESS.

Kip: Can you tell us a little more about your publisher?

Gayle: RATGIRL: Song of the Viper was requested by Erika Galpin, submission editor for Noble Young Adult, through the Submissions Mailbox at YALITCHAT, an online writing organization. Noble Romance is primarily an adult romance imprint, but recently has opened a YA imprint called the ‘Sweetheart’ line, where the motto is “not just romance.” The stories in the Sweetheart line are YA stories with very strong romantic threads. The focus is on the developing romantic relationship and the underlying story.

Kip: Do you have an agent, or were you submitting directly to editors?

Gayle: I do not have an agent, but I hope to sign with one this year. 🙂

Kip: You mention you also have a published picture book, and of course the short story with Pugalicious. What else are you working on these days?

Gayle: My current WIP is a MG fantasy/action adventure with a cast of humorous, and unforgettable characters. It is my only story with a male protagonist, but I’m enjoying writing it.

I’m also am feeding my poetry muse by writing a MG “fractured fairy tale” collection, in various poetic forms. It is titled, “Once Upon a Twisted Tale.”

RATGIRL: Song of the Viper will be available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble in ebook or paperback. Look for it this month.

Thanks for having me, Kip. Support of fellow writers is very important to any author’s success. 🙂

Short Fiction: an Interview with Debbie Causevic

This part week, I read A Cold November Road, a wonderful Civil War-era YA novella by author Debbie Causevic. You can download it (for free!) here.

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This gripping romance was not only a page-turner for me as a reader; it also was a great lesson in short fiction for me as a writer, so I wanted to talk with Debbie a little more about her story and her writing process. Welcome, Debbie!

debbie-causevic

Kip: I’ve been intrigued by novellas for a while, but I haven’t been able to complete one myself. The one I tried ended up needing a full novel. I know you’re also a novelist, so how did you constrain yourself?

Debbie: A Cold November Road is my first novella.  Writing full-length novels is definitely more what I am used to doing. I’ve completed five full-length manuscripts, two of which are part of the YA urban fantasy series that resulted in my signing with an agent last fall.  In order to start building readership, my agent suggested it would be a good idea to release any short-stories or novellas that I had completed.  I didn’t have anything ready at the time so I decided to write one.  It took a few months, but it was a fun journey nevertheless.

I wrote the novella much like a novel, only I focused on three specific things while writing it.

  1. Word count. Knowing that my limit was 40K served as a great reminder as the word count climbed with every scene.  It kept me thinking “do I really need to go there or explain that…”  
  2. Moving forward.  I was frequently tempted to add scenes to better develop the main characters.  However, I asked myself at every new scene, does this actually serve to move the story forward?  If the answer was no, then I’d cut the scene regardless of how much my fingers yearned to type it.  
  3. Developing characters through dialogue.  Revealing some of the major characters’ pasts and personality traits via dialogue, rather than devoting actual scenes to them, served as a great way to add back story and depth, while being fairly merciful on the overall word count.

Kip: I totally agree on these points. When I wrote my short story for the Pugalicious Press Timeless anthology last year, I was thrilled to write something that took less time, but even though it was short, I found it followed much of the same process: it still had to develop a full plot and character arc, and it still had to go through several rounds of critique and revision, and then more with an editor once it was accepted. Did you find that your process for the novella was also similar to novel-writing? Any big differences?

Debbie: The biggest difference for me in writing this story as a novella is that I was constantly staring at the word count on the screen. 🙂  That and I kept telling myself no, I can’t go there, I don’t have enough words.

A few manuscripts ago—after becoming frustrated that my story was veering too greatly from its original outline—I stopped writing detailed outlines and plots, etc.  Now, I pick the main characters’ names and just start writing. Once the MS is approximately halfway through, I write a very basic outline of what I still hope to incorporate before it’s over.  Usually I still arrive at the same ending that I envisioned when I started writing.  I’m not sure if this would work for most people, but I find it is easier for me to enjoy the writing of the story this way.  One caveat is that I never start writing anything until the characters feel like real people in my head.  I followed this same process with A Cold November Road as well.

Kip: These are great tips! Now, a little more about this piece in particular. You write urban fantasy, but this piece is historical fiction. Was it something about the story itself that made you switch gears, or did you find that historical lent itself better to something shorter?

Debbie: Truth be told, I love to write across several genres.  In addition to The Timebender’s Curse YA urban fantasy series, I have one contemporary YA MS and two contemporary adult ones.  Like most writers, at any one time I have a dozen or so stories floating around my head that I’d love to find time to write.  A Cold November Road was one of them.

I had the idea for this novella while doing research for The Timebender’s Curse series which features a heroine traveling back in time to the Civil War era in part of the story.  While doing research for this, I was moved by what ordinary citizens endured as par for the course during those tumultuous years.  And, whenever I am moved by something, a story idea arises…  Since novellas typically end in times of change, and the end of A Cold November Road coincides with the end of the war, I felt this story would work well in novella form.

Kip: Having read A Cold November Road, I totally agree that it was the perfect amount of story for a novella. Have you thought about looking for a publisher for this? I know Entangled pubs novellas, but I’m not sure what else the market for novellas looks like. I’d love to hear more!

Debbie: That is certainly a possibility in the future or, depending upon continued feedback from the novella, expanding it into a novel-length MS.  It’s off-genre from what my agent is submitting this spring, which I know is a factor for publication.  I wrote the novella based on the age-old advice of “write what moves you and build your audience from there”.  For now, I’m just releasing it in e-book form and hoping to expand readership.  Although the genre is different from my other works, at its core it is a good love story.  That is one thing I aim to put in everything I write.

Kip: I definitely agree that a good love story! Fans of historical fiction, take note! And make sure to follow Debbie’s journey on her website and twitter. I predict great things from her in the future.

TIMELESS Giveaway and Interview with D.E. Atwood

Today I’m interviewing D.E. Atwood, fellow author in the TIMELESS anthology of young adult love stories by Pugalicious Press. Just enter a comment below for a chance to win your own copy!

Q: Congratulations on the publication of your story “In This Moment” in the TIMELESS YA anthology by Pugalicious Press! As a fellow author in the anthology, I know I began to brainstorm ideas as soon as I saw the call for submissions. Did you do the same, or had you already begun working on your story?

A: A friend passed along the call for submissions because she knows I write YA, and she wasn’t sure I had anything already written that might work for it. The answer was, I didn’t, but I really wanted to write for it. “In This Moment” isn’t actually the story I originally intended to write! I knew I wanted to write something crossing fantasy with a GLTBQ love story, and I had actually planned out something entirely different.

The first story I started to write was about a girl growing up on an army base in the 1960s who meets a water nymph in the lake behind the base. But the story, even though I could see it all in my head, wouldn’t flow. Then I woke up with the original first line for Roland’s story ringing in my head: The first time he escapes, he doesn’t know how it happens. And just like that, I had a story with fully formed characters in my head ready to burst onto the page and be written.

Q: No dates are mentioned in your story, but the details–including the doctor from Vienna and his practices–placed the story at the turn of the 20th century to me. I love this time period, and I assume you do, too. Care to share what inspired this particular setting for you?

A: Clockwork automata. The story grew entirely around Roland, I have to admit. I didn’t set out to write steampunk, but I quickly realized that Roland was a boy caught between two things in his life that hid him away from the rest of the world, and I wanted to give him hope on both fronts. I loved the idea of using both magic and steampunk technology to help draw him from his shell. The image of a future Roland, what he might be after the end of the story, was what drove me as I wrote it and helped formulate the world for me.

Q: I love how you threw us right into Roland’s POV and kept the reader turning the pages with all the mysterious aspects of the story. What had happened to him? Would he get well? Would he ever find real love? Did you outline these plot points, or did they develop more organically while writing?

A: I have to admit that outlining is the bane of my existence! I am an organic plotter, and I am a completely character-based writer. My plots are drawn from my characters needs and desires and goals, so making sure I knew exactly who Roland and Will were was the most important thing for me. Once I could put myself into their heads, the story grew from there. I knew what Roland was seeking from the start, but I didn’t know exactly where he had come from, or how he had arrived where he was. It was his conversations with Will that drew that out, so yes, definitely organic development there.

Q: Many books and stories alternate POV, but I found the way you used alternating past/present tense in your story to be an interesting and less-used technique. Did you find that this allowed you more freedom than if you had kept one tense throughout?

A: The tense shift was critical for me. I wanted it to serve multiple purposes. First, it’s a signal to the reader that the world is shifting between the reality (past tense) and Roland’s dreams (present tense). But it’s also about Roland’s point of view, where the dreams are immediate and very real to him, and very in the moment, but his reality is slow and more plodding. I wanted to show that shift in how life feels by changing tenses, so the world slowed down every time it shifted back to reality. I also wanted the distancing effect that seems to come with past tense. One reason present tense is so popular in YA fiction is because it places the reader right there with the character, while past tense sets a barrier of time between the reader and the character’s experience.

Q: Tell us a little more about your writing career. Any other works-in-progress you’re currently writing or revising?

A: In the past I’ve written, and had published, stories for adults under another name, but “In This Moment” is my first YA publication. But YA is where I want to work, writing novels and stories that mix fantasy and GLBTQ characters. I have one novel that needs to be revised, and one for which I’m currently seeking representation. I also have two more that I’m working on outlining. I’m hoping to have the first draft of one of those completed and ready for critique by the end of the year.

Q: What are your favorite YA books of all time?

A: I recently wrote a post about the top three novels that affected me as a teen! The full version is here: http://deatwood.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/the-top-three/. But in list form, the top three are:

RITE OF PASSAGE by Alexei Panshin
CHILDREN OF THE ATOM by Wilmar Shiras
THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH by Marilyn Singer

Q: A last question for a Timeless author: if you could time-travel to visit any time and place ever, where and when would you pick?

A: Hah, that’s a loaded question! I love historical time periods for fiction, but I have to admit, much of what I love is the romanticization of those time periods that happens when stories are told. The reality of history is darker and more difficult, and I’m not sure I’d actually be happy in most true historical locations.

But out of them all, my favorite era is probably Elizabethan, if only for Shakespeare. On the other hand, I’d want those story elements of Shakespearean fairy magic as well, unrealistic as that is. I want my history to have some fantasy in it, and if going back in time would get me that, I would love to do so.

Find D.E. Atwood on twitter and her blog.

Timeless is now available as an ebook through amazon and  Barnes & Noble. Love stories that transcend time. From a thousand years ago to the unknown future, Timeless will show how love is timeless. This anthology of love stories contains “The Storyteller’s Daughter” by Gayle C. Krause, “And The Nightingale Sang” by Kip Wilson, “A Light Of Victory” by Jennifer Carson, “The Angel Of The Bastille” by J.R. Sparlin, “Stella’s Hero” by Kristine Carlson Asselin & Ansha Kotyk, “In This Moment” by D. E. Atwood, and “It Lies Beneath” by Magda Knight. Hope you enjoy it!

Interviews with other TIMELESS authors:

http://krisasselin.blogspot.com/2012/07/timeless-interview-with-kip-wilson.html

Author Interview: Ammi-Joan Paquette

Please welcome author AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE, whose debut novel NOWHERE GIRL comes out September 13th, 2011!

Hello, Joan! Most people in children’s literature circles already know you as a fantastic agent with the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, so let’s just get that out of the way. You’re an agent! *applause*

But … you’re also an amazing writer, and today we are focusing on that. I am thrilled that NOWHERE GIRL is hitting the shelves this month, so let’s start there. This novel has been described by acclaimed author Mitali Perkins as “a lovely Cinderella tale” and by Publisher’s Weekly as a “memorable thriller about identity and belonging.”

Having read an early draft and other snippets, I couldn’t agree more. This novel has it all: beautiful writing, a unique setting, a character on a self-discovery quest facing a mounting set of obstacles. Everyone should run out and read it now! In the meantime, let’s tackle how you were able to pull all of those pieces together so well.

Q: Beautiful writing: There are some beautiful lines throughout NOWHERE GIRL, but I have a favorite line (a definite zinger!) from your manuscript back when I first read it—do you have a favorite line in the novel? Please share!

A: This is a tough one! I’m not sure that I can single out a specific line, but one of my favorite scenes comes early on in chapter 3, where Luchi thinks back to a time when she was very young and, in playing around among the prison bars, gets caught and trapped in them, unable to get loose. When this image fell into place for me, it seemed to do more than just describe an incident in Luchi’s past; it extended into a metaphor depicting her life as a whole. The larger-than-life feel of this image lingered with me long after its writing.

Q: Character: above all, NOWHERE GIRL is a very authentic story that rings very personal. Were you able to pull any experiences out of your own life to bring this authenticity to Luchi’s voice?

A: There wasn’t much in Luchi’s physical journey or life events that overlapped with mine, but I have definitely drawn from experience in her emotional progression. That feeling of sometimes not quite fitting in, of wanting to belong or being unsure exactly who you are while growing up—I think many people experience this to a certain extent, and with all my travel and assorted life paths, I’ve certainly had more than my fair share. If some of that early insecurity can translate into authenticity and a ring of truth for Luchi’s journey, then perhaps all of those years will have been well-spent after all!

Q: Plot: without any major spoilers, Luchi has to face a lot of obstacles from beginning to end of the novel. Did you, your agent, and/or editor make any major changes along the way?

A: The biggest changes that were made from the first draft was to go more in-depth with Luchi’s journey and the challenges she faces on her way. The basic plot and the story itself was pretty much unchanged from how I first envisioned it, but my editor encouraged me to build on the framework and flesh out certain areas to develop tension and to solidify the structure. The encounter with the pickup truck on the road to Sukhothai, for example, is one that I added in a later revision.

Q: Process: for all the other budding writers out there, could you provide a snapshot of the writing, revising, and editing process and how long it took for this manuscript?

A: Let’s see: I first thought of this story and wrote a very few opening paragraphs in the spring of 2005. After losing track of it for a few years, in 2008 I pulled the idea out again, dusted it off, and started getting serious with research and getting to know this character. The first draft was finished in late 2008; in late 2009 I received a detailed revision letter from Stacy Cantor at Walker, who loved the story but wanted me to do some further work on it before taking it to acquisitions. The final offer arrived in May 2010, and is being published in September 2011.

Q: Beyond NOWHERE GIRL, you also have several other books (picture books and another novel) in the works. Can you share a little bit about them?

A: My next book to be released will be THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO CHASING MERMAIDS, a companion book to THE TIPTOE GUDIE TO TRACKING FAIRIES (Tanglewood, 2009). This will be out in spring next year. I am also hard at work on a YA science fiction novel with Random House (title still being determined). This should be out in spring 2013, along with a picture book from Candlewick, GHOST IN THE HOUSE, in fall 2013.

Q: And finally the question everyone probably wants to know: how do you do it???? As a successful agent, wife, mom, critique partner, and writer, you manage to get everything done, and done well. Any strategies that are working for you that you could share?

A: This is a tough one to answer, but mostly I think a lot of it just comes from loving what I do. We all wear many different hats, and for every one thing you do there’s always something else that you end up not having time for. But I feel so lucky that I love my work, and I guess that gives me the incentive to squeeze little bits of it in anywhere I can. Which reminds me… I’d better get back to it!

Thank you so much, Joan, for giving us a window into your debut novel and life as a writer! So excited to see this in print!!