Saturday, August 23, 2014

1 Books, Road to Pub, and Best Writing Advice: Author Interviews with Adam Seltzer, Jen Longo and Ellen Hopkins!



Adam Seltzer, Play Me Backwards



What was your inspiration for writing this book?


I found myself in a twitter conversation about Christian YA books, and I thought, “Hey, someone ought to write one for the Satanic kids.” I think I tweeted out the first few paragraphs almost exactly as they appear in the final draft.

How long did you work on the book?

Off and on for a couple of years; I’d work on it to amuse myself during downtime, then tell myself to get back to work on the other projects that I thought would be more commercial. I hadn’t done a YA book with a guy narrator in five or six years; my publisher back then told me they were hard to sell, and I was better off either writing more girls or switching to middle grade. I did a little of both.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

Well, this is my sixteenth book, counting nonfiction, a couple written under other names, etc. In any given year I’ll write 3-5 books; maybe a third of the ones I write get published. The rest get used for parts; there are a couple of scene in PLAY ME BACKWARDS that are partly drawn from an unfinished one about younger versions of the characters called TAKE THIS TEST AND SHOVE IT, and others come from an old graphic novel script. If you want to go back further in time, I wrote three or four full novels before the first one that came out. The first one I wrote when I was fifteen or sixteen, the first one that was published came out when I was twenty-six.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I get up and go to work every morning, usually at the closest coffee shop to my house. Putting together playlists, creating an atmosphere, etc are really just excuses not to work. But I do them all the time. Some songs one every version of the playlist for this project include “DC Comics and Chocolate MIlkshakes” by Art Brut, “Stay Hungry” by Twisted Sister, “Thinking of You" by Katy Perry (I always had visions of publishers making me use a Katy Perry song as the title) and “Ask Her for Adderall” by the Hold Steady. And lots of The Mountain Goats.


What's advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

I hate to say it, but the most practical advice anyone can give is “follow the trends and stick to the formula.” I only manage to do so off and on, but the difference in how interested people are in the books when I do is pretty shocking.



Website | Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads







~~~~


Jen Longo, Six Feet Over It



What was your inspiration for writing this book?


My parents bought our town cemetery when I was in middle school, around the time a bunch of really random deaths were happening in the close circle of our family and friends. It was a pretty harsh and rapid introduction to death and mourning for a young kid, and the way our parents guided mine and my siblings' responses to the sadness around us was always kind of baffling to me. As we grew up and each worked different jobs in the graves, my sisters and I would encounter people and events that were at turns heartbreaking and beautiful and confusing and just awful and our responses were constantly monitored and often mocked. It was messed up! I've always written, all my life, and I think this story, many versions of it, began forming when I was maybe twelve years old.

How long did you work on the book?

The first incarnation of the book was as a full length play, part of my grad school thesis in Playwriting. I wrote the play in 2000, then began the prose version of the story when my daughter started pre-school in 2006. It took two years to write, a year to revise. So really, I guess thirteen years? Yikes.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

SIX FEET OVER IT is the first novel I've written. It took me a year to land an agent, and once I did she bravely led me through a year of doing spec revisions for several editors who "Loved" the MS, but wanted changes. I would revise for months to each editor's liking, then they would ultimately turn it down. This happened five or six times, until Random House bought it in 2011. The book is completely different in many ways from the initial version, and once Random bought it it went through several more revisions. Not at all easy, not a road for easily bruised egos or wishy-washy agents. My agent is AMAZING. So is my editor. I won the literary lottery and I'm grateful every day for those two unbelievably talented women and everyone at Random who brought this book to life.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I recently moved to Seattle from San Francisco where I at last have the writer's dream: a home office. My ritual is blessed and rigid: I run every morning at 7am, take my daughter to school at 8am, shower and do errands till 10am and then it is ON. People better not mess with me from the hours of 10am-3pm because I AM WRITING. I take breaks, of course, but that's WRITING TIME. I listen to music, religiously. I've written every word of every play and story and book I've worked on since 1998 listening to one artist: Enya. She is just perfect! Moody and easily tucked into the back of my mind. I love my office, and am incredibly grateful my husband and I have figured out how to make it work for me to take care of things at home and write. Still though, there are days I have to leave the house and go to a coffee shop or the library or I'll be distracted by the never-ending laundry and dirty dish piles.Seattle is a haven of writers who are so generous and I've been lucky enough to start having writing dates with some of them, which are incredibly productive. When I'm revising things shut down and my family is like, "Are we ever going to eat or have clean underwear again?" The answer is, of course, sure. As soon as I'm finished with this revision, People.

What's advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Before you begin, make sure you've got at least a basic grasp of the main tenants of sentence structure and grammar. And plotting prose. READ. All the time, and make note of why you love what you love and hate what you hate, what confuses you and delights you and WHY. Outline. It may work for you. Write the book that won't leave your mind alone, the story that nags you night and day. Find an agent who loves your book for the same reasons you do, same goes for an editor, and then trust them. And trust yourself. Trust your story and why you wrote it. Two books I could now never do without: ON WRITING by Stephen King and THE ELEMENTS OF STLYE by Strunk/White/Kalman, a book suggested by King in ON WRITING. In a sea of books about how or why to write, they are all I will ever need.

Website | Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads

~~~~

Ellen Hopkins, Rumble


What was your inspiration for writing this book?

There were a couple of mosque burnings in the news. I posted on my FB page, "We all serve one Creator," meaning Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, whomever. A teen slapped me, saying, "It's awfully arrogant of you to think I have to believe in anything at all. I'm an atheist." That interested me as a storyline....


How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

I broke in as a freelance journalist and did that for a number of years. Some of the stories I wrote seemed like they'd make interesting nonfiction children's books. I was already involved with SCBWI and thought I'd write picture books--not my skill set! But I was learning the children's publishing industry that way and published 20 nonfiction children's books before the story idea for CRANK hit me. I met an editor from S & S at a conference, showed her ten pages of CRANK, and the book sold with only 75 pp complete. RUMBLE is my 11th YA with S & S.

What's advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Write honestly. Write courageously. Don't write to trends. Create a new one!

Website | Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads


1 comment:

  1. I love hearing how authors came up with their initial story idea. Thanks for the fun interviews!

    ReplyDelete

Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)