Saturday, November 1, 2014

1 Martina Boone, Author of COMPULSION, on Perseverance and a Long Road to Pub

What’s your favorite thing about Compulsion?
It was so much fun to get to do a Gothic novel! I’ve loved seeing Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and The Lynburn Legacy bringing Gothics to a whole new batch of readers in a fresh way. Adding the Gothic elements to a Southern setting similar to Beautiful Creatures gave me such rich material to work with in COMPULSION. I've always adored books with exotically dangerous mansions, eccentric characters, and elements of magic, mystery, and suspense. The world of Watson Island, with its equally charming and ugly history, beautiful scenery, and unique mythology is a storyteller's dream. It has all the elements I love—a haunted past, regret, anger, continuing conflict, and questions of morality galore.

My favorite thing about COMPULSION, hands down, is the setting and how it shaped (and twisted) the characters and families who live there, including my main character, Barrie, who arrives not knowing that history. The island, and especially the Watson’s Landing plantation, became an integral character in the book.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?
Some of the characters, setting, and history came from work I did for a short story anthology. I couldn’t let go of the ideas and my image of the plantation. Then one night I dreamed about a ball of fire drifting through the woods and setting a river aflame, which became the anchoring visual for the book. The rest all came from asking why the river was on fire and who was doing it.

Creating the mythology and history of Watson’s Landing, along with the family intrigue that resulted in the feud, the gifts, and the curse, was an absolute blast. There’s such a wealth of inspiration to draw from in the Charleston area. Early settlers, pirates, Native American tribes, slaves, and other travelers all brought their own mythologies, beliefs, magical systems and superstitions to the area, and I didn’t have to create a lot from scratch. A lot of people don't realize how some of those things connected historically in unexpected ways, and I'll be exploring that a lot more in the final two books. Getting the chance to stretch and bend that wealth of material into a trilogy was so much fun! And we’re only just touching the tip of the iceberg in COMPULSION.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?
There are a lot of hard scenes in the book. I tend to write scenes where there are several things going on at once, so while there is something significant going on emotionally, for example, there may be a significant clue to the mystery going on in the background or vice versa. Every scene with Mark in it was hard on me emotionally. And the first kitchen scene with Pru and the attic scene were so hard to write that I kept going back to them. The one I probably rewrote the most was the first scene in the garden with Barrie and Eight, and the scene that I love the best is the nighttime beach scene with Barrie and Eight. But honestly? I love so many different scenes. Which doesn't mean that I feel like I nailed them all, just that I love what I see in my head. If I came close to achieving that on the page, I'll be delighted.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?
COMPULSION isn't exactly like anything else, I don't think. At its heart, it's a mystery, and it has a lot of the same kind of gothic elements and "real, not real" questions (to quote one of my favorite bookseller's) as Maggie Steifvater's The Raven Cycle and Sarah Rees Brennan's Lynburn Legacy trilogy, but it's Southern to the core, and there are a lot of strange characters, a lot of history, and a lot of questions of morality. It's both dark and hopeful, magical and about contemporary issues.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

Write what only you can write, and make it bigger than you thought you could.

I write complicated stories. It's the way I think, and as I said, this is a gothic, so it's centered around a mystery--several mysteries, actually. Readers who skim are going to miss something important, so this is not really a book for readers who don't want to think about what they're reading. I had doubts about doing that, but at the same time, I wanted to give readers something rich to fall into.

There were moments when I thought the story was just too big for me to tell, that I didn't have the writing chops to pull off making something so big seem real.

But I think every writer gets scared by a story at some point. This story taught me to embrace the fear, to let it push me.

Does that make me any less insecure? Hell-to-the-no. But that is also part of being a writer.  We just have to keep going and do the best we can to be true to our characters and our stories.

What do you hope readers will take away from COMPULSION?
That we can find our true families, even if they aren't necessarily connected to us by blood. And that we don't have to take what life gives us, we can forge our own destinies. We have to forge them--we have to do our best to live life out loud.

How long did you work on the book?
I began it in May of 2012 and sold it in June of 2013.

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 wrote for younger children when I first started writing, then I dipped my toe into writing an adult novel that really needed to be three separate books. Looking back, I can see SO many mistakes, but my biggest was giving up when my agent dumped me after reading the first messy draft. (Okay, there’s more to that story, but it sounds more interesting to say it that way. I’m a storyteller, right? : ))

Anyway, fast forward through two kids, a business I started, and more years than I want to think about, and I always wondered ‘what if’ — then one day, my daughter was old enough to read YA books. She has a learning disability, so to encourage her reading, I read them with her. I fell in love with the creativity, the freedom, the freshness, and the issues and problems in YA novels. I wrote two YA novels and outlined a third before staring Compulsion. I plan to get back to two of those, and maybe someday, I’ll come back to the third. One of the three books has never seen the light of day, one received some great suggestions from a couple agents that I wanted to address, and the one I’m not sure I’ll ever return to is about a topic that has just been done too often to sell right now.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?
I took a great writing workshop from Free Expressions Seminars and Literary Services, and literary agent Tracey Adams asked the class what characters from literature we loved the best. She listed them and then asked us to consider what they all had in common. You know what it was? All the characters drove the action--things didn't happen to them, things happened because they made them happen.

Barrie does things. Right or wrong, she charts a course of action and she follows it, because that's what she believes in. Some people may not agree with her choices, but honestly, they're the only choices she could make being who she is.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?
My writing ritual is pretty boring. I sit down with my laptop and I write. It doesn’t much matter where. I usually write for about twenty minutes, then take a five minute break, do some social media, get up and stretch, grab a refill on coffee or tea, then go back to the laptop. Rinse repeat for at least 8 hours a day, five or six days a week. I write very, very slowly. I edit even more slowly. I keep hoping that will speed up as I finally learn what the heck I'm doing.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Don’t give up. I’m living proof that knowing how to string a sentence together and being dedicated will pay off. In January 2010, I finished the first manuscript of a YA novel and decided I was going to work as hard as it took to get published. If I can do it, I truly believe that with luck and determination, it can happen. Yes, it does take luck—the right manuscript to the right person at the right time. But it won’t happen if that manuscript isn’t ready, isn’t marketable, and isn’t presented professionally to the agents and editors who are looking for that kind of material.

Apart from that, I do have one surefire secret formula for success. Want to hear it? Here it is:

Read a lot. Live a lot. Write. A lot.

What are you working on now?
We’re finishing up edits on Persuasion, which is the sequel to Compulsion, and I’m plotting book three, which doesn’t have a title just yet. I'm also thinking very hard about a possible New Adult novel. : )


by Martina Boone
Simon Pulse
Released 10/28/2014

Beautiful Creatures meets The Body Finder in this spellbinding new trilogy.

Three plantations. Two wishes. One ancient curse.

All her life, Barrie Watson had been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lived with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead--a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family's twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

Purchase Compulsion at Amazon
Purchase Compulsion at IndieBound
View Compulsion on Goodreads


Martina Boone was born in Prague and spoke several languages before learning English. Her first teacher in the U.S. made fun of her for not pronouncing the "wh" sound right, so she set out to master "all the words”—she's still working on that! In the meantime she’s writing contemporary fantasy set in the kinds of magical places she'd love to visit.

If you like romance steeped in mystery, mayhem, Spanish moss, and a bit of magic, she hopes you'll look forward to meeting Barrie, Eight, Cassie, Pru, Seven and the other characters of Watson Island.

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