Saturday, November 21, 2015

3 Christopher Pike, author of STRANGE GIRL, on hard work being the key to getting published

We are honored to have Christopher Pike join us to share more about his latest novel STRANGE GIRL.

Christopher, what was your inspiration for writing STRANGE GIRL?

If you read the dedication of Strange Girl, it says: “For Abir, who told me to write this book.” Abir is my girlfriend. We’ve been together 15 years, and she is without a doubt the love of my life. Naturally, by this time, I never write a book without talking to Abir about it. Well last March, 2014, we were talking late one night about what I should write next and Abir said I should write a love story. And I said, “A love story about what?” That was when Abir gave me perhaps the best advice when she said -- “That’s the key. You don’t want to know what it’s about. Find out as you write it. Just have a boy meet a mysterious girl at the beginning of the school year and go from there.”

At first I dismissed the idea. I’m rather proud of how cleverly I plot my stories and Abir was basically telling me to drop all my cleverness and just feel my way along. Just put myself in the shoes of the main character, Fred, and write what he felt.

And that was what I did. That’s how Aja, the heroine of Strange Girl, was created, totally out of thin air.



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 is a scene near the end of the novel that deals with a character having to face her inner demons that was EXTREMELY difficult to write. I don’t want to give away too many details because it would ruin the story but I can say that no matter how many times I wrote the scene, my girlfriend, Abir, kept saying I didn’t have it. And she was right; that was why I kept rewriting it. This was in the editing phase, and by this point my editor and my agent and my close reader friends all thought the scene was perfect. Yet Abir kept pushing me.

Finally, after working on it all night -- I had to hand in the edited manuscript that day -- I woke Abir early and asked her to read it, thinking that now, finally, I had got it right. But she read it and shook her head and said, “No, it’s missing something. Write it again.” At that point I wanted to strangle her. To make matters worse, besides being exhausted, I had not eaten in two days and my stomach was cramping.

Still, I had to email the book to my editor and with Abir pacing at my back I tried again to write it. I even read aloud what I was writing so Abir could hear. But she kept shaking her head, “No, that’s not it. You’re missing something,” she said. “What?” I screamed at her. “Tell me what you want and I’ll write it.” But she didn’t know what to say, not exactly.

Then, after three hours of going back and forth, I hit a fifteen minute period where I wrote two pages in a row, super fast, without pausing. They just came to me in a rush, either out of exhaustion or inspiration, I’m not sure. Abir smiled and patted me on the back. “That it!” she cried.

Those two pages became the climax of the book. They were what Abir and I had been looking for, even though we didn’t know until we had them in hand. Now, I can say without doubt they are what we were looking for all along; that they’re perfect.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

When I first became a bestselling YA novelist, I was often called, “The Young Stephen King.” Readers and critics saw similarities between King’s books and mine. But even though I’m a big fan of King’s work, I’ve never felt we had that much in common. True, I occasionally write horror novels, but for most of my life I’ve seen myself as a thriller writer. By the way, when I met and spoke with Dean Koontz, he said the exact same thing.

Now when it comes to Strange Girl, specifically, I’ve never written a book like this. It’s something new for me, although many of my fans might compare it to Sati or Witch or even my Final Friends trilogy. A number of people who have read the book have said it reminds them of The Alchemist and to Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I’m curious to see what people will say once the book is out in the stores.

How long did you work on STRANGE GIRL?

I wrote the first draft in four months. Usually I write two major drafts of a book and then fine tune it. Indeed, I sold the book after having written only two drafts. But even though it was sold, I kept going back to Strange Girl. I kept rewriting the whole thing. In the end I must have rewritten it ten times, over a period of twenty months. I was obsessed -- I wanted every word to be perfect. The end was particularly difficult for me to get right.

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

That’s a good question to ask when it comes to Strange Girl. Because I’ve written over fifty books, I didn’t think there was much I needed to learn about the writing process. But with Strange Girl, at my girlfriend’s urging, I tried something new. I started the book without any idea of where it was going. Now I’ve said that before about other books, but with those books I usually had some idea where the plot was headed. Not so with Fred and Aja, the two major characters of Strange Girl. When they met I knew nothing about them. I had no idea where their relationship was headed. I didn’t even know if they would become lovers. I know people will find that hard to believe since I was trying to write a so called love story but it’s true. In fact, a quarter of a way into the book I was pretty sure their relationship would never become intimate. Shows you what I know…
What do you hope readers will take away from STRANGE GIRL?

I’ve called Strange Girl a “Mystical Mystery.” What I’d like readers to do after they read the book is to ask themselves the deep questions that philosophers are always trying to answer. Who am I? What am I doing on this planet? Is there a God? Will I survive after my body dies? Will I be reincarnated? Is there a one true religion?

Now, I know most people will be asking themselves how a teenage love story can have anything to do with the above questions. The answer lies in the character of Aja. Right at the start, my narrator, Fred, notices something unusual about her, a presence, a peace of some kind. Yet he is attracted to her, he wants to have sex with her. He sees her as a girl but pretty soon he’s wondering if she is an angel, or maybe a devil. That’s the power of the book.

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 six or seven years before I published a novel called Slumber Party. For me the road to publication was very hard. No matter what I wrote, I kept getting rejected. Many times I wanted to quit trying but for some reason I never did. Nowadays I’m stunned when I read about someone writing their first novel and sending it off and getting it published right away and it becoming a bestseller. Yet I’m not envious of such people. Looking back, I’m glad I took so long to get published. I learned to write during all those years of rejection. I was forced to learn.

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?

Yes. I had an agent, Ashley Grayson, before I was published. I met him at a weekend writers conference I went to at USC. When I started writing, I wrote two huge novels that took a year each. The first one had everything in it: aliens, government agents, a love story, spaceships, torture. I even managed to work in the Second Coming at the end. The book was all over the place -- it never could have been published. But writing it taught me a lot about writing, and the second book I worked on, The Season Of Passage, was much more coherent. True, it combined three genres: sci-fi, horror, and fantasy. But the book worked, even though I was not able to publish it until after I was a successful YA author.

The reason Season got rejected was because it combined too many genres. That was both its strength and its weakness. Slumber Party got published right away because it was a straightforward mystery. The book was cleanly written; it moved at a fast pace and had likeable characters and a satisfying ending. It wasn’t a brilliant book but it was a solid book and usually it is easier to sell a solid book than a work of genius when you are just beginning your writing career. That might be the best advice I can give a beginner, besides the fact that you have to keep writing, year after year, and never give up. Hard work is the ultimate advice.

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

I write alone at night, in my apartment, usually between ten and six in the morning. I sleep until noon. I try to write a little each day, but when I’m deep into a novel I’ll often write as much as twelve hours a day. The deeper I go into a novel, the longer I write. When I’m near the end I’m usually writing sixteen hours a day.

When I began to write I couldn’t even type. I wrote in spiral bound notebooks with different colored Flair pens. On top of that I’d print out my books so the typists would be able to read what I’d written. I used to have to pay to have people type up my manuscripts.

It wasn’t until I wrote Spellbound that I finally bought a computer and word processor and learned to type. Overnight I was able to write four times faster. In fact, I wrote Spellbound in a month, and I was able to edit it as I wrote the book. I was stunned when, after only four weeks, I had a complete manuscript.

When I started writing, I used to listen to loud music on headphones. Now I can’t work with music on, I don’t know why. Maybe I’m getting old but I have to focus all my brain cells on what I’m doing to write anything. I usually write two drafts of any one book, then I fine tune it. However, with Strange Girl, I wrote ten full drafts.

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

What I said above. If you want to learn to write, you have to put in the work. I wrote hard, almost every night, for seven years before I got published. Hard work is the single most important key to becoming a published author.

There are other important things. Virtually all writers read a lot. It’s important not only to read tons of books but to read all kinds of books. Study what other authors are doing. You can even try to copy them. For example, in the beginning I tried to copy the style of Arthur C. Clarke, the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Childhood’s End. I loved the clarity of his writing; also his spare technique. Then I fell in love with Stephen King’s style, and he rambled a lot and was in many ways the opposite of Clarke. But my trying to copy other writer’s styles -- it wasn’t a bad thing. Because I kept writing and eventually, naturally, my own style began to emerge. Now people tell me they can recognize one of my books simply by reading the first page. I take that as a compliment.

It’s important to write what matters to you. It’s important that you don’t try to write what is popular. Twilight has already been written. Fifty Shades of Grey has already been written. Write what inspires you. And keep writing. Write a little each day -- no matter how tired you are before you go to bed. That’s my advice.

What are you working on now?

It’s a secret.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Strange Girl by Christopher Pike
Hardcover
Simon Pulse
Released 11/17/2015
 From #1 New York Times bestselling author Christopher Pike comes a brand-new fascinating and seductive new novel about a girl with a mysterious ability—but one that carries an unimaginable cost. 

From the moment Fred met Aja, he knew she was different. And she was.

Aja had a gift. But her gift came with a price.

After a shocking sequence of events, Fred must look back at their relationship, and piece together all of their shared moments, so he can finally understand Aja’s precious gift…and its devastating repercussions.

Purchase Strange Girl at Amazon
Purchase Strange Girl at IndieBound
View Strange Girl on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christopher Pike is a bestselling author of young adult novels. The Thirst series, The Secret of Ka, and the Remember Me and Alosha trilogies are some of his favorite titles. He is also the author of several adult novels, including Sati and The Season of Passage. Thirst and Alosha are slated to be released as feature films. Pike currently lives in Santa Barbara, where it is rumored he never leaves his house. But he can be found online at Facebook.com/ChristopherPikeBooks.

Have you had a chance to read STRANGE GIRL yet? Do you feel rejection has helped you learn to be a better writer? Do you write what matters to you?

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Erin, Lisa, Susan, Sam, Lindsey, Sandra, Kristin, and Anisaa

3 comments:

  1. I NEED to read the book after reading about how the climax came to be and how his girlfriend kept pushing Christopher to keep working on it!!! I'm extremely curious now. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. This sounds like a pretty amazing book. I will definitely be checking it out. Thanks for this very interesting and informative interview.

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