Sex scenes are always tricky for me to write because I have a tendency to push too far as a result of my day job (romance editor). I’ve worked really hard to cultivate an honest YA voice when it comes to sex scenes without falling back on romance language. But at the same time, I love these scenes and am always the most proud of them because I’m deeply invested in authenticity and truth when it comes to sexually developing teenagers. I even do a podcast on sex and YA books (www.theoralhistorypodcast.com).
What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?
The readers who reach out to me are generally of the “I don’t read books at all but I read yours in one night” variety. This is absolutely my favorite type of mail to get because I feel like it serves my mission as a YA author. To me, the greatest thing I can do as an author is get a non-reader to start reading books. Which I think is probably why I write grittier books with difficult subject matter. I’m most often compared to Ellen Hopkins (the hugest honor ever!) and I think OTHER BROKEN THINGS would appeal to fans of Ellen’s CRANK or Amy Reed’s CLEAN or Nic Sheff’s TWEAK.
How long did you work on OTHER BROKEN THINGS?
The initial drafting of this book was fairly fast, but as with all drafting, I ended spending several months in revision with it before handing it off to my editor and then several months of revision with her. All together, a little over a year of active writing/editing/revision went into this book. Which I think is probably fast for a lot of people, and certainly is faster than most of my other books.
What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?
Mostly, this book taught me about the amazing support network I seem to have developed with my friends. Every single one of them ended up being part of the process of this book. I am deeply grateful for all of them and consider myself incredibly lucky for how much they’ve helped me through this one.
What do you hope readers will take away from OTHER BROKEN THINGS?
I hope readers will walk away thinking about what we do to hide from ourselves, how we can open ourselves up and admit that we’re all deeply flawed in one way or another, and how we can keep moving forward even when we’re hurting.
How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?
My road to publication continues to be full of hills and valleys. Fault Line (my first book) was an amazing journey, something I never could have dreamed of, and had a lot to do with the social justice side of me that works with rape survivors. My second book, BLEED LIKE ME, was an equally incredible journey for different reasons. But the truth is, that about half my books are completely unworkable. I have 4 fully drafted “complete” books that I’ve written since BLEED LIKE ME that never even went on submission because after I finished them, I (with the help of my agent) realized they were broken and not fixable (or, I didn’t have the passion to fix them, which in itself is telling in terms of them not being the “right” project for me). I have one book that I love that is still sitting on my desktop that I have hope of figuring out how to fix. One book of five. The rest, I put in a file that says, “TEN THOUSAND HOURS” and consider them my practice novels.
I have recently realized that I don’t have to write entire books before deciding they’re not workable, that I could probably write 50 pages and come to the same conclusion. I’m trying to figure out things are broken earlier, but sometimes I am deluded into thinking I can fix them. I don’t feel bad about these ideas or these unworkable books any more, though. I feel like they were part of practicing how to be a better writer.
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?
My AHA! moment was realizing that no one’s method is the absolute “right" method. We all do things differently. We all do what works for us. And when it stops working, we do something else. I rarely give writing advice because I don’t think I do things the way other people do and frankly, I don’t wish my wonky way of having to write entire books that are unworkable, on anyone else. It works for me, but it’s a huge waste of time for other people.
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 every morning from 5-7am. That’s it. Then I do my day job. Most of my writing/editing I do from home when my kids are at school (or sleeping!). It is lonely for an extrovert like me, but I’ve managed to find ways to counteract the loneliness. I don’t like noise or distractions when I write, but I do listen to music when I’m walking the dog and doing my “thinking”. I walk the dog almost five miles a day and this is my best thinking time.
What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
You do you. :)
What are you working on now?
I’m actually handwriting a novel about toxic female friendships. It’s been super fun to try handwriting and I’m sort of addicted to the process of it. I love having character notes and separate journals for the characters and plot outlines and scenes I want to include in one section of my notebook, and then having the actual novel in another. It feels indulgent and old school, but I really feel like my writing has gotten better through this process.
ABOUT THE BOOKOther Broken Things by C. Desir
From the author of Bleed Like Me, which Booklist called "edgy, dark, and turbulent with passion," comes another compelling and gritty novel about addiction and forbidden romance, starring a fearless, unforgettable heroine.
Natalie's not an alcoholic. She doesn't have a problem. Everybody parties, everybody does stupid things, like getting in their car when they can barely see. Still, with six months of court-ordered AA meetings required, her days of vodka-filled water bottles are over.
Unfortunately, her old friends want the party girl or nothing. Even her up-for-anything ex seems more interested in rehashing the past than actually helping Nat.
But then a recovering alcoholic named Joe inserts himself into Nat's life, and things start looking up. Joe is funny, he's smart, and he calls her out in a way no one ever has.
He's also older. A lot older.
Nat's connection to Joe is overwhelming, but so are her attempts to fit back into her old world, all while battling the constant urge to crack a bottle and blur that one thing she's been desperate to forget.
Now, in order to make a different kind of life, Nat must pull together her broken parts and learn to fight for herself.
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ABOUT THE AUTHORChrista Desir writes contemporary fiction for young adults. She’s an avid reader, roller derby enthusiast, Sunday school teacher, romance editor, and podcaster. She lives with her husband, three children, and overly enthusiastic dog outside of Chicago. She has volunteered as a rape victim activist for more than ten years, including providing direct service as an advocate in hospital ERs. She is a founding member of the Voices and Faces Project, a nonprofit organization for rape survivors that conducts an international survivor-based testimonial writing workshop.
Have you had a chance to read OTHER BROKEN THINGS yet? How many practice novels have you written? Have you ever handwritten a novel? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!
Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Erin, Lisa, Susan, Sam, Lindsey, Sandra, Kristin, and Anisaa