Sunday, December 31, 2017

0 Stephen Wallenfels, author of BAD CALL, on putting yourself in the way of luck

How can it be the last day of 2017? Do you have big plans to ring in the New Year tonight?

Since much of the country is ridiculously cold right now, it's appropriate that we're talking about BAD CALL because the characters have to survive an unexpected snowstorm, among other things. We're thrilled to have Stephen Wallenfels here today to share more his latest novel. 

Stephen, what is your favorite thing about BAD CALL?

I love Yosemite National Park. I hiked there, climbed there, even dropped out of college to work there. I flipped hamburgers and made towering soft-serve ice cream cones much to the annoyance of the manager. I lived out of bounds in a lean-to, and in an employee tent village. So while researching and writing the book, I was able to imagine myself back in one of my favorite places on this planet.

What was your inspiration for writing BAD CALL?


I had a personal “close encounter” with an ax while backpacking with friends in Yosemite. It was completely by accident and all that happened to me was some skin shaved off my nose. But if my reactions had been a split-second slower, or I had stood a few inches closer, I might not be writing this sentence today. After that trip I always wondered what would have happened if this trip went “worst case scenario”. How would my friends have reacted? Under stress people do crazy things, so I thought it would make a good book.

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?


The hardest scene to write was the one where Colin (Q) finds out that his father died and he had to fly back to Vermont. It was a critical scene because I had to catch his emotions, and at the same time show how deep the friendship was with Ceo. My father is alive and well, but while writing it I had to imagine him as...gone. That wasn’t easy. I also had to imagine flying home to my mother, who died while I was writing the book, and that was very hard. One of my favorite lines is in the scene with Q and Ceo at the beach and Ceo tells him, “Next time your father dies, call me first.” I smiled when Ceo “spoke” those words to me and I wrote them down.

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


Hmmm...that’s a tough one. I love survival books, and thrillers so combining them is like reading heaven for me. One of my formative books during my early high school years was My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. Then came Deliverance by James Dickey, and Hatchet, by Gary Paulson. Another great survival book, but in a wilderness of a different kind, is Winter’s Bone, by Daniel Woodrell. It is hard for me to imagine a better book.

How long did you work on BAD CALL?


I wrote 90% of it when I was a junior in college, so let’s call that nine months. But when I revisited the text many, many years later, I (figuratively) tossed it and began all over again. It took me about ten months to get it done.

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


This was my second novel, the first being POD which was YA scifi. I love to write about real people and what they do when placed in extraordinary situations. My goal this time around was to explore friendships, what they mean and how the bonds of those friendships stretch, break, and hopefully heal. To do that well, I had to dig deep into myself as a person, and what it means to be a friend.

What do you hope readers will take away from BAD CALL?


For one, I hope all readers take the time to fill out wilderness permits when they go backpacking. That they venture into the woods with the right equipment and make sure someone knows where they are going and when to expect them back. As far as a takeaway regarding the theme—know that friendship is a precious and even fragile thing, and if you’re not careful, one tiny miscalculation can escalate into something bad that changes everything.

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


That road is long and very rocky. I wrote freelance for a fitness trade journal (CBI) for many years (10+ years), and was grateful for the opportunity. During that time I published a few short stories but nothing that set the literary world on fire. I sold POD (YA scifi) in 2009 to namelos.com and was very fortunate to have the amazing Stephen Roxburgh as my first editor. I wrote the sequel, Monolith, and it remains on my computer to this day. I sold Bad Call in 2015 to Disney/Hyperion, and another YA survival thriller to the same publisher, Deadfall, due out (hopefully) in late 2018.

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’m going to give you three: 1) I had to dedicate myself to the craft, learn all I could, and write every day. 2) I went to a Highlights Foundation “whole novel workshop” to figure out what was wrong with my writing (I tried and failed for 5 years to get an agent!) – and found out that my novel was filled with “psychic distance” which killed tension. And 3) My biggest AHA was that writing subtext is the key to writing characters with depth.

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

I have a full-time job, so I get up between 3am and 3:30am, every single day. That has become so ingrained into my DNA that it will take gene therapy (or death) to make it stop. My preference is to write in my home office where there are no distractions. For each novel I write there is a theme song, as if it were playing in the opening scene of the movie. For Bad Call, that song was “These Old Wheels” by Mandolin Orange. It’s a song I thought Cory would listen to. I sure did!

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


Read a lot, figure out what you like and why, then make the magic happen for yourself. Write often and above all else, don’t let the slings and arrows of rejection shoot down your dreams. Believe in yourself and it will happen. What I like to say is, “Put yourself in the way of luck.” Oh, and get in a critique group! My critique group is awesome and they keep hope alive.

What are you working on now?


Another survival thriller about a woman that witnesses a murder in the mountains outside Durango, then is captured by the murders and taken to a...well, I should probably stop there!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Bad Call
by Stephen Wallenfels
Hardcover
Disney-Hyperion
Released 12/19/2017

It was supposed to be epic.

During a late-night poker game, tennis teammates Colin, Ceo, Grahame, and Rhody make a pact to go on a camping trip in Yosemite National Park. And poker vows can’t be broken.

So the first sign that they should ditch the plan is when Rhody backs out. The next is when Ceo replaces him with Ellie, a girl Grahame and Colin have never even heard of. And then there’s the forest fire at their intended campsite.
But instead of bailing, they decide to take the treacherous Snow Creek Falls Trail to the top of Yosemite Valley. From there, the bad decisions really pile up.

A freak storm is threatening snow, their Craigslist tent is a piece of junk, and Grahame is pretty sure there’s a bear on the prowl. On top of that, the guys have some serious baggage (and that’s not including the ridiculously heavy ax that Grahame insisted on packing) and Ellie can’t figure out what their deal is.

And then one of them doesn’t make it back to the tent.
Desperate to survive while piecing together what happened, the remaining hikers must decide who to trust in this riveting, witty, and truly unforgettable psychological thriller that reveals how one small mistake can have chilling consequences.

Purchase Bad Call at Amazon
Purchase Bad Call at IndieBound
View Bad Call on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Stephen Wallenfels lives in Washington state with his wife. His day job is the creative director and IT manager at a large health club, but he has held the following jobs in no specific order: apple picker, onion topper, omelette chef, grill cook, legal gofer, ESL teacher, school custodian, freelance journalist, tennis instructor, soccer coach, graphic designer, and his favorite of all, novelist. Stephen has lived in igloos, lean-to's, slept under bushes and in trees. His passions are family, hiking, cooking, reading, movies, climate change, and especially writing.
---

Have you had a chance to read BAD CALL yet? Do you use subtext to add depth to characters? Do you make magic happen for yourself when you write? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

All of us at AYAP wish you all a very Happy New Year! Here's to an amazing 2018 filled with wonderful books!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Charlotte, Anisaa, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

Saturday, December 30, 2017

0 Free #1st5pages Writing Workshop Opens in 1 Week!

Our January workshop will open for submissions on Saturday, January 6th at noon, EST. In addition to our wonderful permanent mentors, we have Christina June as our author mentor and Abby Saul of The Lark Group as our agent mentor! (See below for Abby's background and query preferences.)

The workshop is designed to help writers struggling to find the right opening for their novel or for those looking to perfect the all important first five pages before submitting for publication. Why the first five pages? Because if these aren't perfect, no agent, editor, or reader will continue reading to find out how great the rest of your story really is!

On Wednesday, June 3, from 8-9 pm EST we will be hosting a 1st 5 Pages twitter chat, to answer any questions and chat about those crucial first pages, under the hashtag #1st5pages. We hope you can join us!

Why is the First Five Pages Workshop a GREAT Opportunity?

  • You are mentored by at least two traditionally-published published or agented authors for the duration of the workshop. These authors have been through the trenches and know what it takes to get a book deal, solid reviews, and sales.
  • In addition, you receive feedback from the four other workshop participants.
  • Feedback is given not just on your initial submission, but on two subsequent opportunities to revise your manuscript based on the previous feedback so that you know you've got it right!
  • The final revision will also be reviewed by a literary agent, who will also give you feedback on the pitch for your story--the one that may eventually become your query letter or cover copy.
  • The best entry from among the workshop participants will receive a critique of the full first chapter or first ten pages from the mentoring agent, which may, in some cases, lead to requests for additional material.

How It Works

Please see the complete rules before entering the workshop, but in a nutshell, we'll take the first five Middle Grade or Young Adult entries that meet all guidelines and formatting requirements. (Double check the formatting - each month we have to disqualify entries because of formatting.) Click here to get the rules. We will post when the workshop opens and closes on Adventures in YA Publishing and on twitter (@etcashman, @MelissWritesNow, @charlotteclg ), with the hashtag #1st5pages. In addition to the rotating team of our wonderful permanent author mentors, the final entry for each workshop participant will be critiqued by our agent mentor.

January Guest Literary Agent Mentor: Abby Saul 
Abby founded The Lark Group after a decade in publishing. A zealous reader who loves her iPad and the ebooks on it, she still can’t resist the lure of a print book. Abby’s personal library of beloved titles runs the gamut from literary newbies and classics, to cozy mysteries, to sappy women’s fiction, to dark and twisted thrillers. Find her @BookySaul on Twitter.

Abby is looking for: adult literary fiction and adult commercial fiction (including historical fiction, women’s fiction, mysteries, and thrillers)

Click here for how to query Abby!

January Guest Author Mentor: Christina June

Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor.  She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters.  

Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, eats too many cupcakes, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland.  She lives in Virginia with her husband and daughter. Find her on Twitter @ChristinaJuneYA

Her debut novel, IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, was released in May 2017, and a companion, EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE, will be available in 2018. She was also part of the anthology NEVER BE YOUNGER,  collection of short stories based on the works of Shakespeare. 


Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

Where to Buy: 

Add It on GOODREADS!

Monday, December 25, 2017

0 New Releases this week 12/25-12/31

Happy Monday! This is the last new releases post of the year, can you believe it? It's been another great year for new books and I can't wait to end the year by spotlighting another few releases. On behalf of everyone at Adventures in YA Publishing, I'd like to wish you all a wonderful holiday season and a great new year. But don't forget to check out the awesome books being released this week while you're here!

Happy Reading,

Shelly, Sam, Jocelyn, Martina, Erin, Susan, Kelly, Laura, Emily, Anisaa, and Lori Ann


YA BOOK GIVEAWAYS LAST WEEK: WINNER

Here, There, Everywhere by Julia Durango: Camille S.

MORE YOUNG ADULT NOVELS NEW IN STORES NEXT WEEK


* * * *


Before Now
by Norah Olson
Hardcover
Katherine Tegen Books
Released 12/26/2017

A harrowing and heartbreaking teen romance expertly told with a reverse timeline, Before Now is another emotionally charged novel from suspense author Norah Olson about a young couple who runs headlong into tragedy while trying to escape their complicated pasts.

The odds were against them, but somehow aspiring astronomer Atty and her troubled boyfriend, Cole, managed to escape their old lives in the rough neighborhoods of Minneapolis and the judgmental eyes of their parents, who couldn’t see that Atty and Cole were meant to be. But they don’t get away clean. Eventually the mistakes and betrayals from their pasts catch up to them. Atty is lying about why Cole is being hounded by the cops and Cole won’t go quietly to jail—or anywhere without Atty. Then the unthinkable becomes reality and the future is instantly unwritten.

Through Atty’s journal, all the intimate details of her tragic romance with Cole unfold from finish to start, including the mystery of what brought them together—and tore them apart.

Purchase Before Now at Amazon
Purchase Before Now at IndieBound
View Before Now on Goodreads

* * * *


Love, Life and the List
by Kasie West
Hardcover
HarperTeen
Released 12/26/2017

Everyone knows Abby Turner is in love with her best friend, Cooper Wells. Including Cooper Wells. But despite what people tell her, it doesn’t affect their friendship. And she’s practically over it, anyway. What she really can’t get over is when her boss at the local museum tells her that her paintings lack heart.

Art is Abby’s passion and she hopes her future as well. She is determined to change his mind and earn her way into the upcoming exhibit at the gallery. So along with her family’s help, she compiles “The Heart List,” a series of soulstretching experiences that are sure to make her a deeper person and better artist in six weeks or less. When Cooper decides to complete the list along with her, she realizes this list is expanding her heart in more ways than one. Maybe she needs to start another project.

Love, Life, and the List is about a girl who, in an effort to bring more emotional depth to her art, compiles a list of soul-stretching experiences to complete with her best friend—a boy she also happens to be in love with.

This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.

Purchase Love, Life and the List at Amazon
Purchase Love, Life and the List at IndieBound
View Love, Life and the List on Goodreads

* * * *


The Mind Virus
by Donna Freitas
Hardcover
HarperTeen
Released 12/26/2017

Skylar Cruz’s heart is shattered. But even though everyone has betrayed her, Skylar was able to negotiate a way to open the door between the Real World and the App World. Now Skylar must help the people who left the virtual world behind as they become refugees in the Real World.

And for everyone who remained plugged in, a new danger has become evident. Their bodies are mysteriously dying, and it’s because of events Skylar’s sister, Jude, set in motion. A virus has been unleashed that could mean total extinction of the App World—and everyone in it.

Skylar and Jude must set aside their differences and work together if they are to defeat the mind virus before the App World fades away into oblivion.

Purchase The Mind Virus at Amazon
Purchase The Mind Virus at IndieBound
View The Mind Virus on Goodreads


Saturday, December 23, 2017

2 Julia Durango & Tyler Terrones, authors of HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE, on putting your characters through the wringer

We're thrilled to have Julia Durango and Tyler Terrones with us to chat about their novel, HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE.

Julia and Tyler, what was your inspiration for writing HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE?

JULIA: The initial spark for the novel occurred more than a decade ago as I watched my sons navigate brotherhood, authority, and belonging…all within the somewhat narrow confines of a small town. On constant rotation during those years was a compilation of old punk songs their dad had introduced them to -- a fitting soundtrack for a perplexing and rebellious time of life! From the very beginning, themes of music and belonging have been at the heart of this book.

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?

JULIA: Without giving away spoilers, there's a scene towards the end between the brothers that still rips my heart out. Even when you know you need to put your characters through the wringer, it somehow feels WRONG doing it to a little kid…but that's life, right? The last scene made up for it though...that one was much more fun to write!

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

TYLER: On a typical day, I get up, make coffee, and read for an hour or two before attempting to write anything. That seems to get my brain in “writing mode.” The actual writing process mostly involves deleting everything I’ve just typed, staring out the window, and multiple trips to the kitchen for cheese and pickles. Just kidding (sort of). While working on Here, There, Everywhere, Julia and I would chat on the phone in the morning to discuss the day’s plan, then work throughout the day, often texting back and forth with ideas/questions/concerns. At the end of the day, we’d usually talk again and go over what we’d done.

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


TYLER: I think Susan Sontag said it best: “Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world.” Also, don’t be afraid to write a less-than-stellar first draft. Just get something—anything—down, then go back the next day and make it slightly better. Wash, rinse, repeat until you have something that resembles prose.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Here, There, Everywhere
by Julia Durango and Tyler Terrones
HarperTeen
Released 12/19/2017

Zeus would rather be anywhere than here—Buffalo Falls—the tiny town his family moved to at the end of the school year. Having left all his friends back in Chicago and with nothing to look forward to except helping out at his mother’s café and biking around town with his weird little brother, Zeus is pretty sure this is destined to be the worst summer of his life.

But then he meets Rose—funny, beautiful, smart, and an incredible musician.

Zeus can hardly believe that someone like her exists, let alone seems interested in being with him. However, while Zeus is counting down the minutes until he can see her next, Rose is counting down the days until she finds out whether she will be able to leave their small town to pursue her dreams. As the afternoons spent going on local adventures pass into nights discussing their deepest hopes, Zeus knows that he doesn’t have long to convince Rose that what they have is more than a summer fling…if only he’s brave enough to seize the chance.

Purchase Here, There, Everywhere at Amazon
Purchase Here, There, Everywhere at IndieBound
View Here, There, Everywhere on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julia Durango writes books for kids of all ages in a small town by the Illinois River. Her books have received numerous awards and honors, including the Golden Kite Fiction Award and the Prairie State Award for Excellence in Writing for Children. Julia is a frequent presenter at schools and libraries around the Midwest and beyond.

Tyler Terrones was born and raised in Ottawa, Illinois, where he spent his childhood exploring nature, playing sports, and watching I Love Lucy reruns, which taught him the importance of comedic timing and a good pratfall. As a teen, music became his passion, and since then a guitar has never been far from his reach. After graduating with a degree in Communication Theory from Eastern Illinois University, then working in the Rocky Mountains, Tyler returned to his hometown to pursue creative endeavors punctuated by several ill-fated career choices.

When Tyler's not writing or hiding from the doorbell, he plays lead guitar for Katie Belle and the Belle Rangers.

Have you had a chance to read HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE yet? Have you written a book with music at its heart? What do you do to get yourself in writing mode? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Anisaa, Halli, Martina, Charlotte, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

Friday, December 22, 2017

0 Improve Your Novel By Writing a Screenplay (Plus Contest Opportunity)

* If you already have experience with screenwriting, skip to the end for a special offer. *

If you’re writing a novel, you’ve probably daydreamed about having it made into a Hollywood blockbuster. Maybe you’ve spent time on IMDB casting the actors to play your characters. Or pictured yourself stepping out of a limo to walk the red carpet. Maybe you’ve even practiced your Oscar acceptance speech in the mirror.

While most authors who make it to the movie-making stage do not get to adapt their novel into the official script, you should still experiment with screenwriting. It’s a great writing exercise and can improve your skills in many ways.

I first tried screenwriting about ten years ago due to a fun online contest. I ended up loving the format. I also noticed improvements in my “regular” writing, so I kept dabbling in it. Amazingly, two of my short scripts won grants to make them into movies: Saying Goodbye and High Heels & Hoodoo. While they weren’t grand Hollywood productions, I did get to dress up for red carpet photo shoots and watch my story on the big screen. Not gonna lie, there were tears. 

But as incredible as those experiences were, the true benefit to writing screenplays has been the improvements to my writing. So what kind of improvements am I talking about?

Plotting

Because movies are much shorter than novels, they need to be more efficient with their storytelling. Have you read Save The Cat! by Blake Snyder? It breaks down the necessary beats found in most movies and is an excellent read no matter what kind of writing you do. In fact, the Save The Cat! beat sheet is now used as the basis for many novel writing courses. Much of screenplay structure is about getting from one beat to the next in the most efficient and entertaining way possible. Once you practice this beat-sheet plotting while writing scripts, it becomes part of your writing muscle memory, and you find yourself doing it instinctually in all of your other writing. 

Dialog

A large chunk of screenplays is dialog, so if dialog is a weakness for you, writing a script is like pushing you into the deep end to help you learn to swim. Due to the way scripts are formatted, it’s basically pure dialog – you don’t have to worry about overwrought or repetitive dialog tags, weaving in movements to show who’s talking, or detailing voice tones or other emotional cues (because the actors will eventually handle that part). So when writing screenplay dialog, the only thing you have to worry about is the actual spoken words and how they drive the plot and convey character. As you practice writing dialog without the distractions that come with regular prose, you’ll get stronger at writing meaningful and impactful conversations that will carry over to your novel writing.

Showing

When writing a screenplay, you only include what a movie viewer can see or hear. You don’t include sections of interiority describing what or how a character is thinking or feeling because the details cannot be conveyed to the audience. Well, you can use a voiceover, but that’s a device to be used sparingly. Instead, you must focus on conveying characters’ states of mind through their actions and words. As a result, when you switch back to your novel, you are better equipped to write scenes that pop for your readers because your prose will be more concrete and vivid. Put another way? You’ll now be an expert at the whole show don’t tell thing!

Conciseness

A screenplay is more like a blueprint of a story – it focuses on the plot and the characters – so you don’t have to worry about details because someone else makes those decisions when a movie is made. For example, when a character walks into the living room, you don’t have to say the couch is red unless it is important for theme or plot purposes (like it’s disguising blood stains). In fact, unless your character interacts with the couch specifically, you don’t have to mention it at all. The set designer will decide what furniture is in the living room and what color it is. Since you don’t have to worry about details that don’t move the story or characters forward, you can concentrate on more vital elements. When you move back to novel writing, you will again need to set the scene, but your descriptive elements will be tighter and more keyed to driving the plot and character elements.


How To

Now that I’ve shared some of the benefits of experimenting with screenwriting, how exactly do you go about writing a screenplay? That’s too much to cover in a blog post, since there have been shelves and shelves of books written about it. If you’re really serious about giving screenwriting a go, I highly recommend The Screenwriter's Bible by David Trottier. I keep it by my side whenever I write a screenplay. Not only does it cover technical aspects like how to format a telephone conversation, it also covers bigger picture items like bringing your idea to life.

If you just want to experiment with the format as a writing exercise, you can look up “how to write a screenplay” to find tons of articles that explain the format in a way that works best for you. I like this one because it actually explains screenplay format in screenplay format. So you get the visual as you read the info. This article is also a quick rundown of the different elements of a screenplay, as is this one.

These articles about formatting might seem overwhelming, like, “What?!? How am I supposed to remember all of these weird margins and formatting rules?” Fortunately, there are several software programs that take care of all the formatting for you. Final Draft is the one most professionals use, but it’s expensive. I always use Celtx to write my screenplays – it’s extremely easy to use and even better, it’s FREE! You use the Tab and Enter keys to toggle through the various format sections, so you can focus on writing your story without worrying about formatting rules.

Another great way to learn about writing screenplays is to read the scripts of some of your favorite movies. Many of them can be found here. Look for movies you’ve watched multiple times so you can see how the script itself handles the action, dialog, plot, and characterization of the scenes you love.

Finally, this article breaks down many of the differences between novel writing and screenplay writing, and it reiterates several of the things I mentioned about how writing scripts improved my regular writing.


Special Offer

So after wading through all of that, have I convinced you of the benefits of experimenting with screenplay writing? How about another potential benefit?

The chance to win $500!!!
 

My brother and I are creating an anthology of short horror films called Grave Intentions. In addition to the contest we’re running to find short films for the anthology, we’re also running a contest for short screenplays that broadly fit into the horror genre. The winning screenplay will receive $500, with the potential for us to produce the script into a short film for the next volume of Grave Intentions!

That’s a great incentive for giving this whole screenwriting thing a whirl! And even if you don’t win, you will have improved your writing skills. 

The screenplays need to be 15 pages or less, and since there’s still two months until the final deadline (2/28), that’s plenty of time to write something creepy and submit it to us.

As even more incentive, we’re offering a 50% discount off the entry fee for all Adventures in YA Publishing readers. Click here to enter and use the discount code AYAP.

Actually, if you know any short filmmakers with a bent for horror, please tell them about the anthology. They can also use the code AYAP for a 50% discount off of their short film entry.

Make writing a screenplay one of your New Year’s goals - it’s fun, it will strengthen your writing muscles, and you just might win $500!

Have you ever tried screenwriting? Do you think you might give it a whirl? If you have any questions about the contest, give me a shout in the comments. 

Happy writing!

Jocelyn

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

0 YALLFest Interview with Kirsten Miller

At YALLFest I was fortunate to get an interview with not just one of the keynote speakers but two of them!
I posted my interview with Patrick Ness on Saturday, and today is my interview with Kirsten Miller.

Kirsten wrote the Kiki Strike series, the Eternal Ones series, and the Nightmares! trilogy with Jason Segel. Interviewing impressive authors is always nerve-wracking, so I was having my very own nightmares about embarrassing myself. 
Luckily, Kirsten was a super fun interview, and among other things, we chatted about our shared fascination with cryptids and our shared hatred of outlines.

Kirsten, what did your journey to publication look like?

You know, this is not a story that's going to help people because I basically got incredibly lucky. Almost everybody I know has worked very, very hard to get published, you know lots and lots of rejection, and I'm not saying I didn't deserve all of that rejection. I just happened to be working with a guy who had a boyfriend who worked in publishing, and he asked what I was working on, and I said, "Here, I'm working on this book," and I handed it to him, and he passed it to his boyfriend, and then like suddenly I had a deal, and that was how it happened. But that never happens. And I'm not generally a very lucky person, but maybe that was my one thing.

I read on your website about your belief in Big Foot and how that belief may have been one of the first steps you took toward becoming the author of weird YA fiction. Can you expand on that?

I one hundred percent believe. One hundred percent. I have a whole theory, like I've written essays about it. When I was growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, there was a part of the county they called Little Canada because it was so far out in the mountains that you might as well go to Canada. I knew people who lived up there - it would take you 45 minutes straight uphill to get to this place - and they would talk about this creature that would run across the road in front of people at night. It was called the Gray Man, and it was sort of a Bigfoot-like creature. These were not people who made stuff up or even liked to talk about this sort of stuff, and they would swear that it was true. So yeah, everything that I've written about you can trace back to something that happened in childhood or some weird book that I picked up. It's a direct line. So, yes, the Gray Man changed how I see the world.

You write both middle grade and YA – what’s your favorite thing about each category?

I love middle grade because I think the ages of 10, 11, and 12 are the most magical time in a person's life. I think that's the time when all of those links I talked about, I think that's when they originate. You know, it's the stuff that you come across between 10 and 12 that fascinates you, that ends up being part of your life forever, and so as an author having an opportunity to kind of, I don't know, build that is amazing. So I love middle grade. Love middle grade.

Teen books are great because I am an adult, I think, and I can be more adult with teens. There can be cursing and sex, although I'm much more into adventure and thrillers and stuff. But, yeah, you can talk about more adult topics and more adult themes, and I'm not talking about dirty stuff, I'm talking about just big ideas. The people at 15, 16, 17 are ready to start thinking about them.

How do you make the shift between writing the two?


It's been happenstance really. It's just sort of whatever idea comes into my head, or in the case of working with Jason, whatever idea comes into his head and and we talk about it. So it's really just about the idea and whether it's suitable for a younger audience or an older audience and that's really how it's decided. But I like writing both.

Speaking of Jason, how did you guys team up?

We are both represented by William Morris Endeavor. It was funny because his agent worked on my first book series, so she worked with my agent way back in the day when my Kiki Strike series came out, so she was the one who was like, "You want to do middle grade?" So we met, and you know I'd never really thought much about collaborating, like I'm kind of a lone wolf in that respect, but I just liked him so much. We have similar interests and a similar sense of humor, and it's worked so nicely.

I feel like a lone wolf about my writing, too, so I’m curious about the process you two use for co-writing.

The first thing that we do is we spend - and speaking of advice that I give to people, and this is the thing that everybody hates and I hate it too, I hate it so much, but outlining - so for all the books we spend weeks back and forth on the phone, concepting and coming up with that grand outline. And once you have that, a book really writes itself. And that's why, even though I cannot tell you how much I hate writing outlines, I mean I absolutely hate it, but once you have that it's like somebody holding your hand as you write the book. You know exactly where you're going, you know exactly what you're doing, and it just makes the process a million times easier. So we spend a lot of time doing that.

And then I'll usually sketch the first very, very almost like skeletal draft, and then we will work together to put flesh on it. And the nice thing about the collaboration is that he's really, really good at things I wouldn't say I'm bad at, but he's much better than me at let's say dialog and detail, like he adds really, really wonderful details. And also he's a lot better than me at the mushy stuff. Like, seriously, if you come across a scene where it's like "Ahhh" odds are he was the one who wrote that. *laughs* "Like we need some lovey-dovey stuff, Jason, can you write it?"

Has there been an AHA! moment during your publishing adventure where you felt you had the key to writing a novel?
No, no, I wish I had something I could tell you. This is I think the best advice. When I first started writing, I thought it was supposed to be easy, like I thought people who did it professionally and people who were really good at it that they basically sat down and took dictation from God. And I found out that God has better things to do, he's not really interested in helping you write a middle grade novel. So it's a matter of work, and it's always going to be work, and once you accept that and you realize that sometimes it's just going to be torture, it's a lot easier to get through because you don't wonder if there's something wrong with you or if you're talentless or whatever it is. You sit down and do a job; it's like being a lawyer or a doctor. You do the job.

As a writer, what do you think is your weakest skill? And what have you done to get better at it?

I have many weaknesses as a writer. *laughs* I think impatience. And I think that's the bane of many many a writer is you're so eager to get your ideas down on paper that you skip all of those necessary steps, like outlining or knowing where you going next. That's been the hardest struggle for me. When I was writing my first book, I thought I was a genius and I had it all in my head, and I was like this is gonna be easy. And then suddenly, if you're writing a book of any length, and you get to around page 200 and you're like, "Oh my God, how did I get here? And where am I gonna go next?" It's the hard work.

What are you working on now?

We are in the process of finishing up the second Otherworld book, which is called Other Earth, and it's really, really creepy. I think both of us were really inspired by a lot of the new technologies that are being introduced that sound really great on the surface and then you start wondering what's going to come of them in a few years. And so there's a lot of that woven into the book. If Otherworld was more about virtual reality, Other Earth is starting to introduce augmented reality. You know because everybody thinks it's all Pokémon GO. And isn't this fun? And it's like, you know what? Maybe we should be thinking this through as well. So that was a lot of fun. And then I'm probably going to step out of the sci-fi world for a little while and do something dark and disturbing.

Dark and disturbing? I can't wait! Thanks for chatting with me, Kirsten!

Readers, what are your thoughts about outlining - love it or hate it? Do the things you experienced as a kid work their way into your writing? Do you treat your writing like a job? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn

ABOUT THE BOOK

Otherworld
by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller
Hardcover
Delacorte Press
Released 10/31/2017

The company says Otherworld is amazing—like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They say it’s addictive—that you’ll want to stay forever. They promise Otherworld will make all your dreams come true.

Simon thought Otherworld was a game. Turns out he knew nothing. Otherworld is the next phase of reality. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.

And it’s about to change humanity forever.
Welcome to the Otherworld. No one could have seen it coming.

Purchase Otherworld at Amazon
Purchase Otherworld at IndieBound
View Otherworld on Goodreads


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kirsten Miller grew up in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina. At seventeen, she hit the road and moved to New York City, where she lives to this day. Kirsten is the author of the acclaimed Kiki Strike books, which tell the tale of the delinquent girl geniuses who keep Manhattan safe. Her novel The Eternal Ones is a twisted story of reincarnation, true love, and sinister secret societies.

Monday, December 18, 2017

5 New Releases this Week 12/18-12/24 plus Giveaway of Here, There, Everywhere

Happy Monday! This week we have a giveaway of HERE, THERE, EVERYWHERE up for grabs. Make sure to check out the awesome books being released this week and enter to win below!

Happy Reading,

Shelly, Sam, Jocelyn, Martina, Erin, Susan, Kelly, Laura, Emily, Anisaa, and Lori Ann


YA BOOK GIVEAWAYS THIS WEEK


* * * *


Here, There, Everywhere
by Julia Durango and Tyler Terrones
Hardcover Giveaway
U.S. Only

HarperTeen
Released 12/19/2017

Zeus would rather be anywhere than here—Buffalo Falls—the tiny town his family moved to at the end of the school year. Having left all his friends back in Chicago and with nothing to look forward to except helping out at his mother’s café and biking around town with his weird little brother, Zeus is pretty sure this is destined to be the worst summer of his life.

But then he meets Rose—funny, beautiful, smart, and an incredible musician.

Zeus can hardly believe that someone like her exists, let alone seems interested in being with him. However, while Zeus is counting down the minutes until he can see her next, Rose is counting down the days until she finds out whether she will be able to leave their small town to pursue her dreams. As the afternoons spent going on local adventures pass into nights discussing their deepest hopes, Zeus knows that he doesn’t have long to convince Rose that what they have is more than a summer fling…if only he’s brave enough to seize the chance.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about Here, There, Everywhere?

While we hope readers will enjoy many elements of the book—the awkward humor, the character relationships, the lens through which Zeus views the world—we especially enjoyed writing the musical scenes and choosing the madcap variety of songs that provide the novel's backdrop. We highly encourage readers to check out Zeus’s Summer Playlist on Spotify, which includes every song from the book in the order it appears. (You may just discover you like Tom Jones as much as The Clash!)

Purchase Here, There, Everywhere at Amazon
Purchase Here, There, Everywhere at IndieBound
View Here, There, Everywhere on Goodreads


MORE YOUNG ADULT NOVELS NEW IN STORES NEXT WEEK


* * * *


Three Sides of a Heart: Stories About Love Triangles
by Natalie C. Parker
Hardcover
HarperTeen
Released 12/19/2017

The anthology explores the myriad tragic, frustrating, humorous possibilities of the teen love triangle, and features 15 new stories by these authors.

Purchase Three Sides of a Heart: Stories About Love Triangles at Amazon
Purchase Three Sides of a Heart: Stories About Love Triangles at IndieBound
View Three Sides of a Heart: Stories About Love Triangles on Goodreads

* * * *


Bad Call
by Stephen Wallenfels
Hardcover
Disney-Hyperion
Released 12/19/2017

It was supposed to be epic.

During a late-night poker game, tennis teammates Colin, Ceo, Grahame, and Rhody make a pact to go on a camping trip in Yosemite National Park. And poker vows can’t be broken.

So the first sign that they should ditch the plan is when Rhody backs out. The next is when Ceo replaces him with Ellie, a girl Grahame and Colin have never even heard of. And then there’s the forest fire at their intended campsite.
But instead of bailing, they decide to take the treacherous Snow Creek Falls Trail to the top of Yosemite Valley. From there, the bad decisions really pile up.

A freak storm is threatening snow, their Craigslist tent is a piece of junk, and Grahame is pretty sure there’s a bear on the prowl. On top of that, the guys have some serious baggage (and that’s not including the ridiculously heavy ax that Grahame insisted on packing) and Ellie can’t figure out what their deal is.

And then one of them doesn’t make it back to the tent.
Desperate to survive while piecing together what happened, the remaining hikers must decide who to trust in this riveting, witty, and truly unforgettable psychological thriller that reveals how one small mistake can have chilling consequences.

Purchase Bad Call at Amazon
Purchase Bad Call at IndieBound
View Bad Call on Goodreads

* * * *


Shadow Girl
by Liana Liu
Hardcover
HarperTeen
Released 12/19/2017

The house on Arrow Island is full of mystery.

Yet when Mei arrives, she can’t help feeling relieved. She’s happy to spend the summer in an actual mansion tutoring a rich man’s daughter if it means a break from her normal life—her needy mother, her delinquent brother, their tiny apartment in the city. And Ella Morison seems like an easy charge, sweet and well behaved.

What Mei doesn’t know is that something is very wrong in the Morison household.

Though she tries to focus on her duties, Mei becomes increasingly distracted by the family’s problems and her own complicated feelings for Ella’s brother, Henry. But most disturbing of all are the unexplained noises she hears at night—the howling and thumping and cries.

Mei is a sensible girl. She isn’t superstitious; she doesn’t believe in ghosts. Yet she can’t shake her fear that there is danger lurking in the shadows of this beautiful house, a darkness that could destroy the family inside and out… and Mei along with them.

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

* * * *


Shatter Me
by Tahereh Mafi
Hardcover
HarperCollins
Released 12/19/2017

The irresistible first book in the gripping Shatter Me series, now featuring gorgeous jacket art to match the rest of the series, and including the Destroy Me novella!

One touch is all it takes. One touch, and Juliette Ferrars can leave a fully grown man gasping for air. One touch, and she can kill.

No one knows why Juliette has such incredible power. It feels like a curse, a burden that one person alone could never bear. But The Reestablishment sees it as a gift, sees her as an opportunity. An opportunity for a deadly weapon.

Juliette has never fought for herself before. But when she’s reunited with the one person who ever cared about her, she finds a strength she never knew she had.

The jacket of this new hardcover edition matches the beautiful artwork of the paperback edition. It also includes the Destroy Me novella, which is told from Warner’s point of view, and a brand-new author’s note. Perfect for fans who have followed the series from the beginning and craved a matching set of books, and for readers looking to check out the series before the highly anticipated release of Restore Me!

Purchase Shatter Me at Amazon
Purchase Shatter Me at IndieBound
View Shatter Me on Goodreads

Saturday, December 16, 2017

0 YALLFest Interview with Patrick Ness

I'm not gonna lie, when I heard Patrick Ness had agreed to an interview with me at YALLFest, I felt a bit like this:
Excited - because he's the man responsible for A Monster Calls, the Chaos Walking trilogy, my personal favorite The Rest of Us Just Live Here, and the Doctor Who spin-off Class.

Panicked - because see above! Plus he's won two Carnegie Medals. How was I supposed to talk to him without sounding like a babbling idiot?

But there was nothing to be worried about. Patrick was down to earth and funny, and I think I only embarrassed myself once or twice. Check out his interview below for lots of great advice about writing and the writing life.

Patrick, what did your journey to publication look like? 

It was quite a while ago. The thing I always say is that the first thing you need to do if you want to publish a book is to write a book. A lot of people think they’re going to get a deal on a few chapters – that happens once in a while, but 99% of the rest of us have to write the whole thing. So I did, I wrote a whole book. I tried to make it the best book I possibly could.

There’s something in England (even though I’m American, I live in England) called the Writers & Artists Yearbook. There is something similar in the US, and it’s just a list of all the agents. So I got my sample chapters, and did my cover letter, and did my synopsis. Synopses are hell on earth - I hate them. But I did them all, and I sent it off to every single even remotely plausible agent. I think I sent it to like 60 or 65. I think five or six people requested the whole manuscript. And two of them were interested, and I signed with one, and that’s all it takes. And she got that book published. It’s that easy and that difficult. But that was the process.

That was an adult book, and I like to say that it sold in its dozens to friends and family, but that’s okay, I didn’t care, I’d published a book. And that’s how it started. Really, I am nobody special. I’m just a guy from a tiny town outside of Tacoma, and all I did was write a book. I always say that real writers don’t write, they write anyway. So I thought, nobody’s going to ever publish a book, but I’m gonna write one anyway. No one’s ever going to film a screenplay, but I’m gonna write one anyway. So, yeah, just keep going.

You write both YA and adult novels – what’s your favorite thing about each category? Biggest challenge? 

My whole career has been kinda trying to shrug off category. It starts with the principle that a great story can be told anywhere and that snobbery will kill you. It’s gonna kill your art. So don’t be a snob. Don’t be a snob with what you read. Don’t be a snob with what you write.

As a part of a process of trying to put that into practice, I think that stories reveal themselves with more joy because you’re more susceptible. And if I’m willing – not willing, willing sounds more reluctant, it’s not reluctance at all – but if I’m feeling a story and it’s like, “Ah!” Because The Knife of Never Letting Go was my third book, and I was writing in voice and I thought I have this idea and it feels like it should be in voice. It felt like a great challenge because I hadn’t done it before. And as I slowly, slowly got to the voice – and voice is mystical, it’s just suddenly there on the page one day and you don’t know what you did, but there it is – and I thought, “Oh, this is probably for teenagers.” And I thought, “Well then, great. Great!” And I put the exact same amount of effort, the exact same amount of emotional investment, the same amount of intellectual investment.

When I was young I hated books that talked down. I was so happy to reach up. I read The Color Purple when I was about twelve, and I didn’t understand half of it, but I didn’t care. It was like this is what’s possible in literature. And also, you know, what a great shock to the system for a twelve-year-old kid to read The Color Purple. So I thought, nah, there will be kids that wouldn’t want that but that’s what I would have wanted. So I just don’t see a difference. I know it’s helpful for publishing, and I have no problem with that, and I’m not trying to downplay YA at all.

I think my impression has always been like, okay, I’ll take your boundaries. Because I was raised in a really religious family, and so how I rebelled was how can I follow the letter of the law and still get away with murder? So it’s always been my approach to writing. It’s like how can I take your boundaries and still do exactly what I want? So it’s just really what the story needs. And if it’s for teenagers, great. The key thing is don’t be a snob about it. And don’t think it’s going to be easier because it’s one or the other – they’re all hard.

You adapted your own novels into screenplays, which I know is a dream come true for many writers but also very rare. Did that experience change the way you write novels?

You know, if you’d asked me in theory I would have said yes, but what happened in practice is that I wrote A Monster Calls screenplay, I wrote Chaos Walking drafts, I wrote a bunch of other screenplays, I wrote eight episodes of Class, and then I wrote my most internal, smallest timeframe, intense novel, so I don’t know if that’s a reaction against that. So if you’d asked me in theory, I would have said, “Sure! Blah blah blah,” ya know, but maybe not. It’s different muscles. I’m always encouraging other YA writers to like, “Do it, do it do it!” You can tell a story. The rules can be learned.

Yeah, it’s exciting. I’m always looking to be challenged – I’m so afraid of complacency because you can tell a complacent book. I find it insulting and an arrogant assumption of the privilege of writing, so I want to be challenged every time. So Release was a challenge to make that tiny timeframe and really intense focus compared to everything else I’d done up to that point, and so screenplays and teleplays are another way of doing that. Being scared and going, “Ya know, this might be a disaster, but I’m going to give it a try.”

Always a part of my storytelling is pace, and pace doesn’t mean fast, it just means the rate. It can be slow, but it needs to have a heartbeat, I always think. Or rhythm, rhythm is how I always put it. Since screenplays are so beat oriented, it’s interesting – how can I use this? So even in a story where something ostensibly isn’t necessarily going wrong, you’re still making beats and that I think is a really valuable, valuable tool for any writer.

You mentioned Class earlier - how much did you geek out at getting the chance to write a Doctor Who companion series?

The thing is I’m American, I was living in England, so it’s not quite the same as if I’d been say - do you want to write for Voyager or something? It didn’t have quite the impact on my childhood. They came and asked if I’d write for Doctor Who, and in the nicest possible way I thought, “Maybe not right now.” Because I feel like I’ve written plenty of stuff for other people because that’s what you do for screenplays, you’re writing for other people. And novels are yours, that’s why I’m a novelist first. And they said, “We’ve got this other idea, maybe a spinoff.” And they told me, and I went, “Ding!”

You never know where a good idea is gonna come from, and if it’s a good idea, run with it wherever it takes you. Celebrate that. I could see in half an hour how I was going to tell the entire series. And that’s rare! That’s rare! So when that happens, you don’t question it, you just run after it as fast as you can. And so I thought, “Okay, I haven’t done this before, but I’m gonna just say, ‘Sure, I can do it!’” And, you know, what the hell. I’m really, really lucky, and I’m really proud of the show.

Has there been an AHA! moment during your publishing adventure where you felt you had the key to writing a novel?

God no. My husband says this – there’s not a single time I’ve written a book where I don’t go, “Oh my God, I’ve completely forgotten how to do this. How did I do this?” And I’ve done ten books. And every time, I’m like, “Oh my God, I’ve completely forgotten.” I think that’s okay. I so worry about complacency. I so worry about taking it for granted. Being scared is unpleasant, but it makes me do good work.

AHA moments come in like micro-moments, like when you write a good sentence, you go “Ah, okay! That feels good.” That makes up for all the days where nothing much happens, when you suddenly hit on something really, “Okay, nobody would have said that like that,” and that’s a nice feeling. And you should be able to embrace that feeling. I have a friend who describes it as ego with a capital E versus ego with a lowercase e – capital E, that’s the problem. But a lowercase e, when you recognize what you can do and sometimes you do it well, that’s okay. The “Ahh!” will keep you going through the next ten days where you’re just writing a bunch of crap. We can all fix it in rewrite.

What do you think your greatest weakness is as a writer, and what have you done to address it.


Well, like all writers, I’m easily distracted. I put things off. But I’ve gotten off Twitter, for example.

I feel like I’m not so great at scene setting. I can feel the world kind of vaguely in my head, and I always trust that if you have it in your head and the characters will speak the right things and they’ll create the universe. Mostly. The best editing advice I can give is that I have my editors and my agent ask me questions. Because they can give me notes, which are useful, but questions I can start to hear, “Ah, I left that out and I left that out.” And that has been very, very useful, that has really helped my weaknesses, where I go, “They’re not getting that, so that’s what I’ve left out, that’s what I haven’t done.”

I suppose the one thing I notice myself that is most irritating is that I’m always worried you’re not getting the point I want to make, so I make it over and over. So I get that note frequently – cut it down, cut it down, your reader is an intelligent reader, they are paying attention.

What are you working on now?

Nothing I can share, but I should have a new book out next year. I try to keep it private, but I can’t wait to tell the world about it. I should be able to tell the world about it soon. It’s kind of a cool thing, so fingers crossed, it should be soon. And I’m trying to work on more movie and TV stuff. I’ve got a movie that I think’s gonna shoot next year called Anya’s Ghost, which is based on a graphic novel by Vera Brosgol. It’s really a wonderful graphic novel, so fingers crossed. Fingers crossed!

We definitely have our fingers crossed and can't wait to find out more about your new projects. Thanks for chatting with me, Patrick!

Readers, have you ever tried writing screenplays? Did it affect your novel writing? Do you always try to challenge yourself with your writing? Do you embrace the micro-moments when you are proud of your writing to help you through the tough times? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn

ABOUT THE BOOK

Release
by Patrick Ness
Hardcover
HarperTeen
Released 9/19/2017

Inspired by Judy Blume’s Forever and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, this novel by award-winning author Patrick Ness is a new classic about teenage relationships, self-acceptance—and what happens when the walls we build start coming down.

Adam Thorn doesn’t know it yet, but today will change his life.

Between his religious family, a deeply unpleasant ultimatum from his boss, and his own unrequited love for his sort-of ex, Enzo, it seems as though Adam’s life is falling apart. At least he has two people to keep him sane: his new boyfriend (he does love Linus, doesn’t he?) and his best friend, Angela.

But all day long, old memories and new heartaches come crashing together, throwing Adam’s life into chaos. The bindings of his world are coming untied one by one; yet in spite of everything he has to let go, he may also find freedom in the release.

From the New York Times-bestselling author of A Monster Calls comes a raw, darkly funny, and deeply affecting story about the courage it takes to live your truth.

Purchase Release at Amazon
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View Release on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Patrick Ness was born in Virginia, lived in Hawaii, and went to junior high and high school in Washington. He then lived in California for college (at USC) and moved to the United Kingdom in 1999, where he’s lived (mostly in London) ever since. He has written nine books: two novels for adults (The Crash of Hennington and The Crane Wife), one short story collection for adults (Topics About Which I Know Nothing), and six novels for young adults (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, Monsters of Men, A Monster Calls, More Than This and The Rest of Us Just Live Here).



Tuesday, December 12, 2017

2 YALLFest Interview with Jeff Zentner

I can't believe YALLFest was over a month ago already! It was another fabulous weekend, and the festival just gets bigger and better every year. This year it pretty much consumed the entire city of Charleston. I'm honored that for the third year I got to interview some of the charming and talented authors who were there. 

However, I must apologize for taking so long to get the interviews posted. November did its usual chaotic thing and had me feeling like this:
and like this:

I've finally had a chance to transcribe my interviews and will be posting them over the next few weeks. Luckily, these authors were worth the wait!

First up is Jeff Zentner, who won the William C. Morris Award and was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for his novel The Serpent King

Not this kind of Serpent King
This kind! 

Jeff, I know you started as a musician - so what did your journey to publication look like?

I did music for a long time, and I started volunteering at Tennessee Teen Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp, and through that I kind of just fell in love with young adults and wanted to make art for them. By that point, I was too old to make the kind of music that gets marketed to young adults, and so I decided to switch horses and try something else. So I tried my hand at writing a young adult novel to reach young adults, and I gave it to a friend to read, and she had a literary agent, and she said I think my agent would like this, so she passed it on to him, and he liked it and took it and sold it to Random House.

Wow, that’s one of the easier journeys to publication we’ve heard about here at AYAP! So do you think being a songwriter impacted your writing in any way?

Yeah, it did. It made me have an appreciation for economy of language and for musicality of language and the way words flow. And more than anything else, it gave me confidence in my ability to create original stories and ideas.

Do you still write songs?

No. Nope, totally retired.

Besides the setting itself, does being a Southern writer affect your writing?

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, obviously the place influences my writing greatly – all my books are set in the South – so the setting kinda becomes almost like a character. And I read a lot of Southern writers, and I love the way they write about place and they way they write about unique cultural quirks of the South and Southern people. Southern people are just really kind of like natural storytellers, and so it’s fun to write about them.

Has there been an AHA! moment during your publishing journey where you finally felt you had the key to writing?

No, no, I would love for that moment to come, but every time I go to write a novel it’s like I don’t know what I’m doing there. I have no clue. I have no idea how to write a novel. I always feel like a fraud. Like I just somehow found my way into this, and I have no idea how.

Can you tell us more about your next book, TV Six?


Yeah, so it was pitched as Wayne’s World meets Ghost World, and I have to give David Arnold credit for that piece of brilliance. It’s about two girls who have a TV show on their local public access station where they show cheesy horror movies from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and they dress up like vampires and do little skits and puppet shows and interludes during the movie. One of the girls wants to use the show to reconnect with her father, who abandoned her when she was young and left behind his trove of horror movies on VHS. And the other girl wants to use the show to springboard her TV career. The book is really about whether each one of them will be able to use the show to do what they want to do or if they’re gonna have to go their separate ways. 
 
What is your greatest weakness as a writer, and what have you done to improve that?

I used to be really afraid to write dialog. I just didn’t think I could write dialog. So I read a lot of books with really good dialog and really studied it, really started listening to people talk, and studying the way people talk. And just practicing writing dialog to where my new book, TV Six, is mostly dialog. It’s probably like 80% dialog at least.

So you just dove right in?

Dove right in, yeah, just forced myself.


Thanks for chatting with me, Jeff!

Readers, do you have a musical background? Has it affected your writing? What about the region where you live - has it become a character in your novels? How are you at writing dialog - is it a strength or weakness for you? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn

ABOUT THE BOOK

Goodbye Days
by Jeff Zentner
Hardcover
Crown Books for Young Readers
Released 3/7/2017

Can a text message destroy your life?

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn. But not everyone is willing to forgive. Carver’s own despair and guilt threatens to pull him under into panic and anxiety as he faces punishment for his terrible mistake. Can the goodbye days really help?

Purchase Goodbye Days at Amazon
Purchase Goodbye Days at IndieBound
View Goodbye Days on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Jeff Zentner is the author of the William C. Morris Award winning and Carnegie Medal longlisted book The Serpent King (2016) as well as Goodbye Days (2017). He lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He came to writing through music, starting his creative life as a guitarist and eventually becoming a songwriter. He’s released five albums and appeared on recordings with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Thurston Moore, Debbie Harry, Mark Lanegan, and Lydia Lunch, among others.

Now he writes novels for young adults. He became interested in writing for young adults after volunteering at the Tennessee Teen Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp. As a kid, his parents would take him to the library and drop him off, where he would read until closing time. He worked at various bookstores through high school and college.

He speaks fluent Portuguese, having lived in the Amazon region of Brazil for two years.