I hope your new year is off to a joyous and productive start! Sadly, today is the last of my YALLFest interviews.
For my swan song, I'm bringing back some familiar faces. After I conducted the longer interviews with Dhonielle Clayton, Sara Shepard, and Jonathan Stroud, I also asked them the on-the-fly interview questions, and they were good sports about answering them, even if they were a bit silly.
As a reminder, here they are:
What real-life adventure would you most like to go on?
What fictional adventure would you most like to crash?
Besides storytelling, what skill(s) would you contribute to the group on an adventure quest?
As a writer, what do you think is your strongest skill? And do you have any tips for getting better at it?
And then if they had time, I gave them some markers and a paper with "YA Books = " and had them get creative for their picture.
Fictional adventure? I like the road trips that Adi Alsaid has in his books, so I would like to follow his characters as they road trip through the United States. Because I love his books, and I love his characters, and I love his road trips.
Adventure quest skills? I can cook. So if someone else hunts for the meat, I will make something. That’s all I have. I’m not really good at anything else. I’ll try to help build a tree house, but really … I know how to cook, so I’ll do that. I’ll feed everyone.
Strongest skill? I love world building, so I would say that’s my strength. Whether it’s a contemporary world, like for my ballet series, or it’s a fantasy world, for my high fantasy The Belles, I think it’s about – I stole it from Scott Westerfeld, he told me, when you build your fantasy world, ask the question “what in this world does everyone want?” and then build your world around that essential question. And that’s what I do now. What do they want? And what are they willing to do to get it? And how does everything else reflect that want?
So in my fantasy The Belles, everyone wants to be beautiful, there’s a beauty currency and they’re willing to hoard it. And so people live in certain areas because they want to be closer to the people who have the keys to beauty. And so that’s what I do now. So I kind of am a thief of Scott – he’s the master. And I build up everything, so that if I was actually making a movie, these are all the things – what do people wear, what would they look like, who lives where, what’s the weather like – I just do everything as if I’m building from scratch, a movie. So that would be my tip for world building.
See Justine and Caleb's interviews.] Bike, and then drink wine, and then bike.*laughs* I have two little kids, traveling is really hard right now, I would just love a vacation that is exotic and interesting. Luckily, I’ve gotten to go to some fun places like this [Charleston].
Fictional adventure? I was very caught up in the world of The Selection, but I don’t know if I’d actually like to crash that because there was a lot of turmoil. Most of what I read is contemporary, and nothing crazy is going on, but I remember reading those books and being like, “Oh my God, I want to be in her world. I want maids coming and hand-making all of my dresses specifically for that night. Or planning a party. But then there were also scary parts of that world. But I think it would be kind of fun to be one of the girls for just a little bit.
Adventure quest skills? I can run pretty fast. I have a pretty good nose – like mostly for not nice smells, but I feel like that’s a good thing. I’m always the first one to be like, “Something smells wrong in this house. There’s something bad.” I don’t know. I mean, I’m not a good tree climber. I’m not a good marksman. I’m not really a good fighter. But I have a good nose.
Strongest skill? I try to be really good at details, and I’ve been told I am good at details. I feel like details is an easy thing because all you have to do is look around and stay aware of everything around you. It’s almost like a muscle you need to exercise. You have to work at it, but once you work at it, you’re more aware. I write a lot of stuff down or sometimes I’ll take pictures of locations or people or interesting things. I think the richer the detail, the richer the story. So, yeah, I think it’s just paying attention.
Fictional adventure? I was reading A Wizard of Earthsea recently, which was a favorite fantasy when I was a kid. A lot of fantasies as a kid don’t stand up so much when you’re older, but I do find that particular world has a real beauty to it actually. I know that Ursula Le Guin subsequently revised it because she felt it was very anti-feminist, and it is peculiar how the women are kind of shut out actually – it is odd. With that aside, there is a real sort of nobility and beauty about her vision of this world. So I’d quite like to go and hang out there, mosey about with a staff, and do a few cool things.
Adventure quest skills? I’m not very practical. I’d be absolutely lousy at building rope bridges, making rafts, that sort of thing. I’d probably have to learn. I’d learn. I think I’d be quite a good moderator, as the group became stressed by the attacks from the werewolves or whatever it was that was around us. I think I would try to act as a facilitator to keep everyone together, a voice of common sense. Yeah, I think I’m quite good in that way. And then I’ll probably get killed quite quickly.
Strongest skill? The capacity to self-edit is a skill I’ve got. I was an editor originally. So I kind of learned over a few years the art of committing to the writing, but then almost immediately taking a jump back and looking at it quite coldly and going, “that bit works but that bit doesn’t work.” And having that ability, I think, has benefited me over the years. It saves a lot of time, and it means I do a lot of tightening before I share it with anybody. And that would be one bit of advice I’d give, which is that you can always change what you do, so you have to throw yourself in and write. I think writing speedily, getting momentum, is important. I’m not up for working, working, working on the same thing endlessly, I think that’s a mistake. You have to go for it, you commit, you have fun, you enjoy it. And then you can reread it and change it. That’s the beauty of writing – you can do anything.
Thank you again, Dhonielle, Sara, and Jonathan, for taking the time to chat with me!
And thanks to all of you for reading along the past two months. YALLFest was so much fun, and it was great to relive it each week as I prepared the interview posts. I hope you enjoyed getting to know some of the amazing YALLFest authors better and that you picked up some tips and tricks to improve your writing.
How would you answer these questions? Share your thoughts in the comments!