Saturday, June 7, 2014

4 Author Interviews: Caela Carter (My Best Friend, Maybe) and Sarah Jamila Stevenson (The Truth Against the World)

We're shaking things up a little bit here on Adventures in YA Publishing, trying out a few new types of posts and we would LOVE your feedback about what you think. Saturday's will now involve another type of round up post, but this one will involve authors whose books released during the past week answering some questions about their experiences with writing and publishing.

Caela Carter: My Best Friend, Maybe

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

Part of my inspiration was Greece: Athens, Santorini, Crete. I fell in love with it when I traveled there--the beauty, the food, the culture, the history. I was on my honeymoon and about as happy as humanly possible. But it struck me that it would be profoundly confusing to be lost and lonely amid all of that beauty and wisdom.

How long did you work on the book?

I have such a hard time with this question! I wrote the first draft over maybe six or seven months. But it went through so many drafts since then! Overall I think it'll be just over two years from the time I wrote the first work until the time it hits shelves. But of course I wasn't working on this the whole time. There's also a lot of waiting in publishing—for your critique partners, your agent, your editors—during which time I'm always working something else! So I never have an easy answer about how long a book takes.

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

Well, MY BEST FRIEND, MAYBE is actually a second book in a two-book deal. And that means I always knew it was going to get published. I pitched a few ideas to my editors and they loved this one the most, so I got to work! Of course this sounds like the dream: writing something you KNOW won't die on your laptop. But it was so much harder than I thought. Before and after I wrote this book I've had a sense of freedom. I've drafted for my eyes only and then worked hard to revise for my readers. But with this book, the readers were sitting in the back of my head everyday. I had to work harder than usual to stay true to myself and squash my inner editor. In the end it was hard and exciting and excruciating and horrific and wonderful. Which is always true.

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 at home and I write in silence. I can't do the music-in-the-background thing because inevitably a song comes on that annoys me and it throws me out of the scene. I sometimes write with friends at their places or at a coffee shop, but if I'm writing by myself I'm always home. I'd like to be the kind of person who writes in a coffee shop. But I like to be in sweatpants and I like to control the temperature myself. :-)

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

All the standard stuff: butt in the chair, write everyday, don't give up on yourself. Get a great critique group.

The best advice I've gotten that's also a little unique is to write down what each character wants. I try to flush out all of my characters, not just the big ones, and that really helps drive the plot. Especially for someone like me: someone who works with no plan or outline at all.


Caela Carter is the author of My Best Friend, Maybe which came out June 3rd from Bloomsbury! Visit Caela's website here! Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads

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Sarah Jamila Stevenson: The Truth Against the World

How long did you work on 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?

THE TRUTH AGAINST THE WORLD isn't my first novel to get published, but I have been working on it for a long time! Actually, I started writing it in about 2001 as an adult novel, back when I was first thinking about writing fiction. At the time I was working at an internet company in San Francisco (yep, that famous internet bubble!) and I was writing daily humor articles, and I thought to myself, Man, I really used to love this writing thing when I was younger. Why did I ever stop? I definitely think I could do it every day! (Secret confession: I don't actually write every day (unless you count emails)! Shh! Don't tell anyone!)

So I enrolled in an online fiction writing workshop, and I wrote the first two chapters of what was then titled THE OTHER OLWEN. At the time it was an adult novel, with a twenty-something protagonist. And then I stopped. I was stuck. It just didn't seem right.

Writing in general, though: THAT seemed right. As soon as I could, I went back to grad school to get an MFA in creative writing. In the process, I took a class in YA Fiction from the author Kathryn Reiss. When I started learning more about YA literature I realized THAT was where my story belonged. I started rewriting it, working on the plot and getting to know my characters in their new, younger forms. It worked SO much better! Ultimately, THE OTHER OLWEN would become my MFA thesis (yep, it's in the Mills College library!).

As the first novel I ever completed, I couldn't be more excited to see it finally published, even though it's gone through many major changes and revisions. I guess, all told, since I first thought of the story, it's been about 13 years. I've written and published two other novels in the meantime (and written another unrevised, unpublished one)! THE OTHER OLWEN was the first one I ever finished, though, and the first one I ever tried sending out to agents and editors. I was so thrilled when one of the earliest queries I sent out got a request for a full manuscript. That was in maybe 2005 or 2006. I went through a few rounds of revision and queries—and rejections—and a few requests for full manuscripts—before deciding to set it aside and start working on something new.

You might laugh, but that "something new" was UNDERNEATH…which was my second book to get published. I started that during NaNoWriMo but didn't get to the 50,000 words, and didn't finish…and put that aside, too. I was starting to seriously wonder if I was making a mistake about this writing thing. But then, the following year I did NaNoWriMo again. I started writing THE LATTE REBELLION, and I finished it, and I revised it a few times, sent out a few rounds of queries—and that ended up being my debut YA book. The second-and-a-half book I ever wrote! Not too bad, really.

And even though it's changed a TON since I first started it, I'm so happy that THE TRUTH AGAINST THE WORLD is finally getting out there. I had to really bite the bullet and commit to doing whatever revisions were needed to make it publication-worthy, and that isn't an easy thing to do with a book that sort of feels like my "baby." But I have always thought it was a good story—I wouldn't have been able to stick with it this long if I didn't. (Bonus fun fact: one of the biggest revisions I had to do was adding ubiquitous cell phone technology to the story. In 2001, or even 2004, people were not able to Google everything in seconds on their phones. I realized if I didn't adapt the story to fit current technology, I wouldn't have much of a story at all!)


Sarah Jamila Stevenson is the author of The Truth Against The World, which came out on June 3rd from Flux Books! Visit Sarah's website here! Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads


  1. This looks like it could work out to be a great type of post. There's something new each week and getting a chance to find out more about the authors is great.

  2. I enjoyed reading these. Seems like it would be a good way to go.

  3. Posts like these are good once per week. Most days I like reading about craft, something more instructional. Hit topics that we commonly struggle with, like character development, dialogue, etc.

  4. I like these interviews in which you get to know how the book came about and a glimpse into the personality behind the book!!


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