Saturday, January 23, 2016

0 Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz, authors of SANCTUARY BAY, on how they write together

We're delighted to have Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz join us to share more about their latest novel SANCTUARY BAY.

Laura and Melinda, what was your inspiration for writing SANCTUARY BAY?

Too many to name! Shutter Island, The Secret History, every boarding school book we ever read as teenagers…

What do you hope readers will take away from SANCTUARY BAY?

We just hope readers will think this is a fun, surprising book. It plays with several different genres, and we want to keep people guessing about what exactly is going on. We talk about Sanctuary Bay being like an onion—every time you peel back one layer, you find another one beneath it.

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

Well, our ritual is a bit different from other writers’ because there are two of us! When we first started writing together, we used to sit in the same room, one of us at the computer, and “write” out loud, working on each word, each sentence together. After a while (not a very long while!) we realized that was a waste of time. We almost never disagree about what should be written. If we do, it’s along the lines of word choice or minor issues with sentence structure. And that’s the kind of stuff that can be dealt with in the editing process. So we began to split our books (or scripts) in half and write by ourselves. One of us does the first half while the other is busy writing the second half. Then we stick the two halves together and take turns reading it all the way through to make sure it works.

This way, we speed up the writing time, and we also get the benefit of that aforementioned editing process. We are both book editors, having met while working together on R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series. So we are both very comfortable with the idea of making changes to a manuscript. If Laura is doing a read-through to make sure the plot points make sense, she has no qualms about slashing and burning Melinda’s sections along with her own. If Melinda is doing a read-through to beef up a specific character’s story arc, she doesn’t think twice about writing a whole new scene in the middle of Laura’s section. We both change dialogue, rewrite action, and add detail wherever we feel it’s needed. By the time we’re done with our official first draft, we’ve both edited it at least once, and we really don’t remember anymore who wrote what. Plus, it’s in much better shape to send to our editor!

Obviously, the only way this works is that we are in constant communication. During the writing process, if one of us is writing a scene that needs to be set up earlier, we’ll ask if that earlier scene is written yet and what specifically has been said in it. If a verbal tic has developed in the voice of a character, we’ll let the other writer know about it so it can be incorporated in that half of the book, as well. And, of course, we’re both working off an outline that we wrote together and characters that we developed together in advance. If one of us goes off course, or notices a plot hole we hadn’t realized was there, we both stop writing and decide how to solve the problem before going further.

What are you working on now?

Another book for St. Martin’s Press, this time about a girl on a quest to save her parents. She’s a little bit Indiana Jones, a little bit Rey from Star Wars, and hopefully a whole lot of fun to read about. We’re definitely having fun creating her.


Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz
St. Martin's Griffin
Released 1/19/2016

In this genre-bending YA thriller, will Sarah Merson's shiny new prep school change her life forever or bring it to a dark and sinister end?

When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country--Sanctuary Bay Academy--it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn't sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate's dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay's glossy reputation.

In this genre-bending YA thriller, Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz, Sarah's new school may seem like an idyllic temple of learning, but as she unearths years of terrifying history and manipulation, she discovers this "school" is something much more sinister.

Purchase Sanctuary Bay at Amazon
Purchase Sanctuary Bay at IndieBound
View Sanctuary Bay on Goodreads


Melinda Metz grew up in San Jose, California. People sometimes ask if she knows the way there. She kinda does, but she has an off-kilter sense of direction, so to be confident of arriving, it's better to consult some kind of navigational device.

Her mother tried to teach her to read in kindergarten, but Melinda had no interest. She also had no interest in learning to write her name. (FYI, when Melinda was in kindergarten it was all about finger-painting, play time, and naps.) Eventually, she mastered both and even majored in English at San Jose State University.

After college, Melinda moved to Manhattan to seek her fortune, which involved learning to identify fruits and vegetables while working at a grocery store, making $2.73 working backstage for an off-off Broadway play (her part of the box-office profits), and editing books.

Melinda and the lovely and talented Laura J. Burns pretty much became unofficial writing partners when they were editors at the same company. They teamed up to brainstorm story ideas, and at some point their brains fused in some key places. Later they worked on the Roswell High book series, Laura developing and editing the series, Melinda writing.

That series led to Melinda and Laura, now an official writing team, writing two TV pilots, moving to L.A. to work on the Roswell TV show, and briefly living in Toronto while on the writing staff of 1-800-Missing. They both continue to write books, together and separately.

Laura and Melinda have a new book out in January 2016--Sanctuary Bay, a young adult thriller set on an elite private school on an island off the coast of Maine, a school with many secrets.

Melinda's middle-grade book, Between Us, part of the Picture Perfect series, is set mostly in her current hometown--Concord, NC, because there aren't enough books set in Concord. It features some of her favorite places, including the Family Restaurant, which serves pancakes as big as your head! The first four books in Melinda's S.M.A.R.T.S. series are out now, and there are two more to come. The series of middle-grade mysteries focuses on the kids in a makerspace club, and includes lots of science facts. (Melinda minored in Biology. Weird, huh?)

And--shhh--Melinda has a secret identity working in the children's room at the Kannapolis Library, where she gets to read stories to kids for money.

Melinda has never regretted learning to read and write her name.

Laura J. Burns only vaguely remembers her childhood on Long Island, NY. (That's the correct way to say it, BTW--on Long Island. You'll hear people say "in Long Island," but that just proves they're not from Long Island.) She went to school near a lake that bore an Indian curse, was a cabana girl at a beach on Fire Island, and worked in a multiplex. 

 She moved to Manhattan to attend Barnard College, and stayed there until she'd entirely forgotten how to be a suburbanite. (Stayed in NYC, that is. Not at Barnard. College only lasts for four years, you know.) While in New York, Laura was a book editor, working on series like Goosebumps, Sweet Valley High, Fear Street, Thoroughbred, and Roswell High. 

Laura met Melinda Metz at work, where they bonded while trudging up and down the stairs between their offices (in a really gorgeous pre-war building in the Flatiron district, with wide marble steps and fancy carved banisters. Best stairwell ever.) They worked on many Fear Street books together and discovered their mutual love of supernatural creatures and TV. So when Laura moved on to another company and was developing a series about aliens in high school, it was pretty obvious to her who should write it. The Roswell High books were easy to edit, because by then she and Melinda had basically only one brain between them. 

After Roswell High was turned into the late, great TV series Roswell, Laura and Melinda moved to Los Angeles to work as writers on the show. They also wrote a couple of pilots for Fox and were staff writers on the show 1-800-Missing (which was also based on a supernatural-themed YA book, but this time not one they wrote.) 

Laura has written more than thirty books for kids and teens, and estimates that 85% of them involve the supernatural in some way. Sadly, in life, she has never met a vampire or a werewolf or even a run-of-the-mill ghost. (Her husband, annoyingly, can feel exactly where the ghost is in every supposedly haunted house they enter. It's very unfair.) 

She now lives in New York again, and really misses the California weather. Along the way, she has acquired a husband, three kids, and a couple of dogs. They're all pretty cute, if she does say so herself.
Have you had a chance to read SANCTUARY BAY yet? Do you give your book layers like an onion? Have you ever written a book with someone else? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

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

No comments:

Post a Comment

Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)