Saturday, January 7, 2017

1 Lydia Sharp, author of WHENEVER I'M WITH YOU, on following the needs of the story

We're pleased to have Lydia Sharp join us to chat about her debut novel WHENEVER I'M WITH YOU.

Lydia, what is your favorite thing about WHENEVER I'M WITH YOU?

My favorite thing is that this story has three of my favorite things—adventure, romance, and Alaska!

What was your inspiration for writing WHENEVER I'M WITH YOU?

Everything about Alaska has been a fascination of mine since I was very young, and I’d always wanted to write a novel that took place there. So that part of the inspiration was already waiting in the wings for me to say, “Yes you can come onstage now. I have a story for you to be in.”

Gabi’s internal journey, dealing with her parents’ divorce and the years of family strain leading up to their split, was drawn from my own childhood experience. The circumstances were different, but the emotions are universal. It’s a story I believed needed to be told honestly, no matter how difficult, for any readers currently going through the same type of thing to know they aren’t alone in how they feel.

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?

That depends on what you mean by “hard.” Emotionally, the whole book was hard, not only because of Gabi’s situation that was so similar to mine, but also because of Kai and Hunter dealing with loss—of both their father and their own relationship as brothers. The places this story took me were an emotional rollercoaster. So that was definitely hard.

But then there is “hard” in a different way—the actual writing of words and crafting a story that not only makes sense but is also entertaining.

The entire final third of the book was really hard—so hard, in fact, that I had to scrap it and do a complete rewrite on it at least three times during the editing process after the book had been acquired. My editor, bless her heart, was very patient with me, encouraging me every step of the way, letting me know what was working despite so much still needing to be fixed.

And I’d have to say, yes, that is the part of the book I am most proud of now because it represents my determination to keep going, do whatever it takes to get it right, never give up.

There is a scene I really love that takes place in the middle of the book. It is without a doubt my most favorite scene in the whole book. But I can’t even hint at what it involves without giving away spoilers!

How long did you work on WHENEVER I'M WITH YOU?

WHENEVER I'M WITH YOU took about a year to complete, working closely with my editor on revisions after turning in the initial draft.

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

That you never stop learning about writing and about yourself, no matter how much you already know.

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

Very long and very hard, but also very worth it. WHENEVER I’M WITH YOU was my 8th completed novel-length manuscript but my first one to be published. I average about one novel per year, so that’s 8 years of writing and hoping and “almost but not quite.” Even after I signed with my agent, it was another 2+ years before we got a book deal together. But as so many other authors have said, you never truly fail unless you give up. So just keep writing, keep submitting, keep believing.

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?

Yes! Kind of. ☺ I still learn something new with every story I write, but a major turning point for me was when I began studying story structure and applying it to my work. Everything about storytelling suddenly made sense, and plotting my novels became easier. For the first time, my dream of being a career novelist felt reachable. Writing them is still hard sometimes, though, and I think the only real key to writing a novel is to simply write the novel.

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

I live in a small apartment and don’t have a separate room for an office, so my writing corner is a literal corner of my kitchen table where my laptop is setup. It can be very distracting when the family is up and about—so I often listen to music or rain sounds to block out the noises of cooking, washing dishes, or random conversation.

When I’m drafting, I will usually do a quick review of the scene I last wrote, so the story flow is fresh in my head, and then continue on into the next part. Sometimes I will write out of order, but not often. Some days I spend figuring out what the best next step in the story will be. Some days I spend troubleshooting if it feels like I’ve gone astray somewhere or the characters have surprised me in a way that demands a change in the story. I’m mostly a pantser when I’m drafting, and I just let the story flow. The pre-plotting I do is a guidepost, not a concrete road, and I allow myself to make adjustments as I go, as long as they don’t prevent me from finishing the manuscript.

So my writing routine is never quite…routine. I simply follow the needs of the story from day to day, whatever they happen to be.

What are you working on now?

A few different things! I’m finishing up revisions on a YA contemp project that should be done and in the hands of my agent by the time this Q&A airs. I’m also brainstorming a brand new project, and revisiting an old project that I’d set aside to write WHENEVER I’M WITH YOU. So, lots of fun stuff in the works!


Whenever I'm With You
by Lydia Sharp
Scholastic Press
Released 1/3/2017

After Gabi’s parents’ divorce, she moves from California to Alaska with her dad. At first, it feels like banishment—until she meets Kai. He welcomes her into his life, sharing his family, his friends, and his warmth. But as winter approaches, Kai pulls away for seemingly no reason at all. He's quiet, withdrawn. Then one day, he disappears.

Kai’s twin brother, Hunter, believes Kai is retracing their missing father’s steps in the wilderness north of Anchorage. There’s a blizzard on the way, and Kai is alone out there. Gabi's frustration over his emotional distance quickly turns to serious concern. This is the boy who saved her from the dark. She can't lose him to it.

So Gabi and Hunter agree to head out together on a wild journey north—a trip that will challenge them physically and emotionally, as they try to convince the boy they love to return home.

Purchase Whenever I'm With You at Amazon
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Lydia SharpLydia Sharp worked a number of different jobs, everything from retail management to veterinary medicine, before turning her passion for stories into a career. She is now an editor for Entangled Publishing and writes young adult novels with lots of kissing and adventures. Whenever I'm with You is her debut, and she lives in Ohio with her husband and son. When not completely immersed in a book, Lydia binges on Netflix, pines for Fall, and hosts mad tea parties in Wonderland. Life is an adventure. Turn the page.


Have you had a chance to read WHENEVER I'M WITH YOU yet? Have you set a novel in a place that's always fascinated you? Do you study story structure and apply it to your work? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Anisaa, Sam, Erin, Susan, Michelle, Laura, and Kristin

1 comment:

  1. This is also a very good post which I really enjoyed reading. It is not everyday that I have the possibility to see something.


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