Friday, April 30, 2010

Interview with Christine Johnson of Claire de Lune

Welcome to Christine Johnson, my good friend, critique partner and author of the upcoming YA paranormal romance, Claire de Lune. And stay tuned for another book giveaway contest!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Chicago, but moved to Indianapolis when I was too little to remember living anywhere else. I have two small kids and a wonderful husband. I write YA fantasy and I adore reading and chocolate and I have a degree in Political Science. Also, as you may have gathered, I have a talent for being exceptionally random.

Tell us about your upcoming release, CLAIRE DE LUNE. Tell us about any sequels you may have in store for readers.

CLAIRE DE LUNE! Coming to bookstores May 18th! Huzzah! Okay, now that that’s out of the way - CLAIRE DE LUNE is about Claire Benoit, a girl who discovers on her 16th birthday that she’s a werewolf. She’s descended from a long line of female werewolves - it’s actually a female-only species. Unfortunately, she’s also just begun a romance with Matthew Engle, the ultra-hot soccer star who’s father is leading the hunt for a rogue, human-killing werewolf in their hometown. Claire has to struggle with her new identity while also dealing with the danger that seems to be coming at her from every direction . . . with life-changing results. And there will be a sequel! It’s currently slated for publication in the summer of 2011. I’m drafting like mad. Writing like crazy. Staring at the computer endlessly. It’s awesome.

You somehow juggle a demanding writing regimen and raising two small children. How do you do it?

I don’t. Seriously. I could be a more effective mom if I wasn’t a writer. I could be a more effective writer if I wasn’t a mom. But I love both of those roles so much - they’re so essential to who I am. Also, I think I’m *better* at each of them because I am both. The logistics work because I have a really fabulous mom and a great husband and a couple of fantastic baby-sitters who help out with the kids so that I can get my writing done.

What inspires you?

I love this question! Great books inspire me. Every time I read something new that I really love, it makes me want to run off and write. I also always come back from long walks and hot showers with new ideas - that’s when the knotted-up scenes come unsnarled, or a sticky sub-plot gets greased. And NPR is great, too. Seriously! I’m always hearing stories on NPR that give me ideas for new things to think about - new jumping-off points for my own stories.

What advice to you have for aspiring writers?

Read. Write. Repeat. You can only know what you’re aspiring to by exposure - hence the reading. And you can only creep toward those aspirations by trying and failing and trying and failing and improving inch by inch until you’re good enough. And also - there’s a boatload of patience and a modicum of luck involved, so be prepared to weather the passage of much time and also the unfairness of an agent’s or editor’s personal tastes.

What kind of books would you like to see more of on the shelves?

Oooh! YA fantasy, just like the ones I write! (Heh. I’m working on my shameless self-promotion, since it doesn’t come naturally to me. How did that sound? Kidding!) Okay. I think - I really like the direction that the YA genre has gone in the last few years. The books, as a whole, are treating teens as legitimate, capable, discerning readers. Which they *are.* The more honest and well-crafted the books are, the better the genre does, the more teens read, and the happier I am. I think it’s happening already, but I really want to see it continue.

Tell us something we may not know about Christine Johnson.

Oh, man. Let’s see . . . I’m passionate about and obsessed with sharks. Matawan, NJ, anyone? I’m miserable at math. I can’t stand the word “ointment.” Just typing that made me shudder a little bit. Hey, Lisa! Thanks for having me by for an interview. I always love talking to you. Let’s do it again soon!

Thanks, Christine, or C as she is fondly known in our corner of the world. Gee, didn't know about the shark or ointment thing. That's pretty hysterical. I'm going to press you on that to find the root of your aversion when we meet up in June!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Contest Results!

FIRST PLACE (signed copy of COMPROMISED – hardback): VESUVIUS CRIPPA (Absolutely cool and I loved the string of names afterward. Honestly, Magenta Maccaroni was my favorite in the pile .. as well as Al Dente. J )

SECOND PLACE (signed copy of FREEZE FRAME – paperback): THE KNICKERBOCKER MAINSPRING (and I also loved Katie Barracuda because, well, if I’m the CAPO of the bunch, I need followers that suck up!)

And, KUDOS to Lisa's mom. She was disqualified because a family member can't win the prize. Nevertheless, I was quite impressed with Moishe the Mohel.

CONGRATS TO ALL! Happy happy reading! Please send your addresses to Lisa, so she can pass them on to me. I’ll mail them out next week when I’m in the States!

Thanks for participating.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Heidi Ayarbe—Compromised Contest Opens!

First prize—A signed copy of COMPROMISED
Second prize—A paperback copy of FREEZE FRAME

Deadline: Monday, April 26, 2010, 12AM

All you have to do to enter this contest is..
1) either Tweet, Facebook or post a link in your blog and show evidence of this in your comment
2) Come up with a creative Mafia-boss name! Yeah, it's kind of random, but fun!

So have at it!!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Interview with Heidi Ayarbe

I'm switching the order here, folks. The awesome debut author Christine Johnson will be my next interview. This week I am featuring Heidi Ayarbe author of 2008's FREEZE FRAME and the forthcoming COMPROMISED. Heidi joins us to talk about her books, her philosophy of writing and a few random thoughts about American Idol (a guilty pleasure I share ).

Heidi is another of my long-time critique-mates (since 2005- wow) and I have had the great joy in witnessing her rise as a successful author of YA fiction. Aside from being a truly original voice and gifted writer, Heidi is almost pathologically generous of spirit. She feels everyone's pain, which could be why her books never fail to move me to tears. Even after I've read them six times. Go out and read them all. You will be changed.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a daughter, sister, *favorite* aunt, wife, mother, and YA author. (I’m really good at being an aunt! ) Other people may call me other things, but we’ll just leave it as is.

Tell us about your forthcoming May release, COMPROMISED.
Maya’s always lived a life of science based on procedures after her father’s arrest, Maya is sent to live in Kids Place, a group home, while waiting for foster family placement . She makes a plan to escape – in search of an aunt Maya’s never met and is joined by Nicole (Cappy), a street smart illiterate kleptomaniac. The two are joined by Klondike, a burn victim who suffers from Tourette’s. The unlikely trio sets forth to face life on the streets.

..and your previous release, FREEZE FRAME...
No matter how many times Kyle re-writes the scene, he can't get it right. He tries it in the style of Hitchcock, Tarantino, Lynch -- all his favorite directors -- but regardless of the style, he can't remember what happened that day in the shed. The day that Jason died. And until he can, there's one question that keeps haunting Kyle: Did he kill his best friend on purpose?

...and your next year's release, THE DOUBTING.
I’m on final revisions stage of THE DOUBTING about a high school soccer star who suffers from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and has spent his life hiding it from everyone he knows. The novel has been a challenge because it all takes place over the course of a weekend – a weekend when everything comes crashing down in his life and he has to come to terms with the fact he has this disorder.

Any hints of what your fourth book will be? (pushy, aren't I?)
I’m really excited about the little seed of an idea I have … But I’m a bit superstitious and never tell anybody (except for my agent) what I “might” be working on.

Do you feel being an American native residing primarily in Colombia affects your writing about contemporary American teens, either adversely or positively?

Well, we don’t have Cheerios here which is a travesty. That alone must have some kind of adverse effect. Let’s call it, “The Cheerios Effect.”

That said, in all honesty, I don’t think living abroad has affected my writing for American teens at all. You had a great interview with an author who said something to the effect of, “We never get over middle school.” (I believe that was the magnificent Anne Spollen). Much of my writing comes from my experiences growing up as a teen in Carson City, Nevada (where Freeze Frame and The Doubting take place). I always draw from that world to write. And from Colombia, I draw on the texture, smells, and colors of a world that’s very different from the one in which I was raised to help remind me of the details of Nevada. (It’s ALL about the details in this business!)

What it does effect, though, is the ability to promote my books in the States. As you can imagine selling books written in English about American teens doesn’t really draw in the Colombian buyer.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to the Cheerios deficit.

What inspires you?
Challenges. Tackling something that I think I can’t. For some reason I have stories that I want to tell. I don’t know why they’re here with me, but I need to get them out on the paper. Plus, having a deadline is a great inspiration. J

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
LOVE words. Read. Read, read, read, read, read. Write what you love – don’t write for the market. Share your writing with competent, supportive, critical readers and LISTEN. Listen to ideas. Filter the information and revise. Revise, revise, revise, revise … And keep at it. There’re so many wonderful opportunities for writers out there, and I really believe that this is a tortoise/hare business. Right now, though, it’s tough to break in – even tougher than a few years ago. So make sure your first draft is as perfect as can be. Be market savvy. Know what’s out there similar to yours and find a way to makes yours stand out. Then read some more.

What kind of books would you like to see more of on the shelves?
Maybe the question could be what would I like to see “less” of on the shelves. Last year almost 300,000 books were published in the USA. THAT’S MADNESS. That said, within that deluge of words and pages, there’s so much amazingness out there. SO MUCH! I can’t wait to see “more” of something I never expected, like last year’s brilliant surprise, giving us a modern-day Don Quijote on acid (Libba Bray’s Going Bovine) for instance.

Tell us something we may not know about Heidi Ayarbe.
I have a crush on one of this year’s American Idol contestants. This makes me a “cougar.” Gack! Okay. Other than that, which might not be the most appropriate fact for your interview, let me see … I’m actually a really private person, I guess, and don’t feel comfortable with people knowing too much about me. For this reason, I will not disclose the name of my secret crush.

Heidi, thank you so much for dropping by. As evident in your answers, you are made of awesome and so are your books. Love you, lady!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Live blogcast from the SCBWI retreat

No, I'm not there, but my new critique-mate Jeff is and so is my fellow Cuda, Cathy Giordano, who asks that I post a link to the firstnovelsclub live bloggers. I did attend in 2007 and it was a lovely weekend! So here's the link. Enjoy! Thanks, Cath!