Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Writers Like Us - Courtney C Stevens

Writers Like Us is alllllmost at 50 author interviews, and I've been lining up a stellar line up of inspiring and fun writers to count us down. You can check out all the interviews here, which include advice and insights from Sara Zarr, A.S. King, and many, many others.

This week, Courtney C Stevens stops by to share her writing, publishing, and life advice. She's the author of Faking Normal, The Blue-Haired Boy, and The Lies About Truth. You can find her tweeting at @Quartland. Her answers are below in bold.

Courtney on Writing
  • I've written eight point seven books, and four point five have seen the light of day.
  • My favorite type character to write is someone who feels real and unreal at the same time.
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with sleeping. No, seriously, I still have trouble with everything. The more I write and know, the harder it gets, because I want to level up.
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is here’s a link to the difference between farther and further.
  • The book I wished I wrote is the one I’m working on now.
Courtney on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt like maybe I should just take pictures of baby hedgehogs.
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was trying to squash hope to protect myself. Many artists are scared to hope. I’m scared not to.
  • What I love most about my agent is she’s aware of how my personal life affects my artistry.
  • While my book was out on submission, I worked my day job and wrote the next book. I had a really keen sense that if it happened, it happened. If it didn’t, I'd write my way to where I wanted to be with the next thing.
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was I still have to do my day job tonight. How am I going to do my job tonight? I need to call my mom.
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I went to my local librarian and thanked her.
Courtney on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be an FBI agent. 
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of losing my hearing.
  • My secret girlfriend/boyfriend is if I told you, well, you see the problem here. 
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I drive fast on country roads and listen to music and look for places that no one else sees. (I also consider trespassing when there is an old silo with vines crawling up the sides, because … how awesome are those things?)

Courtney C. Stevens grew up in Kentucky and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She is an adjunct professor and a former youth minister. Her other skills include playing hide-and-seek, climbing trees, and being an Olympic torch bearer. She is also the author of Faking Normal, which Kirkus Reviews called “a story that resonates” and Publishers Weekly called a “rich debut,” as well as the e-novella The Blue-Haired Boy, and the recently released The Lies About Truth.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Writers Like Us - Darcy Woods

I don't know about you, but I'm ready for another round of Writers Like Us. This series started in January of 2013 and has included over 41 authors so far. I'm so excited Darcy Woods is number 42 and will kick off this new round of interviews. You can check them all out here.

Darcy Woods' Summer of Supernovas is out on shelves now and I just adored it to pieces. If you're looking for a fun, swoony romance to kick off your beach reading, pick this one up. In the meantime, let's learn a little about Darcy...

Darcy on Writing
  • I've written 2.5 books (I rewrote my first ms from page one, hence the .5 for recycled premise), and so far one has seen the light of day. But technically not till May 10th!
  • My favorite type of scene to write is forbidden first kiss scenes with toe-curling tension.
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with commas. I've been known to drop them randomly like f-bombs. My brain is not equipped for grammar-ing. 
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is "*snorts*" "But why?????" ":)"
  • The book I wished I wrote is Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere for ALL THE OBVIOUS REASONS. #genius
Darcy on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt like Houdini challenging people to punch me in the stomach. There were times it was absolutely grueling and hurt like hell. But you have to believe in yourself MORE than the pain of rejection. I've been cumulatively rejected almost 200 times. This does not make me a special flower. But it makes me tenacious, a necessary attribute from every author. 
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was not being myself. When I queried my first ms, I was soooooo nervous! And I'm quite sure I used pompous phrases like "esteemed cadre of authors." Which I would NEVER EVER EVER use in real life. Not even if you held my feet to smoldering flames. I was just so afraid to be me. The irony, of course, is that YOU is precisely what they want to see. 
  • What I love most about my agent is her tireless belief in me. During my rocky submission process, Catherine Drayton's certainty was unfailing. Unrelenting. You cannot put a price tag on that kind of loyalty. It is everything when the chips are down.
  • While my book was out on sub I got carpal tunnel refreshing my email. Grew ulcers. Drank wine and ate lots of French fries--often all of these were simultaneously.
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was this is a joke. We'd already had a couple offers fall through, so I couldn't quite wrap my gray matter around it actually happening. Then when I finally realized my agent wasn't kidding, I did this weird, hysterical laugh-cry thing. And she said, "Darcy, you're going to be a published author!" I wept like a babe.
  • When I saw my book sale in Publishers Marketplace, I exploded like a supernova. I think every one of my atoms lit up like sparklers. It was an unforgettable moment.
Darcy on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a Professional Closet and Refrigerator Feng Shui-er. So let's hope authoring pans out. ;)
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of seaweed. Oh, I'll happily eat it, but do NOT ask me to swim where I can touch it.
  • My secret boyfriend is Captain Jack Sparrow. Maybe it's odd to adore a man who wears more eyeliner than me, but I don't care. 
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I sing Broadway show tunes to my cats. I also tell my plants they're doing a great job making oxygen.

Young adult author Darcy Woods had three big loves in grade school: Reading, writing, and pizza day. Some things never change. She lives in Michigan with her madly supportive husband, two tuxedo cats (who overdress for everything) and a closet full of neatly organized shoes. Once upon a time, she served in a US Army aviation unit and threw live grenades. Now she throws words.

Darcy’s Golden Heart®-winning debut YA romance, SUMMER OF SUPERNOVAS, comes out from Random House/Crown May 10, 2016.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Writerly Rants - Shelving Projects

Tonight, I took the manuscript I've been working on for the last year and shelved it.
>50K words; two drafts.
An idea I was so excited about nine months ago deflated.
Promises of a finish line and a delivery date to my agent cancelled.
I threw my hands up in defeat.

I had no choice, you see. I've been sitting here in front of my computer for weeks staring and agonizing because I didn't recognize this lumpy story I had in front of me. It was just a pile of words and scenes and characters. And there was this thread of story--there was a lot of WHATs going on, but no WHYs.

Why was this happening?
Why would this character react this way?
Why would it go down THIS way rather than THAT way?
And most importantly, what am I trying to say with this story?

I have this problem. I want people to read my work and weigh in, because who doesn't love to hear feedback? But this story didn't incubate long enough. I didn't let it rest and stand back and let myself re-examine it. I didn't give myself the time to throw my all into it. To work until the late hours of night, writing feverishly. Or replay scenes over and over in my head, perfecting each and every line of dialogue. Instead, I wrote it like a shot in the dark. Throwing spaghetti at the wall. Hoping something stuck. Then too many fingerprints got all over it.

Don't get me wrong: I'm totally grateful for the time and effort people take in reading and critiquing my work. But if it happens too soon in the process, it derails me. Instead of finding the road that leads to the story, I'm taking some back way that someone else took this one time. The journey to finding a story is different for every person and every story, and we have to go our own ways at our own speeds.

So I'm sitting here with something shelved. As in, not trashed, but waiting for the dust to clear. Because, at some point, I'll grasp for the right sound and shape and it will be there for me. The story that wants to be told. That feels right and not forced. That is true to my vision. And it won't involve Band-Aid plotting or Frankensteined scenes.

I'll work on something new, and let this project rest. Give it space and time. Until that moment when I have a thought, "I wonder if I did this..." And then the process starts anew and a new story is born.
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