Monday, June 30, 2008

My True Love (in case you didn't know)

I have a confession. As much as I love writing and reading, my true love is music. I would be happy if I could just sit and listen to (and sing along with) music twenty-four-seven. So it probably comes as no surprise that for each of my novels I create a soundtrack. Heck, I'll read other people's novels and start assigning songs I hear to them too.

Creating a soundtrack while I write can help me stay focused, to be able to review my plot in an hour (or the hour, fifteen minutes that I aim my soundtracks to be so they can be put on a CD if I want). Listening to music in search of a soundtrack can at times provide just the inspiration I need for a scene. When I'm done with the novel and soundtrack, listening to it can provide me with a happy reminder of the story and characters. And finding that perfect song for a scene or a character, especially in a spot that had seemed impossible to fill a minute ago can completely make my day (even make my life as some YAYAers would say).

For the first time I just finished my soundtrack for a WIP before I finished the actual WIP. I usually end up finishing the soundtrack a month after the first draft. It usually takes just a little longer to find those perfect songs and get the playlist the length I want than it does to write the words.

I prefer to make a soundtrack chronological, with a song per important scenes and character-based songs put in where it makes sense for them to be. I know some people make soundtracks other ways, and some not at all.

So, share your experiences. Do you soundtrack? Just know of one or two songs that you relate to your novel? Never considered it? If you do make a playlist, how do you make it? Is there a process you go through? How does it help you with your novel writing and/or enjoyment? And if you want, share some of your favorite songs and how they relate to your novels or characters. You know me. I'd love to hear about them.

Lots of love,

Friday, June 27, 2008

Book Review: The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson

Although political boundaries were redefined following Napoleon’s historic victory at Waterloo, 1920s Europe may be on the brink of another war. Despite being sheltered under the wing of her distant, séance-loving great aunt, fifteen-year-old Sophie is becoming more and more aware that she lives in a world of chilling new technology.

Sophie discovers her own abilities as a medium and learns that she may hold the key to preventing Scotland’s power-hungry leaders from stirring up the violence that serves their dark purposes. But few people in Sophie’s circle of acquaintances are what they seem to be, and there may be no one she can trust.

This book was as compelling as any I’ve read in quite a while. The stakes are high, and as I neared the end I cared a great deal—but couldn’t see how Sophie was going to escape the fate of being surgically altered into a mindless cog in the government’s machinery. This is a solid read that paints a vivid, believable picture of an alternate history in which the outcome of a single battle created a world where spiritualism is a real science, Scotland is a potential military threat to the rest of Europe, and young women are remade into near-zombies for the supposed good of the country.

The Explosionist is ambitious, and Jenny Davidson lives up to the challenging task she sets herself in this book. I recommend it for anyone in search of a YA novel that stands apart from most of the books on the shelves today.


I write books for teens. OLDER teens. Ones that know the fun of a good make-out session. Ones that know how much it sucks when your boyfriend hooks up with your best friend or when said best friend nails you with a taco during a food fight.

So with my sometimes… racy content, why don’t I just write for adults? Funny you should ask! I was just about to give you five reasons.

The five reasons why I write YA novels:

1.) I love to use words such as tool, lame, and like way too much to sound like an adult. And I mean in regular life. Imagine what it’s like in my books, man!

2.) I have an active imagination. And for some reason, it’s always imagining a first kiss, first love, first romance.

3.) To me there’s something about that summer between high school and college that is life changing. And even when my characters are younger than that, I love that theme. It’s not quite Growing Up, because that sounds terribly lame, but it’s a realization of “Oh my God. I’m too old to keep doing this sh*t!”

4.) By growing apart from your parents, you somehow get closer to them. I love when my characters get that in my books.

5.) Because only in YA is a kiss scandalous, a friend betrayal worth a cat-fight, and an undead boyfriend somehow still a good idea!

So I’m guess if you’re reading YAYA, you love YA too! And if you write it, WHY? I’d love to hear the reasons!!!!!


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Interview with Author Daniel Waters

Daniel Waters is the author of Generation Dead, which YAYA reviewed a while back. We offered to do an interview with him and he accepted. So, without further ado...

What made you first want to become a writer?

I think I was just born that way. Or I was dropped on my head, maybe. I was writing and drawing comic books when I was a little kid.

I had a major epiphany regarding writing when I was in the fourth grade. We had to write sentences using our weekly spelling words, and the teacher would pick the best of these to read to the class. One day (probably when I was supposed to be paying attention in another class) I was looking at the words of the week and they seemed to fit together in a story, so instead of sentences I wrote a story.. The teacher ended up reading the whole thing to the class even thought it was a horror story, which I thought was pretty cool. The following week I started the first chapter of a serial, which the teacher again read. Soon after, other kids in the class started doing stories, and it could get quite competitive. I always managed to get the serial read, though, for the rest of the school year.

My classmates seem to enjoy the stories I wrote. A month or so into the serial, the class bully stepped to me on the playground and I thought I was in for a scrap. Instead of throwing down, he asked me what was going to happen in next weeks' chapter. This was a major revelation to me as to the power of writing.

I promise I will try to only use my powers for good.

Have you written novels for other age groups? What makes YA different?

Generation Dead is actually the thirteenth novel I've written (the others are locked safely away for the time being). None of them, GD included, were consciously written as YA.

After going to a writing conference and listening to a panel of YA editors, I realized that almost everything I'd written would qualify for the YA category--almost all of my books had teen protagonists, dealt with teen issues, etc. But I never thought of them as "YA novels"--they were just novels to me. I didn't intend to be a YA author, it just sort of happened.

That being said, I'm happy to be classified as being an author of YA books, because I think that's where a great deal of enthusiasm is in the book world right now, both among publishers and readers--there really is a surfeit of good books and good authors to be found in the YA section of your local book store.

Ultimately, though, the categories are just something that makes the books easier (or harder!) to find on library and bookstore shelves. Most adults would love many of the YA titles that are out if they'd listen to their kids and give them a chance. And teens will naturally find the good stuff in the other sections of the store.

Do you think zombies are the new vampires?

No. But I do think that YA fiction is the new Rock n' Roll.

If you could be alive or dead (as a zombie), which would you choose and why?

Alive, he cried. Not being able to enjoy a nice grilled cheese sandwich would just kill me.

Do you have a favorite character?

My own? Not really. Love 'em all.

Other people's characters: Holden Caulfield.

What about a favorite author?

Arrrrggggh. I feel like a little kid that has been told they can only have one stuffed animal on their bed at a time, while all the others have to sit on the floor in a big heap, watching with their sad glass eyes.

P.S. I would never limit my kids to one stuffed animal on the bed, but I hear it happens.

What about a favorite cliche?

"Keep reaching for the stars."

Do you have any other books planned?

I have whole libraries planned.

Thanks so much for participating, Daniel, and congratulations on Generation Dead's release.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Trunk Novels

We've all got 'em. And (unless we're Stephen King) they'll never see the light of day. But what makes them special? I mean, sure they've got problems, but if we managed to stick it out to the end there they must have some redeeming qualities, or else why spend that much time writing them?

Maybe a novel doesn't turn out like you anticipated. Maybe the audience has changed--or the genre--to something you can't quite define, and furthermore have no idea how to query.

Maybe there's a plot problem, and you know how to fix it, but the idea of yet another overhaul doesn't exactly excite you.

Maybe it'd sound better in third person. Never know until you try, right? ;)

Whatever it is, these are the novels we loved, and now that--for one reason or another--they just sit there gathering dust, we love to hate. Betas despise them, agents won't touch them, but we have a soft spot for those pages of manuscript that equal countless hours of our lives.

What's so special about your trunk novels? Or, is it not so much a "love-hate" kind of thing, but more like a "see you in Hell" kind of thing?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I think my main character is crazy.

I'm about 20,000 words into a draft and the select few that I've allowed to read it in its raw form think that my main character is crazy.

Now, I didn't think of this before -- I'm used to writing characters as I know them. There may be some definite traits that I'd like to include, but after the first few thousand, they tend to write themselves. So, I wrote my main character, Nero, as himself, and he turned out to appear paranoid.

I'm almost smelling a double standard. The character must be themselves, and yet, if the character has any sort of mental illness the mental illness must be researched thoroughly. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not against research, but I'd rather keep it out of this.

I've had some very strange comments about these characters from someone who I think is a psychology student. He commented on things that I'd heard in studies, like how women would sit across from each other if they were going to talk for eye contact and men would sit next to each other if they were going to talk. At first, I didn't know what to make of it, but then I decided that I'd take it no heed. If I really needed to know how guys talked to each other, I have a feeling that I'd be better watching them talk in their own natural habitats than taking some research in which I didn't know anything about the circumstances or the testing groups.

Nero is an individual in very idiosyncratic circumstances, and I'd like him to remain that way. I'm only going by what feels right for the story.

I'm hoping writing can be like painting a still-life -- it may not exactly be true to what the subject looked like, but if the picture's good enough, nobody will notice.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The "Oh No" Factor

There comes a part in every teen's life when they realize they are far up shit creek without a paddle. Or a boat, for that matter. One such time was today. This teen was stranded downtown, sans bus fare and sans car, for about two hours.

How did I survive?

That's a story for another day, my friends.

What I wanted to talk about was that "oh no" moment. It usually comes within the first fifty pages of your novel. It's the time when the protagonist decides his character for the rest of the book. It's that moment that triggers the journey of epicness into that coming of age arc that we all love so much. (How many thats was that?) This moment can come in many forms. Usually it's a big shock (my mom is cheating on my dad with my history teacher!!) that totally breaks down one of the MC's support systems (aka: my history teacher -- WHY MR. JONES, WHY?!) and forces the MC to become an "adult" for better or for worse.

So what are your favorite Oh No Moments? Are they in novels you've read, or novels you've written? What makes them memorable?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Deep Thoughts in First Person

First Person and Internal Thought

First person IS internal thought, right? I mean, everything that is on the page is coming out of your mc’s head. But there are (probably) a lot of things bouncing around in your mc’s head.

Your mc is passing along what he or she (from now on I’m calling her she. You don’t like it, leave me a nasty comment) sees which creates the setting and the atmosphere and their general surroundings.

Your mc is recording dialogue in conversations they take part in and conversations they witness.

Your mc is sharing their voice through the way they relate what she sees and what she hears.

But what about what she thinks?

Your mc needs to tell us what she is thinking. Yes, tell. And that’s where we as writers get all tied into knots. We’re supposed to SHOW, not TELL. And it’s fine to show your character’s feelings (particularly the secondary characters but also your mc) through showing. Like they roll their eyes, they throw their books against the wall, the grab the hot guy and ….whatever.

But it’s also okay to tell every once in awhile (or as my editor made me do- like three times per page) what the character is feeling. I was mad. I was mad as hell. I was pissed. I’ve never felt so angry in my life, I felt like my brain would explode from furious steam pouring out my ears. It’s all in your mc’s voice, and it helps the reader get to know them better. A good combination of showing and telling creates a more rounded character that the reader can relate to. And keeps them from those what the hell moments when they can’t figure out WHY your character is doing whatever they’re doing.

In my first editorial letter (which obviously contains only Biblical truth and which I have memorized for posterity) my editor (who is obviously a genius because she loved and bought my book) said that the difference between a good book and a great book is internal thought.

So what do you guys think? Is this easy or hard for you? What balance to do go for? If you write third person (which I don’t ever do) what is the difference?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Summer Giveaways!

No, not at YAYA (yet). I've recently stumbled across two book giveaways, thanks to Lisa McMann, author of WAKE. The first is at Book Chic, and is absolutely huge. The next is at Keri Mikulski's blog and is not so huge but still fun. Check them out!

Also, YAYA has recently implemented a regular updating schedule. So now entries will upload regularly. Hence the regular part of my previous statement.