Category Archives: YA

Thanksgiving news and new stories!

Beautiful Doorway (c) jhay0781

Thanksgiving is always my favorite holiday, but this year it was better than ever! I got good news! A short story I wrote this summer will appear in Spencer Hill Press’s upcoming anthology Doorways to Extra Time!

Set in the same universe as my debut novel Sing, Sweet Nightingale my short story looks at what else is happening in the world. It follows Valari as she desperately works to save her best friend Will from a death that never should have happened to him, a death she feels responsible for. Titled Whatever It Takes, the story features characters who will make an appearance later in the series and gives a brief glimpse into the world readers will get to dive into when SSN releases in March 2014.

I’m thrilled to continue working with Spencer Hill Press and can’t wait for the anthology to release next year! More information will be forthcoming as I have it, but for now the news that it will be included is exciting enough!

Hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving!

Reviews: Colin Fischer by Miller and Stentz

Life is math.

We know this because mathematics can reduce anything to a system of equations. Sometimes the solutions tell us things that seem “intuitively obvious.” This means that we do not need math to figure them out. For example, the Parking Problem.

Some mathematicians at a university wanted to know how people could minimize the time it takes to find a parking spot and get into a store. Here is what they found: The optimal strategy is to take the first space you see and then walk.

When I told my father about this, he asked why it took mathematicians at a university to figure it out. I explained that while the conclusions seems intuitively obvious, it runs counter to standard human behavior. Most people will not take the first space the come across. Instead, the will seek out a better, theoretical spot that could be more convenient, incorrectly believing it will save them time.

I used to think people did this because they’re bad at math, but actually it’s because they’re gamblers. They pass up good opportunities that are right in front of them in exchange for imagined improvements that almost never materialize. This is why I trust math and I do not trust people. Math makes better sense.

This is one of Colin Fisher’s many observations in his Notebook, a catalog of facts, observations, and notations dating back to his pre-school days. Colin has been diagnosed with high-functioning Aspergers Syndrome and that translates to a variety of quirks which place him firmly on the outskirts of his school’s social spectrum. He’s bullied by some, ridiculed by others, ignored by most, and befriended by few, but Colin honestly doesn’t care. He enjoys school and enjoys making observations of his peers even more. Even his main tormentor, Wayne Connelly, is worthy of consideration. This turns out to be for the bully’s benefit after an incident in the cafeteria–one involving an interrupted birthday party and a gunshot–leaves Wayne the prime suspect. Only Colin, the one person with the most reason to want Wayne out of school, believes his innocence. Only Colin starts asking the right questions to figure out what really happened, just like one of his idols, Sherlock Holmes, would.

Especially given that I believe Sherlock Holmes (had he been a real person) probably could have been diagnosed with some form of Autism, Aspergers, or other sociodevelopmental syndrome, I think Colin is this generation’s Sherlock. You may not like him, but you’ll empathize as he tries to safely navigate the perils of high school. You’ll cheer each small victory and you’ll smile when people find him as baffling as he finds them. Every character in the book became intriguing when seen through Colin’s eyes and his relationships with his parents, his younger brother, and his peers involve interesting and unusual dynamics. Everyone around him has to take Colin for what he is or leave him, but either way it makes very little difference to Colin. His very indifference made him even more fascinating.

I read this book all in one day… in fact, often while I was supposed to be doing other things. I fell in love with Colin from page one. I can actually pinpoint the moment, because it happened at the end of his first Notebook observation, one centering on the inexplicable schooling habits of hammerhead sharks in the Galapagos. In it, Colin states the following:

My name is Colin Fischer. I’m fourteen years old and weigh 121 lbs. Today is my first day of high school.
I have 1,365 days left until I’m finished.

The tenor of the statements, a simple listing of facts, is a thing of brilliance. Possibly without even realizing it, Colin is doing what every other kid facing their looming high school career is doing: dreading the trials to come and counting the days until they don’t have to face them anymore.  Colin’s observations are intelligent, thorough, and thought provoking and some of his references (and those of the narrator) would have left me in the dust if not for the very handy footnotes. Not having an overly analytical mind myself, I find books like this mesmerizing if only for letting me peek into an entirely different worldview. It’s probably why I studied psychology in college; trying to figure out how different people think intrigues me just as much as it puzzles Colin.

Colin Fischer is out today! Do yourself a favor and go get the book now. It’s worth it. I’m hoping the implied promise of a sequel holds true. In fact, I’m hoping for a long, drawn out series of books revolving around Colin. I don’t think I will ever get tired of diving into his head.

Erica’s Rating: 5/5

Find the book on:
Amazon – Kindle  |  Hardcover
Barnes & Noble – Nook  |  Hardcover
Goodreads

Construction Area Ahead: Expect Delays

Old Crane (c) Dorin Jannotta

First round editing on Sing is going a lot faster than I expected (yay!) but with all the work I’m doing on that plus all the work I’m doing at work, my brain is pretty much mush (boo.). To this end, I’m taking a brief hiatus from the blog so I can finish my work projects and my reconstruction of Sing. Not too long, though! I should be back Monday September 17th. Probably. 😉

See you then! <3

Book Reviews: After Hello by Lisa Mangum

Sam ignored the lie he saw on her face. “I can’t trade without knowing what’s at stake.”

“I thought the important thing was to keep things moving.” Sara waved her hands in small circles in front of her as though stirring the air into action.

Sam shook his head. “If you don’t know what you want, you’ll never get it. What’s more, if you don’t know what you want, you’ll never know when you do get it.” He reached into his bag and withdrew a packet. He offered it to her on the palm of his hand. “So, Sara without an h, tell me–what do you want?”

Sara is only in New York City for one day, a day she was supposed to spend sightseeing with her father after his meeting wrapped up. But her father’s meeting runs long and Sara is left to her own devices. On impulse she follows a boy she sees leaving a bookstore wearing a Zebra Stripes hoodie, a band she loves that most other people haven’t heard of. It’s a decision that could lead to something great or something horrible, but the last thing she expects is for it to change her life.

Sam knows a girl is following him, but he can’t decide if he should ditch her or let her catch up. He waits for her and meets Sara (without an h) for the first time. Even without knowing anything about her, the ever-observant Sam sees in Sara a kindred spirit, he just doesn’t know why yet.

They spend the day together and whether by accident or design they end up on a seemingly impossible quest across the city looking for something that may not even exist. Sam teaches Sara the art of trading, promising you can get anything you want by starting with a sugar packet. Sara shows Sam that sometimes letting go isn’t the same as letting go. They seem to click together perfectly, but they’re both holding onto demons they’re afraid of revealing. Sam and Sara know going in that there’s an end in sight–Sara’s flight leaves at noon the next day–and it’s a looming deadline that makes their time together all the more special and their secrets all the heavier. Will the strange ties that bind them be strong enough to hold when their pasts come to light and their plans fall apart or will good-bye come far too quickly after hello?

I loved this book. I adored the feel of the city you get from it and I loved the characters. Sara wears her smile like a shield to keep people from seeing the pain she still feels from her mother’s abandonment eight years ago and Sam is still coping (and running) from a tragedy that shattered the way he looks at the world. Sam has a unique way of seeing things and being able to see from his point of view (the book is told from alternating viewpoints) gave the story another level of depth the really drew me in. It took a few chapters to get used to the switch between first person (Sara’s chapters) and third person limited-omniscient (Sam’s sections), but otherwise the writing style had a flavor I enjoyed. The descriptions, comparisons, characters, and dialogue all seemed fresh and real and kept me reading until I’d devoured the book in one sitting. The only thing that bothered me: I wanted it to keep going! The book offers a resolution, but enough of the story continues after the last page that it’s meant for either the reader to fill in the blanks or to set the characters in motion for a sequel. Personally, I’m hoping for a sequel.

Erica’s Rating: 5/5

The joys of a well-written edit letter.

Yesterday, my editors sent me my first official edits. Not on the whole book, just on a particular section they want me to revamp before the in-depth editing begins in January. When I opened the file and looked at the five-page edit letter and the rainbow of track changes and comments within the actual story, two thoughts ran through my head simultaneously:

Dear lord I think I’m going to die…

And

OMG YAY! SOMEONE WILLING TO TEAR MY BOOK APART AND HELP ME PUT IT BACK TOGETHER BETTER!

And the first thought only lasted for about as long as it took me to think it. That’s because THIS is one of the handful of reasons I’ve been holding out for the “traditional” publishing model instead of trying to self publish. I wanted someone invested in my story who was excited about the characters and who really wanted to help me make the book better than the first draft. I struck gold with Spencer Hill. I don’t have one someone. I have three. And if this is an example of what they do on preliminary projects, I’m both excited and terrified to see what they give me when it’s time to really dig into the book as a whole. Can’t wait to get started!

If I ever start complaining about revisions come 2013, someone point me toward this post, kay? 🙂

News Flash: Waiting Sucks…

Okay, so maybe the fact that waiting is hard isn’t a news flash, but for some reason it’s been particularly difficult for me this time around. So, I’m trying to concentrate on other things. Like my characters.

In one of my books, my character’s relationship with her parents (especially her mother) plays a key role in the development of the story. While this isn’t unheard of in YA and kid-lit books, it’s more likely parents will be absent, stupid, or even neglectful and abusive. This doesn’t happen nearly so often in the real world, so why is it so popular in books about teens and children?

Well, how else would they get permission to do so many dangerously stupid things?

While the absentee parent scenario is more prevalent in fantasy/sf novels, I can think of quite a few contemporary works (at least in the YA category) where one of the major problems the characters have to deal with is how their parents are absent, abusive, or falling apart after some tragedy. Author Shannon Hale (and if you’ve never read anything of hers, RECTIFY THAT IMMEDIATELY,) posted about this on her blog in two posts: Where are all the moms? and Epic fantasy hero wanted (leave your mama home). Even when authors purposefully TRY to have a mother or father actively involved in a fantasy story, it usually doesn’t work (notice, I said usually–there are always exceptions). In her post, Shannon says:

I was determined to have a mother and father who were present, who had the adventures alongside my hero. Again, it didn’t work. Boring. The real growing up a person does is gradual and often subtle. In a story, you speed things up, let a few large events stand in for a hundreds of small events. If a mother especially is there, the young character doesn’t have a chance to grow, to make choices, to be a hero. 

 I talk about this because–without setting out to do so–I’ve written an involved set of parents who don’t get in the way of their daughter’s “adventures.” Of course, they don’t know about those adventures, but they’re heavily involved in their daughter’s life and care deeply about what happens to her.

While it is difficult to accomplish, good, caring, devoted parents can be as much of an impetus to action as neglectful or absent ones. Guilt over doing something wrong and potentially letting their parents down can drive a child to do outrageous things to try to fix their mistakes. Threats against a parent could also be a call to action. Of course, the character will have to escape from the clutches of their well-meaning parents to go off and complete their quest/adventure/trouble-making, but that’s true of everyone at some point, isn’t it?

Reviews: A Midsummer’s Nightmare

“Isn’t this great, munchkin?” Dad said, stepping up beside Sylvia and putting his arm around her. “You kids will have a wonderful time together. Won’t this be a fun summer?”

Fun? Fun was not the word I would have chosen. Unbearable, awkward, torturous… Anything but fun.

This was a nightmare.

I was supposed to be at the condo, wasting time on the beach, just Dad and me, figuring out college and my life and spending time together. Instead, I was in a new house with new people – including a future stepbrother who’d seen me naked.

“Well.” I sighed, facing my father again. “It will definitely be interesting. That’s for sure.”

 Whitley Johnson’s parents divorced when she was 12 and for the past six years Whitley has been living with her mother, forced to listen to the near-constant diatribe against her father. Whitley doesn’t understand why her mom can’t see she’s bashing the same traits Whitely inherited from her dad and hates the fact that her mom never sees how miserable she is. Her friends have all abandoned or betrayed her, her brother is too busy with his wife and their new daughter to call Whitley, and she only gets to see her father in the summer months. The only way Whitley can find to feel happy, even for a moment, is to go out and party. Hard. She gets a reputation for being easy–a highly exaggerated reputation–and drowns her sorrows in tequila as often as possible. She’s looking forward to spending the summer at her father’s condo and wasting the days tanning, drinking margarita’s, and barbequing, but that dream is blown apart when her father takes her instead to small-town suburbia where he has a surprise for her: he’s getting married.

That’s not even the worst part. The new fiance comes with two kids Nathan and Bailey, and Nathan just happens to be Whitley’s most recent one night stand. Suddenly her dream summer is starting to look like a nightmare that Whitley doesn’t know how to escape. Her usual outlets aren’t readily available and as the daughter of Greg Johnson, one of the area’s most popular newscasters, Whitley’s mistakes are suddenly worthy of noting… and posting on the internet. Despite her best efforts, Whitley is befriended by Harrison, a local boy, and no matter how hard she tries she can’t seem to hate her new stepsister Bailey. As she digs herself deeper and deeper into her own hell, will her new family and friend be able to pull her out before she destroys the first good that’s happened to her in years?

Kody Keplinger has done it again. I loved this book. You may not like Whitley, but she is a relatable and sympathetic character I couldn’t help hoping would see the light. I may not agree with how she dealt with her issues with her parents, but the dynamics of those relationships struck a serious chord with me–I’ve seen the damage those kinds of parents can do. Also, I loved getting to know Harrison (who showed up in The DUFF) better and seeing that Wesley and Bianca (also from The DUFF) were still together and baffling outsiders with the apparent oddity of their relationship. The book comes with a PG-13 warning.

Erica’s Rating: 4/5

Reviews: Snapshot By Angie Stanton

Adam finally spoke. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize. My family isn’t like that at all.”

“No one ever does see that side of the story. They just think about the genius. Well, there’s a steep price paid by the people around him.”

“It sucks he treated you that way, but stop confusing me with him. I’m not like that.”

“Maybe not, but give it time.”

Martini Hunter (who much prefers going by Marti) is the daughter of legendary guitarist Steven Hunter. It’s a relationship she hates owning up to because spending the first ten years of her life with him and her drug-addict mother has scarred her. Luckily, her maternal grandmother took her in and Marti was able to live the next six years in relative normalcy. She hates rock music and loves photography, so Marti’s grandma sends her to an exclusive arts camp with a respected photography program. The last thing she expects is to run into the one thing she can’t stand: a rock star.

Adam Jamieson is thrilled to have two weeks to pretend that he’s a normal sixteen-year-old and not the lead guitarist of a world class rock band. He meets a pretty girl and everything is looking great, but the illusion only lasts three days before Marti figures him out. Now she’s pissed because she thinks he’s just like her wastrel father and it doesn’t seem like anything he can do will get him back in her good graces. But once he’s set his sights on something, Adam doesn’t give up easily and Marti is an enticing mystery he’s determined to solve.

Just after they finally get past their initial differences, Marti gets news that her grandmother passed away. With this devastating loss comes the realization that she has to move back to LA to live with her father. Adam has to return to his family on the East Coast but worries there’s a lot Marti isn’t telling him about her life and has to face the criticisms of his older brother and his parents who still insist on treating him like a child. Will he break free in time to help Marti escape the life she never wanted?

I love the Jamieson family. This is the second book centering on the rock star brothers who were first introduced in Rock and a Hard Place. Marti is the perfect combination of scars and strength and she gives Adam’s rock star ego a run for his money. The only thing that really bothered me is that it seemed as though Adam’s older brother Garrett didn’t learn a thing from everything that happened in Rock and a Hard Place. That’s kind of disappointing because most of the trouble in that book was his fault and in this one he’s up to the same tricks. Mrs. Jamieson seems to have taken her lessons to heart, though, and I really enjoyed getting to know Adam better. The book was a quick read (literally. I read it in a single afternoon cause once I started I just kept going!) and is great for anyone looking for a contemporary YA book. For those considering the book for younger readers, there’s more cursing, drugs, and sex in this book than in Angie’s previous ones, but not an excessive amount. Just be aware you may have to explain to the younger ones what a bong is if you give them the story. 🙂

Honestly, I can’t wait to see what Angie comes up with for Garrett. At least, I’m sincerely hoping she has someone up her sleeve to calm down that cranky boy. He needs it more than either of his brothers did, I think! Whenever it comes out (if it comes out… please write it, Angie!), I will definitely be reading it.

Erica’s rating: 4/5

Books: Why Isn’t YA Okay?

I had this conversation with customers many times when I still worked at Borders. One day the line shall disappear completely between YA and “adult” literature and people will realize how many genius writers exist within the YA world.

That is all. 😉

Interviews: Welcome, Courtney Vail

For the first time ever on this blog, I’m pleased to welcome author Courtney Vail! Her book Kings & Queens just released this year and the sequel, Sapphire Reign, is in the works. Courtney graciously stopped by long enough to answer some questions about her book, her writing style, and advice all would-be authors need to hear.

Thank you, Courtney!

Seventeen-year-old Majesty Alistair wants police to look further into her father’s fatal car wreck, hopes the baseball team she manages can reclaim the state crown, aches for Derek…or, no…maybe Alec…maybe. And she mostly wishes to retract the hateful words she said to her dad right before slamming the door in his face, only to never see him again.

All her desires get sidelined, though, when she overhears two fellow students planning a church massacre. She doubts cops will follow up on her tip since they’re sick of her coming around with notions of possible crimes-in-the-works. And it’s not like she cries wolf. Not really. They’d be freaked too, but they’re not the ones suffering from bloody dreams that hint at disaster like some crazy, street guy forecasting the Apocalypse.

So, she does what any habitual winner with zero cred would do…try to I.D. the nutjobs before they act. But, when their agenda turns out to be far bigger than she ever assumed, and even friends start looking suspect, the truth and her actions threaten to haunt her forever, especially since she’s left with blood on her hands, the blood of someone she loves.

1)    Can you tell us how you got the idea for Kings & Queens? You mention a dream on your website, but was that the moment where it all came together or did the story fall into place in bits and pieces?
I had this idea for a love triangle of sorts but no plot to plunk it into. All I knew was this girl named Majesty was the manager for her high school’s baseball team, on which her two guy best friends played. Then one night I dreamed I overheard a plot for mass murder and escaped the conspirators in this little town. I knew as soon as I woke up that that was the seed I needed to bring my book to fruition. However, I had no idea at all that it would end up so complex, twisted and dark.
The deeper part of the conspiracy totally took me by surprise. If you haven’t read it, I’ll just say it involves Derek and leave it at that. That whole thing was not planned. It emerged as I wrote it. He’s way more than some guy who’s curt with his friends and out for a quick lay. I knew when I finished it, that the complexity would make K&Q one of those love-it or hate-it type of reads because not everyone likes that much depth and intricacy. YA tends to be more linear and straightforward and Kings & Queens is one shocking twist after another and it doesn’t let up until the epilogue.

2) What was your favorite part of writing this particular book? A character, someone you met doing research, or something else entirely?
My favorite part was meeting my characters. That’s always my favorite thing with every book I work on. And my books always have one or two characters that people absolutely love. Most people I’ve heard from say they like all my characters, but especially Warren and Derek. I get the most feedback about them. The research was fun too. Although, because I had to research explosions and gun firing skills, I’m sure I’m now on a watch list of some sort. I interviewed a Richmond cop on police procedure and learned they don’t need parental consent to interrogate a minor, which I wouldn’t have thought. I made it optional. And I spoke with a bike expert about sabotage. Fun, fun, fun trying to explain that one. Maybe when I earn enough cash, I’ll get to travel around for my research.

3) When approaching a new project, do you outline or let the story develop as it will? Why do you think that technique works for you?
I am what’s called a pantser, but  I’m not crazy about that word. Instead I call myself a Just-Wing-It Girl. I usually have an initial concept, and I create character sketches, maybe I’ll jot down some bullet points for the beginning or along the arch, but it’s loose, just an idea about direction really. This is usually done with pen and paper. And then I get on the keyboard, and just wing it and fly to wherever my characters and story take me. I love when I end up surprised and affected, where I’m shouting at the screen–yeah, I’ve done that. I’ve also cracked up at some of the things I’ve written and I’ve broken down and cried. This free-flying style works for me because my story’s always grow and expand beyond my wildest dreams, and I can never predict which way they’ll go until I’m writing, so it’s hard to plot out for that.

4) How well do you know your characters? Do you decide before you start writing every detail of their lives down to the type of snack foods they prefer or do you let the details come into play as the story develops?
It depends on the story. For Kings & Queens, yes, I knew most of this intricate stuff before I ever started. I don’t info dump at all, but backstory plays a big part in how my characters think and act within the story’s present time.
Like, Majesty is a very strong character, and she’s quick witted and likes to verbally spar, and all that was originally spawned from her having to grow up with a weird name.  Some people would cave and sink into themselves, but Majesty turned it into a positive thing and turned herself into a victor instead of a victim. She lives life as though she has a scepter in hand and always strives to win. Authors sometimes give their characters weird names, and there are no ramifications for that. But that’s not me. In my book, I take every little thing into consideration.
Another example , Derek grew up without a mom for most of his life and he has a crap relationship with his dad, so he doesn’t eat right, have any fashion sense or moral center. He’s all over the map along the debauchery path since he’s had no one to look up to and no one to live for except himself. His actions are birthed out of a need for self-preservation rather than outright rudeness. He’s not a jerk, just an insensitive, wounded, guarded teen.
All that thought that I put in to character psychology is how my characters end up feeling real, like they’re jumping off the pages.

5) What’s better, in your opinion: writing a first draft or going back and rewriting it?
Definitely writing the first draft. It’s so much fun. I’ve done a ton of editing, but I’ve never really completely rewritten anything.  I ended up blessed with great critters who helped me get my novel into publishable shape. I’m a tweaker, so the editing process can be a tedious pain.

6) What can you tell us about the editorial process after you turn in your first draft? Any advice for hope-to-be-debut authors?
I definitely seek out the opinions of multiple people because you can never spot the holes and glaring mistakes in your own work, beyond grammar and such. I caught two big mistakes on my own, but it was during the editing process after I’d given myself some time away from the work. For one, I had a major mistake in my timeline and ended up with 6 school days in a week. And in chapter 4 I forgot to have Derek give Majesty money before she headed off to buy flowers for him. Those issues were in there even after at least ten pairs of eyes had combed through it. So definitely, finding some distance and then going back to it helps immensely. And reading books on craft is very important. When you know your stuff and what’s best for your story, then you can have the confidence to know what advice to apply and what to discard. Writing and reading is subjective and not everyone is going to have the same opinion, not everyone is going to like your work, and not every piece of advice you get is right for your work. You need to know what’s story-enhancing and you can only do that by listening to your gut and knowing what’s correct. Listening to too many people can have you over-editing, and I made that mistake and stripped out too much voice and some of the rawness. I had to go back and reshape the narrative so it held my quirkiness again. Not everyone likes or gets quirky. So I learned to not care and to just be myself with a pen, regardless of the outcome. Voice is everything. And mine happens to be weird. And I’m proud to own that.

7) You chose a company in between self-publication and an independent press to produce Kings & Queens. Can you tell us anything about your experience with Little Prince Publishing so far?
LPP is an indie publishing company, it’s just very small right now. It does things differently than other companies though. For instance, I get all my royalties. Usually a publisher pays for everything up front, and only gives you 4-15%, maybe 20% of the royalties. A small press usually won’t pay an advance, and I really needed the flexibility of a small press in order to be able to publish my split-market series.  I knew I’d make the most money with Little Prince and have options no other publisher could give me. I paid for the Lightning Source set up fee and an LPP ISBN and did my own formatting and cover, so $152. (I am one of the book formatters and designers for LPP now as well as another small publishing company.) Because bookstores can buy directly from the Publisher’s Bookstore with a sliding-scale, short sale discount that starts at 40% off the listing price, I can set my own wholesale discount as low as 20% at Lightning Source, which I did. So I make $6.15 per book for paperback sales anywhere online or when customers order it in brick-and-mortar stores. With any other publisher, I’d earn change. I’ve long since earned back my set up fee but am just waiting for the check, since it’s paid out quarterly.
Originally, I was shopping Kings & Queens and had every intention of going traditional. I was getting some helpful feedback from agents, though no bites, but I ended up pulling myself out of the hunt because of the sequel I had written for fun. Early readers kept asking me how my characters were doing and I wanted to know too, so I opened the story ten years after the events in Kings & Queens. In Sapphire Reign I have an 11-year-old POV, a 15-year-old, and 3 people in their 20’s. It’s weird to have ages across the spectrum like that but it is what it is. However, my early readers fell in love with it and my characters, especially the young girl, Crystal. All this feedback made me fall in love with it too and see its potential, and my vision changed. I didn’t want to risk the sequel getting shut out because series just don’t do that. They don’t split markets. If you get a 2 or 3 book deal from a bigger house, it’s for one market. That’s a fan base building strategy. It makes sense. But I just don’t care about categories. It’s my series. I figure if people like my writing and my characters, they won’t care that the series has shelving confusion. Now, I can put out both books out and have them look congruent. Sapphire Reign is a twisted, weird, dark book, so not everyone will like it, but I can’t wait to hear from those who LOVE it because there’s absolutely nothing like it. It is a wild, wild ride.
The Kings & Queens paperback just came out in January, but I’ve loved my experience with LPP so far because I’ve gotten to make my own decisions. I also get to collect ALL my own royalties, not just a small portion,  the same as if I’d gone solo, but I have a group of authors and a little house to support me in my endeavors. I can even write a third book in the series, or not, it’s my call. I love the flexibility I have.

8) What’s the hardest part for you to write? Beginning, middle, or end?
I sometimes write out of sequence. For Kings & Queens, I wrote the first two chapters and then the last two so I’d have my end game.  It’s such a twisty plot and I needed to keep focus on how it would end. But all the middle guts in getting there totally surprised me. The hardest part for me was the climax, the rest of it was easy.  I really had to wrestle to get everyone to be where I wanted them to be and to act like they needed to act within the scene. I love the way it came out. But I would say endings usually give me the most trouble, just because I want everything to end on the perfect note. I not only want to give readers a satisfactory conclusion, I want to leave them with some resonation.

9) Do you listen to music as you write? Have TV on in the background? Require absolute silence and solitude?
I like music in the beginning stages, when I’m constructing my ideas, I find it inspirational actually. The song Field of Innocence by Evanescence, for instance, really captures the story, feel and tone of Sapphire Reign. I wish I could use it for my book trailer, but since it was on a limited release album and the band is split, it would likely be impossible to pay for the rights, which I would because it is just that awesome. I’m not even sure if the publisher/producer is in existence anymore.
But I don’t like music or any major noise once I get deeply into my story. I used to, but I’m easily distracted, so this has changed. And I definitely prefer to be alone. I can’t write at all if someone is too close or staring over my shoulder.

10) Last, but definitely not least, what advice do you believe is crucial for anyone who wants to have a career as a writer to hear?
To take the time to develop your characters fully, to know the different narrative options backwards and forwards so that you can just fly with your plot idea and know how to execute it properly, to understand the importance of a story question and to always write with passion, putting forth your best effort. If you take care in all these areas, you will be on the path to success. Someone, somewhere, is going to be moved and hooked by what you’ve written.

AUTHOR BIO:
COURTNEY VAIL writes totally twisted YA and adult suspense. She enjoys braiding mystery, suspense & romance with some kind of weirdness. Her addictions to crazy coffee concoctions, Funny Bones, Ben & Jerry’s, and bacon keep her running and writing. She currently lives in New England with a comedian stud and a wild gang of kidlets.

If you like weird books, you can follow Courtney Vail at:
Twitter @cvwriter
Facebook
Goodreads

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Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound