Interview on Kirsten Rice’s Blog

So I was interviewed by Kirsten Rice, who’s been interviewing important(?) people from Absolute Write.  You can find it here:

Or read below.

In other news, I have a brand new WIP.  I know I’ve had like 20 of those lately, but I’m pretty sure this one is sticking.  I’ve written about 600 words of it.  It is not the one mentioned in the interview, lol.

AW Identity:
Screen Name: Sage
Post Count: Not quite 40K
Favorite Forum: YA, though I’m having lots of fun in the Bewares and Background Checks forum
What’s the best lesson AW has taught you? I have to admit, I was one of those new YA authors who thought that YA had to be fairly innocent.  In the 3 years since the YA forum really took off, I’ve obviously learned differently, but since I massively fail at being edgy, it doesn’t actually matter that much to me 😉

In real life, you are… very stressed, lol.
Book title(s): I have no published books, but I will be happy to give you the titles of my finished (query-ready) mss.  AFTRLYF, HEVN SNT, DownLoad, Love Sucks, Trouble is a Friend of Mine, and Fireflies. 
Genre: Urban fantasy (A and HS), YA SF (DL), YA contemp. fantasy (LS, TiaFoM), and literary MG (Ff)

Describe your current WIP in 50 words or less: Haha, this is harder than you’d think because I have several possible projects, and I haven’t chosen one.  I will give you the one I’m most likely to pursue.

Boy/Girl: Cameron is sometimes a guy, sometimes a girl, depending on who he…or she is with. Things should be easier after enrolling in an all-boys school, except that her roommate is convinced Cam is a girl and falls for her. Meanwhile, the school’s “prince” falls for, well, him.

You write some YA: what draws you to the genre?  This is an excellent question.  I think part of it is that I was reading YA early on, and then continued through high school, and in college I didn’t really have time for pleasure reading.  So when I thought about reading for fun after high school, I still usually thought about my experiences with YA, even though now YA is so far from the Sweet Valley High and Babysitters Club books of that time.  Also, I always kind of wanted the kind of high school experience that we got to see in YA books and shows when I was younger, and I never got it, so there’s always been an element of vicarious living that way.  There’s just something very natural to me about writing a character at the age of 16.  I usually start my MCs there and then adjust their age according to what I really need it to be.  Finally…, my favorite show of all time is Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, so you can see how I might end up with YA contemp fantasy.

What’s the most important way your writing has changed from your first novel to your latest?  Well, what’s interesting is that my last novel was so different from anything else I had written.  But, okay when I wrote my first novel, I was convinced that a) fantasy readers expected to see quests and portals and magic and languages and weird races, b) I couldn’t possibly limit myself to one POV, in fact, I should do many many POVs, and c) I needed to show every bit of history that led to my MCs becoming who they were by the beginning of the actual story. Furthermore, it was 113K long… after cutting it significantly before and after finishing the first draft.  (Now, I’m considering revamping that novel, and taking out some of the “necessary epic fantasy” stuff, limiting to one POV, cutting even more, and giving one of the MCs a medical problem that explains part of the characterization I already gave him).  The next novel had many of the same problems.  I found AW just before writing the second novel (which was a NaNoWriMo novel), and my writing began to mature from there.  When I got to AFTRLYF, which was set in the “real world,” I made myself stick to one POV, gave her a snarky voice, and really set it up as a mystery (which was an element that failed in both my early novels).  The first-person, female POV with attitude really worked for me, voice-wise, and I got a little stuck in it for a few books (even in DownLoad, where I had 2 third-person POVs, one of them was a pissed-off girl).  Part of the reason I wrote Fireflies, which was the first book where I tried to focus on language as much as plot and characterization, was to experiment with a different voice.  Fiona’s voice is still first-person, but it is rambly and soft and younger (IMO).  And I absolutely love it.  One of my favorite things about Fiona’s voice, and this happened almost naturally, is that she’ll go off on a tangent, and then by the time it’s done I’ll realize it’s done one of two things–either it went around and came back to the beginning of the tangent, getting me back on course for the narrative, or it turned out that she was secretly talking about one of the themes of the book, metaphorically.  One example of this is she’s talking about the doors of the inn and how none of them fit their doorframes correctly.  It comes about because she’s feeling her way down the hall and doesn’t want to bang the door against its frame as she presses on it, but what it relates back to is how her brother has a traumatic brain injury and his brain swelled up against the skull and doesn’t fit properly.  And I didn’t make that connection until I got to the end of the scene.

You’re in the middle of the querying process: how’s it going so far?  I don’t want to sound as impatient as I really am. 😉  I actually have three novels that have fulls and partials out there with agents, and I’ve only been querying the last one for a month and a half.  I know this is a miniscule amount of time in the publishing world, but considering that I have fulls that have been out for 8 months, I feel very impatient when thinking about how long I might have left for these Fireflies fulls.
You’re also an AW moderator. Firstly, you must invest a lot of your time on the boards. What drives you to commit such a big chunk of time to the writers, lurkers and learners at AW?  I’m a fairly new mod.  I go through stages of being obsessed with AW and then others when I’m feeling depressed about writing and don’t want to hear about it anymore, lol.  That latter time is when it’s really hard to convince myself to go hang out with all the prodigies in the YA forum.  But the YA forum really didn’t have a mod for a while, and then we had one that we shared with other forums.  The nice thing about the YA forum, though, is that it’s a great bunch of writers.  They’re very good at modding themselves, and I usually end up just being the person who sends threads to the right forum or merges the hundred word count threads that pop up in a week.  Right now I’m working on a FAQ, where I’m just placing every post that covers our most talked about subjects in that thread.  You can’t imagine how often we get asked about edgy topics.  And I know the regulars are trying soooo hard not to roll their eyes or yell, “READ THE STICKIES,” so I thought I’d give them a few less instances to do that.  Because I was a newbie four or five years ago too, and I’ve learned so much on AW, I want to make sure we don’t scare away the newer members.

Secondly, you have an insider perspective on how AW works. What do you see as the top benefits (and maybe drawbacks, too) of any writer’s being a part of this community? How has it enhanced your own writing?  I’m going to start with drawbacks.  There are two drawbacks I can see from how AW works.  1) There are so many threads about so many things, both writing-related and not, and it is so easy to fall into procrastination mode once you get online.  2) There are a few “rules” that occasionally get drilled into people’s brains that you hear over and over and over, even as you see new books from debut writers breaking them.  Now, of course, they are “rules” for a reason, but you cannot believe how set people will get in their belief that a prologue ruins a novel or first-person present tense is a gimmick.  As for the benefits, there are so many.  One of the best is the support you get.  When I started writing TiaFoM, I wasn’t getting much love from another group of writer friends.  But when I posted my first excerpt on AW, I was given this huge boost of reps from people telling me what they loved about the scene and the character (who was being a brat, so I’m glad they loved him).  When I posted my trial beginning to Fireflies, my first comments were how beautiful the writing was and how literary, which were exactly the comments I needed at the time.  And of course there is a lot of good advice to be found on the website.  I talked about people getting stuck on the “rules,” but a lot of those guidelines are based on good reasons, and that really can help enhance a newbie’s writing.  And for those “rules” that aren’t really “rules” (like about first-person present, which is a pretty popular POV in YA), you can have many different voices giving their opinion and reading and writing experiences, which isn’t true of other sources of info for writers, like a book on writing or a writing class.  And the Bewares and Background Checks forum is vital for any querying writer.  Obviously Share Your Work, where you can get critiques on pieces of your novels or on your query gives you invaluable experience.  I hang out more in Query Letter Hell than other parts of SYW, and I was surprised by how naturally I was able to write this query for Fireflies, which is my most successful query.
Lastly, your wildest publishing dream comes true… what is it?  I’m usually quite modest and fine with just getting published and having a small cult following who write fanfic (but, of course, I wouldn’t know about it) about my books, but when I dream big, I imagine television shows based on my books.  Or, like, AFTRLYF would make a pretty awesome movie, I’m not going to lie.  But one of the agents who recently rejected Fireflies made revision suggestions, and she said that if I followed them she had no doubt that the book could win an award.  And I was just blown away by the thought that any of my books could win an award.  So now that’s stuck in my imagination too, lol.

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