RTW: How Far Would You Go?

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: How far would you go to get published?

“We writers can form quite an attachment to our characters and stories. But we also know publishing is a business, and sometimes to make it in said business–to really build a career from it–we have to bend a bit. How far would you go to break into the publishing world?”

Hmm… Honestly, I’d consider doing anyone of those things, and I have done a few of them (genre-jumping, agent requested revisions). BUT, before you start to wonder if I’ve sold my soul, let me say that I only made changes I truly believed in, changes I could fully get behind.While I do enjoy the privilege of making the final call when it comes to my work, I don’t believe I’m the end-all-be-all expert on writing. I believe there are publishing professionals (many, probably) who know much more and much better than I do, and I am not above listening to them, considering their advice, and applying it to my work–as long as their advice inspires me.

Sure, I made agent-suggested revisions when I was querying (who isn’t dying for a revise-and-resubmit at that stage of the game?), but I also declined to make such changes when I wasn’t feeling them, when I wasn’t certain they were the direction I wanted to take my story. Stressing about revisions is normal, but when I started losing sleep and making myself sick over the thought of taking my story to a place that made me incredibly unhappy, I respectfully refused to revise. I think I’d do the same with major revision request from an editor, should the situation ever arise: I’m willing to rework and alter and improve if the ideas resonate with me. If not, then I believe I’d pass on the opportunity.

So, I’m willing go FAR to get published. I will seek out sound advice. I will consider any and all advice that comes my way. I will work hard to make changes that excite me, changes that make sense, changes that I envision taking my work to the next level.

But I won’t do anything that doesn’t feel 100% right.

What about you — How far would YOU go to get published?

Oh! And have you heard about the Class of 2011: YA Superlative Blogfest I’m hosting with Jessica LoveTracey Neithercott, and Alison Miller? It’s a fun and interactive way to highlight and share your favorite YA novels, covers, characters, and story elements published in 2011. The Class of 2011: YA Superlative Blogfest will span four days, beginning Tuesday, December 27th and culminating Friday, December 30th. Click on the banner below to find out more and to sign up!

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Introducing Jus Accardo and TOUCH…

Today I’m thrilled to share my very first interview! Even more exciting–it’s with one of my amazing critique partners, Jus Accardo.

Jus pens YA paranormal romance and urban fantasy, and she’s one of the most creative people I know. Plus, she writes some of fiction’s most badass heroines!  Her debut novel, Touch, is due November, 2011 from Entangled Publishing.

Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my blog and answer a few questions, Jus! And congratulations on the upcoming release of Touch. Can you talk a bit about the story? 

Thanks for having me! Touch is about a seventeen year old girl who runs off with her father’s most deadly assassin. It’s full of action, secrets, and best of all, kisses. 🙂 Here’s the blurb:

 When a strange boy tumbles down a river embankment and lands at her feet, seventeen-year-old adrenaline junkie Deznee Cross snatches the opportunity to piss off her father by bringing the mysterious hottie with ice blue eyes home.

Except there’s something off with Kale. He wears her shoes in the shower, is overly fascinated with things like DVDs and vases, and acts like she’ll turn to dust if he touches her. It’s not until Dez’s father shows up, wielding a gun and knowing more about Kale than he should, that Dez realizes there’s more to this boy—and her father’s “law firm”—than she realized.

Kale has been a prisoner of Denazen Corporation—an organization devoted to collecting “special” kids known as Sixes and using them as weapons—his entire life. And, oh yeah, his touch? It kills. The two team up with a group of rogue Sixes hellbent on taking down Denazen before they’re caught and her father discovers the biggest secret of all. A secret Dez has spent her life keeping safe.

A secret Kale will kill to protect.

(Guys. I’ve read this book. Trust me–it’s just as awesome as it sounds!)

Can you tell us about your inspiration, Jus? Where did the initial idea for Touch come from? 

My inspiration? For this book it was, um, coffee..? Seriously though–it was the end of May last year and I was about to do a boot camp novel-in-30-days kind of thing. I had a few ideas I was batting around, but nothing felt right, ya know? So I’m sitting on line at Dunkin Donuts, just staring off into the woods, and I get this picture in my head. There’s this barefoot girl being chased through the woods at night. As she runs, the ground and everything she touches–tree trunks, low hanging branches–they all die. BOOM> Next day I started and couldn’t stop until it was finished!

How much of main character Dez is you? What’s your favorite thing about her? Least favorite? 

Dez and I share some of the same traits (though none of the cool ones!). We’re both on the snarky side, we tend to have issues with authority figures, and we can both toss a killer right hook. 😀 I envy her confidence, though. She’s self aware and independent. She knows exactly who she is and what she wants. As far as least favorite… I’m not sure. I mean, there must be something, but I can’t think of anything. Dez is the kind of girl I could see myself hanging with. She’s real and out there and totally loyal. Maybe the only thing I don’t like is the way she treats Alex…though he kinda deserves it.

Dez is definitely a girl I’d be friends with too. And you know I love Kale (as seen below on Touch‘s gorgeous cover!). How did you go about crafting such a swoon-worthy boy? 

He crafted himself. I know, that sounds like such crap, but he really did. Just like Dez, Kale took on his own life and voice inside my head–not sure what that says about me… He was as clear to me as though I’d known him all my life. 

I happen to know that you’re a panster (and I’m at times envious!). What was your writing process like for Touch? How long did your first draft take? What about revisions? 

First draft took about three weeks. It was insane. I couldn’t stop until I finished. It was kinda like I was possessed! Revisions took between three and four weeks before I started querying/submitting. I continued to change things throughout the year due to agent, and then later, editor feedback, but all in all it was pretty fast.

(I can confirm that Jus’s daily word count totals in the first-draft stage are, in fact, insane. We’re talking upwards of 5, 6, even 7 thousand words A DAY. She’s a machine!)

You’re represented by Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Can you talk a bit about your agent search? What were you looking for in a prospective agent? 

Kevan was in my Top 5When I started sending queries, I sent to two of my top 5 and decided to wait on the other three because they were all scheduled to take pitches at Savvy Authors. All three of those ended up requesting, and two eventually made offers. It was a hard choice, but I went with Kevan because we just clicked. 

Such a fantastic feeling! Can you tell us a bit about your submission experience? Were you an obsessive email checker? How did you deal with the wait and the stress? 

I thought waiting to hear back on queries was agonizing… I swear there’s a new level of hell for each step closer you get to publication! I checked my email a billion times an hour. No joke. I ended up at the acquisitions board in three NY houses, but for one reason or another, they ended up passing. Then, about a month later, Entangled opened and I swear, it was simply meant to be!

How did you celebrate when Touch and the follow-up books in the Denazen series sold (yay!) to Entangled?

Well, there was a lot of screaming and some Snoopy Dancing, but we decided to hold off on major happies until release day. My husband is taking me to dinner and then that weekend, we’ll be having a release party. There’ll be stuffed bears and lots of cheese. Kale would be proud.

(Kale and his adorable quirks–LOVE.)

Entangled melds traditional and indie publishing. Can you tell us a bit more about how they’re different? What’s it like to work with such a cutting-edge publisher? 

Working with Entangled has been amazing. They’re enthusiastic and ambitious. I’m so honored to be part of their team. Their covers rival NY–as does their editing–but each author is given their own publicist. They do simultaneous ebook and print release. Oh, and let’s not forget the higher royalty rates. Cause that’s some serious win.

Sounds pretty amazing. And yeah… who can complain about HIGHER royalties? Tell us about revising/editing under contract. How was your experience working with a professional editor? 

My editor, Liz, is awesome! She gets me and she gets my characters. Plus, she loves them as much as I do. I trust her with them, and that says a lot. These are my babies. They mean a lot to me. Her attention to detail is amazing. With her help, I added so many layers to Touch. I can’t wait to get started on Toxic!

Speaking of Toxic… Touch is the first book in a planned trilogy. When does the second book in the Denazen series come out, and can you share anything about it?

Toxic comes out Spring, 2012. I can’t say much without giving anything away, but I can tell you that Dez and Kale are not going to have it easy. There will be more secrets, some betrayal, and someone might even switch sides. Oh, and someone might die. 😉

(I’ve read Toxic–lucky me!–and I might love it even *more* than Touch. Just sayin’…)  

The Denazen books recently sold in France. So cool! Can you give us any details about how that sale took place? What was it like to get the good news? 

This is gonna sound funky, but I’m not too clear on the details. There was interest, and submissions, and some awesome work by my agent, Kevan, and Marsal Lyon’s foreign rights agent, Taryn Fagerness, and POOF. France! I was in a doctor’s office when I got the call, and I couldn’t listen to my voicemail.  A few minutes later, Kevan emailed me with Viva La France! LOL. I kinda screamed. The office was really crowded–I think they all thought I was mental.

I’m laughing at the mental picture I just got of you startling a waiting room full of sick people!

And a few fun, quick questions:

What are your three favorite books? (Only three!) 

Nightlife – Rob Thurman — Bitten – Kelley Armstrong — The Heavenly Horse from the Outermost West – Mary Stanton

What kinds of music inspires your writing?

It really depends on the scene. Personally, I’m a hardcore alternative girl, but I listen to pretty much everything. I’ve got stuff from classical to screamo on my Zune.

Favorite ice cream flavor?

Chocolate Brownie Fudge

Dream vacation destination?

Australia! 

What’s your favorite writing snack?

Coffee counts, right?

And, finally, if you weren’t a writer, what would your dream job be? 

If I wasn’t writing, I’d be cooking. There’s no doubt in my mind. I came really close, too. I was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America but passed last minute to pursue writing. I’m thinking I made the right choice.

I like you better as a writer who cooks, rather than a cook who writes. Definitely the right choice! Thanks so much for visiting today, Jus. 

This was so much fun, Katy! Thanks for letting me hang out. 🙂

I highly encourage you to visit Jus at her website, and to preorder Touch from Amazon or barnesandnoble.com.

Here’s to a Happy Monday and a stellar week!

On making it yours…

You may have seen my tweets about the local writing seminar I attended on Saturday (Sumner, Washington’s Write in the Valley, in case you’re wondering). It was a fun event; small and intimate, with a diverse panel. There were traditionally published authors (Kimberly Derting! Love her books!) and self-published authors, authors of fiction and nonfiction, and a Book Doctor who shared all kinds of useful information.

The audience was full of writers, both starting out and experienced, and some fantastic questions and conversations came up. One topic that seemed to dominate much of the discussion, though, was that of plagiarism. People seemed very afraid of copying another writer’s work (unintentionally, I presume) and getting called out on it down the road. They used gentler words to discuss plagiarism (“borrowing” and “honoring”), but the gist was pretty much the same: How can a writer ensure that their work is original when there’s so much published material already out there? 

To be perfectly honest, I’ve never worried about this. There are hundreds of ghost stories on the market, thousands of books set in old houses, innumerable protagonists dealing with the loss of a loved one, countless teens sent to live with relatives, zillions of girls forced to choose between two boys. Yet, I know my story, Where Poppies Bloom, is unique. It’s told from my perspective, with my life experiences to back it up. My characters are original, the setting is my own creation, and my inimitable author voice carries the story. I did the creative work to draft, revise, edit Poppies, and I’m certain that no one else has written (or will write) a story quite like it. Nobody can tell Callie’s story the way I can.

People have been writing stories since they dwelled in caves. To think that you’ve come up with an idea that’s never been done is a little presumptuous and a lot arrogant. My mom and I were just talking about this the other day: She mentioned that every piece of women’s or literary fiction she’s picked up lately has been about a middle-aged, middle-class woman with a cheating husband who has to rebuild her life from scratch. Gosh, I feel like I’ve read that book one or two (or one-hundred) times.

I mean, really… How many fictional YA girls are there out there who have an exceptional ability and are fated to save the world? How many dangerous paranormal boys have we seen fall in love with a Mary Sue? Was Stephenie Meyer the first author to write about vampires? Of course not. Before her was Anne Rice, and before her was Bram Stoker, and before him was John William Polidori. I’m willing to bet every subsequent author drew inspiration from those who came before them. But did they commit an act of plagiarism? No way. They each gave the old vampire tale a spin of their own. Edward Cullen sparkles in the sun… didn’t you hear?

That said, there are only so many basic plots. I’ve found arguments for the idea that there is only one (ONE!) plot with millions of variations. I’ve also seen research that claims there are three (The Basic Patterns of Plot by William Foster-Harris), seven (The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker), twenty (20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them by Ronald Tobias), and thirty-six (Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations by Georges Polti).

We can subscribe to whatever idea of maximum number of basic plots we want. What’s important is that we embrace that fact that, when boiled way down, there are only so many original ideas. Every story, at its very core, can be sorted into one of these: man vs. nature, man vs. man, man vs. the environment, man vs. machines/technology, man vs. the supernatural, man vs. self, or man vs. god/religion. It’s what we DO with the fundamental “plot” we choose that makes our stories innovative and imaginative and  memorable and ours.

Tell me… What, in your opinion, makes a story unique? 

Friday Five… Must Follows

I’ve recently discovered Paper Hangover, a fantastic group blog that offers writing tips and advice, book reviews, weekly Friday Five topics, and teen interviews. I highly recommend you spend some time exploring the site–they have so much to offer! Today I’ve decided to give Paper Hangover’s Friday Five a shot. Here’s the prompt:

And here are my Must Follows (Click the links to be redirected to each Twitter page):

Savvy Authors – An online writing community for writers of romance, offering tons of diverse workshops, forums, and pitching opportunities. I met a few of my super talented CPs at Savvy.

YA Highway – A group blog focusing on (duh) everything young adult lit.

Gayle Forman – YA Author (If I Stay and Where She Went… LOVE) who always has thoughtful, witty Twitter contributions and awesome blog posts.

Georgia McBride – Founder of YALitChat, extremely knowledgable, host of Wednesday night YA Twitter chats, and overall awesome.

Vickie Motter – My agent… Hello! Of course you should be following her!

*BONUS* If you like reality TV of any kind, you follow Andy Cohen – He’s got nothing to do with writing or publishing, but he’s Bravo TV Royalty, and he’s absolutely hilarious!

Tell me–who are your must follows on Twitter?

Current Must Reads…

There’s been so much action in the YA blogging world over the past week or so. In the past few days alone, I’ve read several excellent posts that I’ve 1) Found profound/interesting/thoughtful/helpful 2) Caught myself thinking about over and over and 3) Want to share with all of you. Without further ado…

Writer Natalie Whipple’s What to Expect When You’re Submitting, a cohesive post covering every angle  of the one step of the publication process we don’t often hear a lot about, including: dealing with the internet, waiting, and your mental state… Submission can do a number on your sanity. I like to call it “pendulum swings.”

Triangles of Love, in which literary agent Sarah LaPolla says: A good love triangle should force your main character to ask, “Who do I want to be?” not simply, “Whom do I want to be with?”

Author Gayle Forman’s wise post on Jealousy and how she deals: I have two choices: give in to the insecurity and feel jealous of other authors’ virtuosity or give in to my better angels and rejoice in these wonderful books and tell the world about them.

An Extremely Honest and Scary Post by author Kirsten Hubbard, who talks candidly about debuting as a midlist author: But knowing my book wasn’t given a full chance to soar in this all-important first quarter — even if wasn’t because of its content or quality, but because of its genre (contemporary), my author status (debut), the economy (brutal), and publishing climate (insanely competitive) — it hurts.

Author Barry Lyga’s On the WSJ, YA, and Art, in which he shrewdly refuses to play into WSJ’s Meghan Cox Gurdon’s game: As long as there has been art, there have been naysayers and lack-a-wits jeering from sidelines, mocking the efforts of those who create. I’ve dealt with these nincompoops my entire life and I’m just too old to give a damn what they think or say anymore… I refuse to justify my art.

Subplots–Where to Find Them and How to Use Them from writer Amanda Hannah at YA Highway. I look at subplotting like braiding. We have a couple different threads, it’s just a matter of introducing them into the story at the right time and weaving them together.

So, that’s what I’ve got today. Am I missing anything? Do you have any fantastic links to share?

 

 

DIVERGENT ARC Winner! (And a Friday Five)

And the winner of a Divergent ARC is…

PAM HARRIS

Pam, please email me your mailing address at katy(dot)upperman(at)live(dot)com. I will mail your book out as soon as I hear from you. 🙂 

Thanks so much to all who entered, subscribed to the blog, and tweeted about this contest. If you didn’t win, please do stop by Alicia Gregoire’s blog, Slice of the Blog Pie. She’s hosting a Divergent ARC giveaway too! You can also purchase your very own copy of Divergent on May 3, 2011.

For the record, if I was a part of the Divergent world and had to chose a faction, I’d totally pick Amity. I like red and yellow, I have a not so secret wish to live on a farm, I hate conflict, I enjoy being outdoors, and I’m a hippie at heart. 

And, in celebration of Friday’s arrival (finally!), here are five blog posts  I loved this week:

1. Roni Loren’s How to Amp Up Sexual Tension in Your Story

2. Natalie Fischer’s Why I’m Scared (To Self-Publish)

3. Amie Kaufman’s Can Jack Write Jill? Writing Across Gender Lines

4. Anne R. Allen’s What If Someone Steals Your Plot?

5. Kate Hart’s YA Deals by the Numbers: Single vs. Multi Book Deals by Genre

Have a wonderful weekend! 🙂

Tales from the Trenches: KEEP CALM and WRITE ON

So, today my über talented and supremely generous cousin, Carla Essen*, sent me an enigmatic DM: What’s your favorite color? I’m making you something. My curiosity was immediately piqued, so I replied with: Pink or red, then I waited. A short while later I found this gem** in my inbox:

First, I’m so glad she chose pink for me. Second, how cute is that crown on top?! And third, I’ve taken the above statement on as my new mantra.

This industry has too many stresses that are too easy to get caught up in, especially if you’re stuck in the query trenches (like me!) or trudging down the long submission road (so I’ve heard!). I often find myself so keyed up about query etiquette, social networking, the perfect pitch, blogging and blog reading, the unforeseeable future of publishing, who’s gotten how big an advance, and (insert any number of trivial things here), that I forget my main goal: Write and write well.

So, from now on I’m going to KEEP CALM and WRITE ON. You should too!

*Carla has an amazing talent for photography, among many other things.
**You have Carla’s permission (and mine!) to lift this graphic to use on your own blog if you’d like. 🙂