Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kristina McBride and ONE MOMENT

This week I'm featuring my sweet friend and 2k10 sister Kristina McBride, whose new novel, ONE MOMENT, debuts today! I'm so excited for her and loved her first novel, THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES, so I know I'll love this one, too. Here's Kristina on first and second novels and the writing life:

Please give us a synopsis of your new release. Is it available now?

ONE MOMENT will be available June 26th – and I cannot wait!

Here’s the synopsis (from Goodreads):

"This was supposed to be the best summer of Maggie’s life. Now it’s the one she’d do anything to forget.

Maggie Reynolds remembers hanging out at the gorge with her closest friends after a blowout party the night before. She remembers climbing the trail hand in hand with her perfect boyfriend, Joey. She remembers that last kiss, soft, lingering, and meant to reassure her. So why can’t she remember what happened in the moment before they were supposed to dive? Why was she left cowering at the top of the cliff, while Joey floated in the water below—dead?

As Maggie’s memories return in snatches, nothing seems to make sense. Why was Joey acting so strangely at the party? Where did he go after taking her home? And if Joey was keeping these secrets, what else was he hiding?

The latest novel from the author of The Tension of Opposites, One Moment is a mysterious, searing look at how an instant can change everything you believe about the world around you."

I adored your debut, THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES. What was the primary difference for you in writing this novel as opposed to TofO? Was this harder? Easier?

Thank you! To be honest, I’m not sure that there were many differences. I mean, I had successfully taken one idea and seen it through to a finished novel, so my confidence was a bit higher compared to when I was working on THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES. But I still faced the same ups and downs as far as my creative process: all the doubt and self-criticism that I tend to pile on myself as I begin writing a new project, then the super-cool feeling of being swept away by the story one I get going, and of course, the difficult process of facing what feels like a mountain of revisions. I suppose that ONE MOMENT was easier in the sense that I knew what to expect – the various highs and lows at each stage of the game – and that made me a little more prepared to do everything that needed to be done without my emotions getting in the way.

How are you handling publicity this time out?

Publicity is so hard! I never feel like I’m doing quite enough, so I have to remind myself that I can only do what fits with my life as a wife and mother of two little ones. To promote ONE MOMENT, I’m going on a blog tour, as well as offering up several copies for different giveaways during June, the month of the release. I also have a few events scheduled throughout the summer. I’m super excited for my launch party in Dayton, Ohio on June 29th, and also a group signing in Cincinnati on August 4th with a panel of super cool authors. A detailed listing of my events is posted on my blog.

Has anything in your writing life changed? New habits? New approaches that work better for you? New craft techniques that you’re experimenting with?

I’m fortunate enough to be raising two incredible little ones, so for me, it’s all about using my time wisely. The major difference this school year is that I’ve had four mornings a week to devote to my writing. This change has really given me the time I need to dive in to my latest projects. My approach is simple: When the kids are at school, I’m writing. No exceptions. No breakfast with friends, running errands, walking in the woods, hitting the gym – nothing but me and my characters and my computer (and, okay, maybe a little Facebook/Twitter time if I need a few minutes away from a tricky transition or difficult chapter opener). The bottom line is that I’ve learned to protect my writing time, because if I don’t, no one else will.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on two different projects right now – one a series, the other a stand-alone. I’m pretty excited about both and can’t wait until I can share them with the world. For now, though, both must remain top secret. (Sorry! I hate when people do that to me! But you asked, so I answered.)

Please give us contact information – website, Facebook page, Twitter addy, Pinterest location – anything you’d like to share!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Guest Post: Victoria Hanley on Conflict, Plus a Giveaway of WILD INK

Today I'm delighted to host author Victoria Hanley, whose newest book is Wild Ink: Success Secrets for Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market. Now here's a book I wish I could win! Prufrock Press has generously offered a giveaway of this handy guide, so please come and comment in order to enter!

Plus for each tweet of the post 1 extra point; each Facebook post one extra point. Just let me know in the comment that you've helped to spread the word. And include your contact info so I can let you know if you've won.

The contest will run for the next two weeks. Here's Victoria:

Want to Be a Young Adult Novelist? Bring on the Conflict

Victoria Hanley

Writers tend to fall in love with our characters. Their quirky voices fascinate us, and their motivations drive us to keep going for hundreds of pages. Yes, we love them, and we want to ... be mean to them.

What? No! We don’t want to be mean to them. They’re so young and tender, and we love these people! Wouldn’t it be nice if things would just go well for them?

Nice, yes. Good story, no. That’s why you haven’t read any page turners—YA or otherwise—where the characters had it easy.

 It can be hard to resist the urge to intervene for your characters as soon as they begin to suffer. I’ve seen plenty of new writers set up convincing conflict only to take pity on their protagonists. This is one of the biggest and most frequent mistakes a new writer can make. It’s a bit like tying off a balloon before there’s enough air pressure. Instead of soaring high, the story will be flabby and drag on the ground. 

YA characters are going through the crucible known as “coming-of-age.” A sweet phrase, really –coming-of-age—aw, look, isn’t it pretty?

Let’s hope not.

Whether your YA is a contemporary novel, dystopian fiction, romance, sci-fi, fantasy,  horror, or some other subgenre, coming-of age will be horribly grueling for your characters. They’ll have to face down challenges from which there is no escape and no rescue. Depending on your style, they’ll endure physical, emotional or mental pain—or all three, as happened in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Take a look at the conflict you have going in your novel. How much pressure have you put on your protagonist? Have you eased up on the heartache and hardships and angst? Have you allowed the adults in the book to resolve things? Oversimplified an issue or even skipped over it? If so, it’s time to revise!

Choose conflict that fits your characters, message, and plot. Then keep up the pressure until the climax hits. Bam! The balloon explodes. Your protagonist finally gets resolution, and your readers get a book to remember.

Check out  this free download of Chapter Two of Wild Ink: Getting Your Book in Shape, Novel Writing 1 http://www.prufrock.com/Assets/ClientPages/pdfs/Wild_Ink_Excerpt.pdf

Monday, June 4, 2012

Guest Post: Author Dave Becker on Not Pandering to Young Adults

This week I'm delighted to welcome Dave Becker, author of The Faustian Host, on the subject of pandering to young adults. Dave is an author and artist living in Pennsylvania. He has spent almost twenty years as a husband, father, and youth leader. The Faustian Host, a young adult, paranormal thriller, is his first novel.

And this is an excellent take on an important way to *not* approach our audience. Thanks, Dave!

"Everybody Hates Pandering"

I hate election years. The constant stream of hyperbole, mudslinging, fear-mongering, and polarizing vitriol becomes mind-numbing for me after about a day. But the thing I hate the most is the pandering.

I've worked in marketing for over 20 years, so I understand how to manipulate facts and emotions to generate an artificial feeling about a particular product or idea. It's not the noblest trade, but it's part of life, and I've learned to deal with it. What I can't tolerate is a hypocritical facade that veils a condescending opinion of me as a human being - like I'm not really worth talking to, so I'll just be talked at. Pandering always stems from a deep-seated disdain for the audience, and usually comes off as an offensive caricature. So politicians talk about grits in the South, and trees in the West, as if those silly stereotypes actually define the voters and their concerns.

It's great to be here at the North Pole. The polar bears are just the right size, and I simply adore baby seals. Makes me want to build an igloo, or a magical toy factory.

In the movie As Good as it Gets, Jack Nicholson's character describes his ability to write women so well thusly, "I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability." I think many young adult writers try to portray kids similarly. "I think of an adult, and I take away self-control and rationality." It's pandering, and the effect is the same as it is for politicians.

Like all art, writing is supposed to connect us spiritually. Language communicates; art enlightens. Certain stories keep being retold because they affect us in ways that mere words and images can't. They penetrate our minds and hearts and speak to us on levels that seem more than real, more than true, more than us. A connection like that can't be achieved without an immense respect - even love - for the audience.

That's why young adult novels like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games appeal to more than just kids. The characters are young, but their characteristics are timeless. A four-year-old can appreciate bravery just as much as an eighty-year-old. A mother of six struggles with doubt just like her children. Adults wrestle with the glories and pains of relationships as much as teenagers do. Everyone, at every age, agonizes over daily decisions and the future.

Writing for young adults isn't a trend, a gimmick, or a marketing decision. Young adult is simply a genre. The same rules apply. Love your readers. Love your characters. Have something worthwhile to say. Tell the best story you possibly can, with the greatest craft you cam muster. Enlighten, entertain, edify, and leave the audience wanting more.

Pandering is the coward's attempt to win affection. Politicians apparently can't get elected without being liked (maybe we should just move elections to Facebook if that's all they want). Writers, on the other hand, aren't striving to be liked. We strive to be true - to ourselves and our readers. The goal of the politician is to have a voter think, "I feel good about this candidate." The goal of the writer should be to have a reader finish the book and think, "I feel good about myself." Because the greatest virtues of humanity - love, courage, truth, sacrifice - are always admirable, regardless of the age of the characters.

On The Faustian Host
Plymouth Rock is bleeding. Day has turned to night. Hundred-pound hailstones level buildings. The small town of Clement seems cursed, and the residents know who's to blame: the new kid, Tony Marino.