Monday, February 21, 2011

Guest Post on Voice + Plot by Jennifer Hubbard

I've known Jennifer R. Hubbard for several years and one thing about her has always impressed me: she is one of the most level-headed people on the planet. I know I can turn to her for advice on any topic. In addition to this wonderful trait, she is an exceptional writer, as her first novel, The Secret Year (now out in paperback), demonstrates. Jenn and I are cross-posting on the conjoined topics of voice and plot, and I'm delighted to present her post this week.

Janet suggested voice and plot as topics, which is interesting because they are the two elements I must have in place before I can begin a story. Even if I have a good plot, I can’t write it until a narrator starts whispering in my ear. If I have just a voice, I can get a couple of good sentences out, but then the story has nowhere to go.

With my first book, The Secret Year, I think I had the plot first, and it was waiting for Colt’s voice. With my second book, Try Not to Breathe, I seemed to start with a voice. I had a character in a scene, but I didn’t know why he was there or where he was headed next. Then I realized that he was going to tell a story, to live out a plot, that I’d had in mind for a long time: the question of how people come back from the brink of suicide. There are a lot of books out there that deal with the aftermath of suicide, or that end with a character deciding whether to commit suicide—but what happens next? If the character lives, how does he put his life back together?

Of course, a character can’t do much in a vacuum. Another character approached my main character right away. What did she want? I wondered. Where would she take him? The answers to these questions led my characters to a road trip, audiences with psychics, and a complicated relationship of their own.

It probably sounds as if I’m not directing the characters so much as observing them and recording what they do, and my writing often feels that way. I do make conscious choices, I do intentionally divert the stream, but most of the decisions seem to come from some subconscious level. In that sense, much of what I do is not about generating stories as much as it is about listening, remaining open. Hunting for those voices and plots, squirreling them away, and having them come out in surprising ways.

Jennifer R. Hubbard is the author of the young-adult novel, The Secret Year and the forthcoming Try Not to Breathe. She blogs at and

Saturday, February 19, 2011

And the winner is...


has won a copy of Haunted.

Congrats, and many thanks to all of you for coming by and commenting, tweeting and loving Joy's books! New blog post coming soon.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Voices You Should Hear: Joy Preble + Giveaway!

Read to the end for the giveaway!

Joy Preble, whom I first met just before the debut of her first novel, Dreaming Anastasia, is a talented author who now has a second book to her name: Haunted. I predict great things for Haunted, and they couldn't happen to a nicer person. I'm delighted to have her as my guest, to tell you about her books...

I loved Dreaming Anastasia, your premise and characters and the imaginative approach you took to weaving history into a contemporary story. Please give readers a brief synopsis of DA, and then tell us what we can expect when we read Haunted.

In Dreaming Anastasia, Anne is just a normal high school junior – until handsome and mysterious Ethan Kozninsky arrives in her life and she discovers that she has a destiny with a capital D. The Grand Duchess Anastasia isn’t dead, Ethan tells her – she’s been spirited away by the Russian folklore witch Baba Yaga, and Anne’s the girl who can save her. Not to mention save Ethan from the immortality that’s his until Anastasia’s release. Much wackiness and peril ensues after that, including a secret Russian Brotherhood, a villain with his own secret, and a frightening witch with iron teeth and removable hands. Plus a growing attraction between Anne and the blue-eyed Russian who’s turned her life inside out.

Haunted begins about seven months after DA ends. Saving Anastasia hasn’t turned out at all like anyone expected. Ethan – now mortal – has been traveling Europe. Anne’s been trying to pretend that nothing in her life has changed. She’s even acquired a very nice and very normal lifeguard boyfriend named Ben. Except she’s also being stalked by a wild-haired and rather malevolent Russian mermaid called a rusalka. When Ethan returns, Anne’s normal world collides with the paranormal once again. Anne’s search for the rusalka’s identity exposes deep and startling revelations – including the true source of Anne’s powers. In book two, everyone’s haunted by their pasts and Anne’s torn between fulfilling her destiny and the heeding the longings of her heart.

How did you first become interested in the stories of Baba Yaga and in Russian history? What was your biggest “ah-ha” moment while doing your research?

I’ve loved Russian history forever – my maternal grandparents were almost all from the area now known as Belarus. And the tragic story of the Romanovs has intrigued me since about junior high when I read a biography called Nicholas and Alexandra. Plus those matroyshka dolls – the Russian nesting dolls – are something I’ve found beautiful as long as I can remember. I adore the idea of the structure – the same figure tinier and tinier tucked inside the larger ones. As I began writing, I knew almost immediately that this would be a great metaphor for the books – secrets within secrets; stories within stories.

 My fascination with Russian folklore is a more recent interest – coinciding with writing this series. I think I’ve loved the Baba Yaga stories best of all. I think it’s awesome that she’s always depicted as so unpredictable. She’ll help you or she’ll eat you depending on her mood. And she’s a powerful, powerful woman. The more I read about her, including in books such as Women Who Run With Wolves, the more I understood how vilified older women are throughout folklore. Female age and wisdom is so often associated with the crone, with physical ugliness and lack of sexuality. So using Baba Yaga as a primary character allowed me to play with those stereotypes and give them a much more feminist spin. She’s a grand old girl, really, once you get to know her. I also became fascinated with the idea of her forest as a place of transformation. No one leaves Baba Yaga’s forest the same as they entered. This too, has become one of the main motifs in the series – the transformative power of the journey into the unknown.

I have to say that Anne’s friend Tess is a most engaging character. Does she reappear in Haunted? What other characters do you introduce in book two? Do you have any techniques for creating characters that you’d like to share?

Oh yes! Everyone loves Tess. Even my Kirkus reviewer is on Team Tess! Of course I had to bring her back; in fact she’s in for some real excitement in Haunted. Honestly, I love writing Tess the best; she doesn’t have much of a filter, and she always says what she thinks, plus she’s darn funny and irreverent. Basically, she’s closest to the real me, which does make me chuckle when everyone is so pro Tess. I’m like, well, of course you are. I’m just that endearing and wonderful!

And you are, my friend! You’ve been teaching high school English full time while writing. How do you manage?

Hahahahaha. Too busy grading essays to even answer that.

Please tell us something about the next book in the series. When can we look forward to reading it?

In a real dream come true, Sourcebooks recently bought the third in the series, currently titled Again and Again! This third book will finish Anne and Ethan’s story and uncover the rest of the secrets still left hidden in Haunted. Plus it has some time travel and is much more deeply romantic. Whoot! It’s slated for Spring 2012. So I better get writing, huh?

Are you working on other projects that are dear to your heart?

Yup. A story set right here in Texas, that’s part romance, part mystery, part faith. And I’m also working on another paranormal romance with a twist that I have to keep secret for now. Oooh, how tempting!

What’s the best way for readers to find out more about your books?

My website –

Thanks, Janet!

My pleasure! 

Now for the fun part! I'll be giving away a copy of Haunted! To enter the giveaway, please comment and give me a way to contact you. If you tweet or post on facebook, let me know and I'll give you an extra point for each mention. The winner will be chosen next Friday, February 18.