I was tagged by my fantastic critique partner, Kim Chance, to participate in #VoicesofYA! Created by writer, Caitlin Lambert, this challenge consists of ten questions that focus on writers, writing, and YA literature. Check out my answers below and let me know what you think.
PART ONE: ABOUT THE WRITERS
What draws you to YA?
OK, I’m going to let you in on a terrible little secret… when I was an actual young adult, YA novels weren’t even a thing. Yup. No YA books for me for the ENTIRETY OF MY YOUNG ADULT LIFE.
It's a little unbelievable to think that was the case, but when it comes to books and my childhood, there was basically middle grade and then the big ol' leap into adult, which meant I was reading authors like Mary Higgins Clark in the 6th grade. Anyway, fast forward to now and I LOVE YA novels. I gravitate toward coming of age stories and I’m definitely an escapist reader, so while I appreciate contemporary, I’m most often drawn to fantasy and the fantasy selection is YA is HUGE. There’s just so much imagination and I love the rawness of first love, so YA checks all those boxes for me.
Describe your writing process. Do you like outlines and structure, or seeing where the story takes you?
Hmmm…. I would say I’m a plotter, but I’m really more of a planster—which is a plotter/panster hybrid. I write outlines, but they’re pretty sparse—just some scenes and the main beats I want to hit and then I feel like I can still have flexibility if the story takes me in another direction. Because no matter how much thinking and research I do ahead of time, I never really know my characters until I start writing them, so more often than not, the outline needs to be tweaked in order to stay authentic to the characters I’ve actually written (and not just the ones I initially thought up).
How long have you been writing? Where are you in your journey?
I have been writing for A MILLION YEARS. Seriously, I don’t even know when I started, all I know is it became more of a compulsion by the time I was in middle school. I was writing a lot of stories about horses at the time, and then I wrote a little in high school and college, but I didn’t get really serious about writing a novel with the goal of seeking representation/publication until about 7 years ago. For the most part, I worked on my own, but then about two years ago I joined Twitter and got much more involved in the writing community. In fact, the YA fantasy that I'm revising now was chosen to participate in Pitch Madness and Pitch Wars in 2016, which was a HUGE learning experience and one that has taught me more than all my years of writing combined. If you're unfamiliar with those contests, check out Brenda Drake's website here. She's a brilliant light in the YA book world.
What do you need to write? Coffee? Music?
While I do enjoy a trusty coffee sidekick, I think the one thing that really helps me is music. I’m kind of playlist/Spotify obsessed and I make playlists for all kinds of things—specific feelings, each of my WIPs, and I even have playlists for ideas I haven't even started working on yet. Some are instrumental, but most aren’t. I just listen to them on a really low level while I’m writing so it’s almost like my subconscious is playing music.
If you could offer one piece of advice to another writer (OTHER THAN “don’t give up”), what would it be?
Oh, I have lots, but I think one really great piece of advice is to write your first draft like no one is EVER GOING TO READ IT. I know that for myself, it’s way too easy to get bogged down worrying what other people will think or say (something I can only imagine gets even more difficult once your book gets acquired and you’re working with an editor and you have actual readers and things like that) so just write the story the way you see it playing out. The first draft (or draft zero) is the only time the book is just yours, so take advantage of it!
Also, don’t wait for the muse to show up to write. You gotta hunt the muse!
PART TWO: ABOUT THE BOOKS
What book still has you reeling from its plot twist? (*no spoilers please*)
I’m not even sure this one is classified as strict YA, but I’m going to choose The Life of Pi by Yaan Martel. It was published way back in 2003, but I still think about it all the time. You might have seen the movie—it’s about a teenage boy from India who gets shipwrecked with a tiger aboard his life raft and the ending of the book was mega OMG.
What books are you most anticipating for this year?
I'm anticipating so many this year, but the two I'm going to choose are fantasy debuts. First, is Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie Dao, which is an Asian fantasy that re-imagines the Evil Queen legend from Cinderella.
And secondly, I’m looking forward to An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson. It’s another fantasy novel, full of art and faeries and all kinds of goodies and it has one of the prettiest cover I've ever seen.
In your opinion, which YA book/series has the most unique premise?
I think I'm going to have to choose Noggin by John Corey Whaley. The main character, Travis, is a teen who is terminally ill and he’s only the second person to survive the removal and cryogenic freezing of his head—which gets reattached, five years later, onto a donor body!
What is your all-time favorite quote from YA lit?
Gah! This one is HARD, but I'm going to go with a quote from I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, for the pure fact that there are about 100 quotes I love in that book. It's so brilliant!
“Meeting your soul mate is like walking into a house you've been in before - you will recognize the furniture, the pictures on the wall, the books on the shelves, the contents of drawers: You could find your way around in the dark if you had to.”
What book do you most hope will have a movie adaption?
I'm going to cheat a little here. I have no idea if this book has already been optioned, but I'm choosing Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo—except here's the thing—I don't want it to be a movie, I want it to be a series on Netflix or HBO, or what have you. There's just so much going on in Leigh's world and with her characters, I can't imagine a 2 hour movie doing it justice. And how great would it be to binge Six of Crows!
This was super fun! Thanks again to Kim (who tagged me) and Caitlin (who created it). The deal is that I have to tag two people to participate, so I'm going to tag the lovely Hetal Avanee and Amy Wagnitz. You guys are up next! :)
For even more writerly inspiration, tips, advice, and information on craft, please be sure to check out the websites and books listed below.
Caitlin Lambert at her site - Quills & Coffee
Kim Chance's YouTube
FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS by Julie Dao
AN ENCHANTMENT OF RAVENS by Margaret Rogerson
LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel
NOGGIN by John Corey Whaely
I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson
SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo
And, as always,