26 December 2014

Under the Tree in 2014: My True Love Gave to Me, A Thousand Pieces of You, and a whole bunch more

There's always a long list of books on my holiday wish list, and this year my true love obliged… with a glorious stack of YA novels from my ever-growing wish list! Here's wrap-up of the holiday book haul at our house this year:

I adore all things Stephanie Perkins (author of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR, and ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER), so I was delighted when I learned she had edited a collection of 12 holiday stories by many of my favorite YA authors. Just look at them all:

Any hopes of getting some writing done over the holidays are officially dashed. As soon as I finish this post, I'm digging in.

Where to start? I'm looking forward to getting my hands on some of the books my kids (ages 15 and almost-11) got this year as well:

Happy reading to all and to all a good year!

16 October 2014

Cover Reveal and Giveaway on YA Highway!

I'm having my very own case of stage fright as the cover of my YA debut, BETWEEN THE NOTES is being revealed on the YA Highway blog today! Or perhaps I'm just channeling the main character of my book, a musician who suffers from a paralyzing stage fright… 

Either way, I hope you will check it out and enter to win the giveaway for a signed ARC (advance reader copy)! Right here.

09 September 2014

BETWEEN THE NOTES gets a birthdate

The publication date for my debut YA novel, BETWEEN THE NOTES (HarperTeen), has been "Summer 2015" for so long, it almost didn't feel real. It existed in that hazy, sometime-between-April-and-September space that publishers call summer. But now? It has a real, actual, one-square-on-the-calendar release date:

JUNE 16, 2015

That's a little more than nine months away, and I must admit, it does feel a bit like anticipating the birth of a baby. We'll all get a first glimpse (the cover reveal, that is) next month over at YA Highway. And I sometimes feel a little queasy preparing for the big day. I do know it's a girl. Oh, and a boy. And another boy! 

Here's a description:

When Ivy Emerson’s family loses their house—complete with her beloved piano—the fear of what’s to come seizes her like a bad case of stage fright. Only this isn’t one of her single, terrifying performances. It’s her life.
And it isn’t pretty.
Ivy is forced to move with her family out of their affluent neighborhood to Lakeside, also known as “the wrong side of the tracks.” Hiding the truth from her friends—and the cute new guy in school, who may have secrets of his own—seems like a good idea at first. But when a bad boy next door threatens to ruin everything, Ivy’s carefully crafted lies begin to unravel . . . and there is no way to stop them.
As things get to the breaking point, Ivy turns to her music, some unlikely new friends, and the trusting heart of her disabled little brother. She may be surprised that not everyone is who she thought they were . . . including herself.
Debut author Sharon Huss Roat crafts a charming and timely story of what happens when life as you know it flips completely upside down.

More soon!

26 May 2014

#My Writing Process: The Messy Truth and the Importance of Naps

My crit partner, Joy McCullough-Carranza.
She made me do it.
Oh, dear. I've been tagged on the "My Writing Process" blog tour. I shouldn't be surprised by this development, since I said, "Sure, tag me," when my fabulous critique partner Joy McCullough-Carranza asked if I'd like to do it. (You can read about her writing process here.) 

But now it has happened and I must reveal the awful truth about my writing process: I don't have one! Or, rather, it changes constantly. If anyone has come here seeking advice on HOW TO DO IT, you might want to move along. Yes, there you go… off to the blogosphere where many other writers can be found giving much better advice about writing. Just close the door gently when you leave. I'm writing. And easily distracted…

What am I working on?
I'm currently in the midst of the editing process for my debut YA novel, BETWEEN THE NOTES, which will be published by HarperTeen in summer 2015. I'm waiting for the next round of comments from my amazing editor, Karen Chaplin, who is pushing me to make this novel so much better than I could've imagined it would ever be. It's hard work, but I wouldn't have it any other way. The whole reason I pursued an agent and traditional publisher (when everyone was asking, "why don't you self-publish?") was to get to this exact spot. I want to learn and grow as a writer, to benefit from the expertise of a great editor. I'm delighted to be in the midst of that experience right now. It is both humbling and uplifting, if that makes sense… The editorial notes can definitely feel a bit "ouchy" at first, but then you dive in and the ideas start flowing. My novel is improving, and I'm becoming a better writer in the process. All the gushing thanks that editors receive in their authors' acknowledgements? Totally deserved.

Why Do I Write What I Write?
I worked in public relations for 20+ years, writing press releases and articles and brochures and speeches. I edited business magazines and employee newsletters. I had my own PR business for the last 12 of those years, and then… I got bored. Call it a mid-life crisis if you will. I was in my early 40s and I wanted to be something else when I grew up! At the time, I was handling publicity for the Delaware Division of Libraries, for their Delaware Book Festival. It was wonderful to be around all those authors. Laurie Halse Anderson! Jon Sciezka! Julianna Baggott! 

Author Mary Kennedy gave me the fateful
advice: "Write what you like to read."
I casually mentioned to one of the participating authors that I'd love to write a novel. She asked, "Why don't you?" I confessed I'd never written fiction before, had never even taken a creative writing class. She said, "Neither had I!" The author was Mary Kennedy, who had sold more than 40 novels to major publishers, including YA, middle grade, and adult mysteries. Her advice was, "Write what you like to read." I happened to be reading one of the Harry Potter novels for the third time. I ordered a dozen more YA novels and immersed myself in YA bestsellers and award winners, contemporary,  paranormal and fantasy. I loved it all and couldn't wait to get started, but spent months further studying the genre and the writing of novels before I wrote a single word. And when I did, it seemed my inner teen was just waiting to be heard. Writing YA allows me to tap all the wonderful (and terrifying) feelings of being young. It's so much better than writing press releases! 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is a difficult question to answer! Of course we all hope our work is wildly different and unique, but then again wouldn't mind being compared to the best authors in our genre. If someone mistook my work for Stephanie Perkins' or Sara Zarr's or Sarah Dessen's, I'd probably levitate. But we all have our own voice, and I hope mine is a distinct and authentic one. As long as readers can relate to and enjoy my books, I'll be happy.

How does my writing process work?

Now we get to the messy part. My writing process is so varied and changeable. I often dive into a story and start writing before I know who the characters are or what they're going to do. Then I reach a point where I really need to figure out where things are going, so I'll stop and outline the entire plot. I'll start writing again and veer off course again. I love to be surprised by what my characters do or say. I remember the first time it felt like the story was telling itself to me… I was simply taking dictation. So, I try not to be too rigid or structured, to allow those surprises to happen. I tend to research as I go, and in the case of a historical novel I'm working on, even traveled to France to visit the town where the story is set. There are times when I've set word-count goals each day, and there are weeks where I've simply let ideas percolate without writing a word. 

But there's one thing that has always been an integral part of my writing process: NAPS. Whenever I'm struggling over anything in my writing… I set it aside and take a nap. I almost always have a solution when I wake up. It doesn't have to be a long nap. Fifteen minutes usually does the trick. I'm not sure what happens in the brain, but a good nap always seems to jar the answers loose. Thank you, subconscious!

Tag, You're It!
I've asked a couple of lovely writer friends to share their writing process. 

Debra Paulson
Debra Paulson earned her MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College and works as a children's book reviewer for Kirkus Reviews. She has also worked as a photographer (with a piece in the New Britain Museum of American Art), video producer, black-ash basketmaker and hand weaver (with a basket in the White House collection), orthopedic massage therapist, and Reiki master. She is currently querying agents on a YA novel in free verse and is working on a middle grade and picturebook text and illustrations. Visit her blog, Reflections on a Life in Motion, to read about her writing process next week! 

Rhiannon Thomas
Rhiannon Thomas is a recent graduate from Princeton University, where she studied English and Japanese, and smuggled bubble tea into the library on a regular basis. She now lives in her native home of Yorkshire, England, in an area where the horses outnumber her neighbors six to one. As well as reading and writing YA fiction, she runs the blog  FeministFiction.com, where she discusses TV, books, and all kinds of fannish things from a feminist perspective. Her debut novel, A Wicked Thing, will be published by HarperTeen in 2015. Read her #mywritingprocess post here

07 April 2014

Lucy Connors and The Lonesome Young: New YA series is "Romeo & Juliet" meets "Justified"

I am so thrilled to have Lucy Connors, author of the THE LONESOME YOUNG (Razorbill, April 8) with me today. Lucy Connors is the YA pseudonym of Alesia Holliday, winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA Award for excellence in romantic fiction. As Alyssa Day, she is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of paranormal romance novels series. Alesia/Lucy is the founder of the TeenLitAuthors group on Yahoo, which has brought hundreds of YA writers together to share ideas, thoughts, market news, and craft informationShe lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with her family and a varying number of rescue dogs.

Visit Lucy's website  to learn more about THE LONESOME YOUNG series. You can also check in with Lucy on Facebook and Twitter.

Q: It's been almost 10 years since you started TeenLitAuthors! Can you tell us what inspired you to form the group and reflect on how it has grown?

A:  Believe it or not, I started the group as a mentoring group. I’d written two books to help launch Dorchester Publishing’s (now defunct) teen line, Smooch, and a lot of writers asked me how to get published in teen fiction. I thought I’d share what little I knew, LOL, and offer a forum for us to learn and grow together. We had many editor and agent guests (I need to start that up again!) and grew together. Over the years, the activity on the loop has waxed and waned, but I feel lucky to have been part of it for all these years.

Q: This group has helped so many of us to make connections in the writing community, and to learn from (and commiserate with) other YA and MG authors. What have you found to be most helpful or rewarding about staying connected with Teen Lit Authors (even when you were writing for different audiences)? 

A:  Oh, wow. I’ve loved so much of it, but I have to say the most personally rewarding days are when one of our members announces a success. Getting an agent, getting a book deal, finding achievement in their writing careers—all of  it gives me such a thrill!!  Watching writers I’ve known for years go from unpublished to international superstars is amazing.

Lucy Connors
Q: Tell us about Lucy Connors! When did you get the idea to return to YA with a new romance series for teens, and what has the experience been like to introduce a brand new YA voice (and your fourth pen name!)? 

A: With The Lonesome Young series (it’s a series! How cool is that??), I wanted a chance to express some of the emotions and feelings of my own teen years. Like Victoria, I was a sheltered, nerdy smart girl who was wrenched out of my comfort zone and tossed into a rural environment where I was not just an outsider but practically an alien. I had some very, very tough parts of my childhood and teen years, and we were really, really poor. Almost-homeless sometimes. Needing food stamps sometimes. That poor. I wanted to write a book that spoke to kids like me, who had far more devastating problems than what dress to wear to the prom. Oh—and the name? My daughter is Lauren, nickname Lucy, and my son is Connor. It was an easy name to choose. <g>

Q: You've commented on the group about how long it takes in children's publishing to get a book to publication. What other differences have you seen between YA publishing and your adult romance/urban fantasy publishing experiences (regarding the process, promotion, the community in general)? 

A:  Wow. It’s so different that I almost feel like an alien again. Luckily, through this loop and friends I’ve made here, I’ve stayed in touch with the YA field, but it is VERY different. Different and far more intense revision process, since in children’s publishing houses your book is one of so few produced that quarter, compared to the massive quantity of romance novels. Really long lead time. Different marketing strategies—and my publisher, Razorbill (a Penguin Teen house) has been amazing.  I’m actually going to be in an ad in PEOPLE magazine on 4/25!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (I was very professional on the phone for that conference call and then I hung up and screamed!)

Q: In January, you wrote publicly for the first time about your struggles with depression, and encouraged others to share what they are going through and seek the help they need. Your words were met with outpouring of support, and helped so many people who are dealing with depression, too. This is not so much a question, as a thank you for your bravery and openness. We all hope you're doing well, and that the stories are singing and dancing for you again.

A: Thank you so much. It’s a process, and I know that. My editors were unbelievably kind and supportive, and  I received hundreds of emails, messages, and phone calls of support. I am so grateful for the amazing kindness shown to me during this hard time. I made the very tough personal decision to go public because I’d suffered for so long without getting help--I was ashamed to admit I needed it. Superwoman need therapy?? Depression meds?? Surely not!! [SO wrong.] But the people who wrote to me to tell me they were printing out my blog to take to their doctors and finally get help made it all worthwhile a thousand times over.

Q: In addition to YA, you continue to write in two other genres. How do you juggle it all (or choose what to write on any given day)?

A: I’m actually only writing paranormal romance as Alyssa Day and YA contemp as Lucy Connors right now, although I might write more of my humorous mystery novels as Alesia Holliday one day. I’m also on the national board of Romance Writers of America and I just adopted another rescue dog (she was a starving puppy found by the side of the road! What could I do?), so I’m very, very busy. I’m trying to take it one step at a time and not let myself get overwhelmed again.

Q: What's ahead for Alesia, Alyssa and Lucy? (What are you writing, and when will it be on bookshelves?) 

A: The Lonesome Young comes out April 8 and I’m so excited for everyone to meet these two crazy feuding families!! I have a novella and a boxed set coming out in my Alyssa Day world in the next few weeks. I’m finishing the sequel to The Lonesome Young, titled Carry Me Home, right now and I think it might be out in the fall, although I’m not sure yet. And Alyssa Day has 2 more books in the Curse of the Black Swan trilogy to appear!

Q: Finally, because we are all about learning from each other: What is the one thing (or two, or three) you've learned that has been most helpful to your career as an author? 

A:  I just wrote an entire article on Writing the Contemporary YA Romance for the RWA magazine, and I’ll share it here as soon as I can. And I also do a series of tweets I call Dear Aspiring Author on twitter as Alyssa Day. But wow. Distilling it down to only 3 is tough, but I’ll try to give you 3 of my top:
  1. Build your network of fellow writers as soon as you can and stick to those friends like glue. Support each other through the tough times, cheer for each other through the good times, and never, ever let professional jealousy get in your way.  This business is HARD. I wouldn’t want to do it without my writer friends.
  2. Let your voice shine through in everything you write. I define “voice” as “your personality on the page.”  It’s unique to you and what makes you special.
  3. Read, read, read, and learn, learn, learn. You can never rest on your laurels—I work to improve as a writer in every single book. Our readers deserve it.
Thank you, Lucy, for answering my questions and for being such a wonderful source of inspiration and support to so many of us!



Get swept away in the first book of the sensational romantic drama that is Romeo & Juliet meets Justified.

Mickey Rhodale’s brother is the head of a Kentucky drug-running gang, but his father is the sheriff. In spite of his bad boy reputation, Mickey’s determined to stay on the right side of the law. But a threat to his sister might force him into doing very dark deeds to protect his family. And in Kentucky, family is everything…

Victoria Whitfield is a sheltered boarding school student until her father goes bankrupt, and her family has to move to her grandmother’s horse ranch. Victoria’s trying to fit back into her role as family peacemaker, but a violent death and the attention of the town bad boy are turning her life upside down. Suddenly this very good girl wants to rebel and take something–someone–for herself.

But love can be even stronger than blood, and two people with everything to lose can sometimes find a way to win.

20 March 2014

Celebrate Spring: Splurge on Novels by New Authors!

I interviewed Lisa Colozza Cocca, one of many fabulous 2014 debut YA authors, over on the Fearless Fifteeners blog. Her novel PROVIDENCE came out two days ago. Check it out!

Then I scrolled over the previous interviews (all done by 2015 debut authors) and at least a dozen YA and MG novels I simply had to have! I narrowed the list down to five (reluctantly… I want them ALL), and emailed my local bookseller to order them:



UNDER THE EGG by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE by Rebecca Behrens

It's a splurge, buying five books all at once, but I have a feeling I'll be doing quite a lot of it this year and next as the debut of my own novel approaches. I'm connecting with so many other authors and am almost as excited about their books as I am about my own. 

Join me in celebrating spring by supporting a new author! You can find some great YA and MG debut authors featured on the Fearless Fifteeners blog, as well as OneFourKidLit. Check 'em out!

And let us know in the comments which 2014 debut novels you'd like to splurge on (or already have)!

19 March 2014

Writing Description Like a Museum Docent

Are you the type of museum-goer who studies every single painting, or do you stroll through the galleries and stop only at those that draw you in? I fall into the latter category. Perhaps I simply can't process the sensory overload if I partake of every magnificent work of art on display. It's too much. I need to focus only on the most interesting, or fabulous, or strange, or beautiful in each room. To enjoy the museum experience, I must pick and choose what I see. 

When I'm reading, I expect the author to have already done this for me. 

I don't want to see absolutely everything the author sees or knows, no matter how wonderful it may be. If there are numerous possible physical descriptions of a setting or character, I want the author to pick the one that does it best. Because, if you show me too much, I can't focus on any single thing. Nothing stands out. 

To keep your readers engaged in the story, write your description as if you're a museum docent giving a short tour of a massive collection. What images must your reader see before leaving the page? 

For example: The character you're describing may have many interesting features… a long braid of whisky-colored hair; mismatched Monopoly-piece earrings (a car and a thimble); slender, mosquito-bitten arms with scabs where she scratched them open; tight-fitting jeans covered in Sharpie drawings of butterflies and unicorns; a Thomas the Tank Engine umbrella; a length of floss tied in a bow around the tip of her finger; and the hiccups. 

If you tell me that all at once my head will explode (it nearly did just now, writing it!). So, pick what you most want me to see, and show only that. Let your readers fill in a few blanks. 

And another thing: On that museum tour that is your novel? Don't show your readers the floor and the walls. Don't waste time on detailed descriptions of everyday, background stuff… the asphalt of the parking garage, the sand of the beach, the blue of the sky UNLESS THERE'S SOMETHING UNUSUAL ABOUT IT. We don't need to know that the walls of the museum are beige and the floor is hardwood. Focus on the most fabulous piece of art in the room. (Unless the floor and walls happen to be splattered in blood. Then you might want to mention it.)

08 January 2014

Hello, Blog. Did you miss me? Also, shall I introduce The Fearless Fifteeners? I shall!

Dear Blog,

How are you? Sorry I haven't been in touch. I've been… busy. I had my first big deadline on my debut novel, IVY'S TOWER, with my publisher! Exciting. No? 

Deadlines are not exciting? 

You're absolutely right. Which is why I haven't been blogging. While the revision of my novel has been incredibly exciting to moi, I realize it's a fairly boring topic for everyone else. So I have spared you the details. 

I must admit, I've been feeling terribly uninteresting of late. I haven't even managed to come up with anything tweet-worthy for quite a while. But it's 2014 now, which means the publication of my novel is NEXT YEAR! And there's a new website/blog to prove it: 

The Fearless Fifteeners have taken me in. (Seriously, they found me wandering aimlessly around the Internet and flagged me down.) I'm delighted to be a part of this group of young adult and middle grade authors debuting in 2015. We talk amongst ourselves about the process of writing and editing and publishing our books, but we also host a blog (way more interesting than this one). We've just started an interview series featuring 2014 debut YA authors, from over at One Four Kid Lit. Go check out the first interview with John Dixon, author of PHOENIX ISLAND (interviewed by Jen Brooks.)

Hopefully I will have much more interesting news to share in the weeks and months ahead. And I hope to get back to interviewing YA authors! 

Talk to you soon!

- Sharon