27 September 2012

Peter Adam Salomon will scare you, simply by answering questions about scaring you...

Welcome to YA Q&A, today featuring author Peter Adam Salomon. His YA debut, HENRY FRANKS (Flux, Sept. 8, 2012) has been described by Booklist as "the thinking teen's horror choice of the year." You can learn more about the book here, read the opening scene here, and visit Peter's blog here! (I highly recommend all three.)

Peter has been kind enough to answer a few questions, and if you ask more in the comments, he will try to answer those as well. Here goes:

Q: Hi Peter! I was interested to read that you've studied film and theater, as well as credit and finance. Can you tell us a little bit about your career and how it led you to write Young Adult fiction?

A: Well, it would be simple just to say that the whole 'credit and finance' aspect of my resume had nothing to do with the whole 'writing' part but, to be fair, that's not 100% accurate. Back in the mid-00's I was working on my first YA manuscript (which, while interesting, is in need of some serious work) and had very little time between the job and the 3 kids at home (one of whom was a newborn). So, I didn't really have much time to write. What I did have, however, was an hour long lunchbreak and it really only took me a few minutes to eat. So, every day I'd sit out in the parking lot, in my car, with the A/C and my iPod on and the laptop plugged in and I wrote. For about 40 minutes a day. Which ended up being about a chapter a day...given only 40 minutes, I wrote REALLY short chapters because I didn't want to stop writing mid-thought. Now, while that manuscript didn't sell, it was a great learning experience and led to my being able to sell the next manuscript I wrote.
Peter Adam Salomon

As for the degree in film and theater, it's given me a tremendous background in the structure and plotting of film and theater, which does lend itself to writing, I think. Plus I'm very good at Jeopardy now.

Q: You also write poetry and have shared some lovely pieces on your blog (even if you say they "kinda rather sorta suck," which they don't). Some of my favorite authors of YA fiction are also poets. How do you compare the writing of prose vs. poetry... are there more differences or similarities in how you approach a novel vs. a poem?

A: Thank you for the very kind words! I've always thought of myself as a poet and I've always liked to play with words, trying to create an emotion in the reader in as few words as possible. Writing a YA novel is a little similar, in that the emotional core needs to be there in order for the reader to relate to the story. A novel allows the writer to really explore the complexities of a character, and I love the freedom that that gives me. Still, I think I'll always read those old poems and (some of them at least) be quite proud of them.

Q: I'm always curious to hear about the journey a novel takes from the first glimmer of an idea to its appearance on bookshelves (and clutched tightly in readers hands, of course!) Can you give us a glimpse into your journey with HENRY FRANKS? 

A: I started writing HENRY in 2007 (back when it was called THE MEMORY OF HENRY FRANKS) and it actually began as an adult novel exploring the concept of a father raising a child completely 'off-the-grid' so that everything the child believes would be wrong somehow. But I quickly discovered that I was far more interested in the son's reaction to discovering the truth that his father has been hiding from him. So I ended up starting all over again, trying to come up with a plausible scenario where a teenager would have no memory of his life other than the lies his father has been feeding him. From there, the book went through dozens of revisions, including a seventy page flashback that I ended up weaving into the book itself (who wants to read a 70 page flashback??). In the end, the revision process made the book.

Q:  What about the horror novel appeals to you most as a writer? As a reader?

A: This is a difficult question to answer. I've been asked what my favorite Stephen King novel is (as he's pretty much the undisputed contemporary horror master) and gotten funny looks when I mention GERALD'S GAME, which is probably more 'suspense' than 'horror.' I love the suspense aspect and really wanted to incorporate that into HENRY. What I love about the genre is the absolute freedom to explore the shadows, to shine a light into the corners and have it flicker and die, leaving the reader in the dark. Alone. While every sound is amplified, every heartbeat speeds up, until you hit the flashlight against your thigh, hoping for just a tiny bit of light to appear. And then, just as the darkness grows even deeper, the light shines out...

And sometimes, just sometimes...in those brilliant horror novels that take your breath away as you read them late at night, hiding under the covers...what that light reveals just might be the very last thing you ever see.

See what I mean? You're scaring me already, Peter. (Note to self: Put batteries in the flashlights.)

Q: Can you tell us about EMU's Debuts, a blog created by your literary agency to promote its debut authors?

A: I actually think that EMU's Debuts was created by the authors themselves, with the incredible support and encouragement of the agency. That is NOT to take anything away from the wonderful camaraderie that Erin Murphy has created in her agency, which makes being represented by EMLA such a distinct honor! I'm incredibly proud to know and be a part of my fellow EMLA authors. The EMU's Debuts page is a tremendous resource that is far more than just the blog itself. Behind the scenes, the current crop of debut authors became, for me, very close friends, always there to answer silly debut author type questions as well as there to discuss what was going on in our lives as the release of our books approached. It's difficult to explain fully but I treasure the mailing list that I've been a part of now for so long with my fellow EMU's Debuts authors and as I now move on to the new blog being created for already published EMLA authors I'll miss them. I wish the next cohort of EMU'S Debut authors the greatest success and will definitely volunteer to help out if ever needed. 

And I will always treasure the time, creativity and love that my fellow EMU's Debut authors put in to my launch week there. TWO different videos about HENRY FRANKS. Interviews with my agent and my editor and even the brilliant Lisa Novak who designed the cover of my book. It was absolutely wonderful.

Q: What's on your plate now? Promotion for HENRY FRANKS? Working on a new novel? (That, and more, I suspect.)

A: Promotion for HENRY has been going on for a while now, culminating in my first book signing last week as well as my very first school visit. Both of which were surreal, wonderful experiences that I will always treasure. There will be at least one more signing (Oct. 27 at the Durham Barnes & Noble) and I'm trying to find lots of Halloween things to do during October (I did, after all, write a Horror novel).

I actually wrote 2 new manuscripts while HENRY was out on submission, both of which are now out on submission themselves (along with proposals for 2 sequels to each of them, for a grand total of SIX books that are sort of out on submission now). Plus 2 picture books that I've been working on and hope to have out on submission soon. It has been a dream come true to have people reading HENRY and I'm trying, really trying, to appreciate and treasure every single moment of it.

Thank you, Peter! And special thanks to Ammi-Joan Paquette (Peter's agent) for suggesting him for this interview. If you have additional questions for Peter, please ask them in the comments below. I will do my best to lure him back to provide answers. 

22 September 2012

Look what came in the mail today: One Teen Story! (Have you subscribed?)

I went through the week's mail today... I'm terrible about opening it when it arrives. I make a huge pile and then sift through it later. Imagine my delight when a small envelope turned out to contain this!

It's the inaugural issue of ONE TEEN STORY. When I heard about it, that Gayle Forman had written the first story... I signed right up. In this e-world, I love that it's printed, that it almost fits in the palm of your hand. No ads, no photos, just one great story. I can't wait to someday have a whole box of these stories and when a teen reader is visiting, I can let them take their pick. (But return it, of course! I won't want to part with any, for sure.)

Have you subscribed? Here's their website: www.oneteenstory.com.

20 September 2012

Authors Ask: More Questions for Amy Fellner Dominy (about writing that first draft FAST!)

My Q&A with Amy Fellner Dominy, posted here and on the Teen Lit Authors group on Monday, generated some additional questions about fast-drafting from other YA authors on the loop. Amy was kind enough to check in with answers:

Q: I'm always curious about how authors find time to write and juggle writing time with family time, running errands time––and all of those other sorts of things authors have to do. You seem to write pretty quick. How many pages do you write in an hour? Any secrets/systems/tips for getting the story down quickly?
– Janette Rallison, author of MY UNFAIR GODMOTHER 

Amy Fellner Dominy
A: Thanks for the question!! Probably the best thing that happened to me was that I used to write slowly. I wanted to make everything "perfect" so I would edit as I wrote and contemplate the best word choice and craft my sentences just right. As a result, I had some very nice chapters finished and no books. (By the time I got halfway into the story, I'd forget where I was headed!) I knew that method wasn't working. Then I met another writer (Robin Brande) who sold me on the idea of writing a first draft FAST. I tried it, and I gotta tell you -- it really works. Once I start a first draft now, I don't stop until it's finished--I don't miss a single day without adding at least 1,000 new words. It keeps the book fresh in my mind and I don't lose my way, or my enthusiasm. (Just my sanity.) :-) 

Of course, the first draft is a mess. It takes me months to rewrite, fill in the gaps, and do the crafting I skipped the first time around. I still don't think I'm a "fast" writer--but I don't spend 2 years on a book anymore, so that's progress. 

Q: Speaking of revisions, what is your process like? How long do revisions usually take you? Any suggestions for people who are new to fast-drafting and now have a huge mess to revise?
– Caryn Caldwell, author of FLYING OBJECTS, 

A: It helps me to think of the revisions in stages so it's not so overwhelming. My first draft is really rough--just the bones of the story. For instance, I'll leave notes for myself that say "Describe the school here"--that kind of thing. I might spend a month on that first draft and then I'll spend 2 months filling in the story, fixing plot threads and adding the details. I'm still not worried about making it "pretty." At this point, I usually hand it off to a critique partner and don't touch it for a month! I really like the clarity I get from the time away. My third revision might be minor fixes or a plot overhaul if I've got bigger problems. Then, it'll be time to polish. Every book is different, but my revisions on the last couple of projects have taken 3 to 6 months. (And that's just to get it ready for my agent -- she'll have more revisions or my editor will.)

I think of it like a manicure--you start with a basecoat (which doesn't look like much of anything.) Then you add a coat of color and it starts looking nice. Then you add the second coat and it's suddenly much richer. Finally, you put on the top coat and it shines. It all happens in stages.

Hope that helps--but everyone has such a different process. You really have to experiment with what will work for you. 

Thanks again, Amy! 

Readers, more questions are most welcome! If you have one of your own for Amy, please post it in the comments.

18 September 2012

Questions for YOU. What are you reading? What can't you wait to read next?

I'm reading CODE NAME VERITY (Hyperion, May 2012) by Elizabeth Wein. Just started it last night before bed and it's up on my nightstand calling to me right now. I'll be lucky if I make it through the day without sneaking up there to continue. All the wonderful things I heard about it appear to be true. 

I also picked up a copy of Lemony Snicket's HORSERADISH: Bitter Truths You can't avoid (HarperCollins, 2007). It's full of lovely little bits of wisdom, such as: 

"If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglaseut[bn[padlgkhasdfasdf."


"A library is like an island in the middle of a vast sea of ignorance, particularly if the library is very tall and the surrounding area has been flooded."

Next? I will work up the courage to read Libba Bray's THE DIVINERS (Little, Brown/Today!). Did you watch the book trailer? SCARY! (In a good way...) I'm not usually drawn to scary books, but her YA novels GOING BOVINE and BEAUTY QUEENS are two of my favorites of all time. Both were so surprising, so unlike anything else... I'm very curious to see what she does with this new book. 

What are you reading? What's your teen reading? (If you have one handy, ask him/her!) I'm curious! 

17 September 2012

OyMG, Amy Fellner Dominy has a new book (and will be promoting it via public humiliation... fun!)

Today's Q&A features Amy Fellner Dominy, author of OyMG! (Walker, May 2011) and the newly-released AUDITION & SUBTRACTION (Walker, Sept. 4, 2012). She is a former advertising copywriter and playwright. You can learn more about her work (and order her books) at amydominy.com. She’s got a fun blog there, too, and a recent entry tells the good and bad of a book launch.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing career, and how you moved from copywriter to playwright to YA/MG author?

A: I always loved to write, but I knew I needed a steady job out of college. Advertising was a perfect fit: I could write and get a paycheck every two weeks. Funny enough, I became known for my campaigns aimed at teens. I also got really good at catchy headlines, and writing dialogue for TV and radio spots. Little did I know these things would come in handy down the road….

Amy Fellner Dominy
I never gave up on the idea of being a writer, and I finally went back to school for my MFA in 2001. I studied playwriting because I’m lousy at description and in a play I could write dialogue only. At ASU, I met a teacher of children’s theater. I ended up doing a private study with her and wrote my first children’s play. After that, I was hooked on “writing young.” I turned the play into a book (which I hope will one day be published) and kept going from there.

Q: The title and cover copy for your first novel, OyMG is so fun and clever. Did you come up with the title? Was it something that came to you early in your writing process, or did you mull and fret and fuss over it (like I do!) for months? AUDITION & SUBTRACTION, is great, too! I'm always curious to hear the story behind the title. (And, if I put your books under my pillow, will I wake up with great title ideas for my books, too?)

A: First of all—thanks for the nice words!! And yes, I mulled and fretted and fussed. J When it sold, the title was Honestly, Ellie but my editor wanted something else. With my copywriting background, I figured no problem. I came up with lists of titles. Here are a few:
Sizzle, Secrets and Matzo Ball Soup
Love, Hate and Debate
Still, nothing was quite perfect. We were reaching the 11th hour, when I came up with OyMG. Immediately, everyone at Walker loved it. Truthfully, I was worried about using a title with slang, but ultimately the publisher felt strongly about it.

For Audition & Subtraction, that wasn’t the first title, but it came to me pretty quickly. For me, it’s always a matter of combining the familiar in unfamiliar ways. (Or putting books under your pillow might work, too.)

Q: I hope I'm not the only one who loves to hear the "how I got my agent/publisher" story. I'm amazed at how many different ways this happens. Can you share yours?

A: I love these stories, too, and I love sharing mine! I was at an SCBWI conference and the first page of OyMG was read out loud in front of everyone as part of a First Page Panel. Everyone laughed, two editors said they’d love to see the book and so did the one agent who was there: Caryn Wiseman with Andrea Brown Literary Agency. About a month later, I signed with Caryn—partly, I think, on the strength of that first page.

Q: Your first novel is geared toward a 12 and older reader, and the second is 10-14. How would you describe the differences in writing for those slightly different target audiences, and do you think about the age of your reader as you're writing?

A: You’ve hit on what’s been my greatest challenge /difficulty as an author—and that’s writing for the slippery category of “tween.” Truth is, I wrote both books about 14-year-olds and in the case of OyMG, my publisher felt it should be marketed YA and in the case of Audition & Subtraction, it should be marketed as middle grade. In both cases, I went in and tweaked a bit to fit the proper ages. For instance, the word “crap” was okay for YA but I had to delete it in the MG.

I really like writing about 8th graders, but I’m not sure it’s wise from a marketing standpoint. I don’t know if anyone else feels the same way or has had different experiences with this. I keep hoping the market will adjust to make room for a separate category of tween.

Q: As a former clarinet player myself, I always love a book with great clarinet-playing characters. I'm starting a list... I've got two such books on it so far (your new book and Jandy Nelson's THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE). Considering the prevalence of vampire-werewolf-faerie-angel-demon-dystopian books out there, I'm thinking clarinet players are woefully under-represented in YA literature. Your thoughts?

A: LOL! I love it--the next big thing in YA: Clarinet players. Finally, a trend I’d be ahead of. J

Q: Tell us about your marketing efforts. What has worked best for you?

A: Well, there’s strength in numbers and that’s certainly true of marketing. One of the best things I did was join The Class of 2k11, a group of debut authors. We banded together to help share each other’s news, we traveled to BEA together, appeared at conferences and we’re still running giveaways through our newsletter. I’ve seen writers accomplish the same thing through joint blogs and things like that.

The rest of it—who knows. I’ve created SWAG and trailers, done school visits, launch parties, conferences, posted on blogs, given away books, and anything else I could think of.

For Audition & Subtraction, I’m trying public humiliation. I’ve created My WORST Blog Tour—starting the 17th—in which I share my WORST memories (and pictures) of middle school on a different blog each day. I’m hoping it creates some interest. I’ll let you know!!

Q: Finally, what are you working on now/next?

A: My editor at Walker is excited to see my next middle grade book. The only problem is my next book has a main character who is 15. (Which technically makes it a YA.) It’s called BAD KAT and I was trying to write it as a middle grade, honest, but it refused to cooperate. So, hopefully, what’s next is a home for Kat, and a new middle grade that will be fabulous and funny and not full of “crap.” J

Thanks, Amy. And we’ll all be on the lookout for those middle grade photos!

Visit Amy’s Facebook page to follow her WORST blog tour: https://www.facebook.com/amyfellnerdominyauthor

UPDATED: Read a follow-up to this interview with questions from other YA authors, here.

06 September 2012

Five Questions for Shannon Greenland. Plus, how to land an agent with a margarita

Today's interview features Shannon Greenland. She is the author of THE SUMMER MY LIFE BEGAN (Penguin/Speak, May
 2012) and THE SPECIALISTS series (Penguin/Speak, 2007-2008). To learn more about
 Shannon's work, visit her website at shannongreenland.com.

Q: You started out writing for adults. What attracted you to YA, and how would 
you describe your experience in both genres now that you've published three 
adult mysteries and six YA titles?

A: Wow, you've done your homework! Yes, I started out writing adult novels but
my critique partner told me I had a young voice and that is what led me to 
writing YA. I have to tell you, about five pages in to my first YA, I knew I had
 found my genre.

Q: We all love a good "how I got my agent/publisher" story. Can you share yours?

A: Weelll… I was at a writer's conference having a margarita in the bar chatting 
it up with the person beside me. When we were done yip-yapping she extended her
 card and said she'd like to see my work. Literally two weeks later I signed with
her and two weeks after that she'd sold The Specialists to Penguin. The whole
 story is kind of crazy when I look back on it.

Q: I'm curious about your teen series, THE SPECIALISTS. Penguin published the
first four books, and you self-published the fifth on your own website. Can you 
tell us how this came about and what sort of response you received from 

A: My editor at Penguin actually suggested I offer the fifth book on my site as 
a free download for my readers to conclude The Specialists series. And I'm so 
glad I did because that offer garnered readers for the first four books that I 
didn't have before. I saw a bump in sales for the first four from the free

Shannon Greenland
Q: Your new novel, THE SUMMER MY LIFE BEGAN, is a stand-alone. How do you
 compare the experience of writing a series vs. writing stand-alone novels. And 
what are you working on now/next?

A: Writing a stand-alone is harder than people think. I had the luxury of 
stretching out The Specialists through five books. It's difficult to wrap up a
whole story in one book and I'm already in major creative mode of a follow up to 
The Summer My Life Began. It seems my readers adore Gwenny, the sister in the
book, and want her story now. I aim to please. J

Q: What is one thing you've learned about writing and publishing that you wish
you'd known when you started out?

A: I wish I had known more about marketing and publicity from the start. Know
that getting published is a huge deal, but maintaining the momentum is even
bigger. Get the marketing and publicity figured out and hopefully the deals and
sales will continue to come.

Thank you, Shannon, for sharing some of your experiences with us. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'll be ordering a Margarita at the next writer's conference I attend...