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Frequently Asked Questions
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On Personal Matters
A: Maybe! A few years ago, Disney optioned the film rights and had producers and talent attached, including Miley Cyrus to star. That option has since lapsed. But maybe someday!
A: \ˈta-mə-nē\ It is pronounced the same as "Tammany" in Tammany Hall.
It does not rhyme with Armani. With his dark hair and olive complexion, Tamani might look vaguely Mediterranean, but that is not where he gets his name. :)
A: I think that is always the most FA of the FAQs for authors.
For Wings, I actually decided one day that I wanted to write a YA about faeries, but I didn't want to rehash well-used faerie archetypes (to find out how I escaped those archetypes, you'll just have to read Wings!). So I came up with the basic idea after a long night of bad sleep (and I was seven and a half months pregnant at the time, so bad sleep was not uncommon) and my husband and I bounced the idea around for a couple of days and built up a fairly extensive mythology. Then we started doing the what-ifs and eventually came up with a fun story.
Which maybe fails to answer the question directly, but there you have it. I get my ideas from the same place as everyone else. And I'm not going to let my husband hijack this question to give a philosophical lecture on the nature of ideas!
A: Reading, reading, reading, and reading. I wanted to do what the authors of books I loved had done!
A: I've been writing stories for as long as I can remember! In college, I mostly wrote short stories. I began my first serious attempt at a novel in 2002. The first time I truly "completed" a book was in 2005. I finished my first publishable book in 2007. :)
A: Um, is it bad to say I didn't know for sure until the moment I had a deal? I knew I wanted to be a writer the morning I woke up with the idea for the first book I ever wrote. But the morning I got the call from my agent that we had interest in Wings, I had just convinced myself that after years of trying, I needed to give up; I had done everything I could and it was never going to happen. Go figure.
A: I write in my office! Or at the kitchen table. I try to spend 4-6 hours per day writing.
Q: Describe your writing process. Do you plot/outline? How many drafts do you usually go through before you have something ready to submit to your agent/editor? How long does it usually take you to write a book?
A: I generally plot in my head. I don't like to do outlines, although I have in the past. I write linearly, from the beginning to the end. I learned from experience that going through and writing all of the most exciting parts first was a bad idea!
For Wings I went through five or six drafts before I showed it to my agent. She and I did a few rounds of edits before sending it out to editors. But working with my agent and my editor on Wings has already improved my writing habits tremendously, so while editing is still a work-intensive process it is already less work than it used to be.
From start to finish it takes me from four to ten months to write a book.
A: Both. I let the general plot flow, but there is a lot of research involved in the little things. I tend do do my research as I go along because otherwise I get all the fun imagination stuff down and then have to go back and do all the research. If I do it as I go, I get a nice even mix.
For Wings I did a lot of research of the geography and topography of Northern California and Crescent City, where my book is set. I also read a lot of faerie lore and did research on Aurthurian legends and stories about Avalon. For the sequel I am doing a lot of research on herbs and ecology as well as homeopathics and naturopathy.
A: I have never dealt with writer's block. *knock on wood* I do jog along my creativity by bouncing ideas off of my husband, who has fabulous ideas. Also, I often get great ideas when I am in the shower. Weird but true! So I guess if I did have writer's block I would take a long shower and then talk book with my husband.
A: Honestly? I think it is fifty-fifty and that a super big helping on either side can tip the scale. I know authors who can roll prose off like nobody's business and they don't have to work quite as hard. I also know authors who work their tails off for every word they write, but they work and work and work and they make it, too.
Personally, I think mine skews about 40-60... with the 60 being sweat. ;)
A: Well, the rough draft of one of my manuscripts was 66,000 words with a target length of about 75,000. I expected to change no less than 20,000 of those words.
So yeah, generally quite rough... although it does vary.
Q: I have heard you talk about Absolute Write and beta readers. Did you ever get comments that were totally conflicting (some loved it and some didn't)? If so, how did you go about sorting them out?
A: I really love Absolute Write as well as the BlueBoards. But because the people on there are essentially strangers, I don't generally ask them to beta anything but my query letter. I have in the past, but I play things closer to my chest these days.
For beta readers for my whole book, I use my family--mainly my two sisters since they are close to my target audience demographic--and some girls in my neighborhood who are excellent readers. If the feedback I get is conflicting, then I use my judgment and make the call on what, if anything, I am going to change. But if their feedback is pretty uniform, I have learned to listen and edit accordingly.
A: Best compliment I have ever received about my writing came from my editor, Tara Weikum. She told me my writing was "compulsively readable."
My harshest criticism was from a source I'm not going to share and they told me they just had no interest in finishing the book.
Tara's compliment makes me feel less self-conscious when I see some writers' beautiful prose. It helps me remember that I am not that author and I don't have to be. I write very commercial fiction and that's okay because it is "compulsively readable." :)
And honestly, any criticism makes me want to do better. My reaction to this particular criticism was that I needed to make my book more interesting. :)
A: I actually get this a lot. If your work is unpublished, the answer is almost always no. I can't review unpublished material simply because I have to protect myself and my family from potential liability. I will, however, sometimes look at queries because it's something I'm good at and probably will never have to do for myself again. However, that is always based on how much time I have at the moment!
On the other hand, if your book is getting published and you are looking for someone to read it for a possible quote, that is something I am really looking forward to doing!
A: I actually already had an agent when I wrote Wings. Jodi Reamer (my lovely and fabulous agent!) agreed to represent a traditional fantasy novel I had written for the adult market. While she was the first agent I sent the manuscript to, between me sending it to Jodi and Jodi signing me, I racked up just over 100 rejections from other agents, almost all of whom I found on AgentQuery.
A: I actually didn't come out of Jodi's slush pile. I was lucky enough to get a client recommendation. However, I did make it out of a lot of other agent's slush in the interim and my "secret" to that is the same secret you can find anywhere: a striking query and very strong opening pages. I'm afraid there are no other tricks. :)
A: The best part of getting my first book deal was the simple knowledge that my little story was going to be a real, hardcover book that I could walk in and see on the shelf at a real bookstore. And people who I didn't even know were going to read it (and hopefully like it!). That is the best part for me.
Q: When you look back on this incredible journey from unpublished author to four-book deal with HarperTeen, what would you say has been your favorite part and why?
A: I think sharing my joy with my family and friends who have supported and encouraged me from the beginning was probably my favorite part. I loved showing that their belief in me, which never faltered, had been justified.
A: Yes and yes! :) But perhaps the more appropriate question is when and where! Hopefully I will see you while I'm on tour. Otherwise... see here!
A: First and foremost, I discovered Lois Lowry's The Giver while I was in High School. As a child and a young adult, I read a Beverly Cleary, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Christopher Pike, V.C. Andrews, E.B. White, and C.S. Lewis. Actually, I spent most of high school in a very small town that didn't have a great library so I did a lot of reading from my literature textbooks. I think I read every single one cover to cover.
I adore the depth and variety of YA on the market today and have enjoyed reading a lot of it. So these days I'm basically all over the board. :)
A: This is a really good question. Most of the characters in Wings are not religious so religion is not a direct issue. In the book I am working on next (not in the Wings series) the main character is agnostic, so while the issue of religion is more pronounced it is still fairly marginal.
All of that said, I try to write in such a way that religious parents will feel like they can let their kids read my books, while remaining true to the characters and their life circumstances. It's probably impossible to write a book that won't offend anyone's religious sensibilities, but I do keep common sensibilities in mind.
A: I tell everyone that there is one secret to writing with kids.
Have low-maintenance kids.
That's it. I have been incredibly lucky to have very, very low maintenance kids. I know moms who get up at the crack of dawn every day for a single hour of good writing time. I'm very lucky in that I don't have to do that. My kids will generally just leave me alone for at least an hour each day.
However, another huge part of this (and the reason I got Wings done in record time) is that my husband was a law student and during the summers he watched the kids and let me write uninterrupted in our office. That was immensely helpful.
Q: Your bio says you are a childbirth educator and a doula. Are you still involved with the birthing community and will you ever be a doula again?
A: I remain a major advocate for educating women on the choices available to them in the search for a positive birthing experience. None of my kids were born in hospitals and I hope to keep it that way! I'm always ready to talk about the benefits of midwife-attended birth, freestanding birth centers, and natural childbirth generally.
But I probably will not doula consistently again, just because I don't know my schedule well enough to be on call. Which is a shame! I will probably doula for friends and family intermittently, but probably not full time again. *sad*