Category Archives: Random Interviews

Random Q&A: Nora Raleigh Baskin

This week, we talk with Nora Raleigh Baskin, author of ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL (Simon and Schuster, 3/24/09). Read on to learn more about short stories, tantrums and resurrections.

1) What is your typical writing day like?

I definitely do not have a typical writing day. When I m working on a book, either first draft or revision, I could write all day long, break to eat and run, maybe make dinner. That could go on for weeks. But there are days and weeks I don’t write at all. When I am teaching I find it hard to write. I get very involved with my student’s work and being there for them.

2) Why did you decide to write YA?

I started out trying to write for adult short stories but I found I was always writing about children. When I wrote my first children’s story for my son’s second grade class, I got the best response and I found the most satisfaction. When I began sending out my children’s stories and got the nicest, personal rejections, I knew I had found where I belonged.

3) What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced when it comes to  book publishing?

That I don’t make any money… Ha! Just kidding. Sort of. Maybe the biggest surprise was how many books are actually published out there–and even when you get good reviews it takes a lot to stand out in this market. I haven’t figured it out yet, but it takes something. Big.

4) Do you ever have any “dark days,” when you wonder why you’re a  writer? What are those like, and how to you get through them?

Never. I wanted to be a writer since I was in fifth grade and most of my young adult life I spent trying to get published. I am grateful every single day of my life…seriously.

5) Authors talk about “the call.” Usually, it has to deal with  getting an agent or getting published or getting an accolade. What  was the best “call” you ever received in terms of your writing, and  how did it go down?

I certainly remember the “call” from my first editor when my first manuscript was bought. She was the first one to read it. I remember my older son was having some kind of tantrum and I was terrified that she would hear him in the background and that she would change her mind about the book. I also remember the call from Publisher’s Weekly that I had been chosen a Flying Start.  I felt like a star for a brief moment or two. That’s nice.

BONUS QUESTION: This week, we talk about the heroines that got away. Do you have one that you want to write about one day?

I don’t think any of my heroines have gotten away because they are always resurrected in one form or another. For example, I wrote three books in a series called The Life and Times of Natalie Appleby that was never published. More than ten years later, she reemerged as Natalie Gordon, a fifteen year old in ALL WE KNOW OF LOVE (Candlewick, 2008).

For more Nora, visit her here.

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Random Q&A: Cara Lockwood

This week, we talk to Cara Lockwood, who’s dropped by The Randoms before, but this time we pick her brain on what it takes to be a writer for YA and adult books (her latest is EVERY DEMON HAS ITS DAY). Read on about 80s pop cultural references and Deadwood sheriffs.

1) What’s the toughest challenge you face as you change gears between writing an adult novel and a YA novel?

I’d say the toughest challenge is keeping in mind the different perspectives of the adult reader versus the YA reader. In some ways, they both want the same things – like great characters and plot development – but in other ways they want different things. Your average YA reader, for instance, probably wouldn’t appreciate ’80s references like my adult audiences do.

2) Are the writing communities different between YA and adult novels? Which one feels more supportive?

I’ve found lots of support in both communities, but if I had to say which one was warmer, I’d say the YA community. YA fans are really so very generous with their compliments and their time.

3) Do you promote an adult book differently than a YA book?

I promote them in very similar ways, but for a YA book I put more emphasis on Facebook and MySpace, although adults are slowly taking over those sites.

4) Do you try to put yourself on a schedule–write two YA books and then write an adult book? Or is it left up to the publishing gods? Does your agent try to help you plan out your books?

I have no control over my schedule, really, it’s all about what my publisher is willing to publish (a.k.a. the publishing gods). My agent tells me what she thinks will sell, but otherwise, the plan is really just to pitch books that my publisher will buy!

5) Do you think you have to work at making your voice different for adult books vs. YA books? And with this paranormal adult done, are you going to branch into paranormal YA?

I do work at making my voice different for adult books versus YA books. Actually, come to think of it, each book has a different voice. It’s really what makes sense for that particular story or character, not just whether it’s for adults or teens.

And I’d love to do some paranormal YA. We’ll have to see what the publishing gods say about it, though.

BONUS QUESTION: If Steven Spielberg ever came a’knockin, who would you cast in EVERY DEMON HAS HIS DAY?

That’s a tough one! I’d say I’d cast Christina Applegate as Constance (I’m a huge fan of Samantha Who? and she has great comic timing). As for Nathan, I’d cast Timothy Olyphant from HBO’s Deadwood. He’s the best sheriff ever.

For more Cara, go here.

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Random Q&A: Heather Duffy-Stone

This week, Heather Duffy-Stone joins us this week to discuss writing and her new book, THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO TELL YOU (Flux, March 2009). Below, she talks about how her day job is a perfect fit for YA and how Friday Night Lights will just have to share their talent when the movie rights are sold.

1) What is your typical writing day like?

Oh how I wish there were such a thing! On a typical weekday I wake up between 5:30 and 6:00. On very good days I wake up at 5:00 and go to the gym… otherwise I eat some oatmeal, drink a lot of coffee and go to work. It takes me a little over an hour to get to and from school (I work as a high school counselor). A lot of times I write (by hand!) on the train, or read over pages. I work until 5:00 or 6:00… I try to write at least two nights a week when I am not grading papers or trying to have a life. Saturday morning I wake up and write, do laundry, drink too much coffee, and Sunday I write for 4 or 5 hours pretty diligently (this consists of writing in silence, reading paragraphs out loud, asking strangers for synonyms, and re-writing the same sentence a zillion times) at a favorite Park Slope coffee spot with my writing right hand, Darci M. Then I head to the upper west side and teach a writing workshop. That is more of my writing week I guess.

2) Why did you decide to write YA?

I didn’t mean to really, and yet I always did. These characters just came to me. And actually, when I wrote about them in another story a few years before I started THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO TELL YOU, the twins were in it, but they were only four. The story was about their mom. But I just started writing this and it just came out. And I work in a high school so I think the stories I telling were naturally influenced by this time in life, by wanting to write about high school and that in between. Now it feels like my voice fits here.

3) What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced when it comes to book publishing?

Honestly? That I published a book at all!

4) Do you ever have any “dark days,” when you wonder why you’re a  writer? What are those like, and how to you get through them?

No. I mean I really don’t. I love my other career too, as a high school counselor, and so that may help. But I love writing stories. I suppose I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t, or if there came a time when it was too draining, I’d take a break. The darkest days are when I feel like I don’t have enough time to write. When the story is just pushing out of me and I have to go to a meeting or be focused on my day job. I take a lot of notes onn those days, so I can store the ideas until I get to a place where I can write. And I dream about summer vacations– long, uninterrupted writing days!

5) Authors talk about “the call.” Usually, it has to deal with  getting an agent or getting published or getting an accolade. What  was the best “call” you ever received in terms of your writing, and  how did it go down?

I just remember the first time I spoke to my editor about my book, this was before we’d even signed a contract. He had just read it (this was Andrew Karee, AMAZING Andrew Karre who used to be with Flux) and he called me one morning before work and I remember where I was sitting at my kitchen table, with a pen and pad to take notes, and he talked about my characters and my story in a way that made me think, wow. Someone gets this. This might actually go somewhere. I was dizzy with excitement when we hung up.

BONUS QUESTION: This week, we talked about who we’d cast as the leads in our books if Steven Spielberg ever came a’knockin’. Who would be your picks?

This question is amazing because I just did this– with my favorite TV show Friday Night Lights.
Nadio: Matt Saracen
Parker: Riggins
Keeley: Julie
Matthew Levitt: Landry
Jessica Marino: Tyra
Lace: Tami Taylor
Noelle: Noelle is the only problem. Lyla is too beautiful to be Noelle. But her coloring is right. Noelle, the very main character, is then left un-cast. Suggestions welcome! (The closest I have is Linda Cardellini of her Freaks & Geeks days)

Thank you so much for having me!!

Thank you, Heather! For more, visit her site.

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Random Q&A: April Henry

This week, April Henry joins us here at The Randoms. Hi April! On March 5, her book TORCHED comes out from Putnam Juvenile. Read on to see how eleven years in publishing has translated to sales in the YA and adult worlds, and phone calls with a movie producer.

1) What is your typical writing day like?

I used to dream of what my life would be like once I stopped working at a day job. No more getting up to my alarm clock.

The reality is that I still get up early – I forgot about my husband’s alarm clock.  Then I stagger downstairs, make coffee, read emails, post a LiveJournal, read my friend’s LiveJournals (many are other writers), and finally go out for a five-mile run.  It’s only after I get back and eat breakfast that I start writing.  Ideally I will write two hours before breakfast and a couple more in the afternoon before my daughter comes home from school. I usually split my time between two or more projects. Right now I’m working on a YA thriller and an adult mystery.  Soon I’ll add editorial notes on two additional books to the mix.

2) Why did you decide to write YA?

Like most of my writing career, it was accidental. My first book that sold (not the first book I wrote – it was actually the fourth book I wrote), sold as a mystery, although I hadn’t thought of it as that. My first YA, SHOCK POINT, had a main character who was 16 (it’s not like adults would get sent to teen book camps,so she had to be a teen), so my agent said it would need to be sold as a YA.  It turns out I love YAs and I love teens (good thing, since I now have one at home).  TORCHED is my latest YA  (publishes March 5), and SHADOWS WALKING BACKWARDS will come out in 2010.

3) What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced when it comes to  book publishing?

One surprise is how different the YA and adult markets are. I know a lot of children’s writers without agents. That never happens in the adult world. YAs are given longer to succeed.  Adult books are given 8-10 weeks.  Sucess is measured differently too.  There are so many state lists and award programs for YA books – much more than exist in the adult book world.

4) Do you ever have any “dark days,” when you wonder why you’re a  writer? What are those like, and how to you get through them?

I got my first contract in 1997. I thought I was set forever, but publishing is a business and it has its up and downs.  I truly believe the only way you can lose though is to stop trying.  If you work at your writing and you don’t give up, you will get published.  There are times where you just have to keep working and have faith.

5) Authors talk about “the call.” Usually, it has to deal with  getting an agent or getting published or getting an accolade. What  was the best “call” you ever received in terms of your writing, and  how did it go down?

One of the most fun calls was from a movie producer. Nothing every happened in the long run, but for months it was so fun to hear that he was talking to various famous directors and actors.

For more April, visit her here.

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Random Q&A: Sarah MacLean

Regency England, romance, murder, and a young woman’s debutant season…all of these themes entwine in first-time novelist Sarah MacLean’s THE SEASON. Sarah stopped by The 5 Randoms to talk about her book, her writing process, and why her second book deal was even more thrilling than her first.

1) What is your typical writing day like?

I have a day job, so my writing days are more like writing nights. I try to write every day, at least a few words, but my goal is 1000 words a day.  I write longhand, whenever I can find the time.  Living in NYC helps because I’m on the subway most days for about 45 minutes to an hour, and I can usually get some good first drafting done before I actually sit down to type in the evening.

I have a desk, but I actually do most of my work at my dining room table, classical music playing, my husband and dog living their lives around me.

I write most evenings from 8-11pm, and that’s usually enough for me to get 1000-1500 words out, assuming I’m on a roll.

2) What made you want to write THE SEASON?

A love of the romance genre, a connection with YA as a concept and an obsession with Regency England.  When you have those three things in you, it’s hard to imagine writing any other book than THE SEASON.  That, and the fact that Alexandra came into my head clear-as-crystal, like an avenging queen . . . I had to write her out of there.

3) What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced when it comes to book publishing?

I used to work in literary PR, so I thought I knew just what to expect.  Yeah.  Right.  The truth is, the world looks very different when you’re looking at it through the eyes of an author.  Everything is so much more personal!

The biggest surprise is how long it takes.  I mean, I knew it took a long time.  And, in my head, if I’d really mapped out the timing, I probably could have come up with 2 years start to finish, but MY GOD it feels like forever.  Just get here already, launch date, will you???

4) Do you ever have any “dark days,” when you wonder why you’re a writer? What are those like, and how to you get through them?

Uhm.  Does anyone NOT have these days?  I actually have them all the time.  It’s less about why I’m a writer and more about whether I really can do this.  And then I see that sentence written—“whether I really can do this”—and I think, Geez, Sarah, it’s not like you’re dismantling atomic bombs or landing people on the moon or curing cancer.  But writing isn’t always fun . . . or friendly . . . or easy.  Sometimes 10 words is a win.  No one but writers really understands that.  How do I get through them?  I write through them.  It’s the only way. Because it’s also the case that no one but writers really understands the immense sense of triumph that comes with overcoming those demons of doubt.

5) Authors talk about “the call.” Usually, it has to deal with getting an agent or getting published or getting an accolade. What was the best “call” you ever received in terms of your writing, and how did it go down?

The second call was the best one for me.  That’s not to say that selling THE SEASON wasn’t awesome, but it always lived in my head as something of a fluke.  Maybe that one editor was the only other person in the world who believed in my writing.  Maybe she didn’t really know whether or not the book was good, or that I was talented.  It’s funny how doubt settles in even in moments of elation.

But when I sold NINE RULES TO BREAK in a three-book deal to Avon, that was INCREDIBLE.  I mean, leaving aside the fact that we weren’t expecting a three-book deal and that it was the house and the editor I had wanted to work with from the moment I started working on an adult romance, it was amazing because that made it two people who liked my voice, believed in my writing and wanted to be a part of my career.

I was no longer on this crazy ride with one other person.  Now I have a posse.

Visit Sarah at www.macleanspace.com for more on THE SEASON, now available in bookstores.

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Random Q&A: Lynn Weingarten

This week, we’re chatting up Lynn Weingarten, author of Wherever Nina Lies (Scholastic). Grab a drink, turn your computer screen away from your boss, and read on.

1) What is your typical writing day like?

My typical writing day usually involves some (if not all) of the following things: waking up, writing at my desk, eating breakfast, showering, going to the gym, writing at a coffee shop, meeting up with a writing friend to write together, eating lunch, more writing, checking my email, eating candy, writing, writing, writing text messages, writing, writing, writing, calling people on the phone and telling them I can’t talk because I’m writing, listening to the same song over and over, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, checking my cell-phone, listening to a 7 minute rainstorm mp3 on repeat, writing, writing, checking eavesdropping, writing group text messages to some friends about what the people I’m eavesdropping on are saying, chewing gum, writing, and making faces at myself in the mirror. Not necessarily in this order.

2) Why did you decide to write YA?

I love YA books. I used to work at a book packager/media production company making up plots for and editing books, including a lot of commercial YA fiction. Writing my own seemed like a natural next step.

3) What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced when it comes to book publishing?

When I first got a job as an Editorial Assistant I knew almost nothing about publishing so everything was surprising to me. In particular I was quite surprised when I found out there was such a thing as a book packager.

4) Do you ever have any “dark days,” when you wonder why you’re a writer? What are those like, and how to you get through them?

Oh yes, I definitely do. On those days nothing comes out right. I’ll find myself tweaking the same paragraph for over and over for hours and hours and then end up with something that I like less than when I started. Or I’ll write a whole bunch of brand new stuff and look back at the end of the day and decide it is all blecho. Or I’ll have a terrible time concentrating and barely type anything at all. When I first started writing full-time, having days like this used to freak me out a lot more than they do now. Crappy writing days aren’t what I would call fun exactly, but at this point I sort of just accept that having them is just part of the whole thing of being a writer (at least for me). Things that help me when I’m having a crappy writing day include reminding myself that I’ve had other days like this that have ended and calling various other writers/friends/relatives and asking them to reassure me that I’m right about that. Sometimes I can get myself out of it by just deciding I’m going to write anything and not worry at all about how it turns out. Other times I just abandon whatever I’m working on for the day and just wander around eavesdropping and looking at things.

5) Authors talk about “the call.” Usually, it has to deal with getting an agent or getting published or getting an accolade. What was the best “call” you ever received in terms of your writing, and how did it go down?

The day my agent called to tell me Scholastic was going to make an offer for what would end up being Wherever Nina Lies (it was untitled at that point) was a very good day. I do not remember many of the specifics of what she said, but I was awfully happy. As soon as I hung up I called my parents.

For more Lynn, visit her site.

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Random Interview: Beth Fantaskey

Today, Beth Fantaskey is joining us. Hi Beth! She’s the author of Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Darkside (Harcourt, 1/09). Read on to see why OCD is good and how ignorance about starred-Publisher’s-Weekly reviews can be very, very good.

1) What is your typical writing day like?

My typical writing day is pretty structured, actually to the point of being a little obsessive!  I always start out the morning by clicking on some charitable sites, like hungersite.com, to show a little gratitude to the universe.  Then I glance at my e-mail, put on some music, and open whatever I’m working on.  I start about five paragraphs back, to sort of get back into the story.  Then I forge ahead!  Always in that particular order.

Pretty OCD, huh?

[Random Susan responds: Sounds like HEAVEN! OCD gets an entirely bad rap.]

2) Why did you decide to write YA?

The story dictated the market.  I wasn’t really aware that YA was so very separate from “adult” literature.  I just wanted to write a story about teenagers, and later found out this made it “YA.”  Which is fine with me… I’ve loved getting feedback from teenagers.

3) What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced when it comes to  book publishing?

The biggest surprise was how s-l-o-o-o-o-o-owly things move.  I sold my novel on Halloween day – 2006!  My kids have moved on to different schools, I’ve gained a million gray hairs, etc. etc. since then.  It’s been a long process, but worth it.

4) Do you ever have any “dark days,” when you wonder why you’re a  writer? What are those like, and how to you get through them?

Oh, gosh – I have lots of dark days, as a writer.  It’s not that I wonder WHY I do it, but just worry that I’m good enough to do it.  I basically just keep working and power through it.  I remind myself that sitting back and worrying won’t prove my talent or lack thereof any more effectively than writing, itself.

5) Authors talk about “the call.” Usually, it has to deal with  getting an agent or getting published or getting an accolade. What  was the best “call” you ever received in terms of your writing, and  how did it go down?

I think my best day was when my agent called and asked to represent Jessica’s Guide.  I knew that she wasn’t looking for new clients, so I felt validated that my book was worth at least trying to sell.  In a way, it was more exciting than even selling the book, because getting an agent is such a big hurdle.

PS) How did it feel getting a STARRED review in Publisher’s Weekly?

Getting the starred review was funny, because I didn’t really know what it meant.  I’d seen reader reviews on Amazon and other on-line stores, but had kind of forgotten that “professionals” would review my work.  (Which is probably good, because I would have worried myself sick.)  When my agent called to tell me about the star, I had to ask, “How good is this?”  And she said something like, “It’s go-out-and-celebrate good!”

So I did!

For more Beth, visit her site.

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