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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Robin’s Randoms: Girls That Have Captured My (Writing) Fancy

I have quite a few untapped heroines in my future.  They are either half finished, or they lost their mojo part way into their WIP, but someday they’ll flesh themselves out and be the focus of their own story.

1. Klepto-girl: I wrote a few chapters that I loved and then the story went nowhere fast.  What was the focus?  She stole because… why?  Was she a bully, a kleptomaniac, was it just a phase?  The scenes were cool, I thought, but I never figured out what her back story was, so I went on to something else.

2. Rocker girl: This girl was the daughter of a washed up rock star.  I got into this and then I realized I didn’t like half the characters.  It needed too much of my time for repair, so I moved on to another WIP.  I still love the idea I started with, but I need nicer people.

3. Dream state girl: I have a series idea that I really want to write NOW.  That’s a problem because I’m writing something else, but that what happens when I write: writing generates writing, ideas generate ideas.  This story is a paranormal, I guess.  She learns things from the dream states she falls into.  This is good and bad.

4. Sister 1: This story, LSH, is yet another WIP.  It’s about a sister–which sister is still a question mark.  While I think it can be about their relationship and not one girl’s story, I feel like it would be stronger if it was told by just one of them.  One is older and a bit of a golden child.  Sound cliché?  That’s why I stopped.

5. Sister 2: I told LSH from the little sister’s POV because it was more interesting, but I didn’t want her to be bad.  Did I say cliché?  But it seemed cliché no matter what I did so I stopped.  Now, as I write this, I have another idea: they both tell the story and it centers around a specific event that they see, but from different points of view—much like real life.

~RMM

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Susan’s Randoms: The Heroines Hanging Out in My Brain

This week, I’ve been trying to flesh out a new heroine for my WIP–Lane “Don’t Call Me Laney” Anderson. As I wrestle with making her character match her motivations and actions, I think about some of the other heroines I’ve wrestled with and that are waiting for me to get back to them when I’m ready to Frankenstein ’em to life.

1) No-Nonsense Chick. I’d love to write about a heroine who has the brains of Hermione, the moves of Buffy, and the arms of Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 as she leads her class to defend themselves (a la Buffy against the Mayor or Patrick Swayze et al in Red Dawn).

2) I Ain’t ‘Fraid of No Ghosts Chick. I would love to write about a heroine who isn’t scared of the ghosts she can see everywhere, a la Anita Blake in the Laurell K. Hamilton vampire series. The twist? Don’t know yet. That’s why I haven’t written her yet. ;o)

3) Mean Girls Chick. I would love, love, LOVE to write an anti-hero, like a girl bully who starts seeing the error of her ways, a la Crash in Jerry Spinelli’s Crash. After all, a bully has a backstory, too.

4) I May Boil Your Rabbit Chick. I would love to write about revenge, a la John Tucker Must Die. C’mon, how many high school girls do you know who would like to make a boy or two pay for standing them up/not calling/hitting on them to get to their best friend.

5) Damsel in Distress Chick. I would love to write a character like Bella in Twilight. The damsel in distress has a place in literature; you’ve just gotta make sure you got a sympethetic, motivated DID. And when you do? You, too, can be a bajillionaire like Stephenie Meyer.

~SC

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Robin’s Randoms: Time-Sucked & Dried-Up

Scared?  Try freaked out.  Here are my favorite five freak-outs for a Friday.

1. Time: Life isn’t always the way I plan it, so I don’t get in the time I want and need for my book.  I long for the days when I had the big blocks of time with my story, and the room to spread the chapters out on the floor.  It’s hard for me to accept that the times have changed and I need to adjust.  I guess I’m scared of the that time-sucking monster.

2. The Zone: I love the feeling of being in the zone.  Or the flow.  Or riding the wave.  Whatever you call it, it’s the sensation of being so in the story that you lose track of time (in a good way) and you know you’ve been somewhere else.  I fear not having that experience because I know that it’s key to good story making.

3. Reviews: I can only do one thing to make good reviews happen.  I can write the best book I can, but I can’t control the reviews.  It’s scary knowing that they matter.

4. The Big House: With editors and houses in flux, I worry.  Will my house be okay?   Should I call my editor?

5. Drying up and blowing away: I have ideas, but I’m not always where I can write them down. When I do get the time to act on them will they be there?  If I don’t use them right off will they dry up and blow away?

~RMM

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Amanda’s Randoms: Fear and Loathing in the Publishing World

There are many writerly things that haunt me at night—and in the morning—and in the afternoon.

1. But this isn’t what I thought it was going to be??? I’ll echo everyone’s fears about completing a book bought on a synopsis—or with two of my upcoming books—a paragraph. Total nightmare inducing fear! I had a close call with my last book. I had a very clear idea where it was going from the get go, but when my editor read the first draft she expressed concern that the focus wasn’t on the love triangle but another aspect. Eek! She read the synopsis and first pages and thought it was going one way, while I had always planned for it to go the other way. It worked out in the end, but it just sets the stage for more panic.

2. Looks can be deceiving: I worry that the cover for my next book, DEVOURED, doesn’t match up with what’s inside. It’s by far my absolute favorite cover, but does the romance implied on the outside match the ghost story/murder inside?

3. Twilight Fans: Some Twilight fans scare me. I had one read UNINVITED and she was so bothered by it that she got online and warned Twilight lovers not to read it because I “killed the vampire.” Um, I didn’t realize all vampire novels had to be romances. I never set out to make UNINVITED one, and if you read the back cover it pretty much clues you into what kind of a story it is—troubled teen fighting her inner demons. Now I love a paranormal romance as much as anyone, but do all paranormal books have to end with undying love? Isn’t there room for other kinds of stories? When UNINVITED came out I joked with my friends that it should come with a sticker that says “not a romance.” Apparently that was something I should’ve looked into.

4. Big Chains: Not having the big book store chains stock my books scares me. So far so good, but I know tons of authors who aren’t getting in and with each book coming out the fear starts all over again.

5. Meeting Deadlines: I have three more books to write this year—two of them for a new editor. Will I stay focused? Be creative? Knock her socks off? I’m scared!

~AM

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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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Angie’s Randoms: Contracts and Reviews—the Nightmare Continues

Though it’s not on the following list, rejection is the underlying theme in all of these writer fears. Look closely. Can you see it??

1. Quality. This one looks a lot like what Susan talked about, when a book that was supposed to be the next Heathers turns into Dude, Where’s My Car? What scares me is having the exact image of a story in my head—the setting, tone, everything—so solid and literary, and having the actual written story turn out nowhere near it.

2. Reviewers. I have this nightmare. It goes something like this: a new message pops up in my email inbox, and it’s an update from all of my friends on Goodreads. I scroll through and everyone has rated my book a 2 or 3.

3. My Blog. I love blogging, and reading my friends blogs. But yes, my blog does produce some stress in my life. What if I can’t find anything to write about? What if no one reads my blog? What I’m boring? OK, I know I’m boring, but what if other people realize that??

4. Buzz. I need to repeat a mantra to myself these days. It’s out of my hands, it’s out of my hands, it’s out of my hands. Scholastic is going to do everything they can to build buzz, and so am I, and basically…I just need to move on!

5. Book Two in a Contract. Expectations, expectations, expectations! The book has been acquired, and it’s not even written yet? Does that seem a little stressful to anyone else?

~AF

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