Saturday, July 25, 2009

Interview with Lucienne Diver, Author of VAMPED and Literary Agent Extraordinaire! By Jamie Blair

From Lucienne’s website,, here’s a synopsis from her main character, Gina Covello:

Because I’m terrible with synopses, I’ll let my protagonist (heroine might be pushing it just a bit), tell you all about it in her own words:

Hey, all, it’s me… Gina Covello, fashionista of the damned. Yeah, I know, I managed to get almost all the way through high school without cracking a book and now here I am immortalized in one. Well, actually, the immortalization process might have started a bit earlier, like in the broom closet at the after-prom-party, somewhere around the time Bobby-freakin’-Delvecchio started gnawing on my neck. Anyway, this is one book I’d maybe even phone a friend about, since it covers all my adventures going from chic to eek. Because, let me tell you, eternity without a mirror or tanning options—totally uncool. And they don’t tell you in, like, Vampirism 101 about crazy conspiracies, psycho-psychics and other hazards of unlife. But I will, so stay tuned.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with our readers, Lucienne. Vamped is a funny, fabulous read deserving of all the rave reviews it has received since appearing on bookstore shelves in May.

Thank you so much! You can’t see me, but I’m blushing furiously.

Q: Gina Covello is quite the little spitfire! Her personality is contagious. How did Gina come to you? What made you give her life, or unlife I suppose is more in context with Vamped?

A: My stories always begin with characters talking in my head. One day Gina started carrying the conversation. I didn’t have a plot to associate with her, just a vignette, really, about an undead fashionista stalking her stylist. But everyone who read it said, “This wants to be a novel.” Gina agreed that a novel would be cool. A series would be even better. And if I’d just get out of the way and let her handle things, we’d be golden. It’s like that. The best characters kick me to the curb and I simply write out the stories as they’re told to me. Sometimes, though, I have to wrestle the storylines back under my control so that they don’t meander this way and that. (For example, Gina, if given the chance, might just spend all her time at the mall hunting hotties and couture.)

Q: Is Gina anything like the teenage Lucienne? Does her humor reflect your personality?

A: You know, it’s funny but the only thing Gina has in common with the teenaged me is big hair. (Hey, it was the eighties. We barely knew about the ozone layer.) My hair was about the only stylin’ thing about me. I was a geek. I played D&D, did chorus and drama, took extra art and English classes in lieu of lunch and study hall. I was kind of the anti-Gina. Her humor, though…. You know how you always think of just the right thing to say about five seconds too late? Gina is maybe me on that five second delay. She’s always got the snarky comment right at the tip of her tongue. No one’s going to walk away from Gina without getting as good as she gave. I have to respect her for that .

Q: Without giving spoilers of course, which scene is your favorite?

A: Wow, that’s so tough. There’s a scene that didn’t even make it into the final draft that I dearly love – of Gina getting even with her ex. Hmmm, maybe I ought to post that on my website as a little bonus at some point. Second to that, I think there are two: Gina kicking major booty in a scene I don’t want to spoil, and the quiet moment she finally has with Bobby toward the end. I share Gina’s weakness for Bobby. He reminds me of my husband, kinda geek chic. I’m not sure he’d find that flattering, but there it is.

Q: Have you always been a fan of vampire fiction? Who are some of your favorite vamps?

A: Oh, I’m a fan girl all right. My favorite vamps…hmm. I like Jean Claude from Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series and Dorian Black from Susan Krinard’s wonderful romance DARK OF THE MOON. I love P.N. Elrod’s Vampire Files series, though I have to admit partiality for Jack Fleming’s human partner in crime(solving) Charles Escott, who’s very Sherlockian to me. I’m also a big fan of Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires series and Chloe Neill’s new Chicagoland Vampires. As for television series, I kinda love Spike from Buffy and I’m finding Bill in Charlaine Harris’ TrueBlood HBO series a little irresistible. (If I could only get over the killing.)

Q: Bravo for making Gina a tough, together heroine! What are your thoughts on female main characters in YA books? Do you prefer a strong female protagonist?

A: Thank you! I really love a character who can kick butt and take names. I especially like that Gina doesn’t triumph because she’s super-powerful (vamp strength isn’t much of an edge in fighting other vamps), but because she is who she is. In the right hands, even hairspray can be a very powerful weapon. And spiked heels…don’t even get me started. I guess the point is that most people don’t actually set their minds to becoming heroes. They see a need to right a wrong and step up. Or, as Gina would say, they put on their big girl panties and deal with it.

Q: Revamped comes out next year. Can you give us a hint about what’s in store for Gina next?

A: (cue evil laugh) Finally with Gina I’ve found a character I like to torture. You can be sure that whatever it is, it won’t come with a clothing allowance.

For fellow writers, I’d like to ask a couple questions about your writing style.

Q: How long have you been writing? What are some of your other published works?

A: I’ve been writing since I was eleven years old. Maybe even earlier, but that’s when I first remember actually finishing stories and showing them to someone else to read. My fifth grade teacher was amazing. I really credit him with helping me find my calling. In addition to VAMPED this year, I’ve got a story coming out in Esther Friesner’s STRIP-MAULED anthology. Next year will see REVAMPED published, as well as an adult vampire story in another Esther Friesner anthology from Baen Books.

Q: Do you outline or wing it?

A: A little of both. I’ll generally have a sense of where the story will go, but I only outline a few chapters ahead, because I find that so much changes as I write, as I learn more about the characters and their worlds, that there’s no point in plotting beginning to end early on. I’d have to throw out all the latter material in any case by the time I got there.

Q: Do you prefer to write in first person or third? Present or past tense? Why?

A: Most of my stories come out in first person. I think that’s because, as mentioned, my characters seem to come through and tell their stories personally and I more or less step out of the way. I hope that’s what readers hear when they pick up my work — my characters’ voices and not mine. Different stories, though, call for different POVs.

Past tense, definitely! I find it very difficult to read, let alone write, present tense. Some authors do it tremendously well, but most attempts I’ve seen at present tense are inconsistent and intrusive to the narrative. Distancing even.

Q: Did you or do you have a critique group? Do you see a benefit in having one?

A: I had a critique group for a long time, including when I wrote the first draft of VAMPED. Now I have a crit partner. I can’t speak for all writers, but I know that for me it’s vitally important to get a second opinion on my work. I need to be pushed sometimes. It helps to have someone point out the flaws I’m hoping no one will notice (or those I didn’t even know existed) so that I can fix them before my work is ever submitted.

Q: Writers sometimes struggle with bad habits, like using too many adverbs, or passive verbs. Do you catch yourself having a writing habit that you try to break?

A: Bad habits are another great reason for critique partners/groups. Many of us don’t even realize we have them until they’re pointed out. But once you’ve worked with a group for a while, you start to hear them in your head and can avoid past pitfalls. Yes, it gets crowded in here sometimes—my critique group, my characters, my mother telling me the dress I’m wearing is way too short….

I have to be careful with the word “just.” I’ve also struggled a lot with action scenes. I used to drag my feet whenever I approached one. Now I just accept that my action scenes are going to take a few drafts, but I no longer fear that I won’t get them where they have to be.

Q: Do you edit while writing, or leave editing until after the first draft?

A: I try to write forward – a full draft from beginning to end before I allow myself to go back over what I’ve written. However, there always comes a point (or more) in the course of the writing, where I have to go back and add something in or change it before I feel I can move on. I’ve found that fighting that urge only keeps me from progressing.

Q: Best piece of advice for aspiring authors?

A: Writing is hard work. I think that often the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is the willingness to put the work in. Yes, you should enjoy what you’re doing and yes it’s an art, but even artists hone their skills and improve from work to work. Think artists don’t do drafts? What about the sketches that come before the great paintings or the scale models that come before the sculpture? No pain, no gain goes for writing just as it does for body-building.

Hand in hand with that is the willingness to accept criticism productively. You can always learn something from an honest critique. It may not be what you want to hear. You may not even necessarily agree, but take it under consideration. Try to see where the reader is coming from. There may be things that are clear in your head that don’t come across on the page. There may be things you like that don’t serve to further the story. Lynn Flewelling, who is absolutely fabulous, once said that she throws out as much as sees print. It’s not the fun part of the process, but if you’re only looking for fun, you’re probably not looking toward publication.

Q: What kind of networking do you do, and how do you interact with your readers?

A: I have a wonderful street team who helped me get the word out on VAMPED (hey, guys!), a blog, a Twitter account, Facebook, MySpace, a website…whew! I also answer all the fan mail I get. It makes my entire day every time someone writes to say they’ve enjoyed the book. (Gina always wants to take total credit, but I won’t give her my passwords, so I get to answer on her behalf. Tee hee.)

Q: As an agent, what makes you jump out of your chair and request the full manuscript?

A: A really wonderful voice, fresh ideas, and lots of suspense. I want to be wowed with the reality and originality of the voice and the world. I’ll read anything that hooks me and drags me along for a fast-paced thrill-ride. The genre doesn’t so much matter to me—romance, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, thrillers, I love them all—as the connection to the work. If I stay up way too late reading and gush about the novel to everyone I come into contact with, I know it’s for me.

Q: Any upcoming releases or announcements from clients that you would like to share?

A: Oh, so many! Looking just at July, there’s:

DYING BITES by D.D. Barant, a fantastic urban fantasy, first in a very original new series.

STRANGE BREW edited by P.N. Elrod, an anthology with stories by Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Rachel Caine, Karen Chance, P.N. Elrod, Caitlin Kittredge, Faith Hunter and Jenna Maclaine

THE CALLING by David Mack, a dark fantasy thriller

SKINWALKER by Faith Hunter, the first in her excellent Jane Yellowrock series

DARKNESS CALLS by Marjorie M. Liu, the sequel to her bestselling uf THE IRON HUNT

SOUTHERN PERIL by T. Lynn Ocean, Southern-styled mystery

THE EDGE OF DAWN by Patti O’Shea, paranormal romance, newest in her Light Warriors series

WILD WOLF by Karen Whiddon, the latest popular Pack novel from Silhouette Nocturne

Then in August there’s a new Weather Wardens novel from Rachel Caine, a Dirk & Steele from Marjorie M. Liu, a debut mystery from Diana Orgain…. So much going on!

Just for the fun of it…

Q: What is your favorite color?

A: Cobalt blue.

Q: Favorite flavor of ice cream?

A: Dulce de leche!

Q: Mexican, Italian or something else?

A: It depends—which one of them has the fangs? Oh, wait, you’re talking food! Boy, is my face red. Uh, after that I think I’d have to go with my husband’s bourbon and vanilla marinated pork and sweet potatoes.

Thank you for taking the time to talk with OPWFT. We’ll be watching for Revamped to hit the shelves next year so we can catch up with Gina’s antics!

Thanks so much! I really enjoyed the interview. Have a wonderful summer, everybody!

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Jamie Blair. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Look at “Friday Night Writes” with a Lord of the Rings Twist!

Writing is often an isolating hobby. We hunker down in strange locations, clutching our laptops or notebooks as we escape into the uncharted realms of our imagination. In a way, we become Gollum from Lord of the Rings with our own “precious”.

In early June, something extraordinary happened on the OPWFT thread. After all lamenting how we needed a gentle butt kicking to get ourselves in gear to write, we decided to unite forces—to become a fellowship of writers, so to speak. And from that moment, the creative juices flowed like honey into a melting pot of different WIPS.

And how did this feat work? Well, we decided that we’d all start writing at a set time. Then the suggestion was made about posting snippets from the work we accomplished. That evolved into an hour long writing segment where we would pause to wipe our feverish brows and submit snippets on the thread. There’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment, and even if you churned out only two hundred words in that hour period, you felt like you’d made it to the mountaintop.

Once you posted your snippet, you began reading and critiquing the other snippets. As one of the original participators, I can’t describe what an awesome experience it was. All writers need encouragement, and there was nothing like getting that awesome feedback. It was a true pick me up.

Well, after that awe-inspiring night, it was debated whether we should do it the following week. Then I, being a total movie nerd, thought about coining it “Friday Night Writes” kinda like Friday Night Lights…the movie and television show. And thus, Friday Night Writes/or Friday Nite Writes was born.

Participating in FNW was invaluable while I was writing my latest YA Contemporary, Don’t Hate the Playa. I cherished all the comments that were made, and when I would think I couldn’t go on, I’d think back to all the wonderful encouragement and I’d push on. The gals were truly Sam to my Frodo, helping me make it through.

Since our original thread posting, we moved over to the SYW, or Share Your Work, forum on Absolute Write that is password protected. It also had other benefits because new people, who didn’t post on our thread, started posting as well. Eventually, it became more of a “Every Night Writes” as more and more people drew on the strength in numbers vibe! Now, the Twifties, or Teens Writing for Teens, started a Middle of the Day Writes since they needed earlier writing hours.

So in closing, writing a novel is hard. It’s one of the hardest journeys I’ve ever been on. To draw on my Lord of the Rings analogy once again, I’ve climbed to the top of Mount Doom three times now, and the climb doesn’t get easier.

But you don’t have to go it alone. There are people waiting to support you and give you the encouragement to see you through.

So, if you’re itching to do a little writing, stop on by the SYW forum for FNW or MNW—we look forward to seeing you there!

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Krista Ashe. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Agent Spotlight: Laura Rennert w/ Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Contest closed! Winner will be announced on Monday, August 3rd.

The Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. was founded in 1981. The agency focuses on representation for children’s book authors and illustrators. Laura Rennert is a Senior Agent and has been with the agency for ten years. Some of her clients include Jay Asher, Ellen Hopkins, and Catherine Ryan Hyde. In addition, she has recently sold major and significant deals to Simon & Schuster and Scholastic.

Ms. Rennert looks for novels with a strong, fresh voice and compelling narrative. According to the Andrea Brown Literary Agency website, she is interested in middle-grade, young adult, and crossover novels.

To query Ms. Rennert or any other agent at Andrea Brown, please see the agency’s website at Keep in mind the agency only accepts e-queries and only one agent may be queried.


Recently, we interviewed Jay Asher, author of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY (see July 13 posting). We are hosting our second book giveaway with a copy of the high concept, debut novel. (Please Note: Contest has Closed)

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Stephanie Jenkins. To view original post and reader comments, please click here.

Elizabeth Scott Contest Update

And the winner is… Brittany.

Thanks to everyone who entered–stayed tuned for more contests soon.

Original post (and contest) published on Old People Writing for Teens. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Self Publishing Spotlight

Self publishing has become a popular nontraditional route to publication in the last few years and has propelled some authors to the best seller’s shelf. I attended a writer’s conference at Columbus State Community College in Ohio last April and listened to Jennifer De Chiara’s story of how one of her clients became very successful through the self publication route. In this particular case, the children’s picture book was rejected by publishers because of the sheer cost of production of the book itself. The writer was adamant that a little stuff animal needed attached to the book itself. The publishers told her that there wasn’t a possibility of that book ever getting published if she wouldn’t drop the demand of the stuffed animal. So she turned to Jennifer some advice.

After Jennifer had exhausted all of the publishing possibilities she advised her client to try the self publishing route because she felt the book was good and that it would probably sell with the right marketing. So the author fronted all the money for the printing costs, gathered up all her connections and set out to sell her beloved children’s picture book.

A short time passed and the author did some awesome self marketing that landed her on the QVC home shopping network.It wasn’t long after that appearance that she was on the best seller list. Soon all of the publishers that had once rejected her, were seeking her out, and offering her deals.

Self publishing does offer you an alternative way to get your work into print. Although the above is not a typical success story of self publication, it does allow your voice to be heard. Who knows, if you decide to go this way,it could possibly get you noticed in the literary world as a serious author.

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Annie McElfresh. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

You! Yes, You! Will You Stop Hiding Your Story In That Buried .doc File? We Want to Read It!

I know your secret. You have a hidden desire– a passion. You think that your characters are the most interesting people in the entire world. Your plotlines are a secret garden that you harbor in your mind– a place of escape and bliss. A place that no one else can find you at because there is no evidence of your imaginary fortress.

Well cut it out. I mean it. I know that you adore your hidden sanctuary, but there are so many benefits to sharing your work in progress.

A few writers over at Absolute Write have started two events titled Friday Night Writes and Mid Day Writes. These occasions consist of buckling down on your WIP and posting a snippet every hour. Will something like this benefit you as a writer? Of course it will, but you may be surprised at how much.

I have been writing for a long time. When I was eight years old I was completely infatuated with the Nancy Drew series and soon began to write a mystery novel of my own. It was about twins named Amanda and Tommy, whose slumber party got out of hand when they found that their garage was actually a tunnel that led to another dimension. Corny, I know. Please forgive my eight-year-old imagination.

I never stopped writing, but I never finished a project either. I kept starting and restarting, losing my creative boost within the first fifty pages. I always lost motivation. Something was missing.

It wasn’t until last year that I figured out what that something was. I recently started a new project and had only finished thirty or so pages of it. My best friend wanted to turn one of her pieces of fan fiction into a full blown novel, and for the ten hours that we spent on the I-5 towards the Oregon coast on a road trip we did nothing but gab about our novel ideas. (No pun intended).

Bing. There you go. Missing ingredient. Stick that in your potion and stir it counter clockwise. (I’m still kind of caught up on Half-Blood Prince. Forgive me again.)

Some writers say that music, movies, and other books inspire ideas. Some say that it’s nature, the city, or even a country. Truth be told, inspiration doesn’t even have to come from something that specific. It can come from sharing snippets, from receiving the morale boost of a fellow writer saying “I love your dialogue” or “I love how you describe [insert noun here]“, or even just talking about plotlines and characters with someone as passionate as you are. It does wonders knowing that another writer out there is familiar with your work, someone that is willing to tell you to keep pushing when you arrive at a mental brick wall.

Here are some things that you can do:

- Find a writer friend who is willing to have plot discussions with your over coffee or lunch.

- Join a forum that is open to snippet sharing.

- Build a blog ring whose members are all willing to share some of their work on a certain day of the week.

Now, none of these things work if you aren’t willing to give a little feedback yourself. Make sure that you are reading the work of your fellow writers and responding constructively.

In my opinion, a book isn’t something to only be shared once it is finished. Your first readers have the ability to inspire you, and may even help you mold certain characters and plotlines. You have to trust me on this one. I’ve experienced it.

Peace, Love, and Writing.

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Sarah Harian. To read original post and reader comments, please click here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Quake Press

Today, we’ll be looking at another small press- Quake, a company owned by Echelon Press, LLC. Quake publishes one full-length paperback title per month. According to their website, “We are seeking authors with strong character development, good plotting, and strong technical skills, with the ability to engage young readers on an emotional level. The willingness and ability to market and promote to a young audience is crucial in the publication process.” Quake is currently accepting submissions for children’s books (8-13) and Young Adult (14-21). The young adult genres Quake is currently looking for are fiction, adventure, spy, fantasy/horror, mystery/suspense/thriller, and romance. They will not only accept single title manuscripts (40,000-90,000 words) to be printed in both e-book format and print, but also publishes novellas (10,000-40,000) and short stories (2,500-10,000) in e-book format.

Quake will consider e-mail queries submitted to Should Quake request a full manuscript, their submission guidelines are listed at Quake is currently particularly interested in genres that target young male readers (ages: 12 – 18).

If you are interested in finding out more about Quake, you can check out their Children’s and Young Adult blog and their catalog of books at Quake says they are “shakin’ up young readers” and now is a great time for you to jump in at this growing press!

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by former OPWFT contributor Laurie. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter Book Review from an Acknowledged Potterhead

I step into the crowded room, and my breath hitches in my chest. This has been a long time coming, but it’s something I have to do. I tap the microphone and clear my throat. “Um, my name is Krista, and I’m a Potterhead.”

“Hi Krista!” comes the crowd’s enthusiastic response.

Grinning like a Cheshire cat, I stare into the crowd. I have found my people.

Yes, it’s true. I am a Potterhead, and I’m dedicating this book review not to just one of the books in the Harry Potter series, but five of them. It seemed a fitting thing to do with the movie opening today to reflect on my Potterheadness. The funny thing is I came to the whole Potter fandom late—as in this June late. For years, I would step lightly around Pottermania. I wasn’t completely out of the loop—I watched the first and second movies, and I’d read the first book back in 2003. I knew the buzz words like Hogswarts, Dumbledore, Hagrid, owls….oh yeah, I attempted to be down with it. But within me, I knew something was missing. I would feel a twinge of envy when people raced to the bookstores at midnight to get the latest book or bemoaned the Half Blood Prince being pushed back.

So, I decided to do something about it. In February, I got on Amazon, and to my amazement was able to find a moderately priced box set of books 1-6. A few days later, my heart jumped for joy when I opened the box. There was the key to unlocking my Harry Potter appreciation.

But I can hear you questioning this equation. “Now wait a minute, you say you bought the books in February, but you just started reading them in June? What’s wrong with you, woman!” I know, it’s insanity. Please put the pitchforks and torches away—I couldn’t help it. Life got in the way, but I promised myself as soon as school was out, I would begin reading the series. It was one promise I kept.

I managed to devour the first two books at a steady pace—often reading late into the night because I just couldn’t put them down. I think that’s the beauty of the series. Every book takes you someplace new and exciting with a new cast of characters. Even after five books, it still seems fresh and intriguing. I was desperate to finish the series by movie time, but alas, I didn’t make it. Which after attending the midnight showing last night(more on that later), I’m kinda glad I didn’t read book six. Why? Because I was totally blown away, and in the same token, I didn’t have the book to base it on to be disappointed. So, I hope to wrap up The Half Blood Prince before school starts in two weeks.

So let’s talk about the author for a minute. I think it would be hard to find anyone in the writing community who isn’t awed and inspired by JK Rowling’s success. It boggles the mind to think someone one day could be living in poverty and writing on napkins as an escape and then a little while later become richer than the Queen of England. You almost have to pinch yourself to believe it. But for me, JK Rowling’s true success is not in her monetary wealth, but in the fans’ love for her characters.

Sure, I’d be a total sellout if I didn’t admit I dream a little dream from time to time of making a living solely off my writing or slipping into a darkened movie theater to find “Based on the Novel by Krista Ashe” in the credits. But the writer in me dreams of character love—that undeniable bond that some writers forge between their characters and an adoring fan base. JK Rowling has that in abundance. Harry, Ron, and Hermoine are some of the most beloved characters in modern literature. I fell in love with them myself along with Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid, and the entire Weasley family.

The theme that stands out for me the most in the series is love and friendship. In the very first book, we’re introduced to the idea that Lily Potter gave her life for her infant son, and it was her love that warded off Voldemort’s curse. We also see the early remnants of the “adoptive” family Harry acquires in the world of wizardry. Although Harry grows up quite unloved and unwanted with the Dursley’s, he forges an unbreakable bond with the Weasley family along with Hermoine. Through the series, he builds more of a makeshift family with Dumbledore, Lupin, and Sirius Black—not to mention Ron and Hermoine. And when you get right down to it, who doesn’t want friends like Ron and Hermoine? They’re the truest friends anyone could ever want—the kind who are willing to go to the ends of the earth for you.

Finally, I think the beauty of the series is it has a little something for everyone. First off, there’s magic. Like Harry, I’m anxious in every book for him to get back to Hogwarts. I love all the mishaps and mayhem that go on there, and the fight scenes are so intense. Second, there’s something for sports fanatics in the form of Quiddich. Then as Harry and his friends get older, there are the typical “teenage” infatuations. I think we’ve all experienced the mix-ups that Harry goes through with his first crush, Cho Chang and then his inability to tell Ginny how he actually feels for so long. And some of us have struggled with feelings of more than friendship like Ron and Hermoine. In the end, it is a series that is so fantastical, but at the same time, has it’s feet rooted in the real world.

And then last night came my first Harry Potter on the big screen experience. A friend of mine and her daughter got advanced tickets, and they asked me to come along. I said, “Sure!” I’d planned on going, but not necessarily for the midnight showing. Although I wasn’t born in 77’ when the first Star Wars came out, that’s the only thing I can equate to standing in a line, with advanced tickets, that wrapped completely around the side of the movie theater. People came bedecked in costumes from characters like Harry, Hermoine, and even Dobby. There was a fevered excitement running through the crowd, and when the credits finally rolled, applause and cheering rang through the theater—or theaters I should say since it was playing on eight screens.

So as I close this review, I have a challenge for you. We’d love to hear your Harry Potter love stories. When you started reading, who your favorite character is, what you thought of the movie—whatever you’d like to share.

Do it for Harry!

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYA contributor Krista Ashe. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Interview with Jay Asher, NY Times Bestselling Author of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jamie Blair

I’m a big fan of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY. To me, it explores teen suicide on a basic, everyday level, and leaves the reader thinking about how their actions can impact other people in unintended ways. For anyone who hasn’t yet read it, you should – go get it now, then come back and read this interview.

Second, here’s a synopsis from the books website.


Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list. Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

Thank you for taking the time to talk with OPWFT, Jay. We’ll start with questions about the book for the fans.

Q: What inspired you to write THIRTEEN REASONS WHY?

A: After taking an audiotour through a King Tut’s tomb mock-up, I spent several years trying to come up with a story told in an audiotour format. But I was only interested in writing humorous books at the time and couldn’t come up with a funny idea where that format was necessary rather than just a gimmick. About that same time, a close relative of mine attempted suicide. Talking with her over the years about what led to her decision was very eye-opening, but it took nine years before that subject matter clicked with the audio idea.

Q: Is there a part of the teenage Jay Asher in Clay Jensen? Did you know a girl like Hannah in high school? How do we see your teenage experience reflected in your characters?

A: Personality-wise, I was a lot like Clay in high school. And like Clay, I hardly went to any parties, though I wasn’t anywhere close to being valedictorian. I’m sure I knew plenty of girls like Hannah in high school, but I had no idea who they were…which is a big part of what I was trying to say with the book. People can appear one way, but have a lot more going on in their lives than we know about. And I wouldn’t say my teen years are represented in the book very much. When I began writing, I talked to a lot of my friends about their teen years, and those (much more interesting) years are what you’ll find in the book.

Q: What is your favorite scene in THIRTEEN REASONS WHY?

A: My answer to that question changes periodically. For pure creepiness, I like the scene where Hannah’s outside the Peeping Tom’s window. I like the subtlety in the interaction between Clay and his mom at the diner. But my favorite scene to write was the one where Hannah and Clay kiss. The kiss didn’t last long, but after everything I’d put them through…and was about to put them through…I really wanted that moment to last forever.

Q: How much research on teen suicide did you do before writing THIRTEEN REASONS WHY?

A: Not very much scholarly research. I talked extensively to my relative about her frame of mind leading up to her attempt, and I went to a couple suicide prevention forums (which I’m now a featured speaker at!). I simply began writing when I felt I understood the emotions and the point-of-view of someone like Hannah enough to tell her story confidently. I wanted the story to be led by her as a full character rather than a bunch of research. But after I wrote a draft, then I read books on teen suicide, spent many hours doing online research, and went back to enhance certain aspects of the story.

Q: What is the message you would like your readers to take from your book?

A: Primarily, the book’s about the small things we do that impact the lives of others. And since we don’t fully know what’s going on in anyone’s life but our own, there’s no way to know exactly how they’re going to be affected by what we do. It was also important to show that Hannah didn’t do everything she should have to get the help she needed. I hear from a lot of teens in Hannah’s position who say they were inspired to get help because they recognized they were making the same mistakes as Hannah.

Q: What do you have up your sleeve next for our reading pleasure?

A: A secret!

For fellow writers, I’d like to ask about your journey to publication and writing style.

Q: How long have you been writing? Was THIRTEEN REASONS WHY the first manuscript you completed and queried to agents?

A: It was far from my first completed manuscript. From the time I began submitting to when I finally sold something, twelve years had passed…and three agents had come and gone. But this was my first teen novel, as well as my first non-humorous manuscript, so I think I stumbled around until I found my voice with this book.

Q: Do you outline or wing it?

A: I wing it. Winging it can be scary, but I’ve tried outlining and I find it way too stifling. A lot of my favorite moments in THIRTEEN REASONS WHY came when my characters drifted far from where I thought they were heading. I usually have an idea where the book will end up and a few major points I want to hit, but other than that, I just want to know one scene ahead of where I am.

Q: Do you prefer to write in first person or third? Present or past tense? Why?

A: I prefer third person in the past tense, but THIRTEEN REASONS WHY was told with simultaneous first-person narrators speaking in the present tense. I guess you should just do whatever the story needs as opposed to what you’re comfortable with. But my favorite books growing up were third-person, so that’s what always sounds most natural to me…at least in the early stages of an idea.

Q: Did you or do you have a critique group? Do you see a benefit in having one?

A: I was in a critique group for many years and it helped tremendously. If you want to be published, it’s so important to realize that when people read your words, you won’t be there to stand up in their defense if people misread what you were trying to say. That said, no one read more than the first ten pages of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY until it was finished. Because of its unusual structure, I needed complete freedom to make plenty of mistakes before showing it to anyone. But I had four sets of trusted eyes read it before sending it off to agents.

Q: Writers sometimes struggle with bad habits, like using too many adverbs, or passive verbs. Do you catch yourself having a writing habit that you try to break?

A: Not much anymore. My critique group beat my most severe bad habits out of me. They taught me to reorganize my sentences so they don’t all sound the same. I was horrible with that one!

Q: Do you edit while writing, or leave editing until after the first draft?

A: I edit like crazy as I go. If I can’t go back to any page of my manuscript at any time and be satisfied, I get very discouraged. So by the time I finish what you’d call a first draft, it’s fairly polished.

Q: Best piece of advice for aspiring authors?

A: Join a critique group. You want one that’s honest and made up of people with similar goals. If they enjoy writing but don’t absolutely want to get published, they’re not going to push you as hard as a group of writers battling to be the first one published. But they should also be extremely supportive, and it helps if someone in the group bakes cookies!

Q: What professional organizations are you a member of?

A: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. SCBWI. Love ’em!

Q: What kind of networking do you do, and how do you interact with your readers?

A: There’s a website for my novel, set up by my publisher (, and a lot of people leave comments there. I also have a blog ( But most of my interactions come from my MySpace page ( My favorite part of every day is when I check my MySpace mailbox. I get messages from teens and librarians all over the world…and I answer every one, unless they have a blocked account. (Note: if you ask for a response, UNBLOCK YOUR ACCOUNT!!!). And I absolutely love doing school visits. The face-to-face interaction is amazing.

Just for the fun of it…

Q: What is your favorite color?

A: Purple. Truthfully, I don’t have a favorite color. But the last time I did, when I was a kid, it was purple. So let’s stick with purple.

Q: Favorite flavor of ice cream?

A: Chubby Hubby by Ben & Jerry. If you’re not careful, it’s definitely a case of truth in advertising.

Q: Mexican, Italian or something else?

A: Italian. My first girlfriend’s grandparent’s owned an Italian restaurant. I didn’t know that when we began dating, but it was an added bonus for sure!

Thanks again for talking with us! We look forward to many more Jay Asher books lining the shelves in our Borders and Barnes and Noble stores in the future. Congrats on the success of your book.

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by GotYa contributor Jamie Blair. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Great Agent Search

Hello there everybody! My name’s Amy, and I’m one of the contributing bloggers here on OPWFT. Many of you are on that seemingly never-ending search for a dream agent I’m sure, and I wanted to share with you my personal journey that led me to mine.

When I finished my novel The Tortures of Blight, the first thing I did was go out to my good old Barnes and Noble and buy the 2009 Novel Writer’s Market to see what I was supposed to do next. It was within these pages that I realized if I really wanted to build a steady career from writing, (eventually of course- getting published is only the icing on the cake) I would need to write this weird thing called a query letter in order to snag another weird thing called a literary agent. The book vaguely outlined how a query letter should look, and I whipped out a very, very horrible draft of one. Of course, I had no idea how horrible it was and promptly sent it out to a completely random agent that was listed within the Writer’s Market. Now, it’s important that you know my query broke just about every single rule in the book. I groveled, I begged, and I spent about two paragraphs telling the agent that even though I am not a published writer, I have passion and have been writing since I was small and have always loved books and yada yada yada yada.

I didn’t include my word count. I didn’t include the names of my characters. I didn’t describe the plot. I simply spent a whole page giving away the fact that I did very little research on what a query letter should really look like and included three thank yous for the agent’s time. (Yes, three. I believe the exact sentence was ‘Thank you, thank you, and thank you again, so much, for your time.’ WOW just reading that over again is quite embarassing, but I’m here to show you all the warts I guess.)

Needless to say, in the ignorance of being a newbie I had hope that my (one) query letter would snag a request and I’d be seeing my completely unrevised novel in print very soon. Yes, I was even silly enough to believe that I wouldn’t have to make many revisions, if any. Tee hee, right?

Imagine the heartbreak when two weeks later, my SASE was returned to me holding only my original query with the words ‘Not for me’ written in very impatient handwriting at the bottom corner. That’s right, I didn’t even get my own piece of paper for the rejection. It was so bad that she just wrote on the query. I can’t say I blame her, but of course I cried and cried and thought that I would never find an agent and that all hope was lost.

Sob story aside, something amazing came from that slap in the face. My shame drove me to actually research the agents I was sending to, which lead me to the website Absolute Write, which lead me to what is lovingly dubbed as Query Letter Hell- a blunt and often stinging critique forum for query letters. My original query was torn to shreds immediately, as were the fifteen or so drafts that followed. After seven months of revising the letter and 60 rejections, I received my first and only request for a full. All the horrible emotional lows I had experienced for the past seven months were made worth it in about ten seconds when I got that magic email asking if my now agent could call me on the phone to talk about my manuscript.

The journey was insane, but I learned many important lessons. Among them, I learned that nothing in this ‘business’ is set in stone. What many agents may love, others may loathe, especially in the querying process. Well meaning critiquers will make suggestions that will hurt, not help, your query letter. Others will make suggestions that save the whole thing altogether. In the end, there is only you and your work. Rejections have absolutely no reflection to your quality of writing, and although they are very discouraging at times you must never let them define you. Agents are people too, people with likes and dislikes and personal interests. They are NOT robots who scan a letter and have the magic ability to automatically deem something ‘worthy’ or ‘not worthy.’ Everyone’s journey is unique.

It’s been crazy so far, but I just got my revisions in the mail today and am excited to better the manuscript. I’ll keep you all updated on how submitting goes, and I hope everyone has an amazing day!

Original post published on Old People Writing for Teens by former OPWFT contributor Amy. To see the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Elizabeth Scott Book Giveaway!

CONTEST CLOSED. Winner will be announced sometime tomorrow (July21)

In anticipation of our upcoming interview with Elizabeth Scott, one of the most notable contemporary YA authors out there, we are hosting our first book giveaway.

Something Maybe:

Everyone thinks their parents are embarrassing, but Hannah knows she’s got them all beat. Her dad made a fortune showing pretty girls–and his “party” lifestyle–all over the Internet, and her mom, who was once one of her dad’s girlfriends, is now the star of her own website. After getting the wrong kind of attention for far too long, Hannah has learned how to stay out of sight…and that’s how she likes it.

Of course, being unknown isn’t helping her get noticed by gorgeous, confident Josh, who Hannah knows is her soul mate. Between trying to figure out a way to get him to notice her, dealing with her parents, and wondering why she can’t stop thinking about another guy, Finn, Hannah feels like she’s going crazy. She’s determined to make things work out the way she wants….only what she wants may not be what she needs.

Stealing Heaven:

My name is Danielle. I’m eighteen. I’ve been stealing things for as long as I can remember.

Dani has been trained as a thief by the best–her mother. Together, they move from town to town, targeting wealthy homes and making a living by stealing antique silver. They never stay in one place long enough to make real connections, real friends–a real life

In the beach town of Heaven, though, everything changes. For the first time, Dani starts to feel at home. She’s making friends and has even met a guy. But these people can never know the real Dani–because of who she is. When it turns out that her new friend lives in the house they’ve targeted for their next job and the cute guy is a cop, Dani must question where her loyalties lie: with the life she’s always known–or the one she’s always wanted.


Lauren has a good life: decent grades, great friends, and a boyfriend every girl wants. So why is she so unhappy?

It takes the arrival of Evan Kirkland for Lauren to figure out the answer: she’s been holding back. She’s been denying herself a bunch of things (like sex) because staying with her loyal and gorgeous boyfriend, Dave, is the “right” thing to do. After all, who would give up the perfect guy?

But as Dave starts talking more and more about their life together, planning a future Lauren simply can’t see herself in– and as Lauren’s craving for Evan, and moreover, who she is with Evan becomes all the more fierce–Lauren realizes she needs to make a choice…before one is made for her.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post, along with your name, and the winner chooses one of the above three. Her latest, Love You, Hate You, Miss You, is in stores now, and we will be giving away copies soon. Stay tuned. Contest closes July 19, 2009.

CONTEST CLOSED. Winner will be announced sometime tomorrow (July21)

Original entry posted on Old People Writing for Teens. To view the entry and comments, please click here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Look at Bell Bridge Books…Interview to Follow!

It’s a good time to celebrate Belle Bridge Books. Why? Because they’re coming up on their one year anniversary after being launched last July. So who are Belle Bridge Books? Well, they are an imprint of BelleBooks, which is a well established publisher of Southern fiction with offices in Atlanta, Memphis, and Saltillo, Mississippi. Belle Books was started over ten years ago by six Southern writers with over 100 published titles between them, including New York Times Bestseller Deborah Smith.

But with the launch last year came acceptance past the “Southern Fried Fiction” genre by embracing Fantasy. Some of Belle Bridge’s YA Fantasy titles are Moonstone by Marilee Brothers, Bite Me by Parker Blue, and Once Bitten by Katalyna Price.

Belle Bridge titles are released in both trade paperback and ebook editions. Book Promotion is very important at Belle Bridge Books. First, they have their own website where you will be featured with your own sales page, author page complete with bio and photo. Here’s a link to their website:

There are also extensive email promotions where your book is announced to an established email list, which reaches thousands of readers throughout the online community. Third, there are author book signings. And last, but not least, there’s video book trailers that are available on YouTube, the Belle Bridge Books website, Myspace, and Facebook page.

Here’s Belle Bridge Author and fellow AbsoluteWriter, Marilee Brothers, book trailer for Moonstone.

So, you think you got what it takes to submit? Well, here’s what Belle Bridge Books is looking for in their own words:

Yes, we’d love to find the next Harry Potter, but our primary focus for the moment is publishing for the teen market. If you read Holly Black, Stephanie Meyer, Laura Whitcomb (A Certain Slant Of Light), Neil Gaiman, Scott Westerfeld, Robin McKinley etc. you’re probably writing something we’d love to see. We’ve just acquired a contemporary fantasy of magick by Marilee Brothers. Her voice is so compelling she made us want that book after reading only 8 pages in a contest a year ago—that’s all she entered…8 pages. Once we established Bell Bridge Books, we hunted her down. (Folks, voice is important)

Speaking of Marilee Brothers, I loved Moonstone, and I just ordered the sequel, Moon Rise. I was swept away into Allie’s world, and like every teen or “teen at heart”, I empathized with her dilemmas from what to do about her powers to the swoon worthy Junior Martinez. I also snorted with laughter many times at the hilarity of Allie’s voice and predicaments. I highly recommend this book, and I can’t wait to get back to Allie’s world!

We will be featuring an interview with Marilee Brothers later on this month, and there will also be a one on one interview with Belle Bridge Books in August.

Original post published on Old People Writing For Teens. To view the original post and reader comments, please click here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Interview With Rhonda Penders, Editor-In-Chief, The Wild Rose Press

I was fortunate enough to have Rhonda Penders, Editor-In-Chief of The Wild Rose Press, answer some questions about their Young Adult line, Climbing Roses. Here’s what she had to say:

Q: How long has The Wild Rose Press been publishing novels, and how long have you been Editor-in-Chief?

We have been in business since May 1, 2006 and we have been publishing novels since shortly after that time. I have been Editor-in-Chief since we opened.

Q: When did the Climbing Roses line begin, and how many YA novels are there to date?

Climbing Roses was opened in May 2007 and to date there are 25 published products (this includes short stories and full length novels)

Q: What do you look for in a submission to Climbing Roses? What makes you say yes?

For us the story has to appeal to the audience. Our target audience are 13 to 17 year old females. We have a department of volunteer teen readers who read every submission and answer an extensive survey on the story. We base a lot of our decisions on these reader reactions.

Q: Is there something that makes you reject a submission automatically?

The story has to be basically “clean”. We don’t allow any sexual relations, nothing more than a kiss, in our YA line. We also try to keep it relatively wholesome – no profanity, drug or alcohol use. We want these stories to be something a parent is comfortable to let their teen read.

Q: Are Climbing Rose books electronic, print, or both?

Anything over 65,000 words in available both electronically and in print. Up to 65K it is available electronically only.

Q: What is the typical turn around time for queries and submissions?

We have a solid 30 day turnaround for queries. Once you have been requested to send a full length novel or short story we have a 90 day window to either approve or reject the submission.

Q: The Wild Rose Press does not use form rejections, but personalizes individual correspondences. (I can hear authors singing your praises as they read this.) What led to the decision to personalize letters and how much time do your editors devote to this process?

The decision to personalize our rejections came from a belief that a writer can’t grow if she/he doesn’t know what is wrong with what they are writing. In order to learn you must be gently instructed as to what isn’t working. Our editors sometimes spend a big chunk of time on a rejection letter, especially if they feel the writer either has a lot to learn or if the editor thinks the writer shows real potential and wants to really help them along.

Q: Finally, what Young Adult projects are coming soon that we should be keeping our eyes out for?

When Mike Kissed Emma – by Christine Marciniak

March Misfits by Barbara Stremikis

The Stillburrow Crush by Linda Kage

Submission guidelines can be found for Climbing Roses on The Wild Rose Press website,

Original entry published on Old People Writing For Teens. To view the original entry and reader comments, please click here.