Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Interview with GotYA Girl and Debut YA Author Debra Driza

First off, the winner of the ARC of Cindy Pon's FURY OF THE PHOENIX is *drumroll* Kathryn Packer Roberts! Please email Deb at - houndrat (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Debra Driza, my fellow GotYA girl and agent sister, recently snagged a three-book deal from Katherine Tegen/Harper Collins after writing sample scenes based off of a proposal. It was both my honor and pleasure to have the opportunity to interview Debra on her debut series and the road to a unique and awesome achievement.

What was the first thing out of your mouth when you found out you were going to be published?

Um…would you believe “EGADS, I’m quite excited! I shall run and tell my husband now!”? No? Yeah, me either. I don’t remember exactly, but it was probably more alone the lines of “Holy FREAKING CRAP!” followed up by a phone call to hubs “OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!”

Your book deal happened a little backwards. Not everyone gets the incredible opportunity to write a novel after they already know it will be published. Can you talk a little about how you got signed on?

Sure! A couple months after letting her I know I was interested, HC Editor Claudia Gabel contacted me with a proposal for a YA series and asked if I’d be interested in writing sample scenes. After reading the proposal and really, really loving it, I agreed. In essence, I was “trying out” for the role of writer. Wow, that sounds really weird when you say it out loud.
Anyway, Claudia ended up loving my scenes, and after getting approval, offered me the opportunity to write the books.

According to your PM announcement, your deal is for a YA scifi-thriller. Were you ever planning on writing something in that genre before this opportunity came along?

You know, I never thought of myself as a sci-fi writer before, so my gut reaction was to say “heck no!” But after pondering this question a bit, I realized that some of my writing already has sci-fi-esque elements. And I could definitely have seen myself writing a thriller.
Honestly, the one genre of YA that would probably have made me break out in hives? Historical. (And I graduated with a BA in History—go figure).

How does it feel toiling away on a project that already has a pre-made plot? Does it still feel like your own?

So glad you asked this question! I wondered about that when I first agreed to write the scenes—would it be weird, writing based on someone else’s premise? It’s crazy, though. Once I started writing, it felt my own story, just as much as something that totally originated from me. And the characters, well—they totally feel like my babies. You have to realize, I only got about two lines per each one in the proposal—the rest was up to me. I actually think it was my take on the main character that helped me get the offer.
The way I see it? I’m getting paid to have an amazing editor walk me through the process of writing an amazing story. How the heck can you beat that?

Now that you have general release period, does having a deadline make you feel pressured?

No, not really. I’m one of those people who does better under pressure. When I have no deadlines, I sometimes tend to, um, goof around a bit more than I should. (cough, Twitter, cough cough) So deadlines are my friend. Also, I tend to first draft pretty quickly, so that probably helps alleviate pressure. (Hopefully I didn’t just curse myself by saying I first draft quickly. I totally did, didn’t I? EEEEK!)

Can you tell us when more information, such as a synopsis of the book, will be released?

Probably late summer/early fall—YAYYYYYYYYYY!

Name some YA writers that inspire you, and why.

Courtney Summers, for her no-holds-barred voice and ability to make me empathize with even the most flawed characters.
John Green, because, well, he’s John Green! So freaking funny---and so real online.
Jandy Nelson---for writing a book that melded both Amazing Voice and Amazing Prose and for showing me, yes, you can have humor and deep emotional stakes, all in one book.
On a more personal level, I’m pretty much inspired on a daily basis by all the YA writers out there, for keeping at it and not giving up. There’s such a positive energy in being surrounded by that kind of determination, it’s unreal. And those of you I critique and beta with, the ones who keep growing as writers and push me to do the same, who give a never-ending supply of cheers and hugs? YOU are beyond inspiring.

Can you tell us a bit about the kind of kid you were back in high school?

You know, that’s such a tough one to answer, since I feel like I went through so many changes in high school. I went through a random shy spell freshman year and tried to cover it up (yes, me—SHY—I know, right?), which I think probably came across as snobbery to some. I was always a good student, so a few people probably pegged me as a nerd (though at my school, academic achievement was a positive thing). I was a swimmer for 12 years, so maybe others thought of me as a jock. Overall, though, I think the word that best describes me back then is GOOFY (shocking, right?)—especially around those people who really knew me. I don’t feel like I really became comfortable in my own skin—or owned my inner-random in public—until senior year.

What was your favorite childhood snack?

Oh, boy…will my kids read this? Because I was a TOTAL sugaraholic as a kid. Horrible. I’d probably have to go with those pink and white iced animal cookies, or Grandma’s Vanilla Sandwich Cookies. I was seriously the kid at school who gave away all her healthy food at lunch, and then went and bought extra crap from the snack bar. (Sorry, Mom---*waves*)

Thanks so much, Debra! And for our readers, Debra's first book in her scifi-thriller trilogy will be released late 2012. Check back here for future updates, as well as Debra's website: www.houndrat.com.


Krista Ashe said...

Whoo hoo! Congrats Deb! I'm so excited for you. Such a cool opportunity. Can't wait to read it!

Jamie B said...

Awesome interview Sarah and Deb!! Deb, your comment about having a great editor to walk you through the process - that's such a fabulous opportunity - teamwork! I can't wait to hear more about this book series!!!

erica_henry said...

Awesome interview! I'm so excited for you Deb <3

Deefy said...

Fabulous interview! I'd love to read Jandy Nelson, based on that characterization alone :)

Hayley said...

Great interview!!!! I can't wait to hear more about this series :)

Aleeza said...

i love debra and i love this interview.
that is all :)

Yahong Chi said...

Sweet interview! Amazing for you, Debra. Can't wait to learn more about it :)

Erin said...

This was an interesting interview. I enjoyed reading it, especially the part about the "backwards" publishing. Very cool! Looking forward to reading Debra's work!

Erin @ Quitting My Day Job

Leah said...

GREAT interview! So, SO excited for when it's released, Deb!

Debra D. said...

Thanks for taking the time to read, everyone!!! I can't wait to share more about the series with all of you, WOOT!

Deefy--you MUST pick up The Sky is Everywhere--if you don't love it, I'll buy it back from you! =D

Aleeza--your comment just made my entire week. <3333


Alex said...

Many many congratz, Deb! Loved to hear your amazing story - definitely not the kind you hear every day. So stoked for you and can't wait to hear more about this series :)

- Dys/Alex

Kaitlin Ward said...

I am so super excited for you to write this book, Deb. I know it will be amazing! Also can't wait until we're able to hear a little something about the plot :)

J.S. Wood said...

Yayayayayayay!! Awesome interview, you two!!

Deb, this is fantastic and I can't wait to read!!

Other Lisa said...

Deb, congratulations! What an interesting story and process...can't wait to read the results!

Jennifer Walkup said...

Deb - your story is awesome! I can't wait until you can share some deets of your book(s) and of course I can't wait to read them!

Karla Calalang said...

This was a fabulous interview! I can't wait to read your book, Deb! Congrats!