Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cynsational News & Links

Anneographies: author Anne Bustard on her fave picture book biographies and a few collected biographies, too, birthday by birthday. Anneographies now offers a full year of recommended picture book biographies, listed by the subjects' birthdays. A wonderful resource for classroom teachers, school librarians, students of biography, and writers of picture book biographies. Note: Anne is the author of Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Simon & Schuster, 2005). Read a Cynsations interview with Anne about Anneographies and another one about Buddy.

A Day in the Life (of One Writer on Retreat) by Kim Winters of Kat's Eye Journal for Writers from The Edge of the Forest. Here's a sneak peek: "Honor Your Process. As hard as it is not to do so, don't compare your process to anyone else's." See also an interview with Phil Bildner by Camille Powell of Book Moot. Note: don't miss any of the other great articles, reviews, and more at the latest issue of The Edge of the Forest.

Michelle Knudsen will be reading Library Lion at The New York Times Great Children's Read in the park on Sunday, October 14. Her reading is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at the Target Stage. The entire event runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free. Read a Cynsations interview with Michelle.

Early registration for the 2008 Writers' League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference is open now. The first 50 people who register will receive the early-bird discount of $30 and first choice of agents. The conference is planned for the Sheraton Austin Hotel from June 20 to June 22, 2008. Members: $309 (Early Bird: $279); non-members: $354 (Early Bird: $324). Early-bird registrations must be submitted by phone. To register, call 512.499.8914. The schedule is still in development. For an idea of what the conference will be like, check out the 2007 information. Note: I'm not sure how many, if any early-bird slots are left; last year this conference sold out.

Blog Your Book to the Top! shows you exactly how to get your blog noticed, how to bring readers in by the dozens, and how to maintain an ongoing successful book marketing campaign. YA author Amber Kizer (Delacorte) said "Blog Your Book to the Top! makes it easy for the non-techie to grasp and command this vital forum to 21st century audience interaction." Note: this book features an interview with me (among other author-bloggers).

David Davis: Writer, Speaker, Cartoonist: official site of the Fort Worth-based picture book author of Librarian's Night Before Christmas (Pelican, 2007), Texas Mother Goose (Pelican, 2006), and Rock 'n' Roll Dogs (Pelican, 2006), among others. Learn more about David's books.

Check out the new book trailer for The Garden of Eve by K.L. Going (Harcourt, 2007)(excerpt). From the back cover: "When Evie reluctantly moves with her father to upstate New York, where he has bought an apple orchard, they dismiss rumors that the trees haven't borne fruit in decades because the town is cursed. After all, Evie doesn't believe in things like curses or fairy tales anymore. If fairy tales were real, her mom would still be alive. But then Evie receives a mysterious seed as an eleventh-birthday gift and meets a boy who claims to be dead. When planted, the seed grows into a tree before their eyes, but only Evie and the boy can see it - or go where it leads. The Garden of Eve mixes eerie magical realism with a deeply resonating story that beautifully explores grief, healing, and growth." See a note to teachers, questions for discussion, and activities. Read a Cynsations interview with K.L. Going.

Highlights Founders Workshops for Fall 2007, held in Northeastern Pennsylvania: author Debbie Dadey is teaching "Writing for Reluctant Readers" Oct. 4 to Oct. 7 (tuition $895; limit 14); author Rich Wallace is teaching "Writing Novels for Yong Adults" Nov. 1 to Nov. 4 (tuition $895; limit 8); Paula Morrow (former editor of Ladybug and Babybug, columnist for Once Upon a Time) and Marileta Robinson (senior editor of Highlights for Children and Highlights High Five; she also has written several picture books) are teaching "Writing Fiction for Children's Magazines" Oct. 25 to Oct. 28 (tuition $495; limit 12). The following workshops are already sold out "The Whole Novel" with authors Carolyn Coman and Tim-Wynne Jones (author interview); "The Heart of the Novel" with author Patricia Lee Gauch; and "Every Word Counts: Writing the Picture Book" with Jane Yolen (author interview). See also a preview of Highlights Foundation Workshops for spring and summer 2008.

Round-up of reviews of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Little Brown, 2007) from American Indians in Children's Literature.

The Truth about School Visits by Alexis O'Neill from Lee & Low.

Author Interview: Melissa de la Cruz on Blue Bloods

From Hyperion: "Melissa de la Cruz is the author of the bestselling The Au Pairs novels for teens and the coauthor of the adult title How to Become Famous in Two Weeks or Less (Ballantine, 2003). She writes regularly for Marie Claire, Gotham, Hamptons, and Lifetime magazines and has contributed to The New York Times, Glamour, Allure, and McSweeney's. She has spent time as a journalist covering the club scene in New York City and now lives in Los Angeles with her husband. Melissa de la Cruz is not a Blue Blood, but she knows people who are..." Visit Melissa at MySpace, and read her journal.

Could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I've always wanted to be a writer, ever since I can remember. But when I graduated from Columbia, I took a job as a computer consultant because it would allow me to live decently in New York, and I wrote my first novel while working at Bankers Trust. I would write it at work and on the weekends. I felt like I had to "write" my way out of the corporate world, and I felt a huge sense of desperation. I was good at programming computers, but the longer I stayed in the corporate environment, the more depressed I knew I was going to be.

I'd always wanted to write books, so it never really occurred to me to try to get a job in magazines or publishing. I wanted to write books, not edit them. I finished my first novel at 22, and I sent it out to about twenty agencies I found through the Writer's Market, following their query guidelines.

Three agents responded favorably, and I went with the agent who'd sold Auntie Mame some twenty years before! He was very supportive, but we were unable to sell the novel. But he did get it in the hands of Geoff Kloske, who was then a young editor at Little Brown (he discovered David Sedaris and Dave Eggers and is now the editor-in-chief of Riverhead). Geoff called me, said he was not buying my book, but he saw something in my writing, and wanted to talk to me about my career. I was floored--and extremely excited. He advised me to try to start writing for magazines, because it's very rare that publishers buy a book from a complete unknown.

I finally published my first essay in the New York Press in 1996, and covered the trendy, fashiony beat for them for years, then I sold my first novel--an adult book called Cat's Meow (2001), to Simon & Schuster in 1998.

By then. I was writing for a ton of women's magazines. I still held on to my day job though--I was at Morgan Stanley by then. I got laid off right before Cat's Meow was published in 2001, and I never looked back. I've been writing full-time since then. I published a non-fiction "chic-lit" book, How to become Famous in Two Weeks or Less, and during the book tour for that, I got a call from Simon & Schuster.

The YA market was exploding--and did I want to try my hand at doing a glamorous book for teens? I was a big fan of Gossip Girl, and I jumped on the opportunity. The Au Pairs published in 2004, and it was the book that changed my life.

Before then, my adult books sold okay, but the Au Pairs sold extremely well, and it opened up all these doors for me. Hyperion asked if I wanted to try my hand at horror, and I'd been kicking around and idea for a while to do a dark fantasy book, and Blue Bloods came to being. For S&S, I also have a new dark series set in LA, called Angels on Sunset Boulevard (excerpt), and a seventh-grade social-climbing saga, The Ashleys, and a jet-setting series called Social Life. And of course, more Blue Bloods books!

For those new to your body of work, could you highlight a few titles?

The most popular books I've written are The Au Pairs and The Blue Bloods series. The Au Pairs centers on three different girls who work as nannies in the Hamptons to a rich family, babysitting by day and partying at night. It's really fun and fast, and there's a lot of romance and drama and social satire. I own that series in conjunction with Alloy. The rest of my books are totally my own.

Blue Bloods is about a group of diverse New York city teens who discover their secret heritage--they are Blue Blood vampires, fallen angels who are doomed to live on earth.

Angels on Sunset Boulevard is my series in LA, about a group of teenagers in the city who are trying to fight an evil cult that uses the Internet to lure its members. It's also about rock and roll and fame with lots of sexy romance and drama.

The Ashleys is my newest series and very fun to write, about four girls, three of whom are named Ashley and who are the most popular girls in junior high, and one, Lauren, who's gone from geek to goddess and wants to destroy the reign of the Ashleys to make the seventh-grade a better place to be.

I also still have a foot in the adult world--my latest book is called Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys (Dutton, 2007), an essay collection co-edited with my good friend Tom Dolby, about the relationship between straight women and gay men. We have some stellar writers in it like Cindy Chupack, Simon Doonan, Gigi Grazer and Andrew Solomon among many other fabulous names.

Congratulations on the success of the Blue Bloods series (Hyperion, 2006-)! Could you fill us in on the global story?

Thanks very much! It's very rewarding that Blue Bloods found an audience. It's very close to my heart. The story centers around a group of teenagers: Schuyler Van Alen, from a once-great and grand New York family that has fallen on hard times; her best friend Oliver Hazard-Perry, a sweet boy who'd rather go to museums than hit the lacrosse fields; Mimi and Jack Force, the richest and most fabulous twins in Manhattan with a strange and secret bond; and Bliss Llewellyn, a Texan transplant who is experiencing strange episodes of deja vu and dread.

They are the newest generation of Blue Bloods, who trace their ancestry to the Mayflower and are perennially reincarnated fallen angels who were cast out of Heaven with Lucifer and are doomed to live on earth. Just as they are starting to discover their new powers, something or someone is hunting them. They have to figure who or what it is--are the dreaded Silver Bloods, vampires who feed on vampires, back to feed once more?

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I read on the Internet once about how all these prominent Americans, like the Roosevelts and the Bushes, and also famous people like Marilyn Monroe, and even Oprah, are descendants of the people who came over from the Mayflower. And I thought, what if all their power and influence is because they're immortal? They're vampires, of course! And of course, I'm a very literal writer (LOL) so the blue bloods actually HAVE blue blood.

For Blue Bloods (Hyperion, 2006). What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I believe it took a year between the idea and publication. It took about three months to write, but it took about six months to even think about it. I wrote all the outlines and mythology and character sketches before I wrote the book. The major event for me was discovering the Roanoke mystery--it fit so well with the story, I think I was halfway done writing Blue Bloods when I stumbled upon the story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. It was like a light bulb went on. From there it was a race to the finish! I couldn't write the story fast enough.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

In a way, it was really easy to write because it's a story that I've lived--my best friend Morgan (who is the inspiration for Oliver) and I used to go to this club called The Bank, so the first chapter is just based on all those times we would stand there in line. We used to go to numerous nightclubs, and there was always the "will-we-get-in" worry. So it's cool to have Schuyler use her vampire powers to gain entrance. Ha!

The research also fit in really well--a lot of people died in the Mayflower voyage and the first year, almost half of them were killed or died of disease. I had a pretty detailed outline, but like I said, it didn't really click until the Roanoke thing. That's when the book really came to life for me, when I felt like I was excavating a story instead of making it up.

Even the myth with the angels and Lucifer, it just all seemed so right, that it's weird to me that the myth that vampires are fallen angels doesn't exist anywhere but my books. It felt like I was just pulling from the air, like the story was there all along. That felt really awesome. I love Milton's Paradise Lost, and I love the story of Michael and the archangels and Lucifer. There's lots of good stuff in the Bible.

Did you always intend for the story to be a series? How did that aspect evolve?

Yes. Hyperion wanted a series, and they bought two books first, then after Blue Bloods pubbed, bought another two. I'd always intended for a nine-book series. (My editor said, let's hope we get to Blue Bloods 19!) Which I think is a little much. I'm planning to do three three-book arcs for now. There's tons of stuff in the Blue Bloods world, and I want to stay there for a while.

Where does Masquerade (Hyperion, 2007) take the story?

In Masquerade, we see the fabulous Four Hundred Ball, a vampires-only white tie affair, where Schuyler kisses a boy who's wearing a mask. She also travels to Venice to find her grandfather, who holds the key to defeating the Silver Bloods. We learn more about vampire powers, and why Jack and Mimi are awfully close for brother and sister! Also, there's a hot new boy in school who drives the girls crazy.

What about the young adult audience appeals to you?

They're so enthusiastic! One of my fans started a Blue Bloods message board, and a site devoted to the book, breaking it down by character and chapter. It's amazing. I get a lot of fan art and fan fiction (which I can't and don't read), but which is just so cool. Teens are the best readers--they read closely, and they're not shy about telling you what they like. I feel like a teen myself, so really, I'm just writing for my peers.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

I was pretty level-headed, practical and determined as a young writer. I don't think anything I could say now would really change what I did back then.

I always had a single-minded goal: to become a commercial fiction writer. And now I am, and I don't think I could have gotten here without all the experiences I had in the past.

I was a big club kid, I spent a lot of time in nightclubs, I had tons of fabulous friends, we all had boy drama, and friendship drama. I covered Fashion Week, I went to fashion shoots, I worked at Conde Nast, I summered in the Hamptons, everything in my books is inspired by my life, but I also use my imagination to take it to another level.

I dated and kissed a lot of cute boys before I found my husband, and I don't regret any of them--even the ones who dumped me or never called after a one-night hookup. I feel like a lot of writers just want to write. But you know, you have to live so you have something to write about.

What would you say specifically on the topic of writing horror/gothic fantasy?

I guess I write about what scares me. Even though Blue Bloods isn't very scary, or at least, it's not gory, I am Catholic, and even though I say that I am a "secular Catholic," the devil still scares me. Evil scares me, and in Angels on Sunset Boulevard, which is a deal-with-the-devil kind of thing, that scares me too. Like, what if you could have everything you want? Fame, Fortune, Rock and Roll Lifestyle, but you had to lose your soul to get it? I mean, would you say no? Or would you succumb to temptation? I mean, I would hope I would say no. But it's very tempting isn't it? So I write about it.

Which books would you suggest for study and why?

I got a lot of practice writing cliffhangers because I used to write a serial fiction novel for Gotham magazine, and at the end of every chapter I had to write a cliffhanger so people would 'tune in' for the next one. (I also have to add that for the Ashley and Au Pairs books I have all the fun chapter headings because I had to write 'heds' and 'deks' for magazines -you know, headlines like "Lash Attack" or whatever and that was good practice for that.)

I would suggest reading Michael Crichton's novels to understand how to write a page-turner. I can't put his books down! It's hard for me to say "study" books because when I can see the blueprint of the book it takes out the pleasure in reading it.

What do you do when you're not writing?

I am taking care of my nine-month-old baby, hanging out with my husband and my family (my parents and my sister's family live near us), going out to dinner, seeing friends, planning extravagant vacations (it's the only thing that gets me going to finish a book--knowing I get to have a fabulous vacation at the end of it like a reward), and spending way too much money on clothes, shoes and handbags.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

It's hard. That's the hardest actually. Because you can get really bogged down by doing all the PR work, and find you don't do any of the real work, which is the writing. I love doing the PR work because it's just part of procrastinating. I've hired publicists for some of my books (mostly my adult books) so that takes off some of the work. And I think the best promotion is really to write a good book. It gets the word out.

Of course, you need your publisher to put some backing behind you too--if they don't do anything, no one will even hear about your book so how can the word be spread? I'm very lucky to be with S&S and Hyperion, both houses have done an excellent job of promoting my books.

What can your fans look forward to next?

The Ashleys drops in late December/early January, and Blue Bloods: Revelations, is out next fall. The fourth book is tentatively called Apocalypse. And the next book in Angels on Sunset Boulevard is The Strip.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Author Interview: Carrie Jones on Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend

Carrie Jones on Carrie Jones: "I am a Vermont College MFA graduate. I used to be in a song-and-dance company with comic/actress Sarah Silverman and Bridget Walsh, one of the first touring leads in 'Annie'! We sang songs from 'Fame!' This is terribly embarrassing. Also at my middle school were the Myers brothers who now are writers on 'Saturday Night Live' and 'Mad TV.'

"I went to Bates College with the brilliant director/poet/playwright Ozzie Jones who I have a perpetual crush on. I studied with poet Rob Farnsworth there.

"I am addicted to fudge bars, the low-fat frozen kind. I have a big, skinny, white dog and a ridiculously plump cat. We live in Maine.

"I've won a Maine Literary Award for adult nonfiction, a bunch of Maine Press Awards for column, editorial and sports writing. Yes! Sports! I swear it's true. I've reported on football games. It's hard to imagine if you know me. I've also received a Martin Dibner Award for most promising Maine writer."

Could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I’d been at Vermont College for almost a year when I decided to submit Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend. It had never been workshopped. No advisors had glanced on it. But I ignored all reason and sent it to Andrew Karre at Flux.

It was a slush-pile baby. And the biggest stumble to its publication was my query letter, which I detailed the whole horrible silliness of on my livejournal blog, which I have excerpted below:

So, I pick up the phone, and a nice resonating male voice says, "Um, is this C.C. Jones?"

"Yes," I say, while pouring out cat food.

He then proceeds to tell me he is a real live editor person who received my query, wants to see more of my manuscript, but his email requesting it bounced back.

"Really?" I say. "That's weird."

"Let me tell you the address," he says. "cjonese at…"

"Oh,” I say. “Oh. Oh. Oh."

"What?” he says.

"There’s no e on the end of Jones."

"I didn’t think so,” he says all deadpan dry.

Luckily, Andrew overlooked my inability to spell my name and bought Tips. He then acquired another young adult novel that's now called Girl, Hero, but used to be known as The John Wayne Letters. Then he purchased Love (and Other Uses) For Duct Tape. I sold all three in about a year. I've also sold a nonfiction picture book to David Godine.

Congratulations on the publication of Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend (Flux, 2007)! Could you fill us in on the story?

Tips is about high school senior Belle Philbirck whose long-term boyfriend tells her he's gay. It delves into the broader effects of homophobia and closetedness. It's really about self discovery and understanding and all the different kinds of love out there. Okay. It's not about hamster love or strudel love, but it's about lots of different kinds of way people can love each other.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I'd heard about this girl who'd been harassed because her boyfriend announced that he was gay. It drove me crazy that something like that could happen. She was tormented for something that had nothing to do with her. I couldn't understand it, so I began to write about it.

Plus, well, I've had a couple gay ex-boyfriends, and I'd found an old love note from one of them. I remembered how I'd absolutely believed every word in that note and how I believed that I'd marry him and live in this cabin on a mountainside and be really poor and have five kids who all wore cotton and wool.

So, the book came out of a combination of those influences, plus the desire to explore the stereotypes around relationships and identity.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I wrote the novel in a big rush in November. I submitted it in the winter. I doubled its length after it was accepted. It was published a year later.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

It was difficult trying to create a form that would convey Belle's pain and confusion. Because it's a first-person present narrative, I wanted to illustrate the complex strings of her life and the claustrophobia of the small-town atmosphere while simultaneously having forward motion in her character's struggle with identity.

I also wanted to make Belle have epilepsy but not have the epilepsy define her character. My critical thesis in Vermont delved into the perpetuation of epilepsy stereotypes and stigmas in children's literature, and it was important for me to make sure Belle was a cool person who happened to have epilepsy, but not have that epilepsy propel either the plot or the character.

That was hard psychologically difficult for me because I have the same kind of seizures that I gave to her, seizures induced by caffeine and aspartame. Yes! Really! No more coffee for me. Writing anything without coffee is hard, actually. But Postum is a darn good substitute. And think of it… If a writer can write without coffee, a writer can really do anything.

What about the young adult audience appeals to you?

I think everyone in children's publishing (the agents, editors, booksellers, authors, librarians) is really inspired by young adults. I mean, how cool is it that I can extol the joys of warm beverage cereal in a book? Only young adults would get that. But, it's more than that.

Obviously, young adult books are about more than an age. They are about an openness to change, about the questioning of personal and political identity as well as the evaluation of cultural mores and practices. There's an amazing freedom in writing for people who are into that.

What is it like, being a debut author in 2007?

It's like a good party with a lot of appetizers on the table and decent wine.

With the Class of 2k7, I suddenly have 38 friends who are right there in the book stacks with me. We cheer each other on. We have food fights. Let me tell you, Greg Neri can really throw that lasagna across a convention center hall.

It's a bit like having a posse. I am so lucky that my book was published this year and that I hooked up with such incredible writers and supportive people, even if it does mean I'm constantly wiping the mashed potato out of my hair and rinsing the JELL-O stains out of my shirt. Yes, I swear they are that bad.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

Current Carrie: Hey! You! Writing in that notebook.

Fifth-grade Carrie: Ew! Am I really going to look like that? Where are my bangs?

Current Carrie: At least your glasses are gone.

Fifth-grade Carrie: Cool.

Current Carrie: Okay, listen. I have writing advice. You know how you're having Captain James T. Kirk fall in love with your banged hair, glasses-wearing heroine?

Fifth-grade Carrie: Yeah.

Current Carrie: And how Mr. Spock is also in love with same heroine…

Fifth-grade Carrie: Uh-huh.

Current Carrie: And how the Dr. McCoy guy is in love with her too?

Fifth-grade Carrie: What's your point?

Current Carrie: It's not all that realistic, sweetie.

Fifth-grade Carrie: It isn't?

Current Carrie: No, honey. I hate to break it to you. It's just not. My writing advice to you is that not everyone can be in love with your heroine, unless you're Laurel Hamilton and your heroine has the ardeur or something.

What do you do when you're not writing?

I kayak. I sail. I walk the dog. I attempt to run. I read, but that sort of counts as writing, doesn't it? I obsess about strudel and why there is an ultra-large pair of men's Speedos in my basement. That just doesn’t seem right. Where did the Speedos come from? Why is this swimming suit/undergarment thing so large? And black? Why black? Has it ever been worn? Big life questions such as these bother me.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

It's horrible. I grew up in New England and we are the kind of people who gasp and hold up garlic cloves and a cross when we hear the words, "self promotion." I think M.T. Anderson (author interview) said something about that in an interview once, and it really resonated with me because it's so ridiculously true.

So, I joined the Class of 2k7, a cross-publishers marketing group of debut authors, because I figured I could at least tell myself that I was promoting other people as well as myself. That made it a more altruistic thing, but it also takes a lot of time because I signed up for too many committees. Note to all other debut authors and my fifth-grade writing self: Sign up for only one committee.

Most of my time is still spent writing. The problem isn't necessarily balancing the other aspects of the business in terms of time spent, but more keeping my mind from obsessively worrying about the other aspects of the business (the sales, the reviews, the promotion) so much that it affects my ability to write.

What can your fans look forward to next?

Free strudel for everyone? No, seriously, my advance was not that big. It'd more be like: Here everyone have a Tic Tac. No, not the whole container, just one.

The nonfiction picture book will be released January 2008. Love (and other uses) For Duct Tape comes out on my birthday, March 1, 2008. Girl, Hero comes out in the summer of 2008.

Cynsational Notes

A related read is The God Box by Alex Sanchez (Simon & Schuster, 2007). From the flap copy: "'How could I choose betwen my sexuality and my spirituality, two of the most important parts that made me whole?' High school senior Paul has dated Angie since middle school, and they're good together. They have a lot of the same interests, like singing in their church choir and being active in Bible club. But when Manuel transfers to their school, Paul has to rethink his life. Manuel is the first openly gay teen anyone in their small town has ever met, and yet he says he's also a committed Christian. Talking to Manuel makes Paul reconsider thoughts he has kept hidden, and listening to Manuel's interpretation of Biblical passages on homosexuality causes Paul to reevaluate everything he believed. Manuel's outspokenness triggers dramatic consequences at school, culminating in a terrifying situation that leads Paul to take a stand." Read a Cynsations interview with Alex; see his list of "Great Gay Teen Books."
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...