Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vegas Performance & Conference Panel

Inspire Theater in Las Vegas
I have some very exciting upcoming events to announce! First of all, my fantastic agent, Josh Adams, is coming to Utah for LDStorymakers (April 24-26), a large annual writers' conference, and I've been asked to be on a panel with him and my agent sister and friend, Sara B. Larson. Our topic is the author-agent relationship. If you're coming to Storymakers, I hope to see you there! (Registration closes April 20th, so hurry!)

The next weekend I will be in Las Vegas for my friend Jessie Humphrie's mega two-day book launch/literacy awareness event. (Her book, Killing Ruby Rose, is debuting.) She's asked me to take part in the Saturday night (May 3rd) ceremony/concert, which will take place at the new Inspire Theater. I'll be one of a handful of musicians/authors who will be performing a couple songs and speaking a little about how music influences our writing. I'm absolutely thrilled to be involved in this event and have had my guitar attached to my hip for the last few weeks in preparation for my little moment in the limelight.

Many other exciting things are happening that weekend in Vegas in conjunction with Jessie's book launch, so be sure to stay up on reading her blog for all the latest details. And here's her blog post mentioning me and my upcoming performance. *cues giddy freakout*

Monday, April 7, 2014

My Writing Process

My critique partner and wonderful friend, Ilima Todd, tagged me for this bloghop, in which I answer a few questions about my writing process. I was supposed to have this post up 'n' ready a few days ago, but I experienced a nasty bout of unexpected cholingitis and appendicitis and had my gallbladder and appendix removed. So here I am with this post--better late than never!


What am I working on?
I'm in the plotting/researching phase of a new fantasy trilogy. It's all hush-hush right now. (I have to keep the magic going!)


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write YA fantasy that's usually epic in scope and very romantic. The plots are complex, and I'm drawn to tackling high concepts (not having a name, the inability to feel the sense of touch, falling in love with someone invisible, time-travel through dreams), and my style has a lyrical and literary bent while still being commercial.

Why do I write what I do?

An idea will take hold of me and won't let go. I'll wake up in the night with inspiration about it, songs will remind me of it--basically, it just consumes all my thoughts. Sometimes that initial spark of an idea is a character, sometimes it's a myth I want to play with, and sometimes it's a image that grips me.

So far my stories involve time periods in the past. I love history, mythology, and classical plays and novels, and I'm an actress who's done a lot of Shakespeare. So I naturally like to delve into writing novels involving the past, though I have some fun contemporary novel ideas I'd love to explore one day.

How does my writing process work?

For a few months, I let the idea percolate in my mind. Once I have a more tangible hold on it, I start researching. I read lots of non-fiction books, make a big binder with copies from library book pages (setting, customs, costumes, food, religion, etc.), and I watch films (mostly classics) that have elements in them that remind me of my story. Once I feel my brain will explode from research (a very frustrating feeling), I crack down and outline the book. This is usually a blend of the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet and some of James Scott Bells methods (I've done brainstorming scenes on notecards and then arranging them into a linear story, for example). I don't outline extensively, but I jot down a nutshell of what happens in the major scenes. Then I write! I'm not the fastest writer, but usually in about four months, I've completed my first draft (better than the first draft of my first novel, which took 1.5 years--ouch!). Then I revise, which goes quicker than the drafting for me. The slowest part is mincing words, since I tend to be an overwriter, but I've gotten really good at it. I cut 50,000 off my first novel. (Yeah.) Then I send my manuscript to beta readers and do more revising, and then send to my agent and do more revising if he sees fit. Finally, it's submissions time--and time for me to quickly get my mind onto something else!


If you write, tell me a little about your process. I've learned no way is the "wrong way." And for the bloghop, I'm tagging Emily R. King and Rosalyn Collings Eves. :-)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dreamers

I don't have much time to play guitar these days, so I have this little tradition to keep the music alive in me: I write a song for every story I write. This one's for The Carousel Graveyard. The waltzy, carousel-like tune popped into my head in the middle of the night last August. I couldn't fall back asleep, so I got up and recorded a voice memo on my phone of me humming in a groggy voice. Then a few days ago, I found that memo and decided to put words and guitar to it and finish the song. I played it for my fifteen-year-old daughter yesterday, and with wrinkled brows she said, "Wait, this is a love song." (She hasn't read my story yet, but it does have "graveyard" in the title, lol.) "I know, this is just a happy moment," I replied. Next time I'll have to write a creepy song, but until then, let's all feel the sweet innocence of young love. :-)


DREAMERS

Holding your hand in the moonlight
Waves dance, stars bright
Waltzing in time inside your dreams
Hearts beat, it seems

I’m falling in love
Falling in love
With you
With you, with you, with you

Stepping through sand by the black sea
Night birds calling
Lips touching lips, breathing your name
Feeling the same

We’re falling in love
Falling in love
It’s true
True, true, true

And you say we’re spinning
‘Round the carousel
And I say we’re drifting
in the spell

Sea breezes swirling through your hair
Soft sighs, no cares
Wandering dreamers, we’re soul bound
Time lost, we’re found

We’re falling in love
Falling in love
It’s true
It's true, it's true, it's true
True, true, true
True, true, true

Monday, February 10, 2014

I Have Fan Art!

To say I'm artistic is a huge understatement. Ever since I was a little girl I've been drawing, singing, acting, writing--basically doing anything I can to create, create, create. So when I saw my first piece of fan art, I completely flipped out!

My critique partner, Ilima Todd, recently asked me if she could let her fourteen-year-old daughter read my latest manuscript. I said yes and a few days later, Ilima told me how much her daughter loved my story--that it's one of her top five favorite books (and she's a voracious reader). This made me all kinds of happy. I write YA stories, but I've never had someone in my target audience read anything of mine. So to see such a positive reaction was thrilling.

Then to make things even more wonderful, Ilima's daughter (Emma) sketched a drawing of the love interest in the story, Gabriel Stonebrook. She told her mom she'd been a little depressed ever since finishing my manuscript because no boy at her school will ever compare to Gabriel. :-) Happy sigh. Can I just tell you much I love Emma right now?

So without further gushing over Emma, here's how she sees Gabriel:


Look at his suspenders! His lopsided dimples! His sweet, but haunted expression! And my favorite, the hearts around his name. Oh, and I didn't see this until now--very faintly on top it says, "for Kathryn Purdie."

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Thanks, Emma, for making this author's day--week--year. And here's hoping you find your own Gabriel someday (and with any luck his mom isn't trapped in the purgatory of his dreams and he lives in your own time dimension). ;-)

Have any of you authors received fan art? Did you have a similar reaction? Or for you readers, have you ever loved a book so much you made your own fan art for it?

Monday, December 30, 2013

DEFY-An Interview with Sara B. Larson

Me 'n' Sara at a Writers' Conference
I'm absolutely delighted to have author Sara B. Larson here on my blog today. Sara is not only a very dear friend of mine, she's also the author of Defy, which debuts on January 7th, though I've learned it's already in the wild at Barnes & Nobles stores. Run!

Defy is a very special book to me. I beta read it over a year ago and fell madly in love with everything about it. Okay, that's a HUGE understatement. I told Sara back then that next to Shadow & Bone (I have to be honest), Defy is my favorite book--and I still stand by that. So I've felt like sort of a "Defy champion" throughout the journey of her querying it, obtaining a fantastic agent because of it, and ultimately selling it--all of which happened very quickly because this book is AMAZING!

Sara showed me an advanced reader copy a few weeks ago, and I was deeply touched to see she'd written a whole paragraph to me in her acknowledgements. WOW. Being in someone's acknowledgements at all is a first for me, so seeing that was totally surreal.

Anyway, Sara was sweet enough to let me interview her. (This even got approved by her publicist. I feel so cool.) I tried to ask Sara questions that would capture the magic of Defy and induce everyone out there that they MUST BUY THIS BOOK NOW! Then we can all swoon and gasp and huzzah (what a great word; I had to throw it in there) together! So here we go...

You’ve been writing for many years and have written many wonderful stories. What sets DEFY apart from the others? Why do you think it’s the book that finally sold?

Sara: I’m not 100% sure, to be honest. I’ve loved all of my books and felt confident in each one. But I did feel like something was special with DEFY. I felt like I’d taken all the feedback I’d received on my other books and tried to apply it to this one as I wrote it. I tried to make sure to keep the pace up, to keep the reader guessing, to amp up the stakes and to be true to my characters. This book came from a place of deep emotion, and hopefully that shined through. Maybe that’s what made the difference. When I wrote the ending, the emotions I felt were nearly overwhelming. Not only from the actual ending (which brought me to tears and had my heart racing with adrenaline), but I also had a very clear impression that this book was different. That was a very powerful moment that I’ll never forget.

Then when I got feedback on it, I started to let myself hope. I had some truly amazing responses to this book (including a certain someone’s who may or may not currently be interviewing me…), and that’s what helped give me the courage to query DEFY (because I was pretty nervous to do it). And I’m SO incredibly grateful I did.

Can you describe your writing process, especially with DEFY?

I usually get an idea and start writing it without an outline or anything, although I usually do know the ending. I will write between 10-20k words with a separate document where I write any notes, thoughts, or ideas that come to me for the rest of the book or series as I go. Once I hit that point, I usually write an “outline” of sorts, using my notes and ideas. Basically, it’s more like an informal synopsis, where I just get the main plot out and make sure it’s going to work.

With DEFY, I didn’t know how it was going to end, because when I started, I didn’t know it was going to be a book. I wrote about 8k words, hit a wall, and put it aside to finish a different book. But the characters wouldn’t leave me alone, so I went back to it eventually. After I figured out that a character was keeping a BIG secret from me, the plot clicked into place and the rest of the book flew out in about two weeks!

The road to publication is often long and difficult. What helped you get through that?

The number one reason I made it through it was my husband. His support and belief in me was unwavering, no matter how low I got, no matter how many rejections I racked up. Having someone like that in your corner was invaluable and truly got me through the worst of it. I also have some amazing family and friends who have been there for me, cheering me on, always believing I’d make it and doing what they could to help—be it critiques, long phone calls, emails, or any number of things. And finally, my own stubbornness. My unwillingness to quit. Once I set goals for myself, I just can’t let myself fail. No matter how much I doubt myself, ultimately, I believed in my dreams and I didn’t give up.

Describe your main character, Alexa, with ten adjectives.

Alexa’s pretty complex, so I’ll do my best to convey that in ten words or less:
Determined, strong-willed, vulnerable, kind, loyal, indomitable, protective, dedicated, and fierce.

Describe Prince Damian (swoon!) with ten adjectives.

Damian is probably even more complex than Alexa, ha! But some of their traits do overlap. Let’s see…I may have to cheat just a tad with this one:
Seemingly arrogant, spoiled, and petty, but he’s also very secretive, surprisingly empathetic and guarded.
That’s all I dare say. There’s much more to Damian than immediately meets the eye….

What do you have in common with these two characters, and what about you is very different from them?

Well, I’m definitely very stubborn and determined, which are traits both Damian and Alexa possess. But Alexa and Damian are both much more guarded about themselves (and their secrets) than I am. I tend to be pretty open about my emotions…usually. And there’s the obvious fact that Alexa could totally kick my butt without even breaking a sweat.

Without spoiling anything, what hints can you drop about your favorite scene/moment in DEFY?

Wow, that’s a tough one. So many moments in DEFY were very emotional for me, and have deep meaning, for different reasons. I’m not sure I can pick just one. My top favorites would be too spoilery, but I can think of one scene that was WAAAAY too much fun to write…it involves a tent and Alexa literally being stuck between two hot guys. The awkwardness and tension that arises from the situation was pretty dang fun to explore.

Thanks for having me here today! You were an integral part of my journey with DEFY, and I’ll forever be grateful to you for that!

********************

Wasn't that great?! I need to do interviews more often. Fun, fun, fun. Want to learn more about Defy? Read on!

Gorgeous cover, right?
A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and heart-racing romance.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Out of Tune

Out of Tune is a fabulous new adult novel written by Michelle Argyle, a very talented author and a dear friend of mine. This book holds a special place in my heart. Michelle told me the story idea before she ever set pen to paper (or hands to keys), and I was lucky enough to read an early draft.

Michelle always writes cleanly and beautifully, but this book blew me away. It's my absolute favorite piece of her writing. I was so drawn in to this story of Maggie, a young woman trying to find her place in the world--whether that's in or out of the shadow of her famous country star parents, whether it's singing with her own out-of-tune voice or writing lyrics for others, or whether it's in the arms of her best friend (and of-and-on-again boyfriend) or her new voice teacher.

I play guitar and sing, and I was amazed at how authentically Michelle captured the feel and art and detailed intricacy of these things. And I'm a huge fan of romance, and this book definitely had me swooning. I'm so proud of Michelle and this story and can't wait for it to be released on December 3rd so everyone else can join in the fun of reading it, too!

On a very cool and special note, Michelle surprised me with copy of the book the other day, and she dedicated it to me! It was a totally surreal moment that made me cry. Thank you, Michelle!

So, without further gushing (because I could do that forever), here's more about Out of Tune, including an awesome book trailer below.


Twenty-year-old Maggie Roads’ parents are legendary in the country music world. She wants nothing more than to follow in their footsteps, but the limelight isn’t reserved for singers who can’t carry a tune, let alone keep a rhythm.

When her parents tell her they’re getting divorced, Maggie decides it’s time to leave home and take her future into her own hands. Moving in with Cole, her best friend and sometimes boyfriend, might not be the best of ideas, but she’s got to start somewhere. Their off-and-on romance gets even more complicated when Maggie crushes on her new voice teacher, Nathan, who unlocks her stunning potential. A sensational music career of her own is finally within reach, but Maggie might need more than perfect pitch to find what she’s really looking for.


Official Release Date: December 3, 2013
Available Formats: all eBook formats and Print
Available Where: Everywhere online books are sold, as well as ordering from bookstores
Publisher: MDA Books
Official Book Page with Links: http://michelledargyle.com/books-2/out-of-tune/

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Steven Moffat on Writing

Sherlock, Steven, & the Doctor
My current obsession is Steven Moffat. He's the screenwriter behind the best mind-blowing episodes of Doctor Who and Sherlock on BBC. His plots are crazy creative, with plenty of twist and turns that you never see coming, but are planted so perfectly. I know without looking at the credits every time that it's a Steven Moffat episode. They're that amazing.

So naturally I had to see what this guy had to say about his writing process. I scoured the Internet for anything I could find. (You're welcome.) Steven doesn't like to delve much (you can tell he's tired of getting asked about advice), and I think he's written for so long, the process is simply intuitive to him. But it is still fun to learn what I can from such a genius. Most of all, I was comforted to learn that behind his master mind, he's an insecure writer like 99% of the rest of us.

General Writing Advice: 

“Write. Write lots. Don’t ask for advice, just write. And read the kind of stuff you want to write, because that’s the only advice that matters. If it’s screenplays, read William Goldman’s - he know EVERYTHING.

“Every writer writes about what they’ve personally been through, just because that’s what’s to hand. I don’t know if it’s an important rule of thumb – you should tell the story that most animates you.”


“Just write. The big break is easy if you’re good enough. I hear people saying, ‘I’m desperate to write – I’ve written this script.’ And I want to say: ‘Why haven’t you written 50 scripts?’... You have to write all the time and not worry so much about going to the right parties or the contacts you have in the business – they’re completely irrelevant. And stop badgering people for advice because there almost is none – If you write a truly brilliant script, it will get on the telly.”

On the Controlled Release of Information:

The controlled release of information – which is more or less what storytelling is – is really, really hard. Especially on Doctor Who, where you do need quite a lot going on, because everything is new. It’s not like you’ve got a big regular cast, or one set that you’re going to see every week. In Doctor Who, you’re lucky if there’s one you see every week! So you need to release quite a lot of information. It’s a whole new world and you have to know what a normal day is like there, so you can twist it.”

“I know that, in the past, Russell has given notes to writers, saying, ‘Tell everyone everything that’s going on, all of the time.’ Broadly speaking, I wouldn’t agree with that to the last heartbeat, but I think that comes from the right place.”

“I think that, right up until the last minute, you’re constantly changing your mind about the release of information in a story. There’s a fine line between mysterious and confusing. And I’ve often drifted over it!”
 
On Writing Villains:

“[V]illains aren’t necessarily evil. But I do think that straightforward evil is actually meaningless. All the evil acts in the history of the world have been committed with a pretty exact and precise agenda: people do what they think is right. You fly a plane into the World Trade Centre because you think it’s a necessary thing to do – not because you think it’s going to improve your day. It’s an insane and evil act – of course it is, it’s appalling – but it’s done to an end. Real evil is just an agenda we don’t understand, and frequently we have to work out what it is.”

Doctor Who stories work particularly well if there’s a good mystery: how does it all fit together? That’s good, because it puts the Doctor at the centre of the story. He’s going to be the man who decodes it, figures it out and pieces it together. If you just have villains who are evil and want to conquer the universe, what does that actually mean? Think what a lot of admin that would be! But if you have villains with complex ideas of their own, then the Doctor is again at the story’s centre. He works out what they want, and what it is that they’re trying to do. And stops it. But it allows him to have a big dramatic moment where he says, ‘This is what’s been going on,’ and looks clever. Him looking clever is important. Whereas a straightforward military threat brings out the least interesting parts of the Doctor. He becomes a bit superfluous.”

“[Y]ou can have the moral debate. But it’s slightly pointless because it then comes down to, ‘I’m better than you. I’m a good man and you’re a bad one!’ It sort of works with the Daleks, but a lot of the time I’m not really sure I care about that. I care about the cleverness of the hero. So the more mystery there is in the story, the more there is for the Doctor to do. He is a kind of Sherlock Holmes character, who makes quick intuitive leaps and is absolutely brilliant.”

On the Importance of Keeping Secrets as a Writer:

“It changes the experience of writing it if I give too much away. Right now, I’ve got an idea for the ending which I’m extremely excited about, but I don’t wanna say it out loud. Not because it would matter if anyone knew about it, but just because saying it out loud might spoil the magic. You might look disappointed. So I need to cling to this idea. In fact, that’s a relevant thing to say about writing. Before, I’ve told people things and they seem underwhelmed, so I’ve lost faith in it from that point on!”

“The most truthful thing I have said in this interview about writing is the importance of these secrets. The magic of Not Telling Anyone Yet. I know Russell thinks that way too – he won’t tell anybody what he’s doing. Because it turns to ashes in your mouth. It almost becomes ordinary.”

On Beginning a New Draft:

“When you have a lot of things to do, sometimes it’s good to write a few pages so you then think, ‘Yes, I can do it.’”

“You think of an idea, then think of all the things you’d like to do with it. ‘Ooh, it’d be creepy if that happened.’... ‘[S]uppose the cliffhanger was like that!’ You can’t fit all these ideas into the story, but you have a lovely period - a golden honeymoon period - where you think you’ll be able to fit all of those in easily. Then you realise you can’t, and you start prioritising to all the cool bits.”

On the Writing Process:

“There isn’t one single script when I’m not, at some point, sick-makingly terrified of my inability to write it. I mean, it’s just hard! I asked Russell, ‘Do you ever wanna stick your head out the window and shout, I don’t know what I’m doing!?’... [E]very time I make a script work, it feels like luck. I don’t think that feeling ever goes away. It really is that hard, and that’s what it’s supposed to be like. The sheer amount of thinking you have to do, to make this work! When I read scripts that are bad, it’s often because they’re just lazy. The writer hasn’t thought things through in the way that I would. There was a quote from John Cleese, around the time he was ruling the world with Fawlty Towers: ‘If I’m any good at writing comedy, it’s because I know how hard it’s supposed to be.’ And that’s it. It’s shockingly difficult and emotionally upsetting!

No one is that self-assured when they’re writing, or that assured about their writing. There’s no experience worse than handing your script in, and waiting.”

“You can go into an empty room with just a desk and a computer without internet, and you’d still lose focus. Because sometimes you’re not ready to write it. You’re not comfortable with what you’re doing and you have to get there.”

No writer truly stays focused, all day, every day.... Two or three hours will pass and I’ll have done nothing: not even had a useful thought!”

“People talk grandly about range, but the truth is that you’re just writing.”


Sources:
http://jasonarnopp.blogspot.com/p/doctor-who.html
http://sherlockology.tumblr.com/post/23501865686/steven-moffat-live-chat
http://guru.bafta.org/steven-moffat-special-award-interview