THE CRYSTAL RIBBON through February 18th
SIREN SISTERS through February 18th
FROSTBLOOD AND SUZIE TOWNSEND QUERY CRITIQUE through Febrary 25th
THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE through March 4th
Linda Camacho Query Critique through March 11th
Upcoming Agent Spotlights With Query Critique Giveaways:
Kristy Hunter, Wednesday, March 22nd
KELLEY ARMSTRONG INTERVIEW AND BOOK GIVEAWAY
And a very special thanks to Casey. Did you know WriteOnCon was her idea? I read this when she was interviewed on Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf last year after the conference. I’m so glad she followed up on her idea.
Next I want to announce the winner of PETER NIMBLE AND HIS FANTASTIC EYES.
The winner is:
Congrats! E-mail me your address so your book can be sent to you.
Today I’m so excited to interview Kelley Armstrong. I met Kelley at a book signing for THE GATHERING in Ann Arbor. She is SO NICE to her fans! After her awesome talk, everyone got to meet with her for a few moments alone while she signed their book.
Kelley is an incredibly successful author of both adult and now YA novels. She has over 12 books in her adult Women of the Otherworld series, 3 books in her YA urban fantasy Darkest Power series, and also writes the Nadia Stafford crime series.
THE GATHERING is the first book in her YA Darkness Rising series. Here’s a description from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Maya is just an ordinary teen in an ordinary town. Sure, she doesn't know much about her background - the only thing she really has to cling to is an odd paw-print birthmark on her hip - but she never really put much thought into who her parents were or how she ended up with her adopted parents in this tiny medical-research community on Vancouver Island.
Strange things have been happening in this claustrophobic town - from the mountain lions that have been approaching Maya to her best friend's hidden talent for "feeling" out people and situations, to the sexy new bad boy who makes Maya feel . . . . different. Combine that with a few unexplained deaths and a mystery involving Maya's biological parents and it's easy to suspect that this town might have more than its share of skeletons in its closet.
Hi Kelley. Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you became such a successful author.
I’m the author of the "Women of the Otherworld" paranormal suspense series and "Darkest Powers/Darkness Rising" young adult urban fantasy series, as well as the Nadia Stafford crime series. I grew up in Southwestern Ontario, where I still live with my family. I’m a former computer programmer, but I have escaped my corporate cubicle and hope never to return.
How did I become successful? I have no idea! Luck and timing, I think. I kept writing through countless rejections, until I finally produced something that was publishable. By that time, paranormal fiction was picking up, and I was lucky enough to ride that wave to success.
Photo courtesy of Curtis Lantinga
2. Whatever you did to become so successful, I wish I could too. Maya, the main character in THE GATHERING is adopted. I love how you developed her adoptive family and her comfort zone with her adoption. As an adoptive mom, I have to say THANK YOU because this type of family is so infrequently portrayed accurately. What made you decide that she’d be adopted and how did you nail her family situation so realistically?
Having her be adopted solved a few problems with her backstory. I can’t say too much about that, because it would be a major spoiler, but let’s just say that if these were her birth parents, they’d be responsible for something that was done to her, and that would have added a layer of conflict that I already dealt with in the Darkest Powers trilogy, with Chloe. Here, I wanted to avoid that. I also wanted to show a solid, loving adoptive family. Growing up, I knew a few kids who were adopted and they all had wonderful experiences. I don’t see enough of that in fiction.
3. I so agree adopted kids are under represented in Middle Grade and YA. Thanks again for so accurately portraying their (and my family’s) home life. I loved how you created the skin-walkers and Maya’s discovery of her connection to her birth mother’s Native American roots. Tell us a bit about how you developed that aspect of the plot.
Choosing skin-walkers wasn’t an easy decision. I really wanted to use them, but I also knew, from years of paranormal research, that it’s a very touchy subject for the Navajo. It’s a part of their culture, and I needed to be sensitive to that. I decided, since I am not part of that culture, that the best way to handle it would be to separate my fictional version from the true beliefs by postulating two types of skin-walkers. Maya’s type became extinct, and were replaced by the traditional ones. Does that solve all the problems of cultural appropriation? No. But I’ve never limited myself to folklore from my own ethnic background and I hope that as long as I’m clear, in the books, that “my” version is a fictional one, readers will give me some latitude for creativity.
4. At your book signing you said that when you start a longer series you have an idea of where the first 3 to 5 books will go but don’t know how the series will progress after that. How do you plot out the storyline and how do you have confidence that you’ll know where to move the series after the books you envision?
While I don’t plot past the first few books in a series, I usually have a very general idea of where it will end up. In other words, I know the endgame—which is where I am with the Otherworld series. I start sneaking in subplots and unresolved plot threads that will ultimately lead to that conclusion. The individual plots of each book, though, come as I reach that point.
5. It makes sense that you’ve got to know the end of the series to plot the subplots. And I’m guessing all your writing experience gives you confidence that you can figure out the individual plots to get to the end as you go. What made you decide to move from adult to writing YA books and have you found any differences in writing for teens rather than for adults?
The move came from a couple of things. I had an idea inspired by my second adult novel, Stolen, but it was about supernaturals just coming into their powers, which in my world happens at puberty, which wouldn't work for an adult series. That idea was in the back of my mind as I began getting an increasing number of emails from readers I considered a little too young to be reading my other books! So I decided to give that YA idea a try.
Two things surprised me. One, how little of a difference there was in the actual writing of the books. The YA are paced a little faster and the characters must be teens with teen issues, but otherwise, there's not much difference. Except for the second thing...the audience. Fantasy readers can become very invested in a series--quick to let you know what they like and dislike. But they have nothing on teens!
6. That’s so interesting the difference between the adult and teen audiences. Is your marketing strategy any different for your YA books than for your adult series and do you have any advice on marketing for the teen market?
Marketing to teens is a little different, but with YA, a decent portion of the audience is adult, so the marketing of the series overall isn’t that different. I’m just more careful not to “forget” the teen component of the audience. For example, teens are more likely to be on Facebook than Twitter, so I make sure all the YA Twitter announcements are duplicated on the FB page. I also had a separate site done for the YA. All the books—including the YA—are on my main site, but I’m careful about not wanting to sound like I’m pushing my adult books on my younger teen audience. So those books have a separate site, too (www. DarkestPowers.com) which is the one the publisher uses in marketing.
7. You’ve really thought it out well. Not that I’m surprised. And I’ve heard that not as many teens are on Twitter so that’s smart to focus on Facebook. I read that Melissa Marr and you will be writing a new middle-grade trilogy called The Blackwell Pages about three 12-year-olds descended from Norse gods who have to stop the impending apocalypse. The first book, LOKI”S WOLVES, is scheduled for publication in the spring 2013. I can’t wait! How did that come about and what is or will the process be for co-authoring a book?
Melissa and I both have teenage daughters, and we connected through that—our daughters each enjoyed the other’s YA books. We also both have preteen sons and we were keen to write something “for them.” As parents, we read and enjoy middle-grade fantasy and wanted to explore that, with the added bonus of trying co-writing.
I think the process for every co-authoring pair is different in some aspect. What’s working for us is splitting the writing by narrative point-of-view. I’m taking the male protagonist and she’s taking the two secondary characters (cousins--a boy and a girl) We alternate chapters—I do one for “my” character, then she writes a chapter for one of hers. All the plotting and editing is shared, of course.
8. Do you have any other advice for us aspiring authors?
Keep writing. It’s boring advice, but it really is the most important thing, I think. You need to love writing and keep at it, always practicing and writing new things, even if you don’t get published quickly (most authors don’t)
Thanks so much Kelley for all your advice. I can’t wait to read your next book and definitely your book with Melissa Marr. You can visit Kelley on her website and at Darkest Powers.
I’m giving away one copy of THE GATHERING. I was going to give away my copy from the book signing I went to but Kelley is SO nice that she offered to give away a copy as part of this interview. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on September 3rd. I’ll announce the winner on September 5th. International entries are welcome.
Next week I’m excited to interview Tessa Gratton and give away a copy of BLOOD MAGIC.