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MINDEE ARNETT INTERVIEW AND THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR GIVEAWAY
So first, I have a few winners to announce.
The winner of LET THE SKY FALL is Rachel Morgan!
The winner of MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE is Rosi!
And the winner of MY EPIC FAIRY TALE FAIL is Sheri Larsen!
Congrats! E-mail me your addresses so I can get your books sent to you. Please e-mail me by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.
Today I’m excited to interview debut author Mindee Arnett about her book, THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR, which released on March 5th. I really, really liked this book and couldn’t put it down. I read it in about 24 hours and that included going to work that day. I loved the magical world of witchkind, darkkind, and naturekind. It has just the right balance between magical and being in this world. And I was gripped in watching Dusty and Eli as they tried to solve the mystery of the murders. Dusty’s nightmare powers are definitely unique and I enjoyed learning about them and her new world.
Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:
Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.
Then Eli’s dream comes true.
Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.
Hi Mindee. Thanks so much for joining us.
Thanks for having me! I’m very excited to be here.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
Let’s see, I’m a horse crazy, Whedonite-Whovian, and I wrote my first short story in the sixth grade after my teacher gave us an assignment to write a story off a writing prompt she provided. It was love at first sentence. Never before had it occurred to me that I, an ordinary girl who harbored a desperate love of reading, could tell my own stories. This moment, this realization was like when Diggory first discovers the Wood Between the Worlds in The Magician’s Nephew of the Chronicles of Narnia. My eyes were opened to the reality that there really is a place where countless new worlds are just waiting to be discovered.
I wrote countless short stories after that, all the way through high school and college, eventually publishing a number of them in small press and semi-pro magazines. During graduate school I turned to novels. My first attempt was…not so good. But I kept at it, eventually writing The Nightmare Affair.
2. So awesome that you’ve been writing since you were a kid. I read that the inspiration for your story came in part from a picture. Share how you came up with the ideas for your story.
The picture part is definitely true. I was on Wikipedia, researching monsters to use in a short story. A couple of clicks into it, I stumbled across the famous Henry Fuseli painting “The Nightmare” that shows a demonic creature sitting on the chest of a sleeping woman. I took one look at it and wondered what would happen if the situation were reserved, if the woman was sitting on the demon’s chest—or more specifically, if the woman was sitting on a man’s chest. I asked myself what would happen if a nightmare wasn’t something hideous and scary but an ordinary girl. And just like that, Dusty was born.
I love world building. I actually did a fairly lengthy post on the subject for WriteOnCon last year. My biggest tip for successful world building is to question everything. Every element of your world should have a reason for being the way it is and for being present in your story, and you, the writer, should know those reasons. When I first started writing novel length fiction, I used to put in anything I felt like, completely willy-nilly. But I eventually learned that this is recipe for plot holes, inconsistencies, and overall bad writing. With The Nightmare Affair, I examined and reexamined every world building element before putting it in.
The trick is to be very pragmatic about it. Ask yourself the practical questions. For example, if you have a teenage character that drives a really nice sports car, you need to know who bought the car, who pays for the insurance, how the character gets money to put fuel in the tank, and so on. These are pretty boring questions, I know, but very important in terms of making your story feel real to the reader. Answering these questions will naturally inform you about who your characters are, why they do what they do, and how they fit into the world at large.
4. That’s a great tip. I’m going to be sure to use it in the future. Who was the most challenging character to write and why? What did you learn from the process?
Eli was definitely the hardest. He is a good guy and those are hard to write and still make interesting. Being a good looking boy is never enough. He had to be dynamic and fun, charming. The biggest lesson I learned from him is that your leading man needs to be in the spotlight as much as possible. Give him the best lines, the best moves in the action sequences, anything to make him shine.
5. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it is true that it’s hard to make someone who’s a great person interesting. And you’re right, it’s important to have him/her in the story a lot. I love that you combined the fantasy and mystery elements. What are some of your tips on plotting the mystery part of the story?
My answer to this is the same with world building: question everything. Be your story’s biggest skeptic. Assume that in your first draft the bad guy is completely obvious, and then work on making him not so. Do the same with your “clues.” They should be subtle and nuanced with possible meanings and interpretations. Speaking of clues, these are your map that will lead the MC to the solution. Be sure to use lots of red herrings, and the more suspects the better.
6. Okay, I read that you submitted less than 10 queries and were offered representation a week after querying Suzie Townsend. Then you got a 3 book deal a month later. It sounds like a very good dream. Tell us how it all happened.
Sure. I started writing the first draft of The Nightmare Affair August of 2010 and finished February 2011. I then took it through a couple of revisions with the help of some awesome critique partners I’d recently connected with before finally sending out query letters to agents in late May. I sent my query to Suzie on May 26, and she requested the full manuscript on June 1. Naturally, I sent it right away, completely thrilled and terrified. Three days later, Suzie sent me another e-mail stating how much she liked it and if we could have a phone chat. We set it up the following Monday, June 9, and Suzie offered representation over the phone. A few days later, the deal was done, and we started on a round of edits for The Nightmare Affair. By the first week of July, or thereabouts, the book went out on submission. Seventeen days later, I had a 3 book offer on the table from Tor Teen.
Now, this all sounds totally amazing, and it is—it was a dream come true and my head it still spinning from how fast it all went down—but I’m far from overnight success. I spent years practicing and learning, including four “trunk” novels.
7. Wow! Even with all the prior years of practice, that’s an amazing road to publication we’d all love to experience. What are you doing to market your book and what things did you do in the year leading up to your book release that you’re really glad you did?
Honestly, most of the marketing I’ve done for my book has been reactive. The majority of the interviews and guest posts I’ve done have been because the blogger/host has asked me to participate. Before writing The Nightmare Affair, I wasn’t very connected to the blogosphere. I’m much more immersed now, but not enough to feel confident in reaching out to blogs or anything. Fortunately, I’ve gotten a lot of support from Tor and my wonderful agency, New Leaf Literary. They are both finding lots of awesome opportunities for me.
The one thing I’m very glad I did was to start connecting online with other writer as well as bloggers and readers. I started off by friending/following my critique partners who introduced me to their friends and so on. Establishing these relationships early and then building on them has made a huge difference. I spend way more time chatting with people about our shared love of reading, TV shows, movies and so on than I do about my own book. But whenever I do have book related news, they’re there to help me celebrate. It’s awesome.
8. That’s great your publisher and agency are helping you. And being friends with other vs. selling yourself sounds like an important component of marketing. You’re on Twitter. How should aspiring authors use it best and do you have any recommendations on how to use it the year leading up to your book release?
My advice mirrors what I said in the previous question. Twitter should be about connecting with people over shared interests and not about just trying to promote yourself and your book. That’s the biggest mistake I see people make. They’ll start a twitter account, post things randomly, always about their book or themselves, and never really take the time to interact with people. This is not how Twitter works. Well, I guess if you’re Justin Bieber that might work, but for most of us, you’ve got to build your presence through give and take. It should be a fun, social activity and not a constant sales pitch.
9. I’ve heard that complaint about Twitter from other authors too—that people just use it to promote themselves. What are you working on now?
Aside from the sequel to The Nightmare Affair, I’m currently, at work on the prequel to my sci-fi novel AVALON which debuts Winter 2014 from Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins).
Thanks Mindee for sharing all your great advice. Good luck with your book. You can find Mindee at:
Mindee and her publisher, Tor, have generously offered an book for a giveaway. To enter, 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 March 30th. I’ll announce the winner on April 1st.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. International entries are welcome.
And don't forget to end my other contests, including for THE CULLING, a YA dystopian, THE RUNAWAY KING, a YA fantasy (one of my favorite books this year), and SKY JUMPERS, a MG dystopian I'm dying to read. (The contest for this ends Wednesday, so hurry to enter this one.)
Here's what's coming up:
Tomorrow, Maria Dismondy is sharing a Tuesday tip on how to launch a successful book launch and giving away a copy of THE POTATO CHIP CHAMP, her new picture book.
On Saturday, I'm participating in the Kick Butt Characters Book Giveaway Hop. I have lots of great book choices for you.
Next Monday, I’m super excited to have Jenny Lundquist back to share her new middle grade book, PLASTIC POLLY, with an ARC giveaway. It’s a contemporary story about a girl who’s in the popular crowd who wants to find who she’s really is. Jenny so nailed middle grade life and it made me realize how much I love contemporary stories. Like Jennifer Nielsen, Jenny’s become one of my favorite authors.
Then, next Thursday I’m interviewing Jessica Shirvington and giving away a copy of EMBLAZE, the third book in her paranormal series. I’m super excited because I learned what an amazing career she’s had as an author in a relatively short period of time while preparing for her interview. It’s really inspiring to hear her story.
And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's Thursday agent spotlights.
Hope to see you on Saturday!
Posted by Natalie Aguirre on Monday, March 18, 2013