Here’s a description from Goodreads:
They call it the Heist.
Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.
Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?
Hi Erin. Thanks so much for joining us. Happy Debut!
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
The simplest answer is to say I've always been one. As soon as I could hold a crayon and make a poor attempt at spelling, I was scribbling stories into notebooks.
The more formal answer would be that I took a lot of writing classes in high school (electives) and college (for my minor), and then continued to write on the side once I started my career as a web designer. Eventually, TAKEN was drafted and unlike the other works under my belt, I thought it was might be worthy of seeing the light of day. I started researching how one goes about getting published, and you know where it goes from there… ;)
2. I wish I’d known I liked writing earlier and taken some classes. My learning curve would have been so much quicker. I loved the idea of this story—guys being taken away in The Heist when they turn 18 and the town of Claysoot being a mostly female society. That’s really unique. Then you show us so much more about the world Gray lives in. Where did you come up with this fantastic idea?
It sort of fell into my lap. Actually, the story didn't, but Gray did. He walked into my head nearly fully formed, and for that, I'm incredibly lucky. (Not all of my characters come to me this way. In fact, very few do.)
In this instance, I saw Gray's predicament clearly: an isolated town he could not escape, his older brother's approaching birthday, how no boy made it a day beyond eighteen. I started asking why? and as I began digging for answers, the story revealed itself.
3. I love how the seed of the story just came to you and then you really made it explode by digging for answers. I read that you aren’t a plotter. But your book is filled with plot twists and revelations. Share your secrets for creating such a well plotted story.
I don't plot in the sense that I never write detailed outlines before drafting. (I've tried, but they always end
Instead, I brainstorm and daydream for a few days/weeks, and usually by the time I start drafting, I can see all the major plot points in my head. I jot a few of them down in a notebook. Then I start drafting. As I write, and as smaller details become clearer, I make note of those as well. (It's sort of like I'm always looking a chapter or two ahead, which I think is called headlight outlining.)
With TAKEN, the process was similar. I knew the major twists ahead of time, but how to effectively weave them together came to me during drafting and were later polished while revising. It was all about layering in subtle clues and timely hints.
4. That’s a great process and one I’m following right now too. I really enjoyed that the story was from Gray’s POV. There aren’t too many YA stories out there from the guy’s point of view. Did he come easily to you as a character or did you find challenges in writing from his POV?
Voice has always been a crucial element for me as a writer. If I can't hear or understand my protagonist, his/her story always comes out forced.
With Gray, I was lucky, because his voice was shockingly clear from day one. We have very little in common, Gray and I, but I understood him so well that slipping into his head--while weird at times--wasn't excessively difficult.
5. Your agent is Sara Crowe. Tell us about how she became your agent and your road to publication.
Before I started querying agents, I spent a good two months researching them. (Let me take a moment to
The tell-tale signs of a good match existed in our phone chat--Sara got the story, had smart suggestions and submission plans, made me feel totally at ease--but it was talking with her existing clients that sealed the deal. I sent a few emails to some of her authors and everyone gushed and praised Sara; for her insight and sharp business intellect, but also for her patient, calming ways. (Now speaking from experience: all so true!)
I signed with Sara and she found TAKEN the very best home with Erica Sussman at HarperTeen just a few months later.
6. I’m using the agent spotlights right now and totally know what you mean about them being super helpful. And that’s a great idea to e-mail the agent’s authors before making a final decision.
You’re a part of the Pub(lishing) Crawl blog, which I love. (Everyone, you can find the blog here and I recommend you follow it.) How did you become a part of this blog and how has it helped you as you prepare for your book release?
I was approached by Sarah Maas at the end of 2011 with an offer to join the blog as a contributor. Sarah is a good friend of mine now, but at the time, we were complete strangers. In fact, I didn't know any of the PubCrawl girls personally back then, but I did obsessively read the blog (then Let the Words Flow) and knew I couldn't pass up an opportunity to work with such sharp minds.
I don't know what made them reach out to me, but I'm so glad they did! The road to publication is an exciting one, but it's also stressful and over-whelming, filled with lots of anxiety and self-doubt. The PubCrawl ladies have become a wonderful support system. We cheer each other through highs and lows. I can't imagine having gone through this without them.
7. That sounds like it’s been such a great opportunity. I’d love to become friends with all the authors there. I read on your website/blog that on May 29th, Susan Dennard, Sarah Maas, Kat Zhang, and you are going on a multi-city, pay-it-forward book tour. It sounds fantastic and I wish you were coming to Ann Arbor. Tell us about it and how it got organized. What does it mean that it’s going to be pay-it-forward?
The four of us have been discussing the idea of a group tour since the summer of 2012. We wanted to hit the road together (what's more fun than a road trip with friends?), but we also wanted to give back.
We all started writing young, and we each owe a lot of our success (and love of stories) to mentors who encouraged and inspired. The ability to pay-it-forward became a crucial part of our brainstorming, and in addition to bookstore visits and signings, we decided to host free writing workshops for young, aspiring writers while on tour.
You can learn more about tour plans (and the schedule) here.
8. Have you found Twitter to be a good way to make connections with other authors and potential readers? How? What advice do you have for aspiring authors starting out on Twitter? That’s me and I could use some advice.
I love twitter! Love, love, love. And yes, it's been great for making connections. Some of my closest writing friends were once nothing but an avatar in my twitter feed.
The biggest advice I can give is be yourself and engage in two-way conversation. Twitter is a party, not a podium. If you talk too much solely about your own writing/book, I can almost guarantee that people will grow bored and start tuning you out.
The people I love following on twitter are the ones who talk back to me and also share good content. They tweet compelling links and videos. They’re insightful. If they also happen to have a book coming out, that's an added bonus. But I follow them for what they bring to the table, first and foremost.
9. Thanks for the tips on Twitter and the inspiration to spend some time there. What are you working on now?
I'm putting the final touches on TAKEN2 while simultaneously drafting book three. In between deadlines for the series, I also bounce between two standalone novels (a fantasy and a sci-fi) in various stages of drafting. So many story ideas and never enough time! :)
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Erin.
Thank you for having me. It was an honor to stop by!
You can find Erin at:
Erin and her publisher Harper Teen have generously offered an ARC of TAKEN 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 April 27th. I’ll announce the winner on April 29th.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. International entries are welcome.
Here’s what’s coming up:
On Monday I have an ASK THE EXPERT Interview with a 7th grader and a giveaway of BLACK CITY, a YA dystopian/paranormal story, THE COLOSSUS RISES, a middle grade fantasy Percy Jackson fans will enjoy, MILO 2.0, a YA Sci fi story, and a cute backpack with goodies for one of your kids.
On Tuesday I have a Tuesday tip by Stephanie Keyes and a giveaway of THE FALLEN STARS, a YA paranormal romance.
Next Wednesday I’m interviewing agent Jill Corcoran about her new A Path to Publishing workshops and of course I asked her what submissions she’s looking for right now. There’s a giveaway too!
The following Monday I’m interviewing Lisa Rojany Buccieri and giving away a signed copy of WRITING CHILDREN’S BOOKS FOR DUMMIES. Even though you might think this is too basic for you, I found it had a lot of great tips on the craft of writing and some on social media. And they were all discussed so succinctly. I really found it and Lisa’s interview really helpful and I think you will too.
And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's Thursday agent spotlights.
Hope to see you on Monday!