It was actually nice enough to go for a walk with my dog this weekend. It felt SO good to get out walking. Hope you're all seeing glimmers of Spring.
Carrie Butler just released HONESTY, her NA urban fantasy. Go HERE for more details.
HERE to learn more.
And I have some winners to announce.
The winner of A SNICKER OF MAGIC is S.P. Bowers!
And the winner of ROCK 'N ROLL PRINCESSES WEAR BLACK is Candace!
Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book. Please e-mail me by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.
Today I’m excited to have debut author Kristi Helvig here to share about her debut YA novel BURN OUT that releases on April 8, 2014. I loved this sci-fi story about Tora, possibly the last person on Earth. She was such a great character—strong and resourceful but yet had a softer side to her. And this was a real page turner as I tried to figure out with Tora who she could trust.
Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:
Most people want to save the world; seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to get the hell off of it. One of the last survivors in Earth's final years, Tora yearns to escape the wasteland her planet has become after the sun turns "red giant," but discovers her fellow survivors are even deadlier than the hostile environment.
Holed up in an underground shelter, Tora is alone--her brilliant scientist father murdered, her mother and sister burned to death. She dreams of living on a planet with oceans, plants, and animals. Unfortunately, the oceans dried out ages ago, the only plants are giant cacti with deadly spines, and her pet, Trigger, is a gun--one of the bio-energetic weapons her father created for the government before his conscience kicked in.
When family friend, Markus, arrives with mercenaries to take the weapons by force, Tora's fury turns to fear when government ships descend in an attempt to kill them all. She forges an unlikely alliance with Markus and his rag-tag group of raiders, including a smart but quiet soldier named James. Tora must quickly figure out who she can trust, as she must choose between saving herself by giving up the guns or honoring her father's request to save humanity from the most lethal weapons in existence.
Hi Kristi. Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
Well, my mom claims I wrote my first book at the age of 5 or 6 (my own 6-yo just finished writing her seventh picture book this weekend so who knows?) I do remember writing a Nancy Drew knock-off on my mom’s cursive typewriter when I was a few years older than that— those of you out there who’ve used correction tape know how easy writers have it today with those fancy delete buttons. ;) Anyway, I never even considered writing as a viable career option and got my Ph.D. in clinical psychology instead. Several years ago, after the birth of my second child, I got the writing itch again and wrote my first novel (on a laptop this time!) I’ve written four more since then.
2. Awesome how you came back to your love of writing. Where did you get the idea for your story?
This has such a long convoluted story behind it so I’ll try to keep it simple. My hubby and I watch a lot of science documentaries. One of them had to do with the sun burning out and that same night, I heard a really haunting song on Pandora. Those things combined led to a vivid dream of my MC Tora and James—it was like they showed me their entire story in that dream. I woke up and scribbled like mad on paper before starting to type. About a week later, I was driving home from work which only takes about fifteen minutes, and the thermometer on my car kept ticking upward. It went from 99 to 106 and I felt this flicker of panic, like ‘what if it kept going up?’ I got a tiny glimpse of what it might feel like to live in a world like Tora’s and emailed an astrophysics department soon after.
3. That’s such a cool way to come up with your story idea. Maybe I should start watching more documentaries with my husband too. What was your world building process like and did you have to do any research for it?
I’m a research nerd and loved doing research for this book! Aside from watching tons of science
4. Contacting a college science department is a great tip. I bet there are lots of resources we could tap into at colleges. I love Tora. She’s so resourceful and strong. I’d have been a total emotional mess in her situation. What was her character development process like for you?
I love her too. She was so much fun to write. She’s tough and doesn’t trust people at all thanks to all the losses she’s sustained, yet she has this sense of humor that keeps her going. I think her humor is what helped her survived all that time alone. As far as her character development, her experiences early in the novel validate her decisions not to trust anyone—vulnerability is a quality that gets you killed in her world. The downside of never letting anyone get close to her is that she’s sort of shut down emotionally. Without giving too much away, Tora develops feelings for James (against her better judgment) and struggles with whether to go by her heart or her head. The growth she experiences in the first book continues through the sequel, and I loved getting to spend even more time with these characters.
5. Yes, I could see how her experiences shaped who she is. I read that you wrote the first draft of this in six weeks. Wow! That was quick. What was the revision process like and what did you learn about yourself as a writer from revising BURN OUT?
Oh my gosh. So yes, I wrote the first draft in six weeks, but revising was an entirely different matter and took much longer before I felt it was ready to send to agents. My critique partners are awesome and I don’t know what I would do without them. What changed about my writing process from BURN OUT to the sequel was more in the pre-planning stage. For BURN OUT, I had a short list of a few key scenes jotted down (maybe 5 or 6 lines total) and that was it. With the sequel, I wrote one whole page of key scenes in the book. I also wrote the sequel fairly quickly (eight weeks) but hope the revision stage will be quicker as I learned a lot from the first time around. I originally worried that having even a basic outline would stifle the creativity of the story, but it turned out to be the opposite. The characters surprised me and often did things I didn’t expect.
6. I write how you wrote your first draft of BURN OUT. I’ll have to try the pre-planning if I ever write a sequel. BURN OUT is a series. Did you have the other books planned out when you wrote this book or did you have to figure them out once you got your publishing contract? Do you have any advice on writing a series?
I wasn’t kidding when I said my dream outlined the entire story, so I knew how everything would end from the first sentence of BURN OUT. My agent sold the first two books up front so that made it easier to let the story flow without having to worry about tying everything up in the first book. As far as advice on a series, my copyeditor sent me a style sheet which helped me keep track of things for consistency between books. The tricky part about series is that in addition to the main conflict in each book, there has to be a greater overarching problem that isn’t solved until the last book. Character development is also so important. One of the characters in BURN OUT changed gradually in the first book, but they became my absolute favorite character in the sequel and I didn’t expect that at all.
7. I think we’d all love to have our stories come complete in a dream. Your agent is Jessica Regel. Share how she became your agent and your road to publication.
I love my agent! I used sites like QueryTracker and the agent profiles on Literary Rambles to make a master list of agents to query. Jessica was a cold query from my “top 10” list of agents, and she asked for the full manuscript within a day of reading my first pages. I’d gotten another offer of representation the same week that Jessica offered, so I set up phone calls with both of them. I’m a big believer in following your gut, and within a few minutes of talking with Jess, I knew she was “the one.” As far as the road to publication, I feel like I got so lucky with my publisher, Egmont USA. My then-editor Greg (who, sadly, has since left) understood my characters and story so well that revisions were relatively painless, and his suggestions made the book even better. He asked questions about what I wanted and didn’t want for the cover, and let me pick from a choice of fonts for the novel itself. I have a new editor, Alison, for the sequel and she’s awesome too, so I’ve had a great experience so far.
8. It’s so encouraging to hear how researching agents and querying can lead to success. And awesome that Jessica was on your wish list of agents. What are your plans for spreading the word about your book? Share something you’ve learned about marketing a debut book that would be helpful to aspiring authors.
I’ll probably be able to better answer this after the book is out, but I’m doing a launch at a local indie bookstore and invited a bunch of my friends to come hang out, eat cupcakes, and celebrate with me. Egmont is doing a book blog tour for me and Rock Star Book Tours is also doing a tour so I feel very grateful. In addition to my Colorado launch, I’m doing signings in North Carolina and Texas, and will attend several conferences this year. I’m a natural introvert but can talk books and writing all day long.
One big thing I did is to use part of my advance money to hire a publicist. An author friend had raved about the firm I’m using, and I’d already interviewed six other publicists before speaking to Julie from JKS Communications. It was the same feeling I got when I’d spoken to my agent and I knew she was the right person for me. It also helped that she and her team loved my book! Some people will tell you that publicists are a waste of money, and they are expensive, but I think if you find a great one, it’s a huge benefit. I’ve gotten reviews and placement in places I never would have on my own because I don’t have the time to do everything myself. The publicity department at Egmont is great, but publishers have so many books that they can only devote a certain amount of resources to each one. We had a joint conference call early on with my publicity people and Egmont’s publicity people, and the communication has been very smooth so far. I think when it’s done well, the publisher actually appreciates the extra support. I know I do!
9. That’s great advice to hire a publicist. I’ve heard of hiring blogging companies to handle blog tours. But not publicists. If they can get you exposure other places, it could be a good investment. What are you working on now?
Now that the sequel to BURN OUT is turned in to my editor, I’m finishing up a YA fantasy novel that also stemmed from a dream. Then I have another completed YA fantasy that I want to re-work a bit because I think it has a lot of potential. From there, I have a notebook full of book ideas and will see which one grabs me—unless I have another great dream in the meantime. :)
Thanks so much for having me on the blog today!
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kristi. You can find Kristi musing about space monkeys and Cadbury Creme Eggs on Twitter and Facebook. Pre-order BURN OUT through Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Amazon, or Tattered Cover, or add BURN OUT on Goodreads.
Kristi and her publisher Egmont USA generously offered an ARC 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 through March 29th. I’ll announce the winner on March 31st. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.
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 Wednesday I’m interviewing Susan Quinn and giving away a copy of FAERY SWAP, her fantastic new MG fantasy I really enjoyed and THIRD DAUGHTER, her NA steampunk fantasy that sounds really good. Susan is a successful self-published author and she has lots of great advice to share with us.
On Friday Sherrie Petersen will be here with a guest post to celebrate the release of WISH YOU WEREN'T.
Next Monday I’m interviewing debut author Elle Cosimano and giving away a copy of ELLE, her YA thriller I’m really looking forward to reading. Sadly, I couldn't get an ARC.
Wednesday that week I’ve got a guest post by MG Buehrlen and giveaway of her YA novel THE 57 LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE about a girl who has visions of living in times in history. It’s another one I’m hoping to read and MG blogs at YA Book Central, a fantastic blog that helps promote authors and their books.
The following Monday I’m interviewing Maureen McQuerry and giving away a copy of her MG fantasy, BEYOND THE DOOR. It sounds really good and I hope to read it.
And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.
Hope to see you on Wednesday!