1. The first novel in your Nitty Gritty series was a semi-finalist for Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Contest and you followed that powerful book with the sequel ‘Off Limits’, a novel where you delved deep into the emotions of the characters Lindsay and Megan. What was it about the characters that demanded their story be written?
Honestly I think writing Off Limits and my first book Off Leash were very therapeutic for me. I wanted to give two strong young girls the chance to tell their story and as hard as their lives are I wanted to show how they are survivors.
I also had a friend in high school who was being sexually molested by her step-father and looking back I always wanted to give her a voice. She never came out and said that in words, it was more her actions and a lot of what wasn’t said that made me realize what was happening to her.
For Off Leash I really needed to vent and I created this character, Jay Walker, who was a teen, mad at the world and rightly so. At the time when I was writing Jay my own eldest teen was really going through an angry stage so I channeled a lot of what we were going through into Jay.
2. What are some tips you used to get inside your characters’ heads? How do you layer their world-what type of research to you do for your novels?
I don’t think I have tips. Characters speak to me. If a character, especially if I’m writing 1st POV isn’t talking in my head than I know I don’t have the voice nailed.
Research is hard. I listen a lot to teens and luckily have two of my own to get into teen-speak but I observe a heck of a lot more and hang out at the library were teens live in my neighborhood.
I also use the Internet for research a lot but for my third book in the series I’m working on I’m getting help from the YMCA Newcomers Association because my character in that book is a young boy who came to Canada as a refugee.
Actually, I’m really nervous about getting his voice right and because I don’t want him to fall into stereotyping I’m hoping to tap into their resources.
3. What are some of the challenges you faced writing this story and what are challenges that you battle when writing YA?
Time is always a cruncher for me. I manage a paddling club so once May hits I’m non-stop morning to night and on weekends dealing with 400 youth, plus juggling my four children schedules doesn’t make it easier.
I’m also an edit freak. I pick apart my stories. If you could see 1st draft and 2nd and 3rddraft you’d laugh. By the time my story is ready for my critique partners I’ve added/removed so much that it usually barely resembles what I first started.
My other time crunch is that I write in another genre – romance, so I’m usually working on two projects at once. When I write YA I can only work on YA because if I start writing my other genre I get pulled out of the teen’s head.
4. What drew you to the YA genre?
My own troubled teen. I was trying to get my head around him and realized how difficult my own teenage was but yet I survived. The funny thing is I sheltered and have over-protected my children and still my teen found trouble.
I wanted to get into his head since he certainly wasn’t speaking to me plus I was in a major writing rut and knew I had to try something new. I’m so glad now I went with YA. I feel like my writing is true to myself and I have always loved to challenge the creative aspect that lives within me.
5. What is the best/worst part about writing YA?
Best – you get to let your characters make mistakes because that’s what teens do.
Worse – you feel for those mistakes because as the writer you see that mistake coming long before your characters experience it.
6. There are many stories about authors overcoming adversity to go on to publication. How have you used any adversities you’ve experienced in life (unexpected move/illness, rejection etc.) to your advantage?
I’ve been rejected so many times it’s not funny. When I started out writing in the romance genre that used to really bother me, but after being multi-published I’ve come to realize it’s all subjective.
For YA though I thought for sure I’d do two things with my nitty gritty books. One, secure an agent – think over 50 rejects and two, get a publisher – again big fat no. Guess what though, I’m stubborn. If you believe in your story enough that’s the joy of the new publishing age.
My critique partners loved my first story and my second and even after having Off Leash place as a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest in 2011, I realized the only person holding me back was me. So, I jumped on the Indie self-publishing bandwagon and haven’t looked back.
7. What was the best/worst writing advice you were given?
That if you don’t write a book by the time you turn 30 you never will. I remember vividly some guy saying that to me. I’d like to find him now and say get real. Life doesn’t end at 30. I’m 42 and it’s only getting better and I’m becoming more confident in my writing style.
8. Looking back at your career as an author what is it that you know now that you wish you would have known when you first started your journey?
Don’t get so depressed when you get a rejection and don’t get so happy when you get accepted. I know that doesn’t sound like it makes sense but it’s true. I was so happy to first secure an agent years ago, I didn’t do my homework and that cost me.
Since then I fired my agent and got the rights back to my first book. Unless a reject letter says something particular to my story I don’t even keep it. Usually a form letter tells me it didn’t make it pass the volunteer reading the slush pile and seriously I’m not going to let that get to me anymore.
9. What are some favorite tools you’ve used to help you grow as a writer (books, classes etc.)
I joined my local romance writers association and they are all a wonderful group of people. It’s a very professional group with workshops once a month, but we’re also very social.
We all share marketing tips and without this group I would never have learned what the heck a query was, or pitch or get the nerve to go to a writers conference – or better yet, start calling myself an author.
10. Anything else you want to add?