A Writer in the Spotlight – Ada Adams

This week again I was lucky enough to have a YA author give me an exclusive interview! The idea behind the “Writer in the Spotlight” feature is that published (and bestselling) authors are the best source of advice for us, would-be-published writers. Today’s interview is with Ada Adams, a debut author who also happens to be successfully self-published.

A writer in the spotlight – 8

Author : Ada Adams

Genre : Young Adult, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Location: Toronto, Canada

Website : http://www.revampedbook.com

Twitter: Ada_Adams

Books : ReVamped (2012)

My interview (27/06/2012):

1. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved to create stories. I was the type of child that could entertain myself for hours, simply by digging deep into my imagination. At the age of five, I became a full-time chapter book reader and started writing my own stories. My mom still reads them, although I don’t think that anyone else would be very interested in my early writing! When I was twelve or thirteen, I took a break from writing stories and began writing synopses—just synopses—for some reason! That was my period of contemporary mysteries, friendship stories, and cute boy characters with piercing blue eyes. High school creative writing courses solidified my passion for the craft, and I never looked back. I love that writing is so personal and creative; it’s a different process for every writer.

2. When and where do you write?

When I’m working on a project, I usually write full-time from around 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (with an hour or so lost due to fun online distractions). When I’m trying to finish a project (especially in the editing stages), I write all the time. Sometimes, I forget to eat and sleep. Most of my projects have been written in my office space, but ever since I moved to a new place this year, I find myself writing everywhere except my new office. I think it still needs some breaking-in!

3. Do you ever experience writer’s block?

I most certainly do. It usually doesn’t center around the overall plot of a story, but rather a small scene or a minor event. I find that swimming or running are my best “writer’s block” remedies.

4. What do you say to people who want to be writers?

I say “go for it”! I think writing is such a personal journey for each individual. It’s often very hard to give advice on the process, because what works for one writer may not work for another. My biggest piece of advice would be to love what you do, keep writing, and read. I love learning about new writers and their projects. I think it’s wonderful that our world is filled with so many diverse writers and readers.

5. Is it better to outline and plot your novel or “go with the flow”?

Once again, this is probably very different for each writer. Personally, I need to work with an outline (especially for a novel). I like lists and plans, so in order for the story to be the best it can be, I make sure to plot it out. However, while outlines are important, it’s also important not to be too rigid with them. I’ve often steered away from the outlined path simply because of a character’s action or motivation. I enjoy when my characters surprise me. They often make the story a lot better than originally planned!

6. Do you set goals for yourself as you write?

I outline the entire piece in “words per day” before I embark on a new writing project. Often, my goals are somewhat unrealistic; however they do help keep me on track.


On “ReVamped”:

7. To write this book, where did you get your inspiration from?

The main inspiration for this series came from my observation of the fact that our society is currently head-over-heels in love with vampires! This fascination has always been present, but it has grown stronger over the past decade. I wanted to explore what would happen if, because of our love for them, vampires decided to “come out of the coffin”.

I love that our world is filled with so many great books, films, and shows about strong, dark, sexy vampires, but I wanted to take a different approach to the genre. I wanted to put a humorous spin on vampires, and explore the world of misfits—the vampires who need a lot of “revamping” to even become decent human beings, let alone great vamps!

Originally, “ReVamped” was a TV show script. I was inspired by some great comedic shows and web series about life’s underdogs. However, the budget for shooting the project in the quality that I had envisioned was simply incomprehensible, so I let it sit on my computer for a couple of months. Soon, the characters began to invade my dreams—and even waking moments—and I simply knew that I would have to finish their story one way or another. Hence, “ReVamped” the novel was born!

8. Dawn: How did you come up with this character?

In most YA vampire novels, it’s somewhat rare for the main character to actually be a vampire. However, I really wanted Dawn to be unique. I created her to be strong, adventurous, and intelligent, yet to also have some quirks and weaknesses. I’m not a big fan of “perfect” characters, so I enjoy seeing Dawn make mistakes or be unsure of herself at times. (Hmm…I just divulged that I like to watch my character struggle? Does that make me a mean writer?)  Weaknesses also provide the character with opportunity for growth as the series develops. As well, Dawn is not the type of girl that “needs” a man in her life, so I didn’t want to rush any kind of romantic relationships when it came to the guys in the story. Even in fantastical stories, I think it’s important to have strong female role models that girls can admire or relate to.

Many readers have asked me if “I am Dawn”, and to that I have to say that all of my characters are completely fictional. Sure, I injected Dawn with my love for martial arts and adventure, but I would never be able to objectively write about a character if I saw them as myself or they reminded me of someone I knew. Dawn is 100% Dawn (despite “you know what”)). ;)

9. What type of music did you listen to when you wrote this book?

To be perfectly honest, I’m the type of writer that requires silence while writing. I get very distracted when I listen to music (especially songs with words in them) I did get inspired by certain songs (before and after the process). Florence and the Machine’s “Shake It Out” comes to mind when I think of Dawn’s journey (especially in the third book).

10. What are you working on now? Is “ReAwakened” finished or still a work in progress?

I’m currently working on the rest of the “Angel Creek” series, as well as a few other personal projects. My main goal is to finish Dawn’s story within the next year. “ReAwakened” is almost finished. It’s currently being subjected to a lot of rewrites and edits—my least favourite part of the writing process (though often the most important).

Reading advice:
11. Which authors inspire you now? Any YA books you would recommend?

Overall, I’m a very diverse reader. I love the fact that there are so many talented YA authors out there (I still have many to explore)! I usually enjoy books with strong heroines like Katniss from “The Hunger Games”, and I’ve always been in admiration of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. Whether you’ve enjoyed the story or not, there is no denying that Ms. Rowling is immensely talented and extremely creative! “Harry Potter” was a book that instilled a passion for reading in so many young readers. Is there any greater accomplishment for an author?

On self-publishing:

12. Why did you choose to self-publish “ReVamped” and would you recommend self-publishing to would-be-published writers out there?

One word: vampires. It’s a genre that’s somewhat oversaturated at the moment, so I weighed my options of spending the next few years trying to pitch a debut vampire novel, or sharing it with my readers a little sooner. I really wanted to tell Dawn’s story, so I did a lot of research on self-publishing and decided that for this particular book, it was the way to go. However, I have many other projects that I would never allow to see the light of day unless they take the traditional publishing route. Self-publishing is not easy, especially since I am a perfectionist and strive to create the best product possible.

There’s a lot to say for the importance of agents and publishers in the industry. I believe that traditional publishers can aid in ensuring that the author’s best work is presented to readers. It’s not easy to pursue a self-published route, but if you choose to do so, my advice would be to make certain that your work and presentation is professional, your editing is good, and your pricing is fair.

I know that there is much discussion amongst the writing and reading communities when it comes to traditional vs. self-publishing, but personally, I’m not on either side of the spectrum. There are some amazing indie authors out there, just like there are some awesome traditionally published authors. Every single writer’s (and even novel’s) journey is different! As long as you love what you do and believe in your work, you’re already on the right track!

Thank you again for doing this!

Thank you so much for the wonderful interview questions, EM! I had a blast!

 

ReVamped is out now and you can buy it on Amazon.

A Writer in the Spotlight – Jennifer Bosworth

This week again I was lucky enough to have a YA author give me an exclusive interview! The idea behind the “Writer in the Spotlight” feature is that published (and bestselling) authors are the best source of advice for us, would-be-published writers. Today’s interview is with the amazingly nice Jennifer Bosworth.

A writer in the spotlight – 7

Author : Jennifer Bosworth

Genre : Young Adult, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Location: Los Angeles, CA, USA

Website : http://www.jenniferbosworth.com

Twitter: @JennBosworth

Books : Struck (2012)

My interview (29/05/2012):

On writing:

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

I did. In fact, I consider it my first memory, just knowing that I wanted to be a writer, because I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want this.

When and where do you write?

I write at home, and I make sure that wherever my husband and I live, I always have at least a nook of my own, if not an entire room in which to write. I occasionally write at coffee shops, but I don’t do my best work in them.

I’m definitely a morning writer unless I’m drinking wine or whiskey. I know I shouldn’t say this, but I do my best writing while drinking, but only ONE drink. I don’t want to become a Hemingway.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

I always have something to say, but I go through periods when I don’t know how to say it. At those times, I usually just start writing and feel my way through. I don’t believe in writer’s block for myself, because I know the only thing that’s standing in my way is me.

What do you say to people who want to be writers? How difficult is it to get published?

Write for the love of writing, and no matter how artistic you are, don’t forget to at least attempt to find a hook for your story, and don’t neglect plot. “Stuff” needs to happen in a book. Pretty writing will only get you so far. There’s a lot of competition out there, so if your work isn’t exciting enough––which doesn’t mean car crashes and explosions, it means conflict, conflict, conflict, interpersonal, personal, man vs. nature, whatever as long as it’s conflict––you’re going to have a much harder time selling a book.

Also, keep in mind that writing is a business, and if editors have no idea how to place your book, you’ll have a hard time selling said book. If they know exactly how to position your book in the marketplace, you’re golden. This sounds depressing, I know, and I have a lot of unmarketable books in me so I understand the difficulty writers have accepting this idea. But if you want to sell, not just write, you have to meet the publishers halfway.

Is it better to outline and plot your novel or “go with the flow”?

Depends on the writer, but I prefer to write wildly and revise later. Is that the smart, economical thing to do? Not really. It’s much more practical to outline. But the most creative scenes in any book or screenplay I’ve written have always been off the cuff.

A good rule of thumb: know where you’re going, but discover the path as you travel.

Do you set goals for yourself as you write?

I live and die by mini-goals. When I’m working on a first draft, I need to write at least 1000 words a day. I used to do 2000, but I found that after 1000 I wrote complete crap. I also like to give myself holidays as deadlines for finishing an entire manuscript. I don’t know why, it just feels right.

On “Struck”:

To write this book, where did you get your inspiration from? Were you aware of the coming dystopian trend in YA literature when you wrote it?

Haha! I hate trends, so if I’d known one was coming I probably would have written a different book. To set a trend sounds great, but I don’t want my book to be an “if you liked this, you’ll love this” sort of book.

The inspiration for STRUCK literally struck when I learned a few strange but true facts about lightning and about human lightning rods. I like to base everything I write, no matter how fantastical, in reality. The fact that real human lightning rods exist was jet fuel for my imagination. And I’d always loved post-apocalyptic novels like Stephen King’s The Stand, and wanted to write one myself. A human lightning rod standing between salvation or the utter annihilation of mankind? I couldn’t resist writing that book! I guess I would have written it even if I’d known the dystopian trend was looming.

Mia: How did you come up with this character and her power?

Again, I try to ground my fantasy in reality, and the human body has a complex electrical system. It stands to reason that we can learn to utilize it in small ways. But what if a human were charged with a LOT more energy than was normal? What could they do then?

I regards to Mia’s personality, I consider her my alter ego. I grew up in an extremely religious community, and as a kid I didn’t feel like I was encouraged to think for myself. It seemed like adults were always telling me what I believed as opposed to asking me to decide for myself. Part of the reason I created Mia is because I love the idea of pitting a cynical teenager who doesn’t believe in much of anything against two doomsday cults who are trying to force their beliefs on her. Mia’s dilemma gave me a way to act out my personal angst.

 What type of music did you listen to when you wrote this book?

Oh, torture. I love music, but I can’t listen to music with lyrics when I’m writing, unless it’s Tom Waits, because his lyrics are more like growling and grumbling than singing. I listened to movie soundtracks a lot, particularly the one for a movie called “The Gift.” It has a lot of creepy fiddle moments. For some reason fiddles inspire me.

What are you working on now?

A couple of novels are competing for my attention. The first is a psychological YA horror called THE HIVE, which takes place in a claustrophobic, small-town religious community, but involves supernatural terrors. I’d say it’s a cross between “Big Love” and “The Ring.” The other book is a post-apocalyptic, fantasy western. Think “Firefly,” but with magic instead of science. I’m also working on several horror screenplays, which my husband and I hope to produce.

Reading advice:

Which authors inspire you now?

Gillian Flynn, who writes extremely dark, literary mysteries, has been my biggest inspiration of the last ten years. Reading her books makes me a better writer. Adam Nevill, an up and coming horror author (and a UK boy!), and Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son, are another couple of writers whose books I wish had been written by me. They give me a new standard by which to measure myself, and they make me want to strive every day to be better.

Which YA books would recommend?

My top 3 YA novels of 2012 are Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo; The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater; and Harbinger, by Sara Wilson Etienne. Each of these authors gave me something the likes of which I’d never read before. I like being surprised. I’m not one of those people who reads the same kind of book over and over again. I need variety, and I love it when authors take risks.

But my all-time favorite YA novel, which I think everyone needs to read, is Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow. That one was a game changer for me. It redefined YA literature in a way no other YA novel had done before, and it changed the way I thought about issues like terrorism, privacy, and dissent. 

***

Struck is out now and you can buy it on Amazon. If you’re still not convinced, you can watch the AWESOME book trailer here.
 

Preparing for JuNoWriMo

Hello gentle reader,

this week I have been getting ready for JuNoWriMo and it is all very exciting…

What is JuNoWriMo?

JuNoWriMo means “June Novel Writing Month”. It was started by Becca J. Campbell and Anna Howard and inspired by NaNoWriMo. The idea is to write the first draft of a 50,000 word book in 30 days. That’s an average of 1667 words per day.  The nice part of the challenge is that you also get to support and interact with other writers.

Getting ready…

The first edition of JuNoWriMo will start on Friday, June 1st and in the meantime, author  Aaron Pogue has been giving his advice on the JuNoWriMo blog to prepare the challenge: in a great series of posts, the idea was to help participants with their synopsis, character description, conflict resolution cycle, and so on… It is worth checking out if you’re interested in prewriting pointers.

Why am I participating?

During the past year, I have written and self-edited the first book in my Epic Fantasy trilogy THE DARKLANDS. I will soon start looking for an agent with it, but in the meantime, I want to take a break from that story. Thus, JuNoWriMo is for me the perfect opportunity to put THE DARKLANDS in a drawer for a month and to work on something else.

This month, I want to write a short YA dystopian novel which has been at the back of my mind for a while. When I say “short”, it is compared to the novel I just finished, which is over 100K… The working title for my JuNoWriMo WIP is BLACK ROSES, but it will most certainly change once I have completed the story. I usually come up with a definite title halfway through the writing process.

What is my JuNoWriMo novel about?

BLACK ROSES is set on the American continent at the end of the 22d Century. A virus has wiped out most of the world population ten years earlier. The only survivors are Humans (who weren’t affected by the virus) and Immortals (who have survived the virus and been turned into supernatural beings). Immortals rule the country and its capital New Wentworth, while Humans live on the margin. However, a third category of people is caught between them: Keepers have survived the virus but haven’t been turned into Immortals. The ruling class needs them in their new society, making them targets for rebel Humans. Seventeen-year-old Nessa is a Keeper. To her, this Friday is just like any other day. She hasn’t planned that Humans would choose it to stage a rebellion, that her life would suddenly be in danger, or that she would fall in love.

Why have I decided to write this specific story for JuNoWriMo?

I have always liked dystopian stories, even when they were just called Science-Fiction. I had the idea for BLACK ROSES years ago: I wrote a synopsis and a few key scenes before filing the thing away. Then the YA dystopian genre took over the world, and I started thinking ‘Maybe I should try and write that story after all.’ I don’t really intend to try and publish it, since the market is now saturated with YA Dystopian stories, but I think I will enjoy writing it in a short amount of time and having my beta readers read it. It will be a good way for me to hone my skills.

Interested in joining the madness?

Sign up for JuNoWriMo here.

The Writer In You Blog Hop – 1

The Writer In You is a blog hop hosted by Katie at The Fiction Diaries. In her own words, “this is a blog hop for all aspiring writers out there. It is a chance to meet other writers and share tips, writing, and experiences, all while gaining new followers for your loverly blog…” Every Saturday, Katie asks a question that we have to answer.

This week’s question is: When and where do you do most of your writing?

I have a very busy life and I tend to write when and where I can. Which is, mostly in the evening and at the weekend. In an ideal world, I would get up early in the morning to write, take a break in the afternoon, then go back to writing in the evening. I like writing at my desk by the window in my living room with music on.

What about you? Join the fun here and happy writing!

ROW80 Check-In #5 The art of self-editing your novel

Hello gentle reader,

6 weeks into ROW80, I am happy to announce that I have had a breakthrough in my self-editing process. As a reminder, my goal for this ROW80 is to edit my YA Fantasy manuscript The Last Queen and to have a final draft for it by the end of June.

So, up until this week I wasn’t very organized to self-edit my novel: I knew I had to cut 20K words and tidy up the whole thing, but the way I went about doing it was quite random and unsystematic.

But this week, I decided I had wasted enough time playing around with my MS and being inefficient. It was time to be professional and serious about this self-editing process.

It was time to slay some bad writing habits and come up with a shiny, edited and readable manuscript.

Today I am going to share my method to self-edit my novel, as maybe some of you, fellow would-be-published writers out there, are still struggling with this process.

Step 1: Finish the first draft of your novel. Your book has a beginning, a middle and an end. Congratulations on making it this far. Now put the manuscript away in a drawer for at least a couple of weeks and celebrate.

Step 2: Recover from celebration. then read two amazing books on the craft of writing.

How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman 

This one is not only a hilarious read, but it will also help you reflect on the main aspects of your novel: the plot, the characters, the setting. It is a great way to evaluate if your book has cartoonish villains, a plot so complex even you have lost track of it, or a setting so clichéd it will make any publisher nod off.

Self-editing for fiction writers by Browne and King

This second book is great for the next step of your self-evaluation: it will help you see the mistakes you have made regarding style, dialogue, points of view, beats, proportion and repetitions.

Once you have read those two books (or others like them), you can move on to…

Step 3: Know your strengths.

These you will know from experience and from the feedback of your beta readers. For example, I know that I don’t really need to amend the plot and characterization in The Last Queen. Devising a complicated plot that falls into place by the end is what I know to do best. Once you know what is great about your novel, you can focus on amending what needs to be edited, rather than wasting time fiddling with characters that are already well-written.

Step 4: Know your weaknesses.

From your readings, you should know by now what is probably not that great in your Beloved Manuscript. One of my main problems in The Last Queen is repetition. For you, it might be settings that are too detailed, lengthy paragraphs with boring content, and so on. Just know what they are. Because it is only then that you can…

Step 5: Make a checklist of what you want to edit in your novel. Edit your novel.

I love lists. They are a great tool when you self-edit as you can have yours by your computer while you read through each scene/chapter. Read each scene, and check it against your list of mistakes. If you have committed any, you edit, then move on to the next scene.

Step 6: Finish self-editing your Precious Manuscript. Celebrate some more.

Step 7: Repeat Steps 5 and 6 a few times before thinking about sending your Masterpiece to an agent.

That’s it for me. How are you other ROW80 writers doing?

Here is the Linky for the other check-in posts.

A Round of Words in 80 Days – Check-in #4

Let’s review: last week I missed my weekly check-in as I was away from home without an Internet connection. This week I’m back but I’ve had to change my goals, as what I had decided on four weeks ago is no longer attainable, given my personal circumstances (day job and other non-writing obligations).

So let’s have a look at my goals:

1-        Write the first draft of my new dystopian novel with at least 750 words per day: not anymore. I just don’t have the time. So I will probably write this first draft from time to time, but I cannot pretend I can write it every day, with a set number of words.

2-        Self-edit/revise The Last Queen so that I finally have a final draft for it: this is what I have to focus on. I need to be done with that by the end of June and so far this final draft is not ready yet. So it’s Revision, Revision, Revision for me. My manuscript needs to be 20K shorter, so I have to start making serious cuts in it. Samurai like.

That’s it for me. How are you other ROW80 writers doing?

Here is the Linky for the other check-in posts.

This week on my blog you can find:

- an interview with YA writer Rebecca Maizel on writing, reading and her books.

- a post on YA best-selling author Lauren DeStefano with her advice on writing a book and getting it published.

- inspiring pictures!

Happy writing!

 

A writer in the spotlight – Lauren DeStefano

Welcome to the Dystopian Survival Week Hop – Final Day !

This Hop is hosted by Kristen @ Seeing Night Reviews and Ali’s @ Ali’s Bookshelf. It started on Monday, April 23th and it ends today Friday, April 27st.

There are 9 participating blogs and I strongly suggest you visit each of them because we all give you the opportunity to win awesome Dystopian books if you’re willing to take part in our challenges. Today you can win Blood Red Road @ One Book Per Week and The Hunt @ Sharon Loves Books and Cats.

You can also still enter my own Challenge/Giveaway here and have the opportunity to win The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Enter now!

 

So, since it is Dystopian Week on my blog, my “Writer in the Spotlight” had to be a dystopian author this week. The idea behind the “Writer in the Spotlight” feature is that published (and bestselling) authors are the best source of advice for us, would-be-published writers. Today I am putting Lauren DeStefano in the spotlight: just to be clear, this is not an interview, because Lauren has already answered all my questions on her great website. Below is therefore just an extract from the tons of good advice she gives on here: http://www.laurendestefano.com/faq.php

A writer in the spotlight – 5

Author : Lauren DeStefano

Genre : Dystopian, young adult literature

Location: Connecticut, USA

Website : http://www.laurendestefano.com

Books : The Chemical Garden Trilogy – Wither (2011), Fever (2012).

Bio: Lauren DeStefano (pronounced: de STEFF ano) graduated Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT in 2007. Her debut novel, WITHER, the first in The Chemical Garden Trilogy, published by Simon & Schuster BFYR, came out in 2011.

About writing:

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer, and how long did it take you to get published?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid, long before I concerned myself with words like “publishing” and “marketing.” I kept my writing to myself for the most part, but I had a teacher in the 5th grade who suggested I might want to pursue it when I got older. That teacher is mentioned in the acknowledgements for my debut novel, Wither, as I consider that conversation with her a life-changing moment. In 2008, shortly after college, I began querying. 140 rejection letters later, I found a wonderful agent who stuck with me through two adult manuscripts that didn’t sell. In October of 2009, Wither and its two sequels were sold less than a month after I’d completed the first draft. It was published in March of 2011.

Who is your agent and how did you find one?

My agent is Barbara Poelle at Irene Goodman Lit Agency. I found her in the 2008 Publisher’s Market book in the writing section of Barnes & Noble. A new version is published every year with updated information, and I recommend it because it provides details about what each agent is looking for.

Any tips for an aspiring author?

Be 100% true to yourself. Write for yourself, your characters, and for the story that’s in your head. Take advice if you’d like, but don’t do anything that compromises your vision for your writing. What works for one bestselling author might be poison for another.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Step away from the project. Writer’s block, for me, is an indication that I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere, and I can’t go forward until I locate that wrong turn and fix it. Over-thinking it will only make it worse, but stepping away, taking a walk or anything else will usually help me get my thoughts straight.

How do you get through the first draft blues?

For me, this usually happens somewhere around the middle. I’ve heard this referred to as the “great swampy middle” so you’re not alone. The beginning, for me, has the most momentum and everything is shiny and new and there aren’t as many facts to sort out yet. Around the middle, things get overwhelming, and there is no conclusion yet to prove that this story will be worth telling and that it will all come together. Maybe it will be, and maybe it won’t be. The only way is to push through and finish it. And if you can’t hold enough interest to do that, maybe this isn’t the right story and you should step away from it to see where your ideas take you.

What will you write next?
I am always writing. If I’m still alive, you can bet I have something in the works. It’s just that it’s a secret right now…

 

About “The Chemical Garden Trilogy”

How did you get the idea for Wither?

This is a question I get often, and I’m never sure how to answer. I don’t know. Insomnia. Flu medication. A story I heard (maybe it was on the news?) involving a genetically altered potato and children being born without the genes for certain cancers. The idea of altering nature fascinates me. Eliminating one problem might create a different problem. Maybe stripping the carbs from a potato means introducing a new sort of food allergy. Maybe altering human genetics to eradicate cancer will make humans more vulnerable to other ailments, or new ailments entirely. I don’t stand on any particular side of the argument. I’m just a weaver of what ifs.

Also, back in 2008, my agent had me write up 20 hypothetical synopses as an exercise, and this was #15:

In the not-too-distant future, women grossly out-populate men, and in the new nation, self-proclaimed to be genetically superior, men take two wives or more. But the world is still ending despite the efforts of the World Leader and environmental activists. When a vaccination to promote longevity turns sour, the ensuing chaos may just be enough to end the world.

I recall my agent writing back that #15 was among her favorites. As you can see, there was no indication that it would be YA. I remember that this was my favorite of the 20 ideas, but I didn’t pursue it at the time because there were too many unanswered questions. More than a year later, I decided to give it a shot as a short story, with an intended word count of 3,000-5,000 words. After a lot of brainstorming and rewriting, I found the story through the eyes of a young protagonist, whose name, it turned out, was Rhine. Rhine wasn’t alone; there were two other girls with her, and I knew that one of them would be despondent and tragic, and I knew that at least one of them would have a child. In the short story I’d intended to write, I saw the three girls being executed as they clung to one another. Spoiler alert: that’s not how Wither ends. However, I think the girls have maintained that strength and stoicism, and I think they are absolutely loyal and brave enough to have remained at one another’s side if things had gone down that way.

When people ask me how I stumbled upon an idea, I like to say that all of my life’s experiences go into this big cloud inside my brain, and every so often an idea emerges like a fortune in a Magic 8 Ball. I’ll never completely know.

How long did it take you to write Wither?

The first draft took under a month, under the influence of the flu, followed by several months of editing.

Any particular reason males live 5 years longer than females?

The point is that nobody within this world as of yet understands why the virus does what it does, and why males have a longer life span.

Are your characters inspired by actual people you know?

No. The characters in my books have nothing to do with the people in my life.