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.

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.

Book of the Week – 9

This week I am reading ReVamped by debut author Ada Adams. I don’t usually read self-published books but since this one has been published in February 2012, I have only read enthusiastic reviews about it. And since it’s a vampire book, I had to check it out…

From Goodreads:

“A simple mission turned deadly.

Nineteen-year-old vampire Dawn has led a sheltered life within the confines of her father’s presidential headquarters. Upon being sent on a mission to revamp four goofy misfits into guardians of a peaceful little town of Angel Creek, Dawn believes that all her dreams have finally come true. What starts off as a simple task, turns into something unexpected, changing Dawn’s life forever and leading the action-loving, thrill-seeking vampire teen on a path of mystery, danger and intrigue.

When a human girl is kidnapped by a group of rogue vamps, Dawn discovers that there is more going on in Angel Creek than meets the eye. And it all connects to Ethan, the cute newcomer who seems too perfect to be true, Sebastian, the mysterious vampire with a turbulent past, and even Dawn herself. Dawn must not only succeed in revamping the troubled recruits, but must also prevent the vampire race from being overtaken by a malevolent villain who has a strange and obsessive fascination with her. As threat escalates, romance blooms, and ghosts from her past begin to surface, Dawn is sure of only one thing: her life will never be the same.”

Visit Ada’s website here.

What are you reading this week?

Book of the Week – 8

This week I am reading a vampire book! It has been a while since I read a book with vampires in it, so I picked Sunshine by Robin McKinley (2003).

From Amazon:

“Rae Seddon, nicknamed “Sunshine”, works long hours in her family’s coffeehouse, making her famous “Cinnamon Rolls as Big as Your Head,” Bitter Chocolate Death, Caramel Cataclysm, and other sugar-shock specials that keep the customers coming. She’s happy in her bakery—which her stepfather built specially for her—but sometimes she feels that she should have life outside the coffeehouse.

One evening she drives out to the lake to get away from her family, to be alone. There hasn’t been any trouble at the lake for years.

But there is trouble that night for Sunshine. She is abducted by a gang of vampires who shackle her to the wall of an abandoned mansion, within easy reach of a figure stirring in the moonlight. Sunshine knows that he is a vampire and that she is to be his dinner. Yet when dawn breaks he has not attempted to harm her.

And now he needs her help to survive the day…”

Visit Robin McKinley’s website here.

Waiting On Wednesday – 8 + Bout of Books Read-a-thon Day 2

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly event, hosted by book blogger Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Today I have chosen Stolen Night (Vampire Queen #2) by Rebecca Maizel (expected publication: June 21st 2012 by St. Martin’s Griffin). It is the second installment in the Vampire Queen series and Infinite Days being one of my favorite books, I can’t wait for Stolen Night.

From Goodreads:

“Lenah Beaudonte should be dead. But having sacrificed herself to save another, she finds herself awakening with strange powers that are neither vampire nor human – and a new enemy on her trail. In her vampire life, Lenah had thought that being human was all she ever wanted; but the human heart suffers pain, heartbreak and loss. With her new powers growing and the dark force of the Nex after her soul, Lenah faces a choice: between the mortal love of gorgeous Justin, whose passion fed her human soul, and taking a different path to become the mistress of her own destiny, wherever that may lead …”

I interviewed Rebecca Maizel a couple of weeks ago, feel free to check out the interview here.

On another note…

Bout of Books Read-a-thon – Day 2

Bout of Books is a week long read-a-thon, which has started on Monday, May 14th and will run until Sunday, May 20th.

Find out more here: http://boutofbooks.blogspot.co.uk/

Follow the fun on Twitter here: @boutofbooks

I have posted my goals here: https://emcastellan.com/2012/05/12/bout-of-books-4-0-read-a-thon-goals/

My update:

Book I’m reading now: The Pledge byKimberly Derting

Number of pages I’ve read so far: 386/386 of Vixen by Jillian Larkin
Total number of books I’ve read: 1

How have you been doing? What have you been reading?

A Writer in the Spotlight – Rebecca Maizel

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 wonderful Rebecca Maizel, one of my favorite YA authors.

Author : Rebecca Maizel

Genre : Young Adult, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Location:  Rhode Island, USA

Website : http://rebeccamaizel.com/

Blog: http://rebeccamaizel.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/rebeccajoym and http://twitter.com/VampQueenNovels

Books : The Vampire Queen series: Infinite Days (2010) and Stolen Nights (released July 2012)

Bio: Rebecca Maizel graduated from Boston University and the Rhode Island College master’s program. She teaches community college in Rhode Island and is studying to receive her MFA from Vermont College.

My interview (29/04/2012):

On Writing:

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve been writing since I was a little girl. When I was a kid most people were playing with Barbies, I was using my sister’s video camera to make movies starring my Barbies. I guess I was thinking in a narrative format even when I was really little! Also, I loved dance. I was in recitals and danced competitively until I was an older teenager. There was a connection for me between a choreographed dance and a choreographed scene. I haven’t gotten to the bottom of this yet  – but I will!

When and where do you write?

It really depends on the day. I write in my office at home, mostly. But these days if I’ve seen too much of my office, I’ll work at a coffee shop. In Rhode Island, I love a place called Java Madness which is fun because it’s right on top of the water. Mornings are best for me creatively but revisions I can do at night.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

I try to listen to music, which is similar in tone to what I am writing. I go for long walks, I put the project down for a few days. Sometimes what helps is writing a letter from one character to another character within the story, writing from their point of view. For instance, in Infinite Days, I might write a letter to Lenah from Justin or vice versa. I usually do this with a character or situation I am having trouble pushing through.

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

You have to love the craft. Don’t write just to be published. Write because your characters deserve your time and effort. Write because this story is coming to you from the depths of your gut. Publishing will come in its due time. Hone your craft, perfect your sentences. Make it sing.

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

Well, I think it really depends on your story. I always find it best to outline. There’s that dreaded ACT II of your book that somehow always needs the most work. I find it helpful to outline as best as I can. I usually veer off from it but if the major act points are there, I know the direction of my scenes. You can still “go with the flow” even if you have a direction.

Do you set goals for yourself as you write?

Outside of my editors’ deadlines? No. I write as scenes come to me. I get my best work done when I’m driving listening to music. Then I rush home, and get them down on paper. Sometimes this takes hours and I have a rush of scenes. I make sure that I write a 4-5 hours every day and make some progress. Sometimes progress means reading because I need inspiration.

On “The Vampire Queen” novels:

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

I started to free write one day. I literally sat down, started writing and Lenah’s voice came through, I let her tell the story and 8 months later, I had a draft of Infinite Days. I wish this story were more exciting. I should say something like, I fell down, cracked my head and when I was in the hospital, I had A VISION! A near death experience! But no, I was in a dark library free writing.

After I had written the novel, I started to read everything in the genre so I could see what else was being published. Someone recommended the Twilight series to me and I thought (after reading it) “wow, this is huge. I wonder if there is room in this genre for me?”

Lenah Beaudonte: How did you come up with this (awesome) character?

I connected to her voice. It was so strong; and sinister and tragic. I wanted to tap into that sorrow and darkness. I wanted to bring this person, whoever she was back out to light. It turned out that she was a vampire and thematically, it worked. Every person out there has done something they aren’t proud of. And whatever that thing is, they have to live with it – forever. That’s Lenah but times about a million! I just started writing one day and there she was with a motive, a purpose, and some really scary enemies.

What type of music do you listen to when you write this series?

I listen to music when I write but it has to be music without lyrics. Most of the time its operatic or choral music like a soundtrack from a movie or ambient. I know a lot of writers use music to illuminate the mood or atmosphere of a scene, I know I do. Listening to music as I write helps me imagine a scene more clearly in my head. It’s strange to think of fiction in “scenes,” like you would a movie but I think it’s easier that way.

Some tracks:

1. None Can Die – Tristan and Isolde Soundtrack

2. Little Women Soundtrack

3. Tall Ships – Bill Leslie

What are you working on now? Is it a “Vampire Queen” novel?

I have started Book 3. I am working on other books as well but they are very top secret.

When is “Stolen Night” finally coming out?

July 5th in the UK! Soon thereafter in the US.

Reading advice:

Which authors inspire you now?

AM Jenkins, Franny Billingsley, Coe Booth, An Na, and many many others. I’m inspired by beautiful language and hot fictional boyfriends. 🙂

Which YA books would recommend?

Last great books I read:
Gina Damico – Croak
AM Jenkins – Beating Heart
Laini Taylor – Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Coe Booth – Bronxwood

Liked this interview? Check out my interview with Rachel Caine (author of the Morganville Vampires series) here and my interview with Beth Fantaskey (author of Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side) here.

Fantastical Intentions – Beginnings

Fantastical Intentions is a feature featuring Hannah and Naithin of Once Upon A Time and Jacob of Drying Ink. They decide on a fantasy related topic and everyone is welcome to join in. If you would like to participate, write a blog post of your own and leave your link in the comments.

This week’s topic is: Beginnings!

My pick is the beginning of The Passage by Justin Cronin.

“Before she became the Girl from Nowhere-the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years-she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy. Amy Harper Bellafonte.”

The Passage is a very long book (almost a 1000 pages) and it’s the first installment in a trilogy. To be honest, it’s not the easiest read in the world despite a great theme and an interesting plot: the story takes a (very) long time to unfold and I thought some editing would have been needed for some parts of the book. That being said, The Passage has one of the best beginnings I’ve read in my life. The first 250 pages are just amazingly gripping and incredibly well written. Entitled “The Worst Dream in the World”, this part 1 of the novel describes how the world comes to an end in less than half an hour.

“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.”

This beginning is a race against time and a great introduction of the main characters.

It is an outstanding example of what a beginning should be in a novel.

What beginning did you choose?

A writer in the spotlight: Rachel Caine

Today I’m starting a new blog topic: writers’ interviews. I figured published (and bestselling) authors were the best source of advice for us, would-be-published writers. And the wonderful Rachel Caine has agreed to be the first author to be interviewed!

Author : Rachel Caine
Genre : Urban fantasy, paranormal, young adult literature, short fiction
Location:  Texas, USA
Website : www.rachelcaine.com

Books :
The Weather Warden series (9 books, 2003-2010)
The Red Letter Days series (2 books, 2005-2006)
The Morganville Vampires series (15 books, 2006-2013)
The Athena Force series (1 book, 2007)
The Outcast Season series (4 books, 2009-2012)
The Revivalist series (1 book, 2011)

Bio:

Rachel Caine is a New York Times, USA Today and internationally bestselling author of more than 30 novels. She had received numerous literary awards and attended over a hundred conventions and conferences in the past twenty years. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas Tech University and she has worked in many jobs, before becoming a full time writer in 2010.

My interview with Rachel (24/03/2012)

On writing:
1.    Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Oh NO! I was going to be (in order) an astrobiologist (age 9), a detective (age 12), and a professional musician (ages 14-30). I was a *hobby* writer. But I wrote consistently from age 14 onward.
2.    When and where do you write?
I do my best work in the mornings, the earlier the better, so I try hard to get up at 5 am or so, and work about 8 hours, then knock off for lunch. I usually run errands in the afternoons and work on business items at night.
3.    Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Sure, I think everyone does — but it’s really more of a “day off.” It’s easy to let that day off turn into two, then a week, then a month, and that’s when you’re in trouble. So I never let myself take more than one day off, unless I’m sick. If I get stuck on a story, I try reading it from the beginning, which often does the trick, or if it doesn’t, I jump forward to the next thing I want to write in the timeline.
4.    What do you say to people who want to be writers? How difficult is it to get published?
That’s a complicated question now — much more so than when I started. The easy answer is “not difficult at all” because things like Kindle Direct make it possible to write something and put it out for sale digitally immediately. The HARD part of that is that when you do that, you’re likely doing it way too soon. Becoming a writer is a craft and a skill … something you acquire slowly over time, usually. Your first efforts probably won’t be that great (mine certainly weren’t). In fact, your 10th effort may not be great, either. People grow at different rates in their craft — and the way you find out you’re not ready, in traditional publishing, is that you compete with others for the limited opportunities available. The better you get, the more chance you have to grab that chance. It’s a process that creates not *more* writers, but *better* writers, which is why I still like it.
But more than likely, things will change even more over the next few years … so the answer is: yes, it’s probably pretty easy now. But easy isn’t always a good thing. And it’s still hard to get in with the big professional publishers, and always will be.
5.    Is it better to outline and plot your novel or “go with the flow”?
That depends. Some people work better to go “seat of the pants” … and some won’t start a road trip without a map. I’m a bit of both … I like a road map, but I’m not averse to taking interesting side roads too. I usually have a loose outline.
6.    Do you set goals for yourself as you write?
The deadlines really set them for me — I have a book due every three months, at 100,000 words, so that means I have to write a thousand words a day. The more days off I take, the higher that number gets!

On “The Morganville Vampires” series:
7.    To write this specific series, where did you get your inspiration from?
In the beginning, it was the idea of the town itself … all the layers of secrets (Vampires! Sick vampires! Sick vampires who are the last of their kind! With a secret enemy! … and on and on.) That really excited me.
8.    How did you come up with those characters? Are they based on real people?
I don’t base my characters on real people as a rule, but some of the vampires are historical people. I started with Claire and figured out what she was like, and then filled in characters around her. (And continue to do that!)
9.    What type of music do you listen to when you write this series?
I listen to many different kinds of music, and I find I need NEW music every book … so the first thing I do when I start is pick a few songs to start out with, and look for more music as I go. I tend to like alternative music, with a good sprinkling of pop, rock, some classics, even soundtrack music.
10. What are you working on now? Is it a Morganville Vampires book?
It is! I’m working on Book 13, BITTER BLOOD. And it’s due next week!

Reading advice:
11. Which authors inspire you now?
Every author I read inspires me in some way. We’ve all got strengths and weaknesses as writers … I look for what the other writer does especially well, because it’s usually something I *don’t* do as well. Most of the writers I’ve met are inspiring people as well … beautiful and gracious people!

Oh, okay, if you want me to be *specific,* … Charlaine Harris. Richelle Mead. Melissa Marr. Kelley Armstrong. Jim Butcher. George R.R. Martin.

12. Which YA books would recommend?
There are SO many good ones! I will always recommend Jackie Kessler’s Four Horsemen series … it’s brilliant. Tough and uncompromising, but brilliant. Heather Brewer’s books. Suzanne Collins. Beth Revis. The fabulous Cassandra Claire. Ann Aguirre. And ALWAYS Holly Black. But that only scratches the surface … there are so many amazing writers in YA, and more coming daily — just dig in! It’s a literary feast!

Rachel Caine will be in England from May 4th to May 24th 2012. Check her website for more details.