Art of The Craft: from Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Art of The Craft is an interview series featuring published authors and their lets-shake-it-up books. Yo.
You know, sometimes you read that little, quirky book that in spite of it’s size shakes things up a bit? That happened to me with The Sky Always Hears Me And The Hills Don’t Mind. Unlike most up and coming YAs, nothing earth-shattering happened in the book and yet it had a little something to shake it up for me. 
And you know what? I loved it.
And I’m super-psyched I got the opportunity to probe into what writing the book was for Kirstin Cronn-Mills, who, as you can tell, is the superpsychnessinducing author.
Morgan is one of the spunkiest heroines I’ve read this year. When
did you first meet her?
I met her in 2002, but in some ways I’ve known her all along, because she’s got some of my traits.  Her word-nerd viewpoints? Those are all me, and I received the “you walking dictionary” note, just like Morgan
did (I still have it somewhere, because it was so hurtful at the time).  As I said before, the incident that created this book was sparked by my classmate’s confession, so I also had to put myself in my shoes/the real Tessa’s shoes to write some of those scenes. However, Morgan’s got a HECK of a lot more sass than I had as a
teenager.  I love that about her! : )
Hell, yeah, Morgan’s super-sassy and super-awesome. The voice is pitched perfect, which is not always that easy. Did Morgan’s voice stay the same from your first draft till the finished draft..or did it change with the progression of the book?
Morgan’s voice actually softened a great deal.  When I first wrote her, she was spiteful, almost hateful.  I mellowed her out when someone I respect read the book and said “Wow, I don’t like her.” That was the first time anyone had said it, so I paid attention.  When I took another look at her, I thought, “wow, I don’t like her either!” So she got toned down–less mouthy, more compassionate, less hostile and closed.  Once SKY was published, I had another early-draft reader tell me, “You know, I didn’t like that original Morgan.  I like this
one much better.”  I was relieved to hear it.
Next to Morgan, I think the setting’s one of the best things about the book. Beyond the hills and the sky, Morgan clearly hates Central Nebraska, while Rob who’s been to places, returns to it..whose story do you share?
I am with Rob–I love the place.  LOVE.  IT.  I’ve lived in Minnesota for 18 years now (with some living in Iowa on the side), and I miss Central (and Eastern) Nowhere almost every day.  It’s much more open and spacious there–more space between towns and people, more open space with nothing in it.  Even though Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa are all Midwestern states, they’re all *very* different from each other, and I am a Nebraskan at heart.  Hands down.  I’d live there again if I could, and may when I retire.  My husband is a Minnesotan, our jobs are here, plus we’re raising a son in this wonderful state,
so it’s not in the cards.  But someday . . .
Ha, I love how Morgan keeps calling it Central Nowhere throughout the book. Also, SKY is written in minimalistic style. Whose personal style is it – Morgan’s or yours?
That style belongs to both of us.  When I’m casual (talking with you, for instance), I’m rather wordy, but my formal writing tends to be tight.  I think it comes (in part) from being a poet as well as a fiction writer.  Poets are concerned with the economy of language, and that idea seems to follow into my prose.  I also think it has to do with mood.  When Morgan’s more casual or weird, or even angry, she can be a little wordy.  When she really wants to get her point across, she gets very minimal.  Same with me.
The fact that you’re a poet writing prose makes your style original. On the other hand, Morgan seems to write fortunes all the time, all over the place. I thought it was very unique. Where did the idea come from?
That one came straight from the ether, which is to say–I have no idea!  I consider that particular character trait a gift from the Universe, because I didn’t plan it.  All of a sudden, she was just doing it, and it was perfect.  I looked back at it and thought, “where the heck did that come from?”  But you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth (a very American Midwestern expression), and it worked, so I kept it.  I think it fits her–in an alcoholic family, you keep a lot of secrets, and keep a lot of anger inside, so the “sideways” communication of leaving fortunes around allowed her to communicate some of her feelings.
You mentioned in your guest post that a particular high school mate’s confession sparked off SKY. How much of your personal experiences do you take back to your fiction?
I think every writer takes parts of his/her life into their work. Because SKY is set in my home town, I had to be careful that it wasn’t *my* story, but it wasn’t because I had never had an encounter with the real Tessa (though, as it turns out, she wishes we would have). But there are definite things in the novel that came from my life. Elsie is much like my real-life grandmother, who decided against becoming a concert pianist so she could raise a family.  My grandmother was also *my* grandmother–we are/were birthday twins, and I thought she belonged only to me.  : )  She always claimed my first words were “read a book!” (said to her, of course), so somewhere in the Universe, I think she’s cheering me on.  Maybe she’s the one who
sent me Morgan’s fortune-writing idea!
‘Read a book’ – how cool is that! Is this the first novel you’ve written? What’s coming next?
It’s rather surprising, because SKY truly is my first novel–it doesn’t always happen that a first book gets sold.  I have another book on submission–an Elvis-loving guy who wants to be a radio DJ–and I just finished a draft of a book that’s packed with ghosts. The next one after that is four boys, a laundromat, graffiti, and general random destruction.  There are two other ideas floating around out there, but they’re more nebulous.  I’ve always got ideas!
You’re keeping me on edge here. Those books sound oh-my-god-i-want-Elvis-guy-and-graffiti-destruction-and-ghosts, yeah. On that note, what are some of your favourite YA novels?
That’s a hard question–like really hard.  I loved BEFORE I DIE by Jenny Downham (an import from England), I loved STRUTS AND FRETS by Jon Skovron, I loved BEAUTIFUL, by Amy Reed, all for different reasons.  At the moment, I’m listening to WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, by John Green and David Levithan–and an audio book is an *amazingly* different experience than reading a book.  Since WILL GRAYSON is a dual-narrator novels, there are 2 readers, and each reader adds an incredible depth to the story.  And that one is hilarious, so I look a little crazy when I’m out walking and laughing to myself.  I recommend audio books to *everyone*–they create such a different experience of the book.
(I think you might also be my book-twin). How has being a published author changed you as a writer?
Hmm . . . great question.  I’ve written lots of academic stuff in my life, and that was perfect prep for writing a novel, because I already knew how to write on deadline, edit, and follow editor directions.  I suppose, more than anything, I enjoy writing more now.  It was great fun in the beginning, but it’s even better now, because I know folks are enjoying it (I am very honored by the compliments I’ve been paid about SKY).  I am happy happy happy that there may be more published books after SKY.  I am happy someone pays me to do a task I adore.  I would do it for free (sssh!  don’t tell anyone!).
Rob’s cute ass. Which actor/model do you think can carry that off?
Yeesh . . . hmm . . . the first person who comes to mind is Taylor Lautner, but just because he has a great bod.  Alex Pettyfar is all right–maybe too bad boy–and Tom Welling and Chris Pine are too old, but they have the right vibe.  This is a tough question!!  I think I’d pick Tom Welling, even though he’s 33.  He’s got the right look and the right “homegrown” feel about him.    Who do *you* like?  You tell me!  Or did you have someone else in mind?
(OMG, I don’t know. I think I’d have to look at their asses particularly to men make it hard).
Great talking to you, Kirstin (and getting to know your story secrets). Thanks for being here 🙂
Find Kirstin here or here.
And in case you missed her book, take a good look here:
(Doncha just love the way it looks?)

A Very Big Pleasant Surprise

If you have been around and about DL for long, you’ll know how much I love Angela Morrison and her books.
You will know that her debut novel, Taken By Storm, made me start this blog. Because I loved it so much, I wanted to tell the world about it.
You will know how January 2010 was celebrated as ‘Angela Morrison Month‘ with regard to the release of her second book, Sing Me To Sleep.
You will know that she featured on my Author Who Kick-Ass post as part of Author Appreciation Week..
You will know that I think she’s awesome.

Taken By Storm is one of my favourite books, ever. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard she had two follow-up books planned, Unbroken Connection and Cayman Summer. I couldn’t wait to get more of Leesie and Michael’s story.

And then, the BOMB! Her editor, the best advocate for Unbroken Connection left Razorbill and UC got a nice rejection letter.


I was seething then and I’m still seething now cos HOW COULD THEY REJECT A BOOK LIKE UNBROKEN CONNECTION? ARE THEY EFFING MAD?

Angela couldn’t believe it.
And of course, I couldn’t believe it either. What was gonna happen to Leesie and Michael now?

Well, something did happen. Something awesome. Angela got back on the horse. Top Shelf Books, an ebook publisher decided to publish the Unbroken Connection ebook, so Unbroken Connection is out on Kindle now. And the paperback edition’s just out too 🙂

What can I say, it’s Penguin’s loss. Because I’m reading the book and it’s —*breathless*

And the Very Big Pleasant Surprise?
I’m on one of my favourite writers’ acknowledgment list. Can you effing believe it?
Here’s an extract from the acknowledgment:

And all my devoted readers and loyal bloggers—especially Bidisha* at Dreamcatcher’s Lair who launched “Support for Unbroken Connection” on FaceBook and Michelle at Windowpane Memoirs who created the “Don’t Break the Connection” icon to share around the blogosphere—for rallying around me and buoying me up when Michael and Leesie’s continuing story lay stranded on the rocky shores of rejection. You helped me see that “no” isn’t the end of the journey. It’s just an opportunity to ford a new stream and explore fresh landscapes. You believed in me and my story and that gave me the courage to stand up for myself as an artist and follow the inspiration God blessed me with. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
(you can read the entire acknowledgment list here)
How much more awesome can she get?
Here’s Angela with the UC proof copies:

(Which I stole from here)
She’s such an inspiration for sticking around, not giving up even when there were punching bags flying at random. Screw rejection. This is sky-rocketing human spirit awesomeness.

Angela Morrison, you rock my socks off.

Find her on Facebook or stop by her homepage. You won’t be disappointed.

*And that, blogger folks, is my un-shortened name.

‘The Accidental Novelist’: A Guest Post by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

I didn’t set out to write young adult novels.  I was raised around literature of all kinds, but it was poetry that called my heart.  My grandmother and father both recited poetry to me when I was young, so “writer” meant “poet” to me until I was finished with my master’s degree (my thesis was a manuscript of poetry).  After my master’s degree, I went to graduate school again and wrote academic things, then I had a baby, then I got a full-time job, and then there was no time for writing!

Then, about 15 years after my high school graduation, a classmate called me and told me a secret.  She and I had a very difficult relationship when we were young, and I hadn’t spoken to her since we graduated.  In the course of the conversation, she told me why she’d been so mean to me from eighth grade on:  she had a crush on me.

My brain said two things to me after that confession:  “wow, that explains a lot!”, and “wow, that would make a good novel.”  So a novelist was born.

I wrote 10 pages of SKY in 2002 and took them to a workshop on writing children’s literature.  People liked them–I was rather surprised.  Then they sat on my shelf for a year, in part because I thought, “I’m a poet!  I don’t write young adult novels!” In 2003, I began again, and had the novel drafted by the end of 2004.  At that point, I realized I really *was* a novelist.  Not a very good one, maybe, but a novelist all the same.  In May of 2005, I found an agent, and he took SKY out (at the time, the title was TANGIBLE PEOPLE), but it was soundly rejected.  Back to the drawing board, and in the course of revision, the title was changed to CONTENTS MAY EXPLODE UNDER PRESSURE.  I also started a new novel in early 2005, so I worked on both at the same time, though I mostly focused on the new novel.  In early 2007, I parted ways with my agent.  Then, in the summer of 2007, I submitted the new novel to Andrew Karre at Flux (they take unagented submissions), and waited to hear back from him.  When he contacted me, he told me he didn’t think my second novel was quite right for them, and he asked if I had more.  I sent him CONTENTS, and we shaped it together.  It was purchased by Flux in May 2008 and published in September 2009.  A long journey!

As you know, the novel is called THE SKY ALWAYS HEARS ME AND THE HILLS DON’T MIND, which is not the title it went to Flux with.  As I was revising for Andrew, I wrote that line in the text (on the first page, actually), as Morgan’s first justification of why she shouts her problems out on her hill.  As I wrote it, I thought, “Oh, they’ll make me throw that line out.  It’s too cheesy, too silly.”  When Brian Farrey (the current Flux editor) told me it was the title of the book, I was floored!  Then I moved it away from the first page, so the title wouldn’t be “given away” too soon (I like it when titles are mysteries, so to speak, until the middle/end of the book).  What also surprised me about the title was how long it is–originally we’d been thinking about two-word and one-word titles.  It was a big jump to ten words!

In part, I wrote the book for the real-life Tessa, to let her know that it was OK to have told me her secret, and it would have been OK for her to tell me way back in high school.  It would have been surprising and strange, especially since we thought there weren’t any lesbians or gay men in Central Nowhere (they were there all the time!), but still OK.  The book is not “I kissed a girl and I liked it, and I did it just so boys would watch me.”  The book is “I kissed a girl and I liked it for real, and now I don’t know what to do with those feelings.”  Had it really happened in high school, the real-life Tessa and I would have worked it out together.

There you go–how SKY came to be, and how the book got its title.  Thanks for allowing me to guest post.

This post has been written by Kirstin Cronn-Mills, author of the YA novel, The Sky Always Hears Me And The Hills Don’t Mind, which is a finalist for the 2010 Minnesota Book awards in the Young People’s Literature Category.
For more information, visit her on her blog and website.
Thank you for being here Kirstin!*
*Actually I’m elated to have her here. SQUEE! More about that later..


Hello book (blog) lover!

Lauren Mechling, author of the Dream Girl books, here. I have hijacked Bee’s blog in order to convey some Very Important Information.

You might not know it by looks alone (no pink hair, no metal bar through my septum), but I’ve become a total hacker worthy of her own “Dragon Tattoo” installment. And I’m not just talking about how I’ve cracked the code and broken onto Dreamcatcher’s Lair. My new book MY DARKLYNG, which I co-wrote with Laura Moser (my hilarious co-author on the “10th Grade Social Climber” books), is a YA thriller chockablock with multimedia awesomeness that will be appearing in serialized form on the awesome website The first installment runs today, and there will be more excitement every Friday for the rest of the summer. Also: it’s free!


Slate is calling MY DARKLYNG its “juicy summer read for vampire lovers (and haters!).” It’s about a normal 10th grade girl named Natalie Pollock whose own fiction addiction gets her into major trouble. She’s been reading Fiona St. Claire’s yummy “Dark Shadows” book series since middle school and when she sees a post on Fiona’s blog about an open casting call for the model for the next book’s cover, well, she can’t resist. What she had thought was just a random field trip turns into a dark and terrible new-best-friendship, scarier and more thrilling than any of Fiona St. Claire’s vampire novels.

 MY DARKLYNG is different from anything you’ve ever read before–it’s a first-of-its-kind story told in simultaneous platforms. Huh? you ask. Okay, so here’s the deal: While you are perfectly free to follow the MY DARKLYNG chapters on Slate and leave it at that, we have been milking the magic world of the Internet for all its worth. Why limit a story to mere words? What about pictures and videos and weird Tweets and scary Facebook wall posts that bring texture to the story and bring the characters to life? With that in mind, we found real (and really awesome) teenagers to play our characters. Here’s a picture:

Pretty, right? Expect to get to know these faces really well over the course of this book.

Without further ado, this is the Slate page that will host the chapters. 
Here is Natalie’s Facebook page–well worth “liking” so you can follow when weird things start happening on it.

Natalie’s Twitter page is here.
Fiona’s (the vampire writer) Twitter page is here.
Natalie’s best friend Jenna tweets here.
James (the vampire model) tweets here.
And Fiona’s loving sister Tilly uses this Twitter page.

Natalie and Jenna post Youtube videos here. Here’s a sample video that shows them getting ready for the audition that will change their lives.

Now YOU can help make our great experiment in Internet fiction even more amazing. There is an upcoming scene that has a missing detail. We need to come up with something that Natalie and her best friend Jenna got in trouble for doing at a slumber party. Please write in your suggestions in the comments section. The winner will be chosen in a week and featured in MY DARKLYNG–if your answer is selected, it’ll be like the story is actually winking at you from the screen.

I know this is all a bit much to wrap your head around. Sorry for any confusion–just read the first installment and take it from there. Please please post comments or send us emails telling us how you’re finding the series. We can be reached by my website.

And if you find yourself feeling afraid, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

your humble hacker,
Lauren Mechling


If you’ve been going around blogosphere (which damn right you are, I bet!) you’ll know that The Tension of Opposites is all the shiz.
It’s YA.
It’s Edgy.
And it’s a debut novel.
And in case you’re in the dark about it, here’s how it goes:
Two years ago Noelle disappeared. Two long years of no leads, no word, no body. Since the abduction, Tessa, her best friend, has lived in a state of suspended animation. She has some friends, but keeps them distant. Some interests, but she won’t allow herself to become passionate about them. And guys? She can’t get close—she knows what it is like to really lose someone she cared for.
And then, one day, the telephone rings. Noelle is alive. And maybe, just maybe, Tess can start to live again, too.
A haunting psychological thriller taken straight from the headlines, The Tension of Opposites is a striking debut that explores the emotional aftermath a kidnapping can have on the victim, and on the people she left behind.
And who joins the list of Must-Watch-Out debut YA novelists?
Yep, that’s Kristina McBride all right.
And she’s a former high-school English teacher and yearbook advisor, who wrote The Tension of Opposites in response to the safe return of a child who was kidnapped while riding his bike to a friend’s house. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two young children. This is her first novel. 
And since I LOVE interviewing authors (especially debut authors), I snapped her up too (sheesh, how does that sound?). Lol. Here’s the lets-get-a-bit-formal chatter we had:
A one line memoir for you would be . . .  
Shy book lover turned high school English teacher turned YA author. (YAY!)
What is the most amazing thing about writing YA?  
The characters! I love teen characters – the ups and downs of their friendships and relationships, the opportunity for personal growth, and the potential for tension in every their day lives.
You had a brush with kidnapping as a kid. Did it play into writing The Tension of Opposites? 
I think my almost kidnapping during a burglary-gone-wrong when I was a young child colored my view of life in general. Hearing that specific story my entire life definitely helped pique my interest when I first heard about Shawn Hornbeck, a young man who was kidnapped at age 11 and returned to his family at age 15. His story kick started the formation of the plot for The Tension of Opposites.
What has been the toughest challenge about writing TENSION?  
Revision. I wrote the first draft in four or five months. After landing my agent, I spent eleven months revising with her direction. Six months in, I deleted all but five chapters and started over. It was painful, but worth every moment of the challenge to get the story right.
The cover is so fierce and attractive. Did your input go into it?  
Thank you! I feel so fortunate to be working with the very talented people at Egmont USA. I had no idea what they would do as far as the cover, and vividly remember the moment I opened the file and saw the artwork for the first time. It was a surreal moment, a beautifully surreal moment. I loved it! Egmont made most of the minor changes on their own, but they were very open to suggestions. One of the most major things that changed was the tint on the girl’s face. Initially, she was colored with a greenish sepia tint, giving her a darker, more ominous quality. My agent and I wanted to see a lighter, more rosy tone, and when the change was made, it stuck.
You own a pretty cool blog. How important is it for a writer to have a strong web presence? 
How fun that you’ve stopped by! I think a strong web presence is essential for a debut author. Most authors have a website and a presence on Goodreads, MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter. I believe this is the best way to reach bloggers (who have been overwhelmingly supportive in my case!) as well as potential readers. It’s also been wonderful to join some cool author groups, like the Class of 2K10 and The Tenners who are there when I need support or to have questions answered.
Rapid fire —
    Write what you know VS Write what you want to know?  Write what you know.
    Outline or Wing It?  Wing it – then outline it – then wing it some more.
    Fictional character you’d love to be?  Margo Roth Spiegelman from John Green’s Paper Towns – not sure    if I’d rather be her or be her best friend . . .
    Fictional character you’d love to date?  Wes from Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever. LOVE him!
    Biggest writing dream?  To win a cool award or hit a bestseller list would be awesome, but really, I just want people to like and connect with my book.
Quick tip on how to get published. (Spill us a secret or two :P)  
Don’t give up. Ever. Keep writing. Research your genre and how to land an agent. Query tirelessly. And don’t allow rejection to get you down. (At least not for too long.) Chocolate is essential for those tough moments.
And the easiest (or toughest) –why did you choose to be a writer? 
It wasn’t so much a choice as an insatiable need to put words on paper. Even if no one would ever read them. It’s just part of who I am.
(Best answer ever.Don’t we all just know the ‘insatiable need’?)
Tenner of the Month? Oh yeah, she’s it. The Tension of Opposites released on the 25th of May and is available HERE and wherever books are available (this I’m guessing, since it’s not exactly possible for me to go around confirming with every darn bookstore, library yada yada).
Also, the just darn fantastic. Feast your eyes.
PS. I realised just a little too late how small this blog is. Sigh.

A tête-à-tête with Wendy Toliver

Guess who’s visiting Dreamcatcher’s Lair? The absolutely gorgeous  WENDY TOLIVER!
Wendy is the author of two YA novels –The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren and Miss Match. Her third novel LIFTED will be coming out in June 2010 (Simon Pulse).
Describe Lifted for us..
Poppy Browne is none too thrilled to be the new girl in Pleasant Acres, Texas–especially after her mother enrolls her in a private Baptist school. But to her delight, Poppy is pulled into the cool clique on her first day at Calvary High, and her new friends, Mary Jane and Whitney, are as genuinely nice as they are gorgeous and rich.
The catch? Her new pals have a nasty shoplifting habit, and before long Poppy is also a theft enthusiast. But when the girls’ addictions get out of hand and friendships are threatened, it’s up to Poppy to set things right ….
Lifted has received early praises from some fantastic writers**
Tell us something about yourself we won’t find on your homepage.
I coach basketball and soccer. I like vampire stories and Vietnamese food. I have a glass collection: wine glasses, martini glasses, champagne flutes, and cordial glasses of all shapes and colors.
How did Poppy come into existence?
With every good character, I needed someone with flaws and personality, and for this particular story, I needed someone who was smart yet vulnerable. I felt the “existence” of Poppy long before I started writing her story. She isn’t based on anyone in my life, but I feel as if I know her.
Most authors I know select the name of their protagonist for a reason. I chose Poppy because the wildflower variety grows on the sides of East Texas roads, they’re brightly colored, but also because of what poppies symbolize. Because of the opium aspect, poppies symbolize sleep, and if you are familiar with The Wizard of Oz, the poppy field is dangerous because those who cross it fall asleep. Also, according to Greek mythology, poppies (perhaps because of their bright red color) symbolize resurrection after death. I liked not only the beauty of poppies but their interesting meanings, from danger to hope.
Lifted sounds different from your previous books. Was it a conscious divergence?
Yes. I really wanted to challenge myself. I felt like I had a very powerful story within me and wanted to try my hand at writing it. It wasn’t easy, and you wouldn’t believe how many drafts I wrote to get it to the final stage. But it was worth it for me, and although it is a very different type of book from my first two, which are romantic comedies, I hope my readers come along for the ride.
A song for Lifted would be..
“Got Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addiction. haha, just kidding. How about “What I Am” by Edie Brickell
Why choose YA?
I love teens — so full of possibilites, excitement, love of life — and because I was a teenager (many moons ago) I like to go back to that time and explore emotions. When I reach for a book to read, I almost always reach for a YA novel.
What inspires you to keep writing?
a) my love of writing b) hearing from my readers c) my family and friends
From first draft to being published -what was it like?
Lifted was two years in the making. I started writing with 3 charaters (2 girls and a boy) who got caught shoplifting and started that story from the community service they’d been sentenced. After many drafts, evolving the story as well as myself as a writer, taking many chances that never paid off (and having to rewrite) and some that (thankfully) did, I can honestly say there were times I feared this book–which was sold on proposal– wouldn’t live up to its potential. But thankfully I had a publisher and a literary agent who are behind me, and a mom who was sweet enough to fly to Utah to take care of my family while I was sequestered in my office for 20 hours straight, and I can honestly say this is the book of my heart (and blood, sweat and tears), and I am so proud of it.
If you could choose to be any character from any of your books, who would it be and , why?
I woudn’t switch my life for any other life (though I wouldn’t mind getting to stay 30 for a while), but I think it would be fun to be Roxy Zimmerman from The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren. Hopefully I woudn’t make as many mistakes with my newfound power as she does, though! 🙂
Alright, now spill a secret.
I am directionally challenged. If you tell me how to get to your house, there’s a good chance I can’t get there again by myself.
Thank you so much for being here, Wendy! Lifted sounds very interesting.
**“Smart, deftly written, and extremely well-observed, Wendy Toliver’s Lifted is so realistic and moving I felt like I was transported right inside Poppy’s world, watching as she struggled to navigate her way through a school where appearances are deceiving and no one is quite what they seem. A hard to put down, compelling read!” — Alyson Noël, #1 New York Times Best Selling author of The Immortals series
“Lifted is the story of an imperfect heroine seeking her place not only in school, but in life. Its exploration of the amount of truth behind social and religious stereotypes escalates into a double-dog dare to believe them. A haunting morality tale that will leave you questioning just what it means to be “good.” — Aprilynne Pike, author of the #1 New York Times Best-Selling novel Wings.
“Lifted by Wendy Toliver is an amazing, compelling read, filled with all the realness of being in high school, from humor to love to angst. I haven’t met a character so well developed as Poppy since reading Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. At times heartbreaking, at others uplifting, Lifted is a book that I absolutely loved.” — James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner and the13th Reality series

Interview with Lauren Bjorkman + A Writerly Contest

I have a super-fun guest with me today – LAUREN BJORKMAN
Lauren and I met on Facebook -she liked my status messages and I liked her book- and she’s is so much fun to talk to! Get a glimpse of her awesomeness as she talks about her debut book, people watching, agents, fictional crushes and much more.
Your book is about..
My Invented Life is a comedy of errors with mistaken identities, ambiguous sexuality, skate Gods, stage geeks and true love. It’s about two sisters who adore and sabotage each other in ways that only sisters can. It’s also a romp through the theater geek crowd and a loose retelling of Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
What about you?
I grew up on a boat and sailed all over the world with my family. When I became an adult (more or less), I kept on traveling by less watery means. Because I’m afraid of the ocean. Doing things outdoors in cities and in nature makes me happy. I love people watching.
What sparked the idea for My Invented Life
It took me some time to figure out what to write. First, I tried travel stories with a humorous twist. Think Pico Iyer or Tim Cahill. Later, I wrote a novel set in a middle school based on my personal experiences of re-entering American life after living overseas. Which gave me a taste for writing fiction. I found out that semi-autobiography, though, hampers my creativity.
Events around my high school reunion inspired me include LGBT characters in my novel. The drama of coming out to one’s classmates, even years later, intrigued me. I had to write about it!
After I finished My Invented Life, I suddenly had an insight into why the subject called to me. During my childhood and teen-aged years, my dad had asked me to keep a family secret, a secret about how my mom died. Which made me feel like an outcast—someone who is socially unacceptable. I could identify with teens that kept their sexual orientation a secret.
Also, during the writing process, I told many of my friends and acquaintances about my project. In return, many shared their secrets with me. Some were actually bi, or had a lesbian phase in college, or had a crush on another woman once or twice. This made me want to write about the in-between sexual orientations, and greatly influenced the direction my story took.
How much of yourself do you see in your characters?
I based Roz very loosely on a young woman I noticed while people watching. She gave me the idea for an energetic, slightly clueless, center-of-attention-craving character. While I’m kind of quiet and careful with other people’s feelings. Except for being the annoying little sister! Of course, I share some things with all my characters—a sense of humor, and a way of looking at the world.
I think the cover’s pretty cool. Did your input go into it?
My editor asked me for ideas, so I showed her covers I liked, and we brain stormed concepts. In the end, an in-house designer at Holt came up with the cover, though. Luckily, I like it. One blogger commented that it looks like a photo of two friends in a booth at a fair. I agree.
How did you bag your agent?
First, I researched how to query an agent, and then sent five letters to start. One agent bit, and requested a full manuscript. After reading my novel, he passed, but gave me excellent editorial feedback. I wrote him back, and he agreed to look at it again if I revised. These revisions took me almost a year! When he turned me down a second time, it broke my heart. After I recovered, I started on another project. My instructor at a novel writing workshop liked the piece I’d submitted, and referred me to his agent. The rest is history.
Give us a glimpse into the glamorous life of a published author.
LOL! I won’t be buying a mansion or hiring a driver any time soon. Actually, though, there are some glamorous parts. Like getting fan mail. And the fact that my dad keeps telling me how proud he is. I don’t mind being on the radio and in the newspaper J. And when a fan sent me a My Invented Life book trailer he’d made, I had a heart attack (the good kind). What an amazing gift.
Outline or wing it?
Outlining ruins the experience for me and wrecks my imagination. I do character sketches and loose plotting in advance, so that I have an idea where the story is going. During the first draft stage, I jot down ideas that come to me—scenes or bits of dialog—on scraps of paper or at the end of the mss if I’m on the computer. I refer to these if I get stuck. I also use them while revising.
This method means writing scenes that get cut later, or extra characters that have to be telescoped into a single character. It also requires a ton of revision. I spend about a quarter of my time writing the first draft, and the rest revising.
Sagely advice for writers..
Write what you care about. If you choose your subject with only publication in mind, your heart won’t be in it.
Have fun with revision—add in interesting character traits, spice up your dialog, add atmosphere to your scenes, and sneak in extra jokes. Revision isn’t all about commas and grammar.
And if you truly love writing, never stop!
Okay, 5 random things about yourself in the next 5 seconds.
I prefer cheap and fun jewelry. I worry about losing expensive things.
I collect nesting dolls. My favorite is a Japanese Daruma
I love popcorn, but my husband doesn’t like how it makes the house smell.
I hate lumps in my food.
I prefer to go around barefoot.
What can we expect from you next?
My next YA novel, Miss Fortune Cookie, is set in SF Chinatown. It’s about an unstable friendship triangle, love-at-first sight, teen pregnancy, and an advice blog gone awry. It will come out in 2011.
Finally, if you could date any fictional character, who would it be and why?
My first literary crushes were on Finny in A Separate Peace and Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. Recently, I’ve fallen for Zack in Waiting to Score, Sammy in Struts and Frets, and Peeta in The Hunger Games. I go for the sensitive, usually talkative, and slightly geeky guys. Vampire boyfriends are out of the question! I enjoy life too much.
Oh man, you had me in splits. Thank you so much for being here, Lauren 🙂
Thanks for having me, Bidisha!
Now, for the Writerly Contest. Actually, anyone, anywhere can join in provided you can write (or, erm, well, lets pretend that you can). Lauren’s giving away a writing journal WITH a My Invented Life book jacket as its cover. How cool is that?
Like I said, anyone, anywhere is eligible to enter. All you have to do is tell me why you want the writing journal in the comments section below (and leave an email link alongside). Go on!
And more importantly, My Invented Life is in stores now!