In a society where everyone’s DNA determines their destiny, being a Natural means automatic relegation to the gritty and dangerous Outskirts. With the harnessed power of gene-editing, the ability to create a super-human race has transformed the world and offered the opportunity of a genetically enhanced life. But only to those who can afford it.
SP: Hi CJ! So glad to chat with you today! When did you start writing and what are your favorite genres?
CJ: Thank you so much for having me! I started on my writing journey about eight years ago. I wanted a story I could hand to the teen and young adult girls I was talking to, who needed a reprieve from the pain they were facing in their lives, but also a way to learn deeper truths.
Please join me in welcoming S.F. Rhoads to The Spinning Pen! Sandra was born in Queens and raised in Texas where she earned an MA in her seventeenth-century crush, John Milton. This talented author also has experience in acting, directing, and script writing!
SP:Hi Sandra! How did you start writing YA fiction specifically, and what made you decide to pursue that professionally?(Also, I’m dying to know who your other literary crushes are!)
Sandra: I love talking about story, process, and creativity but what I love most is to encourage others to see their talents/art as valuable and important gifts to the world, so thanks for having me as a guest!
A little about me: I’ve always been a storyteller and writer, although it wasn’t necessarily on paper. Mainly I’d create fantasy worlds in my daydreams while I was on the playground or doing chores.
SP: Hi JJ! Thanks for joining us on the Spinning Pen. Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to hear a bit about you and your writing journey! When did it all start?
JJF: It’s wonderful to be here! Thanks so much for having me.
Oh, where to begin? So, I started writing my first novel at age fourteen. I was on a family holiday touring Australia, in a place called Jurien Bay in Western Australia, when I had a dream of the opening scene of a novel. It contained just about every story cliché you can imagine, and was ditched VERY quickly, but I kept on working on that novel for years…plus, “Jurien” later became the first name of my villain. I’m sneaky like that.
Writers may feel that they are stronger in one of two areas: either being plot-driven or character-driven in their craft. While I love a strong plot-driven story, I think that having memorable characters makes a book stand out in the mind more.
Pop quiz- think of a book you love. Is it because of the amazing plot, or is it a character that’s unforgettable?
SP: Hi Caitlin! Welcome back to the Spinning Pen! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and your writing journey! Where did this all start for you? What has your writing journey been like? What other books have you written?
CS: I’ve been writing since I was in middle school, though back then it was more like advanced plagiarism, since I would just rewrite stories I really liked, only badly (Alanna the Lioness, anyone?). I never considered writing stories as a thing I could do in a professional capacity, since it seemed like writing in school was focused on really boring stuff I wasn’t interested in, and all the books I read were so, so perfect, it didn’t seem like actual humans could write them.
But then after I’d already graduated from college, my sister got a book deal and it suddenly clicked in my mind that people write books and that I could potentially be one of those people. I had just read The Hunger Games series and immediately began writing a YA dystopia, which I eventually got agented and sold to Simon and Schuster, which became my first published books, the Last Star Burning series. While I was writing those, I had a secret backburner middle grade project I’d work on between deadlines called A Baker’s Guide to Robber Pie because my first love in books has always been fantasy and I couldn’t not try to write fantasy even if I went dystopia first.
Are you a published (or soon to be published) author wondering what the magic is behind runaway book success?
Unfortunately, the more I learn about wild book success, the more I learn no one knows the exact formula. Just like viral videos, there’s always a bit of luck involved. Like seriously, how have so many cat videos been soooo popular when we all know dogs are better?? Tell me I’m not wrong…
HOWEVER, there are things within your power to give your books the best shot they can at becoming the next best seller.
It’s the question posed to every growing child. However, once you enter college, the question morphs into two questions: “What are you majoring in?” and “What do you want to do with that?”
I majored in English, and I can’t even begin to count the number of times I was told the degree was useless and a waste of time and money. But what I dreaded even more than hearing the word “useless” again, was the inevitable follow-up question.
“Oh, so you want to teach English?”
No, I would say in the kindest manner possible, I wanted to be a writer and editor.