Author Interview: Sarah Carlson

Pen Friends ~ You’re in for a treat today! We have debut Ya author, Sarah Carlson, here to talk about her upcoming book, All the Walls of BelfastFind out she got her agent and what keeps her going as she shares about her querying, publishing, marketing, traveling dreams, and writing process & journey. Learning from and listening to other authors can help us a lot. Enjoy!

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SP: Hi Sarah! Thanks for joining us. First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

SC: Hey, thanks for having me! I write contemporary YA that touches on issues that make you think. By day, I’m a school psychologist working at an elementary school; my focus is on supporting mental health and behavioral needs. I also work to support and directly intervene around children who have been exposed to trauma. I’ve loved writing since 4thgrade, when I got picked to represent my grade at a writing competition. In middle school, it was hundreds of pages of Stephen King fan fic scrawled on loose-leaf paper. Then high school saw me creating an epic universe for a sci-fi novel that grew to over 240,000 words and will never again see the light of day. Continue reading

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Author Interview: Helen Scheuerer

Pen Friends ~ As promised here comes another fantastic interview with Australian YA author and Writer’s Edit Guru, Helen Scheuerer! DO NOT MISS her tips for marketing, promotion, social media, editing and more–they’re useful to anyone in the industry that is traditionally or self-published. Check it out!

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SP: Welcome Helen! First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

HS: Sure! I’m a novelist, editor and publisher who lives by the beach in Sydney. I own and run the popular writers’ platform, Writer’s Edit and I’m the author of bestselling YA fantasy, Heart of Mist. I’ve been writing since I was about seven years old 🙂

SP: Reign of Mist, your upcoming release, is the second book in The Oremere Chronicles. Can you tell us a bit more about book one, Heart of Mist, and now its upcoming sequel?HEART-OF-MIST-CHOSEN-web Continue reading

Author Interview: Brittany Fichter

Pen Friends ~ Get ready for a long string of author interviews this month! We just love learning from other authors and hearing their stories from dreams to publication. We hope you do too!

Today’s interview is fantasy and fairytale-inspired author, Brittany Fichter! If you love fairytale spin-offs and heart throbbing arcs and characters, you have a list of books to choose from–See below for Brittany’s book pics!

Brittany Fichter

 

SP: Hi Brittany! Thanks for joining us. First, please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

 

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Author Interview: Taylor Bennett

Pen Friends ~ We are delighted to have Taylor Bennett, debut author of Porch Swing Girl, here with us today!

Taylor Bennett Author Photo

Spinning Pen: Hi Taylor! Thanks for joining us. First, will you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

Taylor: Thank you so much for having me. I’m absolutely thrilled to be here! For those who don’t know me, I’m a seventeen-year-old homeschool senior, and I’ve been telling stories literally since I knew how to read. I’ve always loved beautiful words, and stringing those words together to create a story has always been one of my favorite things.

I never knew I could actually succeed in it, though, until I got offered a three-book contract! I write contemporary Christian young adult novels that tackle tough subjects and show light can shine even in the darkest night. When I’m not writing, you can usually find me taking pictures for my Instagram, eating really good food, or walking in the beauty of the PNW.

SP: We love the idea behind your debut novel, Porch Swing Girl (which is out now!)! How did this idea develop? How long did it take for you to write it?

I first got the idea for Porch Swing Girl by literally waking up. One morning, I honestly woke up, and the title was just there…I couldn’t get it out of my head, and I started playing with the idea of a girl on a porch swing. I didn’t know who she was or what she was doing, but I knew something had to be wrong. And…it all started from that! It took me nine months of off-and-on writing to finish the first draft, and about the same amount of time to edit it, which was waaay too long!! Now that I’m under contract for books two and three, I’m learning to write much faster 😉

SP: Will you tell us the story of your journey to getting your first contract?

Of course!

So…when Porch Swing Girl was still in its earliest stages of development (AKA I think I had maybe fifteen chapters written???) I decided to test the waters. I was already registered for the Oregon Christian Writers’ summer conference, and, because of that, I was able to send advance submissions to three editors of my choice.

I ran down the list of publishers and found three I liked–including Mountain Brook Ink–that were willing to look at a contemporary YA novel, sent off the queries, and went on my way.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I received an email from Miralee, the force behind Mountain Brook Ink, requesting to see more of my manuscript before the conference. I did a little happy dance, sent off the required chapters, and started counting the days until we would meet at the conference.

Porch Swing Girl coverWhen we connected a few weeks later, Miralee expressed a lot of interest in my book, and she was interested in seeing more–not just the rest of the still-unfinished manuscript–but a full proposal for a trilogy. I worked for an entire year to polish and perfect Porch Swing Girl, as well as start work on a second book. By the time the Oregon Christian Writers’ conference rolled around the next year, I was ready. And so was Miralee.

She found me in the hallway and invited me and my mom to meet with her later that afternoon. We did, and that was when she informally offered me a three-book contract. A total dream come true!!

SP: What are some books that have inspired you along the way? 

Every book that I read inspires me in one way or another! I’m particularly drawn to intense, raw stories like those written by Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray is one of my all-time favorites) and Joanne Bischof (her book, This Quiet Sky, rips my heart out every time I read it). But I also draw inspiration from the whimsy of classic children’s stories. The original Winnie-the-Pooh tales spark a desire in me to tell timeless, heartwarming tales. The way Jeanne Birdsall (author of the Penderwicks series) showcases the small bits of magic in everyday life constantly encourages me to do the same.

SP: What kind of a writer are you? Do you start with a scene? A big picture? Are you plotter? Gut feelings?

I’m what I’d call a “mood writer”. What I mean by that is I usually get my ideas from a feeling. Maybe I want to write a story that feels dark and a little bit edgy, but that also has the glimmering magic of a city skyline. Perhaps I get the urge to pen a tale full of light and life and hope. Every idea of mine revolves around a certain kind of aesthetic. I have billions (approximately) of Pinterest boards with different aesthetics, and each one represents a story I’d like tell someday.

For me, plotting is the most difficult part of writing. It’s easy to create characters, settings, and emotions, but plots often elude me! I know how I want the book to feel, and I usually have a vague idea of the type of emotional roller coaster (upside-down, dead drop, loop-de-loop, etc.) I want to take my readers on, but it’s a struggle for me to find the best way to create those big twists and turns.

SP: You’re still in high school (wow!)–how do you balance being an author with everything else you have going on as a teen?

Honestly, I’m not very good at this. I’ve never been good at balancing things. When I do something, I usually put in about 200%, which means I have a hard time stepping back and focusing on everything else in my life! One way that I’m working to get better at this is by making a to-do list at the start of each day. I’m homeschooled, so my schedule is pretty flexible. 🙂

I list all of the things that need to be done by the end of the day, but I don’t put them in order, and I don’t give myself a time limit for each individual activity. If I get everything done, great! If I let a few things slide…I have to add them to the next day’s to-do list. BUT, like I said, I’m still learning how to balance all of this myself, so my advice is far from expert!

SP: If you could pick the brain of any author, who would you want to hang out with, and why?

Hmm…maybe Sara Ella. She’s such a sweet, kind, and TALENTED author, and I am amazed by the success she’s had in both her writing and marketing. Her Instagram account is on point, and I love the way she connects with her readers in a real and honest way. I’d also love to go back in time and chat with A.A. Milne. His stories are so simple and childlike, yet they explore huge themes and have such a depth to them that makes my writer’s heart swoon.

SP: What’s your advice for other young writers who dream of being published?

Don’t be afraid to reach out! For a long time, I was nervous to connect with other authors, because I practically thought they were celebrities. And, yes, some of them kind of are. BUT there are a ton of super friendly, down-to-earth writers who are MORE THAN HAPPY to chat with you. Send them an email, track them down at a writer’s conference–trust me. They’ll be thrilled to hear from you!

When I first approached a published author, I was sure they would send me off with nothing more than a pat on the head. Instead, they were extremely kind and inspiring. They chatted with me, gave me advice and encouragement, and even read a bit of my work! So, no matter where you are in your writing journey, don’t be afraid to connect with other, bigger-than-you authors. Building relationships with them can be so motivating, and a real blessing for both you and them 🙂

SP: Favorite drink while writing? Snack? Distractions? 

Considering that I actually hate coffee and anything carbonated, I mostly drink water, though I have a certain weakness for unique blends of tea and flavored lemonade. My favorite distraction is Instagram. Hands down. Bookstagrammers are so creative!! And my favorite snack would have to be chips and hummus. I’m obsessed XD

SP: Where can we learn more about you and your book?

You can visit me on my website, or find me on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and YouTube. I’d absolutely love to connect with you, so feel free to shoot me a message any time!

Thanks again, Taylor! 

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Dana, signing off.

Author Interview & Book Release: Lorie Langdon / Olivia Twist

Photo Lorie Langdon

Pen Friends, Welcome YA Author Lorie Langdon as she talks about her new book, Olivia Twist, an historical retelling of a loved classic! 

SP: Congrats on your latest release, Olivia Twist!

Thanks so much!

SP: Can you tell us how you got the idea?OliviaTwist_cover.jpg

Like all the best stories, this one began when I was a child. After my Grandma took me to see a rerelease of the movie musical Oliver!, I became obsessed with the story and would sit in my room and listen to the double album soundtrack for hours, making up new stories about the characters. In my favorite daydream, Oliver had been born a girl and was disguising her true gender as a safety measure. This way, I could imagine myself as the heroine of the story and the Artful Dodger as the hero. In my childhood fantasies, the two would have endless adventures and eventually fall in love and escape from poverty. I blame this train of thought on the actor Jack Wild, who played Dodger in the film and became my first celebrity crush!

As a teen, I devoured every bit of historical fiction I could get my hands on, including the classic Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist. I quickly realized two things: The Artful Dodger was not the hero I’d envisioned, and the film had missed a major character; Oliver’s half-brother, the villainous Monks. When I began writing my own books, the dynamic duo of Jack and Olivia would not leave me alone, and a mash-up of the original novel and the film began to solidify in my mind.

SP: How long did it take you write Olivia Twist?

I began the first draft of Olivia Twist in 2011. I continued to work on it in-between writing the DOON Series and finally finished it in 2013. Sadly, the young adult publishing world wasn’t ready for a historical novel without steampunk elements or vampires, so I received rejection after rejection. But I didn’t give up hope. After four years of being on submission to publishers, it sold to Blink YA Books. Now, it is receiving strong reviews and is my first book to be sold in Target stores across the US!

SP: The ever popular DOON series (who’s rights recently sold to a TV studio!) is also a retelling of Brigadoon. Do you think retellings are your thing?

I really do love writing retellings. I wrote a YA thriller, GILT HOLLOW, which is a contemporary mystery with all original characters. (Gilt Hollow just released on audiobook!) But I do enjoy reinventing classic stories and giving those characters fresh life for a new generation.

I’m currently working on a top secret spin-off of Olivia Twist that features the orphan leader Brit a few years in the future, and it is a retelling of sorts.

SP: Do you see any parts of yourself in Olivia?

Like Olivia, I’ve learned that perseverance is the key to accomplishing my goals. Despite the constraints that society puts on females of her time, Olivia finds ways to overcome obstacles in order to help others. Her selflessness actually inspires me to want to be a better person!

SP: When writing and crafting Jack- did you have a person we might know in mind?

I did have a physical character model for him…the actor Matt Lanter. You might know him from Timeless or the remake of 90210. The characters I’ve seen him play have that indefinable rakish quality that fits perfectly for The Artful Dodger. Not to mention he has the straight dark hair, ice blue eyes, dashing smile of Jack!

SP: If Olivia and Jack were living today, which cause do you think they would go after?

Child hunger and homelessness for sure! It isn’t an epidemic in the U.S. as it was in Victorian England, but nevertheless, they would fight to eradicate it!

SP: Now, fun stuff — if you could be any character in Olivia Twist, which one would you be?

Of course, Olivia! Because Jack… ;-D

SP: You will also travel to Asia to do an International Writing Workshop — which part are you most excited about? Teaching? Exploring?

I have a heart for educating and encouraging aspiring authors, so the workshop is what drew me originally. But now, I can’t wait to meet readers and writers at our various visits in China! The exploration is the icing on the cake!!

SP:  In May, you will also help judge a Travel Writing Contest in which the winner can win a free trip to TIBET! And last year you were in Ireland– so, what is your DREAM adventure and where and if you could take one fictional character with you, who would it be?

Oh my, that’s a tough question…so many possibilities! I think I would chose to visit Alloway, Scotland and the real Brig o’ doon with Vee and Kenna. We’d stay at Aunt Gracie’s cottage (which is based on an actual cottage you can rent there), visit Poet’s Corner Coffee shop for cinnamon hot chocolate, and perhaps find our way to the mythical kingdom to meet a couple of kilt-wearing princes!

SP: That sounds soooo nice. Can I come?

Thank you, Lorie!!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANova, signing off!

Author Interview: Gloria Chao

Pen Friends ~ The Lovely Debut Author of American Panda is our guest today! Welcome, Gloria Chao! Her first book, American Panda will be out very very soon, and you can get the inside scoop!

77dfoo2T_400x400.jpgSP: Hi Gloria! Thanks for joining us. First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

GC: Thank you so much for having me! I’m so excited to be a part of your wonderful blog! I’m a young adult author based in Chicago, and I’ve been writing for the past five years. I write contemporary stories featuring Taiwanese-American teens struggling with identity, always with humor because life and books are so much more fun with some laughs. Continue reading

YA Author Interview: Caitlin Sangster

Pen Friends~ It’s my honor to welcome YA Author Caitlin Sangster to the Spinning Pen. This amazing lady shares something very special with me– a love for travel and Asia! Which kind of inspired her debut, Last Star Burning– a thrilling dystopian, fantasy, fairytale, blend of awesome. Today she will share all kinds of gems with us: her writing journey, world building tips, and more!

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SP: Hi Caitlin! Thanks so much for joining us! First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

CS: Hi! I’m so glad to be here! I’ve been writing on and off since I was a kid, but started seriously writing about five years ago. I’ve lived in California, China, Taiwan, Montana, and, most recently Utah. In college, I did a BA in Asian Studies with an emphasis in China (and am, consequently, a huge Chinese history and politics nerd). I love to run and wish I were a ballroom dancer. Lost but very much not least, I have four delightfully disruptive children ages seven and under. Continue reading

YA Author Interview: Kester ‘Kit’ Grant

Pen Friends ~ If you haven’t heard of International Author, Kester ‘Kit’ Grant, you will soon. Her debut, A Court of Miracles, will come out in 2018 and has already received a lot of praise and anticipation! Kit’s a gem to know (we met after we both won PitchWars 2016) and her words get under your skin within the first page. If you love supporting debut authors, be sure to add her book to your Goodreads!

Kit GrantSP: Hi Kit! Thanks for joining us. First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

I’m Kester Grant but everyone calls me Kit, I am to quote my bio, a British-Mauritian author and nomad. I started writing seriously a few years ago, then put it on hold, and came back to it in 2016 when I drafted my Les Mis meets Jungle Book fantasy YA mash-up.   Continue reading

YA Author Interview: Aminah Mae Safi

Pen Friends ~ Today’s YA Author, Aminah Mae Safi, has got her hands full with all kinds of writerly projects and great advice across the board! She truly inspires as she talks about not giving up on your craft & dreams and how her first book, Not the Girls You’re Looking For, came to be!
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SP: Hi Aminah Mae! Thanks for joining us. First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?
Aminah Mae: Forever! But also– seven years. That’s a big difference, no? I grew up writing and I come from a family of storytellers. The kind of people that everyday life becomes a big dinnertime epic. We’re a fairly dramatic lot. I remember the time I read a Camelot comic in some after school program and I noticed that Guinevere didn’t do anything. So I re-wrote it. I must have been about seven or eight. Please note: this involved not only re-writing, but type setting, photocopying, cutting and literally pasting new words over the old comics, then photocopying again to make the final product look legit.

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YA Author Interview: Jenny Park

Pen Friends ~ Welcome Jenny Park, YA Author of The Shadows We Know By Heart, to talk about her writing, agent, and publishing journey with us. If you are Tarzan fans, you’ll want to check out her debut, The Shadows We Know By Heart.
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SP: Hi Jenny! Thanks for joining us. First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?
Jenny: Thanks so much for having me! I’ve been writing for about six years now, and before that I was an art teacher for middle school students. Growing up, writing was never my thing, although I spent more time reading books than talking to people. It wasn’t until I was getting my master’s degree that I really kind of broke through the mental block/fear I had about writing since it was an online writing intensive program. But it was still years after that before I wrote my first draft.

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