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! 

Dana Black_Headshot 2017

 

Dana, signing off.

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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

EDITOR TALK with Heather Webb

Pen Friends ~ We are super excited to hear from PRO EDITOR and Historical Fiction author extraordinaire, Heather Webb as she shares her editing and writing tips. Also check out her latest book, Last Christmas in Paris It’s out now! See below!!

Heather Webb, Smiling 2Hi Heather! Thanks for joining us. Since you are both an author and an editor, we are seriously eager to pick your brain. But first, please tell us who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

Hi all! I’ve been writing since 2008, so about 9  years or so. I can’t even believe that! Sometimes I feel like a newbie with so much to learn.

SP: First love– writing or editing? Which came first career wise? Bonus: How long did it take for you to write your first book? Continue reading

Book Blog Tour & Author Interview: Seize Today by Pintip Dunn

SeizeTodayTour

Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours

SEIZE TODAY blurb

Seventeen-year-old Olivia Dresden is a precognitive. Since different versions of people’s futures flicker before her eyes, she doesn’t have to believe in human decency. She can see the way for everyone to be their best self-if only they would make the right decisions. No one is more conflicted than her mother, and Olivia can only watch as Chairwoman Dresden chooses the dark, destructive course every time. Yet Olivia remains fiercely loyal to the woman her mother could be. Continue reading

Feature Friday: Alexa Donne of Author Mentor Match

Pen friends, if you’ve spent much time around here, you know how much we love the writing community! One of our favorite ways of learning and growing within that community is by participating in contests and mentoring opportunities, and today we are thrilled to chat with one of the founders of Author Mentor Match, the lovely YA author Alexa Donne!

*The current round of submissions for AMM is open now through October 24th, so if you’ve been looking for a mentor, now is the perfect chance to apply!

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SP: Welcome, Alexa! We’re so excited to have you join us. Can you please tell us a little about who you are and what you write?

Hi! Thank you so much for having me! I am Alexa Donne, a YA science fiction & fantasy writer whose debut novel, BRIGHTLY BURNING, will be coming out from HMH Teen on May 1, 2018. It’s a retelling of Jane Eyre, set in space.  Continue reading

Author Interview: Tracey Neithercott

Pen Friends ~ We are delighted to have Tracey Neithercott, debut author of Gray Wolf Island and an Author Mentor Match mentor, here with us today!

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

Hi! Thank you so much for having me.

I’m a magazine journalist and the author of the YA novel Gray Wolf Island. I’ve always written in some way or another: There was my sixth grade The Princess and the Mean Genie, which really made me aware of my inability to draw but had me feeling pretty proud of my talent for coloring within the lines.

In high school, I started (but never finished) a bunch of books in the voice of whatever I’d last read. I somehow ended up sounding like both Pip from Great Expectations and Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. This was not a good thing.

As I began thinking about college, I shifted my focus. It’s weird looking back at how my brain worked back then, but I was convinced authors were these super-special people who were, I don’t know, given their super-special talents from the heavens or something. I figured journalism was a more realistic career. And in a way, I was right: I did become a journalist.

Only after I began reading YA writer blogs—watching them go from unagented writers to agented writers to published authors—did I start to believe writing a novel was something I could actually do. And in 2010, I finished a novel for the first time. Continue reading

Author Interview: Carrie Anne Noble

Pen Friends ~ Today we have awesome YA Author, Carrie Anne Noble, to chat about the writing life and her newly-released novel, The Gold-Son!

CarrieAnneNoble author 2016 - s

SP: Welcome Carrie Anne! Can you start out by telling us a bit of who you are and when you started writing?

C: Hi! I’m a stay-at-home mom/writer who lives in the beautiful mountains of Pennsylvania with my family and assorted pets (currently two cats, a dog, a lizard, a foster hedgehog, and some chickens). I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember, but I really got hooked on it when I was about eleven years old.

SP: Essential info next: Tea or Coffee? And one fact about yourself that we wouldn’t know by looking at you?  Continue reading

Author Interview: Caroline George

Pen Friends ~ We are pleased to welcome Young Adult author, Caroline George to talk about her upcoming book, her writing journey, and her writing advice with SP readers and writers!

C-c3x8aUwAAp7SZSP: Welcome Caroline! Can you start out by telling us a bit of who you are and when you started writing?

Overview: I’m the author of “The Prime Way Trilogy” and “The Vestige.” I write for “Pursue Magazine,” lead startup company Local Publishing and work as a part-time publicist for recording artist Autrey. When I’m not attached to my laptop, I’m attending college classes at Belmont University, meeting with friends at Nashville coffeehouses or serving with ministry My Local. All that said, I’m a productivity junkie who believes in making the most of time and living life to the fullest.

Stories have been my passion since I was a toddler. Before I could hold a pencil, I told my mom stories, she’d write them down and let me illustrate the pages. In middle school, I started writing with fervor and made it a goal to be published by my sixteenth birthday. 

Writing began as a therapeutic escape from my preteen troubles but morphed into a vision fueled by calling, determination and stubbornness. Continue reading

The North Texas Teen Book Festival: 2017

endless signIf you ever doubt that today’s youth are into reading, all you need to do to is attend a book festival like this last weekend, where over ten thousand teens from all over Texas came to hear their favorite authors, ask them questions ranging from what inspires them to how they come up with their complex plots; sign hundreds of books, get the latest on booktubing from the pros, win prizes, buy swag, and of course, hear the answer to that age-old question: Can I be a writer, too?

Continue reading

Author Interview: Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon

Pen Friends ~ We are overjoyed to have YA Authors Lorie Langdon and Carey Corp with us today to talk about their co-written series DOON and their journey to becoming an author. 

carey-corp-and-lorie-langdon

SP: Hi Carey and Lorie! Thanks for being with us. Can you start out by telling us a bit of who you are and when you started writing?

Lorie: Hi everyone! Thanks for having us on the blog! By way of brief introduction, I’m a wife, mom, Christ-follower, author, and Wonder Woman Wannabe. I’ve wanted to be an author since I read my first Judy Blume novel, but when I entered college that didn’t seem like a practical career choice, so I chose another path. It took many years of working in the business world for me to go back to my true calling.

Carey: Hey there! *waves* I’m Carey, mom, full time corporate marketer, pet lover, Believer, and Hamilton enthusiast (uh, that’s the PC way of saying obsessed, right?). I always wanted to be a writer, I just didn’t know it. When I was 7, I wrote a captivating retelling of Star Wars, see it here Lucas—shmookas! I wrote Star Wars. I spent the summer after 6th grade writing a hundred pages of soap opera that was a Santa Barbara knockoff. Then I forgot about writing until several lifetimes later when I had a crazy dream after watching the PJ Hogan live action version of Peter Pan. The next morning I wrote what would before the first chapter in my novel Shades of Neverland. From that day on, I was hooked (oh ya, pun intended). But it would still be another lifetime before getting published. Continue reading