Author Interview: Astrid Scholte

Pen Friends ~ As a 2016 PitchWars mentee, I’m giddy to tell you that my fellow 2016 PW tribe member, and YA debut author, Astrid Scholte‘s incredible, fast-paced, and highly anticipated fantasy, FOUR DEAD QUEENS will be out in the world in February! Her story of perseverance and hard work is inspiring. Enjoy the interview!

 

marketing_astridscholte

SP: Hi Astrid! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE for you to share with our readers a bit of your inspiring (never-giving up) writing journey. Who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

AS: Thanks so much for having me! Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be an author, writing my first “novel” at age 5. Another love of mine was drawing so I thought a picture book illustrator would be the dream job. Back then, I thought I could illustrate my own books. It wasn’t until much later that I found out most authors don’t also illustrate their work.

While my passion for writing was there from a young age, I pursued a career in 3D animation and visual effects as I also had a love for the magic of movie making. I studied 3D animation at university and have worked (and still do!) in the film, TV and animation industry for the past 10+ years. Working in film production is a taxing job, with long hours, so my writing took a back-seat for a few years. It wasn’t until 2012 that I finally finished a novel. It was a YA paranormal romance and I thought for sure it would get published!

I attempted to be published here in Australia, where you can submit to publishers directly. After getting close with one publisher (or what felt like close at the time as they gave a detailed, positive rejection) I decided to query agents in the USA. Over 100 rejections later, with only one full request, I realized that like many of the characters in YA paranormal novels, the genre was also dead.

That year, I attempted Nanowrimo for the first time and wrote 50K words of what would become my second completed YA novel, an elemental YA fantasy. This time, I went straight to the USA, as I’d been told that speculative fiction was a difficult sell in Australia. I amassed around 80 rejections, but has 12 full requests and some positive feedback. The common feedback I kept hearing was that YA fantasy was over saturated and mine wouldn’t stand out in the market.

So I decided to try one more time. (In truth, I’m sure I would’ve kept going!) I wanted to combine all the things I loved about YA and fiction, including twists, morally gray characters, forbidden romance, secrets and murder mysteries. I also wanted to query as quickly as possible as I’d spent years on failed manuscripts. This book was Four Dead Queens and it ended up getting into PitchWars in 2016, landing me an agent a week after the competition ended, and a publishing deal less than two weeks after going on submission! Luckily I didn’t give up!

Overall, it took me 10 years of writing seriously and 5 years of attempting to get an agent and publisher before I got my offer.
Continue reading

Advertisements

The Querying Show, Episode 3. Gently Rip Apart His Query, Please.

peter-lewicki-411606-unsplash

Welcome to The Querying Show’s Third Episode!

For the next six months you will witness every juicy (or completely stagnant) detail of our SP Staff Member’s querying life in the SLUSH PILE!

(Check out our rules and reasons in our intro post here!)

Will CR’s/Write_Or_Left achieve AGENT success? Or will it result with a querying and MS reboot? Dying to know? Follow us to see how Write_Or_Left ‘s querying journey will end up!

***Please forgive our late post. Autumn colds took over last week! 

SO…..Today is the 3rd week of CR’s journey. Today we will do something a bit different. We will SHOW YOU CR’S QUERY and ask YOU for feedback!

But first, let’s check in our with brave querying fellow and see how things are progressing. (Click below for Episode 1 & 2.)

SP: Ciao CR/Write_Or_Left. As always, lets start with the STATS. How many more queries have you sent out? 

Any rejections?

Requests?

CR/Write_Or_Left:  Just one rejection, and no requests. The rejection was a good ol’ copy-paste (the email itself said as much).

SP: Be honest, are you:

A) Twitter stalking the agents you queried?

B) Checking your inbox regularly?

C) Totally Chill and got this?

D) Other exciting or emotional thoughts? (Do tell.)

E) All of the above?

CR/Write_Or_Left : I check my inbox pretty regularly, and I research agents before querying. But for the most part, I’m surprisingly calm about everything. I think it’s mostly because I really have no expectations except that I will get rejected. Therefore no rejection is all that painful, and all positive feedback is a welcome surprise! I think that’s given me a thicker skin for this process.

I’m also working on an additional project that I’m pretty excited about, so if this whole thing flops, I’ll have learned invaluable lessons that will help me in that project!

SP: OK, so for Today’s show, we wanted AUDIENCE feedback on CR’s Query. Your advice just may help him get a request!

taylor

Our questions:

What do you like about it?

What don’t you like about it?

Would you request it?

What can be improved?

Any other helpful tips?

angry-argument-attack-343

Rules: Add your thoughts in the comments below. NO slamming! Please be kind while critiquing–all critiques must be helpful.

 

QUERY:

Dear “Awesome Agent,”

(Insert Personal Greeting and Necessary Genre, word count, Comp title info–or something of the sort! FYI, this is MG fantasy.)

12-year-old outlier Evander Ross knows there’s something special about the book his Grandpa tried to destroy. But he never would have guessed it would almost get him killed. Three times. 

Despite his mother and grandfather’s efforts to shield the truth, Evander accidentally discovers traces of a strange world in one of his family’s many “forbidden” zones in the city. The Gifted World is everything Evan has dreamed of—a place full of strange creatures and new abilities, but also great danger. Within it, Evan nearly dies at the hand of Katerina, one of the Gifted World’s most wanted criminals; he finds Lumen’s Middle-High—a school that finally understands him; and he’s taken by authorities who tell Evan that he will never be accepted in the Gifted World—that his family was banished long ago.

Evan is now eager not only to discover his family’s true past but also to find his way back and prove the Marshals are wrong about him. So when Evander learns that Katerina plans to attack Lumen’s Mid-High, he takes his chance. But no one believes him. Now he might be the only one that can stop her threat. And if he doesn’t, Lumen’s and everyone in it might be completely destroyed.

(End with BIO and other useful info like social media and contact info)

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

CR

SP: Our Querying Tip of the Week:

WHILE you are querying KEEP writing on either your WIP or a new project; Get more readers to review your work–have an open mind; Get involved with other writers and read their work too! And DON’T stress it! All good things take time. 

Schedule Update:

Since we have posted late, we will NOT post a show this Friday.

Also, during November and December, we will only have 2 Querying shows per month due to extra holiday busyness and school exams! Thanks for understanding! *If something exciting does occur, we will be sure to let you know!

Nova and CR/Write_Or_Left  signing off! Have a GREAT weekend!!!

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?

 

Continue reading

Book Review: The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

The Story Peddler Cover resized

Title: The Story Peddler, The Weaver Trilogy Book One

Author: Lindsay A. Franklin

Review by: Jennifer Lindsay

Blurb: Tanwen doesn’t just tell stories—she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.

During her final story peddling tour, a tale of treason spills from her hands, threatening the king himself. Tanwen goes from peddler to prey as the king’s guard hunts her down . . . and they’re not known for their mercy. As Tanwen flees for her life, she unearths long-buried secrets and discovers she’s not the only outlaw in the empire. There’s a rebel group of weavers . . . and they’re after her too.

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!

images-53

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

Book Review: Before Beauty

BEFORE BEAUTY

Title: Before Beauty (First Book in the Trilogy)

Author: Brittany Fichter

Blurb: Prince Everard’s father spent the boy’s youth forging the prince into a warrior. Upon the king’s death, however, Everard realizes he’s lost himself somewhere along the way, and in his pain, makes a decision that brings a dark curse upon both him and the great Fortress that has so long guarded the people of Destin. Continue reading

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Pen Friends ~ Summer is not OVER yet. We still have more books to read and review for our Summer Reading Challenge  & Summer Writing Challenge – So send us your reviews of any books you love or find helpful for craft.

Thanks to Dawn Shipman for her review below!

Unknown-11.jpeg

Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses series

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Blurb: When 19-year-old Feyre, the sole provider for her poverty-stricken family, ventures into the bleak, ice-cold forest to hunt, a giant wolf stands between her and her prey. She knows the stories of the Fae who are rumored to haunt the forest and can sometimes take on other forms…but her family is starving. She kills the wolf and sets in motion the plot for this three-book series. For her crime of killing the wolf, who was, indeed, a disguised Fairy, Feyre’s life is forfeit. She can allow herself to be torn to shreds by the beast who appears to enforce the law, or be dragged away from her family to the land of Prythian, to serve out her life sentence. Choosing the latter, she is soon introduced to that place of magic and wonder, a land both beautiful and terrible, where mystery, violence, and political intrigue abound. She also learns to love the ‘beast’ who brought her there—Tamlin, the High Lord of the Spring Court.

Feyre was already a hunter, a fighter, but when Tamlin and all his people are taken captive by the murderous queen Amarantha, nothing will stop her from attempting to save him—even at the risk of her own life.

The next two books add, layer upon layer, to the complexity of this world, where violence and brilliance live side by side and masks come in many forms. Book 2—A Court of Mist and Fury—follows Feyre as she attempts to recover from the emotional devastation she endured in Amarantha’s dungeon and Book 3—A Court of Wings and Ruin—unite many plot lines and lead to the final battle that will determine the future of both the Fae and humankind.

Review:

I was pulled into Feyre’s story by the happy thought of another Beauty and the Beast re-telling, but was immediately led deep into the dazzling world of the Fae—a mythology I was unfamiliar with. For me, the first book began rather slowly but once I got past the first few chapters, Feyre and Tamlin’s story had me turning pages as fast as I could. The story was anything but predictable. As soon as I thought I knew what was coming next, author Maas worked in another twist that slammed one door and threw open another.

Feyre is a strong and passionate character, replete with doubts and conflict, but also with unwavering loyalty to those she loves. Before the story even begins, she’s had to endure privation and terrible difficulty just to survive. She is not perfect and often makes decisions that made me cringe, but I still found it easy to like her, cheer her on, and fear for her life. At the end of book one (and without giving too much away) she is gifted with Fae power that she cannot always control, but bit by bit, grows in her strength until she truly becomes a Wonder Woman—though a believable one, thanks to Maas’s careful character- and world-building efforts.

The evil in this world is real—but so is the good. The appearance of the dark High Lord of the Night Court—Rhysand–half-way through the first book introduces a mystery that is not resolved until much later. Other characters, even those who appeared secondary at first, wormed their way into my heart. The love stories—and, yes, there are more than one—are magnificent, and the themes of loyalty, sacrifice, redemption, and family are woven seamlessly into the plot.

My only concern with this series is its rating as Young Adult. The love scenes are graphic beyond anything I’ve read in adult romance. “Steamy” doesn’t seem a strong enough descriptor. I’d hate for a young teen—or even a not-so-young one—to get ahold of these. FantasticFiction agrees: “Contains mature content. Not suitable for younger readers.” I’m thinking they fit better in the publishing category New Adult, but, unfortunately, the YA designation seems to be sticking.

Even though the major conflicts are resolved by the end of book three with much blood, death, and gore, the avid fan wants to know what happens to some of those so-called minor characters—Cassian and Nesta, Lucian and Elaine, Mor and Azriel. Therefore, I was quite delighted to see a 4th book in the series is due to be released in 2018.

New SP Contributor: Caleb Robinson

Pen Friends ~ We are super pleased to announce that we have a new contributor at the Spinning Pen–Caleb Robinson, a very talented Middle Grade & YA writer, has joined us! 

QNVzZMkd_400x400

Welcome Caleb! Tell us about yourself…

Caleb: At a deeply secretive college in an unknown location between a floating mountain and a cloud city, I study the shadowy and dark arts of… Chemistry. Well, at least I do until my writing decides to turn itself into a full-time job that actually pays (opposed to just being my full-time hobby that doesn’t). Until that time, I am content studying tiny things we can’t see (chemistry), playing basketball, reading (shocking), being an RA, and just hanging out with other humans or other creatures. I have been writing stories since the day I learned to form sentences with crayons.

Glad to be here! Ask me about anything–writing, chemistry, books, magic…Go.

*

To learn more about Caleb, click this link to his last post: Obsessed Writers, which for convenience also links to his other posts, also be sure to find him on his Instagram -a widely popular writing account- and his twitter! Look for his posts in the future!

63_-JRow_400x400

Nova, signing off.

 

 

 

How to Create the Right Setting for your Story

At one point in writing history, writers began their stories by setting the scene. Setting was once used as a reflection characters emotions or actions. For example, a storm arises as a disagreement to your evil plot of revenge… But setting in books have changed today with things like TV.  We still need setting, but it is not nearly as important as our characters and plot.

IMG_0332lz

Setting brings us to a certain time and place.

Seattle’s physical setting compared with Albuquerque’s is night and day– one is high desert, with dusty browns and golds; the other is sea-level, with fertile flora and greens and blues. But they also eat different foods. ABQ leans more towards a Mexican flavor whereas most anyone in Seattle can list 5-20 favorite Asian foods. Continue reading

Know Yourself: How Many Worlds Do You Live In?

mmexport1435716438752

Writing fantasy is fun. Why else would so many people do it? Why would so many read it? There’s more than a monetary investment when a reader picks up a fantasy novel. They are taking on faith that the world the writer has created is going to engage them and spark their imagination. As an author, you have to think through more than loving your own world and story – it has to be easily comprehended by a reader so that they don’t get fed up and abandon the attempt to enter into your written world.

Continue reading