Author Interview: Kara Swanson

Pen Friends~ today’s interview is with YA Author, Kara Swanson, talking about her latest release, DUST, a peter pan sequel/retelling coming out with Enclave Publishing  this July (2020.) Kara’s path to publishing is really unique and I believe will be helpful for those in both traditional and self publishing. Her cover art has won awards and guys- she has friends & readers that create the most stunning fan art. See all below!

Kara Swason | Floral HeadshotSP: Hi Kara! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and your writing journey? 

Hello there, friend!

It’s such a pleasure to be here with you today!

I’ve been writing since I was a young teen. I grew up overseas in Papua New Guinea as the daughter of missionaries. I was first published at seventeen, and that small taste of being an author was what made me realize I wanted to pursue this as a career. Several years later, while I was dealing with the worst season of having Lyme Disease (a sickness I still battle to this day), I wrote The Girl Who Could See, a novella that helped me process the unique perspective I had as a young person transitioning back to the US after having spent most of my life in another culture. It was a way to work through this sense that I’d had of always standing between two worlds, never quite a part of either. I continued writing and now at twenty-three, I have a Peter Pan retelling/sequel that releases with Enclave Publishing this year. 

SP: Dust will come out with Enclave Publishing in July 2020. Dust-by-Kara-Swanson-1331x2048

Here is a blurb:

The truth about Neverland is far more dangerous than a fairy tale.

Claire Kenton believes the world is too dark for magic to be real–since her twin brother was stolen away as a child. Now Claire’s desperate search points to London… and a boy who shouldn’t exist.

Peter Pan is having a beastly time getting back to Neverland. Grounded in London and hunted by his own Lost Boys, Peter searches for the last hope of restoring his crumbling island: a lass with magic in her veins.

The girl who fears her own destiny is on a collision course with the boy who never wanted to grow up. The truth behind this fairy tale is about to unravel everything Claire thought she knew about Peter Pan…and herself.

SP: Can you tell us how long it took you to write Dust and  how this story developed? 

Dust was originally a concept that I had stumbled upon while brainstorming with a close writer friend. We had originally planned on co-authoring the project, but then our lives went two different directions. Several years passed and the concept was shelved until my agent submitted a list of my potential story concepts to a publisher who loved my writing and wanted to see what else I had — and when they saw the really brief concept blurb for a Peter Pan retelling/sequel, that was the book this publisher wanted to see submitted. At the time, I didn’t have a single page written, and the majority of the book wasn’t even outlined. I touched base with my friend who gave me full permission to run with the concept, and then I outlined the full novel, and wrote and edited it over the course of several months. Once I had the novel finished and well edited, my agent submitted to the first publisher that had expressed interest, as well as to several others. In the end, Enclave ended up being the right fit, and I absolutely adore working with their team!

SP: Dust already has some incredible fan art! How did this come about? What is it like having fans making art of your story characters? (See art on her instagram!)

The Dust fan art was pretty natural, honestly. I had some early readers who really loved the story and wanted to craft some art. I really, really love story-related art and have commissioned character art in the past, but seeing a fan create their own art and seeing the way they translate the characters is so incredible and humbling ❤

SP: DUST is not your first story–Seaglass, a short story, is free for readers that subscribe to your mailing list and The Girl Who can See, which is available on amazon, has won awards and has been praised for that cover! Please tell us your designer!! So, here is my question: independently publishing–how did you do it? What was it like for you? Tips to those in the middle of it? 

the-girl-who-could-seeThe cover for TGWCS was done by Jenny at Seedlings Design Studio! (https://www.seedlingsonline.com)

As far as tips on independently publishing— I would suggest to plan well ahead. I created a six-month plan of each step it would take (writing my novella, editing it, setting up preorders on Amazon, getting a cover, creating the back cover blurb, marketing, etc) and then did a lot of research and completed each step to the best of my ability, including having several rounds of solid edits. If you are willing to put in the time, effort and funds, you can truly create a really good quality project and have some beautiful success with indie publishing. 

SP: You do such a great job on Social Media! You are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and have website that are updated and beautiful and share helpful tips and interesting parts of your journey. Any tips on marketing? Social media? Balancing time and marketing?

Awww, thank you! Thats so kind of you ^_^

I just try to be honest and authentic, while also bringing something of value to my online friends. I like to genuinely share what I’m doing and what interests me, while also sharing a bit of encouragement and anything helpful for my readers.

As far as marketing goes…again, plan in advance. Don’t rush things that should take time to set into place and build up. A huge part of marketing is just creating valuable friendships and connections and having something to offer in a way that doesn’t feel forced or sales-y. And that just takes time and a determination to be authentic as you go.

SP: Writing style–are you a plotter/pantster? How do you go about writing your first draft?

I am a plotter, for sure! I used to pants, but found that I write a much tighter novel when I take the time to plan things out and really invest in catching plot holes in the outlining stage, instead of having to do a hundred revisions. 🙂

SP: Now to lighten things up: 

Last book you read? Im still reading Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon!

Current dream vacation spot? London or honestly a whole Europe trip 🙂

Would you rather be a professional: Marine Biologist? Spy? Opera Singer? Brain Surgeon? Broadway star? Does that count?

Current fictional crush? Tom Holland’s Peter Parker 😉

Favorite childhood book?  Narnia! 😀

SP: Thank you Kara! We wish you the BEST of luck with DUST, Heirs of Neverland!

This was so much fun! Thank you so much for asking me to join you!

 

Nova, signing off.

 

Author Interview: Hanna Howard

Pen Friends ~ Today’s interview is such a treat! Debut YA Author, Hanna Howard, shares about her upcoming novel, IGNITE THE SUN and her beautiful (and somewhat painful) journey to becoming an author. Don’t miss the blurb to her novel. The premise is entirely captivating!

hhSP: Hi Hanna! I’m so excited to have you on the Spinning Pen to talk your upcoming debut, Ignite the Sun. But first, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you started writing? Continue reading

Storyboarding 101

After teaching on Storyboarding Monday night a few of you asked me to put my notes online. Here they are! If you want a more comprehensive teaching on Storyboarding, plus access to the template I use, and more, sign up for my newsletter on novamcbee.com 🙂 I’ll be sending this out and more.

Link to various templates

(Note: my template is not online. This is a generic one.)

The Basics of Storyboarding

~It’s an outlining & plotting tool.

~It’s a calendar-type template that has an outline of 25-50 Chapters. Each row has 5 boxes. * I always print on both front and back because my novels are more than 50 chapters.

~Make sure there is a turning Point every fifth chapter.

~Black Moment in 23-24

~Realization in 24-25

~Build your scenes from notes and/or synopsis

~Show conflict

~Illustrate Character Arc, can show both internal & external conflicts and resolutions

Here is how I optimize Storyboarding

It’s December 3rd. Many of us just finished NanoWrimo. Fact: I almost never get 50 thousand words. But I do get 30 thousand words.

In general, I outline the plot and character arcs and all major things I think will happen before I sit down to write. Then I write and play. In that way I am both a plotter and pantster. I write and write until the first draft is done. THEN, I storyboard. I write again. Then I storyboard a second time, and revise again. Let me give you more detail.

What I love to write & how Storyboarding relates:

•First Chapters

•First lines, first paragraphs

•Hooks, inciting incidents

•Tension, mystery

•Raising Questions

•Character Introductions

•Last lines & pay-offs

The way I write that first chapter, even first few chapters is crucial to get readers to turn the page. So, after my first draft, I use storyboarding asa way to check my scenes and overall pace of the story and story arc/character arc to see if it has that first chapter standard. Is the scene telling me something new? Moving me forward? Is there tension? Pay-offs? Did I foreshadows enough?

Another cool aspect isthat I can see if there are scenes that slow or sections that have far too much intense action or mystery. I can rearrange the board to fit better. I can move scenes and events, and then I can plan better pay-offs.

Overall Visual Representation  

•Scene Checklist (I check for “First Chapter Standards” in voice, hook, etc)
•Story Progression & Character Arcs
•Holes
•Tension
•Pace
•Setting

Then I read over those 50 boxes in about 20 minutes and I see the story as a whole in a very short amount of time. It’s very useful.

I always do this exercise with a pen and paper.My friends do it on their computer. Both are fine. I do all my novel writing on my laptop, but all my brainstorming is on messy notebooks and even messier storyboards.I love them, and they help me get a clear plan. Then, once I sit down to write, I accomplish much more, much faster. And I hope you can too.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Nova

Author Interview: Jennieke Cohen, Dangerous Alliance

Pen Friends  ~ Our author interview today is with Jennieke Cohen, (who I met through the 2016 PitchWars gang.) Not only does she share about her debut, Dangerous Alliance, (which you can pre-order!) but about perseverance, Jane Austen, favorite books, fictional crushes, publishing, and more. Enjoy.

JenniekeCohen Headshot

SP: Hi Jennieke! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to know a bit about you and how long have you have been writing?

JC: Thanks so much for having me! Even as a child, I liked telling stories and acting them out, and by high school, I thought I wanted to work in the film industry. I wrote my first screenplay—a dark, suspense story about a serial killer—in high school and even made it into a movie for one of my classes. After college, I started my first novel, which would later become Dangerous Alliance. Having ruled out working in the film business, I decided to intern with a literary agent (I later got promoted to her assistant), and then at Prima Games (then an imprint of Random House) while I pursued a master’s degree in professional writing from the University of Southern California. Nowadays, in my spare time, you’ll find me re-watching and over-analyzing old movies (a hard habit to break!), singing opera arias and show tunes, or discovering new foodie spots with my husband.

SP: Your debut, Dangerous Alliance, will come out December 3rd, 2019.

Here is the blurb:DA

Lady Victoria Aston has everything she could want: an older sister happily wed, the future of her family estate secure, and ample opportunity to while her time away in the fields around her home. But now Vicky must marry—or find herself and her family destitute. Armed only with the wisdom she has gained from her beloved novels by Jane Austen, she enters society’s treacherous season.

Sadly, Miss Austen has little to say about Vicky’s exact circumstances: whether the roguish Mr. Carmichael is indeed a scoundrel, if her former best friend, Tom Sherborne, is out for her dowry or for her heart, or even how to fend off the attentions of the foppish Mr. Silby, he of the unfortunate fashion sensibility. Most unfortunately of all, Vicky’s books are silent on the topic of the mysterious accidents cropping up around her…ones that could prevent her from surviving until her wedding day.

SP: Can you tell us a bit more about how this idea came about?

JC: This may sound somewhat cliché, but when I was twelve, I read Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre and they had a much bigger impact on me than I could have guessed. I was expecting them to be dry and boring because they were “classics,” but the witty intelligence Jane Austen brought to her novels spoke to me in a way not many of the other books I’d read had. And I simply loved the romance and mystery elements of Jane Eyre. I found myself looking for all the historical novels I could find. That led to reading a lot of adult fiction and nonfiction because, at the time, there were very few European-set historical novels written specifically for teens and young adults. With Dangerous Alliance, I wanted to create the kind of novel I would have really enjoyed reading as a teen. Continue reading

7 Killer Approaches to Writing a Killer Opening Line

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As we know, a good first line of a book (and chapter) can do much more than just begin the story. It grabs our attention, sets the tone, reveals something to come, lets us taste the narrative & voice, gives the first impression, and can be locked into our memory for years to come IF it is done well.

Look at the 7 approaches below and study them. (FYI: Thanks to Lorie Langdon for sharing these with us!)

I’ve also added links to some of the most popular first lines in YA Literature. Compare, enjoy, and then mentally put them into their correct categories. Then look at your own first lines. Where does it fit? Practice rewriting your first sentence. And if you are so bold, share it in the comments!

  1. A statement of eternal principle

– Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

– Paper Towns by John Green: “The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle.”

 

  1. A statement that conveys the narrative

– Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa: “I had a farm in Africa.”

– Stardust by Neil Gaiman: “There once was a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire.”

 

  1. Characterization

– Stephen King’s 11/22/63: “I have never been what you’d call a crying man.”

– The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway: “He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish..”

 

  1. Start mid-action

– Lorie’s current WIP:A brisk gale whipped the sea into peaks that pitched the Skylark around like a leaf in a flooded stream.

– The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner: Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting.

 

  1. A statement of paired facts

– Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo:Joost had two problems: the moon and his mustache.

– A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

  1. 6. Statement laced with significance and/or conflict

– Heather Webb’s Becoming Josephine: The missive arrived in the night.

  • DOON by Corp and Langdon:I skidded to a halt in the crowded corridor, totally unprepared for a showdown with the evil witch of Bainbridge High.
  1. 7. Start with setting that evokes emotion, establishes mood, or raises questions

-A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas:The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice.

-Maria V. Snyer’s Poison Study: Locked in darkness that surrounded me like a coffin, I had nothing to distract me from my memories.

 

LINKS:

https://www.bustle.com/articles/164702-20-ya-novels-that-will-hook-you-from-the-first-line

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/teen/15-of-the-best-opening-lines-in-ya/ 

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/38-best-first-lines-in-no_b_8836484

 

Thanks Lorie, for sharing your tips with us! *Find Lorie’s books on amazon here & her website.

Nova, signing off!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: Lauren Mansy, The Memory Thief

Pen Friends ~ Today’s interview is with YA Author, Lauren Mansy, talking about her debut, The Memory Thief. From what we have heard it has incredible world building and an intriguing premise! You can still pre-order it and it will arrive on your door on when it releases on October 1st!

LM

SP: Hi Lauren! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, could you share a bit about you and your writing journey? 

LM: Thank you so much for having me, Nova!

I’m from the western suburbs of Chicago, where work alongside my parents in our family business. In my free time, I love grabbing coffee with friends, staying active outdoors, and traveling – I have two nephews in California, so I’ll use any excuse to spend time with them! 🙂

My writing journey first began the summer after my college graduation. I’d hoped to go into children’s publishing, but my senior year, I’d been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, a form of lymphatic cancer. I’m so thankful to say that I’ve now been cancer-free for seven years, but that was a very difficult time for me. After completing my treatments, I wasn’t healthy enough to find a job, so my parents suggested I do something creative to help in my healing process. For some reason, all I could think about was writing a book. And once I started writing, I found that I never wanted to stop! Writing fiction helped me express myself in ways that I’d never done before and helped me process through some of my most difficult memories. I’ll be forever grateful for that! Continue reading

Author Interview: Elizabeth Lim (Spin The Dawn)

Hi Pen Friends~ Ready for another YA author interview? Today’s guest is the ever-talented Elizabeth Lim, author of SPIN THE DAWN. Check out that cover below. A beauty, huh? And the words inside it have been spun wonderfully too. Now, on to the good stuff!

Elizabeth Lim

SP: Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for joining us! Spin the Dawn, came out in July and is getting A LOT of positive attention. People are enamored. And much deserved, I’d say.

The blurb:

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of 12 tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.
Spin the DawnSP: The blurb line “the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars” pretty much sold me on the book 🙂 Can you tell us a bit more about how this idea came about? 

EL: The idea behind the dress is inspired by a French fairytale called Donkeyskin, in which a princess asks her father for dresses of the sun, moon, and sky. But there wasn’t ever really much description about the dresses aside from that, and having a background in music, I really wanted to evoke a poetic image whenever I described Amana’s dresses, and also evoke the legend and mythology behind them that I created for the world of Spin the Dawn.

SP: Can you tell us a bit about using Chinese culture in Spin the Dawn’s world & story building? 

EL: Spin the Dawn’s world is inspired by Asia during the Silk Road Era, though most of the book takes place in A’landi, which is loosely inspired by China. Maia’s relationship to her family, her respect for her ancestors, her superstitions and fear of demons, for example, are some of the more obvious nods to Chinese culture. But I also wove in references to a few of my favorite Chinese legends, like Chang’e and Houyi and the Cowherd and the Weaver. Continue reading

Pen Name or Not? What Authors Say…

Behind the scenes in my author circles there’s been an ongoing discussion:

Do I choose to have an ALIAS or not?

What are the pros and cons of a PEN NAME?

Alias.jpg

 

So, I asked a group of authors to give me their opinions on pen names. Here are their responses.

Tobie Easton Ya Author of the Mer Chronicles

“I like that pen names give authors more chances to write in different genres and connect with readers who have a variety of interests. It’s also always fun when you find out an author you love has another pen name for you to check out!” Continue reading

Marketing & Social Media Tips Part 2

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Thanks for coming back to read “Marketing Tips Part Two!” (Find part one on Social Media here if you haven’t read it yet!)

The tips I have below have come from different authors I’ve met, or agents who gave certain advice, or just research itself. Hope they help!

What the Pros have done: 

One night I went to an event to listen to an indie author talk about marketing. She is a cozy mystery writer, who was determined to be such a good author that Amazon would knock on her door and make her an offer. And they did. Did that get your attention?

What she told the audience about marketing was very gripping.

Her first story recounted the author of the DaVinci Code. Dan Brown and his publicist decided to take a risk and send copies of his book to over 300 major newspaper-book reviewers. Well, the risky strategy paid off! It was reviewed and he became a best-seller overnight!   Continue reading

Prompt: Warm Rain

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Warm Rain.

In 200 words or less, what scene do those two words bring to your mind?

Go. 

Then POST your prompt in the comments!

Here are two example prompts from SP writers Nova and Noah.

Nova:

I wake to small warm drops on my face. A splash on my eyelids has me wiping away what feels like a tear. But tears were for yesterday. Today is for survival. My eyes crack open to a brilliant rainbow light coming thru the mist. I squint and try to remember what exactly happened last night.

My arms push my body up. That is when I notice the bruise on my leg. Dang it. So it is true. I’m marooned. On an island. Alone. In the middle of nowhere. And all because of one little lie.

There’s a rustle in the palms and a rhythm that sounds like footsteps. With great pain, I bend my leg and scoot behind a large bush doubtful it can hide me. Whatever it is, its getting closer. Maybe I’m not alone after all.

Noah:

Thunder rumbled in the distance as I ran across the field. The clouds rolled over head as I ran faster. I always loved to race the rain. The thunder was like our gunshot letting me know the race had begun; the long grass brushed against my legs as I barreled past. My calloused feet pounding on the dry I earth. I could hear the rain coming fast from behind me, a loud, overwhelming whooshing sound, that seemed to come from everywhere and meant no escape.  l saw my small home in the distance and laughed to myself.

“The rain always won,” I thought as it finally caught up to me, instantly drenching me. Slipping in the fresh mud I fell onto the ground and laughed again.  

 

**Photo by Pete Nowicki on Unsplash