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

Author Interview: Jessica Olson, Sing Me Forgotten

Pen Friends ~ I am so excited for you! In this interview you get to meet the lovely, writer mom, Pitch Wars Alum, YA Author Jessica Olson and hear about her incredible her debut, Sing Me Forgotten, out with Inkyard/Harper Collins in 2021. As you know, we are huge fans of championing author’s debut work, so click here to add it on Goodreads and enjoy all of the amazing gems she has shared in this interview!

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

JO: I’ve been writing books since kindergarten, and I’m pretty sure my parents still have stacks of the books I wrote and illustrated as a kid moldering up in their attic. Compelling stories about little girls that got castles for Christmas and went on picnics and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When I fell in love with Harry Potter as a young teen was when I moved on from writing (terrible) picture books to writing (even worse) novels. I was constantly scribbling stories in notebooks instead of paying attention in class during middle school and high school, much to my teachers’ frustration.

I started pursuing publication in college with a YA contemporary issue novel that I thought was the best thing ever written but was actually a pile of stinking garbage. I obviously was not able to get an agent with that manuscript, but I did not give up. I queried twice more over the next few years with two other manuscripts, slowly getting more and more interest in my stories—which showed I was improving—but no bites quite yet.

It wasn’t until I submitted Sing Me Forgotten to PitchWars in 2018 and was chosen as a mentee that things kind of took off. I received several requests from the PitchWars showcase, and I had my first offer of representation within 48 hours. After multiple offers, I chose to sign with Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis, and we went on submission shortly thereafter.

SMF went on to receive multiple offers from publishers, so Christa conducted an auction, which was a surreal and insane experience. I didn’t sleep or eat basically that whole week! Though all of the editors who made offers were wonderful, and they all seemed to be so excited for SMF, we decided to go with Lauren at Inkyard because she felt like the best fit for the book and shared the same vision I had for what the story could be.

smf2.jpg Continue reading

Social Media – Our Best Frenemy

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Today we have Jenni Claar, a social media manager, sharing a very basic, go-to, take on Social Media–the pros and functions on how to use the major ones like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Take a look!

  1. If you want to….

GATHER YOUR COMMUNITY, use:

Facebook

It is useful for:

Business/Author Page (affected by algorithms – will only reach roughly 10% of your audience without paying for more…don’t waste your money!)

Algorithm tips:
Post daily (mornings and evenings have the highest audience traffic)

Comments, likes, and shares increase audience.

1/3 Audience Engagement Posts, 1/3 Self-Promotion/Product Promotion, 1/3 Audience Care

*Images carry more weight in Facebook algorithms than links – share links in comments

Other ideas for Facebook-

*Facebook Groups Street Teams

*Launch Teams

*Book Clubs Personal Blogs/Newsletter

 

2. If you want to….

FIND YOUR READERS use:

Instagram – #bookstagram

or

YouTube – BookTube

 

3. If you want to….

NETWORK, FIND YOUR PEERS, MENTORS, AND ROLE MODELS use:

Twitter

Lots of community happens here, be kind, active, and engage. Twitter circles grow quickly.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When to Make the Leap to a New Series

fmd_cru6otk-cathryn-laveryHave you ever written a note from yourself to yourself?

I did.

It was back when I first started writing. I wasn’t convinced I could finish writing an entire book, much less beat the odds and get published.

So I wrote a note to myself promising my future self that I would not give up on writing until I’d received over a thousand rejections for my manuscript.

Fast forward to heavy rewrites, beta readers, countless vacations spent editing, and slashing my word count like a ruthless ninja, and my novel still isn’t where I want it to be. The second book in the trilogy is nearly written, the characters loveable and the plot thickening, and yet… the first book in the series is still not query ready.

Ever found yourself in this boat?

The pressures of new jobs, moves, injuries and more steal you away from your love of writing and you can’t quite seem to get where you need to be?

That’s where I was.

Then a major life event happened. I moved from Texas to Beijing! Continue reading

Mrs. Hudson; or, Make Everyone Matter

If one were to bring up Mrs. Hudson in conversation, what would you presume we were talking about?

I hope you’d think of Sherlock Holmes, since there are very view (perhaps no)  interpretations of Sherlock Holmes that fail to include Mrs. Hudson. Yet most of the time she is not vital to the plot. So what role does she play as a side character?

We’re going to look at Mrs. Hudson and other “famous” minor characters to find the reasons why side & minor characters are important to your story. Continue reading

Becoming An Expert (The Writer’s Way)

How many times have you heard “write what you know”? It’s good advice – to a point. Because if everyone only wrote what they knew, we’d have no space odysseys, no dragons, no magical words, no elves or dwarves or krakens… and we’d be poorer for it.

So where does one draw the line between what you “should” write and what you can write? I’d say there isn’t a line, and if you’ve been limiting yourself, STOP! If you can make your readers want to enter the world you’ve written, no matter how unrealistic or crazy, then you’ve still succeeded in writing something good (i.e. interesting). You don’t need to be an expert in fighting to write a fight scene, or on trains to write about your characters taking a train ride. Same goes for flying on the back of a dinosaur, or piloting a ship through outer space – if you can make it interesting and immersive for your readers, only a few are going to nitpick the details. ♦  Continue reading