Friday, March 23, 2012

Interview with Robison Wells

Me: Hi, Robison, welcome to my blog. It’s a pleasure to get to know you a little better. I just finished your book and I have to tell you I loved it. It was like watching a scary movie with your hands over your eyes peeking through, trying to decide if it’s safe to watch—it reads a lot like Hunger Games, which I loved.
Robison: Thanks! So glad you liked it!
Me: I could ask you the typical questions here, like how long have you been writing, who’s your favorite author, etc. But what I like to do is ask snarky questions that are totally off the wall. I hope you’re up for that. So here’s my first question. If you could be one place right now, where would it be? Why? And what would you do there?
Robison: Right now, I’d probably say Italy. My agent is there right now at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and she keeps tweeting about how fantastic it is. And really, what could be better than authentic food, gelato, sight-seeing, and YA novels?
Me: All authors like to either eat snacks or listen to music while they eat. You can tell us about your writing preferences, but what I’d like to know is when you’re in your daydreaming/planning mode what do you do? I play spider solitaire. It looks like “goofing off,” but really, the thoughts are just flying through my head. What about you?
Robison: I do my best big-picture planning while I drive. I like to take long drives out to places in the state I’ve never been. (I recently had a job where I commuted 90 minutes a day, so that was great for planning.) I’ve often joked that I don’t know what I used to think about before I wrote books, because, really, it’s always in my head.
Me: In my young adult writing I love to take things that have happened to me, or to people I know and incorporate them into my story. How about you? If so, what’s the funnest or silliest or maybe even the darkest real life thing you’ve ever put in your book?
Robison: In my first book, ON SECOND THOUGHT, (which was published by a regional publisher and isn’t YA) almost the entire thing is autobiographical. I based it in a little town I used to live in, and all of the side characters were based on real people I knew there. It was fun, but I’ve actually made a conscious decision not to do that anymore. After a while it felt like I was shoehorning “funny” things into the books—whether or not they fit the story—just because they were funny in real life.
Me: Some people collect things, I collect rubber stamps—not that I ever use them anymore. Do you have a collection? Tell us about it.
Robison: When I was a kid I collected postage stamps, but I don’t think I even have those albums anymore. Probably my biggest collecting fetish is wargames: not boardgames, but the kind where you buy little soldiers and paint them and build scenery and spend too much money. (I did this when I was in my early twenties and then put it all in a closet when I had kids—the models are often pointy and made of lead. But, in the last year I’ve renewed the hobby. I almost never play the games—I’m in it entirely for the modeling.)
Me: All right one more question. I always love to find out someone’s deepest darkest secret. Would you care to share an embarrassing moment with us? I’ll share mine if you’ll share yours. It doesn’t have to be your most embarrassing one…just one you would feel comfortable with.
Robison: I have the most embarrassing moment of all embarrassing moments: In seventh grade I was in student government, and we had an overnight retreat at one of the kids’ cabins. Being dumb thirteen year olds, several of the guys thought it was hilariously funny to hide somewhere and then jump out and scare people—the coolest, most popular guy was doing it, so we all had to do it. My first attempt went extremely well: I hid in a hall closet with one of those slatted doors (I don’t know what those are called) so I could see out. It was perfect: a girl walked by, I leapt out, she screamed, high fives all around.
But the second attempt did not go nearly so well. I heard some girls coming, so I ducked into the nearest dark room. It was a bedroom, and I thought (in my stupid, 13-year-old brain) that it would be hilarious if I hid under the bed and then grabbed one of their ankles when they walked in the room in the dark.
Well, they were closer than I thought, because I’d barely gotten under the bed when they came in—I was facing the wrong direction to grab their ankles! I scooted around, but I was too late. It was obvious (from their conversation, not from me being able to see anything) that they’d closed the door and started changing into their pajamas. And then they got into bed.
And there I was, trapped under the bed, suddenly horrified beyond all horror. I think I lay there, petrified, for more than an hour; I just couldn’t think of any way to get out of there without appearing to be a peeping Tom. And the longer I stayed, the worse it got. I hoped they’d fall asleep, but they just kept right on talking, with no end in sight.
The ending is anti-climactic: I eventually said something, tried to play it off as a joke, and ran embarrassed out of the room. And then spent the rest of seventh and eighth grade labeled as a pervert.
So, if any of you think you have embarrassing stories, BEAT THAT.
Me: That’s pretty bad! But then 7th grade seems to be the worst time in everyone’s life. I promised my embarrassing moment—Okay, it’s not my MOST embarrassing one, because honestly mine way beats yours. It's so embarrassing I’m not willing to put it out there for the world. Maybe I’ll write about it in one of my books and then everyone will just have to keep wondering if that was it or not. So here is something that happened to me in 7th grade. I had this major, huge, ginormous crush on this boy named Danny. He had dark hair and blue eyes. (I always fell for those kind of guys—even married one like that). Anyway, my mother finally let me start shaving my legs about this time, and I was excited to tell a couple of my girlfriends. One mean girl told Danny that I started shaving my legs just for him. I got a note from  him that said, “Shaving your legs and unbuttoning your blouse will not make me like you.” Unbuttoning my blouse? What was he talking about? That’s when I looked down and saw that two of the buttons on my shirt had indeed come unbuttoned. I did not do that, and certainly not to attract him! Needless to say, I was more than thrilled when his family moved out of state.

Thank you, Robison Wells for joining me today. It’s been a pleasure getting to know a little more about you. I hope you’re going to the Storymakers conference in May. I’d love to meet you in person.
Robison: It’s a deal.
Me: I'm looking forward to it!

And now, here’s what I thought of Variant:

What would you do if you were friendless and familyless? (It’s a word I just made up). That’s the story of Benson’s life. The first line of the opening paragraph gives you the warning that this is going to be one of those “scare you death” tales. Benson gets a scholarship to attend a boarding school where he hopes to better his life. What he finds is that there are no adults, video cameras watching his every move, and the kids attending Maxfield Academy? Definitely something wrong. They’ve divided into factions. What Benson hoped was a way to progress into his adult years turns into a deadly game of survival and escape is impossible. Oh, and about detention here at Maxfield—no one ever returns.
I haven’t read a book like this in a long time! I simply could not put it down until I got to the very last sentence, and then I had to go back and read it twice. Really? Robison—leave me hanging like that? All I can say is hurry up and finish the sequel, because I’m going to be waiting anxiously to download it on Kindle.
Variant is a tightly written story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. For days afterward I couldn’t get the story out of my head. Well, done, Robison. I’m wish you all the best in the Whitneys!
You can purchase Robison's book here. You will love it, too!
Check out Robison's website.
His sequel Feedback will be released Oct 2021. I can hardly wait!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

ANWA Conference Report on Linda Mullineaux’s class:

The Critical Skill of Self Editing-Focusing on what agents and editors really care about

I consider myself one of the luckiest authors at the conference. Not only was it fabulous—from amazing classes and presenters to the food, but I got to “hang out” with my editor, Linda Mullineaux from Walnut Springs Press. 
Linda says we look like sisters except she's the short one. LOL

Even though I’m published, I have so much to learn, and attending Linda’s class was informative and fun. Here is what her class was all about:

First of all, Linda says, “Take time writing your book; make it as perfect as you can.” She says it’s important to know your target audience, know your word count, and know what your publisher/agent accepts.
Walnut Springs Press

Now that you’ve done all the hard work, you hit the send key on your email with your manuscript attached. Now what? First of all, breathe a sigh of relief and go work on something else. If after a few days you haven’t heard from them, it’s okay to ask if the manuscript was received. Then be patient. After some time has passed, it’s okay to “bother” the agent or editor By “bother” Linda means, a quick email saying, “I hate to bother you, but have you had a chance to look at my manuscript?” But DON’T bother the editor every day! Agents and editors want to know that you are not going to be a high maintenance author. Be patient, the process takes time.

Linda says that often the plot is not the problem, but it’s often the mechanics of the story. Editors have so many books to make decisions on that to have a great story and poor writing makes an editor reject the book. An editor wants to know “How much work will it take to get it in publishable form?” If it’s going to take too much time, then the editor will pass it over for one that is going to take less editing. If there are too many mistakes it’s likely to be rejected.

When contacting a publisher make sure to include a cover letter and synopsis, not a chapter by chapter, but tell the story. If an editor or agent sends you back suggestions to fix it, take this as a very good sign that your story is publishable, but that you will need to look at it again for syntax, grammar, punctuation, etc. This is where a critique group is crucial, but make sure they are going to be honest and helpful.

Here are some other tips on being the best writer and creating the best book you can:

·         Take your time writing. Make it as perfect as you can.
·         Let others read it and give you feedback—no not your mom, she thinks everything is brilliant.
·         The best way to be a great writer is to read—especially the classics.
·         Let it sit for at least a month. Write something else, think about something else.
·         Phillip Cosby “When in doubt, delete.”
·         As a writer you are not being fair if you’re not being honest.
·         In dialogue, less is more.
·         On setting—Don’t make it sound like a travel brochure.
·         Make sure your characters want something on every page.
·         Have a strong voice.

Some of the types of errors that Linda sees a lot of are as follows:

·         Punctuation and minor grammar issues
·         Overwriting
·         Syntax or logistical errors
·         Unvaried sentence structures
·         Dangling modifiers

The last thing you should have when contacting an editor or agent is a marketing plan. This is the nuts and bolts of what you are going to do to promote your book. Have a blog that is content driven, not just an advertisement for your book. Have a social presence on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Find other ways to be creative in promoting your book.
Just me, chillin' between classes