Friday, August 26, 2011

Christa Talks To The Teen---The August Edition

Okay duckies, first of all, for those of you following yesterday's 3 truths and 1 lie, the lie was #4. And I am glad you all love my NYC bestie as much as I do. 

Now, it is time once again for this month's "Christa Talks To The Teen" featuring the lovely Aliya. Don't forget that this is a monthly feature done on the last Friday of every month, so if you have questions for Aliya, drop them in the comments and she will tackle them next month.

Christa: What's your favorite kind of YA to read?

Aliya: I go through phases in which I read a whole bunch of one kind of book at a time. I ALWAYS like romance in my books. I'll switch between heart wrenching drama, light humored comedy, suspenseful mystery, paranormal (don't even get me started in the individual creatures). I enjoy a lot of books so long as they're fiction (and usually have a romance).

Christa: I grew up in the 80's and 90's, which of these words still work in YA:
Awesome, Sweet, Excellent, Badass, Cool, Nice, Lame, Douchebag, Baller, PHAT

Aliya: Awesome always works! Sweet is good. Excellent is a huge yes! Badass is constantly being used in my house. Cool works all the time. Nice is good. Lame is okay, but only sometimes. Douchebag is used, but not by me. I have never even heard of Baller of PHAT actually being used.

Christa: Sex, drinking, and alcohol---too much in YA books? too little? Appropriate for what's out there?

Aliya: I'm finding an appropriate amount. There is a good amount with and without those, and they're all realistic. Over half of teenagers seem to drink, have sex, and do drugs, and I think they want to read about it, too. The teens who don't do any of it generally want to read about it, sometimes just to understand the other people without joining them. But everyone wants a break from it at times, and there are books for that as well.

Christa: What TV shows do you think gets it right with teens? 

Aliya: I've been discussing this with my sisters, and my sister finally said "I don't know! Shows aren't for us to relate to, they're to entertain us!" Come on, most shows are outlandish and the others give us a few topics to connect with and then go overboard with the rest. There are emotions and circumstances from Degrassi, Glee, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager that are realistic, but it's TV, they exaggerate everything.

Thanks Aliya! As usual, you are made of AWESOME. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What's In A Name---Becoming Attached to Titles

So I was messing around on Blogger dashboard, trying to figure out how people found my blog and evidently, the number one source for the past month is through a website that promotes itself as "a place for alternative people."

Well, that is maybe good...I think. I guess I am an "alternative" person. I married a black man. I write YA books about rape and people playing deadly games. I promote books about GLBTQ serial killers. I am a critique partner for someone who writes BDSM erotica. I also teach Sunday School. And am co-chair of my kids' school PTA. Yes, some might call that being "alternative."

But I was thinking maybe these "alternative" people found me because I have a book I've written called GESTAPO and one called MANHOLE and this is appealing to "alternative people" (Once again, for the love of cheese, please don't let any skinheads be following me--if you are, trust me, you are at the wrong place).

Which brings me to titles...I've read a few funny blogs/tweets about how titles get changed constantly and not to become too attached to yours. I see this and know it to be true, but I am VERY attached to my titles. Yes, my books could be called something else, but why would they be? My titles are awesome (see what I mean by being attached?).

And honestly, to me, a book doesn't feel like a book until I have a great title to start it with. It's ridiculous, I know, but still, there's something about seeing it on that first page that is very calming. So for those of you who are curious, the next book I'll be writing (hopefully during NaNoWriMo) is going to be called GIRL 26.

How about the rest of you? Do you think I'm nuts or do you become this attached to titles as well? And what are your favorite all time book titles?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why Yes, I DO Have an Agent

In 1981, John Waters wrote and directed the film Polyester wherein he introduced audiences to "odorama" and provided each of them with scratch and sniff cards at the movie theaters. It was a hilarious concept and would have been really effective if I had actually seen it in the theater. But I watched it at home with no card and random numbers flashing on the screen every few minutes. It was still hilarious.

So as I write my "how I got my agent" story, I am going to provide you all with hot links to the things that helped me in the journey. And you can click on them or not. Sniff the card. Don't sniff the card. Your call.

As some of you know, I started writing my first novel GESTAPO about 18 months ago. And I finished it this past January. Er, sort of. Many, many people read it and gave me suggestions for how to fix it. And it did pretty well as far as things go. I entered it in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest and was a quarter finalist. I won some query and pitch contests with it. But still, it wasn't quite right. Because it was a first novel. Everyone tells you to trunk your first novel. Agents say it all the time. And they are right. The problem with trunking GESTAPO: my premise was compelling and it stinks to trunk great premises.

So I let my dear friend and mentor Heather Howland take a look at it and she tore it apart in the best possible way. All writers should have a Heather Howland in their lives. And because of all the revising I did after Heather's feedback, I started to get full requests on it.

Then I waited. Then I got a revise and resubmit request on GESTAPO. And then I waited some more. And in the meantime, I participated in this Testimonial Writing Workshop with the Voices and Faces Project. And while I was there, I figured out the next book I wanted to write. And I wrote it because I had to write it. It's called MANHOLE and when I first started it, I called it the book that would never be published. And many people offered to read that one too and gave me great suggestions for fixing it.

Then Deana Barnhart had this "Gearin' Up To Get An Agent" blogfest in July. And I put my query letter for MANHOLE up there because I had decided maybe I should trunk GESTAPO after all (yes, a few agents still had it but they'd now had it for almost 3 months). And I thought the query feedback went pretty well. So I sent the MANHOLE query letter out to five agents. Five agents who I know love dark YA. And who maybe wouldn't think MANHOLE was unpublishable.

And three days later, one of the agents who had GESTAPO called me to offer for it. Because, you know, that's how timing works. So I had to contact the agents who had the MANHOLE query and tell them I had an offer. And as you can only imagine, it was like Dr. Seuss's THE SNEETCHES because now two different books were in play and it was a big fat kerfuffle. (Off again, on again, in again, out again, through the machines they raced round and about again!). I ended up with four offers of representation. And yes, I had some of those phone calls while trying to attend the SCBWI conference in LA. Thank goodness for my CP Carrie who was there to talk it all out with me.

And not everyone will tell you this, but the whole decision making process is super exciting and ragingly hard. I mean really hard. And even when you absolutely know the right one, it is sort of painful telling the other ones "no." Because they were all right for some reasons, but "the one" is right for ALL the reasons.

Which brings me to my "right one"...the absolutely, utterly fabulous Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown LTD. My dark, edgy, feminist writer self couldn't be happier.

And for those of you who want to know my stats, I don't have the first clue. The funny two-book kerfuffle blew all of my query tracking out of the water.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Inside The Author's Studio with Lena Roy

Okay, duckies, it is time once again to get to know a fabulous author and this month we are featuring Lena Roy whose powerful book EDGES knocked my socks off when I read it. If you are interested in details, click the book on the sidebar. And don't forget, one lucky commenter will receive their own copy of EDGES (leave your email address so I don't have to hunt you down).

Welcome Lena!
Q: What is your favorite word?
Lena: I love the sensuality in sounds, so there are many words I love. Take BOOMS for example. The Buh sound feels so good, and the OOOOOOO feels delicious. Then there’s the MMMMMM which make your lips vibrate, and do I need to explain how cool the ZZZZZ sound at the end is? That being said, it is a word I use very sparingly, because it is indeed so powerful.

Q: What is your least favorite word:
Lena: Adverbs. Didn’t Stephen King say they are the devil? I have to choose one?
 If I have to choose one word, it would be CAN’T. Say yes people! Believe in yourself!

Q: What turns your MC on?
Lena: From Edges: two main characters, Luke and Ava. Story is told in alternate points of view.
Luke: Australian hosteler Tangerine, hiking, red rocks
Ava: doesn’t think that anything can turn her on anymore after quitting drinking

Q: What turns your MC off?
Lena: Luke: Frank, hippy dippy spirituality
Ava:  her drinking, her boss, Frank

Q: What sound do you love?
Lena: My kids laughing and having fun.

Q: What sound do you hate?
Lena: Whining. My kindergartner stops when I sing (to the tune of Lady Gaga’s Telephone): Stop whining, stop whining, I don’t think I can take anymore/ Your complaints will get me off the dance floor.

Q: What is your favorite YA quirk?
Lena:Taking pictures of gnomes in Libba Bray’s Going Bovine, and the gnomes’ justified outrage.

Q: What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Lena: Lounge singer, hands down. (Yes, another financially feasible line of work!)

Q: What profession would you rather bathe in a vat of urine than attempting? 
Lena: Bounty hunter. I’d be too scared!

Q: If John Green exists and sits at your table at a SCBWI conference, what would you like him to say to you? 
Lena: I got to sit next to him on a panel, and pal around a little bit at LeakyCon in Orlando. He is the real deal. I found the courage to ask him to read EDGES and he very graciously said “I would love to,” AND then when I gave it to him, he said: “I need a book to read once I’m done with my revisions: this is perfect.” Now of course, I would be ecstatic if he really did read it and gave it a shout out!

I came home and read Looking for Alaska which I hadn’t read before, so next time I see him, I would love to talk about theology and the complicated relationships we have with God.

Thanks, Lena for making it here today!  I bet I see John Green reading EDGES at the SCBWI conference this week.  

Readers, hit us with your comments for a chance to win your own copy of EDGES.