Why I withdrew from the writing community in 2015 (and why this ALA Midwinter is really special to me)

I usually don’t notice I’ve been depressed until I’m done being depressed.

I’ve always had a “clean slate” mentality: if I miss an email, don’t exercise, don’t write, the day’s a waste and doesn’t count. But it’s okay, because tomorrow I’ll evolve into a glistening future being who does everything perfectly always (it’s in the calendar) so today doesn’t count. That tomorrow is more real to me, and today gets ignored.

Except, for most of 2015, there were a a lot more todays than tomorrows. So I did the natural thing and ignored most of 2015.

Except time still passes whether or not I’m paying attention, and that’s how I ended up withdrawing from the writing community for a year when it was supposed to be, like, a day. Depression makes communication Really Hard. When I have zero energy to respond to an email, I tell myself I’ll do it tomorrow. Except I still wake up with no energy, and then it’s 1 pm and I still haven’t replied to the email, and then the anxiety about not replying to the email ironically makes it harder to reply to the email, and then the day is a waste because I haven’t worked, but it’s okay because it doesn’t count and I still have tomorrow.

I know social anxiety is supposed to be easier online than in person, but for me it’s the other way around. There’s only so long I can analyze the stupid thing I’ve said out loud before it fades away. The internet is full of hard little black spiky reminders that I’ve probably embarrassed myself, waiting for me every time I open my Twitter profile. It’s exhausting to constantly generate a stream of these when I can barely even go grocery shopping.

(Sidenote: a part of feeling so down is the chronic pain I’ve been having, which turns out to be probably rheumatoid arthritis! And depression is a big symptom. So there’s that.)

Then my book got bumped, which is totally normal, except I had to watch while all the debut authors I’d connected with moved forward and got excited and grew, while I just felt stuck. My time off turned into too much time, and then I was too scared to come back. I didn’t want to acknowledge what I was going through – my favorite version of myself is the positive upbeat one, and I felt like that identity would be ruined if I had depression. So I had no excuses to give. I was sure that when I did start talking to my writing friends again, they either wouldn’t remember me or would be annoyed at my absenteeism.

But so far, that hasn’t been true.

Nobody’s demanded an explanation. Nobody’s tapped their foot like a eighties movie mom in a bathrobe – “YOUNG LADY, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” There’s a sense of unconditional acceptance in the writing community, that as long as you like words you’re welcome. It helps that a lot of writers, I know, have experienced mental health issues too. It helps that we were all brought here by the same love. It helps that, for some reason, pretty much everyone here is just really dang nice.

The people in the last couple weeks who’ve casually replied to my tweets or messaged me probably have no idea what it meant to me, that subtle reaffirmation of “you fit in here, you are wanted” or how much of my anxiety they managed to get rid of. I don’t know what I did to deserve being part of this community, but I’ll never stop being grateful. I think, more than anything else, it’s that I was scared of being rejected by the writers and bloggers that I look up to so much!

I’m still getting the hang of it. I still feel out of the loop, and that it’s my own fault, and that there’s no way I can make up for the thousand times I missed congratulating or commisserating. The anxiety is still there, but it’s fading. I won’t tell myself I’m taking a break for my mental health when I know full well that the healthy thing to do is not to withdraw.

I made the last-minute decision to attend ALA Midwinter. and I’m terrified and thrilled. I didn’t expect anyone to care that I’d be there, but instead, lots of people said they wanted to see me! (If you spot me, say hi! I look like this, but with giant tortoiseshell glasses and a gray sweater-dress). This community has given me so much and it doesn’t owe me anything. This year I’ll try hard to give back.

Even though I’ve been around for a while, it feels like I’m coming in for the first time. So: hi, guys! I’m Laura!

It feels really good to be here.

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Weird Feminism: The Bergstrom Storm

There’s something I’ve noticed about white middle-aged men who write thrillers with young female protagonists.

On the 24th, S. (Scott) Bergstrom basically pissed off the entire YA community in an interview with Publishers Weekly with his claims that the category is bereft of moral complexity. This sentiment is echoed in his Amazon author page: “What has disappointed me about so many YA novels is the lack of internal conflict when it comes to difficult moral choices.”

While that’s clearly pretty messed up, considering the fact that YA has some of the most morally complex books I’ve ever read (like seriously, has he been reading picture books or…?) what also bothered me was the way he touts his “strong heroine” in interviews. In this interview, he trashes “princess-this, Barbie-that” femininity, and the ideal of “a woman in a pink dress and a nineteen inch waist” – which is ironic, considering that the main thing mentioned in the PW interview about his main character is that she starts out overweight and then becomes, ahem, “a lean warrior with hair dyed fire-engine red.”

(No idea what her Manic Panic has to do with it, but okay.)

Bergstrom describes his character as the opposite of the “cheerleader-prom queen.” She’s “bullied by her prettier, richer classmates”, but turns into a gun-slinging army-jacket-wearing shoots-first-asks-questions-later badass (once she loses the weight, of course, to symbolize her personal growth and all.)

The thing that annoys me is how he makes this character out to be some groundbreaking feminist revolution. The “action girl” is not new. There’s a TVTropes page to prove it. YA is spilling over with Katniss Everdeens, Triss Priors, Meadow Woodsons, and a bazillion other kill-em-dead lady warriors who abhor pink, avoid dresses at all costs, and shoot first, ask questions later.

The thing that confuses me is that these male authors always seem convinced that theirs is the first.

Once, in a writing group populated mainly by older males, I listened to a thriller author explain that his protagonist was not like other girls. “She’s tough,” he explained. “She’s not into girly things.”

What I don’t think these male authors realize is that when they reassure us constantly that their female characters would never deign to touch anything pink-Barbie-cheerleading-related, is that it’s pretty clear that this disdain for femininity doesn’t just belong to their characters. It belongs to them. And they’re telling us that the only way a female character can be strong is if she acts, in every way possible, like a man.

See, these male authors are going to save us from traditional feminity by daring to write a female character who rejects it with the scorn it deserves. They often cite their daughters as inspiration for their rescue mission. They’re going to provide a positive example for the poor young girls drowning in pink.

But here’s the thing: I like pink. It’s my favorite color.

I’m also the author of a thriller coming out next spring with a main character who may or may not have murdered the boy she hated more than anyone else.

She also likes pink.

Liking pink and enjoying traditionally feminine things does not mean a girl can’t be strong. Strength can be conceived in many ways other than traditionally masculine, bullet-after-bullet strength. This is feminism 101, guys. Introductory course stuff.

So my message to Scott Bergstrom is this:

It’s okay! You can lay down your mantle. I’m sure it was a heavy burden, your duty to rescue girls from the chains of femininity by writing the world’s first strong female character. Lucky for you, the young adult category is full of women writing girls who express their femininity and strength in hundreds of diverse ways.

I’m sure you’ll be very relieved.

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Interview with Lori M. Lee, Debut Author of Gates of Thread and Stone

So today is a pretty cool day. And no, not because it’s the anniversary of Charles the Fifteenth getting crowned king of Norway. (After the tenth Charles you should probably stop counting.)


I have been waiting to read this for literally forever (and yes, I mean literally forever, since the dawn of time) and here’s why:

Gates cover FINAL smIn the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.

In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.

You are correct, universe. This book DOES sound amazing. And it’s out today. And you can read it. Congratulations, you! Actually, congratulations to me, because I just bought it and will have it attached to my face for approximately the amount of time it takes to complete.

Also, congratulations to Lori M. Lee herself, who was kind enough to participate in an interview where she shares some of the inspiration behind GATES OF THREAD AND STONE!

Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for your debut book?

The character of Kai was inspired by something a friend said in passing about time. Unfortunately, I can’t actually tell you what she said because it would spoil the book! But I basically meshed this idea of a girl who can manipulate time with another idea about mind-controlled super soldiers, and it all made sense!

How did you come up with your title? Were there any you considered first?

The book was originally titled Harbinger, which my agent and I both liked except literally right before we went on submission, another young adult book released under that title. So it had to be changed, and I’m glad it was because I LOVE the current title. Several people at the agency and myself threw around some ideas, and we eventually settled on Gates of Thread and Stone.

What was the hardest part of writing GATES?

The ending, because I struggled with certain elements that I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep. And I know that’s the vaguest answer ever, but I don’t want to spoil anything haha.

Is there anything that helps you get into the writing zone – music, for example?

Music is great for getting the mood of a scene right, but I can’t actually listen to music while writing. It’s too distracting. Mostly I just reread a bit of what I wrote earlier, and that’s enough to get me back into the moment.

What is it about young adult fiction that draws you in as a writer?

I’ve always written young adult fiction. Even when I was a little kid, well before “young adult” was a category, I was writing about teens having adventures because that’s what I wanted to do when I was their age. And then long after, I was still writing about teens because that’s just the time period in our lives that resonates the strongest with me. Basically, I can’t imagine not writing young adult fiction.

Was there ever a time when you seriously considered giving up on your writing dream?

Weirdly enough, when I was a teen! There was a period of a couple years after my brother passed away when I didn’t write anything. Then, once I’d rediscovered that passion, I almost gave up my dream for a boy, which would have been the dumbest thing I’d ever done!

Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published?

If it’s truly your passion, don’t let anyone stand in the way of your dreams, even the people you love. Although ideally, the people you love will be cheering you on 🙂

Can you say anything about your next project/s?

I can’t say anything about the sequel, but I’m also working on a new fantasy that I’ve been wanting to write for ages. I’m recycling some mythology from a shelved project, and it’s been fun breathing new life into the ideas.

lori_smallLori is the author of young adult fantasy Gates of Thread and Stone, coming August 5, 2014 from Skyscape. She has a borderline obsessive fascination with unicorns, is fond of talking in capslock, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, kids, and a friendly pitbull.

Thank you so much, Lori!

You can follow Lori and her writing on her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Goodreads.

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Interview with Joy Hensley, Debut Author of RITES OF PASSAGE

To cap off this week’s interview blitz, I spoke with Joy Hensley, whose YA Contemporary debut, RITES OF PASSAGE, will be out from Harper Teen on September 9th, 2014!

Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she’s not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.

So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She’s even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What’s she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won’t risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty…no matter how much she wants him.

As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.

Now time’s running short. Sam must decide who she can trust…and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.

ImageJoy N. Hensley is a writer, teacher, mother, wife, and all around super woman. She lives in Virginia with her kilt-wearing Aussie husband, two young boys, and two crazy dogs. She does everything in her power to avoid doing anymore push-ups.

Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for your debut book?

Basically it boils down to me being 19 and stupid. 🙂  I took a $25 dare to go to military school and instead of writing a really wimpy main character who tended to cry a lot, I wrote a kick-ass main character who wasn’t going to let the boys show her up!

How did you come up with your title? Were there any you considered first?

The title was a lot of brainstorming between me, my agent, Mandy Hubbard, and my editor, Jennifer Klonsky. In life we’ve got lots of things we live through before becoming “adults.” Military schools are basically mini-societies and there are lots of things you have to prove yourself in before they’ll accept you there. That’s basically what it boils down to. There were a lot of options but we kept coming back to this one.

What was the hardest part of writing this particular book?

I met a lot of amazing people at military school–people who really made me see what I could become. It was hard to not base all my characters after them and just make it a book about how amazing my recruit brothers and sisters were. With anything I write, I put myself into the pages, but Sam’s story is definitely not my story. I think distinguishing the two different lives was pretty hard for me.

Is there anything that helps you get into the writing zone – music, for example?

For this book especially, I listened to a lot of music I heard at military school. I don’t want to spoil it because my playlist is very special and relates a lot to the book, but it was lots of heavy-hitting music. Definitely nothing happy or cheery. It scared my kids when they heard me listening to it if that’s any help. Some of it’s in German and really quite scary. 🙂

What is it about young adult fiction that draws you in as a writer?

Ha! The answer I SHOULD say is that I love that age and wish I could be there forever, right? The truth is, I think that those years in high school are so pivotal. When I was a teen, I thought every decision made by anyone was directly related to my life. I felt like my world was spinning out of control. I wanted to be treated like an adult, but I still made some pretty big mistakes. Being on that precipice is scary. I just feel like young adult, especially today, need stories to read. Stories that touch them, that reach them, and that can help them become the best person of themselves they can be.

Was there ever a time when you seriously considered giving up on your writing dream?

I’ve known I wanted to have a book published since I was in third grade. I don’t know that I ever wanted to really give up. It took me until I was in my twenties to realize, though, that if I actually wanted to be published, I needed to get serious about it. Writing is easy to have as a dream. I fall very easily into the “If only I had time to write” void, where anything and everything else can become an excuse, especially when I work full time, commute three hours a day, have two kids to raise when I get home, and everything else that comes with the job. I don’t think I would have become a writer any sooner than now. Until I started treating the dream of writing like a job, I never really believed it would happen. Would I stop now? Never. Do I still struggle? Every day.

Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published?

Write. Write. Write. Read. Read. Read. And never, ever give up.

Can you say anything about your next project/s?

I can’t say much at all, but here’s the gist: it’s about a girl who has to enter her brother’s dangerous world of mixed martial arts in order to save him. But to do this, she must be willing to risk the life of the boy she loves.

Thank  you so so much, Joy!

Be sure to add RITES OF PASSAGE on Goodreads. You can find Joy on her website, or on Twitter!

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Interview with Robin Talley, Debut Author of LIES WE TELL OURSELVES

Today I interviewed the author of a book I’m truly excited about. Robin Talley’s debut, the LGBT YA historical novel LIES WE TELL OURSELVES, will be out September 30th, 2014, from Harlequin Teen!

ImageIn 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.
robin-talley-4-e1351969173519Robin Talley grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, writing terrible teen poetry and riding a desegregation bus to the school across town. A Lambda Literary Fellow, Robin lives in Washington, D.C., with her fiancée, plus an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. When Robin’s not writing, she’s often planning communications strategies at organizations fighting for equal rights and social justice. You can find her on the web at http://www.robintalley.com, or on Twitter: @robin_talley.

Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for your debut book?

I was first inspired to write Lies We Tell Ourselves during a road trip with my parents. We were talking about their school days back in the 1950s and 60s, and the conversation turned to their fears that the schools would be closed due to the state government’s efforts to resist the Supreme Court’s order to desegregate in their 1954 ruling, Brown v. Board of Education.

Both of my parents were in all-white Virginia high schools during integration. They both saw first-hand the torment that the few black students in their schools were subjected to. These were stories I’d never been taught in history classes, even though I grew up in Virginia too.

I did some research and discovered just how well-organized opposition to the Brown v. Board decision had been throughout the South, especially in Virginia. Virginia was home to the rural Prince Edward County, which shut down its entire school system for five years to avoid integration, and to the city of Norfolk, where 10,000 white students missed out on half a year of their educations ― because the Governor closed down the white schools rather than let 17 black students into their classrooms.

I wondered what it would’ve been like to be one of those 17 students. And what would happen if you were dealing with that ― and if you were gay, too. In 1959, being gay wasn’t something you could tell anyone. Not unless you wanted to risk everything.

By that point, I was too sucked in by that story. I had no choice but to write it.

What kind of research did you do for Lies We Tell Ourselves?

I did a lot of research for this book. I spent several months researching the history of school desegregation and life in the 1950s before I sat down to write the first word of the story. This included a lot of listening to oral histories, reading of newspaper archives, and pouring through vintage high school yearbooks. Most of all, though, I relied on the memoirs of the heroes who lived through school integration and wrote about their experiences, such as The Norfolk 17 by Andrew Heidelberg and Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals.

What was the hardest part of writing this particular book?

Getting into the headspace of the characters, especially Linda. Linda ― at least at the start of Lies We Tell Ourselves ― is pretty unbearable. She’s a devout racist. She really and truly believes that white people are superior to black people. That’s diametrically opposed to my own beliefs, so writing from her point of view was a major challenge. It required some serious intellectual aerobics.

Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published?

Make friends with other writers who have the same goals you do. When I first started writing, I didn’t know anyone else who was writing seriously. It wasn’t until after I got an agent that I first really got to know some fellow aspiring YA writers, and I wish now that I’d known them all along. When we first met, we were all unpublished ― and now, we almost all either have books on the shelves or under contract to come out soon. Having people around you who understand what you’re going through is the only way to maintain your sanity.

Thank you so much, Robin!

Be sure to add LIES WE TELL OURSELVES on Goodreads! You can also check out Robin’s website, or follow her on Twitter.

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Interview with Rebecca Behrens, Debut Author of WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE

Today I had the awesome opportunity to interview Rebecca Behrens, author of debut upper MG contemporary WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE, which just came out on Feb 4th from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky!

ImageFirst Daughter Audrey Rhodes can’t wait for the party she has planned. The decorations are all set, and the pizza is on its way. But the Secret Service must be out to ruin her life, because they cancel at the last minute for a “security breach,” squashing Audrey’s chances for making any new friends. What good is having your own bowling alley if you don’t have anyone to play with?

Audrey is ready to give up and spend the next four years totally friendless—until she discovers Alice Roosevelt’s hidden diary. The former first daughter’s outrageous antics give Audrey a ton of ideas for having fun . . . and get her into more trouble than she can handle.


Rebecca grew up in Wisconsin, studied in Chicago, and now lives in New York City, where she works as a production editor for children’s books. Some of her favorite things are: the beach, bright shoes, running, doughnuts, em-dashes, and laughing.

Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE?

I’ve always been fascinated by first daughters—particularly Alice Roosevelt, who was a real White House wild child and one of the first national celebrities. When the Obama girls moved in, I started to wonder what White House life would be like for first daughters in the age of blogs and Twitter. What would happen if a first kid got into Alice-like hijinks? A first daughter finding Alice’s (fictional) long-lost diary seemed like a great way to bring contemporary and historical fiction together into a fun middle-grade story.

How did you come up with your title? Were there any you considered first?

Normally, I come up with titles easily when developing a concept. That was not the case for this book, and I completed a full first draft without a title. While brainstorming, I kept getting tripped up by trying to incorporate “first daughter” into a fun and unique title. Finally, I asked myself: What is this book really about? Well, it’s about when Audrey met Alice. And there was my title!

What was the hardest part of writing this particular book?

Writing a real person was tough! I’m not a historian, and my book is fiction—but I wanted to make my Alice Roosevelt character as historically accurate as possible, and create a voice that would do the amazing real Alice justice. There were so many juicy details about her life that I wanted to work into the story; I could’ve written a dozen books about Alice. Figuring out which facts to include—and when to veer into fiction—was tricky.

Is there anything that helps you get into the writing zone—music, for example?

It kind of depends on my mood and where I’m at in writing. If I’m feeling stuck, I switch up where I’m writing—at my desk, the kitchen table, on the couch, at a café, etc. Sometimes a change in place is just what I need to get in the zone. I’m also a definite night-owl author. Even when I try to spend a whole weekend day working, I find that it’s only after the sun goes down that I start to feel creative and productive.

What is it about middle grade fiction that draws you in as a writer?

I love the way that middle-grade characters (and readers) look at the world: with wonder, optimism, and curiosity. Growing up, I was always a reader, but it was as a middle-grader that I truly fell in love with books. I suppose I like to write MG partly because I can recapture the excitement and creativity I had at that age.

Was there ever a time when you seriously considered giving up on your writing dream?

Not really. There definitely were times when I realized that traditional publication was not necessarily something in my control—i.e., when, or if, it would happen. Even though that was very frustrating, I still wanted to keep creating and storytelling—even if it would be just for my own enjoyment.

Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published?

Read! One of the most important parts of being a writer is reading widely both within the categories and genres you write and outside them! For every MG book I read, I try to read one YA or adult book. Being exposed to different styles, voices, and genres can be really inspiring (and educational)!

Thank you so much, Rebecca! I can’t wait to read WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE.

You can find Rebecca on her website, on Twitter, on Facebook, or on Goodreads!

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Interview with Virginia Boecker, Debut Author of THE WITCH HUNTER

So I’ve been away doing some traveling – and now that I’m back, I have some fabulous interviews to share! First up is the Freshman Fifteens’ own Virginia Boecker, whose YA Fantasy THE WITCH HUNTER will be out Spring 2015 from Little, Brown. From Publisher’s Marketplace: The Witch Hunter is set in an alternative 16th-century London. In the story, pitched as Shadow and Bone meets The Tudors, the only girl in the king’s elite group of witch hunters is framed for being a witch herself, finding freedom at the hands of the world’s most wanted wizard. Publication is set for spring 2015.

Two words: Bad. Ass.

Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for your debut book?

Well, I lived in London for four years and while I was there got completely obsessed with British history. I read everything I could get my hands on: fiction, non-fiction, even guidebooks (I have a huge stack of guidebooks from castles, cathedrals, museums, even prisons! I still use them for resarch.) My debut is based in part on the Protestant Reformation of the 1600s and the Inquisition – only instead of dealing with differences in character’s religious beliefs, I’m dealing with differences in their magical beliefs.

How did you come up with your title? Were there any you considered first?

THE WITCH HUNTER was one of two titles I considered. The other was THE THIRTEENTH TABLET (the meaning of which is clear when you read the book).  However, during the editorial process we did consider changing it again. My editor, agent and I brainstormed for weeks and came up with two acceptable alternatives. However, when my editor took them to the “big” meeting at Little, Brown, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping THE WITCH HUNTER. Which I’m thrilled about. It’s straightforward, to the point, and people seem to like it. During the brainstorming process, I floated a few of the proposed titles to people and every one of them said, “they’re good, but… why can’t you keep THE WITCH HUNTER?” 

What was the hardest part of writing this particular book?

My first draft of this book was a disaster – there’s no other way to put it. Full of cliches and clunky writing, overdone plots and over the top drama. Fun fact: my MC in the first draft was a long-lost princess – talk about cliches! I wrestled with that for a while, unsuccessfully, until one day I was researching witch hunters during the Inquisition and bam – my princess became a warrior. By that time I had gone through a few more drafts and aired out the rest of the clunky and cliched writing, but the plot possibilities that opened up from that change really made the difference.

Is there anything that helps you get into the writing zone – music, for example?

Another fun fact: I wrote nearly the entire first draft of THE WITCH HUNTER to the doleful sound of The Smiths. I was searching for my inner teenage angst and Morrissey is an excellent guide. However, when I’m editing, I prefer no music at all. Sometimes it’s because I’m reading sentences out loud but other times it’s just because I need to hear the character’s voices rattling around in my head.

What is it about young adult fiction that draws you in as a writer?

Everything is so big at this stage of life. Emotions, experiences; you’re on the brink of everything and the possibilities are endless. I’m jaded and old now (grin) so it’s fun to imagine it all again from a safe distance (grin again). Plus, it’s what I love to read – and probably 90% of what I do read – so it was a natural fit!

Was there ever a time when you seriously considered giving up on your writing dream?

I haven’t been writing that long, to be honest: coming up on four years now. When I started out, I wasn’t even sure if I’d enjoy it, at least enough to make it a career of it. So I gave myself a test: parked myself in a chair and wrote 1000 words a day: every day, five days a week. If I didn’t like doing that, why would I want it as a job? Fortunately, though, I loved it! I’m extremely practical, and I remember thinking I’d give myself a five year limit. If I couldn’t get an agent or any interest in my work after writing full time for five years, I’d give up. But I know now that I couldn’t have. I love writing too much.

Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published?

Read! Read anything, read everything. Read to discover what you like, to discover what others have to say, to discover what you want to say. And don’t prioritize screen time over page time. If I have an hour of free time at night (I have a husband and two young children, so an hour is being generous!) I would never choose television over a book. True, I can’t name a single Real Housewife, but I have no regrets about that.

Can you say anything about your next project/s?

Yes! I’m working simultaneously on the second THE WITCH HUNTER book, along with a short story that’s a companion to THE WITCH HUNTER (I call it TWH 1.5) told from another character’s point of view. After that is Book 3. I’ll be busy living in this world for a while but feel so, so fortunate to be able to do so!

Thank you so much, Virginia!

Be sure to connect with Virginia on Twitter, Goodreads, and on her website!

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