First off, I want to thank you for being my guinea pig as far as being my first interviewee is concerned.
Now let’s start with the regular question that usually pops up in one of these. What got you into writing?
I’ve always been a storyteller. Make believe was my favorite game, whether it was live action, or with my Barbies, or whatever. But my friends always wanted to play Charlie’s Angels or or My Little Ponies. I wanted to play Battlestar Galactica or Star Wars. And since I couldn’t talk them into it, I sat down and wrote my own stories. Also, I noticed early on that the boys often got to do the fun stuff (fight with swords, fly vipers and X-wings), and if I wanted girls to do it, too, I was going to have to write my own stories.
Oh, a fellow Star Wars nerd! I heart Star Wars.
Did you always want to write YA? And where do you think the YA market is headed, specifically the paranormal/urban subgenres? Do you ever plan on stepping out of that genre and writing in another?
I actually didn’t set out to write a YA book. I just wrote a book that I wanted to read. I admit, a lot of my reading, then and now, came off the YA shelf. The themes appeal to me--in YA, characters are usually figuring out their place in the world, and how they’re going to use their superpower (literal or figurative) to save it. Lots of mythic archetypes in YA, too.
I think the paranormal trend isn’t new in YA--in fact, Sci-Fi and Fantasy books used to be dismissed by serious literary types as “juvenile.” Lots of what I pulled off the SFF shelves as a kid is now on the YA shelves. Only the category in the bookstore is new. I think supernatural stories will always be strong with teens, because they’re still open to that. They haven’t gotten that adult voice that says “that’s stupid” yet. I hope lots of them never will. (I never did.)
I have many many ideas for books. Some will fit in the YA category, some won’t. So I don’t limit myself at all. I write what I want, not to the market. Thankfully, what I write has a good spot with the teens!
Tell us about Maggie Quinn. Is there a lot of you in her? Where did she come from? I know some writer’s will flesh out a character several different ways, whether it be an outlining / biography method or just an idea brewing for a lot of time in the mind. What’s your method?
When I create a character, I start with one strong element that is the hook on which I hang everything else. If you think about it like drawing, it’s a bold, strong line that can’t be erased, and everything else in the picture has to work around that.
For Maggie it was this idea of a crusading girl detective of the Brenda Starr or Nancy Drew type. Or Lois Lane--who was always very pushy when it came to getting the story. With Maggie, it happens to be a supernatural story, and often one that can’t be told in public. But the crusader who solves the mystery and FIXES things is at her core. Then I shade it with light and dark--for every good quality I give her, I try and balance it out with a flaw. A lot of time they’re the flip side of each other. Like, Maggie is very strong willed, but that can make her stubborn, and reluctant to change her opinion, even when she should.
I admit, there’s a lot of me in Maggie, but there’s a lot of me in all my characters. I think there’s more of the ‘public’ me in Maggie than some others. I do work hard to make her different enough that she’s not a self-insertion, but she gets to say a lot of things that I think, but am too polite to voice.
Okay, a juicy topic a lot of us aspiring writer’s love to hear about. How did it happen? Was Prom Dates From Hell your first written novel, and how was the querying process for you emotionally and time wise? Feel free to go into an elaborate story about this super event in your life so we can live vicariously through you for a moment!
Prom Dates From Hell was my first finished novel. I’d written short stories and plays, and I’d STARTED a lot of books. But PDFH was the first I’d finished. Things happened very quickly for me. I wrote it in six weeks, revised it in another six weeks, started submitting queries, and had an agent in… you guessed it… six weeks. And then it sold in… wait for it… six weeks. (Do you think it’s fate that a book about demons has so many sixes involved?)
I attacked the query process like a war objective. I had a rocking (my agent tells me so, so it’s not ego, really. J) and because I’d targeted my submissions with research, I had a very good response rate to my query. Obviously, things happened quickly, and I was lucky not to have to deal with a lot of disappointment. (And no, I don’t tell this story at in person conferences, because I don’t want people to slash my tires.)
Six weeks? Thats amazing! But, after reading some of your stuff, doesn't surprise me.
How is life with an agent? What’s the relationship like, and was the “Hell” theme in your titles your idea?
On the subject of disappointment--one of the awesome things about having an agent is that all the rejections come filtered through her. J I’m lucky that my agent ‘gets’ me. We have the same sense of humor, and a very similar literary background (meaning, we read a lot of the same books growing up). So we have a friendly relationship; I feel lucky about that. The Hell theme was totally my idea. I was glad that loved it, too.
You have 3 published books out now, one of these due March 10, 2009 (Highway to Hell). What’s next for you? Are you continuing on with Maggie’s adventures or are you planning something else?
I hope that I’ll get to write more Maggie books in the future. I love the character, and there are many more monsters for her to face. But my next next book (after Highway to Hell) is a new character, and a slightly different theme. It’s a gothic romance set in the rural south, about a ballet dancer who breaks her leg, gets shipped off to stay with relatives in a shabby antebellum mansion, where she starts to see ghosts. Lots of spookiness, mystery, family secrets and, of course, romance. (It’s titled The Splendor Falls, and it comes out in September this year.)
I've heard an excerpt of this at one of the DFWWW meetings and must say to RCM fans out there, or soon-to-be-fans after you go pick up one of her books, it's going to be great! I'm a sap for teen romance, and Rosemary pegs it perfect along with the suspenseful element of paranormal that keeps me ready to eagerly flip the next page.
What would you say has been the best help or resource for you as a growing writer, and for those of us traveling the bumpy road to being agented and/or published, any sage advice to help us through this journey?
Something that made a big difference for me was joining a couple of writing groups: the RWA, and DFW Writer’s Workshop. In both cases, meeting in person was important. Once I started thinking like a professional writer, I started acting like a professional writer, and… you know… actually WRITING. Because I’d talked about it for a long time. Finding friends and comrades to hold me accountable with “How many pages did you write this day/week/month” was a very big deal.
My advice is to live your life to the fullest. Whether you’re aspiring or pro, we tend to hole up in our caves and get depressed when things aren’t going well. Or we wait for opportunity or ideas or the muse to come to us. Get out and live life, and that’s when you may intersect with your next idea, or something that inspires you, or something that reminds you why you love to write.
For most of us, that reason isn’t the money. So why get depressed about rejection? Keep doing what you love, and keep putting yourself and your work out there, and someday it will come across the person that loves what you do, too!
Some really good advice. It's so easy to get discouraged in this particular industry and sometimes picking yourself up, dusting off, and trudging through it passionately takes a little more effort at times. Thanks for reminding us aspiring writer's to keep our passion. It is, afterall, what got us started in the first place.
And lastly, cat, dog or neither?
Seriously? I’m a dog person. Heck, I’m a dog in people clothes sometimes. J Scratch my belly, praise me with a pat on the head, and I’m your friend forever.