Friday, June 26, 2015

Interview with Natasha Sinel

Today we're chatting with my fellow Fall Fifteener, the effervescent Natasha Sinel, author of The Fix (Sky Pony Press, September 1, 2015), which sounds absolutely incredible.


Check it out:

One conversation is all it takes to break a world wide open.

Seventeen-year-old Macy Lyons has been through something no one should ever have to experience. And she’s dealt with it entirely alone.

On the outside, she’s got it pretty good. Her family’s well-off, she’s dating the cute boy next door, she has plenty of friends, and although she long ago wrote her mother off as a superficial gym rat, she’s thankful to have allies in her loving, laid-back dad and her younger brother.

But a conversation with a boy at a party one night shakes Macy out of the carefully maintained complacency that has defined her life so far. The boy is Sebastian Ruiz, a recovering addict who recognizes that Macy is hardened by dark secrets. And as Macy falls for Sebastian, she realizes that, while revealing her secret could ruin her seemingly perfect family, keeping silent might just destroy her.

THE FIX follows two good-hearted teenagers coming to terms with the cards they were dealt. It’s also about the fixes we rely on to cope with our most shameful secrets and the hope and fear that comes with meeting someone who challenges us to come clean.

Preorder THE FIX on Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Add THE FIX to your to-read list on Goodreads 

What is your writing process like?

I’m always trying to figure this out. I wish I had one. Generally it goes like this—I carry a notebook around with me (seriously from room to room) for when I have ideas, thoughts, and details about what I’m working on. If I have an idea for a new project, I write NEW IDEA in large print at the top of the page so I’ll know it’s recorded and I can forget about it until I need it.

Outlining is my weakness. Stories come to me in bits and pieces—fully-formed scenes play out in my head, and I write them, but then they don’t always add up to a great plot—or at least in the right order. But writing these scenes helps me know my characters and their motivations. Sometimes, I get to use the original scenes in the novel, sometimes I don’t.

I rewrite A LOT. I’m hoping to streamline my process for my next novel by creating a more solid structure before I start writing.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I used to write in my local libraries and at Borders (sad face). Now that my kids are in school, though, I write at home. I should write in my office at my ergonomically correct desk, but I tend to sit at the kitchen table or on the couch.

Is there anything in particular that gets you in the writing zone?

I think I’m in the minority here—I don’t really have anything in particular. I don’t make a cup of tea or put on lucky writing socks. I don’t listen to music when I write; I prefer quiet. On the other hand, I’m okay if there’s background noise, like at a cafe. What usually gets me in the zone to write is opening up my laptop and getting my fingers on the keyboard. A few years ago, I broke my shoulder, so I couldn’t type. I tried writing a few scenes longhand. It was really interesting to see how the scene flowed differently. I’d like to try doing that more, but I’m pretty attached to my laptop.

Do you ever get writer's block? Any tips to get past it?

Of course there are times when I feel like I can’t write—like I’m blocked and I can’t get past it. But the truth is, I’m happiest when I’m writing, so I don’t like to let it go too long. I have taken long breaks away from a story. And I’ve also forced myself through a block by refusing to get up until I’ve figured out what’s blocking me.

Even though I don’t write everyday, I do something writing-related—blogging, reading, editing, etc—pretty much all day every day. When I get stuck, sometimes it helps to Skype with a critique partner to just bounce around some ideas. Often I’ll think I’m stuck because I don’t know what happens next but when I talk it through I realized that I’m struggling with a character’s motivation. Once I figure that out, what happens next falls into place. Also, when I really don’t feel like writing, I put my phone in another room, and shut down the Internet.

Was there ever a time that you considered giving up on your aspiration to write?

I’ve never wanted to stop writing, but there was one moment that I seriously considered giving up on my dream to be a published author. After a seemingly endless rollercoaster with my first manuscript, my second manuscript (The Fix) was finally ready to go on submission. I loved my agent, all was going well . . . until she told me she was leaving the business. After that phone call, I wanted to give. I’d already been through so much, and things had finally been looking up. But my giving-up phase lasted about two hours. That night, I dove back into researching agents and ended up sending out a few queries the next day.

When I’m on a down cycle in the process, I try to remember this great motivational quote, and this helps:

“I love writing more than I hate failing at writing.” --Elizabeth Gilbert


Natasha Sinel writes YA fiction from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon but in her head, she’s still in high school and hopes no one near her can read minds. You can find her on Twitter or Facebook. The Fix is her first novel.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Interview with Shannon Grogan

Hello, lovelies!

Today I'm chatting it up with the adorable Shannon Grogan, author of From Where I Watch You, an amazing YA thriller due out August 4, 2015 via Soho Teen. 


You guys. I recently read this story and--HOLY CATS--it. is. insane. Check out the blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Kara McKinley is about to realize her dream of becoming a professional baker. Beautifully designed and piped, her cookies are masterpieces, but also her ticket out of rainy Seattle—if she wins the upcoming national baking competition and its scholarship prize to culinary school in California. Kara can no longer stand the home where her family lived, laughed, and ultimately imploded after her mean-spirited big sister Kellen died in a drowning accident. Kara’s dad has since fled, and her mom has turned from a high-powered attorney into a nutty holy-rolling Christian fundamentalist peddling “Soul Soup” in the family cafĂ©. All Kara has left are memories of better times.

But the past holds many secrets, and they come to light as Kara faces a secret terror. Someone is leaving her handwritten notes. Someone who knows exactly where she is and what’s she’s doing. As they lead her to piece together the events that preceded Kellen’s terrible, life-changing betrayal years before, she starts to catch glimpses of her dead sister: an unwelcome ghost in filthy Ugg boots. If Kara doesn’t figure out who her stalker is, and soon, she could lose everything. Her chance of escape. The boy she’s beginning to love and trust. Even her life.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background? And what drew you into the young adult genre?

I originally tried to get into the children’s book market as an illustrator. I was fresh out of art school and ready to illustrate picture books! Back then, every art director I met or sent my work to in Seattle said I had to move to New York if I wanted to succeed. I didn’t. I just sent my postcards around to every publisher I could. I had a lot of rejection, and some of ‘we like your work and we’ll keep you on file if something that fits your style comes up’. I got a little bit of freelance work from those postcards and I realized then that I didn’t want to illustrate other peoples stories, I wanted to do my own. I was working on it when I realized that I wanted to go back to college and pursue my second career choice: teaching. I did. Then I got married, had kids, taught kindergarten. In the back of my mind was the picture book writing and the illustrating, but after having kids I lost all of my art mojo! During the summer before my youngest started kindergarten I read all of the Harry Potter books. I was a substitute teacher at the time and when my son started kindergarten I was DESPERATE for a distraction, for something to do when I wasn’t subbing. When I finished that last Harry Potter book I was so inspired! I always knew someday I would write novels, but for adults, and after I’d lived about 70 years so I’d have a lifetime of experiences to draw from. But those HP books inspired me and made me feel like I could do it now and I didn’t want to wait! So I bought a new notebook (one of my favorite things in the world to buy) and started plotting out a story about a 12 year old girl and her guardian angel. I was so excited about it! My kids were both in school all day, I was subbing, and I had some time. But we were in a situation where we needed me to be making more money so when I had the opportunity to go back to full time teaching, I had to take it. And there went all of my writing time. For awhile. I kept hearing about this book called Twilight. And there was a movie coming out and everyone telling me ‘oh, you must read this book Twilight’ and I’m all like, yeah, whatever, if you say I HAVE to read it then I won’t. Just like how I dragged my feet with starting to read the Harry Potter books. In the winter, my sister shocked me, absolutely shocked me, when she told me she was writing a book! I can’t even remember if I told her I had started my girl and angel story. But she was one of those people forcing Twilight on me at a time when I needed a brain escape from the stress of a teacher’s life. So I read it. Then I read it again. I loved that book because it was so fun! Not to be outdone by my sister, I dug out that angel story and got back to work on it! But, after reading Twilight, I changed my characters ages to teens, so I could have more romance in it, and kissing. Fun! That is how I got into writing YA. Via Harry Potter and Twilight!

 What is your writing process like?

1. I use the W plot method with a bit of Save the Cat methodology  to visually plot out the story, with all of my colored Sharpies (here is the one for FWIWY)

2. I fill in a rough outline based on all the points of the W plot/Save the Cat and leave lots of space so when I print it out I can handwrite it. The outline this way, with lots of space is usually about 15 pages. BTW, it really really helps later on when you need to write a synopsis!
3. I write a crappy crappy fast first draft. And when I mean fast, I mean like two months max, and it never has the ending in it.

4. I focus in on the first few chapters and send it off for critique so I can find out if I’m headed in the right direction or if I need to re focus entirely.

5. I’m almost done with my third full novel and the revision takes the longest. I revise in layers. The book I am working on now is getting close to two years of revision. I think it takes me a long time to get to really know my characters.
I read through and revise for one thing at a time, like for a character trait, or a relationship. Always in layers.

6. When I am to the point where I can’t do anything else on my own then I send it to critique partners. And then I revise again.

  Where is your favorite place to write?

My favorite place to write is at my dining room table, with my grandma’s shawl draped over me, and my vanilla candle lit, and a cup of coffee or tea next to that. It’s right next to my desk, where I never write because it’s usually piled high with writing stuff and teacher stuff.

 Can you tell us a little bit about your heroine?

My MC Kara is dealing with a huge betrayal by her sister. She wants to forget it, she wants to escape it, and her entire life. She’s trying to do this by winning a baking contest which will help her escape her life, escape all of this if she wins.

What was the hardest part about writing this particular book?

The hardest part of writing this book was the sexual assault scene. My editor ended up wanting to cut some of it, and I was partially relieved, but also in a way disappointed. Because although she’s not actually raped, she is assaulted and my intent was to show that just because someone might not be raped, it doesn’t make what happens any less hurtful or any less wrong. But the focus of the story is really about betrayal and forgiveness, so I can live with what has been deleted. And I had to write it to get the most out of Kara.

What other projects do you have coming up?

My current WIP will be on sub sometime in the near future so I can’t say much, but it is a YA thriller set on a summer beach in Washington State. So if you know the Pacific Northwest, you’ll know that sometimes on the beach in the summer you have to wear a sweater!


Shannon Grogan is a second grade teacher who writes at night (and while her kids are at ballet and baseball) in a small logging town east of Seattle. She holds degrees in education, and graphic design/Illustration. When she isn’t writing, she's baking, reading, watching scary movies, and wishing she were at the beach. You can find out more about her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.