How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?
More than I care to, that's for sure. Marketing and promotion take up way more time than I'd like. I try to implement promotion in blocks. If I didn't I'd never have time to write. Still, even managing it that way doesn't preclude it from distracting me from writing, because there's so much planning to do. Then as soon as you finish planning there's the element of implementation. It's a cycle that really never ends if you want people to know about your book.
My website was the best investment I've made to date. It's a 24-hour "storefront" giving people the ability to research me and my book on their terms. But, my best marketing tool is me. Not me talking about my book, but me talking about things I know - writing, the issues my books cover, life as a writer and author. So that means appearances at libraries, schools and lit festivals are key for me. When you connect with people on different levels, they're more interested in you and by relation, the product you're selling. The market's saturated with people trying to sell other people something. Me standing there talking about my book for 30 minutes or an hour is nothing more than a commercial. I'd drown me out too.
But me telling a room full of writers about how I got my agent or what the process was once I signed my contract with Kensington empowers them. And afterwards, they're naturally more curious about the product of that journey. Same with teen readers. My library visits are interactive. I get them involved in a writing exercise, because it's way more interesting than me standing there waxing philosophical. Inevitably, after a library visit my books are checked out in that branch consistently.
Writers can benefit from studying the art of indirect marketing - connecting with people without constantly going on about your "product." It's tough for some of us though because many writers are introverts or at the least, like being behind-the-scenes.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
That it's not easy. People who write well just make it look so. It's like anything else. It's easy to be a Monday night quarterback. But get in the game for a few minutes and you realize just how difficult it is to make decisions under pressure. Same with writing. People read a book and think, "I can write that." But the second you sit down facing a blank page, without something to react to, you realize - Hmmm...well, maybe I can't.
Name your top five favorite writing books.
I'll be honest, I've never used one. I'm a die-hard pantster, as in flying by the seat of my pants. I write because I'm compelled to. What comes out, comes out naturally without regard to format, structure or even laws of grammar. I've been writing since I was a young child, it's always come to me naturally. That doesn't make me an expert, by any means. But it does make me rather impatient when it comes to reading a book about writing.
What do you do to make time for yourself?
Wait, you mean I can have time to myself? That means I'm owed a lot of back-time. Seriously, since I became a mom and wife (13 years ago) I've had to find time for me in a lot of small pleasures. Losing myself in a good book is still something I enjoy now and then. I'm just not able to lose myself for an entire weekend without interruption. I also enjoy being outdoors. Spring and Fall are my favorite seasons, just to be out taking a walk or sitting around enjoying the nice weather.
This month our theme is Writing for Children. Why did you choose to write young adult stories?
I've always liked working with tweens and teens. I've been mentoring youth since the early 90's. I wrote for Girls Life and the now defunct Sweet 16 magazine. The teen years fascinates me. You feel so mature when you're 16. You're making big decisions and experiencing new things. It's not until you're 25 that you realize how much more maturing you'd endure over time. So I love writing about the time period when so much of what you do and say, you believe is very adult. Whether your teen years were the best or worst of your life, for everyone they're the most essential, the most impactful.
What advice would you offer someone interested in writing for young adults?
Only write for young adults if you have a passion for them. Teens can smell a contrived story a mile away. And contrary to popular belief, YA books aren't basic. They deal with the same issues as many adult books - loyalty, love, life, death - only they're being told from a teen's perspective.
I've heard aspiring authors talk about wanting to teach a lesson, thus their interest in writing YA. Nothing wrong with that. But teen readers don't want to be talked down to. As I mentioned in the last question, they already believe they're very mature. You go in preaching and they tune you out. So capturing the teen voice can be challenging. But being validated by a teen reader, having a teen reader tell you they related to what you wrote, is the best feeling in the world!
What’s the hardest part about writing for young adults?
Blocking out preconceived notions about teenagers. Sometimes writers get caught up in - do teens say this? What do teens wear? How do teens talk? I never worry about those things. It may sound strange, but those things aren't key to my story. The emotion and how my characters deal with life's trials and tribs is what my books are about. From the slang they use to the way they dress, I try to make true to them as characters. I don't go out attempting to make them "every teen," because that's impossible. But I think some people do and they spend more energy than necessary on those peripheral elements.
But there are people who will try and "assist" you in building your teen world. They'll say "well the teens I know wouldn't do this or that." But I'm not trying to imitate a teen, I'm creating real teen characters and real only has to apply to - would Mina (my series’ main character) really do this? Would Kelly really say that? If the answer is yes, mission accomplished.
How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)
Did you miss PART ONE, check it out.