Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Launch News: Kell Andrew's DEADWOOD!

Kell Andrew's DEADWOOD launches today!

I've been so excited about this Middle Grade for quite a while now. You've probably seen this gorgeous cover over the last few months as it made its way around the web, but read below for all the deets, including where to buy it. Pick up your copy (or holiday gifts for the middle grade readers on your list!).

There’s something evil in Deadwood Park.
Twelve-year-old Army brat Martin Cruz hates his rotten new town. Then he gets a message from a tree telling him it’s cursed — and so is he. It’s not just any tree. It’s the Spirit Tree, the ancient beech the high school football team carves to commemorate the home opener. And every year they lose.
But the curse is no game, and it gets worse. Businesses fail. Trees topple like dominos. Sinkholes open up in the streets, swallowing cars and buildings. Even people begin to fade, drained of life.
Martin teams up with know-it-all soccer star Hannah Vaughan. Together they must heal the tree, or be stuck in Deadwood Park at the mercy of the psycho who cursed it.
Buy Online:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cover Reveal! Crushed by Dawn Rae Miller

CRUSHED by Dawn Rae Miller comes out soon! I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of this novel. It's edgy, fun, romantic, and just a little bit risque. Check out the gorgeous cover and read below for an excerpt. And make sure to Add it on Goodreads!

For seventeen-year-old serial womanizer Fletch Colson, life is a game and if he plays by the rules, he’ll win it all: his dream college, his parents’ money, and a hot (if a little vapid) girl on his arm. Really, it couldn’t be easier. All he has to do is get good grades, live a privileged boarding school life, and try not to mess up too much.

However, when he accepts the seemingly impossible bet to change his ways and be “just friends” with smart, beautiful, tempting Ellie Jacobs – a girl who seems hell bent on confusing him - Fletch’s whole world is turned upside down.

Suddenly, what seemed simple and clear, no longer feels right and Fletch must decide if winning it all is worth losing a piece of himself.


And here's an excerpt from the book:

While the rest of the country passes platters of turkey and cranberry sauce around the table, I’m lounging on the floor of a music room, legs stretched in front of me, back against the wall, reading Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. It’s pretty much the best book I’ve ever read and it makes being stuck on campus, studying for finals over Thanksgiving weekend, a little more bearable.

Since we only get two days off, the school doesn’t close, and most, if not all, students stay around for the five-day weekend.

“Are you getting hungry?” Ellie adjusts her music stand. Every year for Thanksgiving, Food Services puts together an amazing feast – turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing – and lets us gorge ourselves. It’s the one meal of the year in which they actually make an effort. And it’s amazing. 

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but yeah, I’m kinda looking forward to dinner.”

When Ellie asked if I wanted to come to the music lab with her, my mind went right where it shouldn’t: that’s where kids go to hook-up. But then I saw her violin case and remembered that unlike most of us, Ellie has a legitimate reason for hanging out in a soundproof room.

She bites her lip in concentration and draws the bow over the strings. It sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard. “That’s supposed to be a C. Did it sound like a C to you?”

I playfully cup my hands over my ears. “You’re going to get better, right? Please say you’re going to get better.”    

Ellie holds the bow over the strings of her violin and clenches the neck with her other hand. “Think you can do better?”

“Better than you?” I shake my head. “No.”

Only I don’t mean playing the violin. I want to tell her how watching her struggle with the instrument is one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever done. How I wish her fingers would curl around mine the way they do around the violin. That I want to feel her cheek pressed against me, and her fingers moving – no matter how clumsily – against my skin.

The bow touches the strings again and Ellie scratches out the most pathetic sounds ever. She scrunches up her face, the right side of her upper lip raised in disgust. “God, I’m awful.”

I lay my book cover-side up on the ground next to me. “It’s a good thing these rooms are soundproof.”

She pushes the music stand away with her foot and lays the violin in its velvet-lined case. Thinking she’s giving up, I stand and tuck my book into my jacket pocket.

“Are you positive they are?” Underneath her words, I detect a flash of deviousness.

She grins and I’m gone – totally and completely under her spell.  My pulse quickens. What is she asking? Does she want…

“Yeah.” A smile creeps across my face and I take a step toward her.

But she’s fast and already at the door.

“Stay here. I’ll go outside and when I hold up my finger, yell really loud.”

The heavy padded door shuts softly behind her. The small, thick glass window frames her beautifully. Some pieces of hair have fallen loose from her ponytail and the arms of her hoodie are pushed up toward her elbows. The corners of her eyes crinkle when she holds up her finger.

My mind churns through things to say. Something I can’t say to her, but want to.

“I like you,” I shout.

Her eyes widen.

I realize she can read my lips. Why didn’t I think of that before?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Author Interview: Alina Klein

Today I have the pleasure of talking to Alina Klein, author of Rape Girl, a book I’ve been waiting to read for months.

Rape Girl is an incredible emotional journey of what it means to endure, survive, and stand up for yourself in spite of the pain it brings. Rape Girl is compulsively readable and very much a one-sitting read. While reading, I was so immersed in Valerie’s world that I didn’t close the book until the last page at which point I blinked a few times, realized I was back in reality and then sat back and thought about what it meant to be Valerie. I was left with feelings of outrage, sadness, anger, empowerment, and, in the end, uplifted as well. Rape Girl isn’t just a great story that tackles some important issues, it’s a story every teen should read – boys and girls alike. Get your copy now – trust me, you won’t regret it!

But before you do, read below for Alina’s insights on writing, publishing and Rape Girl. Also, Alina was kind enough to offer to answer any reader questions, so if you have anything to ask her, leave it in the comments and she'll stop by later to answer!

Here’s a brief synopsis of Rape Girl:

Hey, look. It’s that girl. That rape girl, right? Valerie always wanted to be the smart girl. The pretty girl. The popular girl. But not the rape girl.. That’s who she is now. Rape Girl. Because everyone seems to think they know the truth about what happened with Adam that day, and they don’t think Valerie’s telling it.. Before, she had a best friend, a crush, and a close-knit family. After, she has a court case, a support group, and a house full of strangers.. The real truth is, nothing will ever be the same.. Rape Girl is the compelling story of a survivor who does the right thing and suffers for it. It is also the story of a young woman’s struggle to find the strength to fight back.

Hi Alina! Thanks so much for talking with me today. First, I’d like to talk a bit about your debut novel, Rape Girl. Can you tell us a little about your inspiration for the novel?

Thanks so much for hosting me, Jennifer!

Rape Girl was inspired by my own experiences. When I was sixteen I was raped in my own home. I pressed charges against my rapist, but instead of feeling understood and supported by my peers and community, I felt labeled, stigmatized and alone. Rape Girl is fictional, but the emotions, and some scenarios, come from my own life and memories.

You start this novel with a tragic event and as a result an emotionally and physically devastated character. As the novel progresses, we are able to see Valerie find herself and her strength as she works through what has happened and she begins to heal, against all odds. As I always like to ask, particularly with character-driven novels like Rape Girl, tell us a bit about how Valerie came to be as a character.

Valerie and her family grew in my mind as a unit.  Unfortunately most of what I know about them doesn’t appear in the book, but it was important to me that I understood them and who they were before. I wanted to show what happens when a devastating trauma shakes a close-knit family to the core. They become strangers to each other, even to themselves, for a time. Valerie and her entire family have to adjust to their new reality and find a way to bridge the rifts that trauma causes. That’s part of what Rape Girl portrays.

You’ve written so many important relationships in this novel – the relationships between Valerie and her family members, and the burdens those family members carry, rang so true on the page. They were so touching to read. I’m always curious with this depth of emotion and characterization, do these relationships and characters develop organically through your writing, or are they planned? I guess what I’m asking here is – are you a pantser or a plotter?

I’m definitely a pantser. Here is a post I did for Janet Hardy about foreshadowing that also explains a little of how I like to put my stories together and find connections. Like I said above, I knew how close Valerie’s family was before her assault. I knew that they would want to find a way back to each other, but that their own burdens wouldn’t make it easy. The dichotomy between their desires and their guilt made it interesting to write. Trying to find a natural way to overcome these chasms involved getting inside their heads and feeling out the emotions and possibilities.

Your more “villainous” (for lack of a better term) characters were also incredibly well-drawn. I’m not sure who I wanted to punch more while reading – Adam, of course, but on a less obvious level, I was really frustrated and angry at his friends, Mimi, and even the principal. I imagine it’s incredibly difficult to craft such a cast of unlikable characters, where the reader feels as gut-punched by them as the main character, but you do it so well and it really brings your story life. Any advice on writing such real, unlikeable characters?

I think the most important thing to remember when writing villainous characters is that they don’t know they’re villains. Though their reasoning may be obviously flawed to us, we need to see that they have put some consideration into their choices and come to the decisions they do as thinking humans. If you don’t show that part, how they have reached their conclusions, or even in some small way that they have questioned them to some extent before, or after, then you are more likely to write a snarling villain who is entirely one-dimensional.

What was your favorite part of writing Rape Girl?

My favorite part was working through the tangle of memories regarding what happened in my own life. Why might some of the people from my past have made the choices they made? Why did I? I’ll never know for sure why anyone else responded the way they did, but to explore the possibilities was therapeutic and empowering. I beamed a spotlight into one of the darkest place in my memory. Airing it out and putting it on display makes me feel strong.

Most challenging?

Probably the same answer as the last.  Ha. It was daunting to open the heavy doors to my memory vault and seek out source materials. It was murky and cobwebby and not all that appealing.  But I’m glad I did it.

Since there are probably some aspiring authors that will read this, I’d like to talk a bit about your publishing journey? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always been a reader and have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember.  Way back in elementary school I had a poem published in the school newsletter, and later I came in second place in a Young Author’s contest with my story about Mary Poppins and Dr. Jekyll getting their prescriptions mixed up at the pharmacy (a spoonful of sugar was involved in the making of this masterpiece).  I took a minor detour when I decided to study biology at Utah State and get “practical”. But my first publications were science articles for kids, so it all worked out.

Can you tell us a bit about your road to publication?

I’m an SCBWI success story! I was at a Novel Workshop put on by the Indiana SCBWI and Stephen Roxburgh was the featured speaker.  I read aloud from Rape Girl during the open mic session and afterward he pulled me aside and told me he’d really like to see it when it was finished. That lit a fire under me to finally get it done and three months later I sent it to him. A week after that, we spoke on the phone, and he told me he’d be honored to publish it.  That was a glorious day! But, lest anyone think it happened “overnight” just know that I started writing the book in 2001. The entire process was anything but speedy.

Tell me how you felt when you first saw your cover? So many aspiring writers dream of their first book cover. That must have been a great moment.

It was a great moment for the fact that it existed. But I’ll be honest and say that when I first I looked at it I said, “wha-?”. I didn’t get it at all.  But it grew on me quickly and now I love it. I love how the word “Girl” seems to take the place of the face in the image, and how “Rape” is her label. The colors, the glow, the chain-link dress—it’s evocative.  I think the designer, Helen Robinson, did an incredible job with a tough title.

What is the best part of the publishing process?

The best part is the readers, bar none. I appreciate them all for taking the time to read my little book and I’m particularly grateful to the ones who tell others what they think about it, good or bad. I’ve made close friendships with some of the survivors who have reached out to me after finishing the book.  The readers? They are phenomenal.

Can you give us any hints about what we can expect from you next?

I’m actually working on another story of survival and of a girl who wants her old life back. But this time it’s an adjustment of a pampered girl to a gritty, self-sufficient lifestyle way out in the Chihuahuan Desert.

Before you go, can you tell us a bit about your Empowerment Project?

Thanks so much for asking about this! I feel it’s one of the most important things I do.  Like I said above, writing Rape Girl has been empowering for me. Sharing truths through fiction, essays, poetry or artwork is a way to open doors, build connections and feel like you’re making a difference. The Empowerment Project is a way for rape survivors, and anyone who supports them, to share their work publicly so that someone else out there might feel less alone. These amazing contributions post Mondays on my blog.

Thanks Alina! I’m looking forward to reading more books from you in the future!

Thank you so much, Jenn. Hugs to everyone for reading!

Click the Rape Girl cover below to purchase your copy. Hurry, you won’t regret it!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Top 10 Ways to Get (and Stay!) Motivated During a First Draft

When I’m writing, I often go from one extreme to another. Sure, there are those awesome times where the words and chapters just flow. But there are also those all too common (and often) roadblocks. The key is making sure they’re speed bumps and not dead ends.

When I feel my writing energy waning and I’m getting pulled out of the story, there are a few things I do to help me get back into it. Many are super helpful to staying acquainted with my main character, because when doing that, the story just flows. Others just plain old help fill the well of mental well being.

Top 10 ways to get (and stay!) motivated during a first draft:

1. Music. Any writer will attest that their favorite music can be inspiring, but I like to consider what my character likes. What does my main character listen to? What does she like? And then I listen to that. Gets me more in touch with her, let’s me slip into her skin a bit.

2. Keeping it old school, writing in a notebook. I’ve been doing this more and more lately. It’s really effective. Plus, when writing in a notebook – especially with the computer not nearby, it avoids the whole write one sentence/twitter/facebook/email/email/twitter/wordswithfriends problem.

3. Work out. Exercise totally helps clear the mind and get the ideas flowing! Nothing like a long walk or run to help sort out my thoughts and get the plot points falling into place.

4. Becoming more like your character. Okay, it might sound weird, but I swear it helps me. Like wearing a color or style that is specific to my character, or doing something that is just so them. When writing my last novel, I drank more caramel lattes than I ever normally would. But my character drank them a lot in the book and it helped me feel immersed in her world. Even going out “in character,” shopping or to the park and seeing the world through their eyes, helps to slip into their head. Becoming/thinking like my characters, help the words and prose flow more authentically.

5. Lists and outlines. Remember those old school brainstorming webs from elementary school? Doing that or just making a list helps to brainstorm and get the mind flowing with ideas again. Even just a list of plot points can lead my mind in a different direction and break the humdrum I’m taking the story in.

6. Freewriting. Sometimes when trying to get through a draft I just trudge through, slap down words, even if it’s down and dirty ugly. Maybe they’re chapters, sometimes just random tidbits and freewriting about my characters. I can scrap it all later, and most likely I will, but it may just lead me where those characters are going. Plus, freewriting is, well, freeing. It’s one part mind clearing and another part liberating, especially if you set the intention that no one will see it.

7. Meditation and yoga. There’s a reason yoga and meditation have been around for centuries as a source of wellness. Because they clear the mind and restore energy and strength (both physical and mental). They may not directly help my story, but after a session of either, I’m empowered and ready to write anew.

8. Magazines. Looking through magazines and cutting out pictures that speak to your character or story. A good friend of mine is a photographer and he gives me all his old photo magazines. They’re filled with such beautiful images. Just flipping through them is inspiring in its own right, but I often rip out the ones I think would speak to my main character and spend some time looking through those.

9. Reading. Reading. Reading. Nothing makes me want to write like reading a great book that keeps me up and pulls me in. And when we’re reading, even when we’re just reading for fun, we’re absorbing, learning craft and taking it in. It’s inspiring!

10. Laugh at yourself. Yes, some of the first draft stuff is clumsy and cliché. So what? Laugh at yourself, and then, when that draft is done, revise and make it better. No one writes a book in one draft. But most everyone starts with a rough one.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Productive Writing Weekend Filled to the Brim with Non-Writing

After a good writing weekend – in which I got very little official writing done, I can say I’m feeling accomplished. I realized a few things this weekend that, yeah, I’ve known for some time, but that bear repeating, because, no matter how many stories or books I write, or how many times I take this writing journey, I forget the little lessons I’ve learned along the way. So here is a list in case any of my writer pals find themselves in the same boat while drafting.

When I'm feeling stuck, I remember:

1. This is a first draft. A first draft! It does not have to be perfect. Gosh, it doesn’t even have to be that good. It just has to be words on a page that are telling the story I want to tell. I will revise and revise and revise again. I hardly ever get a story anywhere near where I want it to be until at least a few drafts in, so why am I letting myself get paralyzed over trivial things in draft one? It’s silly. All it does it halt creativity and that certainly isn’t going to get my story told.

2. What do you have? It’s easy to think of all the things you’re lacking. I’m famous for this – I don’t know the next ten plot points, I haven’t figured out a secondary character’s motivation, how does this plot thread fit into the bigger picture, etc. I have to remind myself to, yes, keep working on what I’m lacking, but also to focus on the positive. What I realized this weekend: I have my main character, I have her voice, I have developed many secondary characters, solidified my setting, have a smattering of plot points I want to hit during this next section, and know the tone I want the book to have. So when I sit back and think about that, I realize, hey, that isn’t half bad for first draft progress. So keep writing!

3. Thinking does absolutely count as writing. Nope, not a joke. Brainstorming counts as writing. I spent a lot of time over the last few months in the mind of my character. I slipped on her shoes, entered her world and imagined exactly what it was like to be in her mindset. I took long walks as her, thinking of how she would view things and how she feels about the world around her. Was this putting words on the page? No. But was it helping me know what those words will be when they get there? Absolutely.

4. Setting goals, but being gentle with myself. Like many writers, I aim to write daily. I used to aim for 1000 words, now I typically aim for at least a scene, even if it’s 200-500 words. But, if I don’t write, or don’t hit that goal, I don’t let it stop me from moving forward. Goals are worthless if they’re only going to foster guilt. I count anything related to my story as working, even if it’s spending an entire long walk just thinking about my characters and letting them wander around in my head deciding what they’ll do next.

5. Tomorrow is a new day. We’ve all had it happen. You were determined to write. You were set. You sat at your desk, you brewed your coffee (or poured your wine), and you cracked your knuckles. And then, the words didn’t come, or life interfered with your plans. So what. Close the computer, go do something else, and come to it later, with a hopefully refreshed muse. Feeling discouraged is often nothing but counterintuitive to writing, so find something else to do.

6. Writing is fun. There is one reason I write. Because I love it. I love telling stories more than almost anything in the world. It’s really easy to get caught up in the pressure or stress of writing and deadlines and all the mental anguish that can go along with the craft. But at the end of the day, I do it because I seriously could not live without it. So when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stuck, I try to remember how much I love this and how good it feels when it is working. I try and remind myself that I’ve been in this position before, but that I’ve always moved past it and through it and gotten back to that creative stride that makes it all worthwhile and wonderful. 

Happy writing, friends.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Summer 2012 Issue of The Meadowland Review Now Live!

The Summer 2012 Issue of The Meadowland Review is now live. Check out a wonderful collection of poetry, fiction and artwork.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Some news!

Hello writer friends!

Hope you're all having a lovely and creative spring. I've been up to my elbows in revising various projects, and slowly tiptoeing around some new ideas that are begging to be written.

But, in the meantime, I do have a bit of news to share! I'm happy to announce that my debut novel, Second Verse, will be published by Luminis Books in the fall of 2013.



Thursday, April 26, 2012

Author Interview: Bryn Greenwood

Today I have the pleasure of talking to Bryn Greenwood, author of Last Will, which debuted earlier this week. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy of Last Will. Word of advice: get your copy right now. And when do, set aside a big chunk of time to read it. It’s so compelling, I think I read it in two sittings. It’s not only a beautifully written, complicated, and layered tale of pain and healing, but a touching story of two amazing characters getting to know each other and themselves. Bryn is absolutely masterful at bringing Bernie and Meda to life on the page, and made me fall in love with both of them, not in spite of their flaws, but because of them.

Read below for Bryn’s insights on writing, publishing and Last Will. Also, Bryn was kind enough to offer to answer any reader questions, so if you have anything to ask her, leave it in the comments and she'll stop by later to answer them!

Here’s a bit about Last Will:

Bernie Raleigh fails at everything he touches. The victim of a kidnapping for ransom as a child, Bernie has spent his adult life trying to avoid being noticed. That’s impossible once he inherits his grandfather’s enormous fortune. The inheritance comes complete with a lot of obligations, a mansion, and a problematic housekeeper named Meda Amos. Beauty queen, alien abductee, crypto-Jew, single mother — Meda is all those things, and she may also be the only person who can help Bernie survive his new and very public life.

Hi Bryn! Thanks so much for talking with me today. First, I’d like to talk a bit about your debut novel, Last Will. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for this novel?

Like so many of my story ideas, it started in two very different places. The first idea sprang from a newspaper spread on local child beauty pageant winners. One of the children photographed was a lovely but very angry looking little girl. It was clear she did not want to be in a pageant. The other source was an article I read about alien abduction. The author of the article theorized that reports of alien abduction were symptoms of schizophrenia, with the patients using literal abduction narratives to describe their mental state of feeling "out" of themselves. At some point, those two things converged into a single story that became Last Will.

I was so drawn to Bernie, as he grapples with the effects of being kidnapped as a child, particularly as he’s thrust into this new life as the novel opens. His psychological state is so expertly done, it’s heart-wrenching and breaking at once, yet so very tangible. Why a kidnapping victim? Any particular reason you made this choice for him?

As soon as I knew that Bernie was going to inherit this enormous sum of money, I had to contemplate what the risks of that kind of wealth are. One of them is the greed of other people, so it was an easy step to imagine that the wealth of Bernie's grandfather, coupled with his pride and desire for self-sufficiency, would put Bernie and his brother at risk for those sorts of things. I also loved the mirroring of alien abduction to a ransom kidnapping, in particular because it allowed me to play with all the characters' perceptions of what it means to be abducted.

What made you decide to tell the story from three POVs? And, what made you decide on these particular points of view? It’s very effective as each character has a distinct voice and viewpoint.

The simple answer is that I love multiple narrators. I love to hear "the truth" from more than one character. It lets the reader see characters from other angles. The story started in Bernie's POV, but it became clear that he's not so much an unreliable narrator as he is a reserved one. There were things Bernie would never bring himself to talk about. Things he maybe wasn't even aware of. That was how Meda became a necessary aide to getting the story out. As things progressed, I really wanted to give a hint at Bernie's childhood, but there was no way he was going to open up about that, so his aunt became something of a neutral third party narrator.

You create some fascinating, layered and complex characters. Even your secondary characters leap off the page, many of them making me smile, cringe, or often laugh. I was particularly amused by Celeste. We all know a Celeste, I think. Many of us also are burdened with a Loren or Muriel (or a few in my family, ha!). Were any of your characters – either main or supporting - inspired by anyone you know? I know, a work of fiction is fiction, but I always have to ask.

Wow, what a very dangerous question. I feel I should tiptoe away from it carefully, but of course, any writer who claims not to take inspiration from the people she knows is lying. The trick is to take the smallest parts of those people and spread them out, to avoid actually using a whole person to create a character. So I've never known a Celeste. I've just known half a dozen people who each had something to contribute to Celeste. That includes me. There are parts of me in Celeste. In fact, I try my best to give the least likeable characters some of my own traits. That way I won't ever forget that they need to be just as human as my favorite characters.

You have a lot of family dysfunction happening here too, and I love how you have it on both ends. The super wealthy are just as dysfunctional as the poor. In fact, part of what I loved about Last Will was the many ways you managed to turn societal expectations on their heads to expose simple, but often misconceived truths. I always appreciate an author who isn’t afraid to tackle these issues, and there were a handful of them you took on. Was this one in particular something you thematically set out to do? Or did it organically happen while telling Bernie and Meda’s story?

It's less a thematic urge and more an illustration of my opinion on families. To the best of my knowledge, I've never met a non-dysfunctional family. I've met some lovely families, and I happen to be pretty fond of my own, but they all have problems. Money and social status have zero power to make a family's dynamics healthier.

I couldn’t agree with you more. On a similar note, I loved how you handled Meda’s beauty. The belief that beauty is everything is so widespread, but for Meda it’s very much the opposite. It causes her pain from early on, during her forced childhood pageant days all the way up to the suffering she endures when attacked as a young woman, not to mention the family issues that arise from it. The scars she has (that barely mar her beauty) are something she often seems to wear maybe not with pride exactly, but she certainly doesn’t seem to mind them. (And I have to say, the juxtaposition of scars to beauty mirrors her personality so precisely). Once again, I have to ask, did you set out to take on what the world sees as beautiful and how it’s exploited and abused, or was this simply just who Meda came to be on the page?

Like many of my characters, Meda walked into the story pretty much fully formed. I knew she would be beautiful, the sort of girl Bernie couldn't resist but would feel guilty about wanting. Early on, I also understood that something had happened to sever her from the social expectations of that beauty. Something that would free her from the slavery of being just another beautiful girl. For me, it's usually much later in the process that I understand why a character came out the way he or she did. I'm always saddened by women of a certain age who pine for their youth and good looks. They see themselves as failures or defective, because they're not the unmarked, slender, young women they once were. That's heartbreaking, to always be judging yourself against what you used to be. So I wanted Meda to be free to walk away from her beauty pageant days. It's not that she isn't aware that she's disfigured and a little chubby. It's that she's made her peace with it, not least of which because she recognizes that it was a kind of imprisonment. She can be herself and not what her aunt or anyone else expects.

On a lighter note, while we’re speaking of Meda’s family, I have to ask: Have you ever been abducted by aliens? Tee hee, I’m kidding!

No, but for a while, my family did live in that house with the hideous blue siding and the unforgivable carpet and furniture. The sort of place where you can't run any two appliances at the same time.

Throughout the novel, Bernie and Meda slowly uncover things about both each other and themselves. They protect and heal each other, resulting in some serious personal growth. The characters in the closing chapters are very different than the ones we meet in chapter one. When starting out with this novel, did you know the journey they would take and where they would end up? Or did you discover it while writing?

In other words – outline or no?

No outline. NEVER!!! I am the worst kind of pantser--the kind who believes in the value of the journey without worrying about the outcome. In fact, the first draft of the book had a very different ending. The first person to read it came back to me and said, "I loved it, except for the end. They deserve a happy ending." She proceeded to explain to me my whole book and why the story I'd written argued for a happy ending. Of course, she was right. Sadly, my first reader did not get a happy ending, but it's because of her that the journey for Bernie and Meda ends where it does. I still believe passionately that my writing is about discovery. I often don't know who a character is or what he/she is going to do until I'm writing it. I love that feeling.

What was your favorite part of writing Last Will?

My favorite thing in writing anything is making my characters come to life. I live for those moments where I create a piece of dialog that I feel sure someone somewhere has actually said. Or will say. So often it's the little things, like Meda's frustration with her mother wanting to drink a beer in the car. In those moments, she is so real to me, and I hope she is for readers, too.

Most challenging?

By far the biggest challenge was keeping Bernie in line. He's so prone to navel-gazing and wandering off-topic. Readers will put up with a little of that, more if it's funny, but finding a balance between letting Bernie be himself and keeping the story moving … that was tough.

Since this is mostly a blog where aspiring authors will read this, can you tell us a bit about your road to publication? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I'm one of those boring people who always wanted to be a writer. For the longest time, I just couldn't figure out the logistics of it, because it's not the sort of career where you get a degree and then get a job. You can get a writing degree, but after that, you're on your own to figure out how to write the stories and publish them.

I know your journey to publication is a tale in itself. Tell us about it.

Last Will is an old book in some ways. I wrote it before I turned thirty and I briefly queried the book. I collected a few very nice, encouraging rejections, but nothing more. At the time, I thought that meant the book was doomed. What? The first ten agents I queried didn't want to represent the book? It must be horrible! I'll never sell it! (My interior monolog is very melodramatic.) Since then, I've learned that my request rate and my rejections were really above average and that I should have kept querying. Ah well.

Nine years later, I was introduced to the publisher at Stairway Press, who invited me to submit something. I did, the publisher loved it, but then a week later I got an agent for a different book. When that book didn't sell and my agent left the business, I spent some time moping around, naturally. Then, when I was done feeling sorry for myself, I went back and reconsidered Stairway Press' offer to publish Last Will.

So a mere eleven years after I wrote the book, it's coming to print. Since I wrote it, I've written eight other books, queried three, and learned an awful lot about the chaotic world of publishing.

What is the best part of the publishing process?

I thought it was going to be the moment when I held the book in my hand, because the cover is so gorgeous and it has my name on it! I was wrong. It turns out the most exciting moment is seeing pictures of other people holding my book. Knowing it's out there in the world, being read, that's the best part.

The worst?

The waiting. The waiting. The interminable waiting. First it's waiting for agents to answer. Then it's waiting for editors to answer. Then waiting for proofs and covers. Then waiting for the book. Right now I'm waiting for reviews.

Thanks Bryn! And thanks for giving me an early look at Last Will. In case you couldn’t tell, I loved it! I’m looking forward to reading more books from you in the future. Any hints as to what we can expect from you next?

A lot depends on the whims of the publishing world. Possibly a story about a church secretary, a hit-and-run, and a paramedic who's not who he claims to be. Or perhaps a story about a drug dealer's daughter. I suspect whatever comes out next, it'll have more than one narrator.

You can read more from and about Bryn on her website:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Meadowland Review – Winter Issue Now Live

The winter issue of The Meadowland Review is now live. Check it out for a great selection of fiction, poetry and original art and photography.