Monthly Archives: January 2012
Okay…you might remember how I raved about Marking Time by April White. Well, you can now read this story for FREE!!! YAY!!!! Also, to celebrate the awesomeness–I am reposting my original review and interview with April. Enjoy!!
Here’s the link: http://ow.ly/h9M2A
I was approached a little less than a month ago by author April White to read and review her first book, Marking Time. She was willing to send me a paper copy of the book, so I figured why not? Well, I have to say that I am super happy that I did!!!!
Be ready for the gushing!!!!
Marking Time is probably not a book I would normally pick up to read for pleasure, but I absolutely loved it! The story was full of action and suspense and a deep plot. Every page I turned had me wondering whether or not I’d finally find something out about one of the characters. This story really and truly has everything: Jack the Ripper, vampires, werewolves, time travelers, history, London tunnels and so much more.
I will say that this was one book that took time to read. There was just so much story and I didn’t want to miss anything, so I didn’t speed read. If you are really into Cassandra Clare and Kady Cross, I definitely suggest you take the time to read this story.
Seventeen-year-old tagger Saira Elian can handle anything… a mother who mysteriously disappears, a stranger who stalks her around London, and even the noble English Grandmother who kicked Saira and her mother out of the family. But when an old graffiti tag in a tube station transports Saira to the 19th Century and she comes face-to-face with Jack the Ripper, she realizes she needs help after all.
Saira meets Archer, a charming student who helps her blend in as much as a tall, modern American teen can in Victorian England. He reveals the existence of the Immortals: Time, Nature, Fate, War and Death, and explains to Saira that it is possible to move between
centuries – if you are a Descendant of Time.
Saira finds unexpected friendships at a boarding school for Immortal Descendants and a complicated love with a young man from the past. But time is running out for her mother, and Saira must embrace her new identity as she hides from Archer a devastating secret about his future that may cost him his life.
My Interview with April
1. Do you take any of your work experiences and use them in your writing?
I use everything in my writing – other people’s stories and my own experiences. I think some of my character, Saira’s bravado comes from the days when I was a bouncer in a nightclub, and maybe even more from being a substitute teacher. Both jobs require the appearance of total confidence in your own authority, even if you’re a quaking bundle of nerves before you walk into the room. And I think a room full of kindergarteners was even scarier in those days than high-schoolers. And I think I learned Saira’s feeling of being prey, real or imagined, once when I was in Louisiana working on a case. As a Private Investigator I used my height (I’m 6’1”) like it was armor, even though I carried a canister of pepper spray in my briefcase. But this time, walking in a bad neighborhood at 9am, my pepper spray was in my pocket with my finger on the trigger. I felt like I had eyes crawling all over my back from invisible watchers. It was the first time in my life none of my confidence worked and I felt truly vulnerable.
2. Do you plan and plot before you begin a new project? If so, do you have any tricks to this like using color-coded Post-It Notes?
I spend a lot of time thinking about my story before I begin writing, and my best resources for plotting are my husband and my notebooks. As I’m putting the story together in my mind I bounce it off Ed. If I can explain it to him clearly enough, and can defend the parts that aren’t clear yet, I know it’s coming together.
He works on post-it notes for his job in TV and I’ve often found the window next to our desk covered in multi-colored tabs of paper. But I like composition notebooks. I’ve done collages for years, and used to spend hours cutting images that inspired me out of design, fashion and news magazines. But then I figured out how to use digital images, and how to customize covers for my notebooks. When I was writing Marking Time I did a lot of research into Jack the Ripper. All the details about his victims and especially, the night of his double murder, are as accurate as I could make them in my story. I stumbled across some amazing images as I did my research, and I gathered them all into a cover for the notebook I used to keep track of all my thoughts as I was writing.
As soon as I know where the story begins, and I have a strong idea of how I’ll get to the end, I start writing. From that point on, my characters take on a life of their own and often turn the story in ways I hadn’t planned or imagined. And usually those are the plot twists that are the most interesting. I have to take a lot of notes though, because every time I surprise myself with a turn in the story, there’s going to be a lot of fixing to do later. And if I write it down, then I can just keep moving forward without losing the momentum of the story.
My friend, Cat, once moaned to me that she’d just killed one of her main characters in her new Fairy book and she didn’t know how she was going to get out of it. But by the time she’d finished the book, she knew it was the best thing she could have done for her story.
3. After writing a rough draft, what is your process? Do you edit immediately or give it a little time?
Both. The first thing I do is go back through my notebook and find every note I made as I was writing. Then I make all the plot adjustments and amend the details to keep the story consistent and moving forward. I don’t go back and re-read too much as I’m writing, so by the time I’m finished with a rough draft, I haven’t even seen most of the book in months. So after a week of adding the notes I’d made along the way, I’m ready to read the whole thing through.
And then I hit up my very patient, very intrepid core group of readers for round one. The best part of editing Marking Time was the evening I spent with five of those readers, out on the deck of the house I grew up in, drinking wine (well, not my 17-year-old niece, but the rest of us), and talking about the story. It was like the best kind of book club meeting, where people’s notes could feed off each other’s, and thoughts a person might have were expounded on, or refuted, by the group. I got some of my best story notes from Alexandra, my niece, who not only told me what worked and didn’t work in this book, but helped me plot forward with the major things that Saira would have to face on her journey through the series.
4. Can you talk a little about publishing your first book, Marking Time?
When I was finally done with the book, I spent a lot of time researching agents and sending out query letters. I read agent blogs and interviews to tailor each query, and definitely got better at the process as I did it. But among all the auto-reject e-mails were a couple of personalized ones, in which the agents took the time to tell me they loved the idea of the book, but it was just too long for a YA publisher to buy from a debut author.
So then I started cutting. The first round of edits-for-length were really good for me to do, and should have been done before I sent out agent queries. But it still wasn’t enough to get down to the 100,000 words publishers seem to think is “the number” for the YA market.
I started looking at schemes for chopping out 50,000 words, and I’d almost convinced myself to pull the first fifty pages off the front to publish as a novella. I was waiting for a couple of agents to get back to me on the partials they’d requested, but as the months dragged on I realized I’d lost confidence in my story, and my own power as a writer. The only way to take it back was to take control of publishing my book.
That decision started a whole new round of research into formats, cover design, pricing, marketing, and all the elements that go into getting a book into print and online. And all of a sudden I was having fun again because I wasn’t waiting for anyone to tell me I could do it.
The most fun I had was creating the cover with my husband, who was in London on business. We spent nine hours on skype one Sunday designing the final cover, taking breaks only to actually be a mom (my kids have been incredibly patient and supportive through the whole process of writing and publishing this book). I’ve put together a notebook collage of all the different cover designs I’d played with from the time I’d started sending out query letters, until deciding to publish Marking Time myself, but once we designed the final cover, I knew it was exactly what I wanted.
5. Do you currently have an agent?
I don’t. What I do have now though, going forward into book two of the Immortal Descendants series, is a great editor. I definitely feel the lack of that in Marking Time and I’m excited about working on Tempting Fate with a person who totally gets my style and what I want to do with the story.
6. I hear you are planning a sequel to Marking Time. Can you tell us when it will be published? Any other hints you can give us about book 2?
One of my favorite things about the device of time travel is dropping a person with a modern perspective into a past they know next-to-nothing about. The ultimate “fish-out-of-water.” The Immortal Descendants series is designed to highlight a different Family’s skills and gifts in each book. So Marking Time is about Saira’s discovery that she’s a descendant of Time, and her investigation into everything that means, and Tempting Fate will focus on the Seer’s Family lines, and in particular, one very famous Seer in history.
Many of the same characters will continue through the series, and much of Tempting Fate will be set in the court of Princess Elizabeth, during the time her sister, Mary Tudor was queen. I intend to have it finished and published by this time next year. They say the first book can take as long as it needs to, but every book after that can’t take longer than a year to write. It’s true.
7. Any writing quirks you have?
I’m usually up between 4 and 5am, and a sleepy dog, a full cup of coffee, and a dark, quiet house are the perfect companions to getting a lot of work done. I also read parts out loud to my kids. The five-year-old rolls his eyes and goes back to his Legos, but the nine-year-old really listens. He retains stuff I’ve forgotten about, and doesn’t hesitate to call me on my mistakes. It also helps to hear how the language flows and then I’m not the crazy lady reading to her dog.
8. Any advice for writers, young and old?
Finish your writing day with a cliffhanger – maybe not an actual story cliffhanger, but something compelling that it’ll be easy to jump right into the next day.
Write what you like to read. You are always going to be your first, best, and most consistent audience, and if you grow to hate what you’re writing, your readers may too.
Find a ruthless editor, whether it’s someone you’ve hired, or a very committed friend. First make sure they’re on the same page as you about your genre and where your story is going, then give them permission to be brutal. If you’re forced to defend your ideas/characters/plotlines, it makes those ideas stronger. Or, if you can’t defend them effectively, you know it’s time to let them go.
9. Anything else you want your readers to know about your writing OR Marking Time?
The most amazing part of writing and publishing Marking Time has been the incredible response I’ve gotten from people around me. Friends can suddenly see the possibility of reaching for their own dreams, and in the eyes of my kids, I’m the coolest Mom they know. My favorite reviews, from readers ages 9 to 70, have been the ones annoyed that the story ended and they don’t get to stay in Saira’s world, and the first time a total stranger reviewed my book in print, my happy-dance around the house had my kids cracking up.
Thanks to my niece, Alexandra, I know what Saira will go up against in Tempting Fate, but I have the feeling I won’t know quite how it’ll all unfold until Saira and her friends (and enemies) take me there.
April’s Website: http://www.immortaldescendants.com/
April White on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6570694.April_White
Marking Time on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16122623-marking-time