INTRODUCING NATASHA SINEL

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Here’s how to become a published author in five steps. (Notice I didn’t say five easy steps. Nor did I say they’d all be forward-moving steps.)

1. Live Your Childhood Inside Books

I was a reader. When I finished one book, I’d start the next. Books dictated the ups and downs of my moods (This probably confused the hell out of my parents—well, what is she crying about now?) I wrote stories too. People would say, “She’ll be a writer someday.” But people aren’t books, so I didn’t listen.

2. Go to Business School by Default

Having grown up in Washington, D.C., I assumed I’d be a lawyer, a lobbyist, or a politician. But…eh. A doctor was out of the question—I was one of those faint-at-the-sight-of-blood types. So, I went to business school. Maybe I’d be some sort of business-type person.

3. Do Something That Makes You Feel Horrible About Yourself

During business school, I miserably failed my internship at one of the big investment banks. (Why did I even try it? Because someone—I won’t mention names, but it starts with a D and ends with a D—always told me I could do anything I set my mind to. Investment banking, however? Not in my “anything” category.) Turns out, I wasn’t interested in any of the MBA-type jobs at banks, consulting firms, and product marketing companies. I had no job-worthy interests, period. Then, after listening to me whine long enough, my dad asked one simple question:

“When you pick up the New York Times, which section do you read first?”

The Book Review, duh. Also TV and movies. So something clicked there, and I set my mind to a more appropriate “anything.” After a grueling independent job search, I landed a job at Showtime Networks. I was on the business side, but I was working in TV. I loved watching TV! One of my interests plus job equals happy/successful.

4. Spend $$ on Gas and Parking

Many years later, I put work on hold to start a family. I had an idea for a story, so I signed up for a YA novel workshop. Driving an hour to SoHo every week would give me a kick in the pants to write, and that would make me feel creative, productive, and good. What I hadn’t expected was for my instructor (fabulous author/yoga instructor Kristen Kemp) to say, “Girl, you can write. There is no reason why you can’t get published, if that’s what you want to do.”*

Whoa. That was an option? Sure, I’d fantasized about being an author. Who doesn’t? But, that was just fantasy, right? But something clicked, and I set my mind to another “anything”—being a writer.

5. Fail and Fail and Fail Some More

After ten years, two and a half manuscripts, and numerous heartbreaking but necessary failures, the fantasy is a reality. And it feels like the right “anything.”

*My fellow Fearless Fifteener, Sona Charaipotra (PRETTY LITTLE THINGS) was in that class with me, and I’m so glad to reconnect with her here during our debut year!

Here’s a description of my debut YA contemporary THE FIX, which comes out this September:

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.

“First shot out of the gate, Sinel bravely addresses tough topics, demonstrating that the weight of secrets can pull us under—and their release can save us from drowning.” —Holly Schindler, critically acclaimed author of A Blue So Dark and Feral

“A bewitching, beautiful, and brave debut. Readers will marvel at Macy’s resilience. Natasha Sinel’s writing devastates and uplifts, by turns. An important story of one girl’s journey to rewrite the blueprint of her own life by facing the truth inside herself.” —Carrie Mesrobian, award-winning author of Sex & Violence and Perfectly Good White Boy

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. Find her on Twitter and on YA Outside The Lines. Natasha’s debut YA novel THE FIX will be out from Sky Pony Press in September 2015.

ALL FOUR KIDS: Interview with Jennifer Mathieu, Author of The Truth About Alice

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Today, we are with Jennifer Mathieu, the author of the remarkable book The Truth About Alice. Here’s a bit about the book: 

Alice_FINALEveryone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party. When Healy High star quarterback, Brandon Fitzsimmons, dies in a car crash, it was because he was sexting with Alice. Ask anybody.
 
Rumor has it Alice Franklin is a slut. It’s written all over the “slut stall” in the girls’ bathroom: “Alice had sex in exchange for math test answers” and “Alice got an abortion last semester.” After Brandon dies, the rumors start to spiral out of control. In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students tell all they “know” about Alice–and in doing so reveal their own secrets and motivations, painting a raw look at the realities of teen life. But in this novel from Jennifer Mathieu, exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there’s only one person to ask: Alice herself.

Hi Jennifer, thanks for being with us on the Fearless Fifteeners blog.

I really enjoyed the use of alternating perspectives in your book. Not everyone can do this well but you managed to create four distinct voices and a real need for the story to have all four. What was this process like for you? Did you write the book the way it appears, alternating narrators chapter by chapter, or did you write each character’s narratives and then split them up?

Thank you so much for having me.  I’m glad the voices felt distinct!  The story evolved over many drafts.  Kelsie is actually the product of two different characters I blended together, and there was another girl – another outcast who didn’t fit in as neatly into the plot – that I removed after the first draft.  It was just too many characters to keep track of, so I narrowed it down.  But once I got my four main characters down their voices just came to me.  I switched on and off from character to character as I wrote which was a lot of fun and kept the writing process fresh for me.  I’d never written in a boy’s voice before, and I’m still surprised at how easily Josh and Kurt’s voices – especially Josh’s voice – came to me!  I guess it comes from teaching high school boys for a living.  🙂

Was it always written in multiple perspectives? Did the character of Alice come to you first, the situation or one of the other characters?

Yes, I always planned to write it in multiple perspectives.  I love books with alternating points of view, and I love stories where you put the pieces of the puzzle together over time.  The initial kernel of Alice’s story came to me first and then the other characters’ stories evolved from there.  A huge influence for the idea is the Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.  I read it in high school for a drama class and it stayed with me.  It’s a series of epitaphs from residents in a small town, and as you read each epitaph you put together all these stories and understand what made the town tick and how the residents were connected to one another.

Was one of the character’s voices easier for you to write? One harder?

Kurt’s voice came to me quite easily.  Maybe because I was pretty bookish in high school although I wasn’t a total social outcast.  I just loved writing him and cheered him on the entire time.  The hardest was Elaine.  It took me a while to fully understand her motivations.  The scene with her and Alice in the hair salon was one of the last scenes I wrote and it took the most time to get the tone just right. Even I’m a little afraid of Elaine O’Dea.  😉

I like how the book begins: Elaine listing the facts of the drama. We get a real strong sense of who she is off the bat. Some of the characters in your book do some pretty unlikeable things. You do a good job of off-setting this by using backstory and character depth. Did you struggle with the likability of your characters?

This is something some readers may hate, but I love my characters, even when they’re doing awful things.  I love them so much.  I know they do terrible things, but something I tried to do was give each character humanity.  They do awful things because they’re young and under pressure and some – like Kelsie – have these wildly difficult situations at home that they can’t even name much less deal with.  But I felt for them so much.  My heart broke for all of them.  I’ve read comments online with some readers saying they hate Kelsie, and I’m like, “But can’t you see what she’s been through?  Can’t you see how she’s suffered?”  I know Alice suffered, too, tremendously.  But all the characters suffered in one way or another.  One quote that kept running through my mind as I wrote this story – and I’m not sure who said it – is that everyone has a story inside of them that if you only heard it, it would break your heart.  I think if we all treated each other with that knowledge in that front of our minds – that everyone is going through something personal and painful – we would all be nicer to each other.  Obviously characters like Kelsie and Josh struggle in following that advice, but that doesn’t mean that they themselves are immune from that saying.  They are struggling, too, and enormously so.

Bullying is a core issue in this book. Is that a topic you feel strongly about?

As a mother, teacher, and human being, of course.  But I don’t think the way we’ve addressed bullying is really very smart.  I could write an entire essay on this, but bullying rarely takes place like we see on the movies with the nerd being stuffed in the locker.  And not every tough situation a young person endures with friends is necessarily bullying.  I would rather we eliminate the word bullying or stop using it to label everything negative and instead just focus on being kind to each other and providing young people with resources, including trusted adults, that they can really talk to when they’re feeling down, under pressure, or isolated.

The football-obsessed, small-town Texas setting seems vital to this story. Do you think Alice’s story would be different if it took place somewhere else?

I do think girls are labeled sluts regardless of where they live.  Like Elaine says toward the end, she knows that even in a place like New York City, a girl like Alice would still have been called a slut.  What makes the setting important in this story, I think, is that the fishbowl environment of the small town just heightens everything and makes it even more intense and difficult for the characters living there.

And now, because we are community that is fearless, please name something that you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.

I’m very afraid of small spaces and had difficulty riding elevators for a few years.  Something I’m not afraid of that seems to put others into a panic is speaking in front of crowds.  I actually sort of enjoy it!  I think my years as a teacher have helped me there.  🙂

Thanks so much!

Thank you!  I loved your questions!

MATHIEU_PHOTO_BY_GEORGE_HIXSON_COLOR1.sizedJennifer Mathieu (pronounced Muh-two, but if you speak French you can pronounce it better than that) is a writer and English teacher who lives in Texas with her husband and son. A native of the East Coast and a former journalist, Jennifer enjoys writing contemporary young adult fiction that treats teenagers like real people. She loves to eat and hates to cook.

 

 

CordeliaJensenAuthorPhotoCordelia Allen Jensen graduated with a MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2012. Cordelia’s YA Novel in Verse, SKYSCRAPING, is forthcoming from Philomel/Penguin in early 2015. Cordelia was Poet Laureate of Perry County in 2006 & 2007. She’s a Writer in Residence at The Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Philadelphia where she teaches creative writing classes for kids & teens and does author interviews for their blog. Cordelia is represented by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc. You can find her at www.cordeliajensen.com and on Twitter @cordeliajensen

Introducing: Kim Savage

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I’ve scared away the sweet old man again.

Explaining why nice people flee me seems like a good way to introduce myself. I’m Kim Savage, and I write psychological thrillers for young adults. My novel AFTER THE WOODS will be released by Farrar, Straus & Giroux/MacMillan in 2015, and a second, stand-alone thriller, CELLOPHANE SISTERS (working title) will be released in 2016.

You see, when I write, especially first-draft stuff, I look like a keening witch doctor. I sway as I type, and whisper, looking for lyricism. Working my way into a trance, I tap with grand, oversized strokes, closing my eyes to envision scenes. I read dialogue in character, making sure it sounds authentic. Sometimes, I model my characters’ actions. What does Deborah look like when Shane shows up in Liv’s hospital room? Does she draw in her chin? If so, would her waddle flatten and spread? Wait, I can check this on my mirror app! Oh yeah: major spread. It all adds up to one freaky scene, made worse by the fact that I write in my public library. Choose another table, sweet old man who scans the Globe every morning. Vodoun priestess is in da house!

The magic started when I stalked my dream agent, Sara Crowe, at a Society of Children’s Books Writers & Illustrators retreat and signed with her a month later. She sold my book in a pre-empt to Janine O’Malley at FSG, which I’m pretty sure is entered through pearly white gates inlaid with gold. Next time I’m in NYC, I’m checking that out.

I live with my husband and youngish kids just north of Boston. I’ve spent most of my life as an introvert in disguise, because extroverts have more fun. Though I’ve had careers in journalism and development, writing fiction is the only thing I’ve truly wanted to do. So I shake my head over the fact that I get to write, tics in full force, every single day.

I’m starting to suspect all this conjuration has sparked some supernatural mischief. Because during the last few weeks, my novel has been haunting me.

By way of background: in AFTER THE WOODS, a man tries to abduct Julia and her best friend, Liv. One year later, everything is turned upside down. Liv freezes out Julia, whose terrifying flashbacks of the attack make reassimilating to high school life impossible. When Liv’s risqué new habits include Shane Cuthbert, a violent addict whose temper Liv cultivates, Julia realizes she must remember what really happened that day in the woods before she loses Liv forever.

Back to the magic. Recently, while watching the news, I saw my opportunistic reporter, Paula Papademetriou—not all of her, just her man-hands—attached to a local newscaster.

Last month, I was eased off the road by Shane Cuthbert’s matte black muscle car.

On the same road, I pulled over to send a text and saw the house my predator, Donald Jessup, lives in with his mother. The brown vinyl siding, the yellow mail exploding from the mailbox, the frayed lawn chairs were all there.

Shiver.

I think I know what’s up. I’ve been going hard at Novel Two, and my first baby will not be ignored. The doppelganger body parts and suspiciously similar settings are just Novel One’s way of reminding me it’s there. After all, you can’t summon magic and expect it to stay dormant (see “Frozen”).

AFTER THE WOODS began with flipping a question. Would you sacrifice yourself to save your best friend? Then: would you sacrifice your best friend to save yourself? What follows isn’t easy. Neither are my characters. I’m with Clare Messud when she asks, “The relevant question isn’t ‘is this a potential friend for me?’ but ‘is this character alive?’ ”

I want readers to care as deeply about Julia and Liv as I do. About them, if not for them. Understand their hard choices, then agree, or disagree. Ultimately, I hope my characters come alive for readers, which would, in fact, be a little bit of magic.

I’d love to hear from you, especially about your favorite “tough” YA characters. Tweet me @khsavage

 

Kim Savage is the author of AFTER THE WOODS, a debut psychological thriller for young adults coming in 2015 with Farrar, Straus and Giroux/MacMillan. She is working on CELLOPHANE SISTERS (working title), also with FSG/MacMillan, her second thriller for young adults. Before writing fiction, she worked as business journalist, pitching stories along the lines of “Stigmatized Properties: When Murder Kills Property Values”. You get the idea.