A Chat with Cookie O’Gorman

 

Cookie O'Gorman

I was introduced to Cookie O’Gorman years ago when I worked as a reviewer and I was enchanted by her debut novel, Adorkable, which had a sort of magic I had rarely seen in YA romance, though it was one of my favorite genres. I picked up her next book, Ninja Girl the moment it came out in ARC review. This one surprised me even more, and from that point on I was a fan for life. I found Cookie again on Instagram last year and was delighted to become reacquainted.

On her website (http://cookieogorman.com), Cookie has a brand of humor and heart, and she describes her stories as “Tales of Happily Ever After” and “Cookies for the Soul” (with her newsletter even called “The Cookie Jar”, an apt name since there is an addictive quality to her universes). With her fifth book recently released, and her debut novel featured in Target, I’m honored to introduce you to an author who is sure to leave you smiling, even if you don’t normally read YA.

Interviewer: Joanna Celeste

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Q: You went from self-published to indie/hybrid publishing. Can you share with us the pros and cons of each type?

A. All five of my books have been self-published, however, my debut YA romance Adorkable was later picked up by a publisher.

The pros to self-publishing are the freedom and input that you have in your own work. Everything from the cover to the plot, characters and scenes, to the editing and marketing, is all up to you! I think along with this pro comes the con of having all the responsibility rest on your shoulders. Whether anything succeeds or fails, it’s on you. Another pro from a business standpoint is that any profits you make from your books are yours; but again, the con is that any and all of the expenses for your books are yours, as well.

When you are indie/hybrid published, the responsibility is shared and you have a team working with you to help get your book out there and give it opportunities (like getting in stores, marketing, selling foreign rights etc.). That’s a definite pro of being indie/hybrid, the knowledge, expertise and connections they have within the publishing world. The con, of course, is less control over your book. Another con from a business standpoint is that you do not keep all of the profits from your books and earn a smaller royalty; however the pro is the indie publisher may be able to get your book in front of more readers as well as in stores and pays for marketing (but they have the power there and may decide how much or how little to promote your books).

In other words, both self-publishing and indie/hybrid publishing have their drawbacks and are awesome in their own ways.

Q: Your works were recently published internationally! What was the process of translation and publication in other markets like?

A. Three of my books (Adorkable, Ninja Girl, and The Good Girl’s Guide To Being Bad) have been published in Hungarian! My experience has been wonderful! Basically, the publisher approached me; I sold the Hungarian foreign rights to them, and they translated the books (sending me questions if they needed any clarification). They also are wonderful about sending me the Hungarian covers and letting me know how the books are doing.

Q. What advice would you give to new writers?

A: My advice to new writers would be: don’t give up. Finish your book. Learn as much as you can about writing and publishing, make your book the best that it can be, and then decide how you’d like to proceed (traditional or self-publishing). Also, just remember you have the power to validate yourself. You don’t need anyone’s permission to write. Some people will love your books and some won’t, but it’s the ones who do that you should focus on. A lot of writers complete and publish their books, and you can do it, too.

Q: Please share some of the common misconceptions about YA romance you have encountered.

A. Hmm…this is a tough one. I think people sometimes think of YA romance as fluff and, therefore, less important. There’s a stigma attached to romance, in general, but I think YA is even more discounted because it features teens and their experiences. This mindset is absolutely not true! The world has far too many tragedies. We need more happy endings, and that is one of the reasons I write romance. Another misconception is that YA romance can only be enjoyed by young adults, which is just crazy. YA romance is for anyone and everyone who enjoys love stories and happily ever after.

Q. What are some of the best elements of YA romance?

A: I love how YA romance allows you to get inside the character’s head and examine their emotions. YA romance often explores firsts (first love, first kiss, first heartbreak, etc.), and I love writing those. The fun banter, the friendships, the swoon-worthy and hilarious moments, those are all things I love about YA romance.

Q. You wrote four YA novels and just published your fifth, as a New Adult novel. What was different in your process, writing for the New Adult market?

A: My New Adult sports romance, The Best Mistake, just came out.  It features the O’Brien Brothers, and I love, love, love it.

The process for writing NA versus YA was a bit different because:

1) NA is set in college, so the characters are older.

2) I knew my characters would no longer be living at home, so they’d have more freedom/autonomy than in YA. I also wanted to get the living situations right, so I researched that.

3) The New Adult market’s readers are also a bit older; NA romance is written for adults 18+, so I knew the books included more mature romantic interactions. My YA romance has always been PG-13, and none of my characters were ready to do more than kiss (though there were some swoon-worthy, steamy kisses).  But my NA romance features older characters, and I knew I wanted to allow them to go as far as they wanted to go.

4) I had to make sure my characters for my NA read like mature college kids (my two main characters were seniors in college). They couldn’t sound too young, so their thoughts, views and experiences of the world, had to be right.

5) My New Adult romance features the O’Brien brothers, and I knew that I wanted it to be a series, to write stories for each of them—which I had never done before. So my approach to The Best Mistake, knowing I wanted it to be book one of a series, was definitely different.

Q: How do you define New Adult? (In case readers are unfamiliar with the genre and associate it with a totally different “adult”).

A: There are probably better definitions out there, but I define New Adult as books that feature characters who are college-aged, dealing with the transition between being a teen and becoming an adult and all of the experiences that may come during that time (such as: leaving home, living away from parents for the first time, having more autonomy, being more financially responsible, internships, jobs, college parties, clubs, drinking, having sex, falling in love that leads to engagement or marriage).

Q. You manage to write, keep up your blog and post regularly on social media. How do you juggle it all?

A: Very badly. I don’t think I’m very good at juggling everything, but I try my best.

Q. After signing on with Entangled Teen you had your Adorakable novel in Target for the first time. What was that process like?

A: It was amazing. I don’t think I could’ve ever done that on my own. Getting Adorkable into Target and Barnes & Noble was all Entangled Teen’s doing, and I’m so thankful. Seeing Adorkable on actual store shelves, it was truly a dream come true.

Q. Please share your best practices when requesting reviews and setting up book blog tours.

A. For each book I write, I try to book at blog tour. That is where the bulk of my early reviews come from. The hard part (for me anyway) is getting the timing right. Book blog tours are usually scheduled far in advance, at least a month or two, and you need to have your cover and blurb already completed (as well as your properly formatted book, of course). I would say plan ahead; get your cover done and manuscript properly edited and formatted; and contact blog tour sites as early as you can.

Q. Any other marketing tools you recommend?

A. Not really. I’m not the best at marketing, still learning. I know a lot of people don’t recommend them, but I like having a cover reveal and blog tour for my books. If you can, get a featured deal on BookBub™, I definitely recommend that. I had one for Adorkable, and it was very successful.

Q. How do you deal with writer’s block?

A: I cry in a corner, convinced I’m not a real writer/author. But seriously, I just try to get back into it. If writing comes naturally to you, that is awesome. I have to make the decision and then force myself to sit down and write. Then I just keep doing that until I reach the end (usually with a lot of writer’s block in there). But the point is to keep going.

Thank you for your time with us today, Cookie.

Connect with Cookie:

Twitter: @CookieOwrites

Instagram: @cookieogorman

Facebook: @cookieogorman

ENJOY A TASTE OF HAPPILY-EVER-AFTER!

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14924267.Cookie_O_Gorman

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14924267.Cookie_O_Gorman

 

No Entry

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“Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test,” wrote Czech author Milan Kundera, “consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.”  This theme is graphically explored in Gila Green’s latest release, No Entry, in which a Canadian teenager signs on to an elephant conservation program and ends up coming face to face with violence, greed, and murder. Though targeted to young adults, this gripping environmental fiction novel will resonate with anyone who has a passion for wildlife conservation and the protection of endangered species.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Tell us a bit about your journey as a writer and the influences on your particular style of storytelling.

A:  My journey began when I was pregnant with my fourth child and I had three children under the age of six at home. I had my hands full but intellectually, I was restless. Then an MA in Creative Writing program opened in Israel. I’d always dreamed of doing such a program, but assumed I’d have to wait until my kids were old enough for me to study overseas. Suddenly there was an opportunity an hour away from my home and I took it. I got the list of the professors and phoned each one, asking if I could bring my baby to class. Israel is very child-friendly; there are nursing rooms on campus. Second semester, my three-week old was most often being held by the professor who lectured while the rest of us took notes. (It wasn’t easy to get her out of their arms after class either). By the end of that degree I was already sending in (remember stamps and envelopes?) and publishing my stories.

As for influences, I only read what people called literary fiction for years, but thankfully, around the age of 30, I realized that was an old, stale, academic snobbery and I’ve been reading everything ever since. I force myself to take something from a combination of genres when I choose a book. Of course, I have my personal interests and favorites.  I’m particularly influenced by international fiction. I like reading writers from Ireland to Jamaica to South Africa to the American South.

Q: Did you know from a young age you wanted to be an author or did this passion develop over the course of different career choices?

A: Yes, I always wanted to be an author or related careers: librarian, linguist, screenwriter, always coming back to language. I never saw “author” as a realistic choice in terms of supporting myself, which is why I chose journalism as the practical option at the time (hahaha -way back when before internet and when people paid for newspapers and it became entirely unpractical). But here I am for a decade teaching EFL at several colleges—something that was never on my list but is very practical. I also edit manuscripts as a freelancer, which I love. I really enjoy helping other writers get where they want to go.

Q: Your bio reveals you’ve done quite a bit of globetrotting over the years. Which place, though, do you most strongly associate with your personal definition of “home?”

A: I think a person can have more than one home just as they have different “best friends”. Your husband can be your best friend along with a sister and a girlfriend you grew up with—these are different types of best friends, right?

Israel is my home and has been for decades and there is nowhere like it. Israel is always humming, alive. It’s where my children were born and where my paternal great grandparents came when they walked from Yemen in North Africa to Port Said in Egypt and finally, took a train to Jerusalem and lived under Turkish rule. My family has been in Jerusalem since the 1880s.

I’m also proud to be fourth generation Canadian where my maternal great grandparents found refuge from the pogroms in Russia. I once read somewhere that the country in which you obtained your post high-school education becomes the one that shapes your values (vs. high school or primary school) and in my case, I would say that is correct. If you’re asking if I have real maple syrup in my fridge, the answer is yes; it’s next to the humus and my husband’s biltong from Johannesburg.

Q: What was the inspiration behind No Entry?

A: No Entry was inspired by my desire to write about South Africa and highlight an aspect that is often overlooked by the important subject of Apartheid. That’s an extremely necessary issue to write about, but it’s not the only one. There are other things going on in South Africa that need to be brought to people’s attention. I was also interested in connecting animal poaching with global terrorism as these are often the same network of cruel people, another overlooked and important point.

Q: How did you choose the title?

A: No Entry is my only novel that didn’t ultimately take my original title which was Shen (which means ivory in Hebrew). Even when I chose Shen (which I still prefer), I knew it would be too foreign a word for English-speaking audiences. It’s the first time I took the advice of an American marketing team and they convinced me that No Entry was a name teens would like and that my titles are “too subtle.” So, I tried listening to someone else for once.

Q: What governed your decision to pen a novel in a part of the world (South Africa) from which you did not originate? Accordingly, what were the challenges you encountered in depicting the setting and events with accuracy for your readers?

A: I had already written four Israel-based novels (King of the Class, Passport Control, White Zion, A Prayer Apart—the last as yet unpublished). Those novels took on various time periods from the Ottoman Empire, British Mandate to modern Israel and some migrated between Israel and Canada. King of the Class was written in a futuristic post-civil war Israel. I felt I had wrung out those settings– at least for the moment and I was searching. Then I had a coffee with a writing partner who said she feels many authors write the same novel over and over again only with different characters. She said if you analyze the novels they are really always coming back to the same themes, same ideas, same story; different characters.

This horrified me.

I knew she was right and I didn’t want to be one of those authors. I’m a location-driven writer and sought a brand-new location which I felt would ensure I wouldn’t be writing the same story again with different characters. My husband is South African and I’ve been there several times. I thought: let’s do it. I am not South African and, therefore, was not brave enough to have a South African heroine (their English alone is very different from Canadian English). So my first challenge to overcome was how to deal with that, thus, I made Yael a Canadian who travels to South Africa because her parents are from there originally. It’s pretty easy today with accuracy as we have Google and YouTube and I use Google maps a lot. I have a built-in South African reader at home who I’m married to. I also gave the manuscript to a South African friend to check for authenticity and I’m proud to say he only found one, small inauthentic element at Kruger for me to change.

Q: The young heroine of No Entry is Jewish. What was the significance of this choice for you?

A: I wanted to write about a Jewish heroine we don’t see often. In Passport Control, I have a Sephardic heroine—again a type of Jewish heroine we don’t often see unless she’s romanticized like Queen Esther or some other Biblical figure. Jewish heroines need to be expanded, don’t you think? Enough with the stereotypes. Judaism actually has a lot about nature built-in, something not often associated with Jewish culture but it’s there in spades if you look. We have Tu B’ishvat, which is a holiday celebrating trees every year when the stores are flooded with dried and fresh fruits, we have the holiday of Sukkoth where we live outside in a hut for an entire week, we have many prohibitions and laws about trees and fruits and vegetables, when you are allowed to cut trees, eat from their fruits and so on and on and on. It’s time for a Jewish environmental heroine, it’s overdue.

Q: Although technology and media have, in many respects, made the world a smaller place insofar as exposure to other countries and cultures, why has the extinction of elephants fallen off the radar of many people in North America?

A: I think it’s because we are so far removed from the natural world in North America and that’s a massive understatement. We’ve gone way beyond the old cliché of the concrete jungle. We simply don’t relate to animals in the wild on a visceral level the way many other peoples do. Animals are all Disney characters to us. It’s a simplistic reason but in a short answer that’s the truth. Before I went to South Africa the wildest animal I had seen up close and observed was a squirrel. Our food, clothes and so on are so removed from their sources that even when intellectually we know say that elephants are on the verge of extinction, it’s just too far from our lives and too easy for us to look away.

Q: A lot of research went into the development of this story. What were you the most surprised to discover that you didn’t know before?

A: One of the most surprising things I discovered is that the frozen land of Siberia is rapidly thawing due to climate change. As such, wooly mammoths that have been buried for 10,000 years are now accessible to tusk hunters. Tusk hunters are racing to retrieve them due to the very unfortunate demand for tusks, particularly in China.  Inexperienced people cannot tell the difference between illegal elephant tusks and wooly mammoth tusks. This enables elephant ivory traders to pass off their tusks as “ice ivory” or mammoth tusks. It’s very bad news for elephants. It would mean we would have to ban trade in an extinct species (wooly mammoths), something that’s never been done as far as I know of to protect elephants and right now that’s not happening.

Q: Why does this topic so deeply resonate with you?

A: I’m starting to come around to the idea that I should write something light and humorous (it started when a clinically depressed friend of mine complained she had nothing to read because every book depressed her more and why can’t anyone write something light but good that made her feel better…and now with this pandemic I’m thinking even more so), but for my first decade of writing I was always motivated by the idea of writing something to wake people up. The idea that elephants will likely be animals our grandchildren will never see in the wild is shocking and an absolute abdication of responsibility between humans and nature. There is no reason at all for this to happen and is a portent of much worse to come. Look at what’s already happening with this corona virus. The connection is a direct one. We need to stop and think about what we are doing to the natural world and realize it is nothing less than suicide. I’m not an animal conservationist and have no background in animals…I didn’t even grow up with a goldfish. This is just common sense. You don’t have to be an animal lover or a nature lover or a vegan or any of those things; loving human beings is enough to realize we need to act and reverse course when it comes to our relationship with wildlife.

Q: Is this something you plan to extend to future books?

A: I already wrote the sequel to No Entry and it’s ready to go. Yael, Nadine and Sipho are back this time taking on a drone training camp. Sadly, Stormbird Press burned down in the Australian wildfires. They were evacuated and lost their homes, equipment, everything, all physical book copies. They were hoping to make a comeback in April 2020 –even a small one—but now they have been hit with corona virus.  So, I don’t know what will be now with my eco-series. I’m open to suggestions! Please email me through my website (www.gilagreenwrites.com) if you have any.

Q: In writing about global environmental issues and animal activist themes such as elephant poaching, there’s a fine line between educating one’s readership and preaching to them. How did you achieve that difficult balance?

A: I try to keep the story at a personal level to avoid preaching as you say. The story is about Yael Amar and her losses and gains and growth as much as about anything else. She has a best friend, loving parents and a boyfriend who she feels forced to deceive—issues that are beyond the eco aspects of the story. But it’s still an eco-genre, so environmental issues have to be center stage to fulfill the requirements of this genre.

Q: What do you see as the takeaway message for No Entry?

A: Do you love people? If the answer is yes, you should care about elephant extinction and yes, teenagers can make a difference.

Q: Authors are often given the conventional advice to pick just one genre and stay with it forever in order to build an audience. Given that your prior books are largely Israel/Canada based, you seem to be openly defying that mindset and following your heart. Any worries about that?

A:  This advice can be stifling as a writer. I wanted the challenge, I wanted to expand my canvas. In a way telling people to stick with one genre shrinks your canvas. It’s too reductionist for me. It depends on your goals—if they are purely sales, it’s probably the best advice. I also get bored of things easily and need change. Maybe it’s my journalism background, but I like researching new things, learning about aspects of the world I never knew before. If I had never written No Entry, I wouldn’t know anything about elephants beyond the grade one stuff most of us know. It brought me into contact with more people, more opportunities.  In the same way, White Zion taught me so much about living under British Mandate in the 1930s in Jerusalem right down to how people heated their homes.

I have to be interested, engaged and not feel I’m recycling the same plots in the same places. It’s also not necessarily true advice. There are dozens of writers who have written in all different genres who are very successful: Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Lisa See, Roald Dahl.

Q: What’s your best advice to writers who are starting out?

A: Find a mentor who believes in you. Mentors should be talked about more. Much more.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: I’m at a bit of a crossroads because of what’s happened to Stormbird as I mentioned before. I had three novels come out between August 2018 and September 2019 and looking at 2020 right now, it’s probably not the ideal time to release a new book. My most honest answer is that I’m waiting to see what opportunities putting out three traditionally published novels in 13 months brings. I’m making more vlogs and trying to reach out and build my audience whether they are interested in heroines conquering their fears in South Africa or in Israel. I’ve been vlogging educational vlogs related to No Entry for parents/educators/teens/readers and hope to post more often.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: Yes, I also found publishing No Entry enabled me to join SCBWI, I’ve already participated in a webinar for the Israel branch and it’s enabled me even more opportunities. I recommend writers join such organizations, something I didn’t have time to invest in when all of my kids were little. Having said that, mothers and fathers do not feel badly about not doing such things. Your kids will only be young once. Join writing organizations and any other extras when you can. You don’t have to do everything at once. I only put up a professional website 10 years after I published my first story because with my family and earning a living, I couldn’t focus on everything and that’s allowed, it’s okay, it’s perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Chat With Hope Bolinger

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When I was in high school in the 1960s (even though I only claim to be 35), I used to think that teenagers had an inordinate amount of “stuff” on their plates. In retrospect, I’ve come to appreciate that such stuff is really not much different from what any other younger generation endured (i.e., peer pressure, self-esteem, unreasonable parentals, exam anxieties, and trying to strike a balance between fitting in and being unique). The difference with today’s generation, however, has been the dark impact technology has had on fostering unrealistic comparisons, exposing embarrassing secrets through social media and magnifying one’s sense of helplessness in a world that, for all intents and purposes, appears to have gone insane.

Author and savvy young literary agent Hope Bolinger clearly has a finger on the pulse of YA fears, dreams and sensibilities and effectively taps that expertise for Blaze, the first book in a new series about navigating the scary road to adulthood.

Interview: Christina Hamlett

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Q: When did you first know that being a published author was your true calling?

A: I started writing novels in high school because my best friend wrote them, but when my AP Literature teacher pulled me into her office, reviewing one of my papers, and said, “Obviously you can write well,” I thought, Maybe I could do something with this.

Q: Who or what has had the most influence on guiding your career?

A: That’s such a hard question. I can’t say one particular person alone shaped me. So many writing mentors and friends throughout the years propelled me to where I have landed today. If I listed all the names of everyone who helped me get here, it would probably take the entire interview.

Q: New writers often lament that they have trouble coming up with ideas and yet an abundance of “recyclable” material already exists in Shakespeare, mythology, folk tales and the Bible. As was your own case in developing the “Daniel” series, what is it about timeless themes that make them such a wellspring of inspiration for modern/updated spins?

A: Great question. It’s true nothing’s new under the sun. I saw a lot of parallels between the life of Daniel and the life of the average American teenager. We get forced into a Babylon of sorts (the school system) and have to outshine our classmates in fierce competition and eliminate any trace of our identity. The characters did develop on their own apart from their historical counterparts, but I loved the idea of a revamped Daniel for the modern times. Some inspiration was pulled from Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love, a revamped version of Hosea and Gomer.

Q: Of the four main characters in Blaze, which one would you most like to spend an afternoon with (and why)?

A: Oh, without a doubt, Hannah. She’s weird, morbid, and wonderful, and she’d have so many wild shenanigans planned for that afternoon.

Q: Which of these characters is the most/least like you in terms of personality traits, aspirations, fears and beliefs?

A: It’s funny. Technically all of them, but when I made a test for my launch party, “Which Character from Blaze are You?” I got Michelle.

I can see it. We both love tennis, journalism, and theater, and we want to look out for our friends. I think I have more of Rayah’s timid personality, so I won’t speak my mind as much as Michelle, but I have her same tenacity.

As for fears, I often approach the situation more like Danny, cracking jokes but battling severe stomach pain.

Q: What are some of the hard themes you tackle in the Blaze trilogy and why do you believe they resonate with today’s teens?

A: Oh dear, I leave no stone unturned in this series. I’ll break it down by book:

Blaze (2019): Mental health, terrible administrations, poorly run school systems, divorce, severe academic expectations, blurring or eradicating of personal identities. Teens deal with all of these. Even the nicest high schools can tend to have a few bad eggs running things. They have way too much unnecessary stress placed upon them.

Den (2020): Suicide, teen pregnancy, school shootings, sexual assault, mental health. All of these have hit hard in the past few years, especially close to home.

Vision (TBD): Mental health, problems with the medical care system in America and those most vulnerable in it, and spiritual warfare. Without giving away too much, I’ve had friends in their teens severely mistreated by the medical care system in the past few years but are too afraid to speak up because they won’t be believed or will end up in terrible situations they tried to get out of.

Can you tell I take mental health seriously? I love that teen books now plan to confront this topic, but back in high school when I needed characters who looked like me, I couldn’t find them anywhere.

Q: “Great things,” wrote an unknown author, “never came from comfort zones.” In your own experience, have you ever dreaded a major change and then discovered it was the best thing ever to happen?

A: Oh, always. I hate change. I feel often like Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory. The slightest shift in routine can set me off. But in publishing, and in life, you can’t excel without massive change and without stretching yourself far beyond your comfort zone.

Q: How did you get a traditional publishing contract?

A: Oh dear, let me try to truncate this in bullet points.

  • Started writing books in 2013 in high school
  • Tried querying agents in 2014
  • Self-published my first book in 2015
  • Went to Taylor University in 2015
  • Went to a writer’s conference based on exceling well in one of my writing classes at Taylor and pitched an agent in 2016
  • The agent ended up rejecting me a few months later
  • 2016-2017 interned for that agent
  • In 2017 that agent encouraged me to pitch another agent at his agency. I did so and got a contract.
  • That summer I wrote Blaze while my parents split.
  • That fall, I pitched it to the editor of LPC at a conference.
  • After multiple rounds of editing back and forth, the pub board finally accepted it spring of 2018.

Q: There are certain challenges inherent in penning a series vs. a standalone title, not the least of which is the risk of repetition in order to keep new readers on the same page as those who are already familiar with characters and scenarios from the preceding books. How have you handled this?

A: I try to write each book as if it can stand alone. If someone dives into book two or three in the series, I don’t want them to feel the normal disorientation you can encounter in some other series.

I think my biggest fear in a series is I want to do better each book. I’ve read so many trilogies where I couldn’t even finish the third book because I could tell the author put in only a small percentage of effort in succeeding titles, as opposed to book one. I want to keep things as fresh as possible, while maintaining the same foreboding tone throughout the series.

Q: Your career currently encompasses that of literary agent, author and other industry-related jobs. Which “hat” is your favorite and how do you strike a balance to ensure you’re delivering quality time and attention to each one?

A: Ooooh, so good. Can I cheat and say all of them? I will anyway. All of them. I wouldn’t do anything else. I strike the balance in a number of ways. First, I maintain specific work hours for agenting. Past those hours, I write. That way I can maintain boundaries and still give my clients the attention they deserve for their books.

Q: What’s the most common misconception people have about writing books?

A: Wow. I’ve written entire blog posts about this. I’ll do three common misconceptions.

  • One: Book writers are just lazy and sit around all day and write. Umm, no. We market, edit, go to conferences, go to speaking engagements, send out thousands of emails, ping reviewers, etc. We honestly only write a small percentage of the time.
  • Two: People write books during free time. No. Free time doesn’t exist. You force yourself to make room in your schedule.
  • Three: Publishers, libraries, all book people want to read it after you finish it, especially if you have an agent. It takes years, and you still deal with a ton of rejections before you can get a contract, if you get one.

Q: What are your thoughts on self-publishing vs. traditional?

A: Both are viable options. It depends on how much marketing you are willing to do, and how much time you would be willing to wait. Traditional publishing takes years. I had a writer pitch to me at a conference the other day, saying, “If you pick up this book, I want it published next year.”

I scrunched my eyebrows. “Ma’am, it takes two years minimum.”

I’ve seen authors do well in both. You just have to work at both like crazy. Neither is the “easier” option.

Q: Where do you see the publishing industry going in the next 10 years?

A: Well, I see it going in a platform route. Only those with the largest followings will get book contracts.

I can also see other types of books hitting the market. I’m wondering if apps like Hooked (text-message based stories) will start to go for long-form content. And audiobooks will continue to grow in popularity.

But who honestly can say? Things trending in this year won’t next year. No one can really predict what will happen.

Q: How can authors get an agent like yourself?

A: Best way? Meet me at a conference. I will most likely take more time on your submission if you met me in person. Second best way? If I like your pitch on a Twitter pitch party. Third best way? Follow my submissions guidelines here: https://www.hopebolinger.com/instructions

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: I don’t sleep to alarms. I haven’t since first grade. During then, I discovered my pineal gland would wake me up ten minutes prior to my alarm every morning. I decided to test out my internal alarm clock and haven’t woken to any beeping noises since.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Writers, please keep writing. I know the industry gets discouraging. At least once a week I text my agent friend Alyssa and ask some variation of, “Can I die/give up now?” And she always responds, “If you do, I do.” So, of course, I have to keep going.

Know, even after you get published, imposter syndrome still lurks around and you never truly get over it. If I still get discouraged and keep going, so can you.

 

 

 

Demon Reaper

Adele Cawley

In a slightly futuristic dystopia, a teenage girl discovers she’s an empath and that she is the linchpin between the physical world and the supernatural. Author Adele T. Cawley shares how her paranormal fantasy, Demon Reaper, came about and why it’s a genre with timeless themes of independence, individuation and rebellion that resonate with today’s YA readership.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: How and when did your journey as a writer begin?

A: Professionally, I’d have to say it began by taking a huge leap of faith investing in a collaborative publishing course, and forcing myself not to give up on my dream. However, my journey as a writer truly began when I learned to write words, at about age five. I can’t remember a time in my life I haven’t loved the power of the written word, and particularly, the emotions words can invoke.

Q: Were you a voracious reader growing up? What books might we have found on the nightstand of your adolescent self? Your teenage self?

A: I was a voracious reader growing up at times, and at other times it was hard to find interest in any book at all. I call the voracious spells “reading jags” because they are similar to food jags toddlers go through when they obsess over one or two foods and can’t seem to eat enough of them. (My four-year-old is currently going through a food jag with peanut butter and insists on eating it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.) Sometimes I get this way with books, and I can’t inhale them fast enough.

As an adolescent I loved the Childhood of Famous Americans book series, which prompted a lifelong love of historical fiction. I also loved the Hardy Boys mystery books, and I read every book my school library carried when I was in the 4th and 5th grades. These books primed me for my love of mysteries, and when I got a little older I read several Sherlock Holmes stories. I sometimes joke that my love of Frank and Joe Hardy (particularly Joe) was the foundation for my love of the Winchester brothers in the TV series, Supernatural, particularly Dean.

In my late teen years, I had a taste for the macabre and devoured the thrilling works of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, as well as the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Around this same time I read the Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny which propelled me into the realm of fantasy, where I have semi-permanently stayed.

Q: What are you reading now?

A: Right now I’m reading the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown, and although I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, these books have been exciting to read. I love the clipped pacing and the throw-back to medieval fighting and chivalric code of honor, despite the books taking place in outer space. They remind me of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins which makes for a very fun time, and reading late into the night is a guilty pleasure of mine.

Admittedly, I am in the middle of the series and have diverted momentarily to read Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, but who doesn’t have more than one good read going on at the same time, right?

Q: What authors would you say have had the most influence on your own voice and style as a novelist?

A: I’m a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson, and if I can get half as good at storytelling and descriptive writing as him, I’ll consider myself very successful. I also loved The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry, and I really admire her prose and storytelling abilities. The way she made me think while reading those books has stayed with me, and I want to be able to write a compelling story that would have the same effect on others.

Q: Skylar Grant, the heroine of your new book, Demon Reaper, is a teenage girl. In what way(s) have you channeled emotions and memories of yourself at that same age? In what ways is Skylar’s personality completely different from yours?

A: In writing about Skye, it would be impossible for her not to have similar characteristics to me. I was a loner-type of girl when I was younger, having only a few close friends, and her isolation reminds me of myself, especially her inability to make a strong connection with the group. I was often referred to as “stuck-up” or “snobbish” in school, and I reference this to Skye’s character when people accuse her of being a “princess.” I’ve never considered myself (or Skye) to be stuck-up. I prefer the term misunderstood.

On the other hand, Skye is more stubborn than me. She has a gutsy streak to her that I don’t have. Part of it is due to growing up in a hard environment having to survive a second American civil war and then living in a very old-fashioned community without modern comforts. I have lived a soft, mostly abundant life, where she has not, and she has the heart of a survivor. If I was dropped into her lifestyle it’d be a grand adventure for a couple of days, and then after that I’m not sure I would enjoy it anymore.

Q: What was your attraction to writing a dystopian theme?

A: I love the genre. I’m fascinated and intrigued by the plight of humankind, particularly the young, in these types of stories. I love seeing how a person is shaped by their experience, which isn’t unlike real life. I’m an observer of the human race. People captivate me. Their motivations and rationalizations are so fascinating. I try to imagine myself in their shoes. What is it about the course their lives took that ultimately led them down the path they chose? This is beautifully described in dystopian novels when there are often harsh and cruel realities the hero must face. I love seeing them meet challenges and overcoming them, and I love seeing the why or how behind it all. Reality isn’t far off some dystopians. Humans face oppression everywhere, and some come out better for it, and some do not.

Q: In your estimation, why do such themes resonate with our younger generation?

A: In my observation and experience, being a teenager is a lot like living in a dystopia. You’re not young enough anymore to be considered a child, but you’re not old enough to be considered an adult. You’re kind of stuck in the middle, but with additional responsibilities, and you’re under the dominion, so to speak, of your parents or caregivers. Teenagers want the ability to make their own decisions without restrictions, but lack the discipline and experience to fully think through the consequences. In dystopian societies, there is always some sort of figurehead symbolic of the overbearing adult, imposing perceived injustices on the people. I remember thinking my parents were just like this. Why couldn’t they let me live my life the way I wanted to live it? I see this theme played out again and again in many dystopian novels, and in the end the hero and/or heroine come out the other end stronger, more experienced, and better able to make decisions having lived through intended, and sometimes unintended, consequences, the same way we make the transition from teenager to adult.

Q: What was your inspiration behind the plot and characters for Demon Reaper?

A: I first got the idea for the character of the daemon ripere (demon reaper, a type of undead creature who has been tricked into selling his soul to the forces of evil) six or seven years ago when I dreamed about one. The dream was so compelling I knew I had to write a story about it. I loved the idea of a demonic soul, tortured by an invisible bond to his master by a magical connection from the collar around his neck. Not only had he sold his soul, seemingly to the devil, but now he knows he’s a slave to do the bidding of his master without knowing how, or if, he will ever be freed. Not only that, but he’s an assassin, sent out to reap the souls of the living.

Originally I had thought it would be a fantasy story, but when it came time to do the writing, I felt a more modern, or even dystopian, setting better suited the character and his interactions with others. Although fantasy stories are full of all kinds of creatures, sometimes magical, sometimes not, what if my creature could exist in real life?

Q: How would you compare Demon Reaper to other books in its genre?

A: I’ve heard it compared to Twilight on a few occasions, particularly if Twilight had taken place in the Wild West and had been about angels and demons instead of vampires and werewolves. I’d say that’s a mostly accurate analysis. It does have some Twilight-esque moments (love triangle anyone?) with some intriguing supernatural elements. I also think it fits in with the Hush, Hush quartet and the Fallen series too, both of which involve fallen angels. Damon, who is the demon reaper, isn’t a fallen angel, but he has fallen from grace. And what’s even better, a human girl falls for him, pun intended.

Q: How did you go about finding a publisher?

A: For all intents and purposes, I am self-published. I enrolled in a collaborative publishing course through Author Academy Elite (AAE) where I learned how to self-publish and market. I use their imprint, which appears as publisher information on some forums (Amazon and Barnes & Noble). It was an amazing course, surrounded me with inspiring people, and kept me on track. I highly recommend them for anyone thinking about writing and publishing a book.

Q: Plotter or pantser?

A: I’m like 95 percent pantser, but OCD enough that I have to have some type of outline. I hate the restrictions of formal outlines, so I write my big ideas on sticky notes. That way I can keep track of them but have the flexibility to move them around as they work into the story. Demon Reaper started with two big ideas: the beginning and the ending. Then as the writing process took over, other big ideas came to mind. I’d write them down and rearrange them as they became pieces of the story. Each sticky note came to represent one chapter of the book, but I wouldn’t write which chapter it was until that chapter was completed in the manuscript. It was great having a simple visual representation of the manuscript that I could take a quick glance at to refresh my memory of certain events. It also allowed me to write dates on the sticky notes so I could keep the timeline straight.

Q: How long did it take to write Demon Reaper from start to finish?

A: Five and a half months start to finish, counting the dead space in the middle. If I took out the months I never even looked at the manuscript, it took about 7 weeks, with the bulk of it getting done in the last 4 weeks. I wrote just over 65,000 words in about three and a half weeks, which was both grueling and exhilarating. However, it’s not a general practice I recommend. In the time since, I’ve found consistent, weekly (if not daily) writing is easier to manage.

Q: When and where do you get your best writing done?

A: My favorite place to write is sitting on the sofa in my bedroom, door closed, earbuds in with the music cranked loud, and laptop on my lap. It’s not the most comfortable way to write, but for some reason, it triggers a cue in me that it’s time to get in the zone. Typically I can get my best writing done either first thing in the morning (weekends) or at the end of the day and into the evening. I work a full time job, and I have six kids, so finding the time to do it during the middle of the day is almost impossible.

Q: Do you allow anyone to read your work while it is still in progress or do you make everyone wait until you have typed “The End?”

A: When I was younger, I craved feedback anytime I could get it. So I’d share works in progress. When I wrote Demon Reaper, I found myself bouncing ideas off my two oldest daughters who fit the target audience, but then I realized that doing so was a disservice to them because it would take the fun out of reading the book when it was finished. So I stopped collaborating with them and rarely talked about characters and plot with anyone until the book was finished. At that point, I took on several beta readers to proof the manuscript. I split them into two groups, and Group A got copies of the rough draft, while Group B got copies of the updated manuscript after Group A finished with it. I loved how that process went and intend to do it again after the next manuscript is finished. Until then, mum’s the word for the most part.

Q: This is Book #1 of a trilogy. From your perspective, what are the challenges inherent in writing a series versus a standalone title?

A: This is such a great question, and is actually something I’ve thought about a lot. Writing and publishing a book is a lot of work, and sometimes it’s hard work. If I’d written a standalone, I’d be done. Win, lose, or draw, I would be done, and it would be out there. But I didn’t write a standalone. I started something that’s bigger than that, and slowly a fan base is forming. They are demanding the next segment of the story. I love having that pressure because it keeps me going. I tend to perform better with a deadline because it creates focus. However, I do have some ideas for standalone novels that I look forward to writing.

Q: I’m intrigued about your background in theatre (a particular passion you and I happen to share). How has this been an influence on your writing insofar as character development, dialogue, pacing and structure?

A: I have loved my time spent acting in community theater. I love the transformation that occurs when you become another person. Writing a book allows this same creative process, only better, because now I’m not just the heroine or the villain. I’m everyone at the same time. I’m the director, and I’m the stage manager, the producer, props manager, hair/makeup artist, and all of the actors.

There is always an endorphin-fueled high following an amazing stage performance when you know you nailed it. The audience was receptive. You flawlessly executed your role. Even if you made mistakes, you recovered and kept going in a way no one ever realized what had happened. There were many times I experienced a similar high after being in the zone for an extended period of time writing. I’d found my groove and executed amazing passages. I live for moments like those.

Q: According to your bio, you’re an advocate for the arts in schools. Too often—especially in public schools—funding for arts programs is always the first to be cut from city, county and state budgets. If students aren’t exposed to plays, music and art in the classroom, where are our future theatregoers, concert audiences and museum attendees going to come from?

A: This is such a great question, and it’s something I think about often. Our young people are exposed to the arts less and less, and it saddens me because what we focus on and appreciate when we’re young shapes who we become when we’re older. Public school systems feel rigid and results-driven, and we’re seeing a rise in ADD/ADHD diagnoses. Theater and dance are great outlets for these types of children. In fact, one of my favorite success stories is about Dame Gillian Lynne whose mother took her to see a doctor when she was about seven because she couldn’t stop moving. Her mother thought she had a learning disorder. The doctor observed her and asked the mother to step outside with him for a few moments. On the way out the door, he turned on the radio and then asked the mother to watch her daughter from the hallway. Her daughter leapt around the room to the sound of that radio, and the doctor finally turned and said that there was nothing wrong with her. She was simply born to dance. This was in the 1930s. Dame Gillian Lynne went on to become a world-famous choreographer for musicals such as “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera.” What would have happened to her if she’d been diagnosed with ADHD and then medicated as so often seems to happen today?

I’m not entirely sure the priorities of public schools, especially with the adoption of core standards, have shifted in the right direction. I love Montessori schools and their approach. I love interest-driven learning. When a student is having fun, they are engaged, and when they are engaged, they learn effortlessly. What if their passion is for music? Or theater? Or art? When and where do we encourage this in public schools and drive them to seek excellence in these fields? Do they have the foundation and support they need to excel in these areas? Or do we kill their natural talent for them simply because reading, writing, and arithmetic are more important? Skills can always be taught, but talent must be finely honed.

I’ll stop there. I am very passionate about this subject, and I feel I get a little preachy when I talk about it.

Q: What’s the oldest, weirdest or most sentimental thing in your closet?

A: The oldest, most sentimental thing I own is actually in my hope chest, not my closet. It is a diamond and pearl ring and necklace set given to me by my mother on my 18th birthday. They were gifted to her by her aunt, who was the closest person I had to a maternal grandmother growing up because my grandma had passed away when I was just a baby. I always admired the jewelry, and I was very fond of my great aunt, who passed away about a year and a half before I turned 18. So receiving the set meant a lot to me, and I hope to pass it on to my oldest daughter when she comes of age.

Q: Okay, so aside from what you just disclosed about your closet, what would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: I have a very large, overdeveloped sense of vanity. I care deeply about my appearance and how others see me, and I have since I was a small child. Now, that is hardly a surprise. What’s shocking is what happened when I was young because of it.

When I was in the 4th grade, there was a boy in my class who had the most beautiful, delicately shaped eyebrows. I had unfortunately inherited my dad’s bushy, unruly brows. I admired this boy’s eyebrows and stewed for days about what I could do to make mine more like his. I didn’t know at the time that it would require tweezers, a steady hand, a high tolerance to pain, and patience.

One evening at home I finally had a plan to give myself the most beautiful eyebrows ever bestowed on a ten-year-old girl. I carefully sneaked into my parents’ bathroom while they were distracted in the kitchen, quickly found my dad’s razor, and carefully placed it over my right eyebrow. One easy swipe is all it would take. Well, sure enough, one easy swipe and the eyebrow was gone, with the exception of two or three sneaky hairs that were not in the direct path of the destructive razor. To say the result was shocking is an understatement. I was horrified. Not only was I missing the artistically shaped eyebrow I’d been dreaming about, I was missing an eyebrow! I took a deep breath and re-analyzed the situation. It was obvious I couldn’t have lopsided features, so I quickly swiped the other side to even things out a bit. Now I had no eyebrows, but at least my face looked symmetrical once again.

The next morning I’d forgotten all about the incident until my mom saw me and freaked (I mean f-r-e-a-k-e-d) out. She was beyond upset. When I went back to school, my teacher was so amused by it she made me stand up in front of the class (this was still socially acceptable in the 1980s) and let my classmates have a good look. It mortified me, but to my relief (and rescue) it inspired another boy in my class who went home that day and shaved off his eyebrows too. We became the talk of the school and even upper classmen sought me out to see if the stories they’d heard were true. I’d earned a bit of notoriety and gained an ego boost to my vanity despite the mishap. With the modern obsession over eyebrows since, who knew I’d start a movement spanning the last three decades? *wink*

Q: If you could invite three authors (living or dead) to dinner, who would they be, what would be on the menu and what would you ask them?

A: J.R.R. Tolkien and Jane Austen are definitely on my list. For my third, it’s a tossup between Lois Lowry and Stephen Chbosky. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is so poignant and beautiful it is the only book I read the last page and immediately turned to page 1 and reread it cover to cover again. Likewise, The Giver Quartet also stirred a lot of passion and thought in me. All authors exposed the plight of humankind in a rich, unapologetic, sometimes humorous way that has stayed with me for years.

We’d have light fare on the menu. I have a preference for a fine wine (or cocktail, but only if I’m mixing) and charcuterie board to just about anything else, wrapping up with a simple dessert and wee dram of Scotch. And by wee, I mean a generous pour, of course.

I’d ask them about their experiences, not just in becoming writers, but ultimately what shaped their paths to become writers and what influenced them the most to write about the subjects they chose. If they had even a shred of advice, I’d devour it, particularly from Tolkien because I think he was a truly inspired man.

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: I am currently working on the second book of the Demon Reaper Trilogy. I was recently asked in an interview if the second book has a title, which it does, and then I was asked if I would share it, which I will. The title of book two is Indigo Moon.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: Readers can check out my website at https://adeletcawley.com where I casually post blogs and upload photos of my hobbies, when I have time for it. They are also more than welcome to follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/adeletcawley or Instagram @a.cawley_author.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: This has been a great interview, and I’ve had a lot of fun answering the questions. Thank you for the opportunity, and I look forward to connecting with readers and future fans often!