Archive for October, 2012

I’m Leading a Writing Workshop!

October 24th, 2012 by Terra | No Comments | Filed in Uncategorized

Typically in the Fall and Winter,  I enjoy teaching a writing class or two at Little Shop of Stories–either for kids or adults, depending on my mood. Last year, I ran “Writing Like a Grownup, But Thinking Like a Kid,” for a bunch of extraordinarily great adults, and when class surveys came back to me at the end of the six weeks, one of the main things they requested was a chance to get more feedback on their work. I thought about it a bit (it didn’t take long), and am happy to announce that I will be running a Writing Workshop that is strictly feedback-based (well, we may do a couple of writing exercises in there), starting Wednesday, November 7th.

 

Class cost: $275

Dates: November 7th, 14th, 28th and December 5th

Time: 6:30-7:45

Place:  Little Shop of Stories, 133A East Court Square, Decatur GA 30030

Who is Welcome:  Anyone with a 10-20 page hunk of work (a short story or a few chapters from your NaNoWriMo project, perhaps) that you feel is in relatively decent shape, but maybe needs an extra boost, and is something you want constructive feedback on. Class size allowing, you may even get to get a second round of response. Each week we will read, as a group, 1 or 2 pieces from members of the class, and then share our responses during class time.

To ask further questions or to sign up, please email me at terramcvoy[at]gmail[dot]com. Thanks, and I’m very much looking forward to it!

 

Lurking In the Shadows with Marie Rutkoski and THE SHADOW SOCIETY

October 23rd, 2012 by Terra | 1 Comment | Filed in Talking with Other Authors

I’d already fallen in love with Marie Rutkoski’s THE CABINET OF WONDERS before I met her. And then when she came to the AJC Decatur Book Festival at my invitation, it wasn’t just her book that I admired and adored. Marie is a great writer (and so stylish!) for both kids and YA, and I’m very excited about her new book, THE SHADOW SOCIETY. Marie was kind enough to spend some time answering questions about bodilessness, her process, T. S. Eliot and then some. Here’s what she had to say!

Summary:

Darcy Jones doesn’t remember anything before the day she was abandoned as a child outside a Chicago firehouse. She has never really belonged anywhere—but she couldn’t have guessed that she comes from an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire didn’t happen and deadly creatures called Shades terrorize the human population.

Memories begin to haunt Darcy when a new boy arrives at her high school, and he makes her feel both desire and desired in a way she hadn’t thought possible. But Conn’s interest in her is confusing. It doesn’t line up with the way he first looked at her.

As if she were his enemy.

When Conn betrays Darcy, she realizes that she can’t rely on anything—not herself, not the laws of nature, and certainly not him. Darcy decides to infiltrate the Shadow Society and uncover the Shades’ latest terrorist plot. What she finds out will change her world forever.

 

TEM: In THE SHADOW SOCIETY, our hero Darcy Jones finds out that she is a Shade. Tell me a little bit about why you picked this particular supernatural form for her, and how you developed/researched the rules about Shade life?

MR: Although I love reading books about all kinds of traditional supernatural creatures rooted in centuries’-old mythology (fairies, werewolves, vampires, what have you), I found myself wishing for something new. When I created Shades, I knew a few things about them: they were visually identifiable (they have extreme black and white coloring), they could vanish at will, and they were hugely resented by humans for their abilities. Deciding how they live grew naturally from these attributes. For example, they clearly couldn’t live out in the open, because of the war between them
and humans, so I gave them something that humans would call a lair and Shades call their sanctuary. Shades also have cultural codes about when it’s ok (or not) to touch someone, even casually, since they do not have to remain in physical form. When they do, it’s special.

If you’d like to know more about my construction of Shades’ history and culture, there’s a story that I wrote set in the world of The Shadow Society. It’s called “Jacks and Queens at the Green Mill” and you can read it for free here: http://
www.tor.com/stories/2012/10/jacks-and-queens-at-the-green-mill

TEM: Like your other books, THE SHADOW SOCIETY so wonderfully combines a bit of history with some magic sprinkled in, as well. Can you just talk a bit about the past, and what makes it so magical for you?

MR:  I’m fascinated with the construction, evolution, and analysis of culture. I suppose I’m drawn to history because it allows me enough distance to see its shape–or think I do. Also, this distance creates some holes, some missing pieces, and it’s fun for me to imagine what might fill in those blanks.

TEM:  The Kronos Chronicles (that delicious trilogy) was middle grade, yet THE SHADOW SOCIETY is YA. How has the transition been for you?

MR:  Oh, I love writing YA. My next book, in fact, is the start of a YA trilogy. The first book is called The Winner’s Curse. But middle grade has a special place in my heart. After the trilogy is complete, I plan to write another book for younger, middle grade readers.

TEM:  One of my favorite parts in THE SHADOW SOCIETY is when Conn asks Darcy what she would eat right now if she could. (Since, in her invisible Shade form, which she’s been in for awhile at that point, she doesn’t need to eat.)
The foods Darcy chooses are so vivid. So, I’m curious, what foods would you would miss most if you didn’t need to eat any more?

MR:  A lot of what she lists! I would also add Indian food. Mmm…samosas…dal…mint chutney…delicious.

TEM:  Slightly connected to that question: It was interesting for me, thinking about Darcy’s situation. She had a body for so long, and then didn’t always have one—total disorientation. I’m trying to think of answers to this myself as I ask, but what sorts of things would you find strangest/miss most about having a physical form?

MR:  I would miss holding the people I love. And eating! I would find all the details that go into caring for a body strange. Though I’d miss long, hot showers. Also, sickness would be hugely upsetting, even more than usual.

TEM:  In THE SHADOW SOCIETY, there are two parallel worlds—our world as we know it (the Alter), and the world where the Shades subside and where Conn and the IBI are stationed. What were the thrills and challenges of creating
these separate, but similar universes?

MR:  Sorting out the logic of it was both thrilling and challenging. For example, I had to ask myself whether the same physical person would have an alternate self in the other dimension. The split between worlds was caused by the Great Chicago Fire, so I decided that anyone alive before the fire would, indeed, have alternate selves, one in each world, the one where the fire happened and another one where it didn’t. But anyone born after that date in 1871 would not have a parallel self. This is because I am too aware of how easily we could each be born slightly differently— or not at all. Take two people who each have versions of themselves living in an alternate world. In one world, they meet, fall in love, marry, and have kids. But would they necessarily do that in the other world? Probably not. Even if they met, they might
not fall in love. Even if they did fall in love, they might not have kids, and even if they did, the odds of them conceiving children with the exact genetic makeup as their kids in the other world are almost impossible. So, essentially, the world where the Great Chicago Fire never happened has the same genetic pool from 1871, but how it developed is utterly different.

TEM:   “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (which happens to be my most favorite poem in the world) plays an important role in THE SHADOW SOCIETY. What brought you to use that poem, and why is it so important to Darcy?

MR:  I first read that poem as a junior in high school. Before then, I loved books and poetry, but not until then did I know what it meant to fall in love with understanding how fiction and poetry are constructed. T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” marks the beginning of my lifelong need to analyze literature (I’m a professor of Shakespeare, among other things), which in turn is very much related to writing books. So the poem has a very special place in my heart, and is one of the reasons I named my older son Eliot. He had just been born when I started working on this book (almost four years ago!), so I was thinking about that poem a lot anyway. And I have whole passages memorized from long ago, passages that just floated into writing this novel.

As for why the poem’s important to Darcy, I’d say that’s because its questions, such as the emblematic “Do I dare disturb the universe?”, resonate so strongly with teenagers. At least, they did for me when I was one.

p.s. I should add that T.S. Eliot himself, as an individual, was not a nice man. But, oh, his poetry! I named my Eliot after his poetry, not him.

TEM:   Another thing I really liked about THE SHADOW SOCIETY was how it ended in a way that could make it a stand-alone, but also could potentially have a sequel. I felt the same way about THE CABINET OF WONDERS. How do you manage this amazing trick? And are there in fact plans for more of Darcy and her Shade life?

MR:  Ah, you noticed! Yes, I supposed I could write a sequel, though I’d be more likely to write a prequel. But I really think of this novel as a standalone and want it to remain that way. When I began writing this book, I had just reread Pride and Prejudice while in the hospital with my infant son (the aforementioned Eliot—also an Austen name, come to think of it….Anne Elliot from Persuasion). I was so satisfied with one story complete unto itself, and with the pleasure of rereading it instead of jumping forward to a sequel (though that has its pleasures, too….and I would NOT turn down a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, had Jane Austen written one). I’ve no immediate plans for writing more about Darcy or her world….though I’d never say never.   Thanks so much for your questions, Terra!

And thank you, Marie, for a delicious new supernatural, just in time for Hallowe’en! To learn more about Marie, her books, and her life, visit http://www.marierutkoski.com/.

Beyond the Pale with WINTER WHITE and Jen Calonita

October 17th, 2012 by Terra | No Comments | Filed in Talking with Other Authors

This Spring I had the opportunity to meet the lovely and charming Jen Calonita, author of many books (Secrets of my Hollywood Life series, for example), including BELLES and the newest installment from Emerald Cove, WINTER WHITE. Blythe and I took a look at it, and immediately had tons of questions for Jen. Lucky for us, she is as friendly and accommodating as a true Belle, and here’s what she had to tell us!

First, the synopsis:

Isabelle Scott and Mirabelle Monroe are still reeling from the revelation that they share more than just the roof over their heads. The media has pounced on their story and the girls are caught up in a flurry of talk-show appearances and newspaper interviews. They’ve put on a happy public face, but someone is leaking their true feelings to the press, and while it seems like the world is watching their every move, at least they have each other.

But with cotillion season right around the corner, Izzie and Mira have barely had time to process their newfound sisterhood. Mira has dreamed of making her debut in a gorgeous white gown forever-now, if only she could find an escort. Izzie, meanwhile, is still struggling to find her place in Emerald Cove and it’s seeming ever more impossible with EC mean-girls, young and old, doing their best to keep her down. As cotillion preparations heat up, though, there are dance steps to learn, manners to perfect… and secret initiations to complete? As if sophomore year wasn’t hard enough!

It’s time for the gowns to go on and the gloves to come off.

TEM:  BELLES and WINTER WHITE both take place in the the South, and there’s a lot about them that is so very Southern. What’s your connection to that area of the country, and what’s the appeal in using this environment as a setting?

JC:  I think using the South as a setting was my little way of wishing myself there! I would love to move down South (we live in New York) and I romanticize everything about it. It got worse when I started researching BELLES and WINTER WHITE and talked to Southern girls and women about their
experiences doing cotillion and living in small coastal towns. I wanted to put the house up on the market the next day! But my family and my husband’s family is here and it is just too hard for me to pull up roots. Still I wish…What’s not to like about Southern living? The beautiful weather, the sense of
community, incredible food, and the strong ties to family…here I go again. You see? I have rose-colored glasses regarding everything Southern!

TEM:  What I admire a lot about how you created Izzie and Mira, is that they are both their own individuals, but they also have a lot of things in common—things that lie under the surface of their exterior personas. Can you just . . . talk about them a little?

JC:  Thank you! I am so used to writing one protagonist that when I decided Mira and Izzie would both be narrators I worried I wouldn’t do one of them justice. But then I realized, that just like with friends in real life, it’s okay to like people for their differences and it doesn’t mean you like one friend more than the other. Izzie is who I wish I could be sometimes—strong-willed, driven, and she says whatever is on her mind! Then there are days I wish I could be more like Mira—sophisticated, polished, and a true lady—even if she is bad at picking friends! When I was writing the first book I actually had a picture of Kate and Pippa Middleton up on my office bulletin board as inspiration for how two girls could be so alike and yet different.

TEM:  There’s so much delicious fashion in WINTER WHITE. What’s your own personal style, and who are your favorite designers or shops in real life?

JC:  I think I talk about fashion in my books because I’m so bad at it myself! Seriously I dream of calling up Stacy London from “What’s Not to Wear” and asking for some help (fun fact: way back when I was an editorial assistant at Mademoiselle magazine, I worked with Stacy! I doubt she remembers me though!) But I do love clothes. It was so much fun writing Kaitlin in the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series because she always got to wear such glamorous, expensive threads that I could only dream about trying on. Me, personally, I am an Ann Taylor Loft girl. I would say 90% of my wardrobe is bought there.
Author Elizabeth Eulberg is a fan too and we do a lot of events together so now we email ahead of time and actually say things like “Are you wearing the black ruffle skirt? If not, I’m going to!”

TEM:  Family is very important in this book, and the Monroe family feels like a realistic one, from the jokes and the jabs, to the way they handle crises. Tell us about creating this family and what was most important to you about them.

JC:  I’m so glad you enjoyed them. I think the thing I worried about the most was how Izzie fit into this family that had already been chugging along for so long without her. They fit perfectly and yet they were welcoming to her, which is what I wanted to come across. I think blended families can be hard sometime so the relationship I concentrated on the most at first was Izzie and Mrs. Monroe. One of my best friends is a step-mom to a twelve-year-old that I adore and watching their relationship and how it’s grown and change was instrumental to me. The rest of the family was a little easier to write! I always wanted an older brother so Hayden was born from that and my boys are seven and three so writing a funny little person was enjoyable. Some of Connor’s lines are things my own boys would say.

TEM:  There are two love interests in WINTER WHITE, one for Izzie and one for Mira. Did you have a favorite storyline between them while you were writing? Was one easier or more challenging to come up with?

JC:  When I started shaping the BELLES series I always knew there would be a Brayden. I felt like he was a great way to link Izzie’s two worlds since he had traveled in both of them. I liked watching Brayden struggle a bit with who he is supposed to be and what he really wants out of life and in a relationship. I
always enjoyed writing Izzie and Brayden passages! Poor Mira has a tougher time with boys. She’s always gone for the boy who looks good on paper and she slowly realizes that those types of relationships aren’t always fulfilling. When she meets Kellen she realizes there is a lot she’s missing out on. I wish I could tell you what’s in store for Mira and love in THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER! Thankfully you only have to wait a few months to find out. The final book in the series will be out next spring.

TEM:  So, you’ve got to tell us how you came up with all the great “hazing” activities for Izzie and Mira while they’re working towards cotillion.

JC:  Those were so much fun to write! My friend who was a sorority girl helped me come up with those. My college, Boston College, didn’t have any sororities so I needed help getting into that world. We had so much fun writing bikes around the neighborhood and talking about all the things she went through during rush week! The Lady Gaga one I came up with on my own. It felt like it would be fun.

TEM:  The twists! The turns! The surprises! The suspense! So much of it in WINTER WHITE. How do you go about plotting something like this, especially in a series format?

JC:  I’m a big outliner. I have to be because I tend to get lost somewhere in the middle of my story. I always know how I want things to start and end, but the middle section can be murky. The Secrets series was actually harder to plot because I didn’t know how many books there were going to be going in to the
series. We’d tack on one, and then two more, and then thankfully before book six came along I knew how I wanted to end things. BELLES was easier to plot since there were only three stories I knew I was going to tell.

TEM:  There’s an obvious cliffhanger at the end of WINTER WHITE, and I know we have THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER to look forward to in the Spring. Anything you want to let us know about what to expect next from Emerald Cove?

JC:  I will leave you with this hint: the person you meet at the end of WINTER WHITE plays a huge role in the next book. This person’s presence will have an effect on the whole Monroe family and will cause Izzie to have to make the biggest decision of her life. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

 

We will all be looking forward, Jen, and thanks again for the terrific interview!

To learn more about Jen Calonita and her books, visit http://www.jencalonitaonline.com/.