NiFtY Author Yvonne Prinz

Joining us today is Yvonne Prinz, author of young adult books The Vinyl Princess and All You Get Is Me (reviewed here and here on my blog). As a reader, I loved the instant connection I had with Allie and Roar, the main characters in each book, and as a writer I was thrilled at how well Yvonne created their voices and told their stories. Anyway, no more blather, let’s hear from Yvonne herself!

BH: Your latest book, All You Get Is Me, is getting glowing reviews online. What seems to be the element people like most about the book?

YP: I’m surprised but it seems that most readers seem to like the romance aspect of the book the best. If you had told me that while I was writing it, I’d have laughed out loud but Forest and Roar have become readers’ favorite summer romance.

BH: Your first book, The Vinyl Princess, was also a huge success. What do you think makes Allie so appealing? I need to learn your secret, and so do a lot of other authors out there!

YP: Well, I wouldn’t call it a huge success but it seems to have taken on a life of its own. I think readers are drawn to Allie’s work life, her weird comfort zone, and her honesty about who she is in the world. Also, falling for the wrong guy is always an appealing topic because we’ve all done it.  I don’t know that I have a secret. I think getting the voice right is paramount in creating characters but I probably heard that from a publisher. Here’s a tip but it’s not a secret: If you fall in love with your own characters I think you’re probably on the right track.

BH: I absolutely loved the setting for All You Get Is Me. I kinda want to move to that organic farm. Is the farm based on someplace you know? Is there really a monastery nearby? Can you give us a map with driving directions, as well as real estate information?

YP: The farm is in a fictional town. I plucked bits from several locations in Northern California. The Monastery is in Marin County (outside San Francisco) and the farm is in a place sort of like Brentwood CA’s farm community (East of the City) but it’s much smaller. I’m pretty sure you can get a house there for a song as the developers grossly overestimated the amount of development that could be sustained and there’s a lot of new houses sitting empty. As for old, lovely farmhouses, I think you need to head to the Sebastopol and environs area.  I sort of based the house on some great old farms I’ve seen in that area.

BH: Are you working on something new at the moment, and if so, can you share anything about it?

YP: I’ve just finished a thriller that takes place in a Northern California seaside hamlet. It’s foggy and gloomy and a girl named Georgia loses her brother to a surfing accident. Shortly after the funeral, a very charismatic stranger arrives in town who seems to know a bit too much about her brother…(Cue scary music here)

BH: Ooh, sounds exciting! And huzzah for Northern California settings! What does your workspace look like?

YP: I can’t post a photo because I’m away from home right now but suffice to say, it’s your usual writerly chaos. My imaginary workspace is spectacular, however, and features a massive fireplace and a big sleeping dog at my feet. I think it might be in Colorado or Montana.

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

YP: I like Stephen King’s [On Writing] because it’s so easy to understand. I don’t write like him but he just makes sense.

Like me, he doesn’t think that there are any secrets involved. He’s a believer in hard work.

BH: I’m reading his book right now – so far I like what he has to say. Do you have any words or advice to aspiring writers for keeping the hope alive?

YP: Remember that publishing is a business and a rejection is only one person’s opinion of your work. Don’t take it personally.

Get out there and live. Get some great stories under your belt. Fall in love, get your heart broken, get in trouble, see the world. If you don’t have a book to write when you’re done at least you’ll be more interesting at cocktail parties.

BH: Thank you, Yvonne, for the interview. It has been a joy getting to know you and your books! Studio audience: for more on Yvonne, check out the links below. Also, I don’t know for sure, but Yvonne said she might be around to answer questions today in the comments section, so if you have any, feel free to ask!

links:

www.allyougetisme

www.thevinylprincess.com

www.caughtinthecarousel.com This is a website that the Vinyl Princess reviews music on.

Buy the Book:

http://www.amazon.com/Vinyl-Princess-Yvonne-Prinz/dp/B0046LUF4U/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1299180161&sr=1-1

Or visit your local Indie bookstore.

NiFtY Author: Mike Orenduff

Joining us today is NiFtY (Not Famous…Yet) author Mike Orenduff, creator of the Pot Thief mystery series. His first book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, won the Epic eBook Award for 2010, and The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy is up for the award this year…we’ll know soon if it wins!

BH: What’s your one-paragraph pitch for the latest novel in your Pot Thief mystery series, The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier?

MO:  Against his better judgment, Hubie agrees to design, throw, and fire chargers for a soon-to-open Austrian restaurant in Santa Fe. The $20,000 fee probably had something to do with his decision. But when one of the workers winds up dead in the back of Hubie’s old Bronco, he wants to take his edelweiss design home and not come back. His entry into the high stakes game of upscale dining turns even more dangerous when the coroner discovers that the poison that killed the cook was one of Hubie’s glazing compounds.

BH: When you wrote the first novel, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, did you plan to create a series mystery?

MO: Yes. Mystery readers love series. I know because I’m a fan myself, and there is nothing worse than finding a mystery you love then discovering there are no more books from that author to read.

BH: I agree! Do you have a “series bible,” or some sort of record of facts so that you can keep details straight among (and within) the different novels?

MO: I do, and it comes in handy. I had Hubie twenty pounds heavier in Escoffier than he was in Pythagoras until I looked in the “bible” and saw my mistake. If I hadn’t caught it, maybe I could have just claimed he gained weight?

BH: Hubert Schuze is a thief, but he is also the protagonist, so you want the reader to like him and maybe even identify with him. How did you go about making him into a sympathetic character?

MO:  I try to make his rationalizations of what he does interesting and funny. And I show the good side of his character in other ways. Except for comic books, protagonists have flaws.

BH: Can you tell us about your path to your first publishing contract?

MO:  Long and winding, but then that is probably true of most writers. I tried querying those publishers who were accepting queries. I also queried agents, which are about as difficult to get as publishers. I finally found an agent who was excited about my work and signed on. Then she suggested I enter contests to get my name out there. I won the Dark Oak contest with The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras. The prize was a publication contract. I hope the judges who selected my work are pleased that the book has since won the “Eppie” for the best eBook Mystery of the Year and the New Mexico Book of the Year.

BH: What does your workspace look like? Do you collect antique pots?

MO: If I posted a picture of my workspace, my wife might file for divorce. It is a mess on one wall of the kitchen, and I am under orders to relocate. Except for those on the New York Times Best Seller List, writers don’t make enough money to collect antique pots.

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

MO: I have never read a book on writing. I have nothing against them, and I imagine there are some that people find helpful. I prefer to observe the craft rather than read about it.

BH: What is the best writing advice anyone has given you?

MO: My dissertation advisor, Dr. Harold Lee, told me not to fret about the opening of a book because you’ll never get started if you keep trying to make the start perfect. “Just start writing,” he said, “and keep writing until you finish the last chapter. Then go back to the first chapter and throw it out.” And that’s exactly what I do.

BH: Any words on advice to aspiring writers for keeping the hope alive?

MO: If you have a passion for writing, that should be enough to keep you going. And if you keep going, you keep alive the possibility of that break we all dream about.

BH: Thank you, Mike, for sharing your insights into your writing and your books with us today, and best of luck with the EPIC Award! For more about Mike Orenduff, you can visit his website by clicking here!

NiFtY Author Holli Castillo

Our NiFtY Author today is Holli Castillo, a writer and attorney who is the author of the Crescent City Mystery series. Californians take note: this is NOT the Crescent City up by the Oregon border, as I’d originally thought. Crescent City is also a nickname for New Orleans. Maybe everyone knows this except for me…but now I know, too. So there. Let’s move past my geographical ignorance and meet Holli Castillo! Not only has she created a great main character for her series, but she also has an inspiring publishing story to tell.

BH: What’s your one-paragraph pitch for Jambalaya Justice, the second book in your Crescent City Mystery series?

HC:  Jambalaya Justice is the follow up to Gumbo Justice, and once again follows New Orleans female prosecutor Ryan Murphy, this time as she involves herself in the investigation of a murdered hooker, Cherry.  Ryan has her own reasons for wanting Cherry’s murderer caught, and pushes the NOPD detective assigned to the case to solve the case.  When Cherry’s murder links to the unsolved murders of several other hookers, Ryan’s pursuit of the killer’s identity puts her in danger, especially since she’s hiding her involvement from her recently acquired homicide detective boyfriend, Shep.  On top of her extracurricular activities, Ryan also has her Strike Force cases to juggle, including the prosecution of a mobster murderer, a nasty domestic violence case, and the armed robbery of Big Who’s strip club.  And then there’s the home invader who’s off of probation and might be after her.  Just another typical week at the office for Ryan Murphy.  Set against the backdrop of pre-Katrina New Orleans, Jambalaya Justice is the second in Crescent City Mystery Series, which eventually follows Ryan through Hurricane Katrina and into the strange new world of post-Katrina New Orleans.  Jambalaya Justice will be available by this summer, 2011.

BH: The main character, Ryan Murphy, has a voice that definitely grabs me from the first chapter of Gumbo Justice (here’s a link for Chapter One): She’s sarcastic, intelligent, and at the same time, a little vulnerable. How did you go about creating her?

HC:  The sarcasm was the easy part, as I’m pretty sarcastic myself.  The intelligence I think is more knowledge based—she knows a lot about the law and she is definitely one of those over achievers that drove me crazy in school, so that element of her personality was easy to incorporate. The most difficult thing was probably making her vulnerable.  I’m the type of person who will let you know when you’ve done something to annoy me, but you’ll rarely hear me say anything about emotional things.  People attribute it to my German genes.  In any event, that was the most difficult part for me, trying to make Ryan so opposite from me as far as revealing her emotions.  I wanted to make her likeable, despite her flaws, so I had to look for opportunities where Ryan could show her natural vulnerability without making it too soap opera-ish. I spent a lot of time editing that part of her, trying to strike the right combination.

BH: How does your work as an attorney influence your writing?

HC:  My writing is based upon what I know, which is criminal law.  My cases give me constant inspiration for storylines and characters.  The legal aspect of Ryan’s job is easiest to write, because I still deal with the law and criminal procedure on pretty much a daily basis.  I had other jobs before I was a lawyer, and those also helped me build a foundation for some of the scenes in my novel.  I was a child support collector, a theater stage manager, bartender, waitress, and I worked my way through undergrad at a Can-Can show on Bourbon Street, all interesting jobs to have in New Orleans.  All of my past job experience will eventually find a home in one of the Crescent City Mysteries.

BH: Tell us a little about your path to publication.

HC: Mine was a tortured path, and if nothing else it should give anyone about to give up hope that they may get published.  After I finished the novel, I queried agents.  I had bought books on how to write a query letter, worked on it until I thought it was perfect, and bought the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market for that year, did what I thought was sufficient research, and sent out the queries.

No big surprise, I received a bunch of rejections.  Some were form rejections, but other had little notes on them.  I didn’t take this a positive sign, which I should have.  Handwritten notations mean some human being actually read my work and thought enough to explain to me why his or her company couldn’t offer me representation.  After what I thought was enough rejections, I signed up for an online novel writing course at Writer’s Digest.  Miki Hayden was my online instructor, and she gave me the best advice I have ever received.  The first thing she said, when I submitted my query, was that my manuscript of 160,000 was too long, and that most agents looking at my query letter wouldn’t read past that number.  I didn’t know an acceptable length of a novel from an unknown author.   I calculated the page numbers according to famous writers’ books, like Grisham, John Sandford, Tami Hoag, etc.  Of all of the books I had bought about querying and writing, not one of them said aim for 80,000 words.

Miki Hayden also offered some substantive advice, a few key things that I think made a huge difference.  I then edited, cut, brought the manuscript down to 85,000 words, and then re-read my rejections.  I noticed some said things like serial killers were not for them, or had underlined the word serial killers.  Some said the material was too dark for the publishers they worked with.  That made me realize I hadn’t done enough research in determining which agents were the most appropriate to submit my work to.  I had one agent, a pretty famous one who writes books on finding an agent, comment that my dialogue wasn’t believable.  That kind of stung, but I took it constructively and weeded through my dialogue to make it the best I possibly could.

Before I queried again, I did a more targeted search, this time looking at publishers.  I felt like I was at a disadvantage, because I had already sent my work out to the agents I thought were most likely to represent me, but it was too late to revisit that.  Before I queried, I bought a book from the publishing houses I was going to query, to see what type of stuff they actually published.  I queried a few more agents as well, and had a hit off an agent who said she was really interested.  I sent her the manuscript and waited, and before I heard back from her, Katrina hit, we evacuated, and for the next months I was too busy dealing with this new world I lived in to worry about Gumbo Justice.  That agent finally wrote to me and said she was not taking any new clients because of health issues.  I considered self-publishing, but had already decided if I ever went that route I would have to hire an editor, because I didn’t want to put my work out there without a professional weeding through it.  I wasn’t quite ready for that, and not long after that a publisher contacted via email off of a query I had previously submitted, and asked to read the novel.  We subsequently signed a contract, and right as we were discussing the best time to release my novel, summer of 2008, I was in a head-on collision with a drunk driver and was in a wheelchair for seven months, full of hardware, having surgeries, and eventually had to learn to walk again.  The whole thing put the publication date back, but one day short of a year from the accident, Gumbo Jumbo was released.  If that doesn’t give someone out there hope, nothing will.

BH: Wow, that’s amazing. What does your workspace look like?

Rin and Deaf Kitty - Holli doesn't talk about them in the interview, but they're cute enough to warrant a photo slot!

HC:  My workspace is my laptop.  I can work from anywhere, wherever and whenever I feel like it.  At home, I work on the living room coffee table, a desk in my office, my bed, my kitchen table, or the bar.  All I need is my computer, and since my last laptop crashed during the 2010 Superbowl (when my hometown Saints won), it has a flash drive next to it all times, so I can save my work each and every time I work on it.  My brother in law is a computer guy for FEMA, and although he was able to save all my work, it put me behind schedule with Jambalaya Justice.

BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

HC: I tend to focus more on grammar and punctuation type books such as Eats, Shoots and Leaves, but I do like The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman  and How Not to Write  A Novel by Mittelmark and Newman.  My favorite book on writing, though, is a screenplay writing book, Your Screenplay Sucks, 100 Ways to Make It Great by William Akers.

BH: Any words on advice to aspiring writers for keeping the hope alive?

HC: When it’s not working out for you, whether in the writing stage or when trying to find an agent or publisher, take a big step back and remove yourself from the picture. Look at the problem objectively, analyze the situation like a doctor approaches a patient to diagnose an illness, and figure out what the problem is and how you can best solve it.  If I hadn’t decided to take the online writing course, I don’t think I would be published today.  Even just learning that my manuscript was almost twice as long as it should be made such an enormous difference.

BH: Thanks for sharing your insights into the writing life with us, Holli! Hearing about your trials getting published does give me hope! For more information on Holli Castillo and her books, please visit the links below:

Amazon website:

http://www.amazon.com/Gumbo-Justice-Holli-Castillo/dp/1892343517/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1297495870&sr=1-1

Holli’s website:

http://hollicastillo.com/

Gumbo Justice website:

http://gumbojustice.net/

Holli’s blog site:

http://www.gumbojustice.blogspot.com/

Holli’s publisher’s blog:

http://otpblog.blogspot.com/

Tired Turkey Sandwich

If you’re so sick of turkey sandwiches that you start cutting them up and serving them on fancy sushi platters instead of regular old round plates, you know it’s time to throw out the leftover turkey.

I’m doing a guest post over at the Brummets’ Consciousness Discussions blog, so you can find me there. Also I had the privilege of being interviewed on Seth’s blog “Roose the Muse.” Click here to read that interview.

It’s still me, just different plates.

Viva La Clark!

If you haven’t met Clark, you’re missing out. This interview is my attempt to get as much of the full experience of Clark online as possible. She really is a personality and has adjusted well to inserting herself into our daily activities. For example, just the other day-

Clark: Are you ever going to start my interview?

BH: Yes, Clarkinzie. Just a second. As I was saying, just the other day she hopped from chair to chair –

Clark: The only good thing about this interview so far is you’re sitting down in one place and I can sit on you.

BH: Fine. I’ll ask questions. You answer.

Clark: If I feel like it.

BH: Ahem. How did you first join our family?

Clark: Well, really, if you remember accurately, it was more about you people joining my family. But I only invited you because the man you call Husband offered me bits of muffin on the street.

BH: You’re an indoor cat! What were you doing on the street?!

Clark: Don’t interrupt me. But I’ll humor you. At the time, if you recall, I was enjoying the freedom of napping on the sunny pavement whenever the fancy struck. As I was saying so eloquently before, I invited you into my family. There were conditions, if you recall. Would you like me to recount them?

BH: Can I stop you?

Clark: The basic requirement was that you feed me good things. The muffins disappeared, and I will go on a sleep strike if you don’t bring them back. Another requirement was that you allow me to sleep on your heads. There was a  hiccup in your end of the bargain when that ghastly creature [ed. darling Z] was born and my whole world crumbled around me [ed. we all had to make adjustments]. Now, however, I’ve reclaimed my place at your faces, at least when that thing [little Z] isn’t kicking us all out of the Family Bed (Of Pain). There are further requirements, but listing them all would cause the world’s internet system to crash from all the information.

BH: Tell me about your relationship with fruit snack wrappers.

Clark: They crinkle. They roll. They bounce. They skid across the hardwood floor and collect all those dust bunnies you’re too lazy to clean up [ed. that, despite all of your hard work, appear out of nowhere]. What’s not to love?

BH: How do you really feel about your dry cat food?

Clark: If the huge amount left in the bottom of the bowl every day is any indication at all, you wouldn’t need to ask that question. Although it is organic because you’re extremely paranoid after the pet food (and rightly so – we don’t want to take any risks with my health) scare of 2008, it still tastes like _____ [ed. This is a PG-13 rated website].

BH: What’s your favorite part of the day?

Clark: It’s a tie between the canned chicken coming out of the refrigerator, and when that noisy little cat-chaser [ed. spirited munchkin] takes her nap.

BH: What’s your favorite place?

Clark: Since you so cruelly refuse to allow me outdoors and into the street where I may nap [ed. and risk getting run over], [ed. and kill songbirds], I have to satisfy myself with sleeping on any part of your body that is still for at least one minute. If the blanket comes out, I am certain of victory. If you’re sitting at the table eating, or at this infernal computer typing, certain victory again. Barring a spot on an actual slave [ed. human], I will often curl up in the papasan chair or in the south-facing bay window in the bathroom.

BH: Thank you, Clark, for agreeing to this interview. To our studio audience, if you’d like more Clark, you can view a previous post: The Unsung Clarkie Underfoot. Clark, is there anything else you’d like to say?

Clark: It’s time for you to stop typing so you can pet me.