As promised, today is the first in a series of interviews that will feature an author’s take on the writing life.
Anne Greenwood Brown joins us (via blog interview) for today’s Fiction Reboot. Ms. Brown lives in Stillwater, Minnesota and has recently released her debut Young Adult novel, LIES BENEATH. The book will be released on June 12 by Random House/Delacorte. I have included a summary of this, the first in a series, below—followed by Anne’s comments on writing, criticism, publishing and more!
Summary for LIES BENEATH:
Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans, killing them to absorb their energy. But this summer the underwater clan targets Jason Hancock out of pure revenge. They blame Hancock for their mother’s death and have been waiting a long time for him to return to his family’s homestead on the lake. Hancock has a fear of water, so to lure him in, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock’s daughter, Lily. Easy enough—especially as Calder has lots of practice using his irresistible good looks and charm on unsuspecting girls. Only this time Calder screws everything up: he falls for Lily—just as Lily starts to suspect that there’s more to the monsters-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined, and just as his sisters are losing patience with him.
Audio Book Teaser http://annegreenwoodbrown.com/listening-library/
1. I have always identified with the Asimov quote: “I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn’t, I’d die.” I recall that you also wrote from an early age. Could you say a bit about your early experiences?
Sure. I can remember making books as early as five years old. My dad would take them to work and “publish” them on his office copier, then I’d carry them around the neighborhood, trying to sell them for a dime. Even back then so much of the marketing fell on the author!
As I got older I kept tons of journals and I wrote some really terrible poetry. A few short stories… It wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties that I got serious about writing novels. It took me awhile to find my “voice,” though. I dabbled in historical fiction, contemporary fiction, romance… It wasn’t untl I realized my voice was best suited for Young Adult (YA) fiction that things started to click for me.
2. Can you talk about when you decided to “write for real”—that decision to write for publication and give this work the time and energy it so deserves?
When I was 22 I made a “Things To Do Before I’m 40” list. When I turned 35, my sister asked when I was going to start crossing things off the list. She said, “Quit talking about writing a novel and get it done.” So I did. And it was terrible. There’s a steep learning curve with writing novels. Just because you can write, doesn’t mean you can plot. And vice versa. As I said above, finding your authentic voice can take awhile, too. But there’s a lot of great stuff that comes out of the mistakes!
As it turned out, it was my third novel that secured me an agent, but it’s my fourth novel, LIES BENEATH (Random House/Delacorte) that’s my debut.
3. Every writer has a different writing strategy—or so I tell my novel-writing students. How do you approach the writing process? Revision? Writers’ block?
I’m a serious outliner. Once I know where I’m going, I use a layering technique. I write all the scenes in dialogue first, then I layer in setting and narration, etc. I address the parts I feel like writing, depending on the mood I’m in. That way I don’t run into much “writers block.”
Once that ugly first draft is done, it takes me about 5 more months to revise and rewrite and polish it into a draft that I’d bother anybody else with (like a beta reader). After I have my critique partners’ comments, I revise again. Only then would I share it with my agent and editor.
4. As the mentor for a university writing club, I often preach to my students about the value of networking and workshopping. Could you say a bit about your own responsive readers and mentors? Your approach to criticism?
Most of the breaks I’ve had have come from networking on Twitter and attending writers conferences. My approach to criticism? I love it. I seek it out. My goal is to make something as good as it can be. Why would I turn up my nose to something that gets me further down that path? If I drive 45 minutes to a workshop and someone says, “I love it! I wouldn’t change a thing,” all I can think about is the wasted gas money.
5. Do you have advice for new writers on “breaking in” to the publishing world? Or upon the need/value of agents?
If you want to be published by a traditional publisher, one of the “Big 6” in particular, you need an agent. It’s just that simple. I’m an attorney; I deal with contracts all day long, but I would have been completely lost trying to negotiate a publishing contract. I have friends who have gone with smaller publishers without an agent, but I’ve seen some pretty terrible contracts come out of those deals–authors giving up all their rights and control for virtually nothing in return. It’s sad.
6. Who do you consider your inspiration? (Literary or otherwise?)
I’m pretty fond of Maggie Stiefvater. I also love John Irving. Most of my inspiration comes from physical settings. I’m also very visual, so movies have had a big impact on the way I write. I can visualize a scene and pretty much transcribe it.
7. Finally, are there any forums, books, blogs or other sites and services you would recommend to new writers?
A big writers website is Writer Unboxed http://writerunboxed.com. Also Donald Maass’s book: The Break Out Novel is an invaluable tool. It comes with a really great workbook, too.
Thank you, Anne, for your comments and tips!
You can follow Anne G. Brown on twitter: @AnneGBrown and FACEBOOK