The lovely Melissa Montovani of YA Book Shelf sent me five questions to answer for my very own #ArmchairBEA interview. You can follow Melissa on Twitter at @YABookShelf.
1. You sold your first novel in the romance genre back in 1997. What made you decide to switch to writing young adult fiction?
Two things pushed me to switch to YA. First, I had had the opportunity to judge a couple of YA novels in the Romance Writers of America RITA competition. RWA awards RITAs to the best romances of the year in several categories, including young adult. I found I really enjoyed those YA books and that got me thinking about writing one myself.
The second “inciting incident” (heh, incorporated a writer term there) was the difficulty I was having in writing a romance proposal that my editor liked enough to buy. I’d written 10 books for Harlequin’s Special Edition line. I was looking to enter into a new contract with them. But my editor passed on every proposal I sent him.
During that time, I started toying with the idea of taking a screenplay I’d written years ago and re-casting it as a YA novel. Since there was a lag between when I’d send my editor a given proposal (I ended up sending a total of 5) and when I’d hear back from him, I started working on my YA idea during the gaps. I’d finished a rough draft by the time I got the fifth turn down from my editor and decided that I’d focus all my energies on YA.
2. What type of research did you need to do for your new Dystopian YA novel, Tankborn?
I had to research genetics, the Indian caste system and other aspects of Indian society, Hindu and Sanskrit names and words, and little odds and ends having to do with the geography of Loka, the planet that Tankborn takes place on.
3. How does blogging figure into your self-promotion system?
At this point, I’m just trying to get my name out there in the YA world. My goal is to blog twice a week, although sometimes that just doesn’t happen. I’m actually much more active on Twitter than on my blog, simply because a Tweet is so much shorter. But my blog does appear on my website as well, so that helps keep my website fresh.
I think when I get closer to Tankborn’s release date I’ll probably get more active on the blog, maybe do some contests and announce appearances and signings.
4. As someone who has never been to BEA, I’m always interested to know more about the good and bad points about attending. Can you tell my readers and me what were the three best and less-than-great experiences you had at BEA in L.A. years ago?
Best: 1) I did an autograph session in the RWA booth and got to meet many readers. 2) I got to score many books. 3) I got to meet editors, including the one who was considering a book of mine at the time.
Less-than-great: 1) The place is huge, so there’s too much to see 2) I only went the one day, so I missed many of the authors I would have liked to have met/heard speak. 3) Can’t think of a 3rd!
5. Adult readers often worry that a lot of contemporary and dystopian YA is a little too dark and cynical for teen readers. What would you say to those who critiqued Tankborn (or other novels in these genres) on this basis?
Of those who have read Tankborn, no one has described it as dark and cynical. I don’t think it’s nearly as dark as some, although with the issues it raises, I wouldn’t call it a light read either.
What I think is key to most dystopian novels, despite their dark cynicism, is that they make the reader think. Their stories are often metaphors for aspects of our current society. Scott Westerfeld’s Extras is an excellent example of that. In Extras, the economy is based on fame, an element of our current society that sometimes gets way out of hand. By the same token, Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games takes on our morbid fascination with reality television. It’s not too hard to imagine a show like the Hunger Games on TV in the not too distant future.
Just as earlier, classic dystopian/SF books (e.g., 1984, Fahrenheit 451) held up a mirror to current society, these newer dystopian YAs are doing the same. If it causes us to stop and think, to maybe do things differently (better) in the future, I think that’s a good thing.