1. How did A BLUE SO DARK change from the first outline to the final draft? Did these changes surprise you?
The book was pretty internal when I started…that was the number one critique I was getting from editors as I submitted the earliest drafts. Each time I revised the book, I included more scenes, more action. I had to pull Aura out of her head and allow her to interact with the world around her…it wasn’t a surprise, really…it was a delight, because each time I revised, Aura became more and more of a real person. I loved bringing her to life!
2. How has your own life influenced A BLUE SO DARK and your writing in general?
When I started to write A BLUE SO DARK, I pulled out all my old notebooks and journals from high school, to reconnect with my teen “voice.” When I realized how similar my nearly-thirty-year-old voice was to my fifteen-year-old voice, I really was off and running on the manuscript. (I even included a few of the poems I wrote as a teen in the book—though they’ve been tweaked to fit the events of the novel!)
Plus, the novel’s filled with the “furniture” of my life—the story takes place in my girlhood hometown, Aura drives the same car I drove in high school, her mother works at the museum here in Springfield…all of my old haunts show up in the book…
3. You have signed your third book deal, congratulations! Did it become easier to land deals after signing A BLUE SO DARK? What did you learn from the publishing process from A BLUE SO DARK?
Thanks for the congrats! It’s been a crazy, crazy year…to go from no publications to three books in development! Sometimes I can’t believe my luck lately.
…I’m not really sure that it’s any easier to sell a manuscript just because you’ve sold one in the past…I think each book kind of stands on its own, and if it doesn’t cut the mustard, it won’t be acquired. But, yeah, going through the process once takes the fear-factor (or, really, the worry-factor) out of an acquisition. You know what the process is, so you know what to anticipate, what the next step is.
4. Aura seems to be afraid of herself in some ways and shuns her art. With many teens today expressing themselves through art, do you think that Aura made it even harder for herself?
Most definitely. But what I think makes it so rough for her is that art is really central to who she is. That’s pretty much the way I feel about my writing. If I’m not writing, I’m pretty lost. I think if you try to cut yourself off from the thing that makes you tick, for whatever reason—it’s not cool or acceptable—you lose yourself. And that’s a place you never want to be.
5. What was the hardest and easiest part about writing Aura’s story?
The easiest part was that first draft…it just really flew. Once I got started, I completed the manuscript in two months! I polished it up a bit, then began to submit…and the rejection slips started pouring in. The HARDEST part was then distancing myself from a project I loved and had connected with from the start so that I could identify its faults and figure out how to begin rewriting. (Sometimes, you feel a little like you’re ripping the arms off your baby when you do a global revision!)
6. Can you describe your writing in two words?
MAN, this is a hard one. The first thing that comes to mind is literary fiction. But my favorite books are those that combine the literary (characters and beautiful writing) with great plots. I want to find myself asking both, “What’s going to happen next?” and, “How will this character change?” as I’m reading a book. Which is what I try to remember as I’m writing a new manuscript. (Pretty long-winded two-word answer, huh?)
7. How did you come up with the title A BLUE SO DARK? Were there other title ideas before this one?
A BLUE SO DARK is actually a phrase I lifted from the manuscript. And, yes, there were other titles before that one…I submitted the manuscript under four different titles, actually. When Flux acquired the book, the working title was THE OCEAN FLOOR. My editor was kind of lukewarm about the title, and suggested I troll the manuscript for other possibilities. I sent him several, but when I finally shot him A BLUE SO DARK, he immediately sent me a THAT’S IT! kind of e-mail. Lukewarm no more…
8. What are your favorite genres to read?
Uh, all of ‘em. Seriously. My tastes run the gamut. I was a literature major in undergraduate school, and I still do love the classics. As far as contemporary lit goes, I read everything from children’s books to YA to romance to mystery to horror to fantasy to literary fiction…about the one genre I never really connected with as much as the others was sci fi…but as soon as I say that, I have to remind myself of the William Gibson and Ursula K. Le Guin novels I enjoyed…so, no, nothing’s out! If it’s in print, I’ll read it!
9. Who are your favorite authors?
Hear that scraping sound? Yeah, that’s me dragging my feet. Every time I start to list my absolute faves, I start to think that there’s just not enough space in the world to list them all. And the thing is, I know from my own experience how hard it is to break into the publishing world. So I figure everything that’s in print has merit. EVERY author has some quality to admire, be it their character development, their ability to infuse the pages with humor, their ability to juggle subplots, etc…I try to learn something from EVERY novel I read…
10. What would you say are some similarities and differences between you and Aura?
The most obvious difference is that I didn’t grow up with a schizophrenic mother. But Aura’s voice is probably more like the voice in my own head than any other character's I’ve ever written…her humor, her observations all pretty much just sound like me.
11. Is there ever any time when you have doubted your writing and wanted to give up?
I decided to devote myself to my writing full-time when I got out of graduate school back in ’01. And I won’t lie—it got frustrating…especially as three unpublished years turned into four…then five, six, SEVEN. But I always felt like I was getting a little bit closer to publication, as no-way-hozay rejections were becoming this-was-such-a-close-call rejections. I felt like if I just stuck it out a little longer, the work would eventually pay off.
12. What advice would you give to other writers about the process of writing and the road to publication?
Just follow your heart. If you REALLY love writing, sink your nails in and don’t let go. Don’t allow anybody else to convince you it’ll never happen. Every writer gets to their first publication eventually…the only way you don’t is by giving up.
13. Finally, what is the message you want your readers to obtain from A BLUE SO DARK?
I really don’t want to put a message in my readers’ heads before they even open the book. I just want them to discover Aura and her story on their own, to draw their own conclusions…which they’ll be able to do, starting May 1, 2010!
…I can’t wait for A BLUE SO DARK to hit bookstore shelves. The idea of it gives me goose bumps, actually…