Happy hump day, everyone!
Today I've got a fabulous interview with YA author Julie Cross, whose debut novel TEMPEST hits bookstores on January 3rd, 2012 from Thomas Dunne! Here's the summery from Goodreads:
Jackson thought he had all the time in the world with Holly. Until time took him away from her...
Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy . . . who just happens to be able to travel through time. It’s all just harmless fun until the day Jackson witnesses his girlfriend, Holly, get fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years, but it’s not long before the people who shot Holly come looking for him. And these “Enemies of Time” will stop at nothing to recruit (or kill) this powerful young time-traveler. Jackson must decide how far he is willing to go to save Holly . . . and the entire world.
Awesome, right? :) Now, on to the interview!
1) Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
No, I didn’t actually begin writing fiction until May, 2009. I know it’s hard to believe but it really never crossed my mind. I have always loved to read, though.
2) How did you come up with the idea for TEMPEST? Did it just come to you, or was it more of a gradual progression?
It was a gradual process that I actually developed in phases with my editor, Brendan Deneen. He had an old manuscript of mine that he passed on, but really like the premise, “Teen time-traveler gets stuck two years in the past and has to re-meet his future girlfriend and prevent her death.” We started tossing around ideas for a whole new story with this basic premise and eventually, TEMPEST emerged. It was actually a ton of fun to develop. I had zero expectations for anything happening as a result of our brainstorm sessions and I don’t think he did either.
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from while you are writing? For example, do you listen to music while you write or sit outside?
I do listen to music quite often while writing, but really, I’m very good at hyper-focusing when I need to and can pretty much write anywhere and anytime.
4) How do you stay motivated to write? Even though you are a soon-to-be-published author, have you ever wanted to give up? And if so, how did you pull yourself back from the "edge"?
Well, I’m still a fairly new writer so I have yet to get tired of it. Quite the opposite. The only time I’ve been a little bit of a slacker is with editing. Mostly the tedious, tiny details. Even revisions where I’m scrapping a scene and rewriting it don’t bother me at all.
5) Tell us about your writing habits: where you write, when you write, how much you write, etc.
I still work full time and I have three kids, so the writing schedule gets a little tricky sometimes, but I do write nearly everyday. If I’m laying down a first draft I can easily hit 10,000 words in one day, but 3-5K a day is probably my average.
6) How do you deal with constructive (or not) criticism? And if it's negative, how do you deal with it?
Feedback I get from my agent or editor is probably what I have the most experience with. Almost everything they point out I either felt a little off about as I was writing anyway or I’m immediately aware of how right they are. So, I’d say I handle critique very well, but I also have two great people who are gifted at telling me everything I did wrong without destroying my confidence.
7) How many stories did you start writing before you found a "winner" and how did you know you'd found a keeper?
The premise of TEMPEST (though it wasn’t called that) was the first novel that I wrote, but that story was SO different. After that I wrote six other YA novels…one was a ghost story and the others were all contemporary YA, before I started what became Tempest.
8) Do you have any new writing projects in the works? Can you tell us about them?
I have a TON of post TEMPEST ideas (probably too many) but right now I’m just jotting them down and tucking them away and keeping my mind on books 2 and 3.
9) What were the most difficult and best parts of writing TEMPEST?
Most difficult: The time-travel aspect—keeping everything consistent and creating a set of rules and making sure that I follow them to a key without writing myself into a corner that I can’t get out of in the next two books. Writing action type scenes tend to be harder for me as well.
Best Parts: Having those very emotionally heavy scenes unfold after building and waiting until just the right moment to hand them over to the reader. I also love writing the love story aspect.
10) What did you do to celebrate when you found out that you were getting signed by your agent and then later when you found out TEMPEST was going to be published?
Actually, my story is unique. I got the offer for a book deal before I had an agent. I knew my editor was pulling for it with his bosses but I didn’t think it would happen with that first draft and certainly not a three book deal. Initially, I was so shocked and then I said, “Okay, I need an agent.” And I really loved Suzie Townsend in all her interviews and thought my book might be up her ally, so I was elated when I she read it in, like, twelve hours and loved it. I guess my celebration involved agent hunting and a few amazing phone calls that were so surreal at the time.
11) What did your friends and family think when you told them you were writing TEMPEST?
My family and friends have all been so awesome and are my first and best test readers. Most of them were really excited but most people outside of publishing don’t get exactly what a book deal means or how hard and unlikely it is. Most of it, I still don’t understand myself…exactly why I need an agent. :)
12) Now that you're a soon-to-be-published author and a more experienced writer, what advice would you give to your unpublished self?
Would it be weird to say, I wouldn’t change anything about how things went? I know it sounds like an “easy out” but really, I just enjoyed writing and never felt like I had to get published or that it was my one and only dream. I think, if I hadn’t gotten the offer for a book deal for TEMPEST, I’d still be writing and loving it, sending chapters to my sister, friends, and teenage cousins (I have a ton and they are awesome!) And don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely grateful for everything that’s happened. It’s beyond amazing, but I can honestly say, the process of developing TEMPEST was just as fun as the results that have followed. I’m sure I’m going to frustrate those authors really trying everything to get their foot in the door or grab and agent’s attention, but it’s not like I haven’t done the work or put in the same effort as, I just happen to really enjoy it so writing doesn’t really feel like work.
13) How long did it take you to write TEMPEST from concept to outlining to completion to sending if off to agents?
The first draft of TEMPEST was about 100,000 words long (close to 400 pages) and it took me about 3 weeks to write and since I sent chapters to my editor as I wrote them, we had a constant banter of feedback going. The 2nd draft was completed about 4 days after the finishing draft 1. My offer came sometime in the middle of those four days and by the time my agent read TEMPEST, draft 2 was complete and that’s the version she read. The very first draft is the one Summit Entertainment read and pre-empted…none of this is the normal process for most authors. My situation is very unique.
14) Can you tell us about your journey to publication for TEMPEST?
Oops, I think I mostly answered this question above. Like I said, my process is unusual. But really, I’m just a normal person who happened to have a good idea and handed it to the right person at the right time and when I had story changes suggested, I listened and I delivered quickly. What most people don’t realize, even authors currently trying to get published, is that when agents or editors get a manuscript that they like or see potential in but it needs work, they have no idea whether that author took two weeks or twenty years to write that story. So how long will it take to make changes? And how open will the writer be to those changes? It’s a big risk to take on a manuscript that isn’t nearly 100% ready.
With me, my editor literally watched me go through that whole process with him and knew exactly what he was getting into. We really clicked right from the start and working on changes and new directions was so easy and natural. I think he knew I could pull off three books long before I did. Sometimes I’m still not sure. :)
15) What kind of atmosphere do you prefer to write in, calm or chaos?
The only thing that can slow me down or distract me is nagging tasks that I’ve procrastinated or just need to get done asap. Sometimes I feel like I need to earn that writing time by getting everything else done before siting down at my computer.
16) What is your writing process like?
I usually just take off…start drafting with opening chapters and sometime 50-75 pages in, I’ll start plotting a little for the rest of the book. I have trouble doing that before I start.
17) The main character in TEMPEST is a teenage boy; what was it like being a female and writing from a male’s point of view? Any tips?
It’s very, very hard at times. What 31 year old woman actually wants inside the head of a teenage boy? It can get rough in there. But Jackson seems to be loved and adored by nearly everyone who reads TEMPEST (we’ll see what happens when the masses get a hold of him). A couple things that help are the fact that Jackson is 19—older than a typical YA protagonist and beyond a lot of the boy puberty stuff. And it really helps that there’s plenty of life or death stuff in the book to distract him from all the typical guy thoughts, though he does have plenty.
I actually did a Guest post on a friend’s blog giving tips on writing the teen guy point of view. A lot of writers said it was helpful for them.
18) Do you have any odd and unusual habits which help you in regards to writing?
Instead of writing pages of character descriptions and notes on characters, I write diary entries for my main characters. It’s so much more fun than notes and I get an even better sense of the person by “becoming them” or telling their point of view. For example, Jackson’s love interest in Tempest, Holly, has nearly 300 pages of diary entries. She really came to life once I started this. I have actually posted some on my blog for anyone to read.
To learn more about Julie and her book, visit her blog!
Thank you very much Julie, for such a fun and enlightening interview and I definitely can't wait to read your amazing book! :)