Monday, May 12, 2014

TBG Author Interview: Claire Legrand!

      Claire is the author of THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, out now from Simon & Schuster BFYR, and THE YEAR OF SHADOWS, due out August 27, 2013, also from S&S. Her third novel, WINTERSPELL, also from S&S, is a young adult retelling of The Nutcracker, and will release September 30, 2014. Its e-novella prequel,SUMMERFALL, releases exclusively in digital format August 26, 2014. Claire is also one of the four authors of THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES anthology, a collection of dark middle grade short stories coming from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins on May 27, 2014.

     1. How did you first come to the realization that you wanted to be a writer and then later when you decided to pursue publication?      

I wrote a lot when I was little, but for the most part stopped writing once I entered middle school. I just got too busy with school and band! I didn’t start writing again in earnest until my second year of college. A story idea had been percolating in my head since I graduated high school, and I couldn’t keep it in any longer! I had to write it, and I had to try getting it published. I didn’t know what I was doing at that point, but I knew I had to try! I loved the story that much.

2. You started out your career as an author writing MG; is there a story behind what made you decide to also start writing YA?

Not really—I simply have lots and LOTS of story ideas in my head! Some of them are MG; some are YA. Some are for adult books; some are for picture books. I write what I want to write, regardless of audience.

3. How did you come up with the idea for WINTERSPELL? Did it just come to you, or was it more of a gradual progression?

I’ve always been obsessed with the Nutcracker ballet. My family used to watch it on PBS every Christmas. For years, I had toyed with the idea of writing my own version of the   story, and when I mentioned the idea to my agent, she was incredibly enthusiastic. The rest is history!

4. What were the most difficult and best parts of writing WS?

Probably the most challenging thing about writing Winterspell was that I had to fit a lot of story in one book. I worked really hard to say everything I wanted to say, and yet still keep the pacing exciting and the length manageable. Thankfully, my editor is brilliant and helped me achieve this! But it was a lot of work. I learned so much while writing this book.

The best part of writing Winterspell was letting my imagination run wild. I’m a very visually-minded person. I spend a lot of time in the brainstorming stage of writing a book, curating images online, thumbing through fashion magazines, and watching movies for inspiration. Winterspell is probably my most visual book so far. I spent a lot of time designing the wardrobe, the architecture, the characters’ appearances, and the world itself—and it was great fun.

5. What did your friends and family think when you told them you were writing WS?

They were, as they always are, incredibly supportive and excited! My mom was especially so. She and I have watched the Nutcracker ballet many times over the years, and—here I must confess: We both kind of have a crush on the character of Godfather Drosselmeyer. I can’t wait until she sees what I’ve done with his character in this re-telling. ;)

6. What was your journey to publication for WS?

I spent several long, intensive months writing a detailed outline of the entire book, as well as eight sample chapters. That proposal took a lot of time to get just right, and my   agent worked closely with me to ensure it was as polished as it could be. After that, things happened quickly! We ultimately sold it, at auction, to my editor at Simon & Schuster—who was already working with me on my two middle grade books—in early 2012.

7. What was your reaction and what did you do to celebrate when your agent offered you representation and then later when you found out WS was going to be published?

You know, it’s funny. So many people have such great, vivid memories about what they did to celebrate when they signed with their agent or sold their book...but I don’t. I just remember feeling really numb and shocked and happy. I probably flailed with my mom and my friends, and maybe went out for a celebratory dinner or something, but I’m one of   those people who kind of withdraws into her quiet happy place when good things happen. :)   

8. 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 listen to a lot of music, watch a lot of movies, and look at images/art online (yay Tumblr and Pinterest!) and in magazines. My favorite kind of music to listen to while   brainstorming is film scores, but I’ve gotten into the habit of listening to white noise instead, or not listening to anything at all, when doing the actual writing or when working on revisions. I’ve found that my brain works better in quiet.

9. How do you stay motivated to write? Even though you are now a published author, have you ever wanted to give up? And if so, how did you pull yourself back from the "edge"?

I think all writers, even published, incredibly successful ones, go through periods where they get discouraged or want to give up. I know I’ve experienced moments like that. To get over those feelings, I vent to friends, family, and writer friends I trust. I also force myself to get out of the house and do things other than write—exercise, see a movie, visit with friends, etc. Also, sometimes working on another project, that isn’t under deadline or contract and therefore is low-pressure, reminds me how much I love writing and why I’m doing this in the first place. Then I feel re-energized and ready to get back to work.

10. Tell us about your writing habits: where you write, when you write, how much you write, etc.

When you’re a published author, you have to do a lot of things as part of your job that aren’t writing—networking, marketing, promotional activities, social media, planning events, etc. So that sometimes takes up a good portion of my workday. I try to write   every day—whether that’s on a current project or a project in my “someday” file. When I’m drafting a project, I try to write at least 2-3000 words per day. When I’m revising a project, I usually give myself some kind of goal like, “I’m going to revise five chapters today.” My daily to-do lists and goals shift according to whatever project I’m currently working on. I try not to set rigid, absolute goals because I know that if I don’t meet that goal for whatever reason—maybe it’s a lot harder than I anticipated, or Real Life gets in          the way—I’ll feel guilty. If, at the end of the day, I’ve had a full, productive workday, I’m happy.

11. What is your writing process like?

For any book, I spend a lot of time brainstorming. I listen to music, curate my Pinterest boards. I go on long drives, take a lot of long, hot showers, and let my mind wander.

Once the brainstorming process is over—that is, I have some characters in mind, along with a general plot, a voice, an audience—I outline. My outlines in the past have been   anywhere from two to twenty-five pages, but usually end up in the six- to ten-page range.

At this point in my career, I write a lot of proposals, which typically include an outline as well as a few sample chapters. Once the proposal is complete, it’s just a matter of pitching to an editor, getting the thumbs up, and starting to write the draft itself.

12. What kind of atmosphere do you prefer to write in, calm or chaos?

I prefer calm atmospheres, whether that’s me writing in my home office or at the local       library. I don’t like writing in noisy coffee shops or cafes—too many distractions. The quieter, the better—but every writer is different.

13. Do you have any odd and unusual habits which help you in regards to writing?

One of my favorite brainstorming activities is going on long drives—and talking to myself in the car. Sometimes I talk through a scene of dialogue between two characters to get a feel for how they would respond to something that’s happened. Sometimes—and this is embarrassing, but true—I’ll pretend I’m being interviewed. Answering tough questions from a fake interviewer is a surprisingly effective way to unravel troublesome plot knots!

14. Now that you're a published author and a more experienced writer, what advice would you give to your unpublished self?

I would go back five years ago and tell unpublished Claire to get her head out of her butt and read, read, READ. Read more, and read often. I used to be a huge reader when I was younger, and then Real Life got in the way and I didn’t make the time. But once I started    writing again and did make the time to read more, my writing improved exponentially.

15. Do you have any new writing projects (MG and/or YA) in the works? Can you tell us about them?

I just announced the sale of Summerfall, a prequel novella to Winterspell. This will release in e-book format only from Simon & Schuster on August 26, and I’m so excited about it! You can read a synopsis and add it to Goodreads here.
Other than that, I have lots of new projects in the works at the moment! I hope I can tell you about some of them soon. :)

To learn more about Claire and her books, visit her website,

Thanks again, Claire! :)

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