Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2018 Is Going To Be My Writing Year

Aspirations is the theme for YAtopia’s January blog posts, and I’ll mention my writing career goals for 2018.

My first writing career goal is having another series (or book) accepted for publication. One writing idea I’m working on is a YA Mystery/Thriller novel that is GONE GIRL meets Adam Silvera’s HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME. I’m also working on a YA near future Sci-Fi Thriller involving cryogenics, which is the catalyst for the main character and several teens each developing one superpower. I’d like to write some sort of quirky Middle Grade book as well—whether it is contemporary, magical realism, fantasy, mystery, horror, or even some combination of the various genres. I’m not sure when the Middle Grade idea will come to fruition, though. Furthermore, I’ve already had one YA Fantasy trilogy accepted for publication, which will be published by NineStar Press (the first book—IN THE NAME OF MAGIC—has a tentative release date of June 11, 2018). Hopefully, getting one series accepted for publication means I can get another series or book accepted for publication by a publisher that accepts un-agented submissions/small press.

Getting a literary agent is another writing career goal. I’m not opposed to publishing with a publisher that accepts un-agented submissions or a small press for a second series again. However, I’m still very much considering pursuing literary representation. The fact that one novel might be better suited for a publisher that accepts un-agented submissions or small press than a literary agent and vice versa is something I’ll consider.

My last career goal is having a successful book launch for IN THE NAME OF MAGIC when it comes out on June 11, 2018. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity NineStar Press has given me, and want to make the most of it. Ultimately, I’m looking forward to seeing what 2018 will bring for my writing. Anyway, happy writing, and best of luck with making submissions to all my fellow writers out there!!!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Aspiring in 2018 with Laura Steven

Dreams are often portrayed as things that’ll only happen in the distant future. Aspirations a longing to get there. But what if we defined them in another way? What if our aspirations weren’t an endless longing? What if we blocked off the deafening noise in our heads that say “one day, one year, I will achieve this NEW BIG SHINY THING and I will struggle every inch of the way to get there.”? (In the case of writers this is often: get an agent, sell a book, wow readers, get good reviews, great sales, rinse, repeat.)

Instead, what if we break that aspiration down and think to ourselves “what dream can I achieve TODAY?” We can work toward the larger goal, but not just focus on the larger goal. I believe we should turn our attention to something much more important: the day-to-day. You wake up in the morning: what is your dream for this one day? What do you want to achieve? Reach out and connect with a reader? Market a book? Put your feelings on the page? Choose that goal and aspire to meet it and relish in the power of achieving it.

I’ve started to adjust my perspective on my aspirations. Yes, I aspire greatly to publish my book. That’s a given. But how do my daily dreams build up to that?

Today, my dream is to create a blog post that connects to someone. Even if it’s just one, single person. Someone who finds connection with me. Maybe I connect to more people. Maybe I don’t. Maybe this person will be a future reader. Maybe they won’t. Maybe they tell someone else about what I do and think they’ll get value in it. But whichever way you cut it, if I can connect with someone, then I’ll be honored they have read my post and find something worthwhile there.

Tomorrow’s goal? To make a reader happy. To recommend them a great book I think they’ll like. Or perhaps help a writer get a boost on Twitter, or Facebook, or by word of mouth. Or work on a marketing idea, or on my website.

I don’t want to call these steps toward success. I want to call them daily dreams that I can achieve. Today, I dreamed of one person connecting to my blog post. Let’s see if that happens. How will I make it happen? Talk to people, invest in them, find out what they want, what they aspire to. Because other people’s aspirations count just as much as yours do. And on that note, I’m honored to have Laura Steven as my blog guest. She’s a wonderful, heartwarming, genuine person. And yes, she’s a writer. But she’s just incredibly lovely. And, of course, it goes without saying that you need to watch out for her book THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF OKAY, debuting in March 2018 from Egmont.

Damn, look at how awesome that cover is!!!

So, Laura, first of all, thank you for being so kind to come onto the blog. So, why don’t you tell us about THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF OKAY, and importantly, why this story is in your heart and who you aspire to connect with through your words?

Hey! Thank you so much for having me! The Exact Opposite of Okay is about a teenage girl who finds herself at the heart of a national scandal when a photo of her having sex with a politician’s son is leaked online. No, it’s not autobiographical. How dare you.

The book deals with slut shaming, victim blaming, toxic masculinity and a bunch of other issues teen girls struggle with. Through this series, I really want to inspire young women to speak up and fight back against the never-ending stream of misogyny diarrhea they have to face on a daily basis. Sometimes this sexism may seem innocuous, like the Friend Zone phenomenon I explore in The Exact Opposite of Okay, but I wanted to highlight how problematic this stuff really is in the bigger picture. It's not just teenage melodrama. It matters. How the world treats teenage girls matters. 

At the start of the year, I felt the need to bring happiness into my life. Through the small things in particular. Tell me, what were the small things that happened (or that you felt) when working on THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF OKAY, and why did they mean so much to you?

The best thing this book gave me was the realization that I could make people laugh with my words – but also make myself laugh. Izzy’s voice arrived fully formed in my head, and immediately brought me back to life after two years of publishing hell (more on that painful time here). So there Izzy was, waiting for me to give her an outlet. She was sarcastic, witty, bright but not conventionally so, and something really shitty had happened to her. So shitty that she wanted to write a blog about it. That’s all I had, but I knew. I knew. This voice was gold. Still in bed on a dreary Saturday morning, I wrote the short introduction to the book on my iPhone notes, laughing merrily as I did so. I will always look back on that moment as pure alchemy.

As authors, ideas always sneak in. Do you have a W.I.P? Any hints about what it might be or what you aspire for it to become? And, just as importantly, why did this book burrow into your heart, too?

Absolutely! Having just turned in the sequel to The Exact Opposite of Okay, for the last few weeks I’ve been working on a YA thriller about death row, complex brains and a viral true crime podcast started by a vulnerable teenage girl. The plot bunny came to me first, but the thing that’s kept me going for the first 30,000 words is my love for the characters I’ve created. They’re complicated, morally compromised, but deep down good people. It makes putting them through hell hard, but it’s worth it.

I want you to imagine a reader holding your book in their hands and they’ve just read it. What would you like to say to them once they close the final page?

Go and raise hell. For me, for Izzy, for yourself.

If you could give someone advice on their aspirations – writerly or otherwise – what would it be?

Persevere. It will take longer than you think it will, but it will be worth it. There is no such thing as overnight success, so don’t cut corners. Pride yourself on doing the work, on showing up even when it gets tough, on holding onto hope even when it feels like there is none. You truly never know when your breakthrough moment will strike.

Is there an interview question you’ve never been asked but would like to be?

Yes! “What are your favourite Pokemon (from the original 150)?” Well, dearest interviewer, Eevee is my ride or die, and I have a particular fondness for the legendary birds – specifically Articuno. I’m also into aesthetically pleasing fire-types, such as Vulpix, Growlithe and Ponyta.

Lastly, I know you’re not just an author. I know you wrote a TV pilot, and you work for Mslexia, and you’re a wonderful person. So, tell me things we don’t know. Anything goes….

I have done many ridiculous things in the name of journalism – anything for a good feature. I’ve flown to Serbia to cover a musical festival in a fortress, thrown myself out of a plane at 15,000ft, played zorb football, interviewed Olympians and stand-up comedians, walked on the roof of a football stadium without a harness, learned professional blackjack strategy, and eaten a burger made with glazed donuts instead of bread buns.


Thank you again for coming to the blog, Laura. We talked about aspirations and what they are and mean. I aspire to get great books into the hands of readers, but more than that, I aspire to connect readers with authors. Not just one book. Not just one series. I aspire for readers to get to know that author through their thoughts, emotions, and experiences that they spill into their work, onto their blogs, and through their websites and social media. I aspire to help people find their reading and writing tribe. YATopia readers, I sincerely hope you join Laura’s reading tribe, as you’ll grow your reading and writing in a way that will give back for years to come. And you can start with THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF OKAY.



Laura Steven is an author, journalist and screenwriter from the northernmost town in England. The Exact Opposite of Okay, her YA debut, will be published by Egmont in March 2018. As well as mentoring aspiring authors through schemes like Writing In The Margins and Pitch Wars, Laura works for Mslexia, a non-profit organisation supporting women writers. She has an MA in Creative Writing, and her TV pilot Clickbait – a mockumentary about journalists at a viral news agency – reached the final eight in British Comedy's 2016 Sitcom Mission. Laura is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary and Media Inc.

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

GUESTOPIA: YA Author Taryn Bashford

Woohoo! It's the last GUESTOPIA of 2017! And we're going out with an explosion as we've invited an Aussie debut author to answer our questions. Here we go ...


At five year's old Taryn declared she would be an author. She’s been an English Literature Honours student, an advertising rep, a Media Sales Manager and a CEO of an internet company, but now she plans to write inspiring, engaging novels until the day she can no longer type--or no-one takes her seriously (whichever comes later). She’s also the creator of Jeans Teen Army, a campaign to address the seemingly universal feeling teens have about themselves -- that they're not good enough.

Is this your first published book?


What’s it called?

The Harper Effect

Which genre?

YA Contemporary

Which age group?

The marketers say 12 – 18, but I like to think no one’s too old to read this one, so 12 - 120

Is it a series or standalone?

It’s standalone, but there’s a companion novel about to be submitted.

Are you an agented author?

Yes – I’m with Curtis Brown in Australia, and Jill Grinberg Literary Management in the USA

Which publisher snapped up your book?

It’s two publishers for me 😊 Pan Macmillan in Australia/NZ and then Sky Pony Press in the USA/Canada and they’ll also distribute to the UK and all British Commonwealth countries.

How involved have you been in the whole publishing process of your book? 

I’ve only been involved in the editing process – which was very in depth. And then I was able to put in my book cover preferences and have a say in that too. I was pretty lucky. I have worked on a lot of publicity for the novel too.

Do you have another job?

Not anymore. I used to run a media recruitment consultancy, and before that, I was the CEO of an internet company connected to a TV station in the UK, a bit like NineMSN. I’ve mainly worked in advertising, but I’ve also been a nanny, a chalet chef, and a freelance writer.

Did you receive many, if any, rejections prior?

Oh yes. Many. But each time I got a rejection, I took on board the advice/feedback and improved my manuscript. Then after several months, in a period of 2 weeks, I suddenly had 2 agents and very soon after that, a publisher. So never give up – that’s a really tired phrase, isn’t it? Maybe this is more accurate: always give 100%, have faith in your book, and never lose hope.

What created/what were you doing or watching when the first idea for this book sneaked up on you

That’s a long story. I actually wrote the first draft of this novel when I was 14. It was called Proud Now Ma? and focussed on playing tennis to please the parents. My brother was a tennis player on the international circuit, and I was training for the Olympics. I got to wondering about teens who surpass the norm in an activity, and decided to look into this topic. But the novel then spent some time in a trunk when I emigrated to England, and then again 20 years later to Australia. I was writing, but I was writing adult novels – and not finishing them. I had a stressful career in the world of media, and getting published got lost in all that. But at least I kept writing. I finally began writing full time five years ago, and the first re-draft of the novel was actually an MG. It was re-named BELIEVE. It was pretty awful. I had the voice all wrong. An agent said she didn’t like anything about it. The problem was I hadn’t done my research into this market – I’d been reading adult novels. The poor manuscript got top-drawered while I researched the market. It was Susanne Gervay’s, That’s Why I Wrote this Song that got me hooked on YA. After reading her book, I knew that had I read her book when I was 15, it would’ve helped with some dad issues I was facing as a teen. I knew then that I wanted to write books for teens, to be that helping hand, or that metaphorical hug, they might be in search of inside a book. I wrote three other YA novels (unpublished) before I got back to what is now The Harper Effect, and by then I’d read over 200 YA novels. It really helped!

How long did you plot/plan until you started writing it?

If I think back to the re-write from MG to YA, not long at all. I fixed on a scene with Colt in my head and just sat down and wrote.

Once you started, did the story flow naturally or did you have to step in and wrestle it into submission?

I wrote the first draft in about 2 weeks. I tend to writer feverishly when in the early stages, about 18 hours a day. I believe they call it the vomit draft! I am happy – and lucky – to say that I’ve never had writer’s block. I think that’s because I write the first draft so quickly. I find that I’m so absorbed in it that the characters take over the story and I’m just writing down what they want me to say. In fact, I need to learn to type faster!

How many drafts did you write before you let someone read it? Who was that someone?

At least 6. That someone(s) was my writer’s critique group called SWiG (it’s a long story but we swigged on tea more than anything else). I find that I write the first draft quite accurately in terms of structure – surely down to all that reading. Then with each draft I focus on one thing so there are always lots of drafts. i.e. the pace/plot, the characters, the layering of themes, the subplot, dialogue and so on.

Did you employ an editor/proofreader or did you have a critique partner/beta readers before you started querying?

I never did employ an editor/proofreader. I find I’m a pretty good editor, but I did have my critique group as well as online CPs – for this book about 12 in total – to highlight convoluted sentences or issues with pace/character.

Roughly how many drafts did it take before you sent the manuscript off into the real world?

Probably 8.

How many drafts until it was published?

The publisher took me through a big structural edit, then two more nitty gritty edits. I thought we’d take out wordcount, but we actually added about 8k words – to deepen a plot point.

Has the book changed dramatically since the first draft?

Since the first draft when I was 14? Yes, absolutely. It went from an MG to a YA and the sisters were twins back then. But from the time I began writing it again five years ago? Not so much. It’s pretty much the same story, but certain areas have been improved – for instance the Purple Woods weren’t in that first draft. It was more about adding depth.

Are there any parts you’d like to change even now?

Don’t get me started…I think every writer will say that each time they read a draft they can see something they’d change.

What part of writing do you find the easiest?

The first draft. I love that stage. It’s like being in a whirlwind, but a good one. It’s exciting and I’m meeting new characters and wondering what’s going to happen. Yes, I’m a pantser.

What part do you find hardest?

The waiting. Even after you have a book contract, there’s a lot of waiting on edits, waiting on publication dates, and book covers and so on. I love all the edit stages as each time I re-draft I can feel the story tightening and clarifying and at the proofreading stage it then feels like a ‘real’ book..

Do you push through writing barriers or walk away?

Once I have that first draft down, which always happens before I can get stuck, the pressure is off so there are no barriers or blocks. However, if I’m then contemplating a way to improve or change something and can’t reach the answer, I go to bed thinking about the issue. Without fail, I’ll wake in the early hours and in that half asleep/half awake few minutes, the solution comes to me. I get up and write. 4 am is my favourite writing time, when the world is still and calm and it feels like it’s just me and my keyboard on the planet.

How many projects do you have on the go at the same time?

One. Always one. I get so involved and my mind is so taken up with the novel I’m writing, that I always stay with one project until it’s finished. The plots will expand and layer up, the characters will deepen, as I go about my day – cooking dinner, showering, going for a bike ride, swimming…it’s in those moments that some great creative moments can hit me.

I’ve had to adapt now though, because while I’m receiving edits for The Harper Effect, they interrupt the project I’m working on – the next book. That’s been a new struggle because I dislike being pulled out of a story mid-draft.

Do you think you’re born with the talent to write or do you think it can be learned?

I think you’re born with the qualities you need to write – a love of writing, reading and words and the ability to see stories in everything – and that you’re born with the qualities you need to get published – determination, tenacity, a thick-skin, self-belief, a strong work ethic, and intrinsic motivation. But the actual writing can be learned. I can prove that: when I look at draft one five years ago, compared to three years later (after writing 3 more novels, attending workshops, working with mentors and critique partners, reading the books in my market), the book I re-wrote was so much better.

Some say you can teach people to love reading, but it’s not been my experience. With both my children, from the day they were born, I read to them, and then we read together as they grew older, and then we shared my king-sized bed while we all read our own books before bedtime. Today my daughter treats reading like slow torture, while her younger brother loves to read. Go figure.

How many future novels do you have planned?

Two more planned that are linked to The Harper Effect, but they’re not a series. They’re companion novels. And each time I get an idea for a new novel I grab a hardback A4 lined workbook (a hangover from my teens), and write down the idea/scene that comes to me. I may add a few more thoughts and character descriptions as time goes by. I currently have 36 of these books. I think I should’ve started writing earlier in my life!

Do you write other things, such as short stories, articles, blogs, etc?

I don’t write any other fiction items, but I have written articles and have my own blog on www.tarynbashford.com.

What’s the highlight of being published so far?

Having someone else believe in me, and love my story and characters as much as I do. Writing is a lonely occupation!

Give me one writing tip that worked for you.

Write every day. Everyone’s heard this gem, but it’s because it’s true. It keeps writer’s block at bay, it keeps that creative pathway flowing with ideas, it ensures your characters keep talking to you, it helps you write the story on a deeper level because it’s so much a part of your psyche that the writing almost becomes a subconscious act. This is most true of the first draft, and I’d get up at early-o-clock to write on weekends and write at night to fit in family time. It’s less important on later drafts, or when you’re editing. I also have a separate writing room as I find my creative brain turns on in there. When I sit at my desk in the office, where I manage emails and the minutiae of life, my creative brain goes splat.

And one that doesn't.

Drinking umpteen cups of coffee does not enable you to keep writing all night. But seriously…many writers put their books in a bottom drawer for several months claiming that it needs space and distance. I find that three weeks is enough space. Any longer, and I lose touch with where my headspace was with the story. More importantly, if you’re writing your next book for a publisher, there’s no way there’s time to leave it for a few months. Best get into the discipline of not doing that.

Can you give us a clue or secret about the next book?

Sure thing. I’m about to submit the second book that Pan Macmillan contracted – in the same month that the first book is published. The second book is a companion novel to The Harper Effect. The Harper Effect tells Harper’s story, and the second book tells her neighbour, Jacob’s story. The third companion novel will probably be Aria’s story (Harper’s sister). They’re not meant to be read in any order.

What question have you always wanted to be asked but never have? What would the answer be?

Question: So getting your novel published is a dream come true, but do you haven any other dreams you’re chasing?

Answer: Yes. Seeing my novel adapted into a film is my next dream. To see my story and my characters come to life on the big screen, and to be involved in that process, is something that really excites me. If I weren’t a writer, I’d want to be a movie star – but I’m a terrible actress (I mean really awful), so I’ll have to stick to being behind the scenes.

Fantastic! Thank you, Taryn, for joining us today and for your insightful answers. It's so good to share other authors' journeys. We wish you heaps of luck with The Harper Effect and her companion novels. 

If you would like to follow Taryn on her journey or purchase your copy of The Harper Effect, these links should help! 


And that's it! Happy New Year, YAtopians! I can't wait to bring you more author interviews in 2018!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Book Reccomendations

In the spirit of the Holidays and being festive, I would like to recommend my favorite Young Adult books that I’ve read in 2017 in case anyone is looking for books to buy.

This book came out in November of 2016, but I didn’t read the novel till January 2017. It’s a steampunk novel about clock towers in Victorian England, and Danny Hart—a clock mechanic—is the main character, and a relationship ensues with clock spirit Colton. The book is a breath of fresh air because of the organic LGBTQ diversity in addition to having a unique premise. As a result, I can’t wait till the sequel CHAINBREAKER comes out on January 2, 2018.

PROJECT PANDORA by Aden Polydoros
This book also has a creative premise. The book is about teen assassins —and therefore contains a Jason Bourne like premise. The novel is also told through four points of view, and there’s never a dull moment because of rotating between Hades, Shannon, Tyler, and Elizabeth. The novel contains gorgeous descriptive writing that adds lot of color and brings the scenes to life as well. I don’t want to give away too much, but the book kept me on the edge of my seat, and is bound to do the same for others.

FROSTBLOOD came out in January 2017, and FIREBLOOD came out eight months later in September 2017. FROSTBLOOD is about a teen girl (Ruby) who is a girl born with fire powers in a world where people are usually born with ice powers if they have powers. A frostblood (Arcus) trains Ruby in hopes of taking down the Frost King, in addition to how a slow burn romance develops between Arcus and Ruby. FIREBLOOD builds on FROSTBLOOD, and Arcus is king now and is romantically involved with Ruby. The worldbuilding also gets bigger to when Ruby must travel to another land. As a result, I can’t wait for the trilogy’s conclusion (NIGHTBLOOD) in June 2018.

FIX ME by Lisa M. Cronkhite
I’m still reading this book, but want to include it on my list because of the creative premise and descriptive writing. The book is about teen girl—Penelope—who is hooked on Fix, which is the latest drug. Penelope gets visions of a guy—Nate—while doing Fix, in addition to how the novel contains a mystery. Inventing a drug makes the novel creative. Doing so requires more effort than say mentioning something that’s real—like the opioid crisis.

VIOLET GRENADE by Victoria Scott
This book is about teen girl—Domino—who begins working for Madame Karina at an entertainment house to get bail money for a friend. The reason this book is on my list is because the novel gets grittier and grittier until its explosive conclusion. But it’s dark in an organic way since the darkness never feels forced. The book also deals with mental illness in a great way because that fact isn’t a random twist. Readers know about Domino’s mental illness upfront, and it therefore isn’t a gimmicky twist that deprives readers of a good story.

FOLLOW ME by Sara Shepard
This book just came out last month, and is the sequel to THE AMATEURS. I got an e-ARC of FOLLOW ME last May, but plan on reading the book again. This is book is a perfect mystery because the characters know who the villain is, and the book there becomes a cat and mouse game between the characters and the killer. Knowing who the villain is by the end of THE AMATEURS, which sets up FOLLOW ME, is a great choice. Mysteries are often predicated on a big revelation at the end, yet readers never get to enjoy what happens after a twist. Ultimately, the description is a little vague on purpose. It’s hard to talk about THE AMATEURS and FOLLOW ME without giving away spoilers.

HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME is a standalone book told in dual timelines, and deals with the grief when Griffin’s ex-boyfriend Theo dies. This book is awesome because Griffin is out from the beginning of the book. However, the book gets messy. Griffin must sort through his grief over Theo in addition to dealing with his best friend Wade and Theo’s new boyfriend Jackson. As a result, boundaries get blurred since people hookup who you wouldn’t expect. This book was also an improvement over Silvera’s debut MORE HAPPY THAN NOT. HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME ends on a hopeful note despite its dark subject matter.

THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END is a contemporary novel with a slight speculative twist. People get a call from Death Cast on the day they die. Well, that happens to Mateo and Rufus. They are the main characters in the novel. The novel rotates between them, and their paths cross. Ultimately, this book is darker than HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME, but not as dark as MORE HAPPY THAN NOT.