Sunday Interview – Colleen Nelson

Happy Sunday, Everyone! I’d like you all to welcome, again, the lovely and talented Colleen Nelson. She is a YA author and fellow Great Plains writer, among other things. You may recall my review of her first novel, Tori By Design and previous interview with her, as well as my review of her latest novel, The Fall.

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Hi, Colleen! Would you like to begin by telling my readers a little bit about yourself?

Of course! I live in Winnipeg and have two boys, ages 6 and 8, and three grown step-children. I was a teacher for about ten years before I had my kids and now I teach preschool, do a lot of volunteer work and write, write, write!

We know you now have two young adult novels published. Please describe what it was like to get them each out in print.

Tori by Design was a long, labour-intensive project because it was my first novel. I was lucky to have an amazing editor, Ms. Anita Daher, to coach me through the process.  I started writing The Fall soon after I found out Tori was going to be published, because I knew I wanted to write a book my sons would read one day (Tori is a bit girly!).

I learned so much from the writing and editing process with my first book, that writing The Fall was much faster. I still learned a lot working with Anita, but it wasn’t as grueling as with Tori. I equate an editor to a diamond cutter, bringing out the best and chipping off what detracts from the book. Anita is a master diamond cutter!

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How did the process differ between each project? How were they the same?

With Tori, I sort of stumbled along, losing my way a few times and doing massive re-writes. With The Fall, I wrote with intention. I knew the story I wanted to tell and who the characters were, which is why I was able to write it in about a year (Tori took four years). One of the main things Anita taught me when I was editing my first book, was that there has to be an emotional connection between the reader and the main character. I was conscious of creating that in The Fall from the beginning.

As for similarities in the process, working with the same team at Great Plains was a bonus. I had another wonderful launch at McNally Robinson and the staff was as supportive as always.

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The Fall is a very different book than Tori By Design. What sparked the idea for it?

Writing for boys required a different point of view than with Tori. Luckily, Ben, one of the main characters’ voices, came to me right away. He was a skater and had a best friend, Tessa. (Her voice also came to me clearly. In fact, she’s my favourite character.) But, of course, something has to happen to Ben, which is when I dug into my past experiences as a teacher.

When I was teaching junior high, a boy died suddenly. Watching how the other students dealt with his death was heart breaking. I say in my Author’s Note that ‘Grieving is difficult at any age, but being an adolescent complicates the situation’. I wanted to convey the confusing emotions that come along with grief and how each person handles them differently.

I thought you did a marvelous job portraying each of them – and that’s coming from a mom who had to watch her daughter & her friends go through a similar tragedy. 🙂

I found the POVs for The Fall to be presented a little differently, with Ben being in first person and the other two boys in third person. What was your reasoning for this? (not a criticism, just curious)

No criticism taken! At first, I wrote all three in first person. Ben was the main character and the other two characters didn’t speak until after the accident. As I was re-reading, I didn’t think Cory and Taz’ voices were different enough, so I switched them to third person to see if it worked better.

It was during the editing process that Anita suggested I make all three characters equal. I’d already come to know Cory and Taz as being in third person, so I kept their sections in that narrative.

Besides the obvious research into the sport of skateboarding, what other research did you need to do?

Surprisingly, I don’t know a lot about gang initiations, so that required some research. I also read some books, most notably ‘Raising Cain’ to get deeper into the adolescent male psyche. Boys don’t communicate or relate to others the same way girls do. I feel that society stifles their emotionality. I wanted the characters in The Fall  to present an honest portrayal of how males grieve.

But, as a writer, every day is research. I am always paying attention to how things look, smell, taste, what sounds I hear, anything that will add depth to my writing. Just driving through a new neighborhood provides research. I never know what will appear from my subconscious as I write!

Now for some fun questions . . .

Do you prefer chocolate or ice cream?

CHOCOLATE!!!!

What is your writing workspace like? (I’m in the process of redesigning mine and could use some pointers!) Feel free to attach pictures, if you like!

Lately, I’ve been relocating to the dining room table. I usually have papers, notes, calendars and coffee cups strewn around me. I’m a messy writer!

Me, too! That’s why I need a space with a door I can close when company comes over! lol

Do you have any rituals or items that help your muse speak to you as you sit down to write?

I read out loud a lot, to make sure the voice of the character is authentic, but that’s it.

Are there social media sites you’d like to share with us? (Facebook, twitter, blog, website, etc)

I have a website at www.colleennelsonauthor.com, a blog at www.colleennelson.blogspot.com and am on facebook , Colleennelson.547 and twitter @colleennelson14. Phew. That’s a lot of places to find me!

Are there any final words before we say goodbye?

Thank you so much for the opportunity to tell you about my writing. This book, The Fall, means a lot to me and I’m excited for people to read it!

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Colleen! 🙂

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Sunday Interview – Elizabeth Arroyo

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Welcome back to another Sunday Interview! I know it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted one but, today, I am very excited to introduce Elizabeth Arroyo who has just had her first book published! (Hooray! Whoot! Whoot!) You may recall,  I included an excerpt from her book in one of my Scary October posts, so I agreed to be a part of her blog tour. Please take a moment to learn more about her and her teen novel, ‘The Second Sign’.

Hi, Elizabeth! Welcome to my blog! 

Thanks for hosting me!

Would you please tell my readers a bit about yourself?

I love watching action flicks, dancing with my daughter, and reading.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was fourteen. But started seriously writing for publication in 2008.

It must be very exciting to have your first book published! Would you please describe how that process was for you?

‘The Second Sign’ is my fourth full manuscript, the third I pitched for publication. One stayed under my bed. I first tested the waters for The Second Sign with agent judged contests and got pretty good results. Because the book included angels and demons—elements already saturating the market—I was advised to pitch it to a smaller press publisher. Sapphire Star Publishing was actually the first and only small press publisher I queried. Yay!

That’s Fantastic!

Back in October, I posted a synopsis and an excerpt of your YA novel, ‘The Second Sign’, which seems to be a classic tale of good versus evil. Why did you choose the theme of demons and angels as opposed to any other adversaries, such as vampires and humans?

I wanted to delve into the darker side of the balance between good and evil. Not everything is set in stone and in ‘The Second Sign’ that balance is somewhat tipped. Free-will is an important factor. I chose demons because they scare me and I wanted to write something scary.

From the synopsis, it sounds like there might be a bit of a romance in your story, as well as the heart-stopping adventure. How do you deal with the subject of romance in a YA novel?

I’m a romantic nut. I love reading romance, especially when it’s surrounded by high tension and conflict. In YA, romance is all about drama, it’s all about the moment. And lots of flirting. The romance in ‘The Second Sign’ is focused on the visceral attraction of both main characters and questions the purpose of love.

Getting back to the process of writing The Second Sign, how did you approach the writing of your novel? Was it a result of something like the current NaNoWriMo craze? Do you plot out your stories or write bit-by-bit as the muse whispers in your ear?

 I wrote the first draft of ‘The Second Sign’ in one month, though I’ve never delved into NaNo. I don’t think I’d do well under that kind of pressure. I usually write the inciting incident as the muse injects it into my brain. Then I pause and begin to write a loose outline of the major character arcs and relevant acts of the story and move forward from there.

The subject of your story seems rather dark. Do you inject any humorous scenes or conversations to break things up a bit?

It is dark. Hope becomes the balance of the story. As our main characters begin to unravel the mystery of the plot (external conflict) and their subsequent reactions (internal conflict) the reader gets a glimpse of hope that love is truly stronger than hate. Then, of course, everything gets pulled out from under your nose at the end. But I won’t go there.

The cover for ‘The Second Sign’ is truly beautiful. Who is responsible for the creation of your cover and what kind of input did you have in the process?

Sapphire Star Publishing involved me in every step of the design. They gave me options for the scenery, model, even the font and allowed me to pick and choose what I felt best represented the book. Then they put it all together. It is an awesome cover. I love it.

Are there any social media sites you’d like to share with us?

I can be found at:

Website: http://www.elizabetharroyo.com.

Blog: http://chandarawrites.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/elizabetharroyo.author

Twitter: https://twitter.com/EArroyo5

 

Watch the trailer at http://youtu.be/omcmt6q8PIw

That is a cool trailer!

Thanks for joining us, today, Elizabeth and good luck with your blog tour. 🙂

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Here’s the blurb for the book:

THE SECOND SIGN

Dark YA Paranormal Romance

Sapphire Star Publishing


Bred to believe in the war between angels and demons, Gabby has come to the conclusion that love is responsible for war, jealousy, and all the other deadly sins she can think of. So when she’s exiled to the middle of nowhere for getting kicked out of her fifth school for fighting, she doesn’t expect to meet Jake. Much less fall in love. But Jake is quickly drawn to the eerie beauty of her violet eyes while Gabby is unsettled by their undeniable connection.

When a demon guardian comes to collect her soul, she refuses to give it up. She’s not a demon. She can’t be. Her father and twin brother are angels. The demon gives Gabby twenty-four hours to decide her allegiance, and then starts killing her short list of friends, leaving a message behind: She is the Second Sign.

As Gabby and Jake begin to unravel the mystery behind the Second Sign, she learns Jake may be the key to saving her soul. But it means a sacrifice has to be made that will change their lives forever.

Here’s where you can find a copy of ‘The Second Sign’:

Amazon http://amzn.com/1938404300

B&N http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-second-sign-elizabeth-arroyo/1114135496?ean=9781938404306

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16089573-the-second-sign

Elizabeth also is holding a raffle, so if you’d like to win a copy of her book, here’s where you should go:

Rafflecopter link:

Please drop in to her blog or her website to follow her blog tour and learn more about her and her book. 🙂

Sunday Interview #26 – Colleen Nelson

Today, I’d like to introduce you to fellow Great Plains author, Colleen Nelson. I reviewed her first YA novel, Tori By Design, in Friday’s post. Please put your hands together and welcome Colleen. (Clap, clap! Whoot, whoot!)

Colleen Nelson

Welcome to my blog, Colleen! Please tell my readers al little about yourself.

Thanks for the opportunity to be on your blog, Susan! It’s great to see other writers making an effort to reach readers and writers through social media. 

I am the mother of two boys, and the step-mom to three kids ages 19-25. I taught junior high for ten years before going on a very extended maternity leave and now I teach preschool and write. I spend a lot of my time doing volunteer work for my community centre (I am the president at Tuxedo Community Centre) and my son’s school. I love to travel, sew and read.

What made you realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was on maternity leave with my first son, James, I decided to take a class through the Manitoba Writers Guild called ‘Writing for Children’ with Margaret Shaw-McKinnon. I need to keep my brain active, but was house-bound with my infant son. Writing became a great outlet to be creative and provided focus to my day. As soon as James went down for a nap, I found my way to the computer and spent a few blissful hours lost in my head with characters…instead of doing laundry or the dishes! I guess you could say, writing started as more of a hobby than a career.

Tori By Design

That’s kind of how it started for me, too…and who wants to do laundry or the dishes when you could be writing, right? 🙂

What gave you the idea for Tori By Design?

My husband’s work is based in New York, so we have an apartment in NYC and I’ve spent a lot of time living there. For a while, I took a leave from teaching to move out there. During that time, I volunteered at an Upper East Side private school. It was there that I started to wonder what a girl from Winnipeg would experience if she moved to NYC. 

I also love fashion, so I wrote Tori as a wanna-be fashion designer because NYC is the perfect place for a girl who loves clothes to live.

That is so cool! 🙂

How did you create the character of Tori?

Tori is a composite of two special girls in my life: my step-daughters, Sacha and Chloe, and a little bit of me. Watching my step-daughters go through their adolescence and teaching junior high school students, gave me different perspectives on what it is like to be a teenager these days. Tori has a lot of great characteristics, but she is also self-centered. Every character needs her flaw, right? My editor, Anita Daher, really helped to draw out Tori’s character arc and develop her into a well-rounded character.

Anita is such a great editor, isn’t she? She really knows how to bring out the best in our work. 🙂

Your descriptions of New York make your readers feel as if they are right there. I understand you lived there for a while. Please tell us about your experience in The Big Apple.

I absolutely LOVE NYC! It is my second home and I know the city very well. NYC has a pulse and pace that is unlike anywhere else I have ever been. Tokyo and London come close, but they don’t have the same aggression and forge-ahead attitude that you find in NYC. Living there, I worked as a docent at two museums, went to Broadway shows, lived in a tiny, crummy apartment, took the subway and discovered what makes the city so great. I love that each neighborhood has its own distinct character, from cobble stone streets in SOHO to the brownstones of the Upper West Side, no two areas are the same. The restaurants, shopping and access to cultural instituions means there is never ‘nothing to do’. The big buildings and sights get old fast and I always tell friends who visit to explore the neighborhoods to really get a sense of the city. Eat at a diner, shop at boutiques, visit the small museums and talk to people. New Yorkers are so friendly, helpful and proud of their city.

Sounds like a fantastic experience. You are very lucky! 🙂

I understand you are working on a new novel. Would you like to give my readers a sneak peek or are you superstitious about discussing a Work In Progress?

I have three in the works. “The Fall” is out in March and is about four boys and the tragic accident that shapes their lives. It is geared towards an older teen audience than ‘Tori by Design’ and is a gritty reflection of how boys deal with grief. I am very excited about it and can’t wait to have it launched!

The other two books, one is with a publisher as we speak, but I haven’t heard feedback yet, is about a small, conservative Manitoba town and the secrets that its townspeople have kept hidden for decades. As the main character and a boy from a nearby reserve begin to discover the truth, they realize that the secrets that have kept them apart, are the very things drawing them closer together.

I’ve only completed a first draft of the fourth book, but it is about a girl who seeks refuge at her aunt’s cottage after a troubled upbringing. It deals with the complex relationships women have with each other, mother to mother, mother to daughter, sister to sister. I’m looking forward to continuing to work on it this winter.

Wow! Sounds like you’ve been pretty busy – and will be busy for awhile! They all have great story lines and I can’t wait to read them! 🙂

Now, for something a little more fun – what is your favourite comfort food?

A steaming cup of strong coffee in my favouite mug is the most comforting! But chocolate is a close second! Especially chewy chocolate chip cookies!

Yum! Me, too! 🙂

What is your workspace like? (Feel free to include a photo, if you like)

I’m too embarrassed to include a photo of my messy, cramped work area. I don’t do well with an empty desk (empty desk-empty mind?) so I make sure there’s always a few piles of papers, hand lotion, a couple of library books, pens, pencils, my calendar and some photos strewn around me. Maybe it’s a chicken and egg thing: I work best when it’s cluttered, or it’s cluttered because I’m working…

That sounds very much like my workplace! lol

Who is your favourite Young Adult author?

Tough one. I read a lot but, I have to say, I have a lot of respect for William Bell because his books were able to draw in boys who weren’t inclined to read. I think that young adult male audience is the toughest one to crack. His books ‘Stones’ and ‘Blue Helmet’ were popular books with the boys when I taught.

You’re right about how difficult it is drawing the teen boys to reading. I’ll have to check out his books. 🙂

Are there any social media sites you’d like to share with us?

I have to admit, I am brutal at updating things. I have a blog at http://colleennelson.blogspot.com but it’s turned into an info site for people going to NYC, more than anything about my writing. For “The Fall”, I’ve started to put together  a blog with links to articles and forums about how teens deal with traumatic events. I will send you the link when I get it started.

I am also on Facebook at colleennelson547/

Do you have any last words before we close?

Thanks again for this opportunity. I know doing the blog takes time away from your own writing, but you are providing a great way for authors to connect with their audience. It’s been a pleasure!

Glad you enjoyed the experience. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me, Colleen, and may your book sales be many. 🙂

Make Believe writer J. A. Belfield

Make Believe

My sincerest apology for neglecting to post this yesterday as I promised. It was the first day back to work for me and then it was go-go-go for the rest of the day. I don’t think I even turned on my computer!

Anyway, without further ado, I would like to continue doing my part in the Make Believe Blog Tour by introducing the lead writer in the anthology. She’s the author of the Holloway Pack stories, including Darkness and Light. Please welcome, J. A. Belfield.

Would you please begin by telling us a little about yourself?

Cripes, what did you want to know? Um … I just hit the big 4 0 in September, I have cats and a dog, a Mr B and two Mini-Me’s, and I spend my days writing and reading, and editing, and procrastinating across the ‘Net on sites like Twitter and Facebook. 😀

Sounds familiar! 🙂

How long have you been writing?

I actually only started writing in 2009. Had no idea before that point that I wanted to write, or that I could write. I just knew my head often filled up with way too many musings and dreams. So I wrote them down for something to do. 😉

You’ve done very well for yourself, then, in the past three years!

Was there any one incident that told you, “Hey, I’m a writer!” or “I want to be a writer”?

Writing only started out as a hobby because I had six hours a day to myself whilst the kidlets were at school and The Man at work, and I was getting a little bored of the housework for entertainment. As for when I thought ‘Hey, I’m a writer!’? I could say it was after I wrote Darkness & Light and, for the first time, believed I’d produced something worth sharing with more than just my sister and my best friend.

Or it could have been the point, around six months after Darkness & Light was published, when what I answered to ‘What do you do?’ altered from: I’m a stay at home mum, to I’m an author who works from home.

Saying it and sounding convincing took some getting used to it, though. I still kinda glance down and look all shy whenever I say it, like it’s a guilty pleasure rather than a career, lol. 

I hear you!

What types of stories do you like to tell? To read?

To tell? Well, I love to tell those tales that place characters in every day settings, with real life problems, but then spice it up a bit with paranormal twists.

As for reading, I’ve gone through a whooooooole lotta phases. Years ago, I was into Martina Cole and Robert Ludlum, Jeffrey Archer and John Grisham; then I discovered the intensity of crime fiction thanks to Val McDermid and Jeffrey Deaver—until urban fantasy and paranormal romance pretty much kicked those to the kerbside when I was loaned a Kelley Armstrong to read. And since then, I’ve been flying through as much YA and NA as possible, whatever the genre—PNR, UF, Dystopia (LOVE!), and even contemporary. 

I loved your story, Escort to Insanity! Please tell my readers a little about it.

Thank you so much. Escort to Insanity pretty much came to me after I’d read a story where a woman had met up with a guy via a dating agency, and I started wondering: what if it was an escort agency instead, and what if everything went wrong. Of course, the ‘what goes wrong’ had to be of the supernatural variety—though the evening does begin to look a little rocky pretty early on.

Who, or what, was your inspiration for Benjamin?

Ooooh, how to answer this without producing spoilers …. Okay, there are some scenes in the story where Nicole’s imagination conjures notions about Benjamin, and it was those that inspired his looks and even his name. Because I wanted him to reflect his character in its entirety. He turned out to be a lot of fun to work with. 

And I realise that may make absolutely no sense to anyone who hasn’t read the tale.

I’m sure! He really seems ‘scrummy’!

How did your story end up in the Make Believe anthology? (What was the process like?)

My Holloway Pack titles are already contracted with J.Taylor (my publisher). They approached me a year ago and said: Hey, we’re thinking of putting a winter anthology for next December and would love you to be the headlining author; you up for it?

So, within days of my what-if musings about escorts gone awry, I already had a home for the story and figured I best get writing it then.

As for the process, it was actually pretty straight forward—but then J.Taylor are very easy to work with. I had a deadline to get the story in (which I had to make some tweaks to because I only saw the picture prompt after I’d planned it out in my head). Once the story was in, I was sent some story edits to make, which I did. And the following months were then spent doing line edits, proofreading the galley after the copy edits had gone in, finalising the blurb, marketing, and getting to know the other contributing authors (who are all awesomesauce, btw). 

I know! I’ve ‘met’ a few of your awesome fellow authors on-line and follow their blogs. 🙂

Where else will you be, (or have been) featured during this tour?

The blog tour dates and stops I’ve been made aware of (hey, there are SIX of us!) can be found on the Make Believe Tour Page. There are more interviews, lots of giveaways to win a copy of Make Believe, and chances to meet the other authors along the way. 😀

Yes, I’ve been trying to keep up with everyone’s busy schedule! Do you have any social media sites that you’d like to share with us?

Of course. I’m always happy to meet new folk.

I usually haunt Twitter, Facebook, and sometimes Goodreads. And I post to my blog at least once a week. 🙂

Are there any final words you’d like to say?

Yes, I’d like to say (warning: Oscar like speech coming up!) a huge thank you to all of those who’ve helped make this tour possible by participating, as well as all of those who joined up for my Blue Moon tour (which happens to be running alongside this one. I’d like to thank my fellow antho buddies, because they’ve been great to work with. And I’d also to thank each and every person who has taken, or plans to take, the time to read something I’ve written—because that is always very humbling.

And if I don’t speak to y’all before, have a great Christmas and happy new year. 😀

Thank you for joining us today and best of luck with the rest of the tour and the Make Believe anthology. 🙂

Thank you for having me here. 🙂

It’s been my pleasure to interview you and an honor to help you all out with your blog tour! 🙂