Today, I sat down with Stephanie Wardrop to talk about writing romance, Jane Austen, and Snark. Enjoy!
1. When did you start writing? When I was in junior high, I wrote everyday after school until my parents came home from work. They were terrible stories but I just liked doing it and I kept writing probably equally awful fiction throughout high school; I just stuck these magnum opuses under my mattress and hoped nobody found them. After college, I went to grad school in part because I thought it would be a good way to keep reading and writing and that I’d have some time to write if I got a job as a professor, but after I did it took years for me to figure out how to do write and teach! Once I was an adult, with a job and a kid (and then two) it got harder for me to justify the time I spent squirreled away somewhere with a notebook or a laptop, but just a few years ago I decided to recognize the obvious: if I weren’t going to start writing right then, it probably wasn’t ever going to happen. So I closed my eyes and dived in.
2. Are you a pantser or a planner? A little of both. With Snark and Circumstance, I was lifting from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice so I had a basic plot structure to follow, which helped enormously. I’m working on two things now. For one, of them I know how it’s going to end up and a lot about the character’s past and some stuff about her present and I am playing around with different ways to structure that. The other WIP came to me as an image in a dream – a girl kissing a boy through a chain link fence. I knew she was a four-hundred-year old witch, but that’s all I knew. Now I just have to figure out what to do with them! I’m experimenting with different plots and voices with mixed success.
3. Can you give us an idea of your writing process? I need a process! What I need is time, I guess. I write notes all the time for myself and when I can grab a chunk of time I make a lot of progress – but then I can go for a long period of time without doing much writing and lose the thread of what I’ve done. I need to get better about that.
On the other hand, Snark has taught me that sometimes walking away from something frees you up to see it differently. I gave up on that book at least four times but every now and then I would come back to it because the characters just kept talking to me. And one night, I woke up and just knew what I had to do to make it work.
4. Which authors have influenced your work? Judy Blume and Richard Peck are the people that made me want to be a writer. There are so many writers I love that must have influenced me in some way, but I would never in a million years say I can write at all like them, and they include Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner (who may be my absolute favorite), Toni Morrison, Julia Alvarez, John Irving, Michael Chabon. . .
5. What are you plans/future projects/new releases that we should be aware of? Charm and Consequence, the second in the Snark series of e-novellas, comes out May 1st. I just saw the cover art so I know its real! Part Three comes out in August, and then the series wraps in December.
6. Any tips for new writers? Stick with it. Find a way, scary as it may sound, to get your work read by somebody else – and not just your partner or your mom or someone who will love it because they love you. Online critique groups can be a big help. I found that I learned at least as much if not more by critiquing other people’s query letters and pages. You can always see issues in someone else’s work more easily than your own, so you sort of learn what not to do – I’d find someone being very vague or writing “around” what they wanted to say and then I’d be forced to recognize when I did that, too, for example.
7. Any tips for old writers? Writing YA necessitates thinking young (whatever that means) and staying up on what kids are concerned about. You don’t want to go overboard with that, because as soon as you catch on to that and decide you’re going to write an entire series around Silly Bandz or some trend, by the time you get your book out there, the trend will be over. IAnd you will look very old and very foolish J I try to keep up with current lingo and expressions, just because I like language a lot and new words like “p0wned” just tickle me. But at the same time, I know that using the wrong term can sort of date the book (or the writer!) so sometimes I just make them up (which is why the word “asswaffle” appears in my first sentence of Snark).
Having said that, I think it’s important to remember, as many YA writers have said, that much of what YA readers and characters feel is what we felt as adolescents ourselves: worrying about being likable (even lovable), trying to figure out who we are in the context of a changing and confusing world, feeling powerless at times and at other times like you could just eat up the world with your awesomeness. I find that listening to the music I listened to at certain times in my life can put me back in that head space, so to speak. It brings back lots of feelings I wouldn’t have recalled or accessed otherwise. Marcel Proust had his madeline cookies; I’ve got Exile on Main Street.
Link to the book cover and a blurb are here at Swoon: http://www.myswoonromance.com/#!snark-and-circumstance/c1w0l