goodbye 2012, hello 2013

I'm back from my blog vacation! It was nice to unhook myself from the computer for a few days and just enjoy everything the holiday season brings. We even have a decent amount of snow here (and the time between December 20-31 is the ONLY time I really enjoy snow. I like to think that if it's going to be cold, it might as well be snowy, but come January, it gets old pretty fast, and I just find myself yearning for Spring.)

2012 has been a life-changing year for me. I suppose that could easily be said about any year, but 2012 brought a lot of good things into my life. And it brought me much closer to realizing my dreams. I've had two primary goals since I was quite young: to be a mom and to be a published author.

I never questioned the being a mom part. I always told myself that I'd adopt if I had to, even if I was alone in it. I just knew that when I was ready to be a mother, I'd find a way to make it happen. Thankfully, I'm not alone (major props to the single moms out there) and in 2012, I've been relishing in my dream of being a mom. Okay, technically my daughter was born at the very end of 2011, but I didn't really get to know her until 2012. She spent most of 2011 sleeping. 2012 brought us her first smile, first words, first everything. She went from being a sleeping bundle in our arms to a little girl who discovers more and more about the world around her every day. She has, by far, been my greatest joy of 2012. And her arrival made my dream of being a mom a reality.

But she was far from the only good part of 2012. I finished writing my second young adult novel and as I was revising it, I found myself falling in love with it. When you can fall in love with your own writing, you know you have something special on your hands. And it turned out I did. Unnatural helped me to find my fantastic agent and brought my aspirations of being published to the next level. I'm closer to achieving that lifelong dream than I've ever been before and that's absolutely thrilling. Finding an agent was a 2012 goal of mine. Finding a good home for my book is definitely a goal for 2013.

Being on maternity leave has afforded me the opportunity to spend more time with family, spend more time writing, and spend more time enjoying the things in life that sometimes get lost in the shuffle. As I look back, I recognize that it's truly been an amazing year.

So if 2012 was so great, how will 2013 ever compete? I guess we'll see. That's the fun and mystery of a new year and a clean slate. Who knows what good things it might bring. As 2013 arrives, I'll be heading back to my day job, which will bring its own set of challenges. But change is what keeps us moving forward, and goals can't be achieved without momentum. January 1st isn't really any different than December 31st. It's just an arbitrary marker in time, but it's a great excuse to get excited about possibility, to be hopeful, and to embrace opportunities as they arrive. 
You know Father Time is cool--dude wears a cape! And check out those fresh kicks!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, my dear Bloggies. And I hope your 2013 is peaceful and full of joy. Thank you for stopping by Chez There's a Blog in my Soup over the past year. I hope you'll stick with me as I bring you more highlights in The Friday5, more writing advice in The Writer's Arsenal and more updates as the new year unfolds. I'm very hopeful that 2013 will bring many surprises that I'll be excited to share with you.

Happy New Year!   

friday5 for December 14, 2012

1.Let's kick things off with a little tech news. Because you may need to get on this stat. If you have an iPhone, and you've upgraded to the most recent OS, you may be experiencing some problems with their newly native maps app (I know I have!). But fret no more! Google maps has returned and can now be downloaded in the app store. I'm a huge Apple fan in general (this post is being written on my iMac), but the maps app has not been an enjoyable experience. I'm happy to give it a another go if Apple works out the considerable kinks, but until then, I'm switching back to Google.

2. There were several sets of award nominations announced this week, including the nominees for the Golden Globes. Every year I scan the list and think, "Not surprised...Seriously?...Why wasn't <insert amazing movie/TV show here> included?" This year, I sort of skimmed over everything else and honed in on the fact that a smaller movie that I very much enjoyed is nominated in the Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy category. It may be in the company of some stiff competition, but just seeing Moonrise Kingdom on there made me happy. What a fantastic film. If you haven't seen it, you really should. It's funny, poignant and beautifully shot. And the cast is spot on. I don't know if it'll win over some of the other knockout films it's against, but this is one case where I'm just happy to see it nominated.

3. Harry Potter news! Say what? I thought we were finished with that franchise! Of course not. Don't you know Harry Potter can't be killed? :) Rupert Grint (our dear Won Won) has reportedly been filming new Harry Potter content! This is super-exciting, even though it's almost certainly for use in the Wizarding World Park in Orlando, and not for some ultra secret ninth HP film. I haven't been to the Wizarding World (yet!) because of the distance, but I like just knowing that it exists. I like knowing that the world of Harry Potter has such staying power that I will very likely be able to take my daughter there one day, after I've read the books with her. As our girl JK Rowls would say, "Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home." Love it.

4. On the opposite end of the spectrum (the non-warm-and-fuzzy-end), it looks like the CW network has green-lit a Hunger Games-ish reality TV program. First off, did we learn nothing from the HG books? I don't know how to feel about this news. I get why they're doing it, and as someone who enjoys the occasional season of Survivor and Amazing Race (though beyond that, I'm fairly opposed to reality TV--not in a snooty way, there's just too much quality scripted stuff taking up my time!), I think I might actually enjoy watching this, but it still feels wrong, you know? What age are these contestants going to be? Are they really not going to provide them with any essentials or are they going to work in a bit of food and shelter as they do in Survivor? I guess time will tell. I'm intrigued, but I'm also a tad worried. 

5. Before I get to the YA book rec of the week, I should say that this will be my final Friday5 before the holidays. Everybody needs a little vacation, and being a stay at home mom for the duration of 2012 means I haven't really had a vacation all year. So a mini blog-vacation is in order.
And speaking of not-relaxing, the blog-vacation is necessary because I now have a daughter with a December birthday, plus two Christmases, plus etc etc. It's a busy time of year, yo!
Rather than rec a new release, I'm going to be all seasonal and recommend an older holiday read for you to cuddle up by the fire with--Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle:

"Come take a bite of my forbidden apple, uh, I mean, present..."
The cover is a little Twilight-y for my taste, but hey, it was 2008. I get it. (Side note: apparently this happened.) Ideal YA holiday reads pretty much have to be contemporary romance, which, as I've said, I don't read a ton of, but it's the holidays, and if you want a feel-good read, you can't have zombies or shapeshifters gumming up the works. I don't think I need to tell you how superbly talented the above three writers are. Their other works speak for themselves. And if you like your sappy holiday cheer in small doses, a collection of shorter fiction is just what the Santa ordered:
Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses. (Summary from
Okay, that was cheesy. Ugh. Don't you secretly love it, though? ;) 

So that's it for now. I'll be back with a regular Monday post on December 31st and then the Friday5 will return in January. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, filled with good food and loving company, regardless of what/how you celebrate. Until the (almost) near year! :)

the writer's arsenal: revision--because seeing it once isn't enough

There are a lot of blogs covering the topic of revisions at the moment. It makes sense given that December is usually when writers who completed a novel in November are either adding on (since 50k is a little shy of a proper novel, MG and some YA aside) or fixing up the ramble-fest they  created during the feverdream that is NaNoWriMo.

I'm not going to retread too much on what's already been said. In fact, there's an excellent rundown of revision tips over at the YA Highway with advice from several reputable agents. Oh, and they've got another great post here. And here.

But I do have a few thoughts on revisions that I'd like to share. These are from personal experience, both revising my own work and going through the editing process on the work of others. Take what you will from them.

It's time to get our revise-on!


The word itself is thrown around easily, like so many other writing terms. Plotting. Character Motivation. Conflict. But we rarely think of it in its basic sense. Re-vision. You had a vision (your story idea) and you ran with it. Now you're going to go back and take a second look, with a fresh set of eyes. At some point in your revision process, the fresh set of eyes will be an older and wiser version of yourself. At another point, they should be an actual fresh set of eyes (as in, not you; as in, somebody who can read your work critically and give you valuable feedback, which you'll take to heart---and we'll cover in a future post). Regardless of whose eyes are on the page, the experience needs to be an actual re-vision of your original idea. What's here that shouldn't be? What's missing? Well-crafted stories don't just arrive that way, straight out the gate. They need to be revisited, they need to be rethought. Sometimes you can't see the problems in what you've written until after it's all there, teetering unsteadily on a plot that needs to be tightened. To revise is to take a look at your story as a whole and figure out which parts should look differently than they do.

Never Marry an Idea on the First Date

Stories are living things. At least, stories that are still being written are. They grow, they change, and this is a good thing. Sometimes we become attached to our initial plot developments/characters/scene ideas and we cling to them desperately, even when we realize something's not working. There's a little voice in our head suddenly telling us things would make more sense if we headed in a different direction, one that wasn't part of our initial outline. That little voice is your inner-reader. That little voice shouldn't be ignored. It knows from experience what good stories should be. Sometimes it's heartbreaking to give up on a plot thread you deemed brilliant back when you first thought of it, but if that plot thread no longer fits now that your story has taken shape, it needs to go. You shouldn't hang onto something just because it was part of your initial plan. As people grow, their needs change. This is true of stories too. The first 10k of a story has very different needs than a finished first draft. The finished first draft needs you to let go of those early ideas that no longer have a place. Don't leave them in just because they're familiar. They're novel writing baggage. They need to be dumped.

The Voice, The Habits and The Ugly

I've written before about how characters will take on a voice--a life--of their own if you let them. The more you write, the more fully formed they become. They start telling you how they'd react to a given situation. Their voices become authentic, unique, and their dialogue flows because you know just what they'd say. It's a wonderful thing when this happens, both as a writer and a reader. It makes your characters real. When you're revising, it's important to remember that the character you eventually found a voice for, didn't necessarily have such a strong personality from the start. Think of the beginning of your book like it's the pilot episode of a TV series (you know, that initial episode you go back and re-watch and it feels awkward because none of the characters you've come to know and love are really acting like the characters you've come to know and love). The beginning of a story doesn't know what the end of the story knows. You have to go back and inform it. It's very important to revisit the start and work heavily on those first several chapters. That's where your writing will be its weakest. Back before you hit your stride. Put a lot of focus on them and help the voice to be consistent all the way through. Working extra hard on tightening up the first third of your book is all the practice you'll need to tidy up the rest :)

The downside of honing your voice as you write is that you can also fall into bad habits. This is where you start to see word repetition. All writers have favourite words and expressions that they use a lot. It's part of your voice and your style, but it's also a problem if it gets out of hand. Keep an eye out for frequently repeating words or overused phrases. Change them up, switch them out or just plain cut them. The writing will flow once these stumbling blocks are gone. Voice is good. Style is good. But variety needs to exist within these things.

A Few Good Tips

Every writer's revision habits are different. You need to find what works best for you. But here are a few extra pointers to get you started:

  • Keep an open mind. This is a process. As long as you keep a clear head and have a passion for your story, nothing you do to it will make it worse. Embrace change as you recognize the need for it. It's work, but it's worth it.
  • Computer screens can make you crazy. If you revise on screen, be sure to take plenty of breaks and rest your eyes. And use track changes. The last thing you want to do is delete chunks you later decide you need back. I make an effort to be as environmentally friendly as possible, but a lot of the time, I can't do a proper revision unless I do it on paper. I see things on a page that I don't see on a screen. This seems to work for a lot of writers. If you plan to revise on hard-copy, use recycled paper to print on and recycle it once more when you're finished (front and back).
  • Tackle it in waves. Your first read-through should be for big picture problems--plot holes, pacing issues, inconsistencies. Tidy up the soul of your book, then go for the body, the meat. The second read can be for typos, grammar, spelling and those sentences that suddenly don't sound so good when you read them out loud. Then do a third read to check your changes. At this point, it should seem much improved and it's probably time to have someone else take a look, to see what issues they can catch.
  • Question everything you've written. Are the characters consistent in their behavior? Do their motivations make sense? Does the timeline make sense? Does the plot flow well? Is there too much exposition? Are you telling instead of showing? Are there parts that drag? How soon into the story does the reader care about the protagonist/plot? (Hint: it should be the first page) Is there enough conflict to keep things interesting? If there's world building, have you kept to the specific rules of the world you've created? Are there any side characters who really don't need to be there? Does every scene drive the story forward? Does every side plot serve a purpose?
  • Save your drafts as different files. This will allow you to revisit that previously mentioned novel writing baggage should you miss it and it'll make it easier for you to move on, knowing it's still somewhere (sure, it's not part of the final draft, but who says you can't still keep it around, like that ex-boyfriend shoebox in your closet, full of letters and mementos). It will also save you a huge headache if you need to recall something you removed in a later draft. And hey, should your novel be published, you've potentially got deleted scenes to share!
  • Finally, take your time. This isn't a race. I know I'm always anxious to reach that finish line, but rushing through the revision process will only leave you with a manuscript that's weaker than it could be if you took the time to nail it down. Take some time away from your manuscript. Let it simmer. Let it breathe. Think about what you've written, your characters, and what they might do in situations outside your story (it will help you to get to know them better, and sometimes they might tell you if something is missing from your novel). 

As I've mentioned, I'm still not finished the first draft of my NaNo novel, in fact, I haven't even looked at it since the last week of November. I've had a very busy past week and the one coming up looks even busier. I know I'll get around to it, and I know I'll eventually be working on revisions. For now, it's kind of nice to be thinking about it without actively working on it. I'm letting everything that I wrote in November settle and I know when I return to it in a week or so, I'll be ready to see it in a different light. Hopefully, my vision for it will be stronger and I can take it places I never imagined back when I started.

What does your revision process look like? Do you have any specific revision habits that work for you?

friday5 for December 7, 2012

1. I almost fell out of my chair when I saw these pictures of a Freaks and Geeks reunion. Thank you Vanity Fair for making this happen! Freaks and Geeks is a series that is firmly on my list of shows that never should have been cancelled. Of course, most of the cast and crew has since gone on to do wonderful things (as we knew they would), which is probably part of the reason why VF thought a reunion would be worth their while, but it's so great to see them all back in their F&G personas. I have to say, the actors who played Cindy and Bill are the most surprising changes, but that may be because neither has been on my radar in a while, while Rogan, Segel, Franco and Daley all have. VF also has a bonus gallery of unseen photos from back when the show was being filmed and they are definitely also worth a look.  Ah, memories!

2. Okay, I know I just talked about Catching Fire filming in last week's Friday5, but they're currently filming in Hawaii and lots of great pics are coming out! This post over at Hypable has a good round up of the photos coming in (plus I'm pleased to see J.Hutch--isthatathing?--looking good without looking over-the-top beefy. He just looks like a normal guy, which I approve of!). I'm currently on the fence about Jena Malone's Johanna look. Not how I pictured her, but I am totally on board with Jena as Johanna so I can overlook her hair. I came to love Woody as Haymitch and Lenny as Cinna despite them not being how I pictured those characters. The photos can keep coming! They are only making me more excited for this film! And only partially because I miss Hawaii :)

3. The holiday season is upon us! (Though my brain is still in denial. Seriously. Part way into the Christmas episode of The Office last night, I thought, But why are they showing this sooooo early? Oh wait.. it's December....) I just have to give a nod to all those classic holiday shows/movies that are popping up, as they always do (and some new ones too--I think I've seen the Bubble Guppies Christmas episode about eight million times already). I personally make a point of always watching Rudolph, ideally with a side of holiday food and drink. It's my required holiday viewing. I mean really, who doesn't love Hermey? Dude is P.I.M.P. Plus, you know he's gonna be knee deep in ladies one day, being a singing dentist and all. Kidding aside, watching Rudolph has become a holiday tradition for me, as I'm sure it has for many others, and this year, I'm going to watch it with Emmeline, bringing her into the tradition as well. I feel like now is the time to start thinking about future traditions that I can start with her now. Have you got any holiday traditions on the go? Are you planning to create any new ones this year?

4. Are you excited for The Hobbit? Yeah, you are. Who wouldn't be? Hobbits are highly entertaining. Also highly entertaining: The Hobbit actors posing with the Lego versions of their characters! I get the impression this film is going to be a lot, uh, hairier, than the Lord of the Rings films. As it should be! I think Ian McKellen is my favourite photo of the lot. He looks a little like he can't figure out how he's holding a tiny version of himself. Cute.

5. I have a terrible confession to make. I love Pretty Little Liars (this is no secret). It's a guilty pleasure like whoa. But I haven't read a single one of the books. I know. It's bad. I plan to remedy that one of these days. I swear. If they're anywhere near as compulsive as the show is, I know I'll heart them, I just haven't gotten around to them yet. Honestly, the more books come out, the more daunting the whole thing seems, but I will get on it some day soon, and then I'll fly through them and cry when I finally find myself in waiting mode like everybody else. Anyway, if you've been a good little liar fan, and are all caught up, book #12 (yes, 12), titled Burned came out this week and while I haven't read #1-11, I have adored their covers from afar. The doll thing is just so eye-catching and fun:
pretty little swirly doll
I don't even know which liar is on the cover because one thing I do know about the books is that the girls look different from the way they were cast on the show. (But I'm guessing... Aria? Okay, that was totally based on what Lucy Hale looks like...)

Spoiler-alert for those who haven't read the books (like me) unless you don't mind a little spoiler here or there (like me):

It's spring break, and the pretty little liars are trading in Rosewood for a cruise vacation. They want nothing more than to sail into the tropical sunset and leave their troubles behind for one blissful week. But where Emily, Aria, Spencer, and Hanna go, A goes, too. From scuba diving to tanning on the upper deck, A is there, soaking up all their new secrets.
Emily is smooching a stowaway. Aria's treasure-hunting partner is a little too interested in her booty. Spencer's going overboard trying to land a new boy. And a blast—or rather, a crash—from Hanna's past could mean rough waters ahead for everyone.
The liars better tighten their life jackets. A perfect storm is brewing, and if they aren't careful, A will bury them at sea. . . (Summary from
Yeah, I need to read these books ASAP. Aria is treasure-hunting, people. Treasure-hunting! And there's a booty pun! I can't... I just can't....

It also occurs to me that January is just around the corner, which means the show will be back, and so will the Pretty Little Recap! Hooray! 

Side note: at first, I wrote "Aria is treasure hunting people" without the comma. Heh. Yet another example of how punctuation can completely change the meaning of a sentence.

Above and beyond the 5, I want to wrap things up with a shout out: a good friend of mine recently started a beauty blog, Beauty Junket, and she is seriously rocking it! Not only does the site look a-mazing, but the posts are fun, informative, and accessible. Beauty Junket is a beauty blog for those of us who want to read about lovely things and get actual useable tips without feeling like we're being talked down to. If you're still doing your holiday shopping, it's also a great place to stock up on great gift ideas :) Please take a moment and check it out, and then follow them on twitter @beautyjunket 

nanowrimo debrief

Since this is a debrief, I'll try to be brief (heh heh heh). NaNoWriMo was a lot of fun, even if I didn't win (and no, in case you've missed my NaNo posts throughout the month, as predicted, I did not hit that 50k mark before the month was through).

Here's what I did manage: 33, 415 words.

My goal was 30-32k, which is half of my ultimate word count goal for Skin Deep, the novel I've been working on. So first off, yay! I made my personal goal!

Here's how my month looks in chart form:

There are definitely some plateaus, especially at the end. I had a very busy November 29th and 30th and managed zero words as the clock counted down. But I'm okay with that. I hit my personal goal earlier in the week and everything I wrote after that was just icing on the word-cake.

I feel very accomplished, even though I didn't "win" NaNo. I know I wasn't giving it my all, so to have written half a book (that I'm thrilled with so far!) in a month, without pushing myself too much, feels pretty damn good. I'm very happy with what I've written and even happier with where it's going.

So then what happens now? While some people will spend December revising, I will spend it continuing to write, though I can tell you right now, I'll be putting even less effort into it. It's not that I'm not excited about the book or don't care to finish it. Quite the opposite is true. The issue is that I'm entering my last month of mat leave, which just happens to also be one of the busiest months of the year anyway. I have a big list of non-writing things I'd like to accomplish this month and those will be stealing the focus away for a while (bathroom reno, anyone??). That said, I will keep writing when I can, when I have those moments when I just have to write. I think I'll manage to carve out another good chunk (maybe even another 25%) of the book before the new year, but I'm not going to let it rule my time at this point. It just doesn't make sense with everything else that's going on. Come January, I'm sure I'll dive right back into those lunch-hour writing sessions I plowed through before I went on mat leave, when I was still working on Unnatural. And hopefully it won't be long before I'm revising. I'm not worried. In fact, NaNo pushed me to get going on a book I'm now rather excited about. Word count aside, I'm feeling pretty victorious :)

How did NaNoWriMo 2012 go for you? Did you make it to 50k? Are you going to keep writing? A post on the revision process is coming your way in the near future so stay tuned!

the next big thing blog tour

Friend and agent-mate Wende Dikec recently tagged me in her addition to the Next Big Thing blog series, where she answered ten questions about her current work-in-progress. Now I've been charged with the same task, though task isn't quite the right word as I'm quite excited to talk a bit more about Unnatural, the book that changed everything for me, and landed me my uber-fantastic agent, Marlene. I've also tagged a few more writer friends below to invite them to join the current project fun. So please visit their blogs in the following weeks to see what they're up to as well! If anyone else would like to join, please feel free to link to your blog in the comments. It's a share-a-palooza!

(I'm re-wording some of the sentence structure in these questions because it's driving me crazy, but the questions are the same ones making the rounds.)

What is the working title of your book?

The original working title was Unnatural Disaster, but we nixed the "Disaster" and now it's just called Unnatural. Who knows if it will change again, but I think Unnatural really captures the essence of what's happening in the book.

Where did the idea for your book come from?

I'd been wanting to write a "monster in the house" style book for a while, ie: one wherein the bulk of the story takes place in an isolated setting where the characters are forced to face their circumstances without escape or intervention. For a lot of people that means murder mystery or literal monster story, but for me that means outdoorsy survival tale.

The magic element came one day when I was thinking about the Filch character in the Harry Potter series. A lot of focus in the series was placed on muggle borns, (especially since our girl, Hermione, was one) and the ensuing persecution they had to suffer, but we didn't get nearly as much on the squibs--those born without powers in a magical world. Filch was the only squib we really got to see up close, and aside from providing the role of the crotchety old man with a well-hidden heart of gold, we never really got too deep into Filch. The question that I found myself asking was, what was it like for him growing up without powers? What would that look like? What would it be like to be a teenager without powers in a world where everyone else has them? And what if society wouldn't stand for it? The idea for Unnatural started to form from there.

What genre does your book fall under?

Young Adult Paranormal/Fantasy with some dystopian themes. 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I never picture a movie actor playing my protagonist when I'm writing. Other characters, sure. But my protagonist is always just this amorphous person in my brain. Still, I'll give it a shot. Here are the main three (I may do a longer post one day where I dream-cast the others as well):

Let's start with Ren. Ren is attractive, but he's no pretty boy. It's hard to think of a young actor these days who isn't a pretty boy, but I think a lighter-haired Steven R. McQueen could pull it off, or Lachlan Buchanan, who I'm not that familiar with, but he definitely has the right look in his IMDB photo:
Ren probably wouldn't be wearing a suit...

For Caden, I always pictured a Taylor Kitsch type because he defines swoonworthy to me, but since Taylor is starting to look a little more mature (I say mature and not old because he's the same age as I am...), I would have to cast Tyler Blackburn, who I've thought of as mini-Kitsch or Kitsch-lite since his adorable Riggins-esque face first appeared on Pretty Little Liars--though it would have to be a rugged-looking Tyler, not the fresh-faced Tyler we often see in magazines:

Looking especially Kitsch-y

And finally, Ember, who I'm going to have to figure out right here on the spot because, as I said above, I never really picture her as anyone but this voice in my head. The easy answer is that I'd want an unknown actress to play her, and that would probably also be the truth, but since we're getting visual, I picture her as having a look similar to Melissa Benoist. The Glee-newcomer definitely has the deer-in-the-headlights meets girl-next-door look of Ember, but she also looks like she's capable of going somewhere darker, messier, which would also be required of the character. She's a women of many hats.
Not wearing any hats here

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I don't do one sentence well :) But here goes: Unnatural is the story of a girl facing a harsh fate, having grown up powerless in a world where everyone must be able to do magic.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Unnatural is represented by The Stringer Literary Agency.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Much longer than it would have if I didn't have a baby in the middle of it. Writing time was about four months, but overall, drawn-out time was over a year. Being on mat leave has taught me that I can write much faster than that :)

What other books would you compare your story to within your genre?

In terms of the types of challenges the characters face, I'd compare it to something like Delirium or Divergent, where the protagonists find themselves singled out from the societal norm, only to discover that the societal norm has some severe flaws. But it's not a great comparison because Unnatural has magic (MAGIC!).
While querying, I had a few agents compare it to The Hunger Games, which is certainly flattering, though I don't think they're actually that similar. It's an easy comparison because the bulk of the action takes place in a outdoors setting and like all novels with dystopian themes, there's societal oppression to deal with. But here's how I replied to the comparison whenever I was asked about it:
-->Both novels can easily be categorized as “monster in the house” style narratives with the bulk of the action taking place in an isolated setting, but while The Hunger Games explores themes of extreme class systems, voyeuristic culture, reality television, the realities of war, etc, Unnatural Disaster deals with a group of teens who are working together to survive a trial by magic and certainly aren’t in opposition the way the tributes of The Hunger Games are. It’s about a girl who should have powers, coming into her own as she suffers the harsh standards her world is built upon.  Where Katniss is a champion, Ember is a fledgling, unwittingly forced to prove she deserves a place in the magical society she was born into.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As I mentioned above, there was definitely a moment where I was inspired by the question, "What if Filch was a teenage girl?", but when I started in on Unnatural, I was querying my first book, Chameleon, and I was looking for something exciting and fresh to distract me from the process. It's strange to say, but as the mix of requests and rejections came in, I started to feel urgently accountable for my potential to succeed as a published author. Moreso than I ever had before. It sunk in that "if this doesn't work out, I NEED a next book" and that made me feel very inspired and excited to get going on Unnatural.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

One of my goals with Unnatural was to avoid a drawn-out intro. It hits the ground running and takes you on a roller coaster ride. Even when it's quiet, it's kicking and screaming inside. There's plenty of action and romance (this is not your typical torn love triangle) and enough twists to keep the roller coaster flying. It's a lot of fun, and yet, there are scenes that absolutely broke my heart to write. I'm immensely proud of it, and I hope I'll be in a position to share it with you all one day.

And now it's time for some tagging action! Check out these other awesome authors, who will soon be posting on what they've got on the go:
Sarah Schauerte
at SarahWillAlwaysWrite
Shari Maurer, author of Change of Heart

I'll be back tomorrow with a one-off Tuesday post about my NaNo results and where they leave me heading into December!