Monday, August 9, 2010

Interview with Brenna Yovanoff!

You guys. Guess what?
(And you don't get to answer if you read the post title. So, actually, just don't answer. I'll do it for you.)
I got an interview with Brenna Yovanoff. Do you know how loud I squealed when she said yes? No? Well, good. You might be under the impression I still have some dignity. 
I don't think you can describe how awesome her book looks, and because I don't want to mess it up, I'm going to let Amazon do it for me. 

The Replacement

Mackie Doyle seems like everyone else in the perfect little town of Gentry, but he is living with a fatal secret - he is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now the creatures under the hill want him back, and Mackie must decide where he really belongs and what he really wants.

A month ago, Mackie might have told them to buzz off. But now, with a budding relationship with tough, wounded, beautiful Tate, Mackie has too much to lose. Will love finally make him worthy of the human world?

-swoons- Just look at that cover!
Okay, and because I'm a freak and now can't say anything more coherent (other than YAY I'M SO EXCITED) I'm just going to put the interview. I, ahem, got a little carried away with the amount of questions. 

If you had to pick five words to describe The Replacement, what would they be?

Sweet, Strange, Dark, Gruesome, Rainy. 

What was the road from the first time you started to write The Replacement to the publishing contract like?

Well, the journey was a long one, for sure!  I wrote three drafts of a manuscript I was calling FE, which I thought was massively clever (iron, faeries—what? I like puns.).  The only problem was, no one knew what the title meant or how to pronounce it.  Well, not the *only* problem.  There were plenty of issues with that manuscript aside from the title, but I was fortunate enough to snag an agent despite the fact that the book needed work.  Basically my agent, Sarah Davies, is an editorial powerhouse.  She saw something she liked and thought we could probably salvage a story out of it.

Right after accepting representation, I plunged into a pretty significant rewrite, which was probably the scariest part of the whole process, knowing that I had a lot of work ahead of me, but that nothing was guaranteed.  I was actually kind of shocked when I got to the end of this big revision and Sarah was like, well this looks good, let's send it out!  I'd done so much work on it and gotten so used to constantly being in the middle of it that I was caught by surprise when the actual publishing contract happened fairly quickly.

What's the scariest part of getting published? The most amazing, fantabulous, squee worthy thing?

The scariest thing is definitely knowing that once the book is out there . . . it's out there.  Strangers are going to be reading it and judging it and even if something isn't quite right, too late to fix it now!  There are a lot of squee-worthy things, but I have to say the one that never gets old or loses its glamor is my cover.  I love that eerie blue forest and its creepy little baby carriage like you wouldn't believe and I get a euphoric feeling every time I see it.
During the time you were getting ready for publication, did you ever fall into a dark spot and think that maybe, just maybe, this wouldn't work? How would suggest getting through that?

So far, I'd say that I've hit snags, but no pitfalls.  When I was in the middle of the what was basically a top-down rewrite for my agent, I worried a lot that the new version might still not be right, but there was nothing I could do except push forward and do the best I could.  Writing involves a huge amount of uncertainty and sometimes it's really hard to just be okay with that.  I try to focus on the task at hand and not think too far past that, because once you start thinking about exactly how much work is still ahead of you, it can be kind of paralyzing.

You co-author the blog the Merry Sisters of Fate with Maggie Stiefvater and Tessa Gratton. Can you tell us about that?

Oh wow, you have no idea how unassailably cool it is to have people ask about that!  We've been blogging at Merry Fates for about two years now, and it started as this fun thing we did together to chart our progress as writers and to let readers in on the process.

When we started, Maggie was under contract, but the book wasn't out yet, and neither Tess nor I had agents, but we'd kind of banded together as this critique group and one day, Maggie challenged us to start a fiction blog with her.  Back then, we each posted new stories every week, but with all of us working on novels pretty much all the time now, it seemed wise to scale it back.  Now we stick to new content once a week, whether it's a story, a contest, or one of our round-table chats. 

Okay, so you have some pretty amazzzinng critique partners in those two (Maggie Stiefvater and Tessa Gratton). What's the importance of having partners like the two of them? 

They talk about blood with me and never act like I might be dangerous? (Except sometimes.)  Seriously, I can't imagine going through the publishing process without them.  They make me work hard, and they restore my sanity, and when we get together in real life, we stay up late into the night, laughing like crazy people.

Writing can be long, lonely work and I think it's so important to have people to share the experience with—and it definitely helps if they have similar senses of humor and mutual love of each other's styles.

You've got a really, really cool cover. Did you have any say about it? 

Not anything coherent, certainly.  Any time people ask, I think I mostly sound like, HOLY BLEEP, I LOVE MY COVER!  When I met him in person, my editor, Ben Schrank at Razorbill, absolutely made my day by drawing cover concepts on the whiteboard.  As soon as he put marker to dry-erase board, I just knew that the final cover was going to be magnificent! 

What's your best memory from high school?

This is going to sound unbearably sappy, but . . . my friends, definitely.  I'm very lucky in the fact I'm still friends with a lot of the same people I was friends with in high school.  Even though we don't always see each other that often, it's great to be able to hang out with people you've known almost half your life and still just really enjoy—I wouldn't give them up for anything.

Someone sticks you on a deserted island and, because they freakishly cruel, they are only going to let you bring three books. (They gave you water and food and stuff too, though, so I guess they aren't all evil.) What three books do you bring?

Hmm, this is a tough one.  Because three is not that many.   I would bring the LITTLE FRIEND by Donna Tartt, JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL by Susanna Clarke, and IT by Stephen King.  This is not to say that these books are my all-time absolute favorites.  But I enjoy them and reread them often.  The things they have in common are length, large casts of interesting characters, and consistent reread value. I think these things are important if they're the only things you'll be reading for the rest of your life.

What advice would you give to a teenager who wants to be a writer? 
Write.  All the time.  Don't second-guess yourself and don't worry about whether you'll sound stupid, because sometimes you *will* sound stupid, but other times, you'll hit on something totally wonderful and surprising.  Also, learn to revise.  Writing is not perfect in its original form—it just isn't.  There's always a better way to say something, but it takes time to get good at seeing that in your own work.

Basically, if you want to write something publishable, don't worry too much about publishing at first—it will only slow you down.  Instead, keep reading, keep writing, and try new things.  Keep everything you write.  Sometimes it's hard to know exactly how much you've improved, but nothing makes improvement seem more obvious than looking at old work. 

Okay, I'm done harassing you. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I just want to say thanks for having me, Sam—and for asking such great questions! 

So, I'm pretty sure that was one of my favorite interviews like, ever. Including the ones I haven't done. And none of it is one me -- thank you Brenna, SO MUCH for this! 
You can look more at the Replacements here. (And pre-order it.) 
Okay, I'm done. 
More later!


Maggie said...

Brenna makes me want to tapdance on top of a mountain.
That's a good thing, by the way.

Oh, and she also makes me want to read her book even more than I already did. She seems so sweet, and her writing is amazing (that's just from reading her short stories!), and her cover CREEPS ME OUT IN THE MOST AMAZING WAY. :DD

I cannot wait for her book to come out!

Good questions Sam, and great answers Brenna!!

gina said...

Great interview! thanks! :)

Cipherqueen said...

FAE-tastic interview, ;)

Aspen said...

oooh I can't wait for that book! totally agree with Maggie, that cover is amazingly creepy in the best possible way