Tag Archives: writing young adult

SPARK by Book Country Member Atthys Gage: On Sale Today!

Posted by December 17th, 2014

SPARK by Atthys GageCongratulations to longtime Book Country member Atthys Gage! His debut YA novel, SPARK, was originally workshopped on Book Country, and came out today from Lycaon Press.

Lucy Silag: Tell us about your first “spark” of the idea for SPARK. How did that idea grow and change over time and drafts?

Atthys Gage: It’s hard for me to pinpoint, but there is a persistent image that I associate with SPARK: someone is walking past a vacant lot; there are a couple of homeless types standing around a big metal drum, warming themselves on the scrap-wood fire lit within; sparks fly upward. The only thing is, that scene doesn’t appear in the book and never did in any version. It is, apparently, a sort of catalyst scene. Like an enzyme, it allowed the process of writing the book to take place but wasn’t consumed in the process.

LS: What has surprised you most about the experience of taking your book from an idea to a finished product?

AG: I was struck by how my own feelings changed as we neared the end. At first I was willing to fight for every little thing. Or, if not fight, then endlessly agonize over how to fix something that wasn’t quite right. By the end, I was more likely to just eliminate the problematic passage with a sweep of the blue pencil. It’s almost as though the book itself was so ready to be done and out in the world that it began resisting my efforts to fix it anymore. I’d reach out to straighten a clause or rub out a questionable comma, and it would slap my hand away like a moody teenager. Just leave it alone! Go away! I honestly think the poor thing was tired of all the attention. Continue reading

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Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Atthys Gage

Posted by May 20th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

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The light is dim sometimes, and you can only see a little bit of the path ahead.  –Atthys Gage

Atthys Gage has been writing novels for the last seven years while living on the North Coast of California amid dogs, kids, redwood trees, and one long-suffering wife. He’s been a member of Book Country for about two years. The current tally is four and a half novels, a memoir about adopting a child from China, and a handful of shorter works.  

Nevena: Thanks for chatting with me, Atthys. When did you start writing? What inspires you to carry on?

Atthys: Seven years ago I decided to try writing a book.  It was an out of the blue “I wonder if I can do it?” kind of challenge. It turned out I could. I wrote it all in long hand in a couple of spiral-bound notebooks before I even touched the word processor. Since then, I’ve had the bug.

Nevena: Is fitting writing into your life a juggling act?

Atthys: My wife works full-time (and then some), so I’ve got a house to run and three teenage kids to mismanage. But I get a few hours to myself nearly every day. Unfortunately, I’m a hopeless procrastinator, so most of that time gets wasted on a lot of nonsense, but I have no one to blame for that but myself. And the Internet.

Nevena: Haha, don’t we all… What’s your writing process like? Do you plot extensively or let the characters lead the way?

Atthys: I need to have a pretty good outline, but I’m always open to change. The light is dim sometimes, and you can only see a little bit of the path ahead. Once in a while, a character you thought was just a walk-on will force her way center stage and start grabbing all the good lines. When that happens, I try to get out of her way.

Nevena: The muse takes over! You’ve posted three fantasy books on Book Country. What is it about the genre’s tropes and conventions that speaks to you as a story-teller?

Atthys: Actually, I’m not all that fond of traditional fantasy. I am attracted to books where extraordinary or unexplained things happen. I like the tension, the way the various layers of reality rub against each other. Everyday life, of course, can be just as weird, just as beautiful, just as fantastic as the wildest otherworldly fantasy. It’s all about the writing. And those impossible, unexplainable elements, I try to write them just the same, always anchoring the magical in pure, vivid realism.

Nevena: What’s your “pet” project at the moment?

Atthys: I guess the book I’m most passionate and hopeful about at the moment is The Flight of the Wren.  It’s the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who is given a flying carpet. Yeah. That’s the nutshell version. My formal pitch is a lot more exciting than that, but ultimately I think I lose a lot of readers with the words ‘flying carpet.’ Probably they are expecting something like a Magic Treehouse adventure and a lot of mucking around with Aladdin and his monkey.

Of course, it’s nothing like that. The protagonist is painfully ordinary—disaffected, disconnected, utterly disinterested in school, family, even friends. She is, in short, a typical teenage mess. She has no special powers, no special insights, not even a belief in herself. Because I am a benevolent (if inscrutable) god, I toss her a lifeline. A gift. An impossible gift: a magic carpet. But there are strings attached. With it comes both a community (other members of her flock) and a purpose, a mission.

Love, of course, also waits in the wind. Love is what drives everything that happens in the second half of the book. A flying carpet, once you get past the absurdity, really is a heck of a gift.  It represents two extremely valuable things for a young person: freedom and independence. For Renny, it also comes to represent two things she thought she didn’t want but which turn out to be a lot more important than flying: connection and responsibility. In other words, people she cares about.

Nevena: Which part of that book was the most challenging to write, and how did you handle it?

Atthys: Not to downplay the agony of creation, but the hardest part has been trying to get the book read and published, though I guess I have myself to blame for that one too.  All of the most cherished and repeated advice from agents and marketing people—make your book high-concept, write to a target audience, know your genre—I’ve failed at all of those things! My books don’t sit comfortably in any particular genre. I can’t even identify an appropriate age group.  I call my stuff YA because it concerns younger people as characters, but I don’t tailor my writing to that audience. Understand, I’m not saying I won’t. I’m saying I can’t. I admire the discipline that would be needed to write well within the constraints of a traditional genre, but I don’t seem to possess it.

Nevena: You’ve reviewed quite a few books on the site. How do you switch gears from writing fiction to reviewing it? Does reviewing change the way you see your own writing?

Atthys: I love reviewing, partly because I love the editing process. The whole process of vetting and re-vetting every combination of words appeals to my obsessive compulsive nature. I’m afraid it makes me a pushy sort of reviewer, but I find rewriting a lot easier than trying to explain in abstract terms why something isn’t working for me. I don’t know if it helps the original writer, but I think going through that process makes me a better writer. Of course there are lots of terrific writers on Book Country who need no help from anyone, and reading good writing is the best learning experience of all.

Nevena: So why are you on Book Country?

Atthys: Colleen and I go way back. We worked at the same brick-and-mortar bookstore back when such things were common. Fast forward twenty years. I’m querying agents for my first book and I see her name. We reconnect. She almost represents my book, then chickens out.

Needless to say, I’ve never quite forgiven her for that, but we stayed connected. When she started posting about this site, I decided to check it out.

Nevena: Haha. Is there anything else you want to share with the Book Country peeps?

Atthys: Eat well. Get plenty of rest. Go outside once in a while. You’re all welcome take my advice because I’m not using it.

Nevena: You’re a funny one. Hope Renny finds a home soon!

Connect with Atthys on Book Country and give Flight of the Wren a read. Follow him on Twitter at @AtthysGage.

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Meet Writer Danielle Bowers

Posted by May 6th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

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“Learning to ignore the doubt and continue on has been the hardest lesson.” –Danielle Bowers

Danielle Bowers is a young adult writer and photographer from the Boston area. She’s currently putting the finishing touches on her debut YA fantasy novel, Salem. She’s known around Book Country for her creative analogies. Take Danielle’s dead-on assessment of Fifty Shades of Grey’s protagonist: “Christian Grey has more issues than National Geographic Magazine.”

Nevena: Thanks for joining us, Danielle. Let’s start with the basics. When did you start writing? What inspires you to carry on?

Danielle: I began writing three years ago this August, which makes me a newbie in the literary world. What has kept me going is the knowledge that writing is a constant learning process, and some day my ability will catch up with my ambition. That day will come if I keep writing.

Nevena: How do you manage to fit writing into your life? I’ve seen your beautiful photographs. What else do you do when you’re not plugging at your WIP?

Danielle: With two children, a husband, and work to consider, making time to write can be a juggling act. I learned early on that scheduling time to write is crucial. Too many people say they would write a book if they had the time. I don’t have spare time. I make time.  In the evenings when my husband is watching television, I’m writing. If I’m at a concert and waiting to be called to photograph, I’m writing. If my kids are occupied coloring for a few minutes, I’m writing.

One of the things I do when I’m not writing is photography, as you noticed. It’s a form of storytelling in of itself. My job is to capture the moment, to show the viewer the story without saying a word. Writing and photography mesh well as hobbies/careers, and what I see on the road becomes material for my books.

I also blog, write articles, treatments for comic books and film, and manage the social media accounts for a couple of businesses.

Nevena: You seem to have a lot on your plate. Let’s talk more about your book, Salem. It’s set in Salem, Massachusetts and is rooted in the history and lore of the Salem Witch Trials. What drew you to that moment in history?

Danielle: I live close to Salem, and as a history buff I couldn’t help but be drawn to the lore. When I found out that it wasn’t just Salem that held witch trials I was fascinated.  For two hundred years across several countries and continents, there were similar witch trials. Close to 10,000 people accused of witchcraft were killed during that time. It wasn’t a stretch to wonder what would’ve happened if there really were witches involved.

Nevena: Liam, Salem’s protagonist, is a young witch who flees Scotland to escape the Brotherhood, aka the bad guys. How did Liam’s story come to you?

Danielle: The entire idea came to me when I saw a runner out on a winter day. He stopped at a light, steam rising off his skin. The idea of magic being shed like body heat clicked, and my imagination took it from there. Liam’s personal storyline within Salem came to me slowly.  I wanted to show the reader both sides of the war between the witches and the witch hunters. The best way to do so was to have Liam born into The Brotherhood and have “the brothers” turn on him.

Nevena: How has the novel changed over time?

Danielle: I wrote the first version of Salem two years ago. It was simpler, like a plain white t-shirt compared to an expensive sweater. With every rewrite I’ve gotten to know the characters better, added nuances and depth. Several characters have been cut and the remaining ones refined. The core storyline has matured with time, and I’m finally happy with how Salem has turned out.

I’ve learned the proverbial mid-book slump is nothing compared to the revision blues. The book is finished, and now you have the job of making it readable. You read it and become convinced it’s the worst book ever written and you’re wasting your time. Learning to ignore the doubt and continue on has been the hardest lesson.

Nevena
: What achievements are you most proud of as a writer?

Danielle: The blog I kept on Rolling Stone Magazine’s website. The magazine wanted to do an Almost Famous type trip, and I was chosen to follow a country music tour to photograph and blog. It was a mess: I wrote in the back of vans, at concerts, in bars, and even at five star restaurants while we were on the road, but I did it. Seeing my name in the magazine with a page dedicated to the trip was unreal.

Nevena: Wow! So why are you on Book Country? How has it helped you grow as a writer?

Danielle: I found out about Book Country from Colleen Lindsay on Twitter. She was looking for beta fish to test the site, and I signed up. At that time, I was a brand new writer and I was terrible. That is no joke, if there was a mistake to be made, I was doing it. Without Book Country and the friends I made here while getting started, I would have become frustrated and given up within a year. In almost every review there was praise for what I was doing right, and advice to correct what I was doing wrong. It was like having a coach giving pep talks and a cheerleading squad on the sidelines cheering me on.

Nevena: I like that imagery! What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Danielle: When I first started writing I would draft a few chapters, then agonize over them for weeks. Finally, someone on Book Country told me to finish writing the book and then edit.

Three chapters aren’t an entire story, so finish it before editing because you’ll make hundreds of changes to the story over the course of the book.

Nevena: So keep focused on the big picture. Is there anything else you want the community to know about you?

Danielle: I think putting raisins in cookies should be a criminal offense.

Nevena: LOL! Thanks for chatting with me, Danielle!

Connect with Danielle Bowers on Book Country and follow her on Twitter @DanielleEBowers. If you want to know what happens when witches fight back their inquisitors, check out her novel, Salem.

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