Thursday, September 6, 2012

Please Welcome Christine Hughes!


Never Too Old for YA Books and I would like to welcome Christine Hughes for an interview today!
Christine is author of this little beauty right here:

With the sudden, mysterious death of her father, Samantha discovers her life isn't what it seems. Not only isn't she the normal teenage girl she thought she was, Sam must now take her father's place in the fight between two groups of fallen angels, the Faithful and the Exiled, in a race to save humanity. In addition to dealing with a devastating betrayal--and having feelings for someone she's forbidden to love--Sam must also fight the growing darkness within her as she struggles to make a choice between fighting alongside the Faithful or succumbing to the temptation of the Exiled. Both sides require sacrifices Sam isn't sure she can make








And how let's get to know a little about Christine:

I’ve always wanted to write. Ever since I was little, I would craft stories and poems but the idea to actually do it “for real” never really crossed my mind until last year. After sitting on three paragraphs of what would eventually become my first novel, I decided to expand upon what I had. At the time I had no real idea of where the story would go, I just knew I had the time to do something with it.

I hadn’t researched market trends, I had no idea about query letters or the evil synopsis, and I was green on the idea of agents and editors and all that is publishing, really. I just wanted to write something I enjoyed. I didn’t plot, outline, or character build, I just wrote. And then an author friend mentioned that I should take my writing to a conference.

So with the confidence that my novel would surely be welcomed by all who read it, I signed up for as many seminars and critiques as I could. I knew someone would love it. In those two days, I found out I had a lot to learn.

Funny, but as a former English teacher, you’d think I’d have figured out the importance of editing and revision and revising again. You’d think I’d have known that the first draft is just that, a draft. And when the critiques started coming in, I thought I was done for. Not that the premise wasn’t good (I was told it was), not that the characters weren’t believable (I was told they were), but I used too much passive voice, I tense shifted and there were some holes in the plotline.

A few agents really liked it, but the market trend couldn’t support it. Some were not fond of the way I told the story. I queried and queried my way to 57 flat out rejections and a number of partial and full requests that didn’t pan out. But along the way I got some great criticism and pointers and I made the story better. Then, on a whim, I trolled the SavvyAuthors website and signed up for a three line pitch to editor Lauri Wellington and I did a happy dance when she requested my full manuscript.

A month later, she responded that she loved the story and the concept but it moved too slowly but I could resubmit if I revised. I informed her I sent her a revision that was based on the opinions of agents, authors and peers but I had the original (cleaned up, of course) and I was sending it in to see if it was more of what she was looking for. And guess what? It was! One caveat, I had to revise the manuscript into past tense. Easy peasy, right? Wrong.

Revising into past tense from present is line editing your entire novel. And it kinda stinks. By the end, I thought my eyes were gonna start bleeding and pop out onto my keyboard. But you know what? That little “exercise” tightened up what was loose, filled in any plot holes that might’ve still been there and forced me to realize I could be a better writer.

The road to publication can be long. It can be a hop, skip and a jump from your first query. Nothing in publication is set in stone. The market is always changing. And the biggest thing I learned is that it’s all subjective. Agents A-Y may pass but all you need is Agent or Editor Z to believe in you as much as you believe in yourself. And I believe in my first novel. And I am happy that Black Opal Books does too. I hope you do, as well.

Wow, Christine, that's a great story. If you would like to hear more about what Christine has to say, you can follow her at the links below:

Now let's all sit back and hear what Christine had to say to us in her interview.

1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? 
I've known I loved to write for a very long time. I'd always imagined writing for a living but I did nt' really know I wanted to be a writer until I started writing TORN in 2010

2. How long does it take you to write a book? 
Depends. TORN took almost a year, the next one coming out (Three Days of Rain) took less than 6 months and I am halfway finished with the sequel to TORN in less than 8 weeks.

3. What do you think makes a great story?
I think the ability to transport me away is the cornerstone of a great story. I was swept away, with many others, when I read Harry Potter. I was running with Guy Montag in Fahrenheit 451. Pull me away from the world and have the ability to evoke emotion. I just read My Emily by Matt Patterson and cried almost the whole way through. I read The Art of Racing in the Rain and was a mess. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult also resonated with me. I read it when I was teaching - so scary. 

4. What is your work schedule like when you're writing? 

I generally write very early in the morning, generally around 5am is when I get up. I write for a few hours consistently then write sporadically or not at all the rest of the day. 

5. How do you balance family and writing?

It is difficult, especially now that it's summer and my tow boys are home with me. I try to balance by writing early and closing the laptop for a bit when my husband first gets home from work so I'm not distracted.

6. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books? 
Mostly form songs. All I Need by Within Temptation inspired the story behind TORN, as Beautiful Lie by 30 Seconds to Mars inspired a relationship between the main character, Samantha and a new character, Damien, in the sequel. A song titled Three Days of Rain, written and performed by my friend Jason (Jay) Liberatore inspire my second novel of the same name. (You can find his song on Spotify)

7. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? 

That one draft doesn't cut it!Gosh, I hate revising and editing and I'm not very good at it but I am getting better. It's a learning process. Thank goodness I had great beta readers and my publisher, Black Opal Books, has a great team of very patient editors.

8. How many books have you written? Which is your favourite? 
Two and a half. TORN might be my first love since it was first but Three Days of Rain will always have my heart. I can't tell you how many times tears fell to the keyboard as I was writing. The sequel to TORN is much darker than the first so we'll see where it lands. I'm having fun torturing my characters. :)

9. Are your characters based on anyone you know?

My husband says yes, I say no. I just write what I know and, since I dislike research, I only do what I need to in order to make the story believable - like geographical locations and other minor points. 

10. Do you have a favourite place you love to write?

Ahh, my back deck on a summer morning.

11. How hard is is to self-publish or get published?

I think it's difficult but I was lucky. I was picked up by Black Opal Books less than 4 months after I began the query process. 

12. What do your family and friends think about your books?

They love them, or so I am told :). I have a 15 year-old sister in law who was the first to read TORN. She started on a Saturday and called me at 10 o'clock on Sunday night screaming about how much she loved it! We talked for over an hour with her giving me insights, what she liked, what she loved, what could be better. It was great.

13. What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I like to read, go to the pool with my kids, walk around some of the small towns around here like Princeton and New Hope. I love going to the beach, visiting with family. I do lots of things.

14. Do you have any suggestions to help aspiring writers better themselves and their craft? If so, what are they? 

Get some honest beta readers. Don't rely on someone who is going to blow sunshine up your you-know-what. Learn to take criticism. Be open to change. Be gracious to anyone and everyone who is part of this process - bloggers, reviewers, beta readers, editors, publishers, agents - whoever. Don't stop reading. And never, ever stop writing.

15. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? 

My dad is a Blackhawk pilot for the Army. I wanted to either do that or be a fighter jet pilot.

16. What are your favourite books and which authors inspire you?

My favorite book is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. That story was so beyond its time. Unreal. Inspiration? I find it everywhere. From JK Rowling and her napkin notes, Stephenie Meyer writing as a stay-at-home-mom, Hemingway's "balls-out" approach to life, Matt Patterson's courage, Brett Easton Ellis' ability to make me question "what the hell did I just read?", Robert Frost's smooth control of the english language, Shakespeare's ability to write so many freaking lines in iambic pentameter - I mean seriously? How did he do that?
17. For an aspiring writer what do you feel are certain do's and don’ts for getting their material published?

Do keep trying. Don't stop. Do be gracious. Don't get outwardly angry when things don't go your way. In this business, I am finding they rarely do. Do perfect your prose. Don't assume one draft is enough. Do believe in yourself. Always. Don't lose hope.

18. What are you working on now?

I am currently in the process of writing the as yet untitled sequel to TORN. I am in 2nd round edits with the soon to be published (date coming soon) Three Days of Rain, a Women's Fiction with a male protagonist - it's a bit of a tear jerker.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Christine!
If you would like to purchase Christine's book, click on the link below:

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