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Friday, March 30, 2012

Character Interview- Sam

K. B. Hoyle: Thank you for sitting down with me, Sam! You must be quite busy right now, being so many people’s favorite character.

Sam: (blushing) Well, I don’t know about that!

K. B. Hoyle: Don’t be so modest. Your fans have been clamoring to know more about you. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?

Sam: Sure! Go ahead.

KB: What is your full name?

Sam: Samantha Julie Palm

KB: Are you named after anyone in particular?

Sam: My mom’s sister is named Julie. My parents just liked the name Samantha, though.

KB: How old are you?

Sam: Thirteen. Still feels weird…

KB: Darcy mentioned something similar when we sat down together the other day. Do you have any thoughts on that you’d like to add?

Sam: (laughs) Yeah, Darcy and I have spent a LOT of time going over it! It’s just too weird… I mean, we lived a whole year in Alitheia! Isn’t that crazy? I can hardly believe that we have to live this year all over again. I don’t feel thirteen anymore!

KB: Do you think anybody will be able to tell a difference?

Sam: A difference in… how I look? Or how I act? I mean, I look exactly the same as when we left a year ago for Alitheia, but I like to think I act a little more mature. Darcy is certainly acting differently!

KB: She sure is. Was it strange to have Darcy end up being the leader of you and your friends in Alitheia?

Sam: No! Not for me, at least. I’ve always believed that Darcy is super cool, and I’ve wanted to be friends with her for ages. I could tell that she had a lot of potential that nobody else could see. It took a long time for the others to accept it, though.

KB: Amelia in particular. Do you think Amelia and Darcy will be good friends from now on?

Sam: (hesitates) I hope so. I love them both so much.

KB: (nodding) Okay, well… back to some basic questions. Where were you born?

Sam: I was born in Madison, Wisconsin. We’ve lived in the Chicago area since I was… seven, I think.

KB: Who do you look like, your mom or dad?

Sam: Um, well… that’s hard for me to say. (blushes) People tell me I look just like my mom did at my age, but I have a hard time believing that.

KB: Why’s that?

Sam: Have you seen my mom? She’s so thin! And I’m… well, a lot of people say that I just need to grow out of my baby fat. (shrugs) Let’s just say that I don’t think Perry’ll like me any time soon. Wait! He’s not going to be reading this, is he?

KB: I can make sure he won’t see it. Don’t lose hope, though! You never know what can happen in the future.

Sam: (shrugs again) That’s what Amelia tells me, too.

KB: So what do you do for fun?

Sam: Hang out with Lewis, and now I’ll be spending a lot of time with Darcy, too! We all live so close, you know. I love my friends. I’d spend every minute of every day with them, if I could!

KB: Do you think you’ve gotten closer with Lewis as a result of your adventures?

Sam: I don’t think so. I mean, Lewis and I already pretty much knew everything about each other before we went off to Alitheia. And I think he’s okay with Darcy now.

KB: What’s your favorite book?

Sam: (wrinkles her nose) I’m not a big fan of reading. I like movies, though!

KB: So what’s your favorite movie, then?

Sam: I love romantic comedies! My favorite would probably be Emma.

KB: Emma? As in, the movie adaptation of the Jane Austen novel?

Sam: Who’s Jane Austen?

KB: (shakes head and sighs) Never mind. What’s the best thing that happened to you in Alitheia?

Sam: I became friends with Darcy!

KB: What’s the worst thing that happened to you in Alitheia?

Sam: (becomes pale) I… I hated the tsellodrin. (shudders) Anything having to do with the tsellodrin… still give me nightmares sometimes.

KB: Perfectly understandable. They are pretty frightening! (shuffles papers) I’m going to move on to some word association. I’ll give you two options, and you tell me which word best suits you.

Sam: Okay!

KB: Introvert or Extrovert?

Sam: Extrovert!

KB: Nervous or Calm?

Sam: Oh! That’s a hard one for me. I guess it kind of depends on the situation, but people often tell me I’m kinda spastic. Maybe that means nervous.

KB: Leader or Follower?

Sam: Follower.

KB: Brave or Fearful?

Sam: Fearful. I’m a total scaredy cat! I wish I could be brave… like Darcy. She’s so brave, and she doesn’t even know it!

KB: Honest or Dishonest?

Sam: Honest. I always tell the truth.

K. B. Hoyle: Okay! Thanks so much for coming in today, Sam. It’s really been a pleasure. One last question: If you could tell our readers one thing only about your experience in Alitheia, what would it be?

Sam: (thoughtful) Gosh… I haven’t ever thought about that. Um, well… I guess I’d tell them that they should always look for the good in people. I looked for the good in Darcy, even when nobody else believed in her, and she turned out to be the best and the bravest of us all! And my new best friend.

K. B. Hoyle: (laughing) I’m not sure everybody would agree with you there about Darcy!

Sam: It doesn’t matter what they think. It’s true. And even if they can’t see it now, they’ll see it some day.

K. B. Hoyle: Thanks again, Sam!

Sam: My pleasure!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blog Tour Kickoff!

Hey Everybody! My blog tour for the TWCS release of The Gateway Chronicles book 1: The Six started today! Tune in tonight to and click on Blog Talk Radio to hear a panel of YA authors discuss The Hunger Games, YA literature in general, and our own individual books from 8-11pm eastern time. My particular time slot is from 9:30-10pm eastern (8:30-9pm central). Hope you come and listen!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Reflections on Writing The Six, Part 2

This is my 100th blog post! And there was much rejoicing! Yaaayyy...

Okay, on to what this post is really about.

I promised to finish the story of how The Six came to be, so here goes... I already mentioned how the idea for the series was inspired by my actual camp experiences growing up and by my actual camp friends. But, as I also mentioned, I didn't have a clear concept in college of what the story would be about, although I had the setting and feel laid out. My notes for "Nine Fast Friends" stayed shelved for several years. I finished the other fantasy manuscript I was working on, tried and tried to get a publishing house and/or an agent, failed and failed at that, and graduated college with a healthy cynicism of the publishing industry. Self-publishing was very expensive and not very widespread at this time (2005), and most of the people with whom I discussed the self-publshing option laughed at the idea of it. (I'm not here going to go into the entire self-publishing to traditional publishing road, as that will be the subject matter of a later blog post.) My husband and I moved to Denver to pursue masters degrees, and in Denver I became a part of a writer's guild. I also discovered, after just one month in Denver, that I was expecting our first child. Suddenly the prospect of a master's degree didn't seem so attainable anymore... neither did staying in Denver where we had no friends or family, and very high expenses. My husband and I decided to relocate to Birmingham, Alabama and the move took place just three weeks before our son was born. This is worth mention in the evolution of The Six because when I left Denver, I took with me the friendship of a fellow writer from the writers guild named Ross. Ross and I exchanged manuscripts for several months (this was still my first fantasy manuscript), and he was the first one to tell me that my style is to write for teenagers. I had always said that I just wanted to write for "everyone!" and he pointed out that not only was this impractical, but it wasn't my style. He also told me in all honesty that my manuscript wasn't ready for publication; and he was right!

I really took his comments to heart and spent several months considering what I wanted to do. I didn't have the passion for that first manuscript that I needed to have for it, and after 20-odd rejections and finally the suggestion from Ross that it needed to be reworked entirely, I decided that it would simply be better to start over with something else - something I could work on from scratch and that could be written with teenagers in mind. I was coming up on the summer of 2008 and just finishing up my first year teaching. I knew that the only time I would have to write a book from beginning to end would be the summer time, as teaching is so time consuming, so I began to plan in earnest in the spring. Looking at all my various story notes, I settled on writing a science fiction/fantasy series called Que (pronounced "Cue"). This was probably my most well-fleshed-out idea, and as soon as school was out, I began to write my outline for the story. I was also at this time, however, re-reading one of my favorite books, Pride and Prejudice, and for some reason the name Darcy caught with me so strongly that I couldn't get it out of my head. I don't know where Pennington came from, but it also arrived that night, and I remember it was as though my brain suddenly caught fire. I probably spent 3 hours pacing my bathroom that night talking to myself and formulating the story idea. I knew as soon as the name Darcy Pennington came to me that she belonged in my camp story and that I would not be writing Que after all. In those three hours of pacing and hours lying awake in bed after that, I decided on six characters instead of nine (nine main characters is, after all, far too many to keep adaquate track of), settled on all their names, and conceptualized the story. The notes I took that night became the basis for The Six, but I also knew that it was going to be a series, and I couldn't start writing the series until I knew the end of the story. There were so many other things I wanted to be a part of the story, too - from literary alchemy to color symbolism to number symbolism to name symbolism to homages to my favorite authors and stories - and I figured out the basic structure of it all in about a week. It's really, obviously, too much to go into here, nor do I want to give away all my secrets - or even half of them (what good author does that?) - but it was a whirlwind of activity for me. Once I had the series synopsis set, I wrote my outline for book 1, set a daily writing schedule for myself, and got down to the work of writing, without ever having any real idea of whether or not I could produce a coherent novel in the two months I had left before school started again.

I finished the 384-page manuscript, somehow, before school began, and that's where I'll let off on the story of how it came to "be." As I said above, the publishing journey is a whole other story. I will say that I tested my manuscript on my students. I kept a binder in my classroom, and my 8th graders, in particular, took to it with a frenzy. I remember many a day where I had to break up arguments over who got to read it, and some students even took to snatching the binder when they walked in the room and stashing it in their desk so as to be able to have "dibs" on it should we end up with any free time in class. This sort of reaction told me that not only had I successfully written a novel, but I had apparently written something that teenagers wanted to read.

I've been careful throughout the writing of the story to preserve the identity of the real camp, although many of the location names and some story aspects are takes on actual places and events. For example, there really is a large boulder at this camp that is covered in gnomes painted on little rocks and stuck in the crevices. The recreation hall at the real camp is named after a college student who passed away - although not at the camp. And there is a story that a student in another week once tried to burn the rec hall down. The very best qualities of my camp friends have found their way into the characters, and I would, of course, never disparage any of them or use any of their real names. The stories have been, in one sense, a set of thank you notes to them and their influences on me.

And now I'm really waxing sentimental. Perhaps some of you wish that I would have given more detail in this account, perhaps some of you far less. Each story in the series has its own history and "fun facts" associated with it, but, again, if I told you all of that, what secrets would I have left?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Reflections on Writing The Six

As I prepare for the TWCS release of book 1 of The Gateway Chronicles: The Six on April 5th, I've begun reflecting on how this book came to be. I'll try not to be too long winded about this, but I thought there certainly might be some interest as a whole new audience of people is being introduced to me on the TWCS website.

The Six was truly a labor of love (not to sound too cliched), and something I wanted to write for years before I actually sat down to do it. The entire story behind The Gateway Chronicles is wrapped up in my past, in 19 consecutive years of attending a week-long summer camp with my family in upper Michigan. While some people might think that one week a year couldn't possibly be enough to make that great of an impression on a person, for an awkward, anti-social child like me, whose family moved several times, and who struggled with depression, it was often the one constant in my year. At camp, I had the same friends every year, and they were the only constant friends I ever had (many of whom I'm still very close with today). Camp never changed, while the outside world did, and that lent a magical quality to my time there. It was as though I was transported to a new world every summer. Combined with the fact that the upper peninsula of Michigan is bone-achingly beautiful, and that for a week every year I was cut off from all technology (as the camp discouraged it), it was also an environment in which my imagination could run wild. My girl friends and I at camp used to make up magical stories about fairies, elves, pirates, and everything else inbetween that existed only at camp, and I think that a part of my young brain always believed that the stories could be true.

Fast forward to college, and I was no longer able to attend family camp. My husband and I married young, and, well, life changes. We were able to attend camp once together when we were dating, and once later after we had our first son, but I knew that it was a chapter of my life that was well and truly over. I know it must sound silly, but I went through a real period of grieving over the loss of something so important to my childhood, and that's when I first began to jot down notes and conceptualize a fantasy story based on my childhood and teen experiences at camp. At first it began as a way to hang on to the memories, but it has become much more of a way to let go.

These notes that I jotted down in college were very scattered and much closer to my actual camp experiences than The Six has turned out to be. For example, there were nine main characters, not six, based on the fact that there were nine of us in the core group of kids my age at camp (six boys, three girls). My working title in this early stage was "Nine Fast Friends," and all the character names were different. I didn't have a clear idea what the story would be beyond that I wanted these nine friends to travel to another world from camp, and I wanted that other world to imitate the camp I knew and loved in as many ways as possible. I also knew that I wanted it to imitate The Chronicles of Narnia in being a clean, family friendly story that dealt with timeless themes and deep concepts, but I also wanted to modernize it to relate to how teenagers today think, talk, and react. These things are not enough with which to write a book, however, and I was, in college, in the midst of finishing a different fantasy manuscript and jumping through the hoops of trying to get that published, so I shelved the camp-based idea and vowed to come back to it someday...

I am breaking my promise not to go too long with this, so I'm going to cut off this blog post here and come back to it with a part 2 later this week. If you're enjoying my story, let me know! I'll address questions as they come up.