Monday, December 30, 2013

DEFY-An Interview with Sara B. Larson

Me 'n' Sara at a Writers' Conference
I'm absolutely delighted to have author Sara B. Larson here on my blog today. Sara is not only a very dear friend of mine, she's also the author of Defy, which debuts on January 7th, though I've learned it's already in the wild at Barnes & Nobles stores. Run!

Defy is a very special book to me. I beta read it over a year ago and fell madly in love with everything about it. Okay, that's a HUGE understatement. I told Sara back then that next to Shadow & Bone (I have to be honest), Defy is my favorite book--and I still stand by that. So I've felt like sort of a "Defy champion" throughout the journey of her querying it, obtaining a fantastic agent because of it, and ultimately selling it--all of which happened very quickly because this book is AMAZING!

Sara showed me an advanced reader copy a few weeks ago, and I was deeply touched to see she'd written a whole paragraph to me in her acknowledgements. WOW. Being in someone's acknowledgements at all is a first for me, so seeing that was totally surreal.

Anyway, Sara was sweet enough to let me interview her. (This even got approved by her publicist. I feel so cool.) I tried to ask Sara questions that would capture the magic of Defy and induce everyone out there that they MUST BUY THIS BOOK NOW! Then we can all swoon and gasp and huzzah (what a great word; I had to throw it in there) together! So here we go...

You’ve been writing for many years and have written many wonderful stories. What sets DEFY apart from the others? Why do you think it’s the book that finally sold?

Sara: I’m not 100% sure, to be honest. I’ve loved all of my books and felt confident in each one. But I did feel like something was special with DEFY. I felt like I’d taken all the feedback I’d received on my other books and tried to apply it to this one as I wrote it. I tried to make sure to keep the pace up, to keep the reader guessing, to amp up the stakes and to be true to my characters. This book came from a place of deep emotion, and hopefully that shined through. Maybe that’s what made the difference. When I wrote the ending, the emotions I felt were nearly overwhelming. Not only from the actual ending (which brought me to tears and had my heart racing with adrenaline), but I also had a very clear impression that this book was different. That was a very powerful moment that I’ll never forget.

Then when I got feedback on it, I started to let myself hope. I had some truly amazing responses to this book (including a certain someone’s who may or may not currently be interviewing me…), and that’s what helped give me the courage to query DEFY (because I was pretty nervous to do it). And I’m SO incredibly grateful I did.

Can you describe your writing process, especially with DEFY?

I usually get an idea and start writing it without an outline or anything, although I usually do know the ending. I will write between 10-20k words with a separate document where I write any notes, thoughts, or ideas that come to me for the rest of the book or series as I go. Once I hit that point, I usually write an “outline” of sorts, using my notes and ideas. Basically, it’s more like an informal synopsis, where I just get the main plot out and make sure it’s going to work.

With DEFY, I didn’t know how it was going to end, because when I started, I didn’t know it was going to be a book. I wrote about 8k words, hit a wall, and put it aside to finish a different book. But the characters wouldn’t leave me alone, so I went back to it eventually. After I figured out that a character was keeping a BIG secret from me, the plot clicked into place and the rest of the book flew out in about two weeks!

The road to publication is often long and difficult. What helped you get through that?

The number one reason I made it through it was my husband. His support and belief in me was unwavering, no matter how low I got, no matter how many rejections I racked up. Having someone like that in your corner was invaluable and truly got me through the worst of it. I also have some amazing family and friends who have been there for me, cheering me on, always believing I’d make it and doing what they could to help—be it critiques, long phone calls, emails, or any number of things. And finally, my own stubbornness. My unwillingness to quit. Once I set goals for myself, I just can’t let myself fail. No matter how much I doubt myself, ultimately, I believed in my dreams and I didn’t give up.

Describe your main character, Alexa, with ten adjectives.

Alexa’s pretty complex, so I’ll do my best to convey that in ten words or less:
Determined, strong-willed, vulnerable, kind, loyal, indomitable, protective, dedicated, and fierce.

Describe Prince Damian (swoon!) with ten adjectives.

Damian is probably even more complex than Alexa, ha! But some of their traits do overlap. Let’s see…I may have to cheat just a tad with this one:
Seemingly arrogant, spoiled, and petty, but he’s also very secretive, surprisingly empathetic and guarded.
That’s all I dare say. There’s much more to Damian than immediately meets the eye….

What do you have in common with these two characters, and what about you is very different from them?

Well, I’m definitely very stubborn and determined, which are traits both Damian and Alexa possess. But Alexa and Damian are both much more guarded about themselves (and their secrets) than I am. I tend to be pretty open about my emotions…usually. And there’s the obvious fact that Alexa could totally kick my butt without even breaking a sweat.

Without spoiling anything, what hints can you drop about your favorite scene/moment in DEFY?

Wow, that’s a tough one. So many moments in DEFY were very emotional for me, and have deep meaning, for different reasons. I’m not sure I can pick just one. My top favorites would be too spoilery, but I can think of one scene that was WAAAAY too much fun to write…it involves a tent and Alexa literally being stuck between two hot guys. The awkwardness and tension that arises from the situation was pretty dang fun to explore.

Thanks for having me here today! You were an integral part of my journey with DEFY, and I’ll forever be grateful to you for that!


Wasn't that great?! I need to do interviews more often. Fun, fun, fun. Want to learn more about Defy? Read on!

Gorgeous cover, right?
A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and heart-racing romance.

Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Out of Tune

Out of Tune is a fabulous new adult novel written by Michelle Argyle, a very talented author and a dear friend of mine. This book holds a special place in my heart. Michelle told me the story idea before she ever set pen to paper (or hands to keys), and I was lucky enough to read an early draft.

Michelle always writes cleanly and beautifully, but this book blew me away. It's my absolute favorite piece of her writing. I was so drawn in to this story of Maggie, a young woman trying to find her place in the world--whether that's in or out of the shadow of her famous country star parents, whether it's singing with her own out-of-tune voice or writing lyrics for others, or whether it's in the arms of her best friend (and of-and-on-again boyfriend) or her new voice teacher.

I play guitar and sing, and I was amazed at how authentically Michelle captured the feel and art and detailed intricacy of these things. And I'm a huge fan of romance, and this book definitely had me swooning. I'm so proud of Michelle and this story and can't wait for it to be released on December 3rd so everyone else can join in the fun of reading it, too!

On a very cool and special note, Michelle surprised me with copy of the book the other day, and she dedicated it to me! It was a totally surreal moment that made me cry. Thank you, Michelle!

So, without further gushing (because I could do that forever), here's more about Out of Tune, including an awesome book trailer below.

Twenty-year-old Maggie Roads’ parents are legendary in the country music world. She wants nothing more than to follow in their footsteps, but the limelight isn’t reserved for singers who can’t carry a tune, let alone keep a rhythm.

When her parents tell her they’re getting divorced, Maggie decides it’s time to leave home and take her future into her own hands. Moving in with Cole, her best friend and sometimes boyfriend, might not be the best of ideas, but she’s got to start somewhere. Their off-and-on romance gets even more complicated when Maggie crushes on her new voice teacher, Nathan, who unlocks her stunning potential. A sensational music career of her own is finally within reach, but Maggie might need more than perfect pitch to find what she’s really looking for.

Official Release Date: December 3, 2013
Available Formats: all eBook formats and Print
Available Where: Everywhere online books are sold, as well as ordering from bookstores
Publisher: MDA Books
Official Book Page with Links: