Interview with YA fantasy and Adult Contemporary Author B.L. Wheatley

B.L Wheatley is a librarian and mom of three daughters. She loves nature and spends most weekends hiking new trails while trying to keep up with the girls and puppy Luna as they run ahead to become wild things. She lives in Vancouver. And no one believes she writes about dragons. But who would? She’s not a very believable person. She is currently working on three books at once because she’s a master at multitasking.

Bee author photo

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did you start?

I knew when I was ten. How did I know? I started ripping off Sweet Valley Twin stories. I figured if I could complete a “novel” (I think that, in my mind, equaled 55 pages) that I was a writer.

What genre(s) do you write in? What is it that you love about them?

I write children’s fantasy, YA contemporary, and Women’s contemporary (is that a category? Don’t put this part in. This is a legit question for kelly). I love them for completely different reasons. With children’s fantasy it captures that part of me that refuses to grow up and not believe magic isn’t all around us. With contemporary for YA or Women’s it’s a way to express real life situations and emotions, to find a different way of looking at things that can bring an aha moment to a reader (and more often writer)

What are some of your other favorite avenues for storytelling besides books?

I love to tell people funny things that I’ve seen or have happened to me. It’s actually good practice anyways, because storytelling should be informal, a conversation between friends.

What path are you going to pursue for publication?

First, the traditional way. I’ll query, pitch in person when possible. Last resort will be sitting outside a publishers house. Or befriending JK Rowling by climbing over her wall. You know, the typical paths.

All writers are readers so who are some of your favorite authors and why?

JK Rowling. Duh. I love Liz Gilbert. I’ve decided she is my spirit animal. I also enjoyed A Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais. His writing made me hungry. A true sign of a skilled writer.

What inspires your ideas? How do you come up with them?

Sometimes they pop up while I’m talking to a cat. Other times when I’m talking to a friend and a kismet comment will bring it all to me. I find that most of my ideas are like hummingbirds – they pollinate from multiple places: conversations, books I’ve read, places I’ve been, things that make me curious.

What are you working on now? Do you outline or write by the seat of your pants?

I’m working on a women’s fiction contemporary novel. I was writing by the seat of my pants till 18k word count and then realized, I need to have a loose outline. Mainly the outline occurred once the story had solidified within my brain and I had the general ending in mind.

What does a typical writing day look like for you/what is your process?

I tend to write in the morning during the weekend. I also write after I’ve put the kids to bed. I’ll even write during my lunch break. Are you seeing a pattern? I write where I can and I grab moments. It’s balanced by my Friday’s off, when I’ll shlep to a coffeeshop and write for a few hours at a time before I have to do school runs.

If one of your novels was made into a movie, which would you choose and what actor would you cast to play the main role?

A tough one. I want them to ALL be movies. But if I had to pick one…my children’s fantasy with dragons, cats, and a girl. Because who doesn’t love a lovable dragon with it’s own netflix account? Pretty sure the dragons would animated. Unless we find a real one. The girl protag could be played by a young Rachel McAdams.

What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned on your writing journey so far?

To ignore my inner voice that says ‘you suck’ and ‘you’re faking it till you’re making it’. That it’s not a hobby. That my persistence is what makes me a writer.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers about writing?

Just keep writing. Deceptively simple, right?

Anything else you would like to add or talk about?

Reading is HUGE (imagine Trump’s voice saying this (or that he even reads)). It’s probably the single most important thing you can do as a writer. It’s the equivalent of going to Italy to learn the Italian language versus trying to learn it by hanging out in Jersey Shore.

You are hysterical! TRULY. Thank you so much! Where can people contact you?

On Twitter: @BLWheatley

SEVEN LESSONS LEARNED FROM WRITING A SERIES ~ By Guest Host Lisa Voisin

LISA-blue shirt

About six or seven years ago, I attended a workshop at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference about writing a series. It was led by Richelle Mead, author of the Vampire Academy series. One of the takeaways I got from that session was that romance didn’t lend itself well to a series, because, structurally, it has to have a happy ending. As an author of Urban Fantasy herself, Mead outlined the differences between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy (both being popular genres at the time), and recommended that if the story was to become a series, it would have to switch genres. Which meant the focus had to shift from romance, where the objective is two characters getting together, to adventure, where the romance takes a back seat.

Lesson 1: Genre Matters

I took this lesson to heart when I decided to make The Watcher into a series. Genre is important. There are some genres that aren’t as easily converted into a series. Though the love story between Mia and Michael continues in The Angel Killer (Book 2 of The Watcher Saga), the focus of the story is less romance and more adventure, with fantasy and horror elements. That story continues in The Warrior Prophet (book 3).

Lesson 2: Know Your World and Characters

I tend to write my stories with only a minimal outline. I knew where I was going, but I write the scenes without planning them in advance, so I’m more of a pantser than a plotter. Because I do that, I had to keep track of my world and its rules and well as my characters’ histories, so that I didn’t contradict myself. Luckily, I wrote my stories one after the other without too much time in between, so the story was still fresh in my head when I started drafting the next. At times, though, I had to search my previous books for references to things that happened, specifically in the characters’ past lives, to make sure it all made sense.

Though I wrote the second and third books in close proximity to each other, I changed computers between them, and I lost the computer The Watcher was written on, so some of my early character sketches were missing. Luckily, I remembered most of the information. But if I were to do it again, I would certainly back up all my files and not just drafts of my story.

Lesson 3: Keep Going!

One of the toughest things when writing a series is to not get discouraged. Because of the way things turned out at the end of The Angel Killer, I was really motivated to finish The Warrior Prophet. My readers were demanding it. On one hand, it felt good to know that my book had affected people. But on the other, I felt bad for my characters and had to get them out.

Lesson 4: Cliff Hangers

I have learned that there isn’t a cliff hanger that isn’t risky. The main risk being they upset your readers. But there are ways to do them. The first and most important thing to keep in mind is that the story problem for the book must be solved. It may not be solved well. There may be a cost, or there may be complications. Those complications are really the only way you can have a cliff hanger and not break your story. For instance, nobody liked the fact that at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo was trapped in carbonite. But it was still a legitimate cliff hanger, because the rest of the Rebels were safe. They’d met their objective.

Lesson 5: Timing is Key

While I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase about timing to cover any range of subjects, it is also true when writing a series. Sometimes waiting too long between books can cost you your readers. While I’d hoped that fans of my first book would rush out and buy the second, there was almost two years between the release of the first and second book. People move on. Tastes change.

Sure, perhaps if I were Harper Lee or even George R.R. Martin, I’d have enough of a readership that my sequel would be big news. But I’m not those authors. I’m me. And if I were to write a series again, I’d make sure I had a second book ready to go when the first book was sold, so that it could be ready to market right away.

Lesson 6: The Need to Please

This is true about all writing: you simply cannot please everyone. Those who loved the romance of The Watcher may be a bit shocked by the action in The Angel Killer, while others were pleasantly surprised. You’ll change and grow as an author with every book your write. You have to own that, and not worry about what some readers think. Just write the best story you can.

Lesson 7: Letting Go

Lastly, one of the hardest things about any book is letting it go. As the author, you’ve lived in this world with these characters in your head for years. With a series, that timeframe is even longer. I’ve been living with these characters for seven years now. Letting them go was like kicking your teenage kids out of the house! It was harder than I thought. For the final book, The Warrior Prophet, that meant I lingered on the edits a bit longer than necessary. It also made starting new projects more difficult, because I missed my “old” characters.

On that note, in order to let go, I realized I needed to keep writing—just writing something else! I’m working on a new story, in a new world, with new characters, something completely different. When I get nostalgic for the old characters, I can always go back and visit. But then, it’s time to move on.

Check out The Watcher Saga and Lisa’s newest release in the series THE WARRIOR PROPHET at:

Amazon: Kindle: http://amzn.to/1Rkq5RK

Amazon Print: http://amzn.to/1QJEsi4

Kobo (epub): https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-warrior-prophet-2

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-warrior-prophet-lisa-voisin/1123449947

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read a Teaser Excerpt here:

Hell

Hands clawed at me as we passed through the blackness. The reek of sulfur and rot made a hot rush of bile rise to my throat. Arielle had said my soul would act as though I had a body, but my actual body was lying in a bed fifty feet below.

We pushed through a thick blanket of black smog and then met a stretchy, membranous substance. Once we pressed our way through, we stepped out onto a huge, empty field. The ground was covered in charred ash. The air itself had to be a thousand degrees, and, if I’d had a body, it would have been incinerated. With stealthy, silent movements, he led me across the field, each step hovering above the ground.

“Welcome to Hell.” His smirk made me want to slap him. “Well, one of the lesser territories.”

Lesser territories? How many are there?”

“Hundreds, if not more. This one’s a soul wasteland.”

“You think Michael’s here? In a soul wasteland?”

“No, but it’s easy enough to get here. It’s not heavily guarded because there’s nothing to protect.” Cinders rained from a dull charcoal sky choked with clouds, landing in his hair. He brushed them away. “When a soul is all used up, the only thing left is an ashen residue. That’s what’s beneath us. It’s why we’re hovering.”

I covered my nose with my hands to keep out the foul stench. “Oh God.”

“Don’t say that word around here.” He scanned the area and lowered his voice. “You’ll attract attention. Draw your sword.”

“Why?” I reached between my shoulder blades to find my sword hilt. “Won’t it attract attention, too?”

“It’s better to have it handy if you need it. But don’t extend it until I say so, or we’ll draw a crowd.”

I didn’t know what I’d expected Hell to be like, but this barren field wasn’t it. Above us, the clouds undulated in the sky, their tattered, ragged forms joining and separating like a flock of birds. They weren’t clouds at all but flyers. A squadron of them.

“They know we’re here.”

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Interview with the Brilliant Author of YA ‘Night School’ Series C.J. Daugherty

CJ Daugherty
CJ Daugherty

International bestselling author C. J. Daugherty is a former newspaper reporter and crime writer. Her bestselling young adult series Night School (romantic thrillers set in a fictional boarding school called Cimmerian Academy) has been translated into 21 languages, and has been the number 1 best selling young adult novel in Germany, Poland, France, and Israel, topping charts in countries around the world. She writes in her home in the south of England, where she basically lives on coffee.

Hello C.J. I’m very excited to talk with you, especially since I recently devoured the first book in the Night School Series, which was so fast-paced, intriguing and well crafted! 

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did you start?

I saw a film called All the President’s Men when I was about fourteen, and I decided there and then I wanted to be an investigative reporter. It looked like such an exciting career. And it was. It wasn’t until after I’d worked for a few years as a crime and political reporter that I started thinking about writing novels. Even then, I had several other non-fiction writing jobs, and spent a few years as an editor, before I finally sat down to write Night School.

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What genre(s) do you write in? What is it that you love about them?

I write in multiple genres. Night School is a young adult thriller series, The Secret Fire is a paranormal series. But really, all my books are romantic thrillers with a mysteries at their heart. I like writing danger and complex relationships. I make everything as hard as possible for my characters, and then see how they can dig their way out of it. I try to make it all – whatever I’m writing – as real as I can. I want my readers to imagine it’s their world crashing down around them. And their fight for survival.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about your series Night School and anything else you might be working on?

Night School follows the story of Allie Sheridan, a 16-year-old girl who goes off the rails after her homelife falls apart. When she’s arrested for the third time, her parents send her to Cimmeria Academy, a boarding school filled with the children of politicians and CEOs.

The school has strict rules, and all modern technology is forbidden. Cut off from everyone she knows, Allie finds out she’s not who she thought she was, and that her parents have been lying to her all her life. Things are more complicated and dangerous than she ever imagined, and she has to learn fast if she wants to survive.

The-Secret-Fire-Final-651x1024My other series, The Secret Fire, follows two main characters – Taylor, a bookish seventeen-year-old English girl who is preparing for Oxford University, and Sacha – a French boy, with nothing to lose. Sacha has a terrible secret. He can’t die – nothing can kill him until his eighteenth birthday, when an ancient family curse even he doesn’t understand says he must die. When the two of them meet, they learn their destinies are entangled. They can save each other, but they have only weeks to unravel a 300-year-old mystery. This is a modern tale of alchemy and demonology, set on the streets of Paris and amid the dreaming spires of Oxford.

What inspires your ideas? How do you come up with them?

I almost always get my ideas from real life. I read newspapers and blogs, and I’m constantly looking for interesting stories that could inspire a book. Night School was inspired by a photo I saw in the paper of The Bullingdon Club, a real secret society at Oxford University. The Secret Fire was inspired by time I spent in Paris. You never know when a story idea will hit you!

Did you always know that you wanted to go the traditional publishing route instead of indie?

No. When I started I just wanted to tell the story – I didn’t really think about who would publish it. I sent my manuscript to three agents, and one of them signed me. I was then picked up by traditional publishers. Night School is published by Little Brown in the UK, and by trad publishers all over the world. However, due to circumstance and fate, the series was dropped by its US publisher after book one. A digital publisher picked up the series, and the ebooks are now published in the US by Bookouture. I self-published the paperbacks there using CreateSpace. Recently, my Spanish publisher was purchased by another publisher, and the new publisher won’t continue the Night School series in Spanish. The book has lots of Spanish language fans, and they begged me to get the last two books in the series out. So, after doing a bit of research, I had Night School 4 translated myself, and I’ve just self-published it in Spanish worldwide. Basically, I’m a hybrid author to a certain extent, and I love the freedom that gives me. It means no publisher controls me. And the unpredictability of international publishing isn’t the end of the story for readers.

Do you need to have a literary agent represent you in the UK?

I’m lucky to be represented by the Madeleine Milburn Agency – which is basically the best agency in London!

All writers are readers so who are some of your favorite authors and why?

I love Cassandra Clare – The Mortal Instruments books are among my absolute favourites. And, like everyone, I love JK Rowling’s books – both her adult books and Harry Potter. I really like Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy – it was quite influential on the writing of Night School. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt, is one of my favourite books, and there’s more than a little of its dangerous atmosphere, I think, in Night School and The Secret Fire.

What are you working on now? Do you outline or write by the seat of your pants?

I’m currently working on a crime novel – although it’s too early in the process to tell much about it. I don’t outline. Instead, I synopsise. I start with a one-page description of the main characters, then expand that out to the plot, and then expand THAT out further and further. When I have a good, solid, six pages of plot sketched out, I will sit down to write chapter one.

What does a typical writing day look like for you/what is your process?

For me, mornings are for admin and editing. I’m usually at my desk by nine with a MASSIVE cup of coffee. I go through my emails, update my social networking pages (I consider social networking the best marketing a writer can do for herself). If I’m doing a giveaway on Facebook, I get that updated. It’s usually noon before I start to write. I write straight through to five, then take a break to walk my dog and get some exercise. Then I’m back to the computer to write until seven. If I’m in the late stages of a novel, I often write again from ten to midnight. I find that to be the best time for intensive writing sprints.

If one of your novels was made into a movie, which would you choose and what actors would you cast to play the three main roles?  

Night School was made into a web series last year – you can see it for free on my Youtube channel: NightSchoolBook!

THIS IS VERY EXCITING!! 

If it were made into a movie, I would either want the same actors who appeared in the web series OR someone who looks like Lily Collins for Allie, Max Irons for Carter, a young Gaspard Ulliel for Sylvain.

What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned on your writing journey so far?

My number one lesson is to stay calm. There’s something hectic about modern publishing. Something rushed. A sense that you have to be number one RIGHT NOW, and if you’re not, it’s all over. I simply don’t believe that. I think writing is a learning process. I want to get better with each book. And that means constantly learning – constantly honing my craft. I see each novel as a step up from the last. With each step I can see further, write better. I want to write novels for the rest of my life, so I am trying to write the kind of books that build a loyal readership. And that takes time and practice.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers about writing? What about the process of trying to get published?

Read everything you can get your hands on. Not just books, but newspapers, websites, advertisements, blogs – read everything. The more you read, the more you learn. No one ever became a writer who didn’t read. In terms of getting published, listen to what agents tell you – they do understand this business. Don’t send out your manuscript too soon. Have trusted friends read it first, and edit many times, polishing each word, before you send it to agents. But also, look at what your favourite writers do – learn from them. So much in publishing is about luck – finding the right agent, the right publishers. Little mistakes can have big costs. Rushing can also have big costs. Take your time. Play the long game. Don’t give up.

Thank you so much! Where can people find out more about you and your books?

Website: www.cjdaugherty.com                  Online at: Twitter: @CJ_Daugherty

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/CJAuthor

Youtube: NightSchoolBook