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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Understanding Work-for-Hire

By Elizabeth Ludwig

I started a new project last year…one that I have been fairly quiet about as I learned the ins-and-outs of the subject I was about to tackle. You see, for the first time in my career, I was undertaking an Amish cozy mystery (see below for a preview of my new book cover!). And it was a work-made-for-hire project for Guideposts. Two things I had never before done! God has certainly been stretching my boundaries and making me see beyond what I thought was possible. 

But what exactly is a work-made-for-hire, and why did I agree to do it?

Weighing Work-for-Hire
A work-made-for-hire (sometimes abbreviated as work for hire or WFH) basically just means that the author agrees to create a work as part of their job and that both the author and the company they are writing for agree in writing to the WFH designation. The author does not own the work, but is contractually obligated to submit the work on the same basis as they would any other standard publishing agreement.

I should also note that in standard publishing agreements, the person who actually creates a work is the legally recognized author of that work. According to copyright law in the United States and certain other copyright jurisdictions, if a work is "made for hire", the employer—not the employee—is considered the legal author.

Confused yet?

Where Hope Dwells, 2015
So then, what are the benefits to WFH? I admit, there is some disagreement over this. For me, the benefits were simply signing on to work for a major publishing house and everything that entails, IE: access to marketing, promotion, readership, networking, etc. It also enabled me to expand my publishing credentials, earn valuable writing experience, and finally, to “get my foot in the door with an attractive publisher”, for lack of better explanation. All of these swayed me in favor of the idea of a WFH project.

 Others would disagree and say that they are not willing to give up ownership of a created work, especially if they were not going to get credit for the work by having their name printed on the cover (which can also happen, but didn’t in my case).

Both views are arguably correct. I suppose the bottom line would have to lie in the heart of the author and what they are attempting to achieve. What do you think? Is a work-made-for-hire something you would ever consider? I’d love to hear what you think! 
 
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Elizabeth Ludwig is the bestselling author of Christmas Comes to Bethlehem, Maine and the highly successful Edge of Freedom series from Bethany House Publishers. Her popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book, enjoys a wide readership. Elizabeth is an accomplished speaker and teacher, often attending conferences and seminars where she lectures on editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. Along with her husband and children, she makes her home in the great state of Texas. To learn more, visit ElizabethLudwig.com.

Speaking from the Grave

Grave marker for Ray Bradbury. This photo was taken in May 2012, the month before he died.
Permission by Creative Commons

ONE WAY I PASS the time when pounding out a few miles on the treadmill is by listening to audio books. The practice makes being a treadmill trudger bearable. It is also a great way to experience books. Listening to a professional reader voice the author’s words gives a different dimension to reading. Presently, I’m walking my way through a collection of Ray Bradbury short stories (A Pleasure to Burn, William Morrow, 2013), all tied to his famous novella Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury has a unique literary voice and a keen insight into human nature.

This morning, as I spent 40 minutes walking without going anywhere, I listened to a couple more of the great man’s stories, it occurred to me that in a way, Ray Bradbury who died in June of 2012, was still influencing people. Me for example. His ideas, his fears, his hopes, his vision are still fresh to a new reader. This makes me wonder: Are writers immortal? Not physically immortal of course, but the thoughts of writers live on long after they’ve been consigned to the grave. There are few occupations that can claim this.

I’ve written a couple of books on church history, an effort to help the person in the pew see the many events that led to the existence of their church, whatever flavor it might be. To do this work, I used many contemporary history books, but I also leaned heavily on material originally written centuries before. Those authors are long gone but there I was hanging on their words—a twenty-first century man learning from people who could never imagine what the world would bring.

Sometimes writers help nonwriters live on. Before I cued up A Pleasure to Burn, I listened to biographer and former editor of Time magazine Walter Isaacson’s American Sketches (Simon & Schuster, 2009 reprint). The book is exceptionally well written and sketches the lives of people from Ben Franklin to Albert Einstein, from Gorbachev to Steve Jobs. Many of the people Isaacson writes about have shuffled off this mortal coil, but he helps them live on through his biographical sketches.

All of this to say that we writers must remind ourselves from time to time that some future reader, maybe a century from now, might pick up our work and draw in our thoughts, ideas, pictures, fears, joys, hopes, and terrors. Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and related short stories portrays a world where books are illegal and firemen don’t extinguish fires, they start them using books and art as kindling for the kerosene that squirts from their hoses. To most, the work is one of fantasy and science fiction. To a writer, the work is a horror story more terrorizing than anything Stephen King can muster (and he’s scared me plenty of times).

Writers, great and small, first speak from their keyboard and later from their graves. Hopefully, the latter will have something meaningful for future readers, even if there is only one reader a year. I find that exciting—and more than a little intimidating.


Alton Gansky writes books from his home in California.

Monday, April 27, 2015

No Zombies Allowed (in Christian Fiction)

One of the major hurdles I encountered when shopping my first novel “The Resurrection,” had to do with two factors: 1.) It was aimed at a Christian audience, and 2.) The story contained a ghost. 

And Christian fiction doesn’t do ghosts. 

The eventual publisher accepted the book on the basis that the ghost was peripheral, a MacGuffin (or so they believed). Nevertheless, they asked me to write an Afterword clarifying the inclusion of a ghost in Christian fiction. (You can find a summary of that Afterword in this post Another Perspective on Ghosts.) 

 I’ve since learned that my feelings about Christian stories containing ghosts, are no different than my feelings about Christian stories containing vampires, werewolves, leprechauns, and mermaids. 

Everything’s fair game. 

This puts me at odds with mainstream Christian writers and readers who consider certain fictional archetypes off-limits. 

Last year, I learned of another fictional archetype that is, apparently, off-limits for mainstream Christian fiction — zombies. 

In a post entitled How Then Can It Be ‘Christian’? novelist James Somers stated what has become the rubric, the defining principle, for what guides many Christian authors and readers: 

 …while we do have freedom to explore many avenues, we should never find ourselves compromising God’s Word or his person…

Likewise, we should never present a view of the world that contradicts God’s Word. (emphasis mine) 

Of course, this is fairly open-ended. I happen to think Harry Potter, Stephen King’s The Stand, Dean Koontz’ Odd Thomas, and Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find all meet these specifications. However, the devil’s in the details. Because something can be found in each of these tales that potentially “compromises God’s Word” to someone, in some fashion. 

And that’s the rub with this approach. Forcing fiction to neatly fit your theology is a losing proposition… at least, if creative storytelling is your aim

Case in point is the conclusion Somer’s draws based on his prescription:
 

I’m currently working on a new novel series that would seem like a zombie plague has broken out and threatens the world. Are zombies–the living dead–real beings? Could they actually exist? Of course they couldn’t. Dead is dead. Muscles don’t work without blood flow and a heart to pump it and lungs to oxygenate it. So, I can’t do living dead, but I can explore a story about infected individuals who are living and what such a pestilence or plague could do. (emphasis mine) 

So “while we do have freedom to explore many avenues… we should never present a view of the world that contradicts God’s Word.” And since the dead can’t reanimate, the Christian author “can’t do living dead.” 

Interestingly, the author gives himself a bit of wiggle room in describing his new novel by employing a plague “that would SEEM like a zombie plague.” Thus, the only way for a Christian writer to employ zombies without presenting “a view of the world that contradicts God’s Word,” is to create a plague that doesn’t reanimate the dead but zombifies the living. 

Problem solved. 

I have long argued that one of the inherent problems with Christian speculative fiction is that Christian spec-fic, by its very nature, cannot be speculative enough. We impose overly strict theological expectations on our fiction. Our fiction needs fit snugly within a biblical worldview, however we interpret that view. Thus, basic fictional archetypes like ghosts, vampires, dragons, zombies, werethings, space aliens, mermaids, shapeshifters, and shades can all pose tremendous problems for the Christian author. Why? Because they potentially “present a view of the world that contradicts God’s Word.” (This is also one of the reasons Why Christian Fiction Writers Love the Nephilim and why Christian spec author write so much epic fantasy — Fantasy fiction is our buffer against theological scrutiny.) So in “real world” settings, some characters or archetypes become totally off-limits for Christian authors. 

Like zombies. 

Unless they just SEEM like zombies. 

But if zombies are simply fictional constructs, why can’t they be just what they are: the living dead? 

* * *

Mike Duran is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike's novels include The Ghost Box, The TellingThe Resurrection, an ebook novella, Winterland, and his newly released short story anthology Subterranea. You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com, or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

NOT BY MIGHT

by Cynthia Ruchti

I've been on a hunt. An unsuccessful hunt. I thought I might find someone who had enough time, enough resources, enough ingenuity, strength, knowledge, and skill to accomplish the difficult task they'd been assigned by God.

Searched the people around me. People on the other side of the globe. People from the Bible.

All of them, underdogs. All too small, ill-prepared, underfunded, overworked, or the-least-likely.   


Millenia-worth of God-followers accomplished their tasks despite insufficient resources and inadequate time or strength.

How? And why would that pattern repeat itself so regularly through history?

David, the under-appreciated shepherd boy standing before a fully armed and armored giant, Goliath, an accomplished and formidable warrior. Goliath held a spear bigger around than David's skinny arms, no doubt. But add God to the equation and Goliath toppled like a pile of children's blocks.

Gideon, the draft-dodger who was drafted anyway, as insecure as they come. His army was immeasurable outnumbered, but victorious because they threw themselves on the mercy of God and chose to obey His specific, curious orders.

Joseph started life in Egypt as a slave with no rights, no possessions, no resources, and ended up second in command to Pharaoh. Joseph became a powerful leader who was instrumental in rescuing the entire nation of Israel from famine and destruction. Not by might. Not by power. But by the Spirit of the God he served.

When we feel overwhelmed by the circumstances facing us, we can imagine God is thinking, "Great! Those are the kinds of odds I like best! Now, get out of the way and watch Me work."

It's an offense to Him if human cleverness and talent is credited for the victories in our lives. Everything good that we are and have and do is because of Him.

In Isaiah 26:12 ESV, God's people said, "All we have accomplished, Lord, is really from You." In the Common English Bible, it's expressed this way: "All that we have done has been your doing."

Feeling a little underdog-ish? Overwhelmed? Outnumbered? Under-resourced?

Here's a holding-on-for-dear-life verse to encourage you that you're in a good place, a God place.

Zechariah 4:6-7 AMP, revised--"'Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts For who are you, O great mountain of human obstacles?…You shall become a mere molehill!"


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Teamwork can be Testy by DiAnn Mills


If you’ve ever had to work with a difficult person, you’ve experienced your patience stretched to the breaking point. Actually, difficult people can cause us to question our resolve to be successful.
Who can you trust?


Double Cross tests the value of teamwork among individuals who are Type A personalities, and some of them can’t be trusted. The concept is supposed to make actions efficient and effective, but textbook definitions don’t always work with strong personalities.



FBI Special Agent Laurel Evertson was caught in the crosshairs of maintaining her status with the FBI and working alongside a felon, whom she didn’t trust. Saddle her with a police officer who’s entirely too good looking, and she’s ready to end the case.


Houston police officer Daniel Hilton discovered the best way to protect his elderly grandparents from fraud was to join forces with the FBI. Working undercover with a type A female special agent and a male convicted felon often shook his determination.

Laurel and Daniel are likened to Batman and Batgirl - who require a little motivation to get along.



Abby Hilton, Daniel’s grandmother, watched her beloved husband spiral under the effects of Alzheimer’s. For over seventy years, they’d been together through the mountains and valley experiences. He’d always taken good care of her, and now it was time to fight those who threatened him. Abby refused to let age hold her back from investigating a crime, and she didn’t care who she upset.

Teamwork functions on the basis of a mission, a goal, and a plan to complete a project with a desired result. Look around you. Everyone seems to be on a mission, have a goal, and want to be successful. This happens in the workforce, among friends, and certainly in families. Although those involved may be in agreement, interpersonal conflicts can make getting along a bit of a strain. That means the members must swallow their pride and react to the betterment of the team. Those on the team are chosen for their skill and knowledge, and are motivated by agenda that has the potential to get . . . messy. The benefits outweigh the compromises.


The methods Laurel, Daniel, and Abby used to help solve a terrible crime are ones we all can use when forced to deal with abrasive people.

  • Brainstorming solutions to problems means more than one mind is able to offer solutions.
  • Competition channeled in a positive direction—the end goal—keeps every member of the team working their best.
  • Friendships forged are often a byproduct of teamwork. In the case of Laurel and Daniel, they learned to trust each other and found lasting love.
  • Superheroes are wonderful storybook characters, but only God works alone. Humans have some much to give to others—together.

Where do you fit in the world of teamwork?


DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; the 2015 president of the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope, & Love chapter; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.




Friday, April 24, 2015

9 Writing Productivity Mistakes to Avoid

By Edie Melson @EdieMelson

Productivity Tips for Writers.
There are a lot of tasks we must master as we make writing a priority. But with these additional tasks, our productivity may drop. 

Learning how to juggle this multi-tasking is part of becoming a professional writer. 

Today I’d like to share 9 Productivity Mistakes to Avoid.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Help! My Daddy's a Writer!

Jerry B. Jenkins, Peter Leavell,
and Byron Williamson
Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. www.peterleavell.com.
Three years ago, Jerry B. Jenkins announced my name to the world, and in one instant, all my dreams came true. Operation First Novel made me a published author. 

Jost, Kade, Tonya, and Peter!
How did my life change?

—Respect
—Validation
—A multitude of blogging opportunities
—A multitude of speaking opportunities
—A dance in a world of agents and editors, publishers and sales boards

One year later the shock waned, and I was ready to get back to work. But what did becoming a traditionally published, multi award-winning author do to my family?

My wife and I had long ago decided to be open with readers about our lives. My kids are talented and find their names in newspapers and pamphlets everywhere, so there’s no hiding their identity.

But I wondered what having an author/father was like for my family. So I asked them.


Bio—


My wife, Tonya, homeschools our children. Well under forty, she has a logical, focused mind. She reads nonfiction and mysteries, and she’s pretty, too. My son Jost is 14, plays tennis for a high school, and loves reading mysteries and adventure. He’s our scholar. Kade, my daughter, is 11, and may be a prodigy ballet dancer. Her reading must have animals, such as James Herriot.

Questions—

Jost plays tennis, Peter jogs,
and Kade dances!
You remember Dad before he was published. Do you want to go back to that time?

Son: No. The parties for authors are so much more fun.

Daughter: I like Daddy being an author. I love talking to people, and writers are the most interesting people to talk to. And they know how to really talk. Normal people try to start normal conversations, but you never know what a writer will say next. It could be anything.

Do you wish you had more time with Dad?

Son: Yes, but our schedules are just as busy. We understand.

Daughter: Yes, but money we get writing is used to take us to awesome places. It’s not for nothing. I miss Daddy sometimes, but I treasure the moments we get together.

Wife: Of course! Sometimes it feels like the characters move in with us, though. When we’re with him, we forget they’re not real people.

How do you feel about people reading the details of your life?

Son: I want to go read in a corner. I want to do just normal everyday stuff. It’s weird to go to a writer’s thing, and people know me because they read it somewhere. I don’t like it so much.

Daughter: It happens to me a lot, when a story was on Facebook, and they know things about me and what happened. I love to be noticed. Not like a movie star, but famous on Facebook.

Wife: I like the fact that we entertain people. Our lives are crazy, and it goes back to light and salt from Matthew. This is our sparkle. It’s what comes out from what we are.

What is the worst part of being a writer family?

Son: People expect so much more from each of us than the average person. We’re expected to go with people to do stuff, and to do stuff for them. And if we don’t, they think we don’t like them anymore. If Dad does stuff, then he’s behind on a deadline and has to stay up all night. Also, my dad’s shadow is pretty big, and I’m my own person. People forget that. Peter: Wow, Jost. You talk more about this than anything else. Jost: Yeah.

Daughter: It’s hurts me to see my daddy be so social. He’s really shy, but a good actor. And some people expect me to be social, and a writer. I like to talk, but I’m going to be a dancer, not a writer.

Wife: Deadlines are the worst. And it never occurs to people we’re too busy to do things, and that if we do things with them, it’s at the expense of writing.

What’s the best part?

Son: The places we can go. And the people we meet are above average. They’ve dedicated their lives to being artists, studying to be better people, smarter. I like that.

Daughter: The dinner table conversation is so much more interesting. And the people we meet have a goal, a meaning to life. Others just kinda live their life. Sometimes that makes them uninteresting.

Wife: Free books! More books!

Tonya and I discussed the positives that have come from the experience.

—The kids believe their dreams can, and with enough work, will come true.
—The kids are not afraid to work hard.
—The kids can converse with famous people as easily as they can with… well, infamous folks.
—The kids do not want to be writers when they grow up.
—We get and review free books!

—The kids embrace challenges and pursue things that matter.

All that, to say, with all the ups and downs, we wouldn’t trade our lives for anything! Because we have each other. Thanks for sharing this journey with us!



Western! Out Now!
Philip Anderson keeps his past close to the vest. Haunted by the murder of his parents as they traveled West in their covered wagon, his many unanswered questions about that night still torment him. 
His only desire is to live quietly on his homestead and raise horses. He meets Anna, a beautiful young woman with secrets of her own. Falling in love was not part of his plan. Can Philip tell her how he feels before it’s too late?
With Anna a pawn in the corrupt schemes brewing in the nearby Dakota town, Philip is forced to become a reluctant gunslinger. Will Philip’s uncannily trained horses and unsurpassed sharpshooting skills help him free Anna and find out what really happened to his family out there in the wilderness?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Uber Imaginative Tosca Lee

by Yvonne Lehman
Tosca Lee is the multi award-winning, New York Times bestselling novelist of Demon: A Memoir, Havah: The Story of EveIscariotThe Legend of Sheba, and The Books of Mortals series (Forbidden, Mortal, Sovereign) with New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker. She is best known for her exploration of maligned characters, lyrical prose and meticulous research. Tosca received her B.A. in English and International Relations from Smith College and has also studied at Oxford University. A former first runner-up to Mrs. United States and lifelong world adventure/traveler, Tosca makes her home in the Midwest. For more on Tosca, please visit her website.  

Ismeni

2015 ECPA book of the year finalist and 2014 Library Journal top pick The Legend of Sheba releases in paperback May 19. Ismeni, the FREE eBook prequel to The Legend of Sheba is available anywhere eBooks are sold. Tosca’s previous novel, Iscariot, the first-hand story of the infamous betrayer of Christ, won 2014 ECPA book of the year.


The Legend of Sheba

960 BC. The king of Sheba is dead and Bilqis, his exiled daughter, has gained the crown after a desperate overland march and battle for the capital. Solomon, the brash king of Israel famous for his wealth and wisdom, will not be denied the tribute of the world—or the riches of Sheba. With the future of her nation at stake, the one woman who can match wits with Solomon undertakes the journey of a lifetime in a daring bid save her kingdom.

An explosive retelling of the legendary king and queen, and the nations that shaped history. 

Fun facts about Tosca
  • This former first runner-up Mrs. United States hates washing her hair and regularly posts candid working shots on her Facebook Writer-Cam. Yes, she is usually wearing the same outfit two days in a row.
  • Tosca’s mother is Caucasian and her father is Korean. They were denied a marriage license on the basis of race in 1968. Growing up as a bi-racial child in the 70s, Tosca experienced racism first-hand.
  • Tosca is the stepmother to four kids ages 11 (twins) to 19.
  • As a classically trained ballerina, she danced semi-professionally at the age of 14 until injuries took their toll and sidelined career aspirations. The idea of writing novels came later, in college.
  • Her first writing job was on the staff of Smart Computing magazine in the early 90s. Yup, she’s a nerd.
  • She is a boxing fan and loves to shoot stuff—most notably, exploding targets. She also loves to fish. Cleaning fish, not so much. 
Yvonne Lehman is an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 3,000,000 books in print, who founded and directed the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for 25 years, is now director of the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat. She mentors for the Christian Writers Guild. She earned a Master’s Degree in English from Western Carolina University and has taught English and Creative Writing on the college level. Her latest releases include eight ebooks for Barbour’s Truly Yours line and a Harlequin/Heartsong series set in Savannah GA: The Caretaker’s Son, Lessons in Love, Seeking Mr. Perfect, (released in March, August, & November 2013). Her 50th novel is Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the TITANIC

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

5 Ways to Take Your Story From Meh to Marvelous

Michelle Griep writes historical romance, with 2 titles published to date. She teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op, and is a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) and MCWG (Minnesota Christian Writers Guild). At the end of the day, she comes home to 4 kids, 1 husband, and a slightly psychotic boxer named Tyson. 

You know that story you've written that's hiding in a drawer?

The one that's finished but it's just meh?

The one you love but know isn't market ready and you're not quite sure why?
                                                                         
Have I got a handy dandy checklist for you . . . 

5 Ways to Spice Up a Lukewarm Manuscript

Cause Trouble
When it comes to characters and story, safety is overrated. If your characters aren't having the rug yanked out from beneath them in every chapter, forget about it. You think readers want to wade through a dung pile of description for pages on end? The answer is no, they don't, and I don't care how clever your prose is. Ramp up the tension, not the exposition.

Speed It Up
Think about it. What's more exciting to watch? A Nascar race with squealing tires and burning rubber, or a blue-haired senior shuffling along with a walker? Pacing is everything when it comes to story. Put the pedal to the metal and keep the action whizzing by.

Shove Your Reader to the End of their Seat
Cliffhangers aren't only for the climax of a story. Use them at the end of every scene. Wait, did you hear me? EVERY scene. Don't give your reader a reason to yawn and close your book.

Zigzag and Switchback
Predictability is death. Except for a few die-hard formula romance readers, no one wants to have the story figured out from page one. As an author, it's your job to keep the reader guessing.

Toss in Some Clown Pants
Humor has its place in every book, no matter the genre. Sprinkled throughout, a good grin creates levity, breathing space, and contrast.

So go ahead and pull out that manuscript. Give these techniques a whirl. You'll have a spicey dicey story in no time.

Writer Off the Leash
Are you a writer at heart? How can you tell? And if you are, how do you go about composing and selling the next Great American Novel? WRITER OFF THE LEASH answers these questions and more--all in an easy to understand, tongue-in-cheek style. This is more than a how-to book. It's a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn't know how to take their writing to the next level. Award-winning author MICHELLE GRIEP blows the lid off stodgy old-school rulebooks and makes it clear that writing can--and should--be fun. 

Here is what readers are saying: 

“As a former publisher of more than 500 novels, I’m familiar with the questions and struggles of both the unpublished and seasoned author. Michelle’s fast-paced guide addresses these craft issues in a way that educates and entertains while arming you with tangible tools for becoming a better writer.” 
Allen Arnold, Former Fiction Publisher and Director of Content Ransomed Heart Ministries 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Visit with Debut YA Author A.J. Cattapan

By Pamela S. Meyers


1. Tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey.

I’ve lived in the Chicago suburbs almost my whole life except for my four years at Marquette University in Milwaukee and my first year of teaching in the Milwaukee suburbs. Since then, I’ve been teaching middle school reading and language arts in the Chicago area. I’ve wanted to write since the sixth grade when I read Anne of Green Gables, and touch people’s hearts the way L.M. Montgomery had touched mine. While I dabbled in poetry and stories, I didn’t get “serious” about my writing until about ten years ago when I enrolled in a correspondence-style course on writing for children. I first wrote stories and articles for children and was published in several different magazines, including Pockets (a Christian magazine for kids and tweens) and Highlights. Eventually, I moved on to novel writing, but it took many years and several manuscripts before I finally sold my debut novel, Angelhood.

2. Tell us a little about your upcoming release.

Seventeen-year-old theater geek Nanette believes her life is headed toward stardom on Broadway. But when her dream theater college rejects her and her best friend dies in a terrible accident, Nanette decides the world would be better off without her. Unfortunately, the afterlife offers something less than a heavenly situation. Trapped between alternating periods of utter darkness and light, Nanette is stuck following a high school freshman around. Soon, she learns she’s a guardian angel, and the only way she can earn her wings is to keep her young charge, Vera, from committing the same sin she did—taking her own life.

Unfortunately, Nanette is missing more than just her wings. She has no tangible body or voice, either. Frustrated by her inability to reach out to Vera and haunted by memories of her old life, Nanette wants to give up, but then she sees what happens when another Guardian at the high school turns his back on his charge. The shock is enough to supercharge Nanette’s determination. If she’s going to find peace in the afterlife, she’s going to have to discover what living is really all about.

3. How did you come up with the idea for Angelhood?

It’s easier for me to tell when when and where I came up with my idea than how! The day was Saturday, October 29, 2011. I was standing in the shower of all places and thinking about my previous novel manuscripts that had failed to sell, and feeling really down about them. Suddenly, an idea for this guardian angel story came to me. I didn’t think it would sell, but during the next three days, I had the story outlined and character maps made. They were finished just in time for National Novel Writing Month, so I hit the ground running and had the entire rough draft finished by the end of the month.
 
4. What do you contribute to your success in selling this book?

Joining writing groups has been hugely beneficial. I’m a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and the Mystery Writers of America (MWA). Being a member of SCBWI has helped me learn what works and doesn’t work in the middle grade and young adult markets. ACFW played a huge role in Angelhood because I used their critiquing group (Scribes) to help revise my story. Not only did my critique partners help me polish my manuscript, they also gave me the encouragement to seek publication. I thought they’d be turned away by my dark subject matter, but they helped me see that others might benefit from hearing about God’s mercy and ever-constant presence. Finally, being a MWA member paid off because I learned about my publisher through their email loop. Even though my story’s not a mystery, I may never have heard of this publisher if it wasn’t for MWA!

5. Are you a plotter or a pantzer?

Plotter. However, I don’t write out detailed outlines. I use the Blake Snyder Save the Cat beat sheet, which basically uses the key plot points in a screenplay to help you mark out key events in your story. For example, at a certain point in your story, your main character is going to step into “another world.” At another point, they are going to hit their “dark night of the soul,” when it looks like things can’t possibly get any worse and there’s no hope of it getting better.

6. Does your faith affect your writing? How?

I didn’t start working on my writing career with the thought that I would be a Christian fiction writer. I just wrote stories, and somehow as my writing progressed, my faith just seemed to keep popping up in my stories. I don’t know if I could ever really hide it. Even if I didn’t mention Christ or God in general, I think my faith would end up in it in a symbolic or allegorical sense like C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.

7. What’s the most risk-taking thing you’ve ever done?

You mean besides trying to get a Christian young adult novel about teen suicide published? Ha! Well, I did just go zip lining during a spring break trip to Guatemala. That was pretty crazy, but I felt the presence of my guardian angel even when my “zip” got stuck 200 feet from the finish and I was dangling hundreds of feet over the jungle canopy. Somehow I knew God would get me down, and He sent a strong tour guide to quickly rescue me. I guess people get stuck kind of often when it gets windy up there in the mountains, but no one had told us that ahead of time!

8. What’s next for you?

I’ve got two works to revise. One is a spiritual memoir, and the other is a middle grade mystery. We’ll see which grabs my attention first, but first, I have to get through this book launch!

9. Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

My website: www.ajcattapan.com






A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love, and Love Will Find a Way, contemporary romantic mysteries, and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Wisconsin and other midwestern spots for new story ideas.