#CeleberitySaturday with special guest star @LorcaDamon! #amwriting

Thanks so much Lorca for being my guest today on Celebrity Saturday! Today I have TWO guests and it’s very exciting.

Lorca says she loves to write YA and REALLY twisted MC’s…sounds like my kind of stories!

So, dear readers, pull up a chair, grab your coffee…and let the amusing education begin! This is about writing, reading and love of coffee. What could be better!

Let the interview begin!

1) What books have you published? Or what books are in your WIP?

I like to think that I’m in good company with Stephen King, since the writing urban legend is that even he has a first novel in the closet somewhere that nobody would touch with a ten-foot pole! I am actually editing one of my manuscripts right now about a completely typically 15-year-old boy who gets it worked up in his head that he’s supposed to take a road trip out west after he reads The Catcher in the Rye. It kind of eats at him that Holden never got to take this road trip, so Caid is going in his place. I know, don’t roll your eyes at the thought of another great American road trip book, this road trip goes all to hell basically on the second day. Caid accidentally drives the getaway car in a gas station robbery, picks up a hitchhiker who hasn’t told anyone else in the car that she just shot her stepfather, and finds himself in Detroit bringing the cash to a meth dealer before the guy can take out another character’s family. Good times!

2) Who inspired you to start writing? Who are your literary legends?

Since I’ve just learned that writers don’t get to quit their day jobs, it’s a good thing that I love my “real” job. I’m the English and science teacher and the librarian in a juvenile correctional facility. Yup, we don’t care how many people you’ve killed, you still have to get up, make your bed, and go to school! Ever since starting this job in the Big House, it’s been one literary ride after another because I’m now meeting inmates from all over our state, from the honor students who did something stupid all the way to the illiterate children who have been breaking the law to survive. They have such vastly different tastes in reading and in order to be able to recommend books to them I have found myself reading some of the craziest YA titles, things that I NEVER would have purchased in a bookstore. I still may not love ALL of the books, but I have come to see the talent and genius in those writers.

MY inspiration to write comes from my students because nobody knows their stories. I don’t only write about troubled teens, but a lot of my characters, for instance on the road trip, are born out of things I know my students have faced.

Of course, the English teacher in me wishes I could just plant a tent outside Harper Lee’s house and live in her yard, just in the hope of waving to her when she walks down to the mailbox each day! But for writers for young adults, I love the dystopian novels that are popular now, like Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games series and James Dashner’s Maze Runner trilogy.

3) What do you love about YA? Why did you choose that genre?
I love YA because of the challenge. If you take an adult reader and tell her, “This book really spoke to me, I think you’ll love it,” she will plow through the book even if it doesn’t grab her just because you said it’s good or because it’s on a bestseller list or because it was chosen for Oprah’s Book Club. For a teenager to read and recommend your book, you have to earn their love. They have so much going on that if they tell you they stayed awake all night reading it because they had to find out what happens, you’re gold.

4) How many books do you have out? What are they about?
In 2009 I switched from human interest journalism to trying my hand at writing a novel, basically just to see if I could do it, and it’s a type of writing I love so much more than a 1200-word count article. At the end of the article, I’m done with the people in it. I love novels because I know so much more about the characters, past, present, and future.
I have one historical paranormal book that is with an agent, and one YA contemporary that is a quarter finalist in the 2011 Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Awards. Otherwise, it’s nose to the grindstone on the very real work of trying to be a published writer.

5) How do you connect with your characters?
It’s always a surprise to me when I find that connection, and I think it’s because they are so much like my students. As a teacher I’m used to maintaining a professional distance from my students, while still caring about their happiness and welfare, of course. But every once in a while that special student comes along and as I get to know that person I find myself caring even more than I do about my other students. The same is true of my characters, it’s like they grow on me.

I remember driving home from work one day while I was in the middle of writing The Earth is for Dancing. It just hit me all of a sudden that the main character’s grandmother was going to die. I cried all the way home! She has Alzheimer’s, it’s terminal! Of course she was going to die! But when I mapped out the story the ending was going to come about before Gamma actually died. But teenagers positively spit on anything that isn’t genuine or seems to be sparing their feelings, and I knew then that the story was going to take a horrible turn for the worse, ending with the grandmother’s death. I agonized for two days over doing that to the main character!

6) Are you big on the Social Network scene? Has that helped sell your book?
With my job I do have to be very careful of social networking, which is the only thing that keeps me from being more active on Facebook. When I receive an email that says, “You’ve been tagged in a photo,” I cringe! I keep a Facebook account because it’s an excellent way to spread the word about my writing blog : www.lorcadamon.com

However, I live for Twitter! I’ve made a lot of connections through Twitter, both with some agents and with other writers. And by following agents and publishers of YA works that I liked, I’m able to see their comments on various books, their pinings for which types of works they would like to see more of, and various trends in the publishing industry. I’ve also found a few willing beta readers thanks to Twitter, and they are ultra-valuable sources of advice and information.

It’s weird that a personal connection can come out of faceless social networking. When I get to know an agent through Twitter, I find that I’m wasting less time querying in the dark. I’m able to say, “You and I had an exchange on Twitter recently about this__________ and your comment made me think you might be interested in my query.” Even when that agent has had to turn down my manuscript, I’ve found it’s usually with much more personal and helpful comments than the standard “No, thank you.”

7) What’s in your library right now? What books are you reading?
I received two grants at work to buy a class set of Kindles, along with hundreds of titles to load into the Kindles. So I have it all in my library right now. I keep a hashtag on Twitter called #prisonreads and it’s just a random listing of the books that my students are loving right now, but ones that I’m completely on board with their tastes include anything by Walter Dean Myers, Suzanne Collins, Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy (and Supernaturally very soon), Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, Jodi Piccault, Laurie Halse Anderson, Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush/Cresecndo, Maggie Stiefvater”s Shiver/Linger/Forever.

The teen readers are really eating up anything paranormal that doesn’t seem too far fetched. Face it, their lives (even the lives of the ones that aren’t in jail!) are really tough…would you go back to being a teenager again? NO! They like the escape, but it has to at least seem logical.

Every once in a while I like to pretend to be a grown-up and read something profound. I kept hearing the buzz about So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman, and it was a really hard, ice water in the face reality check. It was like thinking, “I reaaallly don’t want to read this but I have to know what happens,” and believe it or not that is actually highest praise for that book!

8 ) Are you working on a work in progress now?
There’s always a work in progress! One of my favorite lines from The Commitments comes in a scene where two of the band members bump into each other in line for their unemployment benefits. One turns to the other and says, “It feels a whole lot better being an out of work musician on the dole than being an out of work pipe fitter on the dole!”

The same is true of my writing. I’m a writer. It took a long time to stop telling people, “I’m a teacher, and I do a little writing in the evenings.” Seeing my name in national magazines for my articles didn’t make it feel real. Getting a paycheck for my freelance writing didn’t even make me feel like a writer. Sitting down at odd times of the day to work on 65,000 word novels didn’t make me feel like a writer, either. But eventually I decided that it’s who I am. I’m a writer.

9) What do you love most about writing?
I’m completely in control of what happens to my characters. One thing about the very special students I teach is that I can’t make them have a good life. I’ve taught some of the same students over and over, ones who get released and do something horrible and come right back. Sometimes it’s because they made a stupid choice, but other times life just hits them hard, and when they come back they look at me and say, “What else was I supposed to do?”

In my stories, I decide what happens. Some days my character is going to get revenge on the girls at school who bully her or the main character is going to stop being a wallflower and just finally kiss the girl he loves. It’s all in my control.

10) What do you hate the most about writing?
The hardest thing is feeling like I’m shouting in the wind. Who is going to hear my stories, but more importantly, who is going to care about my characters as much as I do? I made them and I held their hands through every bad thing that happened to them, kind of looking down at them and promising them that in a few chapters it was all going to be okay. It’s hard to think, “Nobody’s ever going to read this,” but it’s even harder to think, “What if someone does read it and they don’t care?”

11) Do you ever get writing blocks? How do you beat those?
Writing blocks are like insomnia. Experts will say that when you can’t sleep, stop fighting it, just get up and go do something else until you’re tired. It’s the same way with writing, just don’t forget to come back and write later!

My writing blocks stem more from attitude than anything else. When I write for my humor blog, there are days when I think, “It’s been almost a week since I posted something,” but my life just isn’t funny right then. I spend all day with children who’ve been horribly used by life, then I come home to my wonderful family and I think, “Who am I to deserve this when so many kids are hurting out there?” It can be very depressing and unnerving.

At the same time, this chapter I’m supposed to be working on might be about three girls going to the mall and picking out a great dress to wear to the dance. After a particularly hard day at work of hearing my students talk about their problems, it’s tempting to change that chapter to where a gunman jumps out and starts a shooting rampage! Oops, not where that was supposed to go!

I have to give myself attitude reality checks and come back to the writing when the attitude block is gone.

12) What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing? Do you recommend Self-publishing?
I think writers need to look at the purpose of their publishing attempt. Are you just trying to be able to claim, “I’m a publisheed writer?” Are you just trying to get some specific information intended for a small audience out there? Then that might be the way to go. I’ve written a fairly short book about raising my autistic daughter, kind of like a step-by-step how-to book. It’s not a sweet memoir, it’s not intended for large audiences and it has no theoretical research in it whatsoever. It’s simply a guidebook that says, “THIS is how we potty trained her, THIS is how we taught her to read, etc.” I wrote it intending to self-publish it because it’s for a highly specific audience.

At the same time, if your goal is to get your book into the hands of a much larger audience, I couldn’t imagine trying to do it without an agent and an editor on my side, without going the traditional route. The burden of work for an author is massive, so how great do you think you are? You can do it all? Or can you rely on the professionals who know the business?

13) Do you have any other hobbies or passions other than writing?
I love being outdoors, so camping, canoeing, hiking, all of those are great family activities for me. Other than that, I run marathons and do triathlons. There’s something crazy about knowing, “I’m going to go run, and I’m going to run for four hours without stopping.” It gives you so much time to organize your thoughts…and your life, for that matter!

14) Has anyone helped you with your writing? How?
For so long, I was almost embarrassed for myself and it would be a huge shock when I would receive phone calls and emails about articles I’d published from people who loved it. Then came the novels, and that was even harder; it felt so cliched to say, “I’m writing a novel.” Who isn’t?

Just recently I’ve started biting the bullet and letting a chosen few read my works in progress and I find myself avoiding their phone calls when I know someone has my book. I’m taking babysteps into letting people actually tell me what they think!

15) What is your favorite kind of coffee or tea? Does coffee or tea help you write?
I’m addicted to coffee but I make absolutely horrible coffee. My husband rescued me from Cage Purgatory by getting me an idiot-proof Keurig maker for Christmas. I allow myself two cups every morning, usually Green Mountain’s Nantucket Blend or Carribou Coffee, any variety. It makes the day start out so well! Splash in a smidge of flavored creamer and I’m set!

I actually can’t eat or drink while I’m writing. I’m ADD (unlike the jokes where people say their ADD is kicking in), and if I stop in mid-sentence for a sip I then start a downward spiral of doing getting sidetracked into doing something else. First coffee, then words.

16) I think that’s it Lorca! Thanks so much again for being my guest star! Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know about you?
My core belief: If you find yourself in life with no path, or no direction, or just wondering what your purpose is, remember this…all over your town there are kids who cannot read. They are literally living just miles from your house. Stop by the closest school and offer to help. The one common thread I usually find in my students is their inability to read well. When you can’t read you can’t enjoy life, but more importantly, when you can’t read, what else are you supposed to do but self-destruct? Be a part of the solution.

Thanks again Lorca!

I hope you guys enjoyed that interview as much as I had! It was a very interesting perspective.

Tomorrow there is a special CELEBRITY SUNDAY! It will be with Catrina Taylor Rudd about #WithLoveProject which is to help Japan! Very excited to be apart of that so PLEASE stay tuned tomorrow!

Thanks again Lorca for another fantastic Celebrity Saturday!

Once again if YOU’D like to be a star on my blog for a chance to promote your work and free digital coffee goodness, just tweet @SmithEClaire! It’s every week and there have been some very inspiring, sexy, steamy and interesting  interviews so far! Can’t wait to see who it’s going to be next week!

Thanks again everyone and hope you are enjoying your weekend!!

Stay Shiny,

❤ Claire

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