Photo credit: Kristi Hedberg PhotographyHello! I'm a young adult book writer living in Asheville, NC. My debut novel, THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER, is the first in a Gothic trilogy coming January 29, 2013 from Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. I am represented by Josh Adams of Adams Literary.


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May Updates

Just because I haven't posted in a while doesn't mean lots of things haven't been happening. A few updates:

Release Date
My tentative release date for The Madman's Daughter (Book #1) is January 29, 2013. That's only eight short months away, or 256 days, but who's counting? (I am!)

Cover News
I've seen the cover that the great designers at HarperCollins have put together, and it is GORGEOUS. It has a beautiful and dark gothic feel to it, and I can't wait to share it with you all. I should be able to share it publicly in another few weeks.

Interior Pages
I also got a chance to see the interior pages as they'll actually look, with beautiful fonts, layout, page numbers, and all that stuff most readers probably don't notice but that I love. Yes, I'm a nerd for fonts.

Madman's Daughter Book #2
I've been hard at work drafting the second book in the Madman's Daughter series, and I am super excited about it, because the action gets bigger and the romance gets swoonier and it's set in creepy Victorian London! The first draft is finished and I'll be revising it over the next few months.

Movie News
I had a chance to speak to the screenwriter adapting The Madman's Daughter book into a script. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is the absolute perfect person to do this--he comes from a comic book background and he loves classic literature like The Island of Doctor Moreau, and he has worked on amazing projects like adapting Stephen King's Carrie, writing and producing for Glee, writing for theater and musicals, and so much more. Whether or not Madman's Daughter is actually made into a movie is a decision that is a loooong way off, but this is a cool start.

First Author Event
A few weeks ago I had my first event as an author! I spoke at Asheville's independent bookstore, Malaprop's, with eight other writers. We were all together in Bat Cave, NC, for a week-long writing retreat organized by the great Alan Gratz, and spoke at Malaprop's at an informal panel about writing, our books, and all kinds of crazy stuff.



London Research Trip

Being a writer is a pretty cool job, though sometimes I think if people knew what I really spent much of my time on (a lot of computer busy work) they'd be a little disillusioned.


BUT. Last month I got to do something pretty fun and blog-worthy in the name of writing--taking a trip to London to research the setting for my latest work in progress, the second book in the Madman's Daughter triology. I spent five days visiting museums, parks, and various neighborhoods of ill repute. My husband came along as butler, but I’m pleased to announce that after a few drinks at a pub he was promoted to writing assistant.

Getting to travel for research is definitely a major job perk (though not funded by my publisher, as many people seemed to think. It was funded by moi.) I wrote my first novel, THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER, while I still had a full-time job. It takes place largely on a tropical island off the coast of Australia and since I had no idea it would ever be published, not to mention that I had no time and money, a trip to that part of the world was out of the question. So I did research online and in the library and I pulled on memories of various places I’d been. Since it was a fictional tropical island, the setting was mine to make-up.

Book #2 in the series (still untitled) is different. It takes place entirely in London in 1896. Through the Internet and research books I can learn about Victorian life, dress, and society at the time, but London is just such a well-known city that I felt I couldn’t write the book nearly as well without having actually been there.

Creepy historic operating theater

Our itinerary was packed. The first day we had friends show us around Trafalgar Square and Soho, and rode the London Eye to get a birds-eye view of town. You know, kind of casing the joint.

The next day we rode the tube out to Kew Gardens, with its twisting old trees and beautiful glass houses. That night we went to Whitechapel for a Jack the Ripper tour with patent “ripper-vision” that made you feel like you were really back in the late 1800s at the scenes of the murderer. “Ripper-vision” turned out to be so grisly one lady fainted. So you know it was good.

Site of good chase scene, no?

Then we visited the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain to participate in a séance. There’s no séances in my series (at least not yet), but it seemed like a good writerly thing to do whilst in historic London and all that. I have to admit, this one was a little disappointing. The medium was off her game. Apparently I have a lot of deceased family members trying to get in touch with me that I don't know about.

The rest of the trip we spent at the Museum of London, that had a great Charles Dickens exhibit, walking around the Belgravia neighborhood, visiting a Chelsea home from 1895, and lamenting our aching feet.

I also had the treat of meeting up with my UK affiliate agent, Caroline Walsh, and also with a fellow Lucky 13 author (and editor) Amy McCulloch, whose book The Oathbreaker's Shadow also comes out in 2013. Amy recommended Troubadour Café, an awesome old atmospheric place where I could picture all sorts of shady intrigue happening. 

Lunch with new writing friends


Let's talk DRAFTS

Currently, I am knee-deep in the middle of draft #2 of Book #2 in The Madman’s Daughter trilogy, and I’ve reached a tough scene so I’m doing the logical thing and procrastinating.

I remember first learning about drafts in my hazy memories of elementary school. A first draft was very rough, almost more of an outline. The second, aka final, draft was where you recopied it (before the days of computers) and fixed run-on sentences and spelling and whatnot. Ta-da! Done! When I first started writing fiction, I stuck with this model. I wrote a first draft, and then I ran spellcheck, changed a character’s name, fixed a typo, and was ready to send it off. Guess what? None of those manuscripts sold.

Cut to the present. Before I even begin a first draft, there is the outline. For me, an outline usually takes about 1-2 weeks to write. It’s simply a synopsis of the book, anywhere from five to ten pages long. This is where I plot out the basic facts of what happens: when the characters meet, what happens, who dies when, who betrays who, who kisses who, and the big twist at the end. There’s usually a gaping hole about ¾ of the way through where I really have no idea what happens.

Then comes the first draft. This takes about 8-10 weeks to write. This is my very favorite part of writing, because I’m still really excited about the idea, and I know I’ll end up rewriting it a thousand times and no one will see ever this draft, so it’s a license to write really poorly. I can freely write whatever I want, cheesy action scenes and all. As I’m writing, I’ll go back and quickly rework certain scenes here and there that need to be “fixed” for some reason or another. So already, some of these scenes have been rewritten two or three times.

And now it’s time for second draft! No one has seen any of this yet, except probably my husband, who must suffer through lots and lots of drafts, but that’s marriage for you. Before I start writing Draft #2 I take about a week to re-read Draft #1 and jot down lots of notes about what doesn’t work and what needs to change. Some examples of my notes are:

  • This character just kind of disappears. Make him die earlier?
  • Her best friend hasn’t been mentioned in eight chapters.
  • More romance here!
  • Totally rewrite this chapter; it no longer works with the plot.
  • Add a scene here where character X explains X plot twist.

And then I start on Line 1, Page 1 and I rewrite everything. In some chapters, only a few lines get switched around or rewritten to sound better. Other chapters get 80-100% rewritten, or new scenes are added, and some scenes are cut. After this, I’ll probably take another week and read through this draft again and clean it up and reworking a few minor parts. I could easily spend another 6-8 weeks on this.

Now, it’s ready to be seen by critique partners. My philosophy is: if I can fix it on my own, there’s no point in showing it to other people. So by now, I might know that certain plot points in the book don’t work, or the pacing is off certain places, but I don’t know how to fix it (or else I would have already). So I give it to 2-3 critique partners. Then wait a few weeks for them to read & return it. Then I hem and haw and wonder 1) if I agree with them on everything, and then 2) yes, they are always right, I just didn’t want to admit it because now I have more work to do. So I read through all their comments, let it simmer for a day or two, and start rewriting again.

By this point we’re at Draft #3-#5, because as I’m going I might rewrite certain chapters again and again. Once I’ve incorporated my critique partners’ comments, I’d probably show it to my agent, and maybe one or two other critique partners. After receiving all of their comments, I’d rewrite yet again.

Now, finally, at around Draft #7-9, I’m ready to show my editor. This is where the “official” revisions begin. She will have lots of good feedback for me, and I’ll probably do another 3 rewrites for her, and be showing it to beta readers as I go and getting their feedback.

Next, once all my rewrites and revisions are done for my editor, the book will go to  copyediting, which fixes the grammar, consistency, and does fact-checking. Mercifully, someone else does this and I just approve it.

And there you have it! By the time a book is finished and published, I’ve probably gone through about 12 drafts, though it’s hard to tell because some chapters virtually haven’t changed at all since Draft #1, and other chapters have changed 20+ times.


Madman's Daughter movie news!

Big news today! Here's a clue...

I am so thrilled because I get to share the very exciting news that The Madman's Daughter has been optioned for a movie by Paramount Pictures, with Fake Empire producing. Paramount is the company behind, well, a ton of movies, and Fake Empire's team is behind TV shows like Gossip Girl, The OC, and Chuck. And the screenwriter they have in mind has an incredible resume, as you can see below.

All this news just leaves me kind of speechless and having to remind myself that an option is just option. It's not a promise the movie will made, since there are a million things that could derail it. But it's still exciting to think about the possibility of the world of The Madman's Daughter being shown through a new medium. 

Here is the story, as reported by Variety magazine. Or you can read about it here

 As I've mentioned here before, I had the good luck to be an extra in the Hunger Games movie since it was filmed near my hometown (blog post about that to come!). Obviously I'm a huge fan of YA literature, and especially that book. So getting to stand on the District 12 set with a few hundred extras and the actors playing Katniss, Gale, Effie, was like seeing that book--literally--come to life. I try not to use this word too much, but it was really magical. To think that The Madman's Daughter might also one day be brought to life via cinema is an incredible feeling. I'm so thankful to Lis Rowinski and the team at Fake Empire for believing in my book.


Finding Balance

Today I'm over at the Lucky 13s blog talking about finding balance while being a writer. Since quitting my day job it's been easier, but it's still one of the biggest things I struggle with.

If any fellow writers or readers have suggestions for balancing work, life, family, friends, and sanity, I'd love to hear!

You can read the article here.