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Reading 45 POUNDS of Reviews

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The number one piece of advice that published authors have given me as I prepare for the release of 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS): Do not read your reviews. It’ll only make you crazy. It’s not that I didn’t believe them. It’s just so hard not to. Imagine someone is talking about you and you know it. How can you not eavesdrop, especially if you have anonymous access? And Google, Goodreads, and Amazon give us instant access.

OK, I admit it. The temptation has been too much for me. Just like a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia yodeling from the freezer, Goodreads and Google Alerts call my name, too. I read them. And I eat the ice cream, too! I have no self-control. Here’s the thing: Just like ice cream, the first few reviews can be so sweet and soothing and wonderful. Five-star, glowing reviews feel good. They’re addictive. I keep telling myself I’ll stop. Tomorrow. Or after release. Or after one makes me cry. Or after I read just one more. Just one more.

Even though I haven’t listened, I have figured out why authors warn not to read them:

1. I cannot reply. Reviews are not conversations that include the author. They’re dialogue between readers. (Unless, of course, the author is invited.) My part of the conversation is writing the book. Now I need to shut up and let others read and react. (If you know me, you know shutting up is not my forte.) It’s hard not to chime in. In other words, at some point, authors need to exercise restraint—either by not reading the reviews or by not responding to them. Restraint is hard.

2. Not everyone is going to like the book. On a logical level, I’m fine with that. I don’t like all books either, sometimes even those that everyone loves. I know that I am not my book. I know that if someone doesn’t like my book, that doesn’t mean s/he doesn’t like me. S/he doesn’t know me. That is the logical level. The emotional reality is that if someone doesn’t like my book, it can feel like they told the world my newborn baby is butt-ugly. It’s as if s/he is proclaiming that I’m a hack who wasted years of my life writing a hack book and that I should not have quit my day job. Or learned to type.

3. Some people are going to love the book. How is this a problem, you ask? Well, overall, it’s not. But have you ever overindulged in Cherry Garcia and rode a roller coaster? (Oh, c’mon, hasn’t everyone?) Binging on good, bad, and mixed reviews is just a bumpy, nauseating emotional roller coaster. They love me! I rock! They hate me! I suck! They love me! I think I’m going to puke.

4. When I’m focused on reviews, I’m not focused where I need to be—on my next book. Look for it summer 2015, as long as I can pull myself together long enough to write it. (Just kidding, sort of.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I seriously appreciate every single person who takes the time to read my book and write a thoughtful review, even if it’s critical. Actually, while I’m here, I need to talk about the plus side to reading reviews. I’ve learned a lot from them about what readers like and dislike. Reviewers read A LOT and really understand what works and what doesn’t. Since the review “conversation” is between readers, they’re honest about it. On a logical day, that is very helpful. I’ve learned about phrases and words and ideas that are overdone and even offensive. I don’t want to repeat those things in my next book(s), so I’m grateful for that insight—info I’d miss if I hadn’t read the reviews.

I’ve also met a lot of wonderful reviewers. They’re smart and articulate, and they also really love books, just like I do. I want to be accessible to all readers—when invited, of course. For that reason, I will reply if someone Tweets directly to me or if a reader contacts me through my website. However, just so that I can keep the boundaries straight in my own head, I will not “like” a review, even a glowing one, or comment on them. Some authors do—and that’s great—but I’m afraid that if I allowed myself to, I’d be too tempted to comment where I shouldn’t. Or I’d “like” everything to be “fair” and end up looking like a creepy stalker.

Sometimes it’s important to know your limits—with reviews and with Cherry Garcia. Both are tempting and deliciously wonderful, but both are also best in moderation.

My book 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS) releases today!!! I’m beyond thrilled and thankful to everyone who’s created buzz about it. Even though I haven’t commented, I’ve noticed. You are awesome! If I could, I’d take you all out for ice cream.

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IN THE AFTER is Almost Here!

Hi guys!

It seems strange that IN THE AFTER is releasing tomorrow (Tuesday 6/28)…considering that my process took 2+ years from signing with Harper Teen to actual real live hold-in-your-hand book. It’s got me looking back on my writing career and everything I’ve done to get here and how easily I could have given up. When you want to be a writer, you have to deal with a lot of rejection & criticism and it’s easy to think that it will never happen, but then you keep with it. Each step, (getting an agent, going on submission, getting a publisher) is a hard won accomplishment and now, with my book so close to actually being out, it’s a bit surreal.

So…what do all you writers out there want to know about the publishing process…in general or specific to my journey. Ask, and I’ll do my best to answer! And if you’re in a book store tomorrow, go and check out my book-baby. The cover feels really fantastic (no joke, the cover feels amazing). It looks like this:

 

e8eb6-intheafter-hi-res

 

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Celebrating the release of ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE: An interview with Kate Karyus Quinn!

Yesterday, June 11, was release day for ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE by Kate Karyus Quinn. I was so excited to interview Kate recently about her awesome book. Here’s what it’s about:

The spine-tingling horror of Stephen King meets an eerie mystery worthy of Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars series.

On a cool autumn night, Annaliese Rose Gordon stumbled out of the woods and into a high school party. She was screaming. Drenched in blood. Then she vanished.

A year later, Annaliese is found wandering down a road hundreds of miles away. She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know how she got there. She only knows one thing: She is not the real Annaliese Rose Gordon.

Now Annaliese is haunted by strange visions and broken memories. Memories of a reckless, desperate wish . . . a bloody razor . . . and the faces of other girls who disappeared. Piece by piece, Annaliese’s fractured memories come together to reveal a violent, endless cycle that she will never escape—unless she can unlock the twisted secrets of her past.

Another Little Piece

Nicole McInnes: I really enjoyed ALP. It’s like nothing else I’ve ever read, and I’m so excited for the book to be officially out there in the world. So, what are your plans for release day?

Kate Karyus Quinn: My launch party is on my release day, so I plan to be running around like a chicken with its head cut off. So, yeah, really not that different from my average Tuesday. (Nicole’s note: be sure to check with Kate’s blog, Twitter feed, etc. to get an idea of how release day went!)

NM: ALP is one of those books that resists being placed into a clear-cut category. What’s your favorite way to describe it for readers who don’t know what to expect?

KKQ: Yes, it definitely straddles several different categories, and one of the reasons I love writing YA is that we have the ability to do that. I called ALP a paranormal mystery when I was sending out query letters. HarperTeen has categorized it as literary horror. Honestly, I think it is all those things – and there is a little romance in there too!

NM: Your main character, Annaliese, is so intense and multi-faceted (for reasons which become clear throughout the story). Of all of her personality traits, can you name a few you most admire?

KKQ: I think what I most admire about Annaliese is her courage in trying to find out what has happened to her, even as the truth leads her to darker and darker places. I also love how she comes to love the people in Annaliese’s life and how that makes her a stronger better person.

NM: How did you keep track of the multiple points of view that sometimes weren’t as multiple as they seemed?

KKQ: Well I am terrible with naming characters and then coming back to them fifty pages later and calling the same character by a different name. So mostly I try to keep track by going back to what I’ve already written and trying to remember not to contradict myself.

NM: With which of your characters could you most closely relate, and why?

KKQ: Probably the mom. She is an incredibly anxious person, who worries a lot and I definitely have quite a bit of that in myself as well.

NM: Did you draw on your own high school experiences when it came to writing about some of the everyday unpleasantness of high school life?KKQ: Yes. I was a lot like Annaliese, in that I was a quiet and shy girl who tended to crush on boys from afar. I was so concerned that the objects of my crushes might ever get a hint of how I felt that kept a good distance between myself and them, and would have been completely mortified if one of them had ever really talked with me.

NM: Which scene in the book was your favorite scene to write, and why?

KKQ: The final scene was my favorite. Usually I am a pretty slow writer, but the last twenty pages just flowed out of me and just felt so very right. It wasn’t the ending that I thought it was going to be when I started the book, even halfway through I didn’t know how it was going to end. It is embarrassing to admit that I really wanted it to end with an awesome kick-ass fight scene. Once I admitted that this didn’t at all fit with the book I was writing, I was able to find the ending that had been right for it all along.

NM: What’s the best way for readers to find you online?

KKQ: katekaryusquinn.com is probably the one best place and from there you can find my blog, contact me via email, and find links to all the other places where I am online.

Nicole’s note: Here are some of those links, including places where you can order ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE:

Kate’s Twitter

Kate’s Facebook page

Order ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE on Amazon

Order ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE at Barnes & Noble

Order ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE at IndieBound

ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE on Goodreads

The HarperTeen Browse Inside feature where readers can read the first 80 pages

Want To Sell Your Manuscript? Do Your Homework!

One smart thing I did to sell IN THE AFTER was research everything that applied to my book/genre/industry. It may sound completely counter to a creative process, but if you want to sell your manuscript you have to do your homework. Research the market, the publishers, and the agents.

Now I’m not saying write for the market, unless of course, you were already writing in a high-demand genre, but know what’s selling and know who’s buying your type of work.

For IN THE AFTER, I knew that YA dystopian was selling like crazy, and while IN THE AFTER is post-apocalyptic it has enough of a dystopian feel to fit that market. But it’s also different enough that I hoped it would stand out.

So I started researching agents. I looked at the acknowledgements page in books that I thought were similar to mine. I also went to the website for the Association of Author’s Representatives, http://aaronline.org/ and searched by which agents represented YA authors. You don’t want to waste your time approaching agents that don’t even represent your genre. If an agent has sold books of your genre in the past, they have connections and know who in the publishing world will be interested in your manuscript.

I researched the hell out of agents and got not one, but five offers of representation. That’s how I knew my hard work paid off. And since I’d already done a ton of research on each agent, I felt really good choosing one who I knew could sell my manuscript to a publisher.

Take it from me, if you want to sell your manuscript, you have to do your homework!

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Violence and Cursing and Sex, Oh My!

InTheAfter - hi-res

This month we’re talking about the levels of violence, sex, and other “badness” in our books. IN THE AFTER is recommended for 13 and up, and if it were a movie it would be PG 13…but what does that actually mean?

Violence – I’m not going to lie, my book is filled with violence. By definition post-apocalyptic means after an apocalypse, a horrible event in which millions are killed. Flesh-eating creatures appear on the planet, and very quickly wipe out the human population. My main character Amy, is left in the aftermath and ends up killing countless creatures. These attacks are some time gruesome, but never at any point is there violence for violence sake. It’s about survival and living in a harsh environment.

Sex – There is absolutely no sex in my book. With little romance, the only “sexual situation” is a man who tries, and fails, to force himself on Amy. This one incident is in no way gratuitous, and younger readers may not even understand the sexual undertone.

Bad Language – There are a few “curse” words in my book, but nothing that is still bleeped on television after 9pm. No F-bombs.

So, like I said, pretty PG-13 across the board. The truth is; every child/teen has a different level of reading comfort. While admittedly my book does have a lot of violence, it’s important to differentiate between gratuitous brutality and important strife. Children of all ages should know that there is a difference between fighting for nothing and fighting for something.

IN THE AFTER is available June 25th from Harper Teen.

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What I’ve Learned from Teens

While there are exceptions to every rule, my experience with teens has taught me about:

  • Honesty
    Teens tell it like it is. My kids and students have no problem pointing out my fashion faux pas and rolling their eyes if they think my vocabulary is out of date. On the other hand, some of the most amazing insights about human behavior have come from a teen’s off-handed observation. So when I’m writing, I don’t try to be a wannabe teen. And I don’t try to channel my 1980s teen self. That’s not honest. I try to create a real person dealing with big issues that everyone experiences because the feelings that young people have aren’t immature feelings that will grow up and gain understanding someday. Kids of all ages understand unfairness and justice and acceptance and rejection and love and rudeness and everything else. They deserve honest stories that don’t talk down to them.
  • Advice
    Unless they ask, don’t give it. One way to annoy my kids the fastest is to start giving advice when they start ranting about their bad days. They don’t want to hear about how I had bad days way back when I was a teen—before cell phones and the Internet. And they certainly don’t want to hear about my experience with those bitchy girls from high school and how everything works out okay in the future. They’re not looking for solutions. They just want to vent. They don’t need me to fix anything; my fixes feel trite anyway because I’m not in the throes of it all. So, when I’m writing I try to let the characters simply exist, not create false situations to teach kids anything. I want my characters to make real and honest choices and experience the triumphs or consequences that come with them.
  • Assumptions

Nobody fits perfectly into jock or nerd or any other stereotypes. High school is much more nuanced than the characters from the movie The Breakfast Club. When I write I try to envision people beyond labels. In my novel 45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS), my main character Ann is overweight, but she’s into fashion and has friends. How she sees herself is not necessarily how others see her. In fact, she’s cute—so cute that a hot guy notices.

No matter how old I get, I can still learn new stuff—even if it does accompany an eye roll or two.

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The What Ifs: What I’ve Learned from Kids

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There’s a lot of stuff I love doing with my kids. Reading books. Looking for creepy crawlies under rocks. Searching for wild turkeys in our neighborhood.

It’s so easy to be distracted by emails, work, social media, chores…life stuff. But what I always have to remember is to let my curiosity breathe and live. It needs elbow room, to stretch and just be.  It’s too easily confined by the endlessness of my to-do list.

But children, with their non-stop curiosity, remind me to never stop asking questions. To never stop wondering the whys and what-ifs.

I love what-ifs. It’s how every one of my books began, after all. 🙂

Look. Explore. Imagine. It’s so worth the effort!

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