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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Interview with YA author Jill Williamson

Starsongs Magazine is excited to introduce YA author Jill Williamson. Hi Jill and welcome! It's a pleasure to have you here today.

Jill, you say you write speculative fiction for teens. What is speculative fiction?

Speculative fiction is a term that encompasses a wide variety of “weird” fiction genres. It’s the supergenre of everything that falls under science fiction and fantasy. Spec fiction can take place on earth but often takes place in worlds created by the author. Some subgenreexamples are: alternate history, apocalyptic, cyberpunk, dystopian, fairytales, fantasy, paranormal, post-apocalyptic, science fiction, space opera, steampunk, and, supernatural. I wrote a blog post called Speculative Fiction Subgenres, if you want to learn more about each. 

Why do you think dystopian novels have become so popular for teens?

Genres come and go, as far as popularity. But with the dangers in our current world, dystopian plots seem much more plausible. They warn of an unhappy future that could conceivably happen soon. Readers like plots they can relate to. They also like to see an underdog face incredible odds. Save-the-world-type obstacles often stand in a dystopian hero’s way. Maybe he faces a corrupt government. Maybe his peoples' way of life is wrong or threatened. Maybe he lives in a world with no hope. And that appeals to teen readers because many feel like underdogs themselves.

What is your writing process? Do you write regularly or when inspiration hits?

I spend several weeks brainstorming a new story. I use a brainstorming worksheet like the one on my website to outline the story. Then  I take the next month or two to write the first draft. I try and write 2000-3000 words a day, starting in the morning. Once I finish the rough draft, I go back in and rearrange, cut,and add characters or scenes. Then I start rewriting. And I tend to rewrite as much as possible right up to my deadline. 

What is The New Recruit, your latest book, about? 

Forced to choose between military school and a Christian spy organization, skeptic Spencer Garmond signs on with the Bible geeks. But before he even boards the plane for Moscow, Spencer realizes this is no Bible club.

These guys mean business.

Stumbling onto a case involving a gang of homeless boys, a chilling tattoo, and the always beautiful Anya Vseveloda, Spencer struggles to find the faith needed to save the Mission League from enemy infiltration.

What inspired this book?

This is the first book I wrote. I was trying to write a story about teens going out into the world like missionaries, but since teen fiction books about missionaries weren't getting the attention of agents and editors, I tweaked the story and turned them into undercover agents. I was also trying to copy the format of Harry Potter. My goal was to get some teens away from their parents where they could receive some kind of training. At the time, I thought this was sneaky and brilliant, but it created so many problems! I’ve never written a book that way since. It’s not a good idea to copy what’s already successful—because the world already has that book. And humans were created unique for a reason. There’s already one J. K. Rowling. And I need to be Jill Williamson. All that to say, even though I’ve rewritten The New Recruit from that first horrible draft, this book is not my strongest, but it’s still a whole lot of fun.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on Captives, which is the first in a dystopian trilogy coming out from Zonderkidz in February 2013. It’s based on Daniel 1 when Jerusalem in conquered by Babylon and the young people are taken into the city.

Do you have any advice for aspiring teen authors?

Write a lot. And don’t worry about getting published until you’ve written several books and have polished them. Be patient and enjoy the process of creating and learning. If you rush things, you’ll regret it.

Where else can readers find you online? 

Go Teen Writers Blog: 

Also, I give away one of my books and a one-chapter critique every month on my website. So stop by every once in a while to enter. Look under the “Contests” tab to see what contests I have going on.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Victoria and the Ghost by Janet K. Brown

Welcome to the world of the debut release of an inspirational, paranormal YA titled Victoria and the Ghost by Janet K. Brown. 

Janet, welcome to the Starsongs blog. Tell us about your book, Victoria and the Ghost.

At fifteen, Victoria, a city girl, loses her mother’s love and copes with country isolation, no friends, and no one who cares, until she meets a ghost.

When her mother leaves the family to become a Dallas trophy wife, Victoria’s dad moves her and her sister to a North Texas farm to herd cattle and raise chickens. Refusing to believe this is more than a temporary set-back, Victoria tries to make new friends which isn’t an easy task. The first one stabs her in the back with gossip and a sharp tongue. Meanwhile, her new stepsister takes Victoria’s place in her mother’s heart. Rejection and anger stalk Victoria like a rattlesnake in the cemetery. Good thing she makes friends with a ghost and through him, a good-looking teenaged cowboy.

Here’s how Victoria recounts the move:

My name is Victoria Peterson. My life isn’t fair. I never thought that when I was fifteen-years old, I would end up away from my mother, my friends, and the city. Dad got this really dumb idea to move my seventeen-year-old sister and me away from civilization. He even expects me to tend chickens. Can you believe that? Why, my nail job won’t last a month.

It’s only temporary. When Mom returns from her honeymoon, she’ll move me back to Dallas to live with her. I am her favorite, you know. Maybe then, I can buy a decent pair of shoes.

What inspired you to tell this particular story?

I’m a Dallas girl, but awhile back, we moved our family to Wichita Falls which is about three hours northwest of Dallas. My husband and I discovered the true-to-life Texas ghost town of Clara. The area captured my interest. We walked among the tombstones. I read everything I could find and learned about the man and the ghost of Colonel Hermann Specht.

He was a colorful fellow. North Texas owes him a debt for his foresight and belief in the area though the town itself withered and died. He changed the landscape in a few short years. After losing his cherished wife and being stranded in Germany when World War I started, it is said he returns in search of his wife, Clara, for whom the town was named.

When my granddaughter, Victoria, (her real name) reached the rebellious teen years, and her single mom couldn’t do anything right, God brought the story to my mind of a girl that really faces rejection and isolation in her teens. What would happen if this poor, unhappy teenager met a ghost who prowled a cemetery with a sad heart?

Why do you think the supernatural is such a compelling subject for teens?

Teens find the supernatural interesting. So do I. I don’t see why non-Christians get to make up tales of evil and fear without Christians having input. God is the author of the supernatural. Though still fearful, why can’t there be more to it that just scaring us?

What do you see as some of the problems teens face today?

Teens struggle to make sense of things that happen in their lives. Divorce has become the new norm. Often, a young person battles rejection and guilt. In a big city such as Dallas, the superficial lifestyle of name brand tennis shoes and the latest fads tempt young girls to place undue importance on that which has little affect. Like Victoria in my story, they live in permanent denial of what really torments their thoughts.

 I pray that Victoria and the Ghost will speak to them of forgiveness and allowing God to mold them into the treasures He foresees in them, despite trauma fostered on them.

Have you written other novels?

Though I’ve written seven complete manuscripts, this young adult was the first to sell. I thank 4RV Publishing and Vivian Zabel, the owner and president, for being willing to take a chance on a new author. Great editors like Harry, Robyn, and KC helped strengthen my story, and Aidana Willowraven did a super job on the cover art.
I’ve started a sequel to Victoria and the Ghost that I will present to 4RV Publishing when it’s finished.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

My husband and I love to travel with our RV. He is my sweetheart and my best friend. We have three beautiful daughters, two great sons-in-law, and three perfect grandchildren, who give me lots of inspiration for my teen short stories and novels. I enjoy reading, traveling, line dancing, Bible studies, and lunch with friends. I keep busy in retirement, my husband loves to remind me.

Janet loves to hear from her readers. Here's how she can be contacted.

Here’s how you may contact me. I love to hear from my readers.

e-mail:  Janet.hope@att.net




Janet, thank you so much for spending some time over here at Starsongs!

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