Happy Friday! I had the amazing pleasure of interviewing Carolina Valdez Miller for the Write Brained Network, an online writing community connecting writers at every stage of development. The interview posted yesterday for members of the WB, but I wanted all my faithful blog followers to get to know her too.
Without further blahg rants, here’s the interview!
This month, meet the fabulous Carolina Valdez Miller, YA writer represented by Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst and Associates Literary Management. She’s also married with children, a Bookanista, and blogs regularly about her adventures in writing. Today, she shares her thoughts on writing, revising, submissions, and how to achieve perfect balance. Or at least enjoy trying.
AM: How did you get into writing?
CVM: I used to lie a lot when I was little. Then I started writing stories really young, about 7 or 8 (or 9?), after I learned English and how to write. I remember even writing sermons like what I used to hear at church (I was never very good at that). The first full book I wrote was a picture book at age 11, which won me my first writing award. I wrote plays and short stories and one hideous screenplay in high school, and then my freshman year in college, I started writing my first novel. Oddly, it didn’t occur to me to be an author until later. I always knew I’d write books, but “author” seemed like a career for other people, despite my double major in English and Creative Writing. I wanted to be an actress, and then eventually I set out to be a literature professor. I didn’t even consider publishing until I got all old and stuff. I do things randomly, I guess.
AM: Wow! That’s an amazing backstory! I understand you write YA Paranormal. What drew you to this genre? Do you see yourself branching off into other YA genres? Or into adult fiction?
CVM: I started out writing contemporary, mostly really literary stuff, probably because of my education. But my characters over the years kept getting younger. Then my husband read LOTR to me when I got sick, and for the first time I saw the appeal of fantasy. Harry Potter made me realize there was nothing lesser or inferior about commercial novels with young characters for young people. I know, but try not to judge me. Academia trained me to be a literary snob (judge them). Until LOTR and Harry, I erroneously thought only people who couldn’t cut it as literary fic writers wrote other stuff. Obviously, I know better now. Writing is hard, period. So I abandoned my dreams of being in Oprah’s book club and just wrote the stories I truly wanted to write—lately they’ve been paranormal, almost always with a love story. I have contemp stories in me, too—one in particular I intend to work on after my current WIP which is a paranormal thrillerish near-futurish series-like thing.
AM: Oooh. Paranormal with a romance. My favorite. From where do you draw inspiration for your writing—the settings, the characters, etc…?
CVM: From everything. Right now I’m inspired to write a story about a writer who, in the middle of answering questions to an interview, finds out her 8-book series just sold for millions of dollars.
AM: Haha! That would be awesome. Do you have a method to your writing? A plotter or pantser? A certain time of day you need to write? Or are you more whimsical about the whole process?
CVM: I can write any time, but generally I write at night because that’s when my house gets quiet. It’s next to impossible for me to write with noise. I used to be a pantser, but I decided that results in crap for me and endless amounts of editing. So now I do some plotting in advance. It’s a gift from me to me. I also have to have Coke Zero and something to snack on or I forget to eat altogether.
AM: Do you have a writing hero? An author or mentor who helped shape who you are as a writer? If so, how did that person have that effect on you?
CVM: Eh. Not really. Aside from my mom who’s a brilliant writer. But mostly I learned from her to never give up and that I’m loved. Also, most food is better with walnuts and raisins and for crying out loud I wasn’t born in a barn.
AM: You’re also a Bookanista! Wow! Can you tell us a little about your role and how you got involved? Are there any books you reviewed that stand out? Tell us about them.
CVM: I was actually on vacation when Lisa and Laura Roecker e-mailed me asking me to join a new group that they were starting up with a few others (at the time I had no idea it was the brainchild of Elana Johnson). I didn’t know who was going to be in it, but I didn’t care. The thought of being in a group that focused on reviewing well-loved books seemed awesome to me. Also, I’d do anything for Lisa and Laura. So I said yes and scrambled to write my first review as the group launched while I was still on vacation. And then I found out who was in it (which at the time was a much smaller number). I’ve loved all the books I’ve reviewed, but Ruta Sepetys’ BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY stands out as being the most haunting. It really stuck with me.
(Biased interviewer’s note: Carolina’s reviews are incredibly thorough and passionate. She recently reviewed Gretchen McNeil’s POSSESS in a vlog. Reminded me of The Blair Witch Project. Eerie and hilarious. Click here to check it out.)
AM: I know you are a dedicated work horse when it comes to writing, blogging, etc., sometimes you’re working into the early morning hours. How do you balance it all? What does an average day look like for you?
CVM: At the moment, it’s summer, so my kids are home from school. It’s tougher right now. I wake up, check on the kids, make sure everyone eats. If we don’t have plans to go out, I try to sit with them while they watch TV or whatever and catch up on social networking stuff and e-mails, etc. That actually can take hours sometimes. Eventually I’ll shower (usually). Then run errands—post office, shopping, hanging with my kids, dinner, whatever. After dinner, I might spend an hour with the family, and then I work (reading, reviewing, blogging, writing), usually the rest of the night. Lately, I’ve been working until 3 or 4 AM, and then I wake about 9 AM when the kids are up. Some days I don’t do any of that, though. Some days I just hang with my family. Recently, I’ve been landscaping my garden. I really love lilies, the orangey-salmon ones.
AM: And yes! You are represented by Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst and Associates Literary Management! *throws confetti* Can you tell us a little bit about THE CALL? What has the after-signing life been like for you? Any advice regarding revisions and submissions?
CVM: Thank you! Okay, so, anyone that knows me knows I really suck on the phone. I get anxious and stop censoring myself. Seriously, I can sound really stupid and sometimes a few marbles short. I posted about the call, actually, here.
As for advice?
Revisions: Don’t assume that just because someone sees the potential in your manuscript that it doesn’t need serious work (or that if no one sees the potential right away that there isn’t any). Revision is where your manuscript becomes a book. It’s where the magic happens. Don’t be afraid of it, and don’t get disheartened by revision notes. It’s not criticism. It’s a gift. Few people can write perfect books without some help. Make it the best you can. And then make it better.
Submissions: Learn how to freaking knit or something. Clean out your closets. Devote yourself to a new manuscript. Lock the liquor cabinet. Submissions are harder on your psyche than querying. No joke. But you have a hand to hold, which is nice.
AM: What was querying like for you? Is there something you wish someone would have told you before you queried?
CVM: I wish someone would have told me to let the ms sit a hellavu long time after I finished drafting—work on something else, revise, get it critiqued, revise, let it sit, revise, get it critiqued, and revise and revise it one more time. (I wouldn’t have listened, but I’m annoyingly stubborn). Publishing is nothing but one long freaking wait. It’s easy to close a door on yourself if you try to circumvent that general rule. A few get lucky jumping the gun. But assume it won’t be you and you’ll save yourself some heartache.
AM: Excellent advice for writers at any stage. Any workshops or conferences on the horizon?
CVM: My next major con is the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego. Haven’t lined up next year’s cons yet. Any suggestions?
AM: The fabulous WB conference on September 10!
What do you do when you’re not writing? Can you tell us a little bit about your family? Work? What are some of your hobbies? Community service activities? Pets?
CVM: Married. Two kids. No pets. I like sugar. I write full time, volunteer at a soup kitchen, go to church fairly regularly, travel a lot, go to the drive-in cinema, stalk Jared Leto, et cetera.
AM: Mmmm. Jared Leto. *swoons*
Ahem…Wow! You do so much! Awesome.
Finally, if you were stranded on that cliché desert island with only one form of sustenance—what would it be? Coke Zero? Or Twizzlers?
CVM: I would tell you Coke Zero and then sneak Twizzlers in my hat.
Thanks for a great interview, Alison! That was fun!
AM: And thank you, Carolina! I’m so glad we could all get to know you.
If you’d like to connect with Carolina, visit her at www.carolinavaldezmiller.com or follow her on Twitter.
And it wouldn’t be a Friday if I didn’t enlighten you with my response to Paper Hangover’s Friday Fives. PS—what a fabulous blog! Awesome writerly advice and insight into the writing and publishing world! You should check it out!
This week they want to know FIVE book titles that got my attention.
Five? Yeah, right?
Here are four of A LOT that had me at hello.
The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
Swim the Fly by Don Calame
Love, Lust, and Faking It (You’re intrigued too...go on, admit it) by Jenny McCarthy
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
And one at the top of the TBR list
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
What titles grabbed YOUR attention? And don’t forget to visit the super fabulous Carolina Valdez Miller! Have a wonderful weekend!