I had the amazing pleasure of interviewing Cambria Dillon for the Write Brained Network, an online writing community connecting writers at every stage of development. The interview posted Saturday 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 super amazing Cambria Dillon, YA writer represented by Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst and Associates Literary Management. She’s also married, a mother, contributes writing-related posts on THREE different blogs, and these days, she plans her life around her daughter's favorite shows—Dora the Explorer and Diego—and Ravens football.
Today, she shares her thoughts on writing, revising, submissions, and how to stay sane as a working and writing mom.
AM: How did you get into writing?
CD: My parents dragged me on a cross-country road trip when I was around eight or so and forced me to listen to an old guy narrate Huckleberry Finn on audiotape. For eleven hours. No joke. The only salvation I found was with a new notebook and a pen, and I wrote so much my fingers had dents in them for days. My first story was about a ghost/angel named Amy who rode around on a motorcycle and tended a garden. I think there's a market for this!
AM: Ha! Love it. But what a great lesson in using time productively!
I understand you write Contemporary YA. What drew you to this genre? Do you see yourself branching off into other YA genres? Or into adult fiction?
CD: I actually started out writing adult paranormal romance and aside from squirming when it came to the more, ahem, intimate scenes, I quickly realized my voice was better suited for YA. The story that really kept me up at night (the one that got me my agent) just happened to be a contemporary story…however, not all my projects are contemporary. And that's all I'm going to say about that. ;)
AM: Well, I’m intrigued! From where do you draw inspiration for your writing—the settings, the characters, etc…?
CD: I draw inspiration from real life—news stories, a blurb on the side of a bus, a haunting photograph, a couple arguing in the doorframe of a bar bathroom, a teen who wipes away a tear when she thinks no one is looking. So I guess all of the above!
AM: 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?
CD: CONFESSION: I'm a pantser who secretly aches to be a plotter. I have the Staples reward card and a whole drawerful of unopened index cards and notebooks to prove it! Except recently, I came across Blake Snyder's, Save the Cat, and did something I've never done before – I plotted out a whole book in fifteen beats (and then some). A whole book! I don't think y'all understand the kind of angel-singing miracle this is, but rest assured I think I found my happy medium to pantsing AND plotting.
As far as my writing rituals…I have a hard time writing during the day, so my prime time is usually after my daughter is in bed (usually around 8:30) until 1 a.m. or so. Coffee is a must in the morning, for sure!
AM: Wow! I’m impressed! And I LOVE Save the Cat! Excellent craft book.
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?
CD: I have a lot of writing heroes, but lately my writing heroes are children's picture book authors (LOVE Mo Willems!). I read a lot to my daughter and it always amazes me how picture book writers can capture a child's attention with so few words. I strive to be so succinct and purposeful in what I put on the page.
AM: Not only do you maintain your own fabulous website, but you also blog over at Adventures in Children’s Publishing! Wow! Can you tell us a little about your role and how you got involved?
CD: Martina Boone is one of the founders of ACP and she's also one of my amazing critique partners. She and Marissa (ACP's other fabulous co-founder) asked me if I wanted to help out since the blog had grown, so I started contributing to some of the Tuesday Craft posts.
I'm also part of a new blog, called YA Confidential, with a group of five other YA writers. Our slant is more on helping writers understand today's teens by really uncovering what it is that makes them tic, what gets them excited, what makes them supremely teen. We even have a group of teen "spies" who are going to help us get the dirt! It's SUPER exciting!!!
Biased interviewer comment: EVERYONE should check out Cambria and her posts at YA Confidential. Fabulous!
AM: You are a wife, a mom, and have a day job. When do you write? How do you balance it all? What does an average day look like for you?
CD: Haha! Who says I'm balancing it all? :) I work about 50-60 hours a week at my day job, so basically everything else I do is pretty much at night…so I balance it all by NOT SLEEPING! I rely on really good undereye concealer, an ultra-supportive husband, and enough caffeine and sour patch watermelons to power a small village.
AM: Not sleeping?! That must be your super power!
And yes! You are represented by Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst and Associates Literary Management! *throws confetti* What has the after-signing life been like for you? Any advice regarding revisions and submissions?
CD: It's been such a whirlwind experience! Vickie's amazing and I still can't believe how much enthusiasm she has for my story and characters. I've never had that kind of unwavering support from someone who wasn't a friend or relative, so it's truly been awesome.
I think Carolina [Valdez Miller] said it best when she said "do something else" while you're on sub. The wait is excruciating! But, I think the other piece of advice I'd give is that even when your work is out there, you shouldn't totally forget about it. Sometimes you need a big, big, BIG step away from that piece in order to come back to it and really see the things that need fixing. So while you're on sub (or querying), keep your mind open to ideas that could make it better. Don't just shut the door on it and assume that just because it's on the desk of agents or editors, that it's completely perfect. It isn't. I spent a lot of time mulling over ways to fix things when I wish I'd have mulled a little earlier.
AM: What was querying like for you? Is there something you wish someone would have told you before you queried?
CD: I have the patience of a squirrel, so for me, querying was akin to that godforsaken cross-country road trip where every five minutes I was asking when we'd get there (minus the Huckleberry Finn book on tape). So I wish someone had told me to just STEP AWAY. Stop hitting refresh on my e-mail. Stop checking Twitter to see if any agents had cryptically talked about my MS. Stop trolling Publisher's Marketplace for every story that seemed like it could be similar to mine. Don't do that. You'll go crazy. Exhibit #1: Me at midnight with bleary eyes and nubby fingernails.
AM: Thanks for the great advice! Any workshops or conferences on the horizon?
CD: I just got back from the Write-Brained Network's inaugural workshop in Harrisonburg, Va., and it was such a great day! Ricki (Schultz) and her team did a fabulous job making sure there were panels for everyone – sessions included everything from writing mechanics to agent query feedback to first page critiques by published authors to freelancing and social media. It was an absolute blast and I can't wait for next year's!
AM: 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?
CD: I have a three-year-old daughter who keeps me INSANELY busy when I'm not writing. So my hobbies end up being things she likes to do – going to fun places and acting crazy, reading books, coloring, SHOPPING! She's the best shopping buddy, believe it or not! I love to travel and am headed to Paris for 10 days mid-October! CANNOT. WAIT.
I have a cat named Jezebel, who's INSANELY annoying at the most inopportune times, and a skinny dog named Chubs, who's INSANELY adorable. He looks like Owen Wilson minus the crooked nose. (My cat looks like Beelzebub covered in fur, in case you were wondering!) :)
AM: Awesome! Thanks, Cambria for an incredible interview! So glad we could get to know you!
If you’d like to connect with Cambria, visit her at http://www.cambriadillon.com/or follow her on Twitter.
In the contest realm, my awesome writer friend, Jennifer Hoffine, is giving away ARCs of Shatter Me, Crossed, and more! I have won so many amazing reads from her contests (Perfect, Between...), and they're so easy to enter! Click here for the details!
And finally, a super gihugic THANK YOU to everyone who entered my Banned Books Giveaway! The winners are
Donna at The Happy Booker
Yay! Congrats! I've emailed the winners. Thank you all for participating!
So, how did YOU get into writing? Did you get "inspired" by a road trip? What's YOUR story?