Many writers will tell you that the story chose them. There they were, having a coffee at home or dozing on a train, and then WHAM, a voice or a face or gem of an idea appears. That’s how a story of mine, The Superhero Club arrived on the page, and Musa Publishing signed it up back in January for a November launch date. It’s a children’s / YA tale of friendship, truth and acceptance, and unlike anything else I’ve written before. (That’s right, no one dies!)
To get to the bottom of what it means to be a YA author, I’m delighted to introduce my fellow Musa author Mindy Hardwick.
1. Do you plot your books in detail from the start or do you let them develop organically?
Stained Glass Summer developed from character. One night, a spunky, teenage girl character sat down in my blue and white striped chair and said, “Hello, my name is Jasmine. It is time to tell my story.” A year later, I began working on my MFA in Writing For Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. In that program, we worked a lot on character with the idea that plot would evolve from character.
2. Have you changed your approach to writing since the publication of your first book?
Stories still start with a character, but, I have learned to do more outlining and plotting! I’ve learned a lot by attending RWA Conferences and listening to romance writers talk about what it takes to write two to three books a year—lots of outlining and plotting! I’ve also learned that with a good outline, I can work on scenes out of order. So, if I’m stuck on one part, I can move to a different part of the story and not get too jumbled!
3. What drew you to the YA genre, and does it present any special challenges as a writer?
My writing voice seems to fall naturally into the YA/Mid Grade genre. The topics I like to explore are teen and tween issues and my characters are young and trying to find their way in the world. One of the biggest challenges for me is I tend to write stories which are “tween.” This is a cross between the young middle grades and not quite young adult. I had a hard time selling Stained Glass Summer because of this age issue. It didn’t quite fall into either YA or MG. It was in the middle. But, I used to teach middle grades (6th-8thgrade), and I knew the story belonged to their age group.
4. Do you view high profile book series – such as the Twilight books – as positive role models for children and young adults?
Any book which gets a teen reading is great! We all like different books at different times in our lives. I think it’s important to find the right book for the right kid at the right time.
5. Are there any authors and characters that have inspired you?
There are two books which inspired me as a teen and directly inspired Stained Glass Summer. Homecoming and Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt. Dicey’s mother abandons her and her siblings in a shopping mall parking lot. Dicey must figure out how to get to her Grandmother’s and start a new life over. Dicey and my character, Jasmine, would be very good friends. They both have been abandoned by parents and they both have to start new lives with relatives. Both characters are resilient and know how to survive against the odds.
6. Tell us a little about your writing routine.
In the morning, I answer e-mails, work on workshops, blog, and update social media. I teach six distance learning classes to educators, and they can keep me busy! In the afternoon, I write. Lately, I’ve been leaving the house to go to coffee shops or libraries. I try to go to yoga at least once a week, and I walk on our wooded trails a lot. I need that exercise to clear my mind and help me think about my stories. I find that a lot of my writing time is planning time while I am doing other things!
7. What was your journey to becoming an author at Musa?
Long! I worked on Stained Glass Summer for almost ten years before I sold it. I got a lot of “almost” or “not quite right for our list.” Then, I sent the manuscript to be professionally critiqued by freelance editor, Sarah Cloots. It was after that point that the manuscript sold to Musa.
8. How would you describe Stained Glass Summer to a total stranger?
Twelve-year-old Jasmine adores her photographer Father and wants to be an artist just like him. But when Dad abandons the family, Jasmine is sent to spend the summer with her Uncle on a Pacific Northwest Island. Soon, Jasmine is learning stained glass from island glass artist, Opal, and thinking she might just be developing a crush on Island boy, Cole. But, it’s not until Jasmine finds herself mentoring another young artist that she can truly let go of her Father and call herself an artist by her own terms.
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10. What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a tween/upper middle grade for boys entitled, Granddad Toys. I am also working on a chapter book for elementary school kids.