1) The Dark Divine series is flavored with religious components. Did your own beliefs play a role in including religious faith in the story? Were you concerned about how your readers would perceive this? Did you fear coming across as "preachy" or feel a need to restrain yourself in this area?
Yes. While Grace and I do not share the exact same religious background, I really wanted to write a book from the point of view of a character who deals with questions of faith, religion, and living up to expectations in her everyday life because that reflected my own personal teenage experience. The books also explore themes of redemption, forgiveness, and what might happen to someone who can't forgive. While not all readers may come from a religious background, I think these are themes that can be universally understood and identified with. I knew all along that the first book may never be published because of the religious themes, but I felt like it was a story I HAD to write, even if it was just for myself. I am glad I found a publisher who looked at the point of view of religious character no differently than they would any other book written from a character with an interesting point of view on the world. It is very important to me not to come across "preachy" in my books. I did not write them to "preach" to anyone. I write because I want to explore different questions that I have, and to tell entertaining stories from a unique point of view.
I'd written about two complete novels before getting published--any many, many, many beginnings to other books. My very first inkling of the story had no paranormal elements in it all, but as I started writing, I started to think "Wow, wouldn't it be cool if something supernatural was going on in this book?" I blame the Buffy The Vampire Slayer reruns that used to come on TV in the background during my designated writing time (i.e. my son's nap time). I tried writing a draft of the book without anything paranormal going on, but once I fully embraced the idea of adding a paranormal storyline the book really start to come to life.
I wrote the first book thinking it was going to be a stand-alone, however I did purposely leave the ending open to more books. After my publisher bought the first book, they asked for more and I was happy to oblige. While I didn't know it was going to be a trilogy, I did know how I wanted things to end between the three main characters in the last book.
3) Are you a pantser or an outliner? Tell us about your writing process. How do you manage your time as a writer and mother?
I'm a pantser by nature but my editor makes me outline--but I can't say the books end up looking anything like that outline! In my world, outlines are the place for getting out all the mediocre ideas, then when I am writing, I try to top whatever is in the outline.
I still don't know the secret to managing time as an author and mother. My writing process involves a lot of "plot walks" around the nearby lake, procrastination, author guilt, chocolate binges, Thai take-out, word wars, all-night writing sessions to make my looming deadlines, mommy guilt, more procrastination to spend time with my kids, followed by author guilt, followed by 16 hour writing days to make up for lost time. It's on-going cycle. If someone knows the secret to the mommy-author balance, I'd sure love to hear it.
I tried finding an agent a few years ago, but came to terms with the fact that my writing wasn't ready yet. I spent the next couple of years working on craft and reworking my manuscript. When I felt like it was finally ready, I used a website called agentquery.com to research agents. I made a list of about 30 I was interested in, did more research and narrowed that list down to my top fifteen. Normally, I'm the kind of person who would start at the bottom of that list and work my way up with rejections. However, this time I decided to take a chance and queried the agent that I felt was the best fit for the project first. For a week I sent out one query a day, and by the end of the week I heard back from my #1 agent. He asked to see the book ASAP, I sent it to him and a week later he offered representation. I look back on the experience as a combination of good research and a lot of luck.
5) Do you plan to write realistic, contemporary stories or are you firmly in the paranormal camp? Do you think you'll ever write adult fiction?
I actually started out writing realistic fiction--especially humorous realistic fiction--and I still consider it one of my greatest loves. Lately, most of my ideas end up having some sort of paranormal or thriller twist to them, but I do have a few realistic fiction ideas brewing. I dream of someday writing two books a year, one would fantasy and one would be realistic. I don't foresee myself ever writing for adults, but who knows.
6) Is there anything you can share with us about future projects?
I am working on a new book that is slated for publication in Fall 2013. I don't know what all I am allowed to say about it yet, but it is project I started writing several years ago and I am very excited to be working on it again. The book is a whole new twist on a very old story.
Thanks so much, Bree for sharing your journey with us!
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment and tell me the name of one of your favorite YA series. If you haven't read a series, that's fine, just say so, and give me the name of your favorite singular title. That is all. Don't forget your email!
The giveaway ends Friday, March 23, 2012. Giveaway is open to residents of the US only at publisher's request.
I love it when I get a chance to give away great books!