Well, I’m hopping! Yes, indeed!

How lucky am I? Lucky enough to have known author Kim Stokely since college. I was studying graphic design; Kim was a theater major, and we bonded as members of a guerilla production of the musical, Godspell. Who’d have predicted we’d still be pals—and published authors—all these years later? Well, the friend part was a given, but the author thing still pleasantly surprises me! Kim invited me to this blog hop, and I’m only too happy to help spread the word about her stunning debut novel, Woman of Flames. “Based on the biblical prophet Deborah, it’s a sweeping epic of how faith, lust and revenge can drive nations into war.”
The wife of a submariner, Kim has lived in eight states over the last twenty years. She used her background in Drama (a B.F.A. from UConn and a Master’s from Regent University) to stay relatively sane throughout all those moves by performing in various plays and musicals, including a one-person show about women in the Bible. Kim has written novels in several genres, including Biblical, Historical, Inspirational Fiction and Young Adult Fantasy. Her story Winter Trees was a semi-finalist in the Christian Writer’s Guild’s 2010 Operation First Novel contest. Her non-fiction inspirational and humor stories appear in several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Vista and online at www.theChristianPulse.com. Kim is a regular paid contributor to Thriving Family online magazine. Please visit Kim’s website to read a story, find out about upcoming performances, or just to say “hi.”

Thanks, Kim! I hope to catch up with you when you visit CT in April. Look for Kim at the Morningstar Bookstore in Manchester, CT on April 26th. She’ll be signing copies of Woman of Flames from 11-3!

As for me, after this virtual hop, I’ll be making a real world hop! On Saturday, April 12th, catch my author appearance at House of Books in Kent, CT. I’ll be signing copies of THE NAMESAKE from 2:00-4:00 pm. Come see me!

Okay, onto the Q & A portion of our show.

1.) What am I working on?

The obvious reply is “answers to the blog hop questions,” but that’s perhaps a bit too literal. I have starts on three manuscripts. One is a contemporary YA with a Holocaust link. The second is a planned series that will bridge the gap between middle grade and young adult. It’s about a kid named Dex, living in a haunted B&B in a resort town very like Cape May, New Jersey. It’ll be a fun read with some truly eccentric characters (living and not) and scares along the way. Both of these have been back-burnered as I work on another YA manuscript. This one centers on sixteen-year-old Teddi Alder, who deals with a potential love triangle, an off-the-rails mother, a needy cockapoo and some life-changing discoveries during one very hot summer. I’m excited to tell Teddi’s story. It’s a bit lighter than THE NAMESAKE, with a strong romance thread, but it still has psychological grit, mystery, and some fairly shocking story elements.

2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Young Adult, like any other genre, has such huge range–from realistic, literary fiction to super-commercial, glossier fare. I think mine tends toward the realistic/literary end of the scale (though I wouldn’t reject a commercial breakthrough). I definitely draw from real-life experience. I’m sort of unflinching in portraying the dark as well as the light. I also work really hard at creating psychologically-layered characters. My writing is definitely not formulaic. As a published poet, writing poetry also informs my fiction. I’m very particular with word choice, and I try to pare the writing down to the essential.

3) Why do I write what I do?

That question presupposes that I have a choice. Ultimately, I know I do, but I also tend to just trust the writing. With THE NAMESAKE, I had no idea where the story was headed when I started out, and I actually tried to shy away from the topic of abuse when it reared its head. But Evan’s story needed to be told, and it was my assignment. I think I did it justice, and a big part of that success was my willingness to be authentic to the experience. So I guess the answer is that I have faith that what I write is what I’m meant to write. And I try to remain open to receive those bits of life that might jumpstart the manuscript. That way, when God sends me an inspirational moment, I can run with it. There’s a level of risk involved with writing from the heart and gut, but when it works, it has the potential to touch a reader on a soul-deep level.

4) How does my writing process work?

In fits and starts. I’ll be inspired by an image, a memory, an interaction, and very often that resonant object/moment/conversation will become the basis for a scene (I tend to think in terms of scenes rather than chapters; maybe because of my acting background). With THE NAMESAKE, I generally wrote longhand and then transcribed several pages onto the computer, editing and revising as I went. Teddi Alder has been a bit different. I actually started writing it on my phone in the middle of the night, when her name and bits of story started echoing in my head. I’ve mostly worked on my laptop this time, returning to handwriting when I’ve felt stalled.

I’m definitely not an outliner. I take a rather organic approach, letting the story lead. I also don’t write a sloppy first draft; I tend to labor over each section until I get it right. Often, I’ll jump ahead and write a much later scene (I have the last couple chapters of Teddi’s story pretty near finished) if it’s speaking to me, and then I’ll work on the connective stuff of how to get from point G to point L.

I’m at my best when I can get lost in the work. That creative disconnect from the real world is precious–and pretty rare. I’ve experienced it only occasionally: on the stage, in the art studio, and in front of a developing manuscript. I’ve actually gone back to reread my draft and had little recollection of writing some very finished passages. For me, those fugue-like moments of total immersion in the craft are an absolute gift.

Speaking of gifts, here are three gifted writers I’m pleased to introduce. Katie Davis, a multi-published author, whom I met through Uncommon YA, is also an illustrator and a popular presence on the web. Author and educator, Cindy Eastman, someone I value as a colleague and friend, is a true Renaissance woman who tackles the joys and blows of life with insight, humor and heart. Finally, Natalie Zaman, another fellow Uncommon YA author, is the co-author (with Charlotte Bennardo) of the popular Sirenz series and the recently released Blonde OPS. Get to know these three below. You’ll be glad you did!

Katie Davis is an author/illustrator and award-winning video marketing maven. She’s written and illustrated picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels through traditional publishers such as Harcourt, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster. Her debut young adult, Dancing With the Devil is coming out from Diversion Books April 15. Her independent publications include a picture book, and two marketing guides for adult writers, one of which just debuted at #1 on Amazon in the marketing category.
Katie has used her experience in publishing to establish her coaching business helping other writers. She does this on many levels, teaching tech-wary writers how to build and strengthen their platforms through video, and coaching writers on social media and marketing, or as Katie calls it, “making friends and meeting people.”
You can subscribe to Katie’s mailing list by clicking here to discover great tips and resources to build your own platform to help your writing career.

Cindy Eastman is a writer and an educator raised in Louisville, Kentucky. She attended undergraduate schools in Austin, Texas and graduate school in Springfield, Massachusetts and holds a Master’s degree in Education. She has taught students from ages 5 to 85 in subjects like poetry, English writing and computer skills.
Cindy’s writing is informed by her ability to be an observer as well as a participant in her life. With her dry sense of humor, she is able to address a variety of topical subjects and deliver an insightful analysis that’s both provocative and amusing.
Cindy’s first book, a collection of essays entitled, Flip-Flops After 50: And Other Thoughts On Aging I Remembered To Write Down will be published by She Writes Press in April 2014.You can find her online at www.cindyeastman.com or follow her on Twitter @CLEastman

Young Adult author and blogger Natalie Zaman works her magic from central New Jersery where she lives with her family and several fine-looking chickens. You can find her blogging away on The Nearly Daily Nut, on Twitter @Natalie_Zaman, and of course, wherever fine books are sold.

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