Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Interview with Pam Bachorz

Today, rather than blog about interview questions, I thought I'd post an honest to goodness interview. Thus, today's interview is with Pam Bachorz about her debut novel for young adults, Candor.

The Messages stay filed away until you’re about to do some thing interesting. Your brain knows what to feed you: a Message rushes into your head. Covers everything else. No desire. No fear. No hunger, even. I sit again and open my bio book.

Another one flows in. Studying is your top priority.

“Got it,” I say out loud, like my brain is a separate person. “You can shut up now.”

Other people don’t notice when a Message fills their head. But I’ve been here longer than anyone. And I’ve found ways to train myself. I know when my brain is feeding me Messages. I know how to fight them.

When it’s worth it. (from chapter one of Candor)

In a town where his father brainwashes everyone, Oscar Banks has found a way to secretly fight the subliminal Messages that turn even the most troubled kids into model citizens. On the outside, he's the perfect Candor teen, and no one knows that he's built an entire business around helping new kids escape before the Messages take hold.

But then Nia Silva movies to town, and Oscar thinks she's perfect exactly the way she is. Soon he must make a choice: let Nia be lost to the brainwashing, or help her stay special and risk himself in the process.

Hey Pam! Great to have you here. Tell us a little about yourself as a writer – do you outline, or wing it? Do you write daily, or in snatches?

I outline, with index cards and then also with a spreadsheet. I also have installed a wire that runs across the length of my study that I clip index cards to--it's fun and very helpful to slide them around while story planning. When I'm revising, I use the wire to hang up my "laundry" of revision notes; when I am satisfied that I've addressed one thing in my revision, I take the notes down, so I can see the flock of changes reducing as I work and work. My writing schedule varies by the week; at the end of each week I sit down and make a schedule that I post on my study door. I have to fit in a full-time job, a kid, and seeing my husband every once and awhile too! But I put in a minimum of 10 hours per week and often much more.

When – and why – did you begin writing?

I started writing when I was very young--dictating stories to my mother--and wrote a ton up through eighth grade. But then I quit. I wanted to try other things in high school and I was also convinced that I could never make a living as a writer. I didn't pick it up writing fiction again for 16 years. A friend got in a car accident and it reminded me that life is very short. My only regret was that I hadn't given writing a serious try. So... I set to it!

Tell us about your publishing journey. What did it take to get Candor on bookshelves?

First I found an agent, Elana Roth, who I really clicked with and in who truly believed in the book. Then she set out to sell the book. Egmont USA bought it in 2008 and it hit bookshelves about, oh, 16 or 18 months later. I'm very lucky to be on Egmont's debut list in the US.

What was your process writing Candor? What did you have trouble with, and what inspired you?

I wrote many drafts and all but a few were in the voice of Oscar's new-to-town girlfriend Nia! That was my biggest problem; writing in the voice of someone who is becoming brainwashed becomes VERY boring. Once I switched to Oscar's voice, things flew. Inspiration--I discovered Holly Lisle's One Pass Revision method (you can find it on her website, my revisions became a tangible thing with an end goal and I finally stopped futzing.

Name one character you like particularly, and why.

Aw, I love them all. I really do. I have such mama love for my characters, probably because I am a mother. I even love my villains. It's easy to love Oscar, my main character, so I think I'll pick another character for this answer: his "fake" girlfriend Mandi. That poor girl has had her mind melted and molded, but deep down she is still passionate about the one thing she truly loves (I won't spoil it). She was a hoot to write, too.

On your website, you have all sorts of promotional goodies related to Candor, like a playlist, a podcast series, and interview links. I love how original you’ve been about it. What does it take to create an original marketing campaign, and what else have you been doing to promote Candor?

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! I think an original marketing campaign requires a writer to grant themselves TIME--time to dream up ideas (which writers are good at--given time!) and time to execute the marketing plan. It doesn't hurt to have family and friends who are willing to help, and of course a publisher who's willing to lend a hand when possible. My husband has been a huge help with the videos on and nary a family member has escaped participating in them! Besides my author website, I've built the aforementioned, which is a "hoax" site for the town of Candor, Florida. Also I've launched podcasts in the voice of the book's villain, with the support of my publisher (you can listen to them on my author site at I'm participating in interviews, podcasts with libraries, going to conferences (including NCTE/ALAN in a few weeks, can't wait!) and my husband and I are playing with another video idea for promoting CANDOR. Whew! I'm tired. But it's all fun. I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy it.

Here on Headdesk, I have a minor obsession with the rules of writing. Is there any particular rule you write by?

I hang my hat on basic story structure rules: three acts, with two turning points, and a climax. I won't start writing unless I know those major plot points in advance.

If knew you a teenager who aspired to be a novelist, what would you say to them?

I would tell them to not quit--and that when thinking about college, to keep in mind that you do NOT have to major in English to be a successful novelist. I'm sure it doesn't hurt. But there are a million paths. Follow your passion and your stories will grow out of that.

How have you grown as a writer, and how do you hope to see yourself grow in the future?

I think a good writer is one who pushes themselves to grow with every project, one way or another. I've gotten much more proficient at plot and story structure. My next goal is to try some new things with character development. But mostly I just want to keep writing unique stories that grab readers and entertain them.

What’s next for Pam Bachorz?

I've turned my next YA into my editor at Egmont USA--it is tentatively set for publication in Fall 2010--and I'm cooking up ideas for the one after that. I know it'll be YA. And it'll be dark with a twist. Beyond that, who knows?

Thanks Pam!

Pam Bachorz grew up in a small town in the Adirondack foothills, and attended college in Boston where she earned finished four degrees: a BS in Journalism, a BA in Environmental Science, a Masters in Library Science and an MBA. Her mother is not happy that Pam's degrees are stored under her bed.

Pam currently lives just outside Washington, DC with her husband and their son. As far as she knows, Pam has never been brainwashed. Or maybe that's just what she's supposed to say. Pam is the author of Candor, a young adult novel released September 22, 2009. To learn more about Pam, check out her website and blog.

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