Sunday, February 28, 2010

Blog Tour with Amy Brecount White

Today's interview is with Amy Brecount White, debut author of Forget-Her-Nots, as part of her Spread the Flower Love blog tour and contest! Forget-Her-Nots debuts March 2cnd.

How the contest works: Each blog on the tour will offer readers a single virtual flower which they can collect into a bouquet. At the end of each week, readers can submit their bouquet on Amy's site to enter themselves into the contest. The tour runs for four weeks, so you get four chances to enter. So, dear readers, what flower am I offering you to add to your bouquet? Well Amy let us have our pick...And I chose the hyacinth.

According to the secret language of flowers, the hyacinth stands for sport, game, or play; perfect for a contest right? Also, the hyacinth is one of my favorite scented flowers. They have a very intoxicating smell which reminds me of butter, sugar-cookie dough, and plain old springtime. So I hope you enjoy your hyacinth, and here's a bit about Forget-Her-Nots.

When someone leaves three mystery flowers outside her dorm door,Laurel thinks that maybe the Avondale School isn’t so awful after all — until her own body starts to freak out. In the middle of her English presentation on the Victorian Language of Flowers, strange words pop into her head, and her body seems to tingle and hum. Impulsively, Laurel gives the love bouquet she made to demonstrate the language to her spinster English teacher. When that teacher unexpectedly and immediately finds romance, Laurel suspects that something — something magical — is up.

With her new friend, Kate, she sets out to discover the origins and breadth of her powers by experimenting on herself and others. But she can’t seem to find any living experts in the field of flower powers to guide her. And her bouquets don’t always do her bidding, especially when it comes to her own crush, Justin. Rumors about Laurel and her flowers fly across campus, and she’s soon besieged by requests from girls — both friends and enemies — who want their lives magically transformed — just in time for prom.

And here's an excerpt from pages 155-156 of Forget-Her-Nots:

Outside a warm breeze ruffled the flowering trees. Grinning, jostling Willowlawn boys seemed to pour off the buses, but Laurel didn’t see Justin yet. A painted pole with multicolored ribbons streaming down towered over her head and into the cloudless sky. Clad in gauzy white blouses and flowing skirts, senior girls ran by barefoot, laughing and whispering. Their heads were wreathed by pink roses and baby’s breath.

“Here comes another bus,” said Kate.

“Let’s go,” said Tara.

Laurel’s bouquets began to disappear into the crowd, and she was gripped by a sudden panic. I never said my words! “Kate,Tara, wait up!” she yelled. Whether it was the flowers alone or the rhyming words or both that made the world shimmer with fragrance, Laurel wasn’t going to risk not saying them today.

“I need to see the tussies again.” Pretending to straighten them, Laurel held her hand over Kate’s [bouquet] and sent the thoughts she wouldn’t speak — not around Tara. She pictured Kate flirting with someone tall at her side and then did the same for Tara. The rise of scent was swift and bold.

Kate pumped her shoulders and looked around. “What the heck was that?”

“What?” said Tara.

“Kinda like a shiver?” Kate looked at Laurel expectantly.

Laurel his a smile behind her tingling hand. “It’s just a bloomin’ breeze.”

“You are so weird sometime,” Tara said.

To read more of Forget-Her-Nots, check the first five chapters on the HarperTeen website.

Hey Amy! Tell us a little about yourself as a writer. Do you outline, or wing it? Do you write daily, or in snatches?

I do a combination of both, depending on what I see most clearly that day. For me, the most important thing each day is to write instructions to myself for the next day. The hardest obstacle many writers face is choosing how to start each day. If I close each day with detailed instructions to myself for the next, I can jump right into the story. I have three kids, so I don’t have much time for writer’s block.

I try to write daily, but I don’t usually manage that. For me, it’s most important to give myself big chunks of time (5 or 6 hours) during a week that I can look forward to and start planning for. But I’ll take the hours as they come. Even if you have only an hour, it’s worth it, because you never know what is going to fall into place suddenly when you sit down to write and let the words flow.

When – and why – did you begin writing?

I’ve always dabbled a bit, but I started writing seriously as a non-fiction journalist when I had kids. Before that I’d been a high school teacher, but I wanted to give writing a try. I wrote all sorts of articles and essays for The Washington Post – over 75! - and other publications, which was very helpful in developing my skills. It had always been a dream of mine to write a novel, so I started doing that about eight years ago. It took me awhile to get “all the lovely words just right,” as one of my professors used to say.

What was it liked getting published?

Absolutely fabulous! A total dream come true. I had told so many people I was writing a novel for so many years. It was amazing to be able to tell them it had sold to HarperCollins.

What was your publishing journey like?

I like to say my journey was a long and winding road with lots of potholes. Quite frankly, I never expected it to take this long, but whenever I felt like giving up, something would happen to give me hope again. Sometimes I wonder how I didn’t give up earlier, but I really believed in my story.

Tell me one thing I wouldn’t know about Forget-Her-Nots by reading the blurb.

It’s a very intergenerational book. Laurel’s relationships with her teachers, her Grandma, and her dad all figure importantly in the plot. It’s not just about mean girls and crushes, although that’s there, too.

What’s your favorite brainstorming tactic?

Probably free writing. Just jotting down a few ideas, concepts, or a direction I need to go in and then writing whatever comes into my head. Sometimes I call this a “brain dump.” Just let everything out and see what diamonds you can find in the pile when you sort through it later.

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

Ooo, yes! I once heard Toni Morrison say, “Write the book that only you can write.” I love that. That’s really how I came up with the idea for FHN, because it combines my strengths, my loves, and my worries into a fun and heart-felt plot.

Also, I’ve worked hard on the “Show Don’t Tell” rule and have lots of great crit partners that hold me to it.

Another rule of writing: Find good crit partners. You need someone who’s about in the same stage as you are or slightly ahead. I have two Tenner crit partners who have been amazingly helpful with my WIP. You really need another writer to critique your stuff.

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

Read everything you can. Reread everything you can. You have to learn to read like a writer, so you can learn a lot when you’re reading. Usually, I read a book for enjoyment first, and then if I love it, I’ll go back and see how it’s put together. How exactly did the plot develop? What transitions did the author use? What technique – dialogue, suspense, description – is this author particularly good at, and how can I be inspired by it?

Also, know that lots of what you write may not be genius. Think of that first novel as an “apprentice” novel. (My apprentice novel -- one for adults – is sitting at the bottom of a drawer.) Then move on. Writing takes TONS of practice, like everything else.

I love that term, 'Apprentice novel.' That is such a true way of describing it. When I started out, I didn't want to admit I might need the apprentice novel before I could learn to write well. But looking back later, I saw how even the first few novels were really a learning experience.

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

I think I’ve gotten a lot better at understanding how plot works and how to create more cliffhanger-type chapter endings, even if it’s an emotional cliffhanger. In the early stages, I tended to stay inside my character’s head a little too much. That’s a common newbie mistake.

I hope every novel I write is better than the previous one and speaks to a larger audience. I also love to talk about books and writing, so I hope to have lots of opportunities. [HINT: Invite me to your conference, school, or book group. I’ll be SKYPING!]

What’s next for Amy Brecount White?

Whew! A break. I’m finishing up my WIP, String Theories, which has nothing to do with flowers. Then I need a little time to reboot. I’ll read a lot and garden and organize my disastrous closets. I’ll write if I feel like it, but mostly I’ll just feed my soul. And then I’ll start another book … maybe a companion novel to Forget-Her-Nots.

Sounds good. Thanks for coming, Amy. Best of luck on your tour!

Thanks so much for having me, Creative A!!

1 comment:

Elie said...

Hi Amy. I can't imagine trying to write with three kids running around. Thank you for sharing some wonderful advice for aspiring authors.

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