Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Forgive my Fins: Interview with Tera Lynn Childs

Today's interview is with Tera Lynn Childs, here to talk about her third novel, Forgive My Fins which launches today.

Lily Sanderson has a secret, and it’s not that she has a huge crush on gorgeous swimming god Brody Bennett, who makes her heart beat flipper-fast. Unrequited love is hard enough when you’re a normal teenage girl, but when you’re half human, half mermaid like Lily, there’s no such thing as a simple crush.

Lily’s mermaid identity is a secret that can’t get out, since she’s not just any mermaid – she’s a Thalassinian princess. When Lily found out three years ago that her mother was actually a human, she finally realized why she didn’t feel quite at home in Thalassinia, and she’s been living on land and going to Seaview high school ever since, hoping to find where she truly belongs. Sure, land has its problems – like her obnoxious, biker boy neighbor Quince Fletcher – but it has that one major perk – Brody. The problem is, mermaids aren’t really the casual dating type – when they “bond,” it’s for life.

When Lily’s attempt to win Brody’s love leads to a tsunami-sized case of mistaken identity, she is in for a tidal wave of relationship drama, and she finds out, quick as a tailfin flick, that happily-ever-after never sails quite as smoothly as you planned.

I have to admit, I'm a sucker for a good mermaid story. I first got hooked on The Tale of Emily Windsnap and have been keeping my eyes peeled ever since. When I saw the gorgeous cover of Forgive My Fins, I just knew I had to get Tera over here! So without any further ado, lets see what Tera has to say about publishing, labors of love, and of course, mermaids...

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

I outlined the first (eternally unpublished) book I wrote, which is probably why it's eternally unpublished. It was very boring a predictable. For Oh. My. Gods. and Goddess Boot Camp I just wrote from the seat of my pants. I knew the premise, the characters, and I just started writing. Now that I have an editor, she likes to see a rough synopsis before I begin. Just to make sure there are no red flags. And she knows I reserve the right to change things as I go. As for writing every day... well, I should. But I frequently don't. I'm very deadline driven, so the closer to deadline I am the more regularly I write.

When – and why – did you begin writing?

After getting my masters degree (in Historic Preservation, of all things) I moved back home. My parents were traveling a lot, so I was basically alone and house-sitting. I started reading. A lot. And the more I read, the more I started thinking, "Oooh, that character should have said this! Or done that!" It was only a matter of time before I started writing my own characters who would say this or do that.

By my count, Forgive My Fins is your third novel for young adults. What did it take to get these books on store shelves and keep them there?

Yes, Forgive My Fins is my third published novel. It is also my, oh I don't know, sixth or seventh completed book. For me, writing books was my learning process, so it took me four books before I wrote one worth publishing. Then I got an agent through the very boring process of sending out query letters. After I signed with her, she started sending the book out. It took several months and many rejections before landing on the desk of my current (and perfect) editor. From there it was a matter of editing and revising and then turning it over to the wonderful team of artists, copyeditors, salespeople, and distributors at my publisher. In short, it takes a lot of people to get a book into stores.

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

Forgive My Fins was a labor of love. I'd actually started it, wrote about fifty pages, two years before I sold it. (During that time when I was getting rejections on the book that would become Oh. My. Gods.) Then I had to shelve it for a couple of years. The hardest part was going back to it. I still loved the story and the characters (Quince is definitely my favorite hero so far) but I had changed as a writer. It took some time and a lot of revising to get those opening chapters to flow into the rest of the book. What kept me motivated, though, was my love of the water and the oceans and of all things mermaid!

I hear you’ve got a new trilogy in the works based on a trio of sisters and their mythological history. Can you share anything more about the trilogy?

Okay, the dish. I can't spill everything yet (I'm still writing the first book, after all) but here are some juicy details. The sisters are triplets who were separated at birth. They are reunited in San Francisco and learn they are descendants of the gorgon Medusa. They also learn that it is their destiny to guard the door between the world of monsters and the world of men. There's a lot of monster fighting and butt-kicking and, of course, cute boys. It's kind of Charmed plus Buffy plus mythology.

Any influences?

I don't know that I can pinpoint a particular author or book who specifically influenced me. I tend to devour a book, absorbing the things I love, and I don't try to emulate or adopt another author's style. I can tell authors and books I admire, though. Definitely Hunger Games and Catching Fire, anything by Jaclyn Moriarty, Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart. Ally Carter, Meg Cabot, Louise Rennison, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Kelley Armstrong, Lisa McMann. Oh, the list goes one. I read their works and I admire their talents as a writer and their unique voices, but I also know that I can't write with any voice but my own. They inspire me to be the best Tera Lynn Childs I can be.

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

The only rule that matters is there are no rules. For every rule someone tells you (like no prologues, no epilogues, no first person, no present tense, no flashbacks, no blah-blah-blah) you can find one or more examples of an author making that work. The bottom line is you can do anything you want as long as you execute it right.

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

My three pieces of advice for aspiring authors of any age:
1. Read. A lot. Learn how other authors use words to convey emotion. (See question 6.)
2. Write. A lot. Blogs, emails, poems, notes. Learn how you use words to convey emotion. (aka Find your voice.)
3. Observe. Become an observer of the world around you. Learn how to notice the small things, how to infer why things look/smell/act certain ways. Learn how to predict consequences, to see cause and effect. The more you observe about real life, the more real your writing will be.

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

Thanks to my editor, loads of reading, and getting more books under my belt, I feel like a completely different writer than the green girl who wrote the first draft of Oh. My. Gods. I'm better at developing a moment into something important, at planting seeds and seeing the twists that will happen later in the book, at keeping my characters consistent to their nature. It's a lot of little things that add up to a cleaner, stronger first draft. I will never stop growing and learning as an author. Every time I read a new author or write a new story my skills develop.

What’s next for Tera Lynn Childs?

Besides the Medusa trilogy (the first book of which should hit bookstores in Fall 2011) there is also the sequel to Forgive My Fins. It doesn't have an official title yet, but I've been calling it Fins Are Forever. It will be a Summer 2011 release. And other than that ... who knows? I write fast and have a million ideas, so hopefully more things will be in the works soon.

Tera Lynn Childs is a wannabe goddess and the award winning author of Oh. My. Gods. and Goddess Boot Camp and the mermaid tail, Forgive My Fins. Tera lives nowhere in particular, but has spent time fleeing hurricanes, blogging with the Buzz Girls and the Fivers, and writing wherever she can find a comfy chair and a steady stream of caffeinated beverages. To learn more about Tera and her books, check out her website.


Nomes said...

Great interview! I am intrigued by her book - I've never read any mermaid fiction before.

Also - totally agreeing that Jaclyn Moriarty is awe-inspiringly brilliant! She's one of my all time fave authors. I love her books to death :)

Regan Leigh said...

So good to hear her talk about her writing pace and no outlines! I just did a post about this. I'm with her. Seat of the pants and fly faster when there's a deadline. :)

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