Chatting with the Pros: Interview with Y.A. author Carol Riggs

chatting with the pros

My “Chatting with the Pros” author guest today writes young adult fiction in the fantasy and science fiction genres. Her debut science fiction novel, The Body Institute, is currently being developed into a television series by NBC, which I think, is pretty cool. I met her when I reviewed Bottled three years ago. Since then, I’ve reviewed her science fiction novel, The Lying Planet, and she was a member of the author panel for the first round of the “Ask the Author” blog series in 2018, right here on Writing to be Read. Let’s find out what she has to share. Please help me welcome author Carol Riggs.

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Kaye: Please begin by telling us briefly about your author’s journey?

Carol: I began writing in the 1990s, took a 10-year break, and started up again in 2009. I met my agent at an SCBWI retreat and signed with her in 2011 for my 2015 debut, THE BODY INSTITUTE. Since then, I’ve published 7 more books.

Kaye: Why do you choose to write for young adults? Why science fiction and fantasy?

Carol: I enjoy writing about teens as they experience the road to individual growth and becoming an adult—navigating independence, romance, tests of courage, etc.  Sci-fi and fantasy appeal to me because I love making things up. Speculative genres give me the most room to be creative and use my imagination.

Kaye: What is your biggest challenge in writing for a young audience?

Carol: Keeping in touch with how a young person thinks and talks, sounding like a teen. My editor at Entangled Teen nails me on that, and makes me rewrite things that don’t sound authentic.

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Carol: Nothing too unusual. I don’t listen to music or other distractions. I draft novels moderately quickly (3-5 months), and I write 1 or 2 books a year. I also keep my novels “clean,” with no profanity, gory violence, or sexual scenes. I prefer to make up my own slang and swear words, which don’t become outdated like modern teen lingo/slang/cussin’.

The Body InstituteKaye: NBC is developing your science fiction novel, The Body Institute, into a television series. That must be exciting. Tell us a little about the story.

Carol: THE BODY INSTITUTE is a dystopian sci-fi novel where the main character gets a job losing weight for other people—by having her mind downloaded into their bodies. It’s set in the near future where society is ultra health conscious. The TV series is using the book as a jump-off point rather than being a direct replica of the novel, which is okay with me. It’ll be fun to see where their creative minds take it.

Kaye: How much say do you have in the development process of the television series? Are you involved at all?

Carol: I don’t have any say at all, but that honestly doesn’t bother me. I’d rather spend my time developing new novels! Readers have the book if they want to explore what I’ve developed; the TV show will be a different experience entirely.

Kaye: Do you have a date yet for the series premier for The Body Institute to air?

Carol: As of yet, I don’t; the filming of the pilot show hasn’t begun yet. I’ll announce on my newsletter, Facebook, and Twitter (@CRiggsAuthor) as soon as I find out any developing news.

Junction 2020

Kaye: Most of the books in your Junction 2020 series have scary sounding titles: The PortalNightmare RealizationVanishing FearsSilent Scream, and Future Terrors. Is this fantasy series scary?

Carol: Some people consider these books “horror,” but it sort of depends on your tolerances. If you can’t stand spiders, for instance, don’t read THE PORTAL. Nothing is hyper-bloody in the series, though…no slasher-type nightmares or anything overly gory. I chose each characters’ fears to manifest in a way that would lead them to personal growth, a challenge to overcome rather than sheer horrible nightmares.

Kaye: How do you approach scary subject matter when writing for young adults?

Carol: I try to keep it emotional but real to each character, and I don’t make things gory. Depending on the teen, that could be totally un-scary, or it could be very unsettling. I try to hit somewhere in the middle, for the average reader.

Kaye: Are there certain subject matters that you wouldn’t tackle for a young adult audience? Why?

Carol: I don’t write sex scenes, gory violence, or profanity. I think there’s plenty of that going around nowadays in society (books, movies, etc.), and not having those things in my novels jives with my personal morals and my feelings about what I would want to (or not) read in a novel. I wouldn’t write about demons or the occult, either—too creepy and real.

BottledKaye: My favorite book of yours is Bottled, which I reviewed a few years ago. It is a fun and entertaining fantasy story. What was your inspiration?

Carol: Long ago, I used to watch “I Dream of Jeannie.” While BOTTLED isn’t that similar in plot to the show, I was inspired by the fun, magical atmosphere of the TV series. It’s my tribute to the show.

 

The Lying PlanetKaye: I also reviewed The Lying Planet. Tell us a little about this science fiction story.

Carol: I was lying in bed one night years ago, and heard a noise in the living room (it was probably the refrigerator). That became the germ seed for TLP, a teen boy on the planet Liberty who one night hears a noise in the living room and gets up to investigate…and then wishes he hadn’t. He uncovers an evil that rocks his world in the worst way possible. I’ve found that teen guys really seem to like this novel. It has lots of danger, adventure, and a degree of creepiness.

Kaye: The other thing I loved about Bottled was the fantastic cover. And the vibrant colors used for Lying Planet cover and those used in the covers your Junction 2020 series are eye catching, as well. The colors are wonderful and the designs fit what the stories are about. Do you design your own cover art or hire it out?

Carol: I’ve been incredibly lucky to get awesome covers for my traditionally published books. The JUNCTION 2020 series covers I developed myself in Photoshop, with the tips and suggestions of a writer friend who is also a graphic artist. I have a BA in Studio Arts, so I think that helps me have a bit of an eye for what looks good.

Kaye: What do you enjoy doing when not writing?

Carol: Walking, reading, working jigsaw puzzles, watching sci-fi and fantasy movies, going to the beach, and listening to all kinds of music.

Kaye: Writing organizations can be of great value to writers of all genres. You’ve been a member of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for many years. Would you talk a little about the organization and how you have benefited through membership?

Carol: Back in the 1990s when I first joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), it was super helpful. Submissions were sent to editors at publishing houses by postal mail rather than email (talk about slow!). There wasn’t the wealth of information on the internet that there is now, so the SCBWI was invaluable for honing one’s work to make it ready for editor eyeballs. I learned a lot.

When I returned to writing in 2009, an agent was almost mandatory to submit your work, and the SCBWI retreat I went to offered manuscript critiques for a fee. I actually met my agent-to-be during one of those brief, one-on-one meetings. SCBWI conferences are also great places to network with other writers, learn about the craft of writing, meet industry professionals, and talk about books all day. Some regions offer scholarships to attend if finances are tight.

Kaye: What is your best piece of advice for aspiring authors of young adult fiction?

Carol: If you love it, never give up. THE BODY INSTITUTE was the 13th book I wrote, after 350+ rejections and 11 years of writing and trying to become published. Surround yourselves with supportive writer friends to share the ups and downs. Keep learning your craft, persevere, and enjoy the journey!

Kaye: What can your readers look forward to in the future? What’s next for Carol Riggs?

Carol: A deal has just been signed for THE BODY INSTITUTE for an audiobook version, which is cool. I’m also working on a sequel to the novel, called SPARES. Ideas are springing into my head for a fresh YA novel, and I’m excited to begin imagining a whole new world for readers to explore.

I want to thank Carol for sharing here and answering all of my many questions. And thanks to all of you readers for joining us. You can find out more about Carol Riggs and her young adult science fiction and fantasy books on her website, her Amazon Author page, or her Goodreads Author page.

Next month, there will not be a “Chatting with the Pros” segment. In December we’re wrapping up 2019 and giving you a rundown of what’s in store for 2020. I plan to run this blog series again next year, so check back after the New Year for the first 2020 segment in January. I hope to see you all then.


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Writing for a YA Audience: The Truth about Libraries

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

“This looks great!”  The young woman picked up my book from the table at the craft show.  She read the back and took a free bookmark.  “I’m going to look for this in the library.”

I let her know which of the local libraries had the book.  Smiling, she left for the next table.

Across the aisle, a woman sold beeswax lip balm.  She shook her head at me.  “That’s a horrible thing for her to say to you.  She should have just bought it.”

Was it a horrible thing, though?

I hear from at least one person at every book signing I do that they’ll look for my books in the library.  I hear from other authors that it happens to them too.  It might sound like a bad thing.  The author isn’t  getting a sale.

Here’s the truth –borrowing your book from the library isn’t a bad thing.  In fact, it’s a great thing.  That person is reading your book.  That’s what all authors want: someone to read the book.  Someone who borrows a book from the library has a limited time to keep that book in their possession, so they’re actually going to read it in a timely fashion.  If you buy a book, it might sit on your shelf unread for years.  That person who just read your book is hopefully going to leave a review.  Bad or a good, a review always brings attention to the book online.

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The reader is going to talk about your book in person too.  They’re going to tell all of their reader friends.  Those friends will hopefully buy or borrow your book.  The buzz about your book is growing.

The more people who take your book out from the library, the longer the library will keep your book in circulation.  They will also order your other books, because hey, you’re a popular author.

For everyone who says you don’t get a sale when someone borrows your book, keep in mind that the library did order your book originally.  Most libraries will be willing to have you autograph their copy and host a book signing.   Libraries are an author’s bosom buddy.

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Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author who is often at her local library participating in workshops or browsing the titles.  You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.

 

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Writing for a YA Audience: Author Photo Shoot

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

I’ve done a few photo shoots for my author pictures, and they are always so much fun.  I get to feel like a model.  For FANYA IN THE UNDERWORLD, we decided to do things a little differently.  Aaron Siddall illustrated the book and I wrote it; we both brainstormed the concepts.  Because this was a joint collaboration, we decided to have a joint photo.

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A good friend of ours, Monica Reid Keba, met with us at the Utica Train Station, known as Union Station.  The building is beautiful, with marble pillars and chandeliers.  Stepping inside is a little like going back in time.  Many of the fixtures are original from the construction in 1914.  I have a special fondness for the waiting room benches.  Not only do they incorporate the heating system, but they are gorgeous to look at.  The station was designed by Allen Stem and Alfred Fellheimer.  In case you aren’t familiar with those names, they are the architects who designed New York City’s Grand Central Station.

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Aaron Siddall and I posed on the benches, beneath the chandeliers, and outside.  The autumn day was crisp, with a light drizzle in the air.  I hiked up my skirt and scaled the side of an old trolley car.  We also explored the park next door.  The train station is located in the historic Bagg’s Square neighborhood.  The quaint park, surrounded by a stone fence, is home to the site of a log cabin known as Bagg’s Tavern.  This log cabin saw esteemed guests such as George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant.

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If you are ever in the area and love visiting historic sites, check out the train station and Bagg’s Tavern.  Your eyes won’t be disappointed by the sites.

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Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author.  She is most likely gazing at something in awe, something she will soon include in one of her novels. You can connect with Jordan – and point her in the direction of some paranormal activity – via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.

 

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Writing for a YA Audience: Books in the Library

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

“This is available at the library, right?’  I get that question a lot.

You should know that I talk about my books.  A lot.  I get excited and that passion spills over whether I’m at a book signing or conversing with a coworker.  Some people don’t want to buy books.  They might not like the book, so they don’t want to invest in the purchase, or they don’t want to have books cluttering their homes.  Whatever the reason, libraries are perfect.

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Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

If I’m asked locally, then I get to say yes, my books are available.  Other places…well…not so much.  That surprises people.

Here’s the thing about indie books.  Libraries don’t normally stock them.  They need a reason to purchase a copy.  This could be because you’re a local author, because you did an event there, or because someone requested it.

The best way to help out an author is to ask your local library to purchase a copy.  This is a sale for the author and exposure.  People are going to borrow the book, read it, and talk about.  There is no marketing tool as powerful as word of mouth.

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author.  She’s often wandering libraries looking for something to spark her interest…or she’s squealing over a treasure discovered in a used book room.  You can connect with her via her website

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Writing for a YA Audience: Romance Darkly

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

My mom and uncle are obsessed with Westerns. They grew up watching Westerns and still make time for them every weekend. While watching a Western with my mom, I had the idea of writing a young adult Western…with a steampunk twist. I brainstormed a ranch with a family secret. Along came TREASURE DARKLY.

After the first draft, it was recommended I add in a romantic theme. Thus, Clark and Amethyst fell in love. It worked. I didn’t have to force them together. They were already best friends, and it flowed that they should develop romantic feelings for each other.

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Then came the challenging part. My first editor for the story wanted more romance.  I wasn’t a romance writer.  Sure, my main characters each had a love interest, but I wouldn’t call my early works romances.

I set out to read romance novels to get a feel for the genre. I read some young adult romances, some Harlequins, and then I discovered a love of paranormal romance. I devoured those and wanted more. Eventually, I felt ready to write my own romance.

Young adult romances are tricky. Some people don’t want any sex in YA novels; some people say its okay. I struggled with that fine line before firmly stepping onto the “no sex” side. Yes, the book does get a bit steamy, but there is never explicit sex.

“But teens already know everything about sex,” I’ve been told.

Okay, that might be the case, but it doesn’t mean every young adult book has to contain graphic sex scenes. I want my books to be more about the adventure and setting than erotica.

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Photo by Anderson Weiss on Pexels.com

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author who dapples in the steampunk realm.  You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.


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Writing for a YA Audience: Interview with FANYA’S illustrator.

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

Every book is a collaboration. I work with editors, cover artists, and the publishers in so many ways behind the scenes.  A few years ago, I got to collaborate in a different way.  This time it was with a local illustrator, Aaron Siddall.  He had an idea for a YA steampunk story.  He would illustrate it and I would write it.  We created a world of magic and mysterious creatures, and the book was released on November 14, 2018 from CHBB Publishing.  *Hold for applause, wink wink.*

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I would like to introduce Aaron Siddall to all of you. We met years ago when I joined the Utica Writers Club.

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JE: When did you join the Utica Writers Club?  What do you like most about it?

AS:  The Utica Writers Club and I came together in 2010. I do write and occasionally read from things that I am working on, but I mostly attend for the creative energy. That and I find that writers make for excellent friends.

JE: How long have you been an illustrator?

AS: I’ve had a passion for art all of my life, but I had my first professional experience as an illustrator in 2001 working for Kenzer & Company and White Wolf Studios, both as a freelancer.

JE: What are some of the projects you’ve illustrated?

AS: Its hard to narrow down to favorites. But several stand out, such as; High Towers and Strong Places: A Political History of Middle Earth by Tim Furnish and published by Oloris Publishing.  How Robin Hood Became an Outlaw by Learning A-Z. Ravenloft Denizens of Darkness by White Wolf Studios.

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JE: How did you come up with the idea for FANYA?

AS:  In a discussion concerning Steampunk and Fairy tales that I was involved with, I compared elements from both in relation to our world in the late 1800s (the Victorian era). In doing so, Russia and Alaska at the time were in the midst of tumultuous times, as there are many marvelous Russian Fairy Tales and the legends of the First Nations have many similar legends, these elements came together naturally in my mind.

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JE: How did you come up with the title?

AS: Fanya is a name that shows up in both Russian and Inuit and Aleut peoples.

JE: What do you hope people take away from FANYA IN THE UNDERWORLD?

AS: Overall, I hope that people enjoy the action and magic of the setting. There is a great deal to think on and enjoy.

JE: What is your favorite illustration from the book?

AS: The one of Mr. Beisy on the doorstep in chapter two.

We hope you enjoy reading FANYA IN THE UNDERWORLD.  Reviews and emails are always appreciated.  If you love the artwork as much as I do, merchandise is available here.

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Someone is winding up the “Clockwork Doll House”

Clockwork Dollhouse

Clockwork Dollhouse, by Jordan Elizabeth is a short steampunk tale which may give readers the chills. Robert has many secrets, but Jane’s clockwork dollhouse sees and reveals things Robert would rather stay hidden. But what is really going on? Who’s winding the dollhouse after all these years and setting the stage? Is it Ainsley, his niece, the ghost of his dead sister, Jane, or is the dollhouse haunted? And can it be stopped before the truth comes out?

A brief story which captivates. Clockwork Dollhouse is a tale of murder unraveled in short fiction format. Perfect for YA audiences. I give it five quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.