Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Author Interview and BOOK GIVEAWAY with Cynthia Leitich Smith

Oh, I told you this was going to be good! After reviewing Tantalize, I was able to interview the author, Cynthia Leitich Smith! The interview is below, as well as another surprise...

For those of you who may not know, Cynthia runs one of the most successful blogs on the intarwebs, Cynsations, that has been touted by many writer's resources as one of the best blogs for writers basically ever. That's how I first came across Cynthia. But then I browsed her bio online and discovered that not only does she teach writing, but she also has an extensive list of quality entertaining books for middle graders and young adults.

Including my recent unputdownable-read, Tantalize. And my recent Amazon purchase, Eternal. And my recent addition to the must-be-purchased-as-soon-as-possible, Blessed, which, unfortunately, isn't available yet. Cause, you know, it's not done being written. Yet. But when it is...

So, without further ado, here's my interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith! And be sure to read all the way to the end for an extra special, never-before-done-on-this-blog surprise!

We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?
My prized possessions include a little yellow Wonder Woman lunchbox.

As a child, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?
I didn't have a favorite picture book, growing up, but by the middle grades, I was madly in love with Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch from Blackbird Pond. I transitioned into spookier stuff--Stephen King and more sci fi--in high school. These days, my tastes are broad. I read widely out of necessity and passion, and that grows me as a writer.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A senator-princess from a long-ago, far-away galaxy.

How much of you is in your book? Is there a character like you? Is a situation in the book derived from real life?
Eternal reflects settings where I've lived--Austin, Dallas, Chicago. But beyond that, it's probably the book where I most had to use my imagination. The only exception is Miranda's longing to be in the theater and friends with teens who're in that group. I never even auditioned, but I once wished I could be among them, too.

What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages?
Eternal is a companion to Tantalize, and I'm working steadily right now with my Candlewick editor, so there was no real "shopping" from house to house.

Per usual, I wrote my first draft and then tossed and deleted it. I started completely over with a better understanding of the protagonists and story. After much revision, I sent it in about six months later.

My original concept was elf-vampire, not angel-vampire; that came at the suggestion of my editor, but I loved it and started over again.

With revisions, all told, the manuscript probably took about a year and a half to two years, which is typical for me. I'm a steady writer, but I have a lot on my plate.

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be?

What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?
I hope to continue as I am, focusing on YA fantasy and, now and again, writing a shorter piece--a short story or picture book. I'm really quite happy with my job.

What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?
That reading is the most important skill-building exercise.

Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?
Think of it in terms of a trinity--craft, community, career. And hang onto your sense of humor.

What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest?
My strength is integrating setting to full effect. My weakness is a predisposition to letting minor character take over the show.

What's a writing pet peeve that you have?
Dialogue that doesn't advance the story.

Thank you, Cynthia, for a great interview and sharing your story with us!

And now for a surprise...

It's about time I thanked all you readers out there in blogland, and tax returns are coming back soon. So...for the first time on Writing it Out history...


That's right! I'm giving away a copy of either Tantalize or Eternal! All you have to do is leave a comment with your choice of book and your email address. AND more love goes to those of you who link to this post...so if you share a link to this giveaway on your blog, come back and leave another comment, and you'll be entered again for the giveaway! AND I have a special place in my heart for my "followers" over on the sidebar there...so if you'd like another entry into the giveaway, just become a follower and post a comment here that you'd like another entry!

That's right--there're three chances for you to win!
  1. Just make a comment about this interview or the books
  2. Post a link to your blog about this interview and let me know here in the comments
  3. Become a follower and comment about it here
The contest will run until the last day of February, so you've only got ten days to enter!
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