Have I mentioned how much I love living in Nashville? Because I do. Love it, that is. Even though I’m a northerner by birth, ever since we moved here 8 years ago, it’s been home. We tried moving back up north a few years ago, and we made it a couple years up there, but something had changed in us. We weren’t New Englanders anymore. We were Nashvillians.
And then — and then — I learned how many awesome authors live here. I had no idea my city was so rife with talent! It’s amazing and wonderful and I love it.
Last night was no exception. I went to a debut author event at our library for C.J. Redwine, Kat Zhang and Sharon Cameron.
I’ve only read Defiance (LOVED it) and half of What’s Left of Me (greatly enjoying it), but I’ve read some great reviews of The Dark Unwinding as well, plus I’d talked with Sharon briefly and already determined she was awesome, so I was really looking forward to this event.
I showed up 15 minutes late because rush hour traffic is the devil, but it was okay. It was a small gathering (probably because it was a Thursday night and rush hour traffic is the devil) and they were just sitting in a circle chatting about their books. And they all recognized me, and I felt like I was one of the Elite, but really all that means is that they all have decent memories because I’ve seen all 3 ladies within the past month.
But anyway. You don’t want to hear about that. You want to hear what they talked about.
They each gave a brief summary of their books, then opened it up to questions. Here’s the highlights.
On the covers of their books:
- C.J. said she thought hers should be ALL FIRE. Obviously, it is not, and it is better. But the trailer is all fire, and it is good.
- Kat didn’t offer much input on her cover, but she says it didn’t change much at all from the original concept they sent her. But she did a double-take when she noticed the second face on the cover. (DO YOU SEE IT? I didn’t, until Kat pointed it out.)
- Sharon said she didn’t care, but she ABSOLUTELY did not want a back-shot of a girl looking over her shoulder. ANYTHING but an over-the-shoulder back-shot. And, well…you can see what happened. (For the record, she loves her cover).
- Defiance and What’s Left of Me are both the first part of a trilogy.
- The Dark Unwinding at least has a sequel, and Sharon is uncertain if there will be more after that.
On when they write and what their lives look like:
- Sharon quit her day job in the spring to focus on writing, but she also runs SCBWI and a non-profit, so she is B-U-S-Y.
- C.J. also quit her day job after she sold Defiance, and she writes at night and during her daughter’s naptime.
- Kat is in school, and she writes at night and over summer break (and sometimes in between/during class…shhh).
On whether they always wanted to write:
- Kat decided to be published when she was 12. She credits the Internet for opening her eyes to the fact that authors were real people. If they could do it, so could she.
- C.J. wanted to be a writer since she was teeny tiny.
- Sharon was a classical pianist and never dreamed of being a writer, until one day she got an idea for a story, sat down at her computer for 45 minutes to see what it would look like if she wrote it down, and then decided to change her life.
On the creative process for writers:
- C.J. recommends protecting the creative process for as long as possible, getting your story out and intact before you show it to anyone.
- C.J. struggles with beginnings, and has to write hers over and over until she gets them right.
- Sharon agrees, but also amends that there’s no one “right” way to write. She personally doesn’t give her critique partners anything until she’s finished a draft.
- Kat wrote What’s Left of Me in high school (!?!?!?!?!) in 10-page chunks. Then she’d print them out and give them to her friends to read the next day. However, she says they weren’t really critique partners, but more like cheerleaders. She wouldn’t do that now, but she’s more willing to give her critique partners and editors rough stuff than C.J. or Sharon.
- Kat hates endings and has to rewrite them several times.
- Sharon stays laser-focused on one story at a time until the whole thing’s out of her head.
- Kat and C.J. both have several stories going at once.
- Kat always wants to work on “the other story,” so she makes good use of the Sticky Note feature on her Mac.
- C.J. has a bunch of different word processor windows open at once when she’s working, so she can jot down an idea or a scene or a conversation for other stories as they come to her.
On the job of writing, and writing when your well of creativity has run dry:
- Sharon forces herself to sit at her computer for 30 minutes to write, even when she absolutely does not feel like it. Normally by the end of 30 minutes, she’s found her inspiration and wants to keep going.
- Failing that, Sharon researches for inspiration. She loves research.
- C.J. hates research and tends to skim, even when she probably shouldn’t. (I can relate to this.)
- C.J. uses Pinterest and music playlists to inspire her.
- C.J. also uses the accountability of her critique partners to force her to write. She sets a word count goal and a time limit, lets them know, and they check up on her to make sure she’s working towards that goal.
- Kat does a little bit of all of the above.
- Sharon says writers should read, read, read within their genre, not only to find out what others are doing, but to get a good idea of structure and pacing.
On the word counts of their books, because I am curious about these sorts of things:
- The Dark Unwinding: Sharon actually doesn’t remember, but she thinks it’s in the low-90K range. She underwrites and added material in the editing process.
- Defiance: 96.5K. C.J. overwrites and subtracted words during editing.
- What’s Left of Me: 82K. Kat also underwrites and had to add.
Thanks so much to these three lovely ladies for talking with us, and for Angela at the Edmondson Library for organizing the event. If you ever have the opportunity to see any of these fabulous authors in person, snatch it up! And go read their books — it’ll be time and money well spent!