“You don’t grow out of YA”: My Interview with International Thriller Writers

Last fall, The International Thriller Writers interviewed me– they’re a great organization of highly respected authors who do a wonderful job supporting new thriller writers, with Lee Child, M.J. Rose, R.L. Stein, and other greats on the board. Here’s that interview!

From ITW:

A rural Missouri girl, Kate Brauning fell in love with writing at a young age. She was that child who practically lived in the library, discovering all its treasures. Now, she resides in Iowa with her husband and a Siberian husky, and works in publishing. She loves to connect with readers. If you see her and say hi, she might invite you for a coffee and to talk about books.

Her debut novel HOW WE FALL is a young adult tale about two cousins with a secret relationship, a missing best friend, and strange girl with secrets. Will this strange girl be a harbinger of doom? Will they find their friend? THE BIG THRILL sat down with Brauning to find out more.shadow

When did you start writing?

Oh, I was pretty young. I wrote my first “story” at ten or so, I think. I’ve always had fun writing stories, and I wrote a novel all through high school. I loved it, but it just never occurred to me that I could write for a career. I kept on loving it, though. In college I decided that I loved it too much to not try.

Did you ever want to be anything besides a writer?

I decided early on that I wanted to be an author, so no, not really. Along the road to becoming an author, I’ve discovered I love the publishing world and I love editing, so if I couldn’t write anymore, I’d continue to work with publishing houses as an editor.

What got you interested in YA Fiction?

Great question. I didn’t imagine myself as a YA author to start with, actually. I started out writing adult, but it didn’t quite fit the stories I wanted to tell. Young adult fiction explores the teenage years of a person’s life, and those years are a significant point of change for most of us. Teens are tackling adult issues for the first time—serious relationships, jobs, shifting authority structures, new limits and opportunities—but they’re doing it without the experience, and often without the resources, that adults may have. It’s a vulnerable, heady, thrilling stage in someone’s life. Teens are also adjusting to greater independence and more authority in their own lives, but might still be dealing with limitations at odds with those things, like curfews, not having a car, house rules, and the structures of school. YA tackles that.

The experiences we have in our teenage years are formative ones, and the mistakes and choices we make can follow us into adulthood. There’s great opportunity, uncertainty, and passion in those years, and they leave a mark on us. I didn’t start reading YA until I reached my twenties, and I wish I’d found it earlier—seeing so closely into the lives of other teens who are wrestling with the same changes and struggles I was would have been so helpful as a teen. I still find myself identifying with the characters in these stories, because people never stop struggling with change. You don’t grow out of YA.

Did you have a favorite character to write?

HOW WE FALL is a YA contemporary story about two cousins who are hiding a relationship. I chose Jackie as the perspective character for this story because I really love how she thinks. She’s not really honest with herself, and often says the opposite of what she means, so it was a really interesting voice to write. Since it’s first person, the reader is really close to her thoughts, but I still needed to communicate the difference between her thoughts and reality. It was a really fun style I’m looking forward to doing more with.

What was the road to getting published like?

I’ve been writing since I was a teen, but it wasn’t until after college that I finished a novel I wanted to get published. I researched agents and query letters, developed an interest in the publishing world, and started working first as an internship with a publishing house. Then I worked with a literary agency, and started sending out query letters for my novel. I then moved to a job as an editor with a publishing house. While I was querying, I started writing my second novel, which was HOW WE FALL, and the response from agents was much more encouraging than for my first work. I did revisions and signed with an agent after about six months, then we went on submission right after the holidays and I had an offer in late February. It happened pretty fast and I couldn’t have done it without such a fantastic agent. My debut just released in early November, and it’s been a tough but really wonderful journey.

How would you describe your writing process?

I spend a long time working on the concept of the story—living in the story mentally, churning scenes around, and figuring out the focus—before I actually start drafting it. Once I start drafting, I try to fast-draft the first act so I can see how things work out when I write characters into the situation and the environment. Then I go back and heavily revise that first third to get all the layers in place and make any changes to the plot/characters that I thought of along the way. After I have the first act solidly drafted and revised, then I finish drafting the rest of the book. Of course, it depends some on the book and how well I know the story before I start writing it. Doing revisions in that first third makes starting a manuscript slow for me, but I do find it helps me avoid having to change major parts of the story.

What does 2015 hold for you?

I’d love to know that, myself! I’ve just moved to a new publishing house (Entangled Publishing) where I work as an editor with YA fiction, so I’ll be acquiring and editing some really wonderful YA titles. I’m also hard at work on new projects, both adult and new adult, that I’m really excited about. I’m also attending a lot of conferences (I’m a conference junkie), so be sure to say hi if you see me!

_________

PS Did you know there’s a narrative Pinterest board for How We Fall? Have you ever seen a narrative book board? I worked so hard on it! And I love it so much. Tell me what you think? ~Kate

 

#YAlaunch: 10 Authors Talking Writing, Debuts, & Publishing

I’ve meant to blog about Yalaunch for months, but… my first book released in November, I moved to a new job acquiring fiction for Entangled Publishing, I went to the East Coast for two weeks, and then I went to ALA in Chicago. But I am home now, and catching up on everything, and YAlaunch was JUST TOO GOOD to not tell you about. Honestly, it was one of the most wonderful, fulfilling experiences of my life.

Nikki Urang, my critique partner, and I both had our first novels release November 11, and in the wildly stressful and exciting process of figuring out how to actually celebrate the launch of our books, I decided I wanted a writing retreat with my fellow authors. 4 days in an awesome Omaha hotel writing, drinking, sharing work, eating great food, and staying up far too late– ending with a 3-hour livestream where we played games with the audience on Twitter and Facebook, talked about our books, answered audience questions, and gave away over 100 books. Almost 400 people visited the livestream over the course of the night, and it was such fun to hear the brilliant minds of my fellow authors at work. It was half party, half mini-conference, and ridiculously fun. Here’s a recap, and at the end, I’m including the video, so you can watch the whole thing:

What was it, and who was there?

List of the 100 books we gave away

Once everyone arrived, we (after lots of talking/eating) got to work at the hotel:

Authors  Writing

And that weekend, THIS happened:

It was such a wonderful experience to sit down with 10 other authors (shout-out to author Tonya Kuper, who joined us for an evening, too!) and write. Word sprints, plot hole discussions, brainstorming sessions, and “do you think this works?” and “does this make sense?” happened ’round the clock, and I’m thrilled to report we actually got a lot of real work done.

And then it was Monday, and the #YAlaunch livestream happened! Basically, it was my launch party. Check out the #YAlaunch hashtag on Twitter to see all the awesome crazy, but here are the highlights.

 

And viewers seemed excited, too!

 

We had viewers from Mexico, Australia, Canada, the U.S., the Dominican Republic, and several more wonderful places. Book lovers reach around the world. 🙂

set 1 set 2

Use the times listed in the descriptions below to jump to sections of the video you find interesting, or watch the whole thing!

We kicked off the livestream with a panel discussion on our favorite genres to write, and whether we read genres we don’t write, and questions from the audience covered what New Adult is, how we all feel about fanfiction, solving writer’s block, and what we do for day jobs in addition to writing, if we have another occupation. (first 29 minutes of the video.)

At 29:19 on the time stamp, I interviewed with Alex Yuschik and Blair Thornburgh about gravity racing, the importance of passion in their work, obsessive characters, and writing retellings.

To end the interview, we played an awesome word scramble game of scrambled book titles. You’re all much better at word scrambles than I am!

At 51:48, Nikki Urang interviews Kelly Youngblood and Delia Moran about historical fiction, Kelly’s collection of 1000 books and her transition from writing nonfiction to fiction, traditional vs. self publishing, plotting and “pantsing,” and played a game guessing which books a collection of first lines came from.

At 1:07:33, after a round-table introduction of what we all write, I hosted a panel discussion on writing a series, trilogies, companion novels, and stand-alones. We discussed how that affects our process and changes our work, how we know when a story needs more than one book, and when to best leave the story so that we don’t drain the concept and not wear out the readers. We also discussed writing in a male POV, avoiding leaning on cultural stereotypes for a “male” sound, and how parents who write balance kids and the author life.

At 1:31:18, Nikki Urang interviews Kiersi Burkhart and Bethany Robison about drafting vs revising, their writing process, and the difference between writing for MG and YA. We tried to play a “name that cover” but of course we were owed some kind of technical difficulty, and that’s when it happened.

1:52:00 Eventually we got the game to work, and went back to the main table for a roundtable discussion on when reader reactions differ widely, why we think YA is so popular and what’s drawing people to the category and how Harry Potter changed YA. We also gained a giant platter of unbelievably wonderful cupcakes, and Kiersi performed an impressive cross-table lunge for them.

At 2:04:00, we discussed using social media and multimedia in our books, as well as writing multiple points of view and what we think of the value of formal writing education. We also discussed how to find critique partners, using humor and acting experience to inform writing, and the community and collaboration so often involved in great books. Blair got very wise about first and third person and writing from opposite genders, too. We were also under strict orders to pass around the cupcakes.

At 2:26:00, I got to interview New York Times bestselling authors Nicole Baart and Tosca Lee. We talked about their hobbies, upmarket women’s fiction, historical biblical fiction, Nicole’s upcoming April release THE BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS from Atria, how the industry has changed during their 8-book publication journey, and their advice for new authors. I particularly loved what Tosca had to say about being brave and continuing to write fearlessly as your audience grows, and how Nicole has seen readers change in the last ten years and balancing writing with interacting with readers. They also discussed their paths to publication, and what it’s been like to see 8 novels each published traditionally.

At 2:55:15 we went back to the big table for a game of ABC books, and you definitely want to see 10 authors competing to shout out alphabetical book titles. It got crazy. For authors, we had a surprisingly difficult time with the alphabet.

At 3:01:00, we began a panel discussion on book-to-film adaptations. What makes a good one, if any of our own work has ever been adapted to screen, and screenplays written by the author or involved in the adaptation as in Gone Girl, The Hunger Games, and Game of Thrones.

https://twitter.com/meggie_spoes/status/532009222184005633

And then all 8 authors interviewed Nikki Urang and me about our debuts. Title changes, our involvement in our book covers, how the experience of being a debut author has gone for us, how being an editor helps/hinders me as an author, what next for both of us as authors, and what we hope readers take away from our books.

Basically, over the course of four hours, debut, nonfiction, fiction, and multipublished authors talked through everything from fan fiction and using social media to writing dual POV and writing as an art. I learned so much from these incredibly talented ladies on set with me, and I was so humbled and thrilled that they all came to help us celebrate the release of HOW WE FALL and THE HIT LIST.

Here’s the full video:


If you still haven’t gotten your copies, you can get HOW WE FALL here and THE HIT LIST here!