Monday, August 12, 2013

Interview With "Go Teen Writers" Authors, Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson

(I'm so excited about this)!

Please welcome Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson, the lovely ladies who run the blog "Go Teen Writers!" They are also the authors of Go Teen Writers: How To Turn Your First Draft Into a Published Book  (which I can personally say is excellent). I asked them both a few questions about writing (and reading). I think you'll all really enjoy what they had to say!

1. Who or what inspired you to write?

Stephanie: My parents are both readers and read to me a lot, so I’m sure that inspired me. And then I attended an elementary school that really emphasized creative writing. In first grade we had writing
time everyday where we could write our own stories, and from then on I started saying I wanted to be a novelist.

Jill: I had recently quit working in the fashion industry—which was the career I’d gone to college for—and was trying to figure out what I was supposed to be when I grew up. Since I had a pretty interesting childhood/life story growing up in Alaska, I thought that maybe I could be a motivational speaker for teens. I discovered that sometimes, people hire speakers based on articles written by the speaker. So I looked into writing articles. I was shocked at how hard that was! Meanwhile, a new Harry Potter book came out (book four, I believe), and a new barrage of debates within the Christian community flared up as to whether or not Christians should read the books. The debate inspired me to write my own teen novel that everyone would love. Yep, I was TOTALLY naïve and have since learned that no one likes every book. But that’s how I got started writing fiction. And once I’d created Spencer, I was hooked. I left article writing in the dust and never looked back.

2. What are your top three favorite novels?

Stephanie: THREE? That’s impossible! Not nearly as bad as being asked to pick one, though. Currently my three favorite novels are Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson, and This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen. And the Harry Potter series. Oh, and Wuthering Heights. And…I’ll let Jill talk now.

I also can’t pick only three! I’ll try. But just know that every time I answer this question, it’s a different answer. I will also choose Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen for the amazing dialogue, the Lord of the Rings for the wonderful story of good vs. evil, and the Harry Potter series for incredible storyworld and characters she built.

Stephanie: How funny that we write such different books but have similar favorites!

3. What is your favorite thing about writing?

Stephanie: Gosh, that might be more impossible than the book question. I’m in love with all of it, honestly. From brainstorming to writing to having a box of freshly printed books land on my doorstep. I love it all! Though if I had to pick one favorite, I would probably say the brainstorming. I often get exhausted or burned out during writing or edits, but I always deeply enjoy the brainstorming.

Jill: I love storyworld building. It’s my favorite part of the process. I love drawing maps, thinking about the people and where they live, creating a new culture and figuring out why the people are the way they are. Sometimes I wish I could stay there forever and not even write the book, but that would be silly!

4. What were your favorite things about writing Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into a Published Book with each other? How about your least favorite things?

Stephanie: I loved getting to know Jill better during the process. We talk to each other a fair amount
anyway, but it was fun having a reason to talk so often. And it was great knowing that we were creating something that would be a helpful tool for teen writers. The hardest part? We were both on deadline for fiction projects, plus we were committed to keeping up the quality of the blog. It was hard to keep our energy level up, and that’s when it was really nice to be co-writing. We could help each other push through the fatigue.

Jill: It was fun getting to know Stephanie too. I wish we lived in the same town, or at least state. Also, I really enjoyed doing the typesetting for the book. That’s not something I get to do often, and I had a lot of fun creating clip arts in Photoshop that matched the cover. I likely wasted way too much time on that… I also agree with Stephanie on the least favorite thing. I never have enough time for anything, and squeezing out a quality nonfiction book wasn’t easy. I think we were both a little naïve about how long it would take us. But I know we’re both proud of the finished product.

Stephanie: Yeah, I agree with that. I think if we had known how much work we’d invest in it, we might never have started. We’re both perfectionist though, so neither of us were willing to publish something that we didn’t feel was our very best. And I was blown away by the amazing job Jill did on the typesetting. The girl’s got skills.

5. What is the hardest thing you've had to do in your writing?

Stephanie: Ooh, good question. *Sits and ponders for a long time.* Continue writing stories in the face of rejection, or criticism, or disappointing sales numbers. Normally, I have no problems sitting and writing - it’s where I want to be. But in those times, I definitely have to push through the pain to keep going.

Jill: I have to say writing and editing to very tight deadlines. This was another place I was totally naïve. I just wasn’t prepared to write that fast. There isn’t enough time to get the books to the level I want them to be at before they’re published. In fact, this is so difficult and frustrating for me that I don’t think I want to sell books off proposals anymore, just for my own sanity.

6. What is the best piece of advice you could give to teen writers who want to get published?

Stephanie: If I can do this, you can do this. I didn’t know a single person in the book industry - not even a bookstore employee - but I worked hard to develop my storytelling abilities, I learned how publishing worked, I networked, and I kept at it year after year.

Jill: Finish your novel all the way, then edit it, rewrite it, then write another book. Practice makes perfect, and only by writing and rewriting and learning will your writing be ready for publication. This is true for teen and adult writers. We’re all competing for the same publishing slots, and we all need to respect our dreams enough to put in the hard work of honing our craft.

Thank you guys so much for taking the time to do this! I really enjoyed reading your responses.


Stephanie Morrill said...

Thanks so much for having us!

Boquinha said...

This is great stuff - very inspiring! Are we allowed to ask them more questions? If so, I'd love to ask how they met and started working together.

Thank you for sharing this! I always enjoy getting to know people better - be they professors, writers, dentists, whatever. It makes everything so much more personal and intimate, which makes learning more fun!

Stephanie Morrill said...

Yep, you sure are!

Jill and I are represented by the same literary agency, and when they did a one day seminar for all their clients, Jill and I had the chance to hang out for the day. After that we started talking more and more about ways that we could support each other since we both write YA fiction and both have a heart for teen writers.

The blog, Go Teen Writers, had grown to the point where it was tough for me to do it all on my own, so Jill started posting twice a week on there. We discovered that both of us had been kicking around the idea of writing a craft book for teens, and decided to collaborate.

Probably more details than you really wanted!

Boquinha said...

Thanks, Stephanie! I love hearing stories like that - all the details are great, don't worry. :) I think it's great that you collaborate together and work together to do the blog, write together, plus keep up on deadlines. I'm impressed!

Dr. Mark said...

I really liked the interview. It's obvious that all of you love what you do. And I always enjoy hearing from authors about their inspiration, writing history, challenges, etc.

If I could ask an additional question, do you have a favorite resource about the writing industry? I find so much of the process very daunting and confusing.


Jill Williamson said...

Thanks for the interview! :-)

The Magic Violinist said...

@Stephanie and Jill No problem! :D It was great having you guys here!

Boquinha said...

Ooooh, good question, Mark! I second that question. I find the process daunting as well. The writing I can do. But then what?

Stephanie Morrill said...

Yes, the process can be very overwhelming! Jill and I broke it down in our book, Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into a Published book, but we have free resources on the website as well:

This was a series we did on how to get your novel published, and this is the link for the first post. I hope it's helpful!

Boquinha said...

Ha! I've just been informed that we own that book, so I will have to check it out! I imagine if it's good for teens, it good for adults. (I'm a big fan of teens, too - I really think they get a bad rap). :) Thanks for this resource!