Sunday, September 4, 2011

Interview at Allison's Book Bag

Allison's Book Bag has posted an interview with us (Kate McMurry and Marie August). The interview can be found here. We are also posting a copy of this interview below:

Allison: Interviewing authors has become one of my favorite parts of being a book review blogger. To my surprise, when I wrote Kate McMurry to request an interview, she responded by telling me that she was writing out replies to the questions I had used in my other interviews. As I like to personalize each interview by asking questions based on an author’s site and book(s), I wasn’t sure what to expect. To my delight, her interview was well-crafted and interesting to read. Moreover, when I shot her a few other questions, she immediately integrated them into her original interview. It’s my pleasure to introduce to you the new co-author team of Kate McMurry and Marie August. As Kate is also a fellow blogger, I hope to treat you later in the year to a collaborative review with her.
Allison: What are your publications for young people?

Kate and Marie: We have one published book so far, Girl vs Ghost, a YA, paranormal, romantic comedy targeted primarily at teens age 12-16. It is Book 1 of the Misdirected Magic Trilogy. Book 2, Witch vs Wizard, will be released in November, 2011, and Book 3, Spells vs Spirits, will be released in May, 2012.

Allison: Why did you become a writer?

Kate and Marie: Kate has been writing for the sheer joy of putting words on the page since she first learned to form sentences in elementary school. As an adult, she has worked professionally as a technical writer, an English teacher, a private editor, and a freelance journalist. Writing fiction was a passionate avocation from 1993 until she formed a partnership with Marie in 2006 with the goal of becoming published YA novelists.

Marie has been telling stories since she was a small child, and Kate (due to her background as an English teacher) began training Marie in her teens in the art of critiquing and writing popular fiction. One of our favorite joint hobbies during Marie’s high school years was creating characters with elaborate backstories together, and Marie attempted her first novel at age 14.

Marie is also a professional artist with a B.A. in visual arts. She has worked as an illustrator and web designer and was commissioned to design the cover and internal illustrations for Girl vs Ghost. As a special promotion for our book, Marie created a webcomic of the first chapter which is available at Misdirected Magic. She also writes and illustrates a fairytale webcomic called The Fox and the Firebird at Fairy Tale Twisted, and she created and maintains our blog.

Allison: Why did you decide to write as a team?

Kate and Marie: As mother and daughter, we have always been very close personally. For many years we critiqued each other’s fiction, until it finally occurred to Marie that if we worked together, we could get a whole lot more done than we ever managed to do separately. She was absolutely correct. Our teamwork has had an additional wonderful perk of giving us an excuse to spend much more time together than we might have been able to do in the ordinary course of events.

Allison: Why do you write for young people?

Kate and Marie: We both feel that the famous piece of writer’s advice, “Write what you love to read,” definitely applies to us for YA fiction, since for many years now, it is the genre we have both most enjoyed reading and discussing. Marie is also a fan of manga, Japanese graphic novels, and the animated films based on them which are called anime. The vast majority of the protagonists of these stories are teenagers, and they have served as an inspiration to her for the kind of YA plots she would like to write.

Allison: Kate, you wrote on your website: “Reading young adult (YA) fiction has been a passion of mine for many years and has strongly influenced my decision to write YA fiction myself.” Why did you start reading young adult fiction?

Kate: My mother (Marie’s grandmother) was a middle-grade and secondary-school librarian before she retired. One of the joys of my adolescent years was when she allowed me to help her pick out books to purchase for the school library. My love of fiction written especially for teens began then, but it has continued all my life because YA fiction is such a vibrant genre.

Allison: Marie, what inspired your interest in young adult fiction?

Marie: I started getting heavily into reading fiction when I was twelve because of Madeleine L’Engle. I loved her “Time” series. In seventh grade, I read them together with a friend and we talked about them a lot.

Allison: Kate, why did you become a reviewer of young adult fiction?

Kate: I’ve been posting reviews on Amazon since 1999, and when they implemented the Vine program in late 2007, I was among the first wave of people invited to participate. I was delighted to discover that Vine was offering advance reading copies of YA books. Until then, though I had always read a lot of YA fiction, somehow it hadn’t occurred to me to review it. Once I started posting Vine reviews for YA books, I discovered I enjoyed it very much. I’ve been writing reviews for almost all the YA novels I’ve read ever since. During this past year, I discovered NetGalley, and it has become another source of acquiring current YA books to read and review. I cross-post all my YA reviews on my own website, the blog Marie has created for us, Goodreads and Amazon.

Allison: Kate, you have completed a lot of studies and pursued many careers. What has been your favorite program of studies? What has been your favorite career?

Kate: I am one of those people who, if given the chance, would have loved to spend decades pursuing degree after degree. I have extremely fond memories of everything I studied, but probably my English studies, both creative writing and English education, were the most fascinating and fun. As for my favorite career, hands down it is teaching writing, both nonfiction and fiction, to students of all ages.

Allison: The two of you wrote a story together based on the Medusa myth (posted on the Bio page of when Marie was in sixth grade. What inspired this idea? What are your favorite myths? Any plans to write other take-offs on myths?

Kate and Marie: Marie was studying Greek mythology in school at the time, and it inspired her to write a short story about Medusa. She initially intended to write it as a tragedy, but Kate said that it would be great fun to tell it as a dark comedy. Marie liked the idea, because she shares Kate’s strong sense of the absurd, and our partnership writing the story took off from there.
Marie’s favorite myth is Hades and Persephone. Kate’s is Siegfried/Sigurd of Norse mythology. We both have a strong attraction to myths, folklore and fairytales. Kate owns many collections of fairytales from around the world, and Marie’s fascination with fairytales has inspired the creation of her fairytale webcomic at Fairy Tale Twisted.

We have discussed the possibility of writing an urban-fantasy series for teens sometime in the next few years. Definitely one powerful source for magic in fantasy comes from mythical gods, and we may well eventually incorporate myths into our YA fiction.

Allison: How did the two of you come up with the idea for Misdirected Magic? How long did it take to write?

Kate and Marie: Marie came up with the idea for the three main characters, Tripp, Isabel and Marc. when she was still in her teens. She had originally envisioned a very different ending for the story and a much darker tone than we ultimately decided on together, and there was at least one important character in her initial conception whom we ended up abandoning–though we hope to use him someday in another story.

We first planned to write Girl vs Ghost as a single title when we began working on it in 2006. It was a slow process finishing it because we were only able to get together a few hours per week. In 2007 it struck us that this story had potential to be a trilogy, because by then our “fantasy bible,” which includes the rules for the magic in our characters’ world, was over 25,000 words long. We decided that we didn’t want to start submitting the first book of our trilogy for publication until we had at least a full outline and hopefully a rough draft of the second and third books so that we could be sure that we wouldn’t hit a “sophomore slump.” Achieving that goal took several years, and as we worked on the second and third book, new ideas for the direction of the overall arc of the three books led to rewrites of Girl vs Ghost. We started submitting Girl vs Ghost to editors in early 2010.

Allison: What was your reason for writing your book with fantasy elements?

Kate and Marie: We both love YA paranormal stories, whether books, television shows or movies. In addition, for the past eight years Marie has had extensive experience running role-playing games which has involved creating fantasy worlds with magical characters and many unique storylines for individual games based in those various worlds. This hobby has given her extensive experience in fantasy world-building which she has brought to bear in creating the Misdirected Magic trilogy.

Allison: Why did you decide to write your book as a comedy?

Kate and Marie: We both enjoy humorous YA novels, and we love writing comedy. There are endless possibilities for humor in the wild incongruities that occur when fantasy elements are introduced into a plot.

Allison: In reading about your publisher, I admire the stand that Blazing Star Press has taken to focus on comic novels targeted at young adults. How did you find Blazing Star Press?

Kate and Marie: Through a referral from a fellow writer. We ultimately decided that the greater flexibility of a small, “indie” publisher might provide an edge that larger publishers do not have in order to survive the enormous upheavals within the publishing industry today. We were also promised, and have happily received, a great deal of personal attention for editing and promotion of our book that overworked editors and marketing staff in large publishing houses have been unable to provide to anyone besides big-name authors for quite some time. In addition, the strong appreciation of Blazing Star Press for YA comedy was a big draw for us as well.

Allison: What are your favorite books for young people?

Kate and Marie: We are major fans of paranormal YA. We’ve devoured the Harry Potter books and the Twilight series, and recently we’ve been very impressed with Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series, the series begun with Angel Burn by Lee Weatherly, and the Raised by Wolves series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Our favorite authors of comic YA novels, many of which have fantasy elements, are Meg Cabot, Janet Rallison, Tera Lynn Childs, Suzanne Selfors, Wendy Toliver, Allison van Diepen, Kristin Walker, Rosemary Clement-Moore, Tina Ferraro, Aimee Ferris, Maryrose Wood, Alex Flinn, Martha Freeman, Ebony McKenna, and Sydney Salter.

Allison: What is one writing tip you’d like to pass onto others?

Kate and Marie: If you want to write fiction, don’t just try to write what is “hot.” Instead, figure out which genre you enjoy reading the most. That will very likely be the one you understand best and are most likely to excel at and be enthusiastic about writing.

Allison: What is one other thing you’d like to share?

Kate and Marie: Any time you read a novel that you love, consider writing a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or a comment on a blog such as this one, in order to support that author’s work. Positive reviews by readers not only encourage the author, they also help other people who are eager to find their next good read to locate that author’s work.

Last, but certainly not least, we are very grateful to Allison for interviewing us on her wonderful blog!

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