A blog about the amazing things teenagers do, about writing for teens, books for teens, and occasional forays into my world and the world of publishing.

Friday, July 20, 2012

TAKEN BY STORM--Interview with Author Angela Morrison

To continue the celebration of TAKEN BY STORM's 10-year anniversary I got the chance to ask Angela Morrison some questions about the TAKEN BY STORM series and what it's like to revisit a book and characters ten years after the concept was first conceived. 
This week you're celebrating the writing prompt that spawned TAKEN BY STORM and consequently, your writing career. Can you tell us about that writing prompt? 

It was the first free write I'd ever been challenged to. I was sitting in a circle with all my brand new MFA classmates at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and the graduate assistant leading the session gave us the prompt, "Remember a sound." I started writing, and Michael's voice flowed out on the page. That was July 20, 2002. Ten years ago today! You can see the actual free write on my blog.

I'm always curious about what happens to the characters that live in your head for so long as you create a story, ten years later, do you still hear Michael and Leesie's voices? Do you ever think about writing a new chapter in their story? 

When I finished CAYMAN SUMMER (Taken by Storm Book #3), I managed to coax a long epilogue from Michael and Leesie, but that was it. Their voices no longer haunt me. I miss them. I coaxed them out of hiding this week for online Q&A sessions. Michael was pretty grumpy about it. Leesie was, let's say, distracted. Readers have asked me to write more about them--another book or even a scene, but I can't.

The format of the book is unique because it's told in poetry, chats and dive logs. What was the hardest way to write the story?

The hardest part was discovering that format. TAKEN BY STORM started life as he said/she said dual first-person narrators. Michael's experience was so much more intense than Leesie's that his voice dominated. When I let Leesie narrate through her poems, she began to match his intensity level. I love writing free verse poetry and the compression you get with narrative poems, but they were the hardest the write.

You grew up in Tekoa, the town where this story is set, are any of the scenes in the book based on real-life experiences?

It was great to set the story in a place I knew so well. The places are as realistic as I could paint them. All the people are fiction. But I did saddle Leesie with an awful groping incident on the school bus that happened to me. The cool thing about using your worst high school days in a novel is you can send your heroine a hero--like Michael. I just scurried off the bus in defeat. I gave Leesie a champion. 

Michael and Leesie's story came from a writing prompt, where else do you find writing ideas?

Everywhere and in everything. Michael actually was inspired by an accident my husband and I heard about when we were scuba diving off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico. A hurricane in Belize. I asked myself, "What if a guy on that boat survived but his parents didn't? What would he do? Where would he go? Who would love him?" The answers became TAKEN BY STORM. 

What have you changed or added for the new release of this book?

We changed the cover! YAY! I love this new one. We also reformatted the text so it would be a readable ebook. The original ebook Penguin produced didn't use scalable fonts for the dive log headings or the chats. It was unreadable unless you read it on a big computer screen. We fixed that. I also added an extra bonus scene, "Airport Good-bye," that comes between the end of STORM and the beginning of UNBROKEN CONNECTION. 

You have been one of my greatest mentors and your advice to me through the years has been invaluable. In that vein, what advice do you have for other writers just starting out? For writers who have been at this for awhile.

Keep reading. Keep writing. Find opportunities to learn from professional writers, agents and editors. Sign up for SCBWI conferences and online writing classes. Find a good critique group. It never gets easier. Even when you've broken through and got a contract and books on the shelf, it's still the hardest but the best thing you'll ever do. If you think publishing a book is going to make you millions, find another scheme. Writing is for the driven, crazy people who absolutely must do it to stay happy and sane. Don't sell yourself short, though. If you are driven to write, you are a writer. Own it. Stand tall. Work hard. Be professional.

Thank you Angela!

To learn more about TAKEN BY STORM and check out the rest of the celebration, go to Angela's Cayman Summer blog.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Ten Year Anniversary

 Hi all! This week I'm helping my biggest writing mentor, Angela Morrison, celebrate a milestone anniversary and the birth of a fabulous story. Ten years ago this week, Taken by Storm's scuba-diving hero, Michael, swam out of award-winning YA author, Angela Morrison's brain and onto her page. You can join the anniversary celebration and win your own copy of the brand new paperback!  Snag Taken by Storm's Kindle ebook for only $ .99Unbroken Connection (Book 2) and Cayman Summer (Book 3) are free on Kindle! Hurry. The promotion ends Friday, July 20th. Don't own a Kindle? Download free Kindle apps for your laptop, tablet, iTouch, or phone.

Here's a little bit about the book.

In Taken by Storm, Mormon girl Leesie has life figured out until devastated Michael lands in her small town high school. He needs her like no one has before. A rare journey into a faithful LDS teen’s intimate struggle. 

from Taken by Storm . . .

I’m lost to his firm chest,
his slender fingertips, his long wavy hair,
his mouth sucking my bottom lip—
The world spins, the stars shift,
and I can’t see anything except his smoky
gray eyes gazing into mine.
You scare me, whispers
from my mouth across his.
Good, he breathes into me.
I need you to save me.

"[Morrison] handles the topics of religion and premarital sex gracefully without passing judgment. The message has less to do with religion than learning to respect and cherish others while staying true to one’s own beliefs.”  – Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

Brand new paperback and reformatted ebook with fully scalable fonts. Includes bonus, never-before-published scene, "Airport Good-bye!"

Angela Morrison is the award-winning YA author of Taken by Storm (Books 1-3) and Sing me to Sleep. She grew up in Eastern Washington on the wheat farm where Taken by Storm is set. She's an advanced NAUI, Nitrox certified scuba diver. The hurricane that kills Michael's parents was inspired by a real-life diving accident. She wrote Cayman Summer, book three of Michael and Leesie's saga, with fan input, at http://caymansummer.blogspot.com. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

On Begining Again

I have a confession to make, I love Mondays. There's something about the first day of the week (okay, I know technically Sunday is the first day of the week) that gets me motivated to start over and do better. Monday is a great day to re-start that diet, that exercise program (yes, I am writing this from my treadmill) or to dive in to a new project. It's almost like every Monday can be a new January 1st.

So, today I'm blogging again. I haven't blogged since the day BREAKING BEAUTIFUL released. I feel bad for that, but I also feel like I needed the break.

I firmly believe there is something called "post-par-tum book depression." When you release a book, just like when you have a baby, you have all of this anticipation that you have built up for months, years, even a lifetime. And then it happens. And maybe nobody cares about it as much as you do. And maybe your baby isn't as well-received in the outside world as you thought it would be. And maybe there's still a lot of work ahead.

Baby, or book, all of these things are true. (I've been through both.) Granted, my book didn't need to be fed every two hours all night long like my four babies did, but it has kept me up at night. On the other hand, no one will ever publicly post a one star review of any of my children (at least I hope not).

It's hard to come to the end of a journey. It's hard to release something you have worked on for so many months or years out into the world. Even if everything happens according to your expectations (and it never does) there is still a feeling of being let down. All this build-up for this?

In the middle of enjoying, agonizing, and coming to grips with all the realities of my first "child of paper"  shelves, I was writing my second book, so I was also experiencing "second book syndrome" angst.
Book two was way harder for me to write than book one. Maybe because I was writing it based on a proposal and on deadline. Maybe because I was afraid it would never live up to my first book. Maybe because I was afraid that this second book would expose me as a fraud. One book, sure, but two? Who does she think she's kidding?

Boy, it really sounds like I'm complaining. I'm not. I woke up this morning to a quiet house, (one of the benefits of summer with older kids) a beautiful summer day, and a head filled with new ideas to write about. For the first time in a while, the blank computer screen doesn't scare me. I'm excited to write. I'm excited to begin again.

Not that I didn't enjoy writing my second book. I love my second child of paper (as hard as it was to bring to this point) as much as I love my first. I'm excited to get edit notes and make it better.

But today, I'm excited to move forward. I'm excited to begin again.