Interview and GIVEAWAY with Deborah Halverson


I'd like to introduce Deborah Halverson. Deborah is the award-winning author of  Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies and the teen novels Honk If You Hate Me and Big Mouth. Deborah edited picture books and teen novels for Harcourt Children’s Books for ten years before leaving to write full-time.  She is also the founder of the popular writers’ advice website DearEditor.com and freelance edits fiction and non-fiction for both published authors and writers seeking their first book deals.

I met Deborah back when I was living in San Diego and desperately seeking feedback on the novel that became The Eleventh Plague. I can honestly say that the criticism Deborah gave me went a long way to getting that book where it is now. Trust me, if anyone is qualified to give you the low down on how to write for Children and Young Adults it's Deborah.

To celebrate Deborah's publication of Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies,  we're going to do a GIVEAWAY of the book. Comment on this post to enter a drawing for a free copy of Writing YA Fiction for Dummies. 

And now for a little interview with the lady herself!

So Deborah, what do you think distinguishes a YA novel from one written for adults? Do teens want something out of a reading experience that's different from adults?
Teens are reading to see their own lives and to figure out the world and their place in it. They want stories that reflect their situations and concerns and that validate their experiences. They’re also looking for empowerment, which they get from reading about kids their own age who solve their own problems.

As an editor, what are the top writing pitfalls you see writers falling into?
Cliché characters remain the bane of aspiring writers. One way to skirt this pitfall is to mix-and-match your characters from the beginning. Here’s a way to do that: Write down the names of three very different people in your life or from your Favorite Book/Movie/TV Characters list. Then pick one trait from each of those people: a strength from Person A, a flaw from Person B, and a thematic dream or goal from Person C, such as the desire to fit in or to find love.

You’ll be as intrigued to see what your amalgam does when you plug him into your plot as your readers will be. He should grow well beyond the foundation you gave him.

How do you explain the recent rise in YA literature?
Right now the young adult literature category is performing better than most in the battered book market. A number of factors play into this, but we gotta give a lot credit where a lot of credit is due: Hollywood. Have you been watching the play-by-play coverage of the casting for The Hunger Games movies!? This and other high profile film adaptations have been raising mass awareness of the young adult category for the past decade, and lately the cinematic interest has been particularly intense. The great thing is, moviegoers who enter the YA realm through one title, one series, or one genre tend to discover further interests once they get here—and then they stick around as YA fans.

Do you have a list of YA novels and writers every well-read aspiring writer should be familiar with?
The more we’re exposed to great writing, the more we understand about what makes a piece of writing great. Give these great examples a read:

Phillip Pullman’s The Golden Compass . An outstanding example of world building—as well as of characterization, voice, plot, setting . . . you name it!
Karen Cushman’s The Midwife’s Apprentice . See spectacular characterization from the very first sentence, as well as the influence of local community and culture on the plot. Cushman is a character-driven writer, and you can learn a ton about writing intriguing, real, and memorable characters from her books.
M.T. Anderson’s oeuvre. Yep, anything by Mr. Anderson—as many books as possible, in fact, so that you can see how a single writer can change it up. Anderson’s got sci fi and fantastical historical fiction and silly, high action chapter books on his shelf. Read his books with an eye toward how he shifts the voice, sophistication, and tone for each story.
The “It” Book of the Moment. Whatever that is at any given time. Writers aiming to be published need to understand why something is hitting big. Don’t read the It book so that you can jump on that bandwagon, and don’t read it to agree or disagree with the public’s choice. Rather, read to understand what about that book is connecting with people.

Any thoughts on self-publishing? Do you think it's a viable alternative for writers just starting out? The end of the world as we know it? Any pitfalls you can help people avoid?
Self-publishing is an attractive idea because it cuts out the middleman and puts you in the driver’s seat. But its viability for you depends on the kind of books you’re writing. Self-pubbing right now isn’t the strongest alternative for the average fiction writer. Writers of genre fiction for adults (mystery, sci fi, etc.) may have more opportunities to reach their readers because the authors know where their audience lurks and can talk directly to them. But writers of general fiction and fiction for young people are at a disadvantage because the average Joe doesn’t have the money or resources or quite simply the access to reach readers efficiently, effectively, and in big enough numbers. The audience is too big, too wide, and too unfocused to target...

Self-publishing certainly has its success stories—some of them being BIG successes, such as Amanda Hocking’s. Those are enticing, absolutely. But it’s important to note that those stories are the exceptions, and that many of those authors end up signing with traditional houses anyway because the work involved in self-marketing a self-published book is extreme.

What would you like to see more/less of in YA fiction going forward?
I’d like aspiring YA and MG writers to rediscover the power of setting in a story. I’m not talking leisurely, lilting descriptions of meadows and forests. I’m talking about using setting to enhance and illuminate characters and to push the plot forward. Setting is more than just a place to be, yet so many of the manuscripts I’m seeing aren’t taking advantage of that as they focus on answering the call for action and dialogue. Writers are missing wonderful opportunities! Use setting props to reveal your character’s mood or personality. Use setting changes to quicken or slow the pace of the plot. Use setting elements to push the character out of his comfort zone and take action he’d otherwise not take. Activate all five of your readers’ senses and score a richer read for your efforts.

Thanks Deborah!


Don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Writing young Adult Fiction for Dummies! 

25 comments:

Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for an interesting interview. I especially liked reading about the role of setting. This sounds like such a great book!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Love the character amalgam. Gonna have to try that.

Ava Jae said...

What a great interview! Bookmarking this for sure. I'll definitely be referring back to the bit about setting and the character amalgam.

Safari Poet said...

Great interview. I love books with more descriptive settings and the idea of activating all the senses.

Sarah Elizabeth said...

This was such a great interview! I can't wait to try the whole character amalgam thing...should be interesting.

Cambria Dillon said...

Thanks for your insight, Deborah! Setting is definitely an area I'm always trying to improve in my writing.

Bwyatt said...

Thanks so much for the interview and giveaway. This was a very informative post, and I'm sure the book will be even more so!
britneywyatt[at]gmail[dot]com

Bittersweet Fountain said...

The interview was great. :)

Melody said...

Great interview - I like the idea of mixing traits from different characters to make one unique one. :) Count me in for the book! :)

Sally said...

Thanks for the interview! Going to use the cliche character (mixing traits) today while working on my YA MS. :)

MTouet said...

Great info! I love Karen Cushman's books--wonderful for middle and high schoolers.
Maria Touet, Librarian

jpetroroy said...

Wonderful interview and tips--mixing traits is a great tip!

jpetroroy at gmail dot com

Carol Riggs said...

Great interview, thanks Jeff and Deborah!! I especially liked the bit about the desire for writers to reconnect with SETTING. An intriguing challenge. I think setting has always been slight for me, something I have to work on, add in more details later on. :)

sRy_ said...

the book has good opinions; count me in if it's international :)

Deborah Halverson said...

Yes, Maria, Karen Cushman is awesome. If I'm ever feeling writer's block loom, I can pick up any one of her books and get jazzed up about writing again. She inspires me. (And she honored me by contributing an article about creating characters for my new book. I jumped like a giddy fan when she said she'd do it.)

-Deborah

April said...

Really interesting interview! I loved the part about the characters and the setting, I think i'm going to try that in my writing. Thanks!

Elanor Lawrence said...

This is such a helpful interview. I liked the bit about setting, especially as I've been thinking about that a fair bit recently. So many of the scenes in my novel take place in fairly generic, living room/classroom/hallway sort of locations. One of the things I'm going to change when I start revisions is making the setting help the story, rather than being just a white wall in the background.

elanor_gamgee at yahoo dot ca

Mary. said...

Awesome interview! Some very interesting points. Seems like a very helpful book as well.

Mel Fowler said...

What a great interview. I think I seriously need this book. So I will cross my fingers and hope that I will win!

Jenni Merritt said...

Great interview! I love the tip on how to create a non-cliche character. I will be using that!

Now I want this book!

jennimerritt.writing (at) gmail (dot) com

Eisen said...

Thank you for this inspiring interview! :) I've just started following this blog!

Eric said...

woot, I knew there was a reason I liked YA. Thanks for the tips, on setting especially.

Kate said...

Great interview! It gave me a lot to think about! I really want to read this book and to get more. Thanks for the giveaway!

readsbyflashlight@gmail.com

Shawntelle Madison said...

I definitely enjoyed this interview. Thanks for sharing those book recommendations.

Lisa Potts said...

Great interview! I've already got this one on my Goodreads list, and I would love to own a copy. Thanks for the chance!