Welcome to Story Secrets! This is a weekly feature where YA authors (some well-known, some debut) spill their secrets about their latest and greatest YA offerings.
Today, I'm excited to chat with writing friend and agent-mate, Carrie Jones, about CAPTIVATE, which just hit the shelves (along with the paperback of the first book, NEED). Whenever I get grumpy, I check out Carrie's blog for her unique brand of insight and hilarity. Carrie is a person who writes with heart. I promise, her books (and quite possibly her werewolves) will charm you.
First, tell us a little bit about CAPTIVATE.
CAPTIVATE is the sequel to NEED. They are stories about Zara who is tormented by human-sized pixies who are full of evil. It's really about how Zara goes from a grieving zombie-like girl to a hero that can total kick some butt while being quirky, because basically everyone should be a quirky butt-kicking hero who has peace symbols on their jeans.
How did you come up with the idea for the series?
I was at the Common Ground Fair, which is this huge, cool fair in Maine, in a rural part of the United States, that’s sponsored by Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association (MOFGA). To get to the main part of the fair you have to walk through this sweet trail that curves through these tall spruce trees.
Right in front of me was this guy. He had a weird vibe. He was wearing all corduroy – blazer, pants. And sticking out from his blazer was this long tail-like appendage that was wrapped in different colored earth-toned cloth. I guess he could tell I was checking him out because he turned his head and looked at me. His eye was this startling silver color. How startling? So startling that I actually gasped and got creeped out.
Then when we were in line to pay we made eye contact again and his eyes were brown. I know! I know! I probably imagined the silver eye color.
It doesn’t matter. That was one of the main things that got me started. Then, I just had this image of a man standing outside an airport pointing at an airplane this girl was on.
It also wigged me out.
So, I started writing.
Anything unusual about the way it came about?
Well, I kept creeping myself out when I wrote it. I'd look outside and think I'd see things in the woods. This was not good for my mental health but it did show me that I can survive my heart beating over 200 times a minute.
Did the process take you anywhere unexpected, either in writing or in life?
My first three books came out really quietly and were sort of the literary/contemporary genre, so I was really surprised that NEED did so well. I'm not used to royalty checks that actually had money in it. So that changed.
But in writing it's made me much more aware of plot and the forward motion of a story. Believe me, that's totally a good thing!
What would you say is your biggest inspiration?
Strudel. [Editor's note: hmmm...another author inspired by food...]
How long did it take you to write, and did you have to go through a lot of drafts? How did the story evolve as you revised?
I go through a MILLION TRILLION drafts. It takes me about six months to get it to where a copy editor looks at it.
The first draft is sort of luck this big lump of mold on the basement floor. There are all these spores, but it's not connecting right and there's way too many love scenes. My editor is always hacking out the love scenes.
This kind of depresses me.
She, however, is intelligent and says, "How many times can he feed her a cookie, Carrie?"
For some reason I think cookies are romantic.
So the story becomes more of a straight line of mold as I revise. I cut out spores. I get some bleach and I kill things off.
Do you talk with anyone about your ideas as you are writing, or do you keep them top secret?
It's not that I'm trying to keep them secret, it's just I don't want to bore anyone with all my "I am so concerned that the narrative arch doesn't coincide with the existential nature of the emotional arc during act two of the piece."
I do ask people about their ideas if I am blocked in the plot. So, I might be talking to you on the phone and we could be talking about Jon Stewart being totally cute and then all of a sudden I'll say, "If you were going to get to this mythical place where only gods live how would you get there?"
Or "Do you think it's worse to die by fire or drown?"
So what is the real story behind the novel? Any secrets you might be willing to share?
CAPTIVATE is sort of about doing what you have to do to save someone you love. I think this is a recurring theme in my work because when I was little my stepdad died of a heart attack. He was the best bonus dad ever. We'd been eating at his sister's house and he left the table. I kept checking on him and he kept telling me he was okay, but I knew he wasn't telling the truth. I kept telling the other adults that something was wrong, but they didn't listen. Eventually he died on the couch and I brought him back once but then all the adults came and took over and he died again. I remember all these people pacing around, flustered, helpless, confused and basically not very good in a crisis. Then they put him in an ambulance and I knew if he got in that ambulance I would never see him again.
That kind of loss and helplessness and annoyance at not being able to be the one in charge because I was so little sort of informed the series.
I can't believe I just told that story! What a downer! I am so sorry. Anyway, that's one of the main reasons, I write what I do. I want teens to realize that they have power, that it isn't cool when you aren't listened to, or thought of as 'less' just because of your age.
Thank you, Carrie! I think that kind of honesty and heart are what makes your books special.
For more about Carrie, visit her website. And don't miss Melissa Walker's cover story on NEED.