How happy I am to be able to introduce you to my friend and fellow "2K10 Debut Holly," Holly Schindler!
Holly's debut novel, A BLUE SO DARK, releases on May 1st and just garnered a *starred review* from Booklist. Hooray, Holly! So I invited her to visit us to spill some of her story secrets (and A BLUE SO DARK has many of them)...
Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura’s dad left them. Convinced that “creative” equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked—and together may offer an escape from her fears.
And here is Holly's story behind the story:
…I decided to devote myself full-time to my writing as soon as I got my master’s degree back in the spring of ’01. By the winter of ’06, I’d already endured almost (yikes!) five solid unpublished years…To pay my pesky bills, I taught piano and guitar lessons and offered English tutorials out of my home—which turned out to be fabulous YA author training!
Maybe some instructors get annoyed by their students’ interruptions, but my absolute FAVORITE parts of the lessons were the times my students would just TALK to me…tell me funny stories about their days, or blow off steam about a teacher, or let me in on something hurtful that had happened with one of their friends. And it hit me how similar they were to the kids I’d gone to school with. Sure, the cut of the jeans are different now, kids might listen to iPods instead of Walkmans, but so many of our experiences are the same…
I’ve also always LOVED art—took as many art courses in high school as English—and I knew I wanted to explore my fascination with artists and creativity—why creativity can just ooze out of some people’s pores, and others practically have to set out a trap to snare a muse.
To get started, I pulled out all my old high school journals and notebooks, mining them to reconnect with my own teenage “voice.” When I realized how similar it sounded to my nearly-thirty-year-old voice AND to my students’ voices, I was off and running…first draft took just a couple of months! I polished it up a bit and began submitting.
…And the rejection slips started to pour into my inbox and mailbox both. But I was getting really great rejections for A BLUE SO DARK…positive response and REALLY helpful critiques from editors.
Once I’d distanced myself from the manuscript I loved and had connected with from the start, I could understand what those editors were trying to tell me. I could look at the pages objectively and identify the weaknesses. I then began to revise…and revise…and revise. I went through several different drafts, each time making the book less internal…I inserted more scenes in the novel, brought Aura out of her head and allowed her to interact with the world around her.
…In the end, I created a young girl for whom creativity and madness are inextricably linked. And there’s no denying that many artists were mad, so she really gives readers something to chew on…But by listening to those editors’ suggestions, I also created a fully-rounded character who is more than just the daughter of a schizophrenic. Aura became her own person, with her own interests and fears, her own sense of humor…
I can’t wait for readers to meet Aura…which they’ll be able to do, starting May 1, 2010!
Gorgeous cover, don't you think? Readers, if you have missed previous Story Secrets with amazing YA authors, check them out here!
AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY...
Holly has very generously donated one copy of A BLUE SO DARK to go to a lucky commenter. So leave a comment below about either a) why you really want to read this book, b) what creative gift you would like to have and why, or c) your favorite "mad" character in literature. Please include a way to contact you.
We'll collect comments until Monday, 5pm PST!