The Next Big Thing: Gemstones edition

Ah, editing. The fun part. (?) Years ago (five, maybe? Who can remember?) I took a day-long writing workshop from MediaBistro. I was toiling with my first YA (now one of those books-in-a-drawer everyone talks about) and just needed some focus, and the class was helpful. But what was greatest about that class was that I met Laura Sibson, who's been a valued critique partner and all-around fun-to-text-with friend ever since.

Yesterday she tagged me in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, a traveling blog that asks authors to tag "the next big thing" and ask them these questions. Here's her post, in which she talks about her work-in-progress. (Edie sounds awesome, btw.) The idea behind the Blog Hop is to get writers to share pieces of what they're working on.

The thing is, I am kind of weird about blogging about my writing. There are countless blogs out there by writers at all stages of publishing who talk about what they're working on, their processes, their statuses (seeking representation, on submission, etc.) and I almost find it overwhelming. I don't try to be precious about my writing at all -- quite the opposite -- but I think there's a part of me that wants to surprise people, maybe, with it when it's ready?

But! This month I am thisclose to being finished with a brand new book that I'm really excited about. So I'm breaking my don't-talk-about-writing mindset right now, because I want to talk about this book.


What is the working title of your book? I love naming things, but I am struggling with this title. I call it THE GEMSTONE RESURRECTION, but my back brain is still working on something better!

Where did the idea come from for the book? Two places: when my grandmother died I received some of her jewelry, including her old engagement ring. I was wearing it one day, and while waiting in line for lunch I started twirling it on my finger and thinking about her. We had a complicated relationship. (She and my mother didn't get along too well, and I am a mommy's girl.) And that line -- "I have a complicated relationship with my dead grandmother" -- popped into my head. I wrote an entire opening chapter based on that line.

Then, a few weeks later, I was in Charleston, SC (amazing place!) with my sisters and mom for her 60th birthday. (See? Mommy's girl!) We took a ghost tour -- a total tourist trap, but a super fun one. The guide told us a story about a woman who haunted the graveyard, and I found myself disagreeing with his telling of the story. He clearly thought we should all hate the woman for what she did, but I found myself defending this woman -- this supposed ghost -- in my head. So I wrote a chapter, thinking it would be unrelated to the chapter mentioned above, about her story. When I got home and began working on the book, I realized they were actually parts of the same story.

What genre does your book fall under? It's YA, with alternating chapters that are contemporary and supernatural. Which means it'd be shelved in the paranormal section, which is a shocker, because I never, ever thought I'd write paranormal!

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Gemma would be Elle Fanning with dark hair; Pearl would be Troian Bellisario (Spencer from Pretty Little Liars).

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? First, a funny story: I wrote one and sent it to my sister for her thoughts. She wrote, "It's good, but I always think of Pearl as the main character, not Gemma." Readers, she blew my mind. Why was I thinking of Gemma as the main character? (Well, a lot of reasons, but too many for this blog.) So, after multiple drafts and a total shift in thinking, here's my one-sentence synopsis:

Pearl Briar needs an heir – not to her fortune (she’s only 17), but to her secret sorority, the Gemstones, but after a miscast spell throws her plans into disarray, new girl and outsider Gemma Martin becomes an unwitting participant, a powerful competitor, and maybe the most vital Gemstones component of all.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I'm represented by Amy Tipton of Signature Lit.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I am a slow writer -- it takes me time to get into a story and figure out what it is. Plus, I have a full-time job (that's often more than full-time). All this is to say, I started writing this in earnest in early spring 2012; it's now nearly early spring 2013, and I'm about 8,000 words away from finishing it. (So, this weekend, maybe? Although I said that last weekend, too.)

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma comes to mind, which is so beautiful -- not because I think my book is technically similar (or anywhere near as great) but because there's a freedom and a magic in that book that I think is also present in mine. You don't know what's real versus what's not; the world of the characters sometimes feels murky.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? I had just recently turned in edits to my agent (for a contemporary YA that hasn't yet sold) and was tossing around a few ideas for what I'd write next, but nothing was sticking. So I decided to not even worry about what to write next. And like I said above, then the line about my grandmother's ring came, and then the ghost story, and I thought, "I'm going to make this book as crazy as I can and see where it takes me."

My friend Sarah MacLean always says, "Ask yourself, what's the worst thing that could happen to your characters? And then do it to them." So I tried!

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest? Four words: Secret high school sorority. Oh, and one more word: Witches.

And I'm tagging the lovely Melissa Sarno!