Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Saundra Mitchell

Today's guest is YA author Saundra Mitchell. I read her first book, Shadowed Summer, and loved it - it's about a young girl in the South, and graveyards, and ghosts, and secrets, and all that good stuff. The first two books in Saundra's newest series are out now. Welcome Saundra!

Simone: Tell us a little about your newest series, starting with The Vespertine.

Saundra: THE VESPERTINE is about Amelia van den Broek, who heads to Victorian Baltimore to find a suitable husband, and instead finds out she can see the future in the fires of sunset. And, she finds the least appropriate suitor ever, a poor artist who has an elemental ability of his own. There's madness, disaster, romance!

In the aftermath of that summer in Baltimore, Amelia's best friend Zora heads out west to try to start over in THE SPRINGSWEET. With a gift that allows her to find water in the parched, Oklahoma plains, Zora's in demand and pulled between duty to her past, and hope for her future.

The story concludes in AETHERBORNE, which is due out Spring 2013. I can tell you we'll visit Luxor, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Connersville, Indiana. But I can't tell you anything else, because it would all be a huge spoiler!

Simone: What inspires you daily?

Saundra: I love what I do, and I feel so lucky that I get to be a writer as a vocation. But when sheer, starry-eyed optimism isn't enough, I like to skim through Pinterest and Tumblr, to look at other people's pictures. A perfect image sparks so much creativity for me. Like this one!

Simone: Describe your ideal reading spot.

Saundra: Lots of pillows, lots of light, and somewhere to put my drink. I could literally be anywhere, as long as it's cushy, bright and features a flat surface or two.

Simone: What is your writing schedule like?

Saundra: I'm trying something new now that I'm writing so many proposals and partials; I write between 10 and 11 am, and then from 1 pm to 2 pm. I used to write 1000 words a day, whether I wanted to or not. That was a good method when I was building up momentum to write an entire book. Now that I have to write 50 pages and wait, the timed method seems to be working. I still manage to get 1 - 2k words done a day, so it hasn't slowed me down. Just changed my focus.

Simone: Tell us a little about Breathkept, your free full-length novel. (Available at Saundra's website!)

Saundra: I love this book. I love it so much. I wrote it because I'd had these characters in my head for ages, sharing them with my best friend. I was mad in love with Parker Nixon finding out who she was and where she came from; crazy, crazy in love with Brandon Beauchamp coming to accept his past, and finally moving forward. It was a book I wrote to challenge myself-- I'd never done alternating POVs before, and a book I wrote just because I believed in Parker and Brandon's story so deeply.

This book helped me get a new agent, and got such extraordinary feedback from everyone who saw it... except for editors. My agent shopped it for a year, and we had lots of really glowing rejections, but rejections nonetheless. And after we dug high and low and backwards and forwards, we decided this book that we loved so much just wasn't going to sell in the traditional market.

I read it again to make sure I wasn't completely crazy (I've re-read other, older manuscripts and come away cringing,) and I still loved it. So rather than put the file away and leave it in the dark, I decided to give it away. I have been so lucky, so many kind and wonderful readers have written to me since my first novel came out, so I figured why not give something back for all the support they've shown me.

Simone: You have a lot of experience with screenwriting as well. How is writing scripts different from writing novels?

Saundra: In screenplays, you only get to write what you can see on the screen. So beautiful descriptions of sunsets? Sure, you can include them, but you have to realize it's going to be 2 seconds of film-- so there's no point in going to great detail.

How people feel, their inner lives, all the beautiful narrative secrets they keep? Can't see it on the screen, so it can't go into the screenplay! The first novel I wrote after a decade of screenwriting was 40,000 words of story and 40,000 words of sheer, unrestrained description and rumination. There's a reason why that novel never sold!

But I have to say, screenwriting's format is a thing of beauty. It's a challenge to write something beautiful that still functions as a script. I enjoy the tricks of the style and requirements. And I feel like screenplays are truly elegant. They're all art in skeletal form-- the essence of a story.

Simone: What do you love best about writing YA?

Saundra: I love that YA is still the untamed wilds, as far as category and genre go. I love that I can write a ghost story, a mystery, a science fiction story, and still be shelved in the same place. I love the variety of experiences, and I really love the community.

But most of all, I love the opportunity to write stories about firsts, our first glimmering awareness of ourselves as people, as mortal beings, as vectors of hope and hatred and everything in between. They're all stories, in the end, about becoming. And I just cannot get enough of exploring those moments.

Simone: What's the best book you've read lately?

Saundra: Yow, that's tough! But man, okay, here's a VERY BRIEF list of awesome books I've read lately. In YA, THE WAY WE FALL by Megan Crewe is haunting and extraordinary. UNSPOKEN by Sarah Rees Brennan is hilarious gothic sleuthing at its best. In adult romance, Sarah MacLean's A ROGUE BY ANY OTHER NAME is so sexy and fun, I can hardly stand it.

In non-fiction, SWEETNESS AND LIGHT by Hattie Ellis is an absolutely captivating history of honeybees and their relationships with the people around them. I've also really enjoyed THE VIRAL STORM by Nathan Wolfe, which is a terrifying peek into where viruses have been, and where they're taking us.

In middle grade, I'm loving CIRCUS GALACTICUS by Deva Fagan and TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE by Jessica Day George. And in picture books, I cannot more highly recommend I WANT MY HAT BACK by Jon Klassen and GRANDPA GREEN by Lane Smith. (I sent my poor, unsuspecting husband to 'Dads Read Day' at our daughter's school with both and didn't tell him he might want to skim through GRANDPA GREEN before reading it aloud. He totally misted up in front of third grade!)

I, uh... I read a lot. And I love a lot of what I read, what can I say? :)

Simone: What's next for you?

Saundra: 2013, the year of no sleep! The final novel in THE VESPERTINE series comes out in Spring 2013, AETHERBORNE. I'm waiting for revision notes from my editor as we speak!

Then comes an anthology called DEFY THE DARK, featuring 17 stories by some truly amazing authors, coming in Summer 2013. I can't tell you more about it just yet, but wow. This collection has knocked me right down in the dirt and I was glad to sit there-- the stories are just that good!

And finally, for Fall 2013, I have coming a standalone YA novel called MISTWALKER. I couldn't be more excited about this book-- I describe it as Phantom of the Opera meets The Deadliest Catch. It's got an ancient curse, a modern-day murder, a dark romance-- I just need to finish writing it!

It sounds awesome, and I can't wait! Thanks Saundra!

I love Saundra's description of why she loves to write YA. So, today's question - have you ever read a YA book? Why or why not? What do you like about YA - or what turns you off?


  1. Welcome to GLIAS, Saundra. If I had a YA voice I think I'd love the opportunity to write across the sub-genres. How awesome that you're not in one little niche.


  2. Saundra, hi,! The Verspentine series sounds awesome. I love Young Adult. I think there's a real talent to writing it, and not everyone has the appropriate voice. Obviously you do. Best wishes on your stellar career!

  3. Welcome, I have read a few YA books, Loved the Twilight series and then I have read a few others. I do enjoy a good YA just for something different.

  4. I enjoy YA, especially if it's got a good story. I love the historical genre too. The Season by Sarah Maclean is one of my favorites.

  5. Hi Saundra! Welcome to GLIAS~and thanks for all of the fabulous book recommendations. I'm jealous that you get to read so much! Oh, well...maybe when the Heir and the Spare are a little older :)

    Your books really sound interesting. I will definitely have to pick one up...I have a habit of loading things on my e-reader, planning on SOMEDAY having time to actually read them!