Stories have arcs. Characters have arcs. Writers have arcs. We write, we get better at our craft. We read, we get better at our craft. We interact with other writers and our readers, we get better at our craft. Whether you are a professional writer or just starting out. Hobby or career. We are all in this together. Welcome.

Contact: Elena Hartwell - elenahartwell@gmail.com and visit me on the web at www.elenahartwell.com

Deb Caletti, Award Winning Author

Deb Caletti is an award-winning author whose books are published and translated worldwide. 

Deb’s first book for adults, He’s Gone, will be released by Random House on May14, 2013

When Deb is not writing books or reading them, she is a painter and a lyricist, and speaks widely to audiences on writing and life as an author. Deb lives with her family in Seattle.

New Author Challenges, Business of Writing, Words of Wisdom

The Interview
Part II

What do you think are the greatest challenges facing a "new" writer?
Well, of course, the odds in the business are huge.  There is a canyon between “published” and “unpublished.”  As someone who sat on the other side of that canyon for a good long time (and through five books), I know this intimately.  I also know how that canyon can affect you.  The big nasty trick is that your writing needs to show a confidence and mastery that the business itself is quite good at beating out of you. 

More recently, too, there are all kinds of distracting lures and promises about easy ways to cross that wide divide.  Self-publishing!  PR and more PR before a book is even bought!  Web sites, blogs!  I can only gently give the news that there are no easy ways across the divide.  Learning your craft and then getting better and better at it – writing a really good book – that’s what will get you over. 

What do you know now, with several successful novels under your belt, that you wish you'd known when you first started out?
I often wonder what I would have done if I did know what I know now.  I always advise beginning writers to thoroughly understand this business, but an argument could be made that, in regard to publishing, a little ignorance is not a bad thing.  We often think that getting published is the hard part.  But staying published, staying in the game over the long haul - that is the real challenge.  It may be best not to know that.  Our hopeful dreams and roiling passion gets us into this, and in many ways, those are always our most useful tools.  A love for the written word, an honest desire to express something beautiful, your own burning drive – if you can hold on to those throughout the rest, you can do okay. 

That said, what I wish I knew (especially after my first book came out), was where to put my anxiety and energy about how to make it all work.  I wasted some time scurrying around in desperate and generally unhelpful ways, trying to gather an audience as new writers are advised to do. After all these years, though, I firmly believe that the most important place for your time and energy is in the writing of that book, and the next, and the next.

What are you working on now? 
Right now, I’m doing on a lot of things for the release of He’s Gone.  Can I just say…  I can’t wait for this book!  I’ve also just turned in my next Y/A for Simon & Schuster, which is titled, The Last Forever (April of 2014).  I love this one. I don’t know why exactly, but it’s one of my favorite ones I’ve ever written.  Finally, I’m excited to turn my attention to my next book for adults, coming from Random House in 2015.   

Final Words of Wisdom
If you want to write and publish, understand that there are no Magic Keys or Six Steps to Success.  The bad news and the good news is that there is mostly just you, your talent, and your hard work between “here” and “there.”  Understand the business - what it can and can’t do for you, what it expects from you, what the odds are.  And then, informed with the truth, and with eyes wide open, go at it with all you’ve got.   

Scroll Down for Part I

YA Novels, Adult Fiction, Complex Characters

The Interview 
Part I

You write both Young Adult Fiction and Adult fiction, what changes for you when writing in the other genre?
Writing adult novels is in many ways, more freeing, and – dare I say it – in some regards less difficult.  In Y/A, you are faced with quite a few constraints, and it can be hard to create the book you want while staying within them.  Obviously, you must always have a teen protagonist, but it’s also necessary to use a lighter hand with some of the good stuff us writers love – more multi-faceted and layered sentences, complex themes, spreading out a bit more with pacing.  It’s a huge challenge to produce thoughtful, literary-ish fiction for a younger audience.  In my Y/A, I find myself pressing the boundaries as far as I can.  In The Secret Life of Prince Charming, for example, a story about a young girl and her sister who set out to return objects their father has stolen from every woman he’s ever been in love with, some of the passages are written in those women’s voices.  As well, my books tend to be slower than much Y/A, and more character driven.  So, for me, writing for adults is a bit like opening the gates. 

Describe your writing process.
I usually describe my process as a crazy Greyhound bus trip, where we know our departure point and where we’re going to end up, but have no clue what will happen in between.  I sometimes begin with a plot, sometimes a character, sometimes a theme I want to explore, sometimes an image.  After sixteen books (eleven published or about-to-be, five unpublished before that), you find that each is its own animal.  I begin at the beginning, and write until the end.  I don’t outline, and no one sees any part of the book until I’m finished.  Even my agent and editors and publishing houses don’t have a lot of information about what I’m doing.  It’s just me and my characters and our mutual struggle, until I’m confident that the book is as good as I can make it.  I spend a lot of time editing before it gets to my editor – sometimes as long as three months. 

Your characters have great depths, how do you make your characters feel so real and complex?
The “how do you do such-and-such” kinds of questions are always the hardest for me to answer. I’ve only taken one creative writing class in my life (when I was in college), so my writing is mostly intuitive, led by all my years of reading.  Madelleine taught me, and so did The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and so did A Farewell to Arms, and every book I’ve read in between and since. So, mostly my real answer is that I don’t know.  My years of reading guide me to a sense of what’s right. 

If you hold a brownie just out of my reach and force me to answer, though, I believe that creating a complex character is an act of compassion.  Bringing empathy to your characters and an honesty about life in general, I think, results in the kind of characters you describe. 

Check back May 15 for Part II