Today’s expert is Catherine Stine, a professor and a Young Adult novelist. Catherine will be one of the many editors at Push to Publish as well as adding her knowledge to the panel for YA novelist. Right now Catherine is “working on a sequel to Fireseed One, and has completed another YA novel with a very charming but nefarious villain, which was a blast to write.” Catherine wishes everyonen to stop by her blog at www.catherinestine.blogspot.com to get the most up to date information on her and her latest work.
Below is our interview:
Wittle: What books are you reading right now?
Stine: I’m reading The Passage by David Cronin and a young adult novel called Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. That’s typical of me—alternating between an adult novel and a YA. Both are speculative fiction, which I’m loving right now.
Wittle: What books did you like as a young adult?
Stine: Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, Orwell’s 1984, JD Salinger’s Franny and Zooey and The Moviegoer by Walker Percy were favorites. I read adult literary novels and sci-fi, which is similar to my tastes at present.
Wittle: How did you get interested in literature?
Stine: I was always crazy for books. I remember trying to write (and illustrate) a thriller in fourth grade. In sixth grade, I wrote a speculative novella, which my teacher Xeroxed copies of. Grassroots publishing, ha! Seriously, my father taught lit, and his father taught lit, both at the college level. Dad would read Edgar Allen Poe to me at bedtime when I was eight and nine. My great, great uncle also wrote stories for kids’ textbooks. He lived on Spring Garden Street and used the Philadelphia Public Library as his writing studio!
Wittle: Who are your biggest influences when it comes to writing your novels?
Stine: Biggest influences? Wow, that’s a tall order. I enjoy Cherie Priest and Franny Billingsly—authors who make the hair on the back of my neck stand up with their unique prose and weird plot points. I agree with Stephen King, who says that an authors’ first responsibility is to ENTERTAIN. Forget about trying to teach, or to elucidate on a theme. Give your readers a rollicking rollercoaster ride and have them laughing and crying. So far, the best compliment given to my futuristic thriller, Fireseed One, was from a teen book reviewer, who said that she wept at the end.
Wittle: When did you know you wanted to write YA fiction?
Stine: My stories have always veered toward the teenage terrain of the psychologically complex, the aching hearts, the passionate young lovers, heady coming of age horrors and thrills. I wrote Refugees as my MFA thesis, a tale of two unlikely friends—an insecure poet in Afghanistan and his American counterpoint, a tortured teen flutist from San Francisco—and the YAs rolled on from there.
Wittle: How do you gage the market in YA fiction?
Stine: I note the trends but don’t write to them, because by the time you publish something, the trend will have come and gone. That said, I think it’s wise to keep an eye on them—at least to what’s yesterday’s news and what markets are saturated. Seems as if the paranormal and vamp market has slowed, while YA historical fantasy and sci-fi are “in” right now, as is the resurgence of realistic fiction. High concept still matters. But don’t quote me on all of this conjecture! 🙂 My best advice is to write to your passions. That’s the fiction that will “sing.”
Wittle: What are the obstacles in writing YA? How have you overcome them?
Stine: The obstacle now is that the YA market is saturated and the publishing industry is gun shy as it stumbles through a revolution of sorts. This is not only true of YA, but any genre. It’s important not to “write down” to teens and to entertain rather bombard with messages. Don’t overuse teen-speak. It dates and is very transparent.
Wittle: What book of yours are you the most proud of?
Stine: I’m proud of my latest, Fireseed One(http://www.amazon.com/Fireseed-One-Catherine-Stine/dp/0984828206/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1345925001&sr=8-1&keywords=fireseed+one). It’s a futuristic thriller, and I concentrated on plot twists and inventive world-building. I also worked hard to create a compelling mix of characters: Varik, the brainy marine biologist’s son who must put his dreams of becoming a doctor on hold in order to save the ocean farms; the beautiful but misguided terrorist, Marisa; Varik’s trendy fashion-hound friend, Audun, who is saddled with a frightening responsibility; Nevada Pilgrim, a woodsy artist girl, who is in way over her head when she joins a murderous clan; the Fireseed cult, who worships Varik’s dead father, and more. I am also a published illustrator, and Fireseed has nine of my original drawings in it, which makes me proud.
Wittle: When teaching, how do you find time to write?
Stine: I teach college lit part time, and a longstanding creative writing workshop. I find that teaching, though time-consuming, nurtures my own writing. I get energized from the writing community, and from helping students become better writers.
Wittle: What advice would you give to someone writing a YA novel?
Stine: Don’t rush! Build your story in layers as a painter does with glazes. Join a writers’ group. Make sure trusted readers comment on your work before you ever send it out. Fully engage and forget about the market while you write.