First, I must announce the winners:
The winner of the signed hardcover copy of Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King is
The winner of the signed hardcover copy of Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck is:
Congratulations! Expect an email from me asking for your mailing address.
(If you didn't win, never fear. Today's YA Friday will also
include a giveaway!)
CRACKED by K.M. Walton (Simon Pulse, 9781442434424, January 3, 2012, $16.99, for ages 14 and up)
Source: advanced reading copy from publisher (Thanks to my awesome sales rep, Tim Hepp)
Synopsis (from the publisher): Victor hates his life. He's relentlessly bulled at school and his parents ridicule him for not being perfect. He's tired of being weak, so he takes a bottle of his mother's sleeping pills -- only to wake up in the hospital.
Bull is angry, and takes all of his rage out on Victor. He's the opposite of weak. And he's tired of his grandfather's drunken beatings, so he tries to defend himself with a loaded gun.
When Victor and Bull end up as roommates in the same psych ward, things go from bad to worse. Until they discover they just might have something in common: a reason to live.
Why I liked it: This book made me gasp and cry and laugh. Bullying is a hot topic right now, and the author alternates between two points of view, the bully and the victim, and somehow manages to make them both sympathetic characters. Victor and Bull quickly became real teens to me, and I was pulled into their double story with a kind of horrified fascination. I like how K.M. Walton shows that bullies are often bullied themselves, without justifying the bully's actions. Bull's home life sucks. But then so does Victor's, even though Victor has everything Bull doesn't have -- money, a nice house, plenty to eat. What does all that matter when your own parents are distant and uncaring?
The already fast pace picks up even more when both boys wind up in the same psych ward, with the two storylines converging in an impressive way that made me race to finish the book. The author has clearly done her research; the details are amazing.
I have two treats for you: an interview with the author and a giveaway of a signed pre-order of the book! (Remember, it pubs January 3, 2012.)
Kate Walton lives in my hometown (Yes, I'm very lucky! Not only is she an amazing writer, she's also a lovely human being!) and she graciously agreed to an interview.
1) I understand you started out writing picture books. How did you get from there to writing CRACKED, a book for mature teens?
I think the short answer to this question is: life. I was twenty five when I wrote my first picture book and in my first year of teaching second grade. I had yet to experience teaching middle school. Not to say that a twenty-five-year old couldn’t write a novel like CRACKED but, I couldn’t have. I wrote CRACKED after ten years of teaching and working closely with adolescents. Watching them label each other and make assumptions based on appearances or rumors was something I battled against every single day I was in the classroom (even when I taught second grade).
Also, back when I was twenty-five, there was no burgeoning young adult market of which to speak. I was deep into Danielle Steele and Sydney Sheldon books at that time. Not until many years later when I read Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE STORY OF A PART TIME INDIAN, Libba Bray’s GOING BOVINE and John Green’s LOOKING FOR ALASKA did I realize that I wanted to try writing a contemporary YA. I didn’t know I could be that real in a young adult book. The books I read growing up were all fine, well and good, but they were filtered through the lens of the adult writer. The main characters in Alexie, Bray, and Green’s books weren’t filtered by anything. They were real. They were authentic. I never once heard the adult author’s voice creeping into those characters.
I wanted to try and write a book like that.
2) Tell us a little about your journey to publication. How did you find your agent? Did you have to query dozens of agents or just a few? And how long did it take your agent to sell your book to Simon & Schuster?
It took 2.4 years to land my wonderful and brilliant agent, Sarah LaPolla from Curtis Brown Ltd. Even though we’ve been a team now for a little over a year, I still can’t believe I have her as my agent. I guess it’s because I worked my fingers to the bone trying to land an agent and amassed 148 rejections—on three different novels. I gave up one day and even wrote a blog post about it, and then, less than a week later, I got two full requests—one of them from Sarah!
I signed with her in early August 2010 and she sold CRACKED in mid October 2010. I like to think that my years spent querying, learning, taking classes, researching, going to conferences, putting my work online for critique and participating in a crit group made me a better writer, and in turn, made CRACKED the best it could be. I paid my dues on the back end of my journey towards publication, and I’m glad I did because it made the “landing an agent” and “getting a book deal” parts all the sweeter.
3) Those of us who are unpublished hear a lot of scary things about line edits. How much editing did you have to do before your editor was satisfied?
Let me start by saying that I love revising. There’s something about going back into the story, making it better, that gives me a mad case of satisfaction. Also, my editor, the genius otherwise known as Annette Pollert, is one heck of a mind to have on your side. She, hands down, made me a stronger writer.
Her line edits were a mix of genuine compliments, questions and suggestions. Every page of my manuscript had notes and marks on it. I rolled my sleeves up and took it page by page. And sweet mother was I satisfied at the end of the process.
4) To quote "Lost": "The most important part of your life was the time you spent with these people." Do you feel that Victor and Bull are real people? (They seem real to me!) At what point in writing the book did they take over your life and start telling you what to do? How much time would you estimate that you've spent with them over the last few years? And has your family been understanding about it all?
Um, I’m kind of loving that you quoted LOST, which is my favorite show of all time!
Victor and Bull are real to me. They’re living, breathing human beings inside my head. I call them “my boys” or “my people” all the time. They took over their stories from the moment I started writing the novel. See, I’m a pantser, and I honestly don’t know the nitty gritty parts of my novels until I start writing. And when I start writing a book I typically do not stop until I’m finished. The story just sort of flies out of me. It’s weird. CRACKED was exactly like that. I started writing after school let out in the summer of 2009 and had a completed first draft by the end of August.
My husband and sons have been the foundation upon which I write. They believe in me, support me, cheer me on, hug me, wipe my tears, read my work. Love me. The whole process would have been awful without those three in my corner. I also have been loved and supported by many other very important people (I have a rather large corner) my mother, three younger sisters, cousins, in-laws and friends. I’ve been blessed to have layers upon layers of support. It’s quite a parfait.
5) Part of your novel takes place in a psych ward. How did you do the research for that? It must have been intense.
My younger sister is a clinical social worker in a hospital and my cousin is a drug and alcohol counselor. I consulted both of them to make sure my psych ward scenes were accurate and authentic. To be honest, the research wasn’t all that intense. However, the writing of those scenes was intense inside my head. As I said, Victor and Bull were real people, and I knew those moments were going to be raw and painful and exhilarating to write. I hope the reader will be able to feel those same emotions!
6) What's your next novel about? Have you gotten a contract for that yet?
It’s another contemporary YA, and I was recently allowed to share the news that it has in fact sold to Annette Pollert at Simon Pulse! Here’s the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement:
CRACKED author K.M. Walton's untitled next novel, in which an overweight teen's life starts spiraling out of control when she is bullied and abused, to Annette Pollert at Simon Pulse, by Sarah LaPolla at Curtis Brown.
7) If you could give only one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?
I used to give the advice of “never stop writing” but I’ve revised my advice to “write to become a better writer.” I believe there is a huge difference. If all you do is write and write the same way in which you’ve always written, well, then you’re not growing as a writer. How does one hone their craft (and I do mean craft – writing is an art form, one that must be studied)? Take classes, research the craft, read in the genre in which you write, spend the money to attend writing conferences and get quality critique feedback.
Push yourself every single time you sit down to create something new.
That's great advice, Kate! Thanks. And thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions!
Thank you very much for having me on your blog, Joanne. Your questions were wonderful and thought provoking!
And now for the giveaway! Kate will be appearing at the bookstore where I work in January, so I will be buying two signed copies, one for me and one to give away! This one's easy. To win this pre-order, all you need to do is be a follower and leave a comment on this post! This giveaway is open internationally and will close at 11:59 pm EST on Friday November 25. You must be at least 14 to enter. Winner will receive the book in January.