2012 YA Debut Interview + Giveaway: Skylark by Meagan Spooner


Welcome back to my Fall 2012 YA Debut Interview series! I’m excited to feature these ten debut novels from the fall season, and I hope you’re as intrigued to get your hands on them as I am. Today’s YA debut author is Meagan Spooner—her first novel, Skylark, is available now from Carolrhoda Lab / Lerner Books. Read on to see how Meagan answered my Q&A…

…And be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a poster of the book’s cover!


SKYLARK is available now!

Nova: I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing already from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during your next checkup: “So what’s your book about?” (Feel free to use the jacket copy, or describe in your own words. Up to you.)

Meagan: Vis in magia, in vita vi. In magic there is power, and in power, life.

For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley waited for the day when her Resource would be harvested and she would finally be an adult. After the harvest she expected a small role in the regular, orderly operation of the City within the Wall. She expected to do her part to maintain the refuge for the last survivors of the Wars. She expected to be a tiny cog in the larger clockwork of the city.

Lark did not expect to become the City’s power supply.

For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley believed in a lie. Now she must escape the only world she’s ever known…or face a fate more unimaginable than death.

In my experience, every book wants to be written differently—and each one behaves differently from the one before it. Some novels like it out of order, and some rigidly insist on being written from start to finish. Some novels come out fast; others are excruciatingly slow. Some novels torment you, and some sing you to sleep. What did your novel want? How did you appease it? Did it ever misbehave? 

Meagan says this quote is “something I had hanging on my wall all the way through writing SKYLARK (and still have up, actually!) for inspiration through the tougher parts.”

Before SKYLARK, I had actually never finished a novel-length story. I think it was a combination of many things: not being ready yet, not enough discipline/drive, and not enough interest in the story itself. But when I got the idea for SKYLARK, I knew that I wanted to see it through to the end. So I made a promise to myself that I would write at least 500 words a day, every day, until the book was done. Weekends, holidays, sick days, days I was on an airplane for 16 hours… didn’t matter, the writing still got done. This meant that the book was finished pretty quickly, because usually I’d end up writing closer to 2000 words every day!

Tell us about the place—as in the physical location: a messy office, a comfy couch, a certain corner table at the café—where you spent most of your time writing this book. Now imagine the writing spot of your fantasies where you wish you’d been able to write this book… tell us all about it.

I wrote almost all of this book while living with my amazing friends, Amie and Brendan, in Melbourne, Australia. They read the first few chapters when I was trying to figure out what my next move was—get a day job, etc.—and, being incredibly generous friends, they invited me to come live with them for a year and finish the book. So I spent most of my time in my bedroom at their house, at my computer.

As far as dream spots… I have to say, Australia comes pretty close! But I’d love to one day own a big house out in the country somewhere with an office in a turret, with windows all around and bookshelves lining every inch of wall space that’s not window. I’d love to be able to sit there and watch the weather roll in and out while I work.

Imagine you’re on the subway, or the bus, or sitting in a park somewhere minding your own business… and you look up and see the most perfect person you could imagine devouring your book. This is your ideal reader. Set the scene and describe him or her (or them?) for us.

My ideal reader would be a teenager, probably around 13–14. She’s probably quiet, and probably prefers reading to parties. She might even get teased by other kids for reading so much, but she doesn’t care—books are better friends anyway! She’s that kid who brings a book to a family dinner, and reads under the table. She reads on the bus, and misses her stop. She reads so intensely that she becomes oblivious to the world around her, because nothing else matters but turning that next page!

[OMG, that was me! I was your ideal reader, Meagan! —Nova]

What was the moment when the upcoming publication of your novel felt “real” for the first time—when you got your editorial letter, when you saw the cover, when you held the ARC in your hands… or something else? Or if it doesn’t feel “real” yet, when do you think it will?

ARCs!

I think for me it was holding my ARCs for the first time. I think that there’s a lot of little “omg, it’s really real!” moments along the way, and those all hit me pretty good. But I think seeing the ARCs for the first time was the biggest shock to my system. I kept flipping through the pages and going “Oh my god, those are my words! On actual PAGES! Like it’s a real book!” I’d carry them around and show people—it was, in hindsight, SO ridiculous. But pretty freaking awesome, too.

Dream question: If you could go on book tour anywhere in the world, with any two authors (living or dead), and serve any item of food at your book signing… where would you go, who with, and what delicious treat would you serve your fans?

I’d love to have tea at the Savoy with Diana Wynne Jones and Robin McKinley. These two women are incredible sources of inspirations for me, and have been since I was a wee little girl. After our private tea, we’d then step into our teleporters (because hey, this is a dream!) and head to New York City for a signing afterward. There’s nothing like NYC for writers… authors everywhere, as well as agents and editors! Every time I go there it’s like stepping into Book Central.

If you had to pick one sentence, and one sentence only, to entice someone to read your book, what would it be? (I almost hate myself for asking you this question and making you choose! Almost.)

“I don’t want to be kept safe! I don’t want to be kept, not by anyone.”

Okay, so I cheated a bit and it’s technically two sentences, but they’re both part of the same speech Lark gives, so I’m doing it anyway! For me this is one of the major turning points in the book. At the beginning all Lark really wants is to be safe, but she’s woefully underprepared for life beyond the Wall. She grows, however, over the course of the book—and this is the moment when she realizes that it’s not about being safe or relying on someone else, it’s about living her life on her own terms. It’s a pretty big moment for her.

Skylark is available now fromCarolrhoda Lab/Lerner Books. Read on for a chance to win a poster of the book’s cover!


Meagan Spooner grew up reading and writing every spare moment of the day, while dreaming about life as an archaeologist, a marine biologist, an astronaut. She graduated from Hamilton College in New York with a degree in playwriting, and has spent several years since then living in Australia. She’s traveled with her family all over the world to places like Egypt, South Africa, the Arctic, Greece, Antarctica, and the Galapagos, and there’s a bit of every trip in every story she writes.

She currently lives and writes in Northern Virginia, but the siren call of travel is hard to resist, and there’s no telling how long she’ll stay there.

In her spare time she plays guitar, plays video games, plays with her cat, and reads.

She is the author of SKYLARK, coming out August 1 from Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner Books. She is also the co-author of THESE BROKEN STARS, forthcoming from Disney-Hyperion in Fall 2013.

Visit her at www.meaganspooner.com to find out more, add Skylark on Goodreads, and like Skylark on Facebook

Follow @MeaganSpooner on Twitter.

And check out the Skylark book trailer:


NOW ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

You could win: a 16×24″ poster of the Skylark cover!

SKYLARK is available now!

How to enter:

1. Just leave a comment on this post, or

2. Fill out this entry form.

If you do both, you will be entered TWICE!

And to gain another entry, just tweet about this interview and giveaway—and let me know you did in your comment or on the form—and you’ll be entered THREE TIMES.

This giveaway is open in the US only. This giveaway closes on Tuesday, September 25 at 8pm EST. Good luck!


What’s the next Fall 2012 YA debut novel I’m looking forward to? Come back tomorrow to find out.

…And stay tuned for the end of the interview series, when I’ll host an INTERNATIONAL giveaway to win the featured debut of your choice!

Turning Points: Embracing Fear by Meagan Spooner (+Giveaway)

This guest post is part of the SKYLARK Blog Tour as well as the Turning Points blog series here on distraction no. 99—in which I asked authors the question: What was your turning point as a writer? Here is debut author Meagan Spooner revealing hers…


Guest post by Meagan Spooner

Fear is a terrible thing for a writer to deal with—and yet it’s probably one of the most universal things we face. Fear of failure, fear of ridicule. Fear of having our dreams taken away by rejection. Fear of being told we’re not good enough. Fear of being told there was some kind of mistake, we don’t deserve our successes. It can be crippling, sticking in the front of your mind like a big gummy blob clogging up the flow of creativity. And as a wise little green guy once said, fear can lead to anger—fear makes us bitter, jealous, looking around at every other writer who has everything we wish we had.

I began writing the novel that would become my debut, SKYLARK, in spring of 2010. I’d quit my job the year before to attend a writing workshop that changed my life, and was living with my parents, trying to “do the book thing.” But the thing is, I wasn’t, not really. I poked at short stories now and then, I wrote random chapters of random book ideas, I meandered from project to project. I never finished anything—because what would I do if I finished something? I’d have to send it in to someone. I’d have to get rejected. Because while the workshop I attended taught me years’ worth of craft in a matter of weeks, it also showed me every one of my inadequacies as a writer.

Sometimes the fear is illogical—what if my best friend reads this and realizes that I can’t write, and that somehow translates into me being a terrible person, and she decides to hate me? But sometimes the fear is all too possible—what if I send this out and it gets rejected, and the experience is so terrible that it kills my love of writing? What if by trying to reach for this dream, I destroy it?

I knew I was afraid. And I felt guilty for being afraid. I tried to push my fears away, to say they were all ridiculous, that I was better than that, that I wasn’t going to sit here and worry my life away. But denying my fears only turned them into a sort of red-eyed monster under the bed, just waiting for me to let my guard down, waiting for me to have one bad day so that the fear-monster could jump on me in my weakened state.

But then I got the idea for SKYLARK, which at that time had the working title of THE IRON WOOD. And that was when everything changed. All its other themes and stories and arcs aside, SKYLARK is a story about fear. It follows a girl who’s lived her entire life inside a dome, and when she escapes, she finds that she’s an agoraphobe, and is afraid of wide open spaces—more specifically, she has ouranophobia. She’s afraid of the sky.

I decided that it was the right story to write. It was worth writing, and it was worth finishing. Even if it killed my dream, it was the story I wanted to write. Because I wanted to write about someone afraid of something so ubiquitous, something we take so much for granted. Something we hardly even notice. Something she has to see, and has to face, every day.

When I first began writing, I intended for my main character to overcome her fear completely through the course of the novel. Her name is Lark—she’s named after a bird. She belongs in the sky. She and I would embark on this journey together, and we’d face our fears together, and she’d be cured and I’d be cured. I’d come out the other side with a finished work, and it’d be daunting and exciting to send it out into the world, but I wouldn’t be afraid.

What I learned instead is that the fear never goes away. But I also learned that fear is important. We feel fear for a reason. Evolutionarily speaking, fear is a reaction that kept our ancestors alive—it made us run faster and farther to escape predators, to think more quickly to evade them. In SKYLARK, Lark’s fear keeps her alive too. She keeps to the ruins, to the forests, to the caves—she evades the horrors searching for her in the wilderness beyond the Wall. Over the course of writing the book, and of wading into the writing community at the same time, I came to understand that the fear is valuable.

Fear isn’t bad. Being afraid doesn’t make you a bad person. Acknowledging your fears doesn’t mean you’re a coward.

Fear led me to prepare my query letter to within an inch of its life. It meant that I could do nothing else to do improve it, and it stood the best possible chance of getting agent attention. Fear made me examine every line, every word of my manuscript, so that the version I sent in response to requests was as good as I could possibly make it. And even after I had a book deal, even after I’d gone through the entire revision process, fear made me pore over the final pass pages, my last chance to make changes to the manuscript, searching for one tiny punctuation mark out of place or a word that shouldn’t be there. But the most important thing is to be able to put your fear aside at the end of the day, to be able to take deep breaths, to not be so afraid that you stop.

Even now fear is my strongest motivator. While writing the second book of the SKYLARK trilogy I was terrified that I wouldn’t live up to whatever promise I’d made in the first one—that I was a one-trick pony, and that now everyone was going to find that out. I was afraid of failing all over again. But I was more afraid of letting down my editor and my agent—I was more afraid of not finishing. And so I did finish. And it was the hardest thing I ever did.

By the end of SKYLARK, Lark isn’t cured. And by the end of writing it, neither was I. But she comes to understand her fears—when to listen to them, and when to acknowledge that she has to move through them. She learns how to live with them. You don’t defeat fear in some climactic battle or single decision—it’s an ongoing struggle, every day, wherein you look the red-eyed monster in the face and say “Yes, I see you. But you can’t stop me.”

The very last line of the book reads:

We left the field of metallic corpses behind and walked on across the valley, beneath the vast and terrible beauty of the dawn.

The sky is beautiful—the sky is terrible. And this is the true nature of fear.

Because bravery isn’t the absence of fear—it’s action in spite of fear.


Meagan Spooner grew up reading and writing every spare moment of the day, while dreaming about life as an archaeologist, a marine biologist, an astronaut. She graduated from Hamilton College in New York with a degree in playwriting, and has spent several years since then living in Australia. She’s traveled with her family all over the world to places like Egypt, South Africa, the Arctic, Greece, Antarctica, and the Galapagos, and there’s a bit of every trip in every story she writes.

She currently lives and writes in Northern Virginia, but the siren call of travel is hard to resist, and there’s no telling how long she’ll stay there.

In her spare time she plays guitar, plays video games, plays with her cat, and reads.

She is the author of SKYLARK, coming out August 1 from Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner Books. She is also the co-author of THESE BROKEN STARS, forthcoming from Disney-Hyperion in Fall 2013.

You can find her online at www.meaganspooner.com, follow her on Twitter at @MeaganSpooner, or on Facebook at SkylarkTrilogy


GIVEAWAY WINNER ANNOUNCED…

Congratulations to the winner of a *signed* first-edition hardcover of Meagan Spooner’s debut novel Skylark! The winner is…

Katrina

Congrats, Katrina! I will email for your mailing address. Thank you to everyone who entered and to the author for providing her book for a giveaway!


There’s more in the Turning Points series. Catch up with any posts you may have missed here.