Welcome back to my Fall 2012 YA Debut Interview series! I’m excited to feature these 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 Gwenda Bond—her first novel, Blackwood, came out on September 4 from Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot. Read on to see how Gwenda answered my Q&A…
…And be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a signed copy of her book, plus a little something extra!
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.)
Gwenda: Blackwood is inspired by the story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. In the book, when 114 people—the same number as the original colonists—vanish from present-day Roanoke Island, two unlikely 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back. Miranda Blackwood is a misfit from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips Rawling is an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead. It’s a mix of mystery/thriller and romance, putting two very modern teens into the middle of a historical mystery.
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?
Ooh, this novel. So, I started this novel way back in 2005. I had the idea and I wrote about 50 pages and… realized I had no clue what my solution for the mystery—historical or present-day—was. I went to grad school, worked on other projects, but this one was always in the back of my head. Finally, a couple of years ago, I was ready to get back to it. Once I did, the answer I needed turned up almost immediately in my research material. I’d probably read the key piece before—John Dee’s involvement in planning the voyage—and it just hadn’t registered. It wasn’t the book’s time to be written yet. And, of course, the usual process teeth-gnashing other than that. The novel underwent at least one major overhaul (in addition to several minor revisions) before it sold, and that major revision brought in elements big and small that I can’t imagine not being there now—Miranda’s last name, for one. Also, it had about a million titles along the way. The publisher suggested Blackwood and my agent and I both loved it.
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 this book all over the place. I’m not finicky about where I write, though I do have several places I do it most often. Most of the first draft of Blackwood (and of my first drafts, generally) was written in the early morning, before work, in my office at home (which I share with my husband Christopher—though he’s usually not up then). I also wrote quite a bit on lunch breaks and on an Alphasmart Neo in the backyard, when the weather was nice. I think the Neo is incredible for breaking through blocks or making progress on a first draft when you’re slowing down. There’s nothing to do on it but write. I actually finished the first draft of the book on the Neo going to and from a World Fantasy Convention in Ohio.
Where do I wish I’d written it? In some magnificent beach house, with all my writer friends around, and someone cooking every meal for us. Ah, retreat life. If only it was always thus.
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.
Bizarrely, I’ve had a similar experience to this. I got to go down to Roanoke Island for a pre-release signing and meet both the current interns for The Lost Colony theater (Miranda is an intern at the theater), and they were both so very cool. And I just met a self-identified nerdy girl who got to read it early because she’s related to one of the fabulous sales reps who handled the book (could there possibly be a better job for a relative to have when you’re a teen reader? I think not!) and she was amazing to talk to because she was pretty much dead on who I would have pictured as my ideal reader when I was writing it. So, I think mostly it would be a girl—or guy—who marches to their own beat and can see themselves in the characters. Liking alchemy is a bonus.
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?
I’ve signed hard copies already—even though it’s not officially out quite yet (though it will be when you’re reading this!)—and it still only sporadically feels real. I’m just not sure it will, ever. Maybe when the second book is in galleys, it’ll have sunk in.
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?
This is too hard to name living writers, so I’m going to pick dead ones and off the top of my head: Ghost Shirley Jackson (who gets a name check in Blackwood) and ghost Alexandre Dumas (I do love some swashbuckling intrigue). How’s that for an odd trio? And I’d serve really expensive champagne and really good fried chicken.
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’m going with the opening sentence for this:
“The first time Miranda Blackwood checked the back of her closet for a portal to another world she was eleven.”
Blackwood was published on September 5, 2012, by Strange Chemistry / Angry Robot Books. Read on for a chance to win a signed copy!
Gwenda Bond’s debut novel, Blackwood, is a September 2012 launch title for Strange Chemistry, the new YA imprint of Angry Robot Books. Her next book, The Woken Gods, will be out from Strange Chemistry in 2013. She is also a contributing writer for Publishers Weekly, regularly reviews for Locus, and guest-edited a special YA issue of Subterranean Online. She has an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and offers advice as everyone’s Dear Aunt Gwenda for Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. She lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband, author Christopher Rowe, and their menagerie.
Visit her at www.gwendabond.com to find out more.
Follow @gwenda on Twitter.
Read sample chapters of Blackwood for free! Just click here.
NOW ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!
You could win: a signed finished copy of Blackwood by Gwenda Bond and a handmade swag duct tape rose pen!
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 18 at 8pm EST. Good luck!