Sputter… sputter… cough…

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Yes, that is the sound of my engine stalling. My writing engine has been stalled for a while now. I still make progress, but not nearly at the rate I want to be, and it gets incredibly frustrating. Especially when I know that I have people awaiting the second book. It’s such an amazing thing to have people anxious for my story and my characters… I know Rennie would be so pleased (well, Maia would be pleased. Rennie would be a little mystified by that, I think).

I notice myself getting lots of mental prep done (which is a big part of it for me… I do most of my writing in my head and then just translate to paper… anyone else do that?) and then suddenly I’m chasing plot bunnies, or distracted by the fact that I haven’t stumbled onto the perfect title yet, or cruising around Pintrest and Polyvore wondering what Rennie would be wearing whilst running through the forest at 2am with Ethan.

When I buckled down and got to work on Drawn In to finally finish it and get it out into the world, I had a set schedule and I made myself stick to it. I’ve been lacking in that sort of discipline lately and it definitely shows. So here I am, publicly stating that I am setting a schedule for myself. Hear that, world? I’m on the move, so watch out!

Author Interview: Tara St Pierre and her book “Just a Few Inches”

Hi there! I’ve been missing for a while working on some personal… shall we say projects? Sure. We’ll go with that. But I’m back! And today I’m so excited to tell you about a book I read recently. I don’t usually do the book promoting/reviewing thing on here, but I couldn’t resist with this one! The book is called Just a Few Inches and you can read my full review here.

JaFI cover

But more than that, I am thrilled to have its author, Tara St Pierre, on my blog with me today! I’m so so happy to get to support a fellow indie author! First, the blurb for the book so you have a bit of context…

All Carrie Roberts wants is to be a little bit smaller.

To fit into the perfect dress for the Valentine’s Day Dance. To look beautiful for her boyfriend, the school’s star basketball player. To keep his jealous ex-girlfriend, a rival cheerleader, away from him. And to be noticed by her classmates.

Exercising and dieting don’t work, but an advertisement for weight loss pills promises a quicker solution to her problem. As time runs out, she takes more than the recommended dose until she’s just a few inches slimmer. Heads turn when she arrives at the dance, and the wonderful night with her boyfriend is beyond what she dreamed it would be.

Days later, Carrie discovers that her body is changing in ways that should be impossible. While her doctor searches for a cure, she desperately turns to her friends and family for support. Everyone is noticing her now whether she likes it or not, and even the media is intrigued by her incredible story. Getting everything she once wanted has created new problems–problems that are growing more terrifying every day.

Because Carrie Roberts is shrinking.

Sounds so good, right? It is unique and thought-provoking, funny and touching… I really enjoyed it all around. And now… Tara!

Hi Tara! Thanks so much for joining me on my blog today!

Hi Sioux! Thanks for having me!

Just a Few Inches has such an interesting premise. What inspired you to write this book?

The original inspiration came from standing in the check-out line at a supermarket or drugstore. All those magazines with airbrushed cover photos made me wonder about the messages they send to young women. One had a cover story about some method to shrink your dress size. I remembered the Lily Tomlin movie The Incredible Shrinking Woman from my youth, and my brain created an interesting mash-up. I imagined a girl, struggling with her own perception of her body based on such conflicting images in the media. What if she tried one of those methods to shrink her dress size but instead of losing inches around her waist and hips, she lost them from her height? At that point, I was sure I had something unique. I hoped the simple speculative element of her shrinking would keep readers turning the pages while Carrie learned her lesson. I quickly realized that the only way to make it work was to write it from Carrie’s point of view. Not only would it help make her situation seem all the more real, but I could utilize her narration as social commentary while she internalizes what she learns from her own experience and from observing others.

We see the book, first person, through Carrie’s eyes. It was fascinating to watch her shrink and see ordinary objects become challenges and even threats to her. How were you able to keep track of all of the specific height references?

Lots and lots of measuring! I measured the height of counters, sinks, doorknobs, tables, beds, clothing, various dolls, phones, and other common objects. I referenced growth charts for girls so I could compare Carrie to her sisters’ heights—but she wouldn’t perfectly match their sizes. For example, a toddler has a different overall shape than a teenager, so that would affect how clothes would fit. Using averages for a girl of Carrie’s starting height (5’8”), I created a spreadsheet to calculate her measurements (height, weight, waist, arm length, foot length—you name it) for every single day of her incredible journey. At that point, I matched situations to her height. For example, there’s a scene where she’s trapped in a closet, so she needed to be too short to use the doorknob effectively. I also used the spreadsheet to determine when she’d transition her clothing—from her younger sisters to infant clothes and ultimately to doll clothes.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?

Trying to find the right balance between theme and plot. I didn’t want it to come across as too heavy-handed, yet I wanted Carrie to learn so much—to grow internally—as she shrank externally. It’s easy for her to regret her decision to take the pills early on because it’s doing something so incredibly terrifying to her. But along the way, I had her observe others (her younger sisters, her friends and classmates, even her mother and doctor) to try learning where—and when—our body image issues come from. Various heights allowed for different lessons. For example, some people claim the unreal dimensions of fashion dolls may be an early contributing factor to body image struggles in girls. Whether or not that’s true, I can’t say, but I could posit the question while Carrie was that tall.

It’s pretty clear that there are body image messages throughout the book, and they’re handled really well. (Having her want to be a journalist and using that to speak consciously about her issues was a really smart move, by the way!) Is there one Tweet- sized message you’d like to have us come away with?

Thank you! Since the media plays a part in our perception of body image, it made sense to make Carrie somewhat media savvy. She starts maintaining a blog about midway through the story, and she’d probably post on other social media sites too. This is a fewer-than-140-characters line from her blog (when she’s 2’ 2” tall) that I believe she’d Tweet out: “I’d much rather have a body—any body, at any size, even this one—than to shrink away to nothing and have no body whatsoever.”

What is a favorite line from Just a Few Inches? 

My absolute favorite line occurs at the very end of the story, but I don’t want to give anything like that away. Got to save something for the readers. 😉 I have so many other lines that I love for a variety of reasons, including the one above and this one (from when she’s 4’ 2” tall): Would I ever be that secure with what I was? And which of the labels—cheerleader, shrinking, or incredible—would I ultimately embrace?

And I have to ask… other than Carrie of course, who is your favorite character?

Definitely Evan. It was great to write someone so sweet and secure in who he was, even if he was shy at times. Also, I could incorporate some of my inner dorkiness into him. There are some scenes where he performs calculations about Carrie’s height or her trajectory in a cheering routine. I had to do the calculations myself in researching and developing the story, so why let them go to waste or keep them behind the scenes? His character gave me the opportunity to insert some of them into the storyline!

Are you working on other projects?

Actively working on? Well, not exactly. But I have written what may become the first chapter of a future project. Right now, it’s a scene with two boys eating pizza while one wants to discuss fractions and infinity. The conversation came to me one morning, so rather than lose it, I typed it out. I like the narrator’s voice, and I’ve started sketching out what his lecture is a defense mechanism for. Whether this will develop a later YA novel, I don’t know. It took a long time for me to complete Inches, so we’ll just have to wait and see!

And now… just for fun…

Chocolate or Vanilla?

Vanilla…which is interesting, considering at least one character in the story has quite the affinity for chocolate.

Apples or Oranges?

Apples…I don’t like citrus.

Disney or Universal?

Do I have to choose? Both are responsible for so much wonderful entertainment!

Superman or Iron Man?

Iron Man…love his snarkiness…and he’s got a cooler suit than Superman.

Movie theatre or Netflix?

Movie theatre…there’s something great about the shared experience of watching the story unfold as part of an audience that’s far better than watching it at home where you can pause it.

Winter or Summer?

Summer…long days, sunny weather, barbecues, beaches. What’s not to love?

Thanks Tara! I loved having you join me today. Now here ya go readers … go forth and read! Here’s the link (or click the cover above). And don’t forget to add it to your TBR list on GoodReads too. 

Rennie has a voice!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am so very pleased to announce that the search is officially over. My dear Rennie, main character of Drawn In has a voice!! I’m thrilled to introduce you to the sweet and talented woman who will bring Rennie to life via audio book: Julianne Lawson.

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The last time I worked with Julianne, I think she was probably twelve. Although I haven’t worked with her since, I invited her to audition for the role and I was absolutely blown away by what she was able to bring to a simple reading. Her voice is sweet and pleasant with just the perfect touch of quirky, she understands the character(s) and really gets the style and the humor written into the text, and her pacing and instincts are just perfect for this. I couldn’t be more pleased with this match.

My top four choices made this an incredibly difficult decision, but in the end I had to go with my gut. And now we start making an audio book! So so SO excited for this project, I can’t even tell you! (Except I just did.)

Surreal on a Whole New Level

So… this happened.

Dana - Rennie cosplayDana - Rennie cosplay 2Dana - Rennie cosplay with a TARDIS

Yes, that’s a friend of a friend (thank you Dana Yeoman for this!!! And Tom Webster for making this happen!) cosplaying as my main character Rennie. When she tagged me in the first photo, I was like “Hey, that’s cool, she’s reading my book! Probably because she’s also wearing yellow, like Rennie on the cover. So who’s she going as?” And I started looking… yellow sundress, red hair, dagger tied into the sash at her waist… and that’s when I started crying. I was at work, checking my email and facebook feed on my lunch break, sitting at my desk and crying. I was overwhelmed by this. Someone I’ve never even met loves my Rennie. She gets her. She loves her enough to dress as her for an Anime convention in LA, carrying my book around and telling people about it all day long as they asked who she was. How freaking amazing is that?? I never knew that this was on my writer’s bucket list, but seriously… if it’s not on yours, it should be. This is amazing.

I also have to share how she captioned that second picture of her reading in the forest. “In a weird Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey way, Paige (aka Rennie) is reading her own autobiography in the forest to figure out how to travel through parallel universes by using the pages of her book.” Not only brilliant, but she includes a Doctor Who reference. Rennie would be so proud.

Choosing a Voice, or Decisions Are HARD

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Auditions for the narrator of the audio book version of Drawn In went very well! I received thirteen auditions and every single one had SOMEthing that I loved about it. There is a particular thing that I’m looking for and it would be so much easier if I could identify what that is in a clear and concise manner. But ultimately it’s just a feeling… something in the way a certain phrase is read, or the way that a bit of humor is approached, or the way that a pause is used rather than just taken. It is truly an art and those with a flair for it have my highest respect.

Somehow I managed to narrow it down to my top four. I had intended to choose a top three, but that just wasn’t possible. Let’s face it, I know some amazingly talented people. And yesterday I received the callback recordings I asked them to do to help me decide, which was supposed to make my decision easier. It’s still REALLY. FREAKING. HARD.

Maybe I’m making this too complicated. Maybe I just need to close my eyes and pick a name (they’re all wonderful, I couldn’t go wrong!). Or maybe I just need to trust my gut and make the best decision I can with the information I have.

Giving a voice to Rennie is a very personal thing. She’s mine. I know her and understand her and I know what she sounds like. Trusting that to somebody else feels like a very big thing, even though I know that anyone else listening to it won’t have those preconceptions at all. My pro/con lists help, my friend Katherine and my niece Shelby are helping, and in the end I’m just gonna have to trust my gut. There isn’t a bad choice to be made when all four could easily do it. That should make this easier, right?

The Voices in My Head…

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My latest venture is to work on transferring the voices in my head into your head. In other (less creepy) words, I’m figuring out how to make Drawn In into an audiobook. I’m using ACX, a website that is linked to Amazon in the same way that CreateSpace is linked to Amazon. By using them, I will be able to release my book with Audible, iTunes, and Amazon all at once. Exciting right? I’m still a little confused on the process. It all seems too easy, too casual. I’ve read the site so many times, but it just seems too simple. Pick someone to read, approve their first 15 minutes, give some notes, approve the whole thing, put it out there. Done; people can buy it. Shouldn’t there be some angst or drama involved? Maybe there will be some of that in the notes and approval phase. Or maybe it’s just that easy. Here’s hoping, right?

So now is the truly thrilling part… I’m auditioning narrators. This is also the difficult part however. See, I know what Rennie sounds like, she’s been in my head for a very long time now. I think as soon as I hear it, I’ll know it. I have a background in theatre, and I posted on facebook, tagging a bunch of my actor friends to have them audition. I have amaaaaaazingly high hopes for several of them who are interested (can’t wait to hear them ALL!!), and I have particularly high hopes for one in particular who has the potential to BEEEEEEEE Rennie. Seriously. I won’t elaborate, because I am open to all possibilities, all auditions, and I would love to be surprised. I’m just excited at the chance to find The One.

I love audio books. If I didn’t have GPS, I would have completely gotten lost on my trip moving from PA to Missouri while I was listening to The Host. (And say what you will about Stefanie Meyer, but I freakin LOVE that book, and it’s due to the audio version that completely sucked me in.) So anyway, all I really want is a chance to join that world. To have my book available while people are walking their dog or jogging or stuck in traffic… how amazing would that be? What are your feelings about audio books? Do you prefer single voiced narration or multi-actor casts?

Showing Some Love to the Love Triangle

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Love triangles get a bad rap in the YA world these days. Personally, as a reader, I enjoy them. But I enjoy them within certain parameters. They have to be well done, well crafted. They should be an interesting and fun (and sometimes agonizing!) part of the plot, but they should not BE the plot.

I read a comparison once that aptly depicted this distinction for me. Basically it said that without the love triangle, the Hunger Games is about a girl fighting for her life in a televised fight to the death and accidentally sparking a revolution. While Twilight without the love triangle is about a girl who moves to a small town where it rains a lot.

I knew that I would be dealing with a love triangle of sorts in my second book. What I didn’t know is how much I would LOVE writing it! It has been so much fun, and I’m finding some elements and depths of characters that I didn’t expect which is always a bonus. I rarely write in order anyway, I write what is most pressing, or whatever is loudest in my head. And these days when I sit down to write, I find that it’s almost always the triangley bits. I’m sure when I’m putting it all together and doing my editing, I’ll find that I have way more than I actually need. But that’s okay too. Maybe I’ll release a “director’s cut” version of my book with the deleted scenes. Ha! 🙂

So what are your thoughts on love triangles? What is the BEST one you’ve read?