So I’m really liking this series of posts dedicated to YA authors! Last post I introduced you to up-and-coming fantasy author Melissa Drake. Speaking of, it’s time to announce the winner of a personalized signed copy of her book, DAUGHTER OF MYTHOS! And the winner is…
Danielle Gervasio Stock!!!
Today I have another author to share with you who I can honestly say is now one of my favorites in the realm of YA writing: Holly Schindler.
As a writer of YA I do a lot of reading, and I tend to do it in two different ways: read to write, and read to read. I like to find authors who embody the kind of style that I aspire to have: beautiful, character-driven writing that explores difficult situations with an honesty raw and true to its audience.
Holly Schindler is that type of writer.
I found Holly through Goodreads when I was looking for something to ‘read to write’. The reviews of her book, A BLUE SO DARK, captured my attention and I dove in. Holly’s work is nothing less than beautiful and exactly what I was looking for.
Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura’s dad left them. Convinced that “creative” equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked—and together may offer an escape from her fears.
I couldn’t put this book down, and neither could anyone else who read it, apparently. It has received many awards:
- Booklist starred review
- One of Booklist’s Top 10 First Novels for Youth
- Silver Medal ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award
- Gold Medal, IPPY Awards
So now I am a complete Schindler groupie and plan on reading anything and everything she writes in the future! Here is just a little bit more about Holly:
When did you begin writing?
I’m pretty sure it was…shortly after birth. I was a really shy kid, and sometimes, I wondered if the whole thing didn’t start, to some degree, as a way to “talk.” But it’s more than that, really— I’ve always been drawn to books and literature. Had to have a new Little Golden Book every time I went to the supermarket with my mom. And there’s nothing in the world like the feeling I get writing. It just fits.
What is your writing process like?
Each book is a little different. But really, I do my best to get the first draft out as quickly as possible. (I have the luxury of being a full-time author, so I can often get down 4,000-5,000 words a day.) Then I can get to my favorite part of the process: revision. I adore revision. That’s where the book really starts to take shape.
Authors often talk about the number of rejections they rack up while trying to place a book…As I was seeking publication, though, I would actually rewrite my books after rejections. My first YA, A BLUE SO DARK, was rejected more than 80 times, with rewrites in-between submissions—that’s a lot of revision!
My books have all come to life through successive revision, though. My next book, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, is set to release February 6, 2014. But I first drafted it in 2005! I often think that if you don’t like to revise, you really don’t like to write…
Do you have a writing muse (music, travel, etc.)?
I’m a total music junkie, and it can be a real distraction. Often, if I try to listen to music while I write, I can accidentally start typing lyrics.
For me, the best muse is daily effort. One of my favorite quotes is from Chuck Close, an artist who’s never had “painter’s block.” “Inspiration is for amateurs,” he says. “The rest of us just show up and get to work.” Amen, brother.
What made you want to write about schizophrenia?
I actually wanted to write about creativity. I’m fascinated by the creative mind. I wanted to play with a possible source of creativity, and kept coming back to the idea of the “mad genius.” As I started brainstorming the ideas for what would become A BLUE SO DARK, I wanted to incorporate a mental illness that involved hallucinations—I thought the ah-ha! moment when an artist sees his or her project in their mind was a little bit like a hallucination, actually. (In both cases, only one person can “see” their vision.) As I started to put the pieces together for A BLUE SO DARK, I quickly fell in love with the idea of a girl who fears her creativity is entangled with her family’s propensity for mental illness…
Did you do any research on schizophrenia for A Blue So Dark? If so, what specifically?
I did, actually—I sort of gulped down everything I could on the subject, including nonfiction materials written specifically for teens. I wanted to know how the material had been presented factually to a teen audience. Then I put everything away and wrote (I wanted the book to be emotional, not a clinical presentation). The original draft wrote really quickly—in just about two months’ time.
Do any of the characters’ names in the books have special significance?
Aura’s did—some of the definitions of the word (an invisible emanation, etc.) kind of made me think of the qualities of a hallucination…I also tend to like alliteration in names: Aura Ambrose, Janny Jamison, etc.
Are there any characters in your books you most identify with?
When I wrote A BLUE SO DARK, I really just let it fly—especially in that first draft. I’ve often said there are parts of Aura that sound a lot like me…Actually, though, I think that any character I’ve built has a bit of me in it. It’s especially easy to let parts of yourself leak into a character when you’re using first person…It’s so easy to let your humor and observations come through when you use “I”!
I also have to admit, though, that I get closer to my characters as time goes on, and with each rewrite. I was really sad after I sent the last copyedits in on THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY. I love my MC, Auggie. And I miss her now that the book is officially finished.
How did you know you wanted to write YA / MG novels?
When I got my master’s in the spring of ’01, I stayed home to devote full-time attention to my writing. In order to pay some bills, I taught music lessons. It was the perfect setup: I wrote all day, until late afternoon, when the kids got out of school, then opened the door to guitar and piano students.
I was really surprised, though, to find that the kids I taught were familiar. The fashion and the technology had changed, but the struggles hadn’t! I knew I wanted to write about and for the kids who came to my house to play music…
It’s funny, though—I thought those kids would give me some extra money. I never knew they’d give me career direction! That just shows that living your life, getting out there and having new experiences, can sometimes be as important as putting the pen to the page.
What is the biggest obstacle / struggle you face as an author?
As far as my writing goes, it’s probably the tendency to overwrite / over-describe / over-metaphor my work. So often, less is more. You don’t want your acrobatics as a writer to keep your reader from being able to get into your work.
What advice would you give aspiring YA / MG authors?
Be patient. Listen. Right now, it’s so easy to put work out there, to become a self-pubbed author. I read a lot of self-pubbed work, and there is honestly some great quality stuff out there…There’s also a lot of stuff that shouldn’t have been released. When you get a rejection, don’t assume the agent or editor is against you—they’re not. Pay attention to what they’re telling you, ESPECIALLY if you hear the same advice repeatedly. Again, it’s all about the revision…You HAVE to learn to love revision if you want to be a professional writer.
What will we be seeing from you next?
My next YA, FERAL, is currently in development with HarperCollins. My debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, will release from Dial / Penguin on February 6, 2014:
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” meets Because of Winn Dixie in this inspiring story of hope.
August “Auggie” Jones lives with her Grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” Auggie is determined to prove that she is not as run-down as the outside of her house might suggest. Using the kind of items Gus usually hauls to the scrap heap, a broken toaster becomes a flower; church windows turn into a rainbow walkway; and an old car gets new life as spinning whirligigs. What starts out as a home renovation project becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time. Auggie’s talent for creating found art will remind readers that one girl’s trash really is another girl’s treasure.
Shortly after this interview I went on to read her YA romance, PLAYING HURT, which was another great read. I am looking forward to her upcoming projects! If you’d like to keep up with Ms. Schindler, you can find her here:
Twitter : @holly_schindler