I have a Canadian Author to introduce to you.
But-before that, I have the winner of TILLY'S MOONLIT GARDEN. It is...
Congrats, Julie. I'll be in touch to get your mailing details.
Now, it is my great pleasure to have Nicole Luiken on the blog. She's joining me for Oh MGYA Canada! and we're talking her books, her recent award nomination, her writing process, how she creates worlds, handles backstory and how she balances her writing life!
It's been some time since I've done one of these and I'm thrilled Nicole was able to do this. With all that said, let's begin with a little bit more about Nicole from her website:
Nicole Luiken wrote her first book at age 13 and never stopped.
She is the author of eight published books for young adults, including Violet Eyes and its sequel Silver Eyes, Frost, Unlocking the Doors, The Catalyst, Escape to the Overworld, Dreamfire and the sequel Dreamline. She also has an adult thriller, Running on Instinct, under the name N.M. Luiken and a fantasy romance ebook, Gate to Kandrith.
Nicole lives with her family in Edmonton, AB. It is physically impossible for her to go more than three days in a row without writing.
Most recently Nicole's book, DREAMLINE was a finalist for The Monica Huges Science Fiction Fantasy Award. So, it seems fitting that that is what the giveaway is for. More about DREAMLINE:
Cross over into the world of dreams...
Years ago, Lissa decided she could either have friends or secrets, but not both. Now there's a new boy in town who sees past her social outcast label, but is he someone Lissa can trust, or a spy for the wulfdraigles?
The wulfdraigles are ancient enemies of humanity who are trapped in the world of dreams. Eight years ago, Lissa helped her sister Brianne stop a wildfire from burning Grantmere to ashes, but now the wulf- draigles have returned. They have a new plan to spill their nightmares into our world, and live again. It is up to Lissa to stop them. It is her destiny; what she was born for. And quite possibly, what she will die for, too. Read an excerpt.
I was notified by email, and I was very surprised, because I'd never heard of the award before! This is actually its inaugural year, though the CCBC (Canadian Children's Book Centre) puts on a whole slate of other YA awards. I'm thrilled and honoured to be a finalist for such a prestigious award.Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy! Given the storytelling, the world building and mythology and the list goes on, I'm not surprised. What about you? How did you hear and what does it mean to you receive that honour?
The fact that the award is named after Monica Hughes makes it doubly meaningful to me. When I was in junior high, I read all of Monica Hughes's books that I could get my hands on (and in many cases reread them.) Keeper of the Isis Light and Guardian of Isis are my favourites. I recently read Keeper to my son Simon and so got to enjoy it all over again. She was a wonderful writer.
I'm not sure I have a process! It grew rather organically over a number of years.
Ever since reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader I've been intrigued by the idea of dreams coming true. I was a little disappointed when in the book Lucy, Edmond and Caspian prudently sail away before landing on the Dark Island. So, when I was in grade ten, I decided to write a book about a girl whose dreams came true.
I started work on the novel and then got stuck. To kickstart the idea process I tried to remember scary dreams that I'd had and recalled a real doozy of a nightmare I'd once had about being alone at a campfire and fighting off a ring of wolves. At the end of the dream a voice said, "The wolves are bad, but the wallies are worse." Hmm, I thought, is there such a thing as a wally? So, I looked it up in the dictionary. There was an entry for wally, but it was a adj, meaning sturdy. However, the entry beneath it caught my eye: wally-draigle, a slovenly or feeble-minded creature. I liked the way the word sounded and thought it had possibilities so I kept browsing: wallaby, wallet, etc. Then I hit on Walpurgisnacht, 1/ the Eve of May Day on which witches are said to ride, and 2/ and event or situation with a nightmarish quality. It was so perfect I got goosebumps.
My mythology grew out of that dream (which Lissa also has in Dreamline) and Walpurgisnacht.
I love that DREAMLINE is about the little sister we meet in DREAMFIRE. Was this always your plan and has the book been in the works for sometime now then?
I wrote both books while still in high school so they've *definitely* been around for awhile. :) When I originally wrote Dreamfire, I intended it as a stand alone, but because the wulfdraigles weren't fully defeated in book one, an editor suggested that the story could continue. Lissa was such a spooky little girl in Dreamfire, that I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to grow up with the power to cross the dreamline at will.
Actually, there also used to be a second book, featuring the middle sister Suzy, but since she didn't have any supernatural powers like Brianne and Lissa the book didn't work as well. I eventually took my favourite Suzy scenes from book two and added them into book one as well as giving Rex a cameo in book three.
Sometime back you and I briefly talked about backstory and how to include it in your book. That conversation was particularly about DREAMFIRE. I really was impressed with how you did it and especially taking notes on how you used backstory as a tool to keep the reader turning those pages because you want to know what happened before. But. You also knew when to let the reader in on the full story. Just as I felt myself thinking, okay, I really want to know what happened with Brianne...you showed me. Well done! Can you talk a little about that?
In Dreamfire I use the mystery of Brianne's backstory as a secondary hook to draw the reader in. In chapter one, there are several references sprinkled about, "If my nightmares were returning again, making a fool of myself in front of the class was the least of my worries." "Just a dream... Right? Wrong. My dreams had a nasty habit of coming true." Chapter two starts with Brianne remembering "being treated like a walking leper.. The last time I'd tried to use the knowledge my true dreams gave me to help solve a crime I'd ended up being accused of the crime myself. Thinking about the unholy mess I'd made of my life last year... made me sick to my stomach," but the full story doesn't come out until she relates it to Ben in chapter six.
I think the key to dropping these hints is to make them progress a little further each time. If all I had done was make the same mysterious reference over and over it gets annoying (as my editor gently pointed out to me.)
The big reveal needs to come before the big confrontation. In Dreamfire it's at the 1/3 mark, but in a different story it might be delayed to the halfway of 2/3 mark. Pushing the reveal much past that and you risk alienating or frustrating your reader. I prefer to give them a pay-off for reading the earlier chapters. By the 1/3 mark in the story, the reader should be well hooked on the main plot anyway or you've failed.
If the backstory reveal is the climax, then it shouldn't be backstory at all, it should be the main story (or at least book one).
Now,Wulfdraigles are bad bad and scary! (readers: note the image behind Lissa on DREAMLINE cover) Even typing this I love how scary and downright bad they are. What was it like writing them, carrying them around in your head? Did you write into the wee hours with them, scare yourself?
I do find the wulfdraigles rather scary, and for years the words "dream come true" made me shiver. We use the phrase so casually and yet I suspect few of us would wish our actual sleep dreams to come true.
The only time I remember being really freaked out was during the plotting process when I stumbled on the word Walpurgisnacht.
You write for adults as well as teens. Do you work on one then the other or do you do both? In other words, are you are more than one project at a time writer?
You've have been writing since you were 13. How has your writing changed over the years? Any particular pieces of advice you have for others? Thinking of keeping that writing routine going, in particular. Over the years I am sure the time you have to write has changed considerably. I do see in you bio that it is physically impossible for you to go three days without writing.
My writing process has evolved a lot over time. My original model was to plot out a book, do a first draft, then let it rest awhile and work on something else, then go back and do another draft. Only sometimes I would be distracted by a third shiny new idea and never get back to the first draft. This haphazard process resulted in books like Dreamfire and Dreamline which I wrote the first drafts of in high school not being rewritten and published until much later.
My problem is that I enjoy the plotting and first draft part of writing more than I do the revising and polishing bits. My current solution is to write the 2nd and 3rd drafts simultaneously. Confused? Let me try to lay it out: 1/plotting 2/first draft 3/second draft in which I attack large plot problems and deepen characterization 4/third draft in which I pore over the printed manuscript, looking at every scene as a unit, honing my word choice, tightening my sentences and adding in description. (If the story is a movie playing in the author's mind, my movie has an extreme zoom focus in on the characters faces.) The thought of facing several hundred pages of third draft makes me whine, so after I've done two or three chapters of 2nd draft, I set myself an additional goal of doing 3rd draft-level revision on one scene a day. That way by the time I finish the 2nd draft I'm about halfway through the 3rd draft and it's not as daunting.
Advice to writers? Read a lot and try to write every day. I started out in junior high with a goal of writing 1 page a day and gradually increased to about 4 pages (1000 words). When I was in college and working full-time I usually wrote in the evenings. At that time if I didn't have at least 2 hours available, it didn't feel worthwhile to make the effort and I'd blow it off. Then I had my kids. Now 20 minutes is a valuable block of time. Make writing a habit. I have days when I don't get as much accomplished as I would've liked to, but very few days (like Christmas) when I don't fit in a little writing. Oh, one more piece of advice, don't just count words. That time you spend thinking about your book while you take a walk or shower still counts as writing.
What is up for you for the rest of 2012? Writing projects? School visits? Conferences?
My current project (tentatively titled Angel Eyes) is book three in my Violet Eyes series, featuring Mike and Angel. I have another six chapters to revise. My next priority project is a fourth draft of the first book in a YA fantasy series called Otherselves (think mirror magic and multiple worlds).
I am a member of YABS, but I don't have any school readings booked for this fall yet. :( I plan to attend the Pure Speculations SF conference this fall. And, of course, I'm hoping to go to the gala where the CCBC winners are announced in Toronto.
Oh my gosh yes, Nicole. I hope you can go to that gala, as well. Good luck with your current projects and enjoy that conference.
On to the giveaway details...the usual, leave a comment with a way for me to contact you. You have until midnight MST next Sunday (Sept. 23). International!
You can check out Nicole's Facebook fan page here and you can find her on twitter, here.
Say, if you go on and like that page, I'll give you another entry. Tweets will result in the same.
I'd love for you to help me spread the love for this fantastic Canadian author!