Today I am privileged to have my good friend, Tricia Drammeh, as a guest on my blog to talk about her YA fantasy series The Claiming Words. The first novel was published in paperback and Kindle by Iconic Publishing in September 2012. There are book buy links at the end of this blog post. Tricia has shown tremendous encouragement and support for my historical adult romance Lynchcliffe series so thought it was high time I returned the favour.
Me: it’s great to have you here Tricia. Can you start by telling us how and when you started writing and why you picked YA fantasy as a genre. I know you have kids at YA reading age and older.
Tricia: I wrote a little bit of poetry in high school, but I didn’t consider myself a writer until about two-and-a-half years ago when I started writing The Claiming Words. I picked YA fantasy because it’s what I enjoy. With YA, I don’t have to worry about my kids being traumatized when they read what I wrote, so that’s a bonus.
Me: Can you sum up The Claiming words in a couple of short paragraphs for people who have not yet had the privilege of reading it?
Tricia: The Claiming Words is based in a small, Georgia town. It’s narrated by the two main female characters, Rachel and Alisa . The story begins when a new student—Jace—moves to town. Though Rachel and Alisa have known each other all their lives, they’ve never been friends. Their lives become intertwined because of Jace and a secret surrounding his family.
When both girls fall in love with Jace, it leads to an enduring friendship between the three of them. Hunters and Demons descend on the quiet town, and the girls find themselves in great danger. One girl finds out a devastating secret, while the other finds love in an unlikely place
Me: I am not an expert on YA at all but I was really impressed with the book. I found it a bit odd having male magical folk referred to as witches when that term is usually only applied to women. Also are Hunters and Demons common YA fantasy type creatures or did you invent them?
Tricia: I know what you mean. Using the term ‘witch’ to refer to men didn’t sit quite right with me either. Sometimes, I wish I would have found a different word to use, or maybe even made up my own. I didn’t use ‘warlock’ because in talking to practitioners of modern-day witchcraft and in doing some research, I discovered the word is outdated, and for some people, downright insulting. I can’t remember why I didn’t use ‘wizard,’ but I’m sure there was a reason. The concept of Hunters was something I made up, but Demons are a common theme in paranormal novels, though each author has a different interpretation.
Me: Who is your favourite and least favourite character and why?
Tricia: My least favourite character is Becky because she is the ultimate bully. She’s evil, conniving, manipulative, and cruel. She thinks the world revolves around her and she preys on those who are vulnerable, specifically her shy cousin.
Me: Are you influenced in any way by other writers in the YA fantasy genre? If so who?
Tricia: I always say J.K. Rowling is my biggest influence because she is the author that reminded me how fun fantasy is. Reading Harry Potter opened up a whole new world for me because I began reading YA more frequently in hopes I’d find new and exciting magical worlds similar to the world J.K. Rowling created.
Me: What are your main distractions from writing?
Tricia: My main distractions used to be my kids and my day job, but lately I think my biggest distraction is trying to promote The Claiming Words. I can get very overwhelmed by Social Media and I begin to prioritize things that aren’t really important. My writing tends to get pushed behind.
Me: Although you aren’t meant to have explicit sex scenes in YA (one reason why I could not write in this genre) are you surprised by the amazing sexual tension that exists between Bryce & Alisa and Jace & Rachel?
Tricia: I’m not surprised at all. For some teens, thinking about their love interest takes up a great portion of their time. In order to create realistic characters, I can’t ignore the natural attraction that occurs between young adults.
Me: On the same theme are there any hard and fast official written rules on how far characters are allowed to go with regard to intimacy?
Tricia: This is an issue that’s often debated. I don’t think there are any official rules, but most YA authors would agree that sex cannot be explicit. I’ve read some spicy YA books that really push the limits. The problem with YA is that is attracts a wide range of readers. Children as young as eleven are reading YA books, though as a parent, I would not consider a child that age a young adult. Authors should write the story as it comes to them, market it to their target audience, and trust that parents will monitor what their young teens are reading. While one YA book might be appropriate for children as young as eleven, others will certainly not be.
Me: How has your publishing experience been? Do you ever wish you had held out for the Big 6 or self-published instead?
Tricia: To be very honest, I wish I would have self-published. I’d never realized how controlling and picky I could be until my book was signed by a publisher. It’s very hard for authors to relinquish control over their work. Working with a publisher is difficult because I have no control over release dates, pricing, or even the font used on my cover. It is nice to have someone else shoulder the financial burden of certain aspects (cover art, editing, paperback printing), but as an author, you do give up a lot.
Me: If they made a movie of The Claiming Words who would you want to play the main characters and why?
Tricia: I love Ashley Greene, so it would be great to see her as Alisa. For Rachel, I could see Keke Palmer in that role.
Me: When can we expect Demon Fire, the next instalment, to become available?
Tricia: This coming Spring or Summer. A release date has not been finalized.
Me: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Tricia: My first piece of advice is this: Don’t follow the current trend. If you write what you like, you will find an audience for it. My second piece of advice is: Prepare for rejection. Even if you avoid the soul-destroying round of queries and rejections and go straight to self-publishing, you still need to develop a thick skin. Some people won’t like your book no matter how wonderful it is, so prepare for bad reviews. My final piece of advice is: Explore all your publishing options before making a decision. Some authors believe that any publisher is better than no publisher because they’re scared to self-publish. Carefully research self-publishing before you discount it, and if you decide to submit to publishers, have a lawyer review your contract before signing anything. If you don’t have the money to hire an attorney, borrow it. Don’t sign your writing career away.
Me: How do you deal with writer’s block?
Tricia: It depends. Sometimes my writer’s block is really just me procrastinating and being lazy. If I have a clear idea of where my work in progress is headed and it’s already outlined and plotted out, there is no excuse for not writing. When this happens, I put myself on a strict writing schedule. If I’m truly stuck and I don’t know where my manuscript is headed, there’s no point in pushing myself because I’ll write uninspired words that will eventually be deleted. A good friend recommended writing fan fiction to give myself a break from my own work, so I might give that a try in the future.
Me: One last question how do you cope with bad reviews? (Other than remembering that, in most cases, the person has not actually read the book and the fact they could not write a grocery list without help of a kid’s pictorial ABC book?)
Tricia: I haven’t really received any bad reviews yet, though there has been valid criticism in a few of the reviews I’ve had. Some criticism is based on the reviewer’s honest opinion, which they are entitled to. You can’t please everyone and not every book will appeal to every reader. Well-thought out critical reviews usually have merit, and authors would do well to consider any valid points the reviewer made. I’ve seen a few reviews on Amazon that make me wonder, “Did me and that reviewer read the same book?” Look at some of the best-sellers out there and you’ll see both five-star and one-star reviews.
The Claiming Words on Kindle http://www.amazon.com/The-Claiming-Words-ebook/dp/B009LXGE3E/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1349732803&sr=1-1
The Claiming Words in paperback http://www.amazon.com/Claiming-Words-Tricia-Drammeh/dp/1938844998/ref=la_B008UI2CE6_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1349732803&sr=1-1
Tricia’s blog http://blog.triciadrammeh.com/