Thursday, May 8, 2014

Writing Stand-alones vs. Series: YA Author Jessa Russo on her newest novel, DIVIDE!

Hi, sweet readers!

My friend Jessa Russo has a new book out! I first met her years ago when we were both working toward publication. Her debut was the first in a trilogy, but DIVIDE, her latest release, is a stand-alone! So of course I asked her to blog about the difference between her experiences writing a standalone vs. a series.

I'll be giving not one, but TWO e-copies of DIVIDE away at 8:00 EST tomorrow! (May 9) All you have to do is comment for a chance to win! 

For five (5!) extra entries, tweet about it using this text: I'm dying for a chance to read DIVIDE by @JessaRusso! #giveaway #amreading 

 But first, look at this stunning cover and blurb! (And don't forget to stick around for the excerpt at the end!)

From senior class president to dejected social outcast, with just the flick of a match.
After accusations of torching her ex-boyfriend’s home are followed by the mysterious poisoning of her ex-best friend, seventeen-year-old Holland Briggs assumes her life is over. And it is. But not in the way she thinks.
As Holland learns the truth about her cursed fate—that she is descended from the Beast most have only ever heard of in fairytales—she unites with an unlikely ally, good-looking newcomer Mick Stevenson. 
Mick knows more about Holland’s twisted history than she does, and enlightening as it is to learn about, his suggestion for a cure is unsettling at best. Holland must fall in love with Mick in order to break the spell, and save their future generations from repeating her cursed fate. Having sworn off love after the betrayals of her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, this may be difficult to accomplish. 
Complicating things further for Holland and Mick, time runs out, and Holland’s change begins way before schedule. With Holland quickly morphing into a dangerous mythical creature, Mick struggles to save her. 
Should they fail, Holland will be lost to the beast inside her forever.

What are the differences between planning a standalone (DIVIDE) and planning a trilogy (The Ever Trilogy)?

Well, I have to admit that you lost me at ‘planning’. I've never been a plotter, so I can’t tell you the difference between planning a series and planning a standalone. Because I don’t actually plan for any of it.
What I can tell you is this: for a pantser, or at least, for me specifically, the standalone was so much easier to write than the series. With a trilogy, I really think plotting would have been extremely helpful, as even now, I’m up against the quickly-decreasing timeline of releasing the third installment of The Ever Trilogy, and I have no idea how the story will end. With a standalone, I wrote the book, revised a few times, tied up all the loose ends—or tried to—and I’m done. With the series, there’s so much more to think about, from keeping plot holes from popping up halfway through (which, I guess, essentially makes me a bit of a planner, since I do have to look to the future), to making sure characters stay consistent in their actions and habits, while also growing over the arc of the series . . . and so on and so forth . . . it’s a lot more work. In my humble opinion.

I can’t say I love one more than the other, but I tend to favor series-writing. Even after I finished DIVIDE (and soon after, CHLORINE&CHAOS), my brain keeps trying to find a way to throw a curve ball and continue on with these characters. I’ve become so attached to them and their stories—it’s hard to let go.


“She told me the stories about you, as I’m sure you guessed, and obviously I remember the news and everything.” He shook his head. “But seriously, I’m a bit perplexed that you have to deal with it even though no one actually died, and they couldn’t prove you did anything.”
I shrugged. “Well, I guess that’s high school for you.”
“Yeah, I don’t miss it. But, hey, at least you’re almost out. What are you doing after you graduate?”
“I—well—I don’t really have a plan.”
Anymore. I didn’t have a plan anymore. “I imagine Rod and Leslie are still headed off to ASU together in the fall, but I’ll no longer be completing that trifecta of doom.”
I’d never considered much else because that had been our plan for as long as I could remember. Graduate high school, move to Tempe, go to ASU. The three of us had it all figured out. Or so I’d thought.
“Wow. So, Rod and Leslie, those are the people you supposedly killed?”
Shoot. How much of that had I voiced out loud? Way to go, Holland. I cleared my throat. Might as well talk to him. He probably already knew everything anyway, so what could it hurt?
“Yeah. Leslie was my best friend. Rod was my boyfriend. We’d all been best friends since we were in diapers, basically, but sometime in middle school . . . well, Rod and I became more.”
I took a breath, trying to ignore the sinking feeling in my stomach that always accompanied this story. I wished I could change it, but the ending was always the same.
“So, just barely into our senior year—what should have been the most important and memorable year of our lives thus far—after the three of us have been best friends our entire lives, and Rod and I had been together for almost five years, something changed.”
“He cheated on you. With her, right?”
I hated that word. Cheated. He didn’t cheat on me. This wasn’t a pop quiz during third period Biology. He betrayed me. It could have been anyone else. He could have hooked up with one of the other cheerleaders on the squad. Or even Sana, Cam’s ex-girlfriend. But no. He chose the one person in the world—aside from him—who I trusted more than anyone.
He didn’t cheat on me.

He destroyed me. 

Don't forget to comment to enter to win a copy, sweeties! For five extra entries, tweet about the giveaway using this text: I'm dying for a chance to read DIVIDE by @JessaRusso! #giveaway #amreading 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Working Writer

About  one week and one day ago, I became a full-time writer.

This past year, I found myself in the very best of problematic situations – having two jobs I loved, but enough time to do only one.  I’ll miss my college students more than I can say, but in the end, writing was the best choice for me in terms of flexibility, long-term sustainability, and, yes, even income. So at the end of the year I packed up the office I’d spent so many wonderful years in, boxing up hundreds of books I’d collected during five years of grad school and five more years of work, and lowering my hard-earned diplomas from their places on the wall.  

Now, every weekday, four hours are dedicated to writing books and preparing them for publication.
Feeling like a “real” writer has crept on me slowly, so quietly that it’s hard to pinpoint when I felt the title really fit me. (I do know for sure it wasn’t when I published my first book, or even when I started earning money.) 

When I started testing out the title, telling people, “I’m a writer,” it felt like a terrifying leap of faith. It felt like a commitment to something I wasn’t sure I could follow up on, a promise of some brilliance I knew I hadn’t uncovered, nor was I sure I ever would.  

Now, with six books published (three under a pen name,) I've instilled in myself a sense of expertise, of “knowing the ropes,” of familiarity with the roller-coaster ride that is drafting, editing, and publishing a book. But as I settle into this new career, I keep reminding myself to be careful. As much as outlines are essential, deadlines are helpful, and polished books are absolutely necessary, being a working writer is, and always will be, about something completely different.

I started this work because it helped me in a way that nothing else could. Even though my hard work and dedication has turned that hobby into a career, I know now more than ever that every book I write has to be born of excitement and love. You see, in my best writing experiences, I feel like the story is a train I’m chasing around and around my brain, trying to look at the car that represents each character, plot point, or theme in every way possible, and grab onto it long enough to translate that into words. Sometimes it’s a smooth ride, other times it’s fraught with obstacles. No matter what, I can’t really relax until I've managed to write the story well enough to wrestle that train to a stop.

That feeling is the reason I became addicted to writing, and now that creating stories is my job – my real, honest-to-God paying profession – I’m determined never to let it go. It’s what keeps me going, and I know my readers can tell that I genuinely love each book I put out into the world. The connection between author and story translates into something that, in turn, connects the reader to the writer.

So, as I begin my life as a working writer, I’m making a promise to myself and to anyone who reads my work: I will never publish anything that I didn't work on as hard as I could, that I didn't believe in, that I didn't love. Otherwise, to me, no other perk of the writer’s life I've worked so hard to build is worth it.

 I'm so grateful to all of you for coming along for the ride.