Sunday, April 23, 2017

Playing the Fool

I love weaving comedy into my writing, no matter what the subject matter or how dark the book is in theme or plot. For me, my characters’ sense of humour is a huge part of what makes them 3D characters rather than people just reacting to events and dialogue going on around them. What I find difficult, however, is giving them a sense of humour which is different from my own. When writing characters, I can see how their thought-processes work differently to my own and how their past experiences would shape the way they act, but when it comes to humour, I find it tricky to look past what I personally would find amusing!

So how do you alter your sense of humour or adopt someone else’s? One trick that I find useful is: watching stand-up comedy! This is probably one of the most fun parts of ‘research’ (my husband would probably argue that this isn’t work… and I’d probably agree…) but watching stand-up comics who I wouldn’t seek out usually is a sure-fire way to witness multiples types of humour. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t sit there with a notebook, trying to analyse why they’re making a certain joke or why it’s funny, I just absorb the way they’re moving and speaking and hope that their physicality and thought-processes might seep into my characters who I wish to have a different sense of humour to myself. Of course, humour is such a spontaneous thing that you don’t want to study comedy so much that, low and behold, all the funny leaks out of it. At the end of the day, we all know that if you have to explain why something’s funny… it just ain’t funny.

My own sense of humour is quite sarcastic, I think, so many of my characters end up also being sarky. This is something I try to watch out for, and by forcing other types of humour into different characters it makes them more well-rounded individuals rather than just spin offs of myself.

Once I’ve decided on my characters’ types of humour, I re-read what I’m working on to ensure they haven’t simply become caricatures. Although we all have differing humours, no one is simply ‘one thing’, and we all adapt to who we are with. For example, most of us will demonstrate our humour in a different way around our parents than we would with our friends. So I try to make sure my characters are utilising humour in a way that seems real and authentic to their personality and their company.

And if a little bit of my own humour creeps in to my characters then that’s OK. Because at least I know there’ll be one reader who will find it funny….

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Importance Of Voice In Fiction

Voice is an important for YA fiction and fiction in general. It brings writing to life by making it feel like a person is actually telling a story. I’ve recently discovered my writing voice. It’s a quirky conversational voice. But I’m glad I’ve found my writing voice because interiority (thoughts/feelings of the character) makes the character feel fleshed out. A piece of writing can have great imagery, setting, and dialogue. Yet only using those three things emulates a journalistic feel. Voice therefore provides a balance between imagery, dialogue, setting, and exposition.
One way to achieve voice is to use both long and short sentences. A sentence can be one word or a couple of lines. Having varying sentence length creates voice by making a rhythm.
Including repetition can sometimes help. A character might use certain words or phrases a lot. For example, a character can think, “yeah” a lot. Yeah might be a simplistic. However, it goes back to style in the last paragraph because it can be used as a one word sentence.
Emotion is another way to create voice. But not only in terms of basic interiority. Sure. People feel different emotions at different times. Although people usually feel one emotion a lot. Sarcasm is the easiest emotion tool for voice. That means exaggerating something like if a character hates his job, he could say, “I just love my boss. I just so look forward to how my boss is always on my case. As if I don’t have enough to worry about already.” That’s just one example, but the point remains clear. The exaggeration adds a layer of meaning. The character isn’t saying the true meaning. It’s dressed up in the sarcasm, and breaks up the simplicity of writing, “I hate my boss because of him being strict since I already worry too much as it is.”
Clarity is the last element of voice. That means voice will have to be more polished than people talk. And that’s okay. For instance, too many uses of “I mean,” “though,” “plus,” etc. might make writing feel clunky. That isn’t to say those words can’t sometimes be used. They can. They reinforce a casual conversational tone. But they should be used in conjunction with conveying something precisely like, “Arguing was pointless because she would never shut up.” That example isn’t the most profound statement. Yet it’s clear and concise.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Easter Author Surprise!

Happy Easter everyone! As some of you might know, I live on the wonderful island of Cyprus (near Greece), and Easter is a very big deal over here, so it’s time for us to celebrate! For me, there’s no better way to celebrate than to tell you all about the release of my close friend’s (and CP’s) debut book: THE CASTAWAYS by Jessika Fleck. First off, just look at that cover.

Isn’t that the most gorgeous thing you’ve seen? It reminds me of Aslan from Narnia, and you can’t not fall in love with that. So, go ahead, read the blurb below, and be super lucky and pre-order. Trust me, this book will whisk you away (and I’m not just saying that because Jessika’s my friend. Her book is actually really good).


The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous.

Renowned for its infamous corn maze…and the kids who go missing in it.

When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing.

Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers.

Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home.

You can pre-order Jessika's wonderful novel at:

Right, we all want to know the juicy details from an author, but we want extra special questions since it’s Easter, right? Of course we do. So, let’s see what we can rustle up.

      Welcome to the blog, Jessika! Thank you so much for joining us. What we want to know is why did you choose YATopia. I’m sure some people think it’s simply promotion, but I know that isn’t true (see, I told you I know her). How is it we managed to entice you here?

First off, I’m so thrilled to be here and to have my lovely and talented friend, Fiona, interviewing me! Talk about win, win! I’ve been following YATopia for years now. I love the interviews (I’ve found some amazing books for my TBR list here!) as well as the posts on everything from craft to inspiration to editing to query etiquette!
      Well shucks, we’re happy you picked us. Alright, dual questions: Why did you write the Castaways? And what does it feel like to be pulled into such a dramatic world full of intrigue and danger?

I wrote The Castaways when I had two ideas come together in a struck-by-lightning sort of moment (Sometimes, cheesy as it sounds, it really does happen like that!). Part one was the story of a girl being bullied. At the time, I had a friend whose daughter was being brutally bullied at school and their struggle was heartbreaking. I knew there was an emotional and important story there. Part two happened when, around the same time, we took our daughters to a pumpkin patch for Halloween and, of course, we went into the corn maze. We had to have been the only ones there because it was dead silent and when we decided to split up and race to the finish, my youngest daughter and I silently roamed the corn stalks. As we twisted around corners and hit dead ends, I was struck: what a perfect place to run away or hide. And then, inevitably, the what ifs began to spiral and the beginnings of The Castaways was born. As for what it’s like to be thrown into this dangerous fantasy world... I suppose I’m used to it. I definitely tend toward telling darker tales in strange settings. So, I was quite at home.

      What’s your favorite moment in the book? Why is it your favorite?

This is hard (especially without giving away spoilers), but I’d have to go with when Olive is tasked to take Bug to bathe in the springs. It was a fun, sweet scene to write.

Since it’s Easter, I’m going to ask…do you think the time of year you set your plot in helps mold your plot? Would the plot be different in Christmas/Easter/Thanks Giving/the summer holidays? Why or why not?

Definitely. The Castaways is set in the fall when carnivals and festivals are most frequent in the US. Also, I’m pretty sure corn, as a crop, grows in the summer, is harvested, and then, in some instances, the left overs are made into mazes in autumn. This book WOULD NOT work without the corn maze. If set in Easter, it’d have to be a tulip maze – not near as creepy. Thanksgiving might work, but the maze would be pretty dried out by then. Christmas would be too late (Pine tree maze? Probably not.). The summer is too hot, I needed a bit of bite in the air (even if set in Texas). Yeah, The Castaways had to be set in the fall.

      Do you have any “Easter Eggs” hidden in your plot? Can you give us a clue (no, seriously, we need a clue!).

I’m the worst at planting Easter eggs! Sometimes, I’ll admit, they show up unintentionally (that’s how truly bad I am at them). I do include Easter eggs across books. You’ll find some seriously recurring items or mentions... things like names and locations and pop culture references. Even sometimes made up plants from fantasy worlds. Hint: a plant from the island on The Castaways will resurface in my next YA novel, THE OFFERING.

      If you could add any one character from another book to your book who would it be and why? Or would you choose not add anyone else?

Hmm... I’m a big fan of animal companions (as you know ;) and I love polar bears. Now... I know, a polar bear would never work on an island, but you said ‘any one character’, so I’d love to have had Iorek Byrnison from the His Dark Materials trilogy there on the island (inserted interviewer's note: I adore your choice!). The kids definitely could have used a calm, voice of reason and a great big cuddle.

      We always ask authors what one piece of advice they would give an aspiring author (and of course we want to know that, too, so spill it!), but we have another question, as well: if you could go back in time before you wrote the Castaways, what would you have told your former self from your experiences?

My one piece of advice for aspiring authors is to persist. I know it’s like the author’s rallying cry, but it’s the biggest piece of truth I can offer: Don’t. Give. Up. As for what I’d tell myself if I knew pre The Castaways what I know now... Probably to get to the island sooner! I ended up cutting thousands of words from the beginning that, in the big scheme of things, just weren’t necessary and definitely slowed the pacing. I’d also tell myself to put my pantsing pants away and PLOT! 

      What was the hardest moment in writing your book? Why?

The hardest moment was finding a balance between the two very different sections of the book. Part of it takes place in modern day, small town Texas while the other is on a fantasy island. Eventually, (thanks to my editor) I figured out I needed to cut the beginning significantly and show more of Olive’s background throughout the book instead of up front. This worked wonderfully in regard to getting into the real action of the book as well as not bogging the reader down with erroneous details. Those editors... They know their stuff!

      Finally, how are you going to celebrate Easter (we want everyone to get to know you, not just one book – after all, you’re an author to look out for, as I know you have some very special books coming up soon!)?

My daughters aren’t little bitties anymore (they’re 10 and 12), but they still get baskets from the Easter Bunny who always leaves a sneaky scavenger hunt for them (which, incidentally, gets more and more difficult the older they get). Also, on Easter’s Eve, we’ll dye eggs per tradition
Now that we know all your secrets, I’m going to give you a tough one. Choose one of your characters (any one of them), and tell us how they’d celebrate Easter?
Bug! She’d be sure to trap a cave full of chickens and would gather piles of eggs herself. Then she’d forage for different plants and berries to use as dyes and hand paint each and every one, being sure to make a special egg for each of her fellow Lions. (She’d also be sure to stash a basket out of sight from Tilly so she and Charlie and Jude could have an extra-messy, secret egg fight!)

Thank you so much Jessika for joining us on YATopia. It’s a pleasure to see such a great debut author about to make it big on our blog, and we’re super excited to see how everyone will love THE CASTAWAYS!

Wait, hold on a minute (oh come on, you can’t get away from us that easy!). Bonus round: Give us a paragraph, one that’s not in your book, that never made it in there, but you still love!
It’s been my pleasure being here—thanks for having me! <3

Okay, this is fun! Originally, I gave a glimpse into how Olive and her BFF, Tawny met. Here’s a snippet of that elementary school meeting:

              ‘“I’m Tawny.”
”My name’s Olive.”
“Oh!” Her face lit up and I braced myself for her to flee. Instead she zipped open her lunch bag, ferociously dug through it, and pulled out a small container of black and green olives, setting the jar between us.
              “Want some? They’re my faaavorite.” She smiled, removing her pink sparkly retainer and setting it on a napkin.
              We laughed, divided up the olives, and have been sitting together since.”


Jessika Fleck is an author, unapologetic coffee drinker, and knitter — she sincerely hopes to one day discover a way to do all three at once. Until then, she continues collecting vintage typewriters and hourglasses, dreaming of an Ireland getaway, and convincing her husband they NEED more kittens. Her YA debut, THE CASTAWAYS (Entangled TEEN), releases 4/3/17. Her next YA novel, THE OFFERING (Swoon Reads/Macmillan) is due out in the fall, 2018. Jessika is represented by Victoria Marini of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.