Sunday, December 15, 2013

An Interview with New Author Riley Graham

So this month I decided to interview one of the many talented and wonderful authors I know; Riley Graham. I have known Riley for many years now and this is her debut novel Accidents & Incidents. And there might be something special at the end of the interview.


Give us the Elevator Pitch for your book.

Could we take the stairs instead? : - ) It’s a little longer than your typical elevator pitch, but here’s the book description:

Sometimes finding love means taking the scenic route …

Living with her faultfinding mother has taught Leslie not to ask for much. Just watch your step, stay on the sidelines, and take what you can get. But she wants a mom who thanks her for cleaning the kitchen instead of yelling at her for missing a spot, and a boyfriend who does more than score her a seat at the popular table—someone who actually notices her sitting there.

So when Cain, the school heartbreaker, turns his Carolina blue eyes her way, Leslie can’t help but be tempted, even if he’s her boyfriend’s best friend. Things get even more complicated when Leslie strikes up unlikely friendships with Meredith, Cain’s girlfriend, and Dennis, a boy addicted to cigarettes and solitude. Despite his tough exterior, Dennis seems to understand Leslie in a way that no one ever has, and to need her as much as she needs him.

For the first time in her life, Leslie feels like she could belong. She’s just not sure where.

What inspired you to write this book?

I was working on my library degree when I took a course in young adult literature and remembered how much I love it. There’s something about that time of life—everything is so emotionally charged. I wanted to try and capture that on the page.

A lot of the inspiration from this particular book came from my own life. For instance, I ended up falling for a guy I was close friends with in high school, though for the longest time, I thought I wanted his best friend. There’s a little bit of that dynamic in the book, with Leslie being drawn to the high school “it” boy as well as the boy who listens to her problems and shares his with her.

What is one thing you want the reader to walk away with after reading your book?

What I want most is for the characters I created to be as real and complex for the reader as they are for me. If I succeeded there, the reader should walk away with the understanding that even people who might seem cruel or unfeeling often have their own problems that determine the way they interact with others. And even people who seem to have it all can have their hearts broken and their worlds shattered.

How did you write your book? Did you outline then write or just jump in and begin writing?

I’m definitely a planner. When I started this book, I wrote out some basic character outlines and then started a Word document where I just brainstormed my ideas, from character backgrounds to plot scenarios to themes that I wanted to carry throughout the book. A lot of the details changed as the story unfolded, but the core of the story didn’t. I also kept the motifs I started with—holidays and car accidents for instance—as well as the theme of difficult family relationships.

What do you do when you aren't writing?

Read. Though I have to be careful because I can easily go on reading binges that keep me from getting my own writing done! When I first became a librarian, for instance, I went through a period of reading almost a book a day. I’m also a real Netflix junkie and love to discover new series. I think writers can learn a lot from watching well-written TV shows. Plus, it’s fun : )

Why did you choose to write and become an author?

I didn’t have cable TV growing up, and there was no Internet. So I kind of learned to create my own entertainment, which involved lots of reading as well as making up stories I’d act out with friends, though I didn’t start writing things down until later. I also used to go to bed every night running different scenarios in my head—of course, a lot of them involved me being courted by my favorite actor at the time, but you get the idea.

The first time I seriously thought about becoming a writer was when someone in school pointed out that I was good at it. And something clicked—I knew that was what I wanted to do. It took me a while to discover that I wanted to write fiction though, so most of my early writing involved journals filled with poetry that nobody but me could understand. I still write poetry sometimes, but fiction is my true love.

What do you like to read when not writing?

Lately, message boards, blogs, and books about writing and publishing! But as far as fiction goes, young adult contemporary is my favorite. Sara Zarr, E. Lockhart, and Sarah Dessen are some of my favorite writers there. I also really enjoy new adult, especially work by Jessica Park and Tammara Webber, who showed me that there was real talent in the self-publishing world. Right now I’m reading Openly Straight, a YA contemporary by Bill Konigsberg, and No One’s Angel by Kelly Walker, a talented fantasy and new adult author as well as my cover designer.

How do you deal with writers block?

Different ways. Sometimes I force myself to sit in front of the computer and reread what I’ve written until I can get a few words out, even if I’m not thrilled with them. Sometimes I take a break from the actual writing and just work through things in my head. I’ve often gotten myself unstuck while driving, grocery shopping, or drifting off to sleep, for instance. Sometimes I work on another writing project, and other times I skip the scene that’s giving me trouble and work on a different part of the story.

Where can people find you on the Net?

And Accidents & Incidents is available from these online retailers:

What is one question you have never been asked but have always wanted to answer?

The question: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

My answer: Try not to compare yourself to others. I still struggle with this. Even when visiting discussion boards about writing that are generally helpful, I can work myself into a real funk if I start comparing my own productivity and sales with others. So instead, I’m trying to learn from their success while at the same time realizing that what works for them may not work for me. We all have to find our own way.

Here is a Little Bit More About the Author and Your Chance to Win a Copy of Accidents & Incidents: 

Riley Graham is a high school librarian and writer who lives in North Carolina with her husband, two dogs, two cats, and an embarrassing number of dust bunnies. She’s currently at work on her second novel, another young adult contemporary.

To celebrate the release of her debut novel, Accidents & Incidents, Riley is giving away two signed paperbacks and ten signed bookmarks.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



  1. My favorite holiday (not really a holiday though) is Halloween because Candy Corn! But I love how much people get into it, great themed contests and Candy Corn!

    Sounds like a great book!

  2. This book sounds really lovely. I can't wait to get my hands on it!

  3. My favorite holiday is Christmas. I love being with family, creating traditions, and relishing in the way that people suddenly feel the need to give to others.
    I adore contemporary YA, with real conflicts and situations. I am very much looking forward to reading this book!
    I also appreciate the advice to writers. I'm always comparing myself to others, wondering why this and why that. I have to remind myself that my book is unique and so is the reader enjoying it:)

  4. Thanks GSMarlene, CaraDurnin, and Stephanie--I appreciate the kind comments. Stephanie, I like your thoughts on the advice, especially the part about each reader being unique. Good thing to remind ourselves of when we start doubting--it's all about finding the individual readers who will enjoy our stories.

  5. Winners have been chosen & will soon be notified personally! Please note that since fewer than twelve people entered, the first two winners displayed will win a signed paperback, and the rest will receive signed bookmarks. That means everyone's a winner! Thanks to all who entered, and remember to sign up for my mailing list ( for updates on my writing and future releases.