Monday, July 25, 2016

Guestopia - Aften Brook Szymanski

It's Guestopia time, and this month we are thrilled to welcome YA debut author Aften Brook Szymanski to YAtopia! 

In case you're wondering about her Aften - OF COURSE YOU ARE! - here are a few details to get you started! 

Aften Brook Szymanski, at the age of five, once fell on her bum looking out a large picture window while eating a pickle and people laughed. She thought she was funny, life has never been the same. She’s obsessed with LEGOs, cozy reading nooks, and over-the- knee socks. A graduate of the College of Southern Idaho with an Associate of Arts degree, Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Science degree, and the University of Utah with a Master of Education degree. Learning is more fun than testing, sometimes we have to endure both.

She lives in a very cold Wyoming valley with her husband, three kids, and one unhappy cat, where they are being cryogenically preserved for all time—thanks to how cold it is.

And now for the interview! Take it away, Aften! 

Is this your first published book?

Yes—through a publisher. Though I have self-published children’s books, mostly for my own kids and family. That is what got me started and taught me that “hey, maybe I can do this writing thing I’ve always loved.” Not everyone considers self-published works to be the same as published.

What’s it called?

Killer Potential

Which genre?

Psychological Thriller

Which age group?

YA or teen

Is it a series or standalone?

It’s written as a standalone novel.

Are you an agented author?

I am not agented. I’d love to have an agent. I’m currently querying a different novel in hopes of finding agent representation.

Which publisher snapped up your book?

BookFishBooks offered me a contract. I had three offers for this piece at the time, and it was difficult to decide where to take the story. I loved the covers that BookFishBooks puts out and they’re contract was very fair. I’ve also loved working with their editors and staff. They’re fantastic.

How involved have you been in the whole publishing process of your book?

I’ve revised a number of areas that just weren’t sharp enough, as well as gone through several rounds of edits. The marketing team lets me know what they’re working on and asks for my feedback, but overall they get the final say. They make good work, so I trust them. I was also able to approve the cover design, which I’m sure stressed the team out a ton. I panicked once of seven times.

Do you have another job?

My favorite job is being a mom. I also work as a teacher for the visually impaired, where I get to do cool stuff like work with braille (only part time). I like to work and have taken jobs from filling in at the local Post Office on Saturday’s for our Post Master to weeding onion fields and picking peas. I’ve worked in a fabric store, burger joint, teen correction facility, psych unit, research aide for a molecular biologist, teaching grade school (this is what my undergrad degree is in), filing HMO’s… I enjoy work where I feel like I’m helping. (I also started working when I was 13 and worked while I was going to college and grad school, which gave me a lot of different work opportunities).

Did you receive many, if any, rejections prior?

Heck yes! There were some weeks when I averaged a rejection a day.

What created/what were you doing or watching when the first idea for this book sneaked up on you?

Probably staring at the blinking cursor of mockery.

How long did you plot/plan until you started writing it?

I’m a bare bones plotter. I create a basic outline and beef it up from there.

Once you started, did the story flow naturally or did you have to step in and wrestle it into submission?

This story flowed. Revisions… That was a wrestle, but well worth it.

How many drafts did you write before you let someone read it? Who was that someone?

Two. I probably should have waited for three. I think Tifani Clark was my first beta reader. We often read each other’s works. She’s an amazing writer.

Did you employ an editor/proofreader or did you have a critique partner/beta readers before you started querying?

I circulated through two rounds of beta readers and critique partners. In each round I had between three and five people read and made revisions first on things that were common concerns, and then went into greater detail with each person’s notes from there. I have great beta readers/critique partners.

Roughly how many drafts did it take before you sent the manuscript off into the real world?

Probably twenty-three. By the time I sent to BookFish It had been revised twenty-seven times (at least, maybe more).

How many drafts until it was published?

If I count the edit rounds with BookFish, I’d say thirty some-odd drafts.

Has the book changed dramatically since the first draft?

So much. Completely. All for the better.

Are there any parts you’d like to change even now?

Sometimes I’d like to make it a happier story, but it just doesn’t fit.

What part of writing do you find the easiest?

The part before revision, but the most rewarding part is definitely the revision phases.

What part do you find hardest?

Due to my natural lack of organization, revisions can be a struggle. But, I’ve managed to employ some helps that make it easier for me to tackle everything thanks to amazing writing friends.

Do you push through writing barriers or walk away?

Both. It depends what’s going on in my day as to whether I can push through or need to just walk away. I’ve found that I generally make better choices to address the barrier if I go with my instinct regarding the hang-up. By that I mean, if I feel the need to walk away, I often discover the problem/solution engaging in other activities. Or if I feel I can push it, the scene often materializes.

How many projects do you have on the go at the same time?

I try to work on one project at a time, but might also be doing revisions while working on a new WIP.

Do you think you’re born with the talent to write or do you think it can be learned?

I’m a firm believer in dedication over talent. I am not naturally talented in writing. I am dedicated and in love with writing. Determination to learn skills in areas I fall short has helped me continue to progress. I love that.

How many future novels do you have planned?

Way too many. I have an abundance of ideas and not enough time to write them all. I have a folder with story ideas that continues to fill all the time.

Do you write other things, such as short stories, articles, blogs, etc?

I write all the things (minus articles). I love venturing into different styles. Though I admit I am not skilled in every genre of writing. If I worked at each genre I’m sure I’d improve in those areas, but I might not ever be awesome at them all.

What’s the highlight of being published so far?

When someone relates to something in the story. That’s my favorite thing in the world.

Give me one writing tip that work for you.

“Whether or not you write well, Write Bravely.” –Bill Stout

And one that doesn't.

“Write every day.”

Can you give us a clue or secret about the next book?

Trust your instincts or accept the consequences.

What question have you always wanted to be asked but never have? What would the answer be?

Q: “Are those salon made silver streaks in your hair? It looks amazing.”

A: “Nope. That’s all my own self-grown wirey-gray strands or life experience and awesomeness. Gray Pride.”

Best question and answer ever! 

Well, thank you, Aften, for taking the time to pop by. We wish you all the best with Killer Potential and implore lovers of dark YA fiction to get out there and buy this book! Here's the blurb and some essential links! 


Seventeen-year- old Yvette Gibbs was just admitted to the hospital psych unit in handcuffs as the main suspect in a murder case, which she refuses to talk about. 

Drugs and depression claim her family—leaving Yvette to fight her own demons alone. Adopting the skill of master of passive-aggressive vengeance lands Yvette in the psych unit with no family support, unless she cooperates with her therapist to clear her name, also a convicted murderer.

Yvette wants revenge on the world that taught her to be afraid, claimed her mother to depression, hid her father in a fog of job hopping, turned her brother to dealing drugs, and swallowed her sister whole, but to achieve this she must lie, manipulate, and most of all survive. Pitting her dead sister’s shady friend whom she fears against the man who reminded her she’s not immune to victimization, is her perfect solution to all life's hassles, even if that means she ends up with blood on her hands. Until everything backfires.

Follow Aften




Author page on FB

Where to Find Killer Potential


Buy Link

And here's a cheeky giveaway! 

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