Today's my anniversary, folks! 2 years for POINTS OF CLAIRE-IFICATION. I'm so happy you guys have supported me. And to thank you, we'll be having INSANITY!!! this week. All week long, you can stop by for daily giveaways! Be sure to check the rules at the bottom. Each day's drawing closes at 11.59 pm EST.
Also, the only way to enter for Friday's grand grab bag is by sending your list of 10 books for 100 Books Every Writer Should Read. So, get to thinking about your lists. And good luck.
Today, amazing Elana Johnson is joining us.
Hi Elana! Welcome to POINTS OF CLAIRE-IFICATION. I loved POSSESSION. (My readers may be sick of me saying this by now.) Can you tell us what sparked that novel?
I’d been writing for about four months when the idea for POSSESSION hit. I’d just finished reading my first dystopian novel (UGLIES by Scott Westerfeld), and I didn’t even know what “dystopian” was, but I knew I wanted to write a novel in the genre.
So I got busy figuring out what dystopian was, and then I started drafting POSSESSION. I wanted someone who didn’t want to be bossed around, and who was searching for what they believed in. Vi and my brainwashing society evolved from that pretty authentically.
POSSESSION is literally “Goodies” vs “Baddies”. For me the names brought back memories of playing with my brother as a kid. Lol. They turned out to be one of my favourite things about the novel, though. Using these names made the book not only about control vs freedom, but the overarching theme of what is good and what is bad, and whether anything is completely good or bad. What made you go with the simplicity of goodies and baddies?
For exactly that reason! I wanted my MC to really think about what is good and what is bad, and why. Are things good because someone else tells you they are? I wanted Vi to be able to critically look at what she’d been told and then decide for herself, without labels. And “good” and “bad” are the most simplistic labels, and often we have justifications for what we believe is good and bad, but in POSSESSION, Vi didn’t. So I wanted her to examine the things in her life from the most basic perspective.
I have to admit that I’m wearing a little thin for YA love triangles. So I was refreshed by the Vi-Zenn-Jag relationship. Vi is sure of who she wants, but she’s not sure that is where she should be. How did you go about building this intellectual (as opposed to the usual emotional and angsty) love triangle?
I’m with you. I think sometimes the love triangle detracts from the real plot. I was hoping to make the relationships between Vi and Zenn, Zenn and Jag, and Jag and Vi more plot-based instead of a romantic sub-plot, which is sometimes what we see. So maybe that’s how? (Ha! I wish I knew for sure!)
Normally, I’m not a fan of endings (writing or reading them), and they’re especially hard to do in dystopian where you have to balance out the implications of the bad in the good. But the way POSSESSION wrapped up was bone-chillingly perfect. How did you go about crafting that culmination? Did you always know where the story would end? How did you drag my soul out and leave me literally unable to enjoy another book for days?
I’m so glad to hear you say that. The end of POSSESSION came to me as I was writing it. I don’t outline or even really know where the story is going until I get there.
So as I was writing the climax, I realized where this had to go to be complete. To be authentic. To make sense for the rest of the book. And that’s the ending that I wrote—almost feverishly.
From there, I had to go back through the first 46 chapters and make sure that everything in them was leading toward this (in my mind) perfect ending I had just written. That’s where the real work was.
I’m thrilled you couldn’t enjoy another book for days! That’s a huge compliment for an author, and while I sometimes wish POSSESSION ended differently, I know it ends the exact right way.
Tell us a little about your publication journey. How did you connect with Michelle Andelman? Was POSSESSION your first attempt at novel-writing?
Ah, my publication journey is a long and winding road. POSSESSION was my third written novel, and the second one I queried. So I have one shelved novel and about 10 more that aren’t even worth opening to work on.
I connected with Michelle through a cold query and invitation to read my book. She requested it, read it quickly, and wanted to know what else I had on my hard drive.
After a few months of back and forth, revisions, and phone conversations, we signed together. She sold my book very soon after that, and I love working with her.
You’re a part of the awesome-ness of WRITEONCON – which might just be the most amazing thing to happen ot YA writers online in EVER – can you tell us a little about that?
WriteOnCon is this amazing beast that has sort of taken on a life of it’s own. It started way back in 2010, when I was doing a series of “pay it forward” events on my blog to celebrate my book deal. I’d asked my blog readers what I should do for July, and the fabulous Casey McCormick commented, saying she had an idea she wasn’t sure about.
I jumped on that, and basically forced her to tell me her idea—which was an online children’s conference. From there, we assembled a team, contacted agents and editors, and held our first conference in August 2010.
This past year, we basically did the same thing, bringing on The Reading Room, a graphic designer, a web person, and a team of forum experts. It’s amazing the stories we hear from people who’ve made a connection from WriteOnCon. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of. (Big shout out to Casey McCormick, Lisa and Laura Roecker, Shannon Messenger, Jamie Harrington, Dustin Hansen, Nikki Katz, and Carolin Seidenkranz!)
Finally, most of my readers are writers. Any advice for those of us still in the pre-query, pre-deal, pre-pub stages?
Never give up! Never surrender! (That’s from Galaxy Quest, BTW, a fabulous movie.)
No, but seriously, don’t. Work harder. Write another novel. Polish it; make it the best you can. Send it out. Write more. The only way you’re sure to fail is if you quit. But success? Success could be just around the corner.
Thanks so much Elana for joining us, and being fantastic in general!
So today, up for grabs we've got Elana's debut novel POSSESSION, as well as 2 books Elana recommends:
To win, tell me in the comments:
WOULD YOU RATHER CONTROL OR BE CONTROLLED?
Open until 11.59 pm EST on Monday
Open to followers and non-followers alike