A DISCUSSION ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS
I'm here today to talk a bit with Kirpa Singh, the author of the spectacular YA novel, REALITY CHECK. I had the honor of reading and reviewing this book and talking a bit with the author (who is a total sweetheart btw) Check out my interview and add REALITY CHECK to your tbr STAT
Me: When did you decide your idea was going to become a book?
Kirpa- Reality Check originally started off as an anthology of short stories called Acid Reflux (an absolutely horrendous name, I know, but that's what I called it) for a senior writing project. As I began writing Priya's story however, it couldn't be contained in a 20 page story and I found myself just continuously writing and adding to the plot. The school year ended in 2018 and I didn't have a finished work but I still wanted to write and after graduating and moving to San Francisco for a job, I abandoned the original idea for Acid Reflux and instead became determined to create Reality Check and publish it. That was around late 2018
Me: What was the hardest part of writing Reality Check?
Kirpa: The hardest part of writing Reality Check was writing characters. I SUCK at writing characters, main or side, and have always wanted to write in a way where my characters are super ambiguous and just infused with the reader's identities and traits.The last thing I want to do is misrepresent a community or do a community wrong because I didn’t do enough research or talk to enough friends from that community etc... about their experiences. So I made these characters pretty flat, and I acknowledge that I can do better, and I’m also sorry to anyone who felt that lack in characterization and character depth in a character. In the end I just went with what I knew personally, and I know my characters aren't super diverse, but I'm making a commitment to work on that and get better at writing TRULY diverse characters.
Me: What do you want readers to learn about mental illnesses?
Kirpa: There's so much I'd love for them to know, but I think one truth I want people to learn is mental illnesses are a melting pot of experiences, even and especially for those with the same diagnosis. Our symptoms might be categorized the same, (i.e. visual hallucinations or hypomania or compulsions) but the way we experience our symptoms is vastly different from person to person.
Me: Did you experience writer's block and how did you get past it?
Kirpa: I think I did experience writer's block a couple times, but what got me through it was just experiencing life and writing other stories while I waited for inspiration to come back. Oftentimes, when I'm just living life, working, talking to people, I'll be struck by inspiration and that inspiration will last a week or so where I'll write around 10-15k words. I may not keep all of those words or ideas, but it gets me back into the grind and I am able to push through the fog and continue the story.
Me: What is your writing process like?
Kirpa: Honestly my writing is usually, if not always, inspired by a memory, or real life experience, and usually it's challenged by a question: 'what if that experience had ended differently?' My friend had a great analogy for my writing and said I basically write fanfiction for my life and I've never heard anything so true. So the plot stems from the What If moment, and then I write that "what if" moment the way I wish it had unfolded or how I think would be an interesting unfolding, and that becomes a major part of the book. From there I construct a major plot line and the major plot points I need to hit and then just work on the fluff or filler plot lines that get me to those scenes. My method is very disjointed but once I have everything majorly outlined in the form of random scenes and dialogue and whatever else, I begin to piece it together and form a coherent story.
Me: You wrote an amazing story, what's next for you?
Kirpa: Thank you for the compliment! What's next is Graduate school first, and then more books! I have a few stories in the works that are just begging to be told, but I don't know how much time I will have once I go back to school so we'll see when I can churn them out. Hopefully they're even better than Reality Check!
Me: What parts of this book did you edit out?
Kirpa: There is actually a lot that got edited out. The original manuscript had too many underdeveloped characters, so I had to edit out a bunch of them including one very sentimental character who meant a lot to me. Because I had to take out that character, I had to remove some extra insights into Priya's delusional world because they were tied to each other. I hope I didn't take away too much by omitting those scenes and that character, but I truly think it's for the best that my editor made me take them out. Other than that, I took out the VERY beginning of Priya's descent into her illness. So, without giving away any spoilers, I basically took out a lot of her memories of her VERY first encounters with hallucinations and I had to take out the details of her delusional world she begins to form because, where the book starts in its current state, you're thrown straight in the middle of her already formed hallucinated, delusional world.
Me: What do you love most about writing?
Kirpa: There're so many things I love about writing it's hard to choose one thing, but since you're twisting my arm haha I'll choose the emotions it evokes from me. From relief, to excitement to even sadness and pain, it allows me to feel alive. Even though I'm the one writing and the stories are coming from me, it's almost like the more I write, the more the stories just evolve on their own and I'm just a vessel to get it out with the added perk of enjoying it through the process. I get to live different lives, or explore my current one in a way that would never happen in real life, and it's just so freeing.
Reality Check is out now wherever book are sold. For my full review, visit my blog post and make sure you leave a review for Kirpa and her amazing story. Find her on Instagram @writtenbykirpasingh
I'm a social worker by day, an author by night, and a traveler at heart.
Debut novel is Reality Check
LIVING IN THE "NOW"
For fans of Jenny Han and Christine Riccio comes a romantic dramedy about a teen girl who stumbles upon a mysterious website that tells her everything she doesn't want to know about her future.
What would you do if you could look into your future?
Hi, everyone! I'm here with Sara Bennett Wheeler, and we're talking about her latest book, NOW & WHEN! I loved the concept of this book: girl discovers a way to look into her future and attempts to change it with every step she takes. It's chock-full of romance with an enemies to lovers aspect.
ME: How did you come up with the premise of NOW & WHEN?
SARA: I was thinking about how social media lets us connect with people we haven't seen in years--how it gives us a glimpse into their worlds, and how often those worlds are surprisingly unlike what you might have expected based on the person you knew back in grade school or high school. While we get a lot of chances to look back in life, I wondered what would happen if someone could see forward, and what would she do if she saw herself romantically together with someone she thought she hated?
ME: How long did it take you to write the first draft?
SARA: I'm slow to finish books in general, so that's tough to answer. This one took me at least a year, and it went slower at times because I was dealing with the deaths of my parents. Overall, though, having this book to work on helped me keep my equilibrium during that tough time. And then after it sold, I had to almost completely rewrite it because it was so sad. I didn't mean to write a sad book, but when your life is sad I guess that seeps in. I loved being able to reframe everything with a brighter outlook. It helped me heal, too.
ME: How do you think you’d react if you found a social network to the future? Would you ignore it, or become obsessed and try to change it like Skyler?
SARA: I can't help getting obsessed with things like that, especially if it's something that changes regularly and creates a lot of temptation to keep checking it. I don't know how much I'd try to change it, because I think I'd also be scared to mess things up. But I would be obsessed. And it would probably be unhealthy. I'm glad in real life that I only have to think about today!
ME: How many manuscripts did it take you to land your agent?
SARA: Three-ish? I wrote one book that was absolutely terrible. It was my practice/learning book. Then I landed an agent with RIVAL, my first book to actually get published, however I did NOT get it published with that agent. We parted ways and I ended up signing with Holly Root on a different manuscript. That one ALMOST sold, but didn't, so we went back out with RIVAL and it sold, and it's been sort of a carousel like that throughout my career. Through it all, Holly's been great. It's so important to have an agent who is patient and believes in your work.
ME: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
SARA: Graph paper is a physical need for me when I'm brainstorming - whether that's overall plot or a tough scene. I have to use graph paper and a mechanical pencil to write out my ideas because it lets me be non-linear, connect things, etc. I will write sideways, up and down, in chunks, etc. with tons of arrows etc.. Lined paper and pens will NOT work. If I don't have my graph paper, I feel like a part of my brain is missing.
ME: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
SARA: It gave me a huge appreciation for good editors, as well as the freedom to really rip things apart and go in different directions if something isn't working. It helped me think more about my audience and how to keep them engaged. And it made me more realistic about the business of publishing, which often isn't a ton of fun, but the sooner you learn how things work, the better you can deal with the disappointments and other pitfalls of being an author.
ME: What do you find is the most difficult part of writing?
SARA: The first draft can be a big drag to get through - especially when you go back and realize how much work it needs to get to the next level. I'm one of those writers who enjoys having written. Revision is always easier because I've got something to work with. Creating out of thin air can be exciting, but that usually doesn't sustain for 75,000 words. I set daily word count goals to help me power through.
ME: I am so excited for your next book!! Can you tell us a bit about it?
SARA: My next book is about a girl who's grown up in a funeral home. It's her family's business, so part of the story deals with her deciding if she wants to carry that on. But there's also a romance, ghost hunting, and shenanigans with a horse-drawn Victorian hearse. I'm waiting to find out when it will be released, but it might be one of my favorite things I've written.
I grew up in Manhattan, Kansas ("The Little Apple"), where I sang with the show choir and wrote for my high school newspaper. I majored in voice at the University of Kansas before deciding I had no business trying to make a living as an opera singing. I now make my living as an author, producer and copywriter. I'm represented by Holly Root at Root Literary.
Find her on Instagram
SOARING ON PURPLE WINGS WITH OLIVIA WILDENSTEIN
Hey, guys! Welcome to my latest author spotlight. I first became acquainted with Olivia some two years ago or so with the first book in her Boulder Wolves series, Pack of Blood and Lies. From there, I was hooked. Fast forward and now I am a lifelong fan and addict of all of her work. It was my pleasure to read an advance copy of the sequel to FEATHER.
If you guys haven't checked out Feather yet, what are you waiting for? A Romeo and Juliet retelling but with angels, you say? As i write this, it's free on kindle unlimited so, you're welcome!
Now for the interview!
Me: Ok, first off, how do I get some of your awesomeness for myself? J.k, real question is, where did you come up with the idea for Feather?
Olivia: This story was born from its cover, which I purchased as a premade (meaning it was already designed, but without the title). The white wing on the front led me to pick angels, and the golden, stone accents led me to set it in the City of Lights aka Paris. As for the reason it’s a Romeo and Juliet mafia retelling, I mixed two of my addictions: forbidden love and mobsters.
Me: What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Olivia: Having to take breaks because of real life. Writing and reading are suprisingly similar. As a reader, once you sink into a story, you need to see where it goes and how it ends. As a writer, there comes a point in your manuscript where you cannot write fast enough because the story is telling itself. And sometimes, even though you’ve plotted many things, you’re surprised by a twist you, yourself, didn’t expect.
Me: Celestial is the sequel to Feather. What challenges did you face with this book that you didn’t with Feather?
Olivia: I find sequels both difficult and exhilarating to write. Mostly because everything’s already set in stone, so you can’t spin your characters and story every which way. Celestial was particularly difficult because it had to showcase not only Celeste’s missions but Asher’s battle. There was just so much to incorporate inside a single book. Feather was simpler, in a way, since it loosely followed a popular plot: that of Romeo and Juliet.
Me: Asher grew on me; I kind of hated him in Feather. That being said, who is your book boyfriend out of the books you have written?
Can’t I pick them all? LOL. If I HAD to choose, Liam Kolane from my Boulder Wolves series would be the man for me—flawed, scarred, possessive, generous. A close second, would be Jarod from FEATHER. I apparently like men who broke during their childhood and put themselves back together imperfectly.
Me: What did you edit out of Celestial? Anything steamy ;)
Olivia: Ha. Nope. All the steamy bits are in there. What I did edit was the Epilogue. The first one was from Asher’s POV. I ended up giving it back to Celeste, and then tacking Adam’s Epilogue to the very end.
Me: What was the hardest scene to write?
There were two: the first kiss and the trial. The scene when love interests finally come together remains my favorite and most dreaded one to write, because from that point forward, we authors need to keep the romantic tension strong. When the first kiss comes too soon in a book, you risk losing your reader’s interest, and when it comes too late in the story, you risk frustrating your reader. I am a SLOW-BURN addict, but since Celestial wasn’t just about the romance (none of my books truly ever are), the ending wasn’t BOY GETS GIRL. The ending was … well, the trial. The second hardest and most riveting scene to write. This was the pinnacle, and not just of Asher and Celeste’s story but also of Leigh and Jarod’s. It was the moment of hard truths and harder decisions. Where all could be loss or all could be won.
Me: How many unpublished or unfinished works do you have?
I have 3 unpublished books which I wrote a decade ago. They’re all finished, but they’d have to be entirely rewritten, so they will forever remain on a file inside my computer.
Me: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?
Olivia: When the world economy crashed back in 2008, and I was pregnant with my first child, I decided I wanted to work from home and have a job that wasn’t dependent on the market, so I set away my jewelry making tools and took up my laptop, and then I read and read, wrote and wrote, until 2015 when I finally pressed the magical PUBLISH button.
Me: What’s next for you?
A PACK OF STORMS AND STARS (the first spinoff in my Boulder Wolves series…I get to hang out with my bae Liam again ♥︎), a witchy co-written duology that begins with OF WICKED BLOOD (out 02/02/2021), STARLIGHT (out late 2021). And then…a couple paranormal and fantasy new adult retellings. All of them stand-alones. Then again, that’s what I said about Feather...
USA TODAY bestselling author Olivia Wildenstein grew up in New York City and earned her bachelor's in comparative literature from Brown University. After designing jewelry for a few years, Wildenstein traded in her tools for the writing life, which made more sense considering her college degree.
When she's not sitting at her computer, she's psychoanalyzing everyone she meets (Yes. Everyone), eavesdropping on conversations to gather material for her next book, and attempting not to forget one of her kids in school.
She has a slight obsession with romance, which might be the reason why she writes it. She's a hybrid author of over a dozen mature Young Adult love stories.
MY INTERVIEW WITH CASEY L. BOND
Forged in Fury
I had the immense pleasure of reading WITH SHIELD AND INK AND BONE, and I fell so in love with this book. It has everything I wanted from a YA: love, loss, revenge, and family. I'd been eyeballing it for so long due to Casey's Instagram, (follow her if you don't already. Links below), and knew from page one this was going to be a five star read.
Without further ado, my interview with the author of WITH SHIELD AND INK AND BONE, available now wherever books are sold. If you have kindle Unlimited, it's free FYI, but I recommend buying the book for yourself, for others, or add it to your Christmas list for Santa. The cover is TO DIE FOR.
ME: What was your main inspiration for With Shield and Ink and Bone?
CASEY: All of my books start with me imagining one scene I can’t get out of my head and for With
Shield, it was of a girl standing on a shore, hair whipping in the wind, a storm on the water she
faced, lightning forking all around her. She wore bony armor, held a staff made of bone, and a
dark rune on her head. I half expected her to walk fearlessly out onto the water right then, but
when I saw her, I had to know who she was and why she wore the mark and bones. I needed to
know why her staff was made of vertebrae. So, literally, I saw a vision of Liv and worked
backward and around her to reveal her story.
ME: What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
CASEY: I’m a complete pantser. I can’t plot. I’ve tried. I’ve read book after book about plotting. At the
end of the day, I’m a discovery writer and I have to embrace that and all the rewriting that often
comes with it.
***I'm a pantser, as well. I tried plotting for this year's NaNoWriMo, and twenty pages in I began to wing it again. I think plotting is good for me, to an extent. A lot of what I write comes as I write, so it's good to know I'm not alone!
ME: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
CASEY: First drafts are usually a few months. It takes a couple more with editing rounds and rewrites to
completely finish it.
ME: There was a lot of heartbreaking scenes in WSAIAB, how did you manage writing them without
sobbing into your laptop?
CASEY: I didn’t. I sobbed. I had to shut my computer and walk away and literally go walking just to calm
down. Liv’s story broke me and I’m glad you could feel it through her story, because I could feel
her pain, too.
ME: Liv is one of the strongest protagonists in YA IMO. How did you plot her character arc, and
what challenges did you face with it?
CASEY: Liv is exceptionally strong. At the same time, she’s human and craves what we all do. This is the
story of a girl born to warriors who expected her to be one, even as a child. This is the story of a
girl who should have died and crumbled and given up, but refused to. This is the story of a
warrior who refused to back down, but instead made a deal with a fearsome entity to avenge
what was taken from her. A girl who had nothing left but that to live for until she met a few
others along the way, who offered her security, family, and ultimately, love.
There is a lot of Northman legends and lore in this book. What references did you use and what
was the research like? When I began the process, I reached out to the amazing S.T. Bende, as she
writes several series that are Norse-inspired. She pointed me in the direction of the Prose Edda,
actual written histories that survive. In addition to that, I read several books on Norse culture and
mythology. So, with this book, I tried to mention several of the things I learned and read about,
but took some liberties with twisting some of those tales into something that fit the story. Fenris
Wolf is a key example of that. Instead of being an entity, he’s human.
ME: WSAIAB is the first book I’ve read by you (and not the last), what has been your favorite book
to write to date and why?
CASEY: With Shield and Ink and Bone and When Wishes Bleed were both sooooo fun to write because I
literally felt like I was in the main character’s skin.
ME: Last but not least, what’s next for you? Can you give us any hints? (More vikings?
CASEY: I can give you a little information! Next year you can expect a new world of witches with a
magic system that is incredibly fun and intricate, an epic fantasy, and yes, more Vikings!
ME: *squeals* These all sound amazing. I cannot wait to read them. For all of Casey's work, check out the links below, and happy reading!!!
MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR STEPHAN LEE
A peek into the world of the K-Pop Confidential
If I could give this book six stars, I'd do it. How about 7? You know what? I'm just going to fling out a thousand happy stars to this gem of a book that got me and my five-year-old son hooked on BlackPink.
I first came across this book on Instagram (where I see books and buy them because I'm a trash human being with no self-control) and promptly ordered it. I knew from the K-pop vibes it was giving off as I opened the Amazon box that I would have to drop all planned reads for this one. The pull was so strong. My hands shook. My body shivered with the expectation. The world tilted on its axis. I was ready.
This book follows Candace, a simple Korean-American from Jersey who enters a K-pop talent call and much to her surprise, is chosen to attend a training camp in Seoul, South Korea. She enters the competitive and grueling world of K-pop Bootcamp where the food is scarce, the boys are walled, and the girls are fierce. She quickly learns how much she wants to debut, and what she's willing to sacrifice to get there.
So, I don't know much K-pop other than BTS because I see those dolls at Barnes and Noble whenever I go buy books to quell my depression. I quickly began looking up the songs and groups referenced and now I am a BlackPink superfan and even began to Etsy some fan stickers and I am not ashamed. I am a 38-year-old American and I AM NOT ASHAMED.
Anyhow, this book was super fun. We get a glimpse into the world of K-pop and what fans and trainees really do go through. It's eye-opening and inspirational and heartbreaking all in one. I really do wish Mr. Lee continues the story, with an ending like that! But I would be satisfied even if he didn't. I loved this book so much. I hope you all enjoy it too!
So, get this, you guys: I took a giant leap and contacted Mr. Lee for an interview, and he responded so graciously. I had the best time reading K-Pop Confidential, and I was seriously fangirling when he agreed to my newbie blog! Make sure to check out his debut book, and follow him on Instagram for all the updates! Enjoy!
ME: Can you tell us what your main inspirations were for the book?
STEPHAN: My main book inspirations for K-POP CONFIDENTIAL are ones you might not expect at first. First of all, I always thought a YA novel about the K-pop world would have some similarities to The Hunger Games ... the intense training, the authoritarian rules these kids have to follow, and the sense of being watched by the entire world. But the main difference would be that K-pop isn’t dystopian, it’s real life! But I think both books share some themes … they both depict a generational battle (in K-POP CONFIDENTIAL, it’s the execs at the K-pop company vs. the young artists and trainees) and a metaphorical battle to the death, since for some of the trainees, debuting in a girl group means everything for their future.
I was also inspired by The Wizard of Oz or any novel or film that feels like a “hero’s journey” … Candace is on a deeply personal quest to discover her own voice and decide her own future, and the “Assessments” she has to face as a K-pop trainee are almost like the enemies she must slay on the way.
And lastly, the work of Becky Albertalli, who’s one of my idols … I just love the heart and sense of humor Becky brings to her MCs, and I wanted Candace’s narration to be able to balance both the heartfelt and funny moments. I have to say, I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I found out Becky agreed to give the cover blurb for K-POP CONFIDENTIAL. It was one of the best moments of my entire book debut! A total dream come true.
ME: You explored some controversial topics in the book, including eating disorders, and body dysmorphia. Do you believe the K-Pop culture is leaning in the right direction with changing their strict rules, and what do you think of it now and then? (loaded question, I know. I had to throw in a challenge ;) )
STEPHAN: I absolutely think it’s changing, and that’s thanks to the artists speaking up and also fans around the world making it clear to the companies that they care about the artists’ wellbeing and don’t want them to be these perfect illusions. Of course, change is slow, but it’s definitely moving in a better direction, especially as K-pop fans have become such a powerful force for good on so many issues. There have been so many positive conversations recently about mental health, body image, and more inclusion in the industry. We need to keep these conversations going and put them into action.
One thing I wanted to make clear in K-POP CONFIDENTIAL: K-pop is not the only entertainment industry with big problems. Any environment in which adults are imposing overly strict rules and creating unrealistic standards for young people need to change. Just look at elite competitive sports and college admissions … those areas all need sweeping reform, and since older generations aren’t fixing the problems, it’s unfortunately up to young people to speak up and rewrite the rules. I wanted K-POP CONFIDENTIAL to be relatable to any young person, anywhere around the world, who has to face these impossible odds on the way to achieving their dreams. Young people's dreams and talents are not an unlimited resource for adults to use for profit.
Also, I don't want K-POP CONFIDENTIAL to read like an exposé about the industry. Ultimately, it's a love letter to K-pop and the incredible Korean spirit. Ultimately, it's a resilient, innovative, and FUN world that brings joy and hope to millions of people.
ME: Let’s lighten the mood. What do you drink and munch on while writing?
STEPHAN: Tons of water, coffee, and matcha boba! I love gummy candies and Pepero. I also ate a lot of Candace’s favorite foods, such as Korean fried chicken and jjajangmyeon (black bean noodles). One of Candace’s favorite foods is jokbal (pig trotters), but I’m actually not a big fan in real life!
Me: I have to step in here and wave my hands around like a mad woman because I love ALL OF THAT. I get the best jjajangmyeon from my local Korean restaurant here in WA. I have not tried pig trotters yet, but I'm willing to try anything once.
ME: You stated that you wrote this book in three months in your acknowledgments. What advice do you have for writers and learning to focus and make time for their writing?
STEPHAN: It’s funny — before I started writing K-POP CONFIDENTIAL, I’d been working on an adult novel for ten years, starting from when I was still in school. I thought I was a “slow writer,” but it turns out if you have a tight deadline, you can turn yourself into a fast writer!
I’m going to give some counterintuitive advice: Don’t give yourself too much time to write, especially when you’re first starting out. Giving yourself an entire eight-hour block on a Sunday isn’t always that helpful—you might just spend that time forcing yourself to write uninspired stuff or beating yourself up for not being more productive. Let yourself write whenever you have a tiny pocket of time, and don’t edit too much until you have a full draft. I wrote K-POP CONFIDENTIAL while holding down a full-time job, and most of the first draft got done in the five-minute spaces between meetings or half-hour sprints at the coffee shop right next to my office. Once you get into the rhythm of the book or you have a draft finished, THEN give yourself those eight-hour blocks on the weekends. By that point, writing the book gets way easier and more pleasurable, I promise!
Lastly, this sounds really silly, but I think it’s important to make yourself feel as happy, healthy, and cared-for as possible as you write, which isn’t always possible, but it’s necessary to try. Eat good food, get some exercise, get time on the calendar with your friends, and if you need it, get therapy and whatever else you need to support your mental health! It's a myth that authors need to be tortured to write.
ME: I agree with all of that. Having the kiddo home since April, I don't have much time to write. I fit in tiny blocks here and there when I can. I'm currently doing NaNoWriMo, and I am way behind! But the story is good, and I'm taking my time with it even if I get to 50k by the end of the month or not. Don't stress out, writers. You got this!
ME: To expand on that topic, how long did it take you to write the first draft?
STEPHAN: Well, I had three months to write the draft, but I honestly really started writing in that last month. The first two months were me freaking out or writing random scenes trying to figure out how to write a YA novel about K-pop. But I have to say, in retrospect, I realize that I was actually being productive in those first two months! I was doing a lot of thinking, reading, and pacing around my apartment. It’s amazing—once you're emotionally committed to a project, everything you hear and experience suddenly becomes inspiration, even though nothing in my real life resembles what happens in K-POP CONFIDENTIAL! So all three of those months were productive, even though I only looked productive in that last month. :)
ME: Do you have any plans for a sophomore release? If it’s super secret, I totally get it. Maybe a little hint? :D
STEPHAN: The second book, tentatively titled K-POP REVOLUTION, follows the girl group formed in K-POP CONFIDENTIAL during their Rookie year. If the first book is about gaining the courage to speak out for what’s right, K-POP REVOLUTION is about putting those words into action, even if it might cost you everything.
ME: Last but not least, who is your favorite K-Pop group?
STEPHAN: OMG, I can’t just say one, but I’ll limit it to girl groups and I'll name my bias in each one! BLACKPINK (Rosé), TWICE (Dahyun), Red Velvet (Seulgi), Mamamoo (Hwasa), (G)I-DLE (Soyeon), ITZY (Lia), Dreamcatcher (Gahyeon), Everglow (Yiren), 2NE1 (Park Bom), Girls' Generation (Tiffany Young). Soloists: Ailee and IU! There are so, so many more I stan!
ABOUT STEPHAN LEE
Stephan is a YA lover, ardent K-pop fan, and journalist. He currently works as Senior Editor at Bustle after a five-year stretch covering books and movies at Entertainment Weekly. At EW, he traveled to Seoul for three weeks to write a feature about Korean entertainment’s world domination, interviewing K-pop idols and Korean filmmakers. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing at The New School.
MY FIRST OFFICIAL AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT
I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of this book, and it blew me away. If you haven't read my review, head on over to the blog and check it out!
I got a chance to ask Marlena a bit about her process and what is next for her career. She's an auto-buy author for me and a wonderful human being so, I hope you all get to experience her amazing stories as I have. Also, check out the link below to buy The Seeking and learn more about the author!
What inspired The Seeking?
The inspiration for this book came from a vivid nightmare. There was a celebration going on, but something was wrong. Creatures were watching from the woods and I could tell that something terrible was about to happen. There’s a scene in The Seeking that was directly inspired from that nightmare, and the dream continued all the way through the climax of that scene.
After I woke up, I immediately wrote down the details in my journal. I was curious to know more about the girl who I was in the dream, the creatures in the woods, and what could have led to that moment. Slowly, as I fleshed out the characters and the world, I discovered what led to that moment and to the horrific scene as a whole.
It’s a wonderful feeling when you tap into that kind of inspiration, and it doesn’t happen often for me. When it does, it’s like my brain just clicks and I get excited to pursue it.
What was your favorite part to write?
There’s a part where Dahlia is getting chased and she has to rely on a location to hide that she used to use in childhood. I really love the atmosphere and the tension of that scene. You feel for Dahlia and really every character in that moment, and the tables quickly turn. That was a lot of fun to write and as a storyteller, I love pulling the rug out from my readers occasionally. There’s plenty of warning ahead of time, but when that moment happens, it still shocks and lingers. At least, I hope it does!
If you were in The Seeking, where would you hide?
I probably wouldn’t be as brave as Dahlia is to find a hiding place for myself. I’m just not that adventurous. I would probably have to rely on friends who would help me but also do it in secret so that nobody else would know. It would be a tough line to walk, but that would probably be my only chance!
What is your writing process like?
I start with figuring out my characters. Who are they, what personality do they have, what are their family/friends like, what do they want? Then I figure out the world they live in, whether it’s modern or someplace else. Sometimes the character determines the environment and vice versa. From there the storyline and the plot kind of fall into place. I’ll work toward a particular scene at first, and then work to the next. I let the characters make the decisions as the story progresses, whether that includes making big mistakes or being spontaneously brave. I let the story come organically as I go.
Normally I have an idea of how I want a book or a series to end, but I’m not dedicated to it. If the characters evolve beyond that ending, I’ll change it. Generally, it’s like herding cats toward the end goal, or the plot point I want to hit, or the climax of a book or a scene. Sometimes the characters don’t want to behave!
What do you wish for readers to come away with after reading?
I hope they come away from the book with a fresh perspective on the world. I love to read dystopian books. They make me appreciate the world we live in more, but they also put a mirror up to all the ugliness too. I’m always drawn to blighted worlds like Carra in The Seeking because underneath the corruption, the lies and deceit, there is usually a kernel of hope or, at the very least, change.
Family ties are also very important in The Seeking. Siblings have to work together and they disagree on things. They have to watch out for each other and protect each other when things get bad. I’ve always had a close connection with my family due to the struggles we’ve endured over the years. I wanted to reflect how pain can make people come together just much as it can tear people apart. The best way to survive is through working together.
What’s next for you?
I have Chosen, the 3rd and final book of the Stolen trilogy, coming out March 23, 2021! It’s bittersweet because I’ve been living in the world for eight years and I’m going to miss it so much. I love the characters and the world, so I’m going to have a hard time letting go of it completely.
Right now, I’m working on the sequel to The She-Wolf of Kanta, my dystopian steampunk werewolf novella. I’m going to tackle that over November’s NaNoWriMo challenge. I’m going old school and writing the whole book by hand. Unlike book one, this is planned to be a full novel. It’s coming along well so far!
Finally, I’m putting together a short story anthology very slowly. This is going to be a mixture of dark fantasy and horror tales, some of which I’ve published over the years and some that haven’t been published yet. I’m only on the early planning stages of this project so far, but I’m excited about it! It’s the first solo anthology I’ve done!