Q & A With Author Carrie Ryan

Author Carrie Ryan

Today we bring you another installment in our ongoing series of Q & As with the featured authors, agents, and editors of our brand-new YA A to Z Conference. It’s the first conference of its kind, focusing on the craft and business of writing for the young adult market. Pre-conference registration is closing soon, so be sure to visit our website and check it out! And keep checking back here on Scribe for more great Q & As.

What are you reading right now?

I just this morning finished The Pledge by Kimberly Derting (which I loved) but I guess that’s not a fair answer since it doesn’t come out until August – lol.  The most recent published book I read recently was We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson (loved it!).

When you’re not reading or writing, what do you like to do with your time?

When I’m not working I really love to hang out with my husband.  We’ll take our dog for a walk in the park or play crazy board games or watch a movie.  Sometimes he’ll play the guitar and I’ll read — it’s pretty awesome.

What’s your favorite opening line of a book?

Okay, I know this is going to sound strange, but one of my favorite opening lines is from Vladimir Nabokov’s book, Lolita.  It’s such an iconic opening and I still remember reading it for the first time while I was standing in line to buy it for a class.  Right then and there I was entranced by his use of language and I really love how the book is ultimately about how you define art: is it through the execution or the subject matter (i.e. can you make a despicable subject matter appear beautiful and if so, is that art?).  Nabokov plays with language in all of his books and it’s really amazing, especially since English wasn’t his first, or second, language!

What life lesson did your last book or project teach you?

Faith.  There was a moment when I really thought that I wouldn’t be able to get this book where it needed to be and I had to remind myself that I’d felt that way with previous books and it had worked out in the end so I had to have faith that the same would happen for this one.  It can be a terrifying moment and all you can do is believe in yourself.

What word do you love? What word do you detest?

I like “onomatopoeia” just because it’s fun to say. I also love the word sesquipedalian because it is just way too apt.  There’s really no word I detest though I do try to keep from using the word “thing” in my books only because it was drilled into my head to always be more specific.

What is a little known fact about yourself?

I was a cheerleader in school.  I have the pictures and the pom-poms to prove it!

How do you deal with ups and downs of the publishing business?

Stubbornness J  I knew going into this business that if you’re in it long enough, you’ll hit lows and, hopefully, highs.  I really do think that you have to take that same perseverance you had in trying to get published and apply it to your career even after getting published.  I love this job and it’s what I want to do more than anything else — I’m pretty wiling to keep going after my dream and do whatever it takes to hold onto it!

When I first started writing with the goal of making a career out of it I gave myself ten years in which I’d write, revise and submit and then move on to the next project.  After ten years, if I still wasn’t published then I could re-evaluate my plan.  So getting rejected was just part of the plan and I already knew what the next step would be: keep writing.

How do you balance writing with work and family?

Not very well?  I had a terrible time balancing work and writing — every time something fun happened in my writing career, like getting a peek at my new cover, I’d be useless at my day job for the rest of the day.  I finally realized that it wasn’t fair to either job because I couldn’t give either my full attention and so I quit my day job (I used to be a lawyer) and started writing full time.

It can be really hard to balance writing and I made the decision, with my husband’s full support, to really prioritize writing.  So we eat a lot of frozen dinners, we hired someone to mow the lawn, we don’t watch a lot of TV.

What is your writing routine and where do you write?

One thing that’s both awesome and frustrating as a writer is that every day is a little bit different.  Since I’m a creature of routine this took a little bit of getting used to for me.  Generally I still go to work at the same time I did as a lawyer, except now that means stumbling to the living room couch rather than an office downtown.  I check in on emails to make sure there’s nothing urgent, cook breakfast and read the news.  Then I tackle my to-do list.  Generally in the afternoon I realize that the day is slipping away and I still haven’t met my writing goals and I turn to that (about once a week I turn on Mac Freedom for a little nudge).

I write on a couch in the living room with my feet propped up on an empty storage bin and my legs tucked under a quilt my sister made for me.  Usually there’s a cat tucked against my side and the dog snoring on the couch J

Do you outline or just start writing?

I just start writing.  I think I’ve finally realized that my “first drafts” are more like zero drafts where I wander around the story for a while getting lost until hopefully I figure out what’s going on and then I do a bunch of rewriting.  I don’t recommend this process — it can get terribly stressful!

Do you have trusted readers you turn to as you write, and if so, who and what stage?

Yes!  At all stages.  My first reader is always my husband (he’s who I wrote for).  He’s a fantastic editor and has no problem telling me when I can do better.  When I read him a passage and he turns to me with the expression that he loves it — that’s one of the best feelings in the world!  I also have a few beta readers who will read the very rough zero draft (they know not to expect anything cohesive) and give thoughts and who might also read one of the more final drafts.  I feel so very lucky to have talented and generous critique partners!

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Growing up, authors were like rockstars to me and, I know it sounds strange, but I didn’t ever realize that you could WANT to be a rockstar.  So it never occurred to me that I could be a professional author until I was in high school and read an interview with a romance author who said she started writing when she finished a book and thought, “I could do that.”  As soon as I finished that article I thought, “I could do that too!” and I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since!

Cyndi’s Fast Five

1. What are three things in your office/writing space that would surprise someone who popped in?

Well, just recently I converted my desk into a TV stand so I could set up the xBox kinect in the office so there’d be more room for dancing J  I also wear fingerless gloves when I type — right now they’re red with big white hearts on them.  I find this ironic when I write the zombie scenes.  Oh, and I use an empty Ikea plastic storage bin with a pillow on top as a computer stand.  No really.  It was sitting in the living room after I bought it and I realized it was the perfect height for the couch and I’ve used it ever since!

I think everything else would be totally expected: dog asleep on the couch, cat curled up next to me, diet coke cans arrayed within easy reach, books everywhere and zombies galore!

2. What book first influenced you as a child?

One of the first books I remember reading was Socks by Beverly Cleary — I was entranced by the idea of how the pages could hold a story like that!

3. What time of day do you write?

I tend to do general work writing in the morning (emails, interviews, etc) and then creative writing in the afternoon (when I realize that, ack!, the day is slipping away!)

4. If you could have a beer or coffee with a writer living or dead, who would it be and why?

Oh, this is an almost impossible question!

5. Beer or coffee?

A really good craft beer in a very cold glass.

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