Sunday, February 26, 2017

GUESTOPIA: YA Author S.J. Lomas

It's February Guestopia time, and today we're welcoming the fabulous S.J. Lomas to YAtopia!

S.J. LOMAS








S.J. is a cheerful Michigan girl who writes strange and somewhat dark stories. Librarian by day and writer by whatever free time she can find, she has an extra special fondness for books by Michael Lawrence, Beth Revis, and Kelly Creagh. Her to-be-read pile will take several lifetimes to get through, yet she continues to add to it. She thinks she'd enjoy living an extra life in a dreamworld, especially if she could dream her way to England










Off we go!


Is this your first published book?

This is my first YA book. I have also published 3 digital picture books with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as Sarah Perry. Pajama Girl, Pajama Girl Meets Blanket Boy, and There Was an Old Woman: An Alphabet Adventure.


What’s it called?

Dream Girl. The sequel, Dream Frequency, will be released this spring.


Which genre?

Young Adult


Which age group?

Teens age 13+


Is it a series or standalone?

It’s a duology. Just the two books.


Are you an agented author?

Not yet, but I’m hoping to get there someday.


Which publisher snapped up your book?

An independent publisher in Royal Oak, Michigan called Scribe Publishing published Dream Girl. Unfortunately, the publisher is no longer doing fiction so I’m putting Dream Frequency out on my own.


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


For Dream Girl, I was lucky to have a good amount of creative input into the publishing process. For Dream Frequency, I am the publishing process. I have a lot of great connections so I can’t say I’m going through it alone, but it is cool to have the final say on everything.


Do you have another job?

I’m a librarian. (Can you tell I love books?)


Did you receive many, if any, rejections prior?

Yes! It’s a disheartening experience, but I’ve read a lot of articles about how many times very famous authors were rejected so I always felt that I was in great company.


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

The very first inklings of Dream Girl came to me during college. I woke up from a very weird and vivid dream and scribbled down some thoughts about it. I knew it would make a great story somehow, someday but I didn’t do anything with it for several years. Finally, I was reading A Crack in the Line by Michael Lawrence and when I finished it, my dream popped into my mind and it hit me it had to become a young adult novel. The storyline started coming to me after that.


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

I am more of a pantser than a plotter. I scribbled a few character notes and took off writing.


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

There were some missteps with the plot, but I tried to write as much as I could and not worry about the draft until I had to. Just getting something down was more important than having it come out right. You can always go back and revise.


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

I was still writing it when SCBWI had a local conference with paid critiques available. It was for the first 10 pages so I decided to give it a try to see if it was even a project worth continuing. I was matched with NYT Best-selling author, Jay Asher. Even though it was pretty rough at that stage, he was very encouraging and enthusiastic about the pages he saw. That kept me going. I didn’t let anyone else read it until about draft five. And that was my fellow writer/friend, Jody Lamb.


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

Jody Lamb read and edited for me before I sent it out. I was also lucky to have worked in advertising for a few years. Through that, I have friends who are graphic artists and proofreaders. I became good friends with one of the proofreaders and she went through the manuscript before I sent it out. 


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

I believe it was around seven.


How many drafts until it was published?

Nine.


Has the book changed dramatically since the first draft?

Not so dramatic that you wouldn’t think it was the same book, but there were some substantial changes, including a character who wrote himself in halfway through. He ended up becoming one of the most important characters in the book.


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

Oh yes. I think I could always find something to change around, add, delete, or fiddle with. When I come up with an idea for a novel, it’s like this glowing orb of possibility in my mind. It isn’t concrete but it’s shining and beautiful. I think it’s impossible to ever get the finished project to fully realize that glowing ideal I started with, but it doesn’t stop me from trying. I get as close as I can, but there’s always more that could be done. At least, it feels that way.


What part of writing do you find the easiest?

Naming characters and writing dialog comes easiest for me.


What part do you find hardest?

Getting through the marathon of completing that first draft is the hardest. I often find myself wishing I could just plug a USB drive into my brain and get the basic story out that way. I’d rather work on revising what’s already there, even though that is difficult too. But all of it’s difficult in a good way.


Do you push through writing barriers or walk away?

It depends. Some days, I sit down at the computer, open my Word document and then say, Crap. It’s THAT scene. Suddenly, housework never looked so appealing, or scheduling appointments, etc. But I can only let myself get away with that for so long. Then I take a look at what’s really happening. If I’m so frustrated that I can’t write a scene, there must be something wrong with the story. If I don’t want to write it, then who can I expect to read it? Once I figure out where it went wrong, I can figure out how to fix it. Then I’m ready to dive back in.


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

One is more than enough!


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

I believe it can be learned, but I think you’re born with the interest to do it. In my case, I fell in love with writing in 2nd grade when our teacher gave us little construction paper journals and had us write every day. I loved it! It was a joy that never left me so I decided to get serious about it.


How many future novels do you have planned?

Beyond Dream Frequency, I have a contemporary realistic YA that I’m going to work on next, followed by a New Adult novel after that.


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

I do have a couple short stories on Amazon. I have a blog but I only write posts when I feel I have something to say. I also write picture books as Sarah Perry.


What’s the highlight of being published so far?

There is nothing like seeing the excitement someone else has for my work. Especially people who aren’t related to me! There are two teenage girls, in particular, who really enjoy Dream Girl and can’t wait for Dream Frequency to come out. I’m not going to lie. It was really difficult to write Dream Frequency and I often thought of those two girls and it helped me keep going.

Give me one writing tip that works for you.

Trust yourself to write the story that’s inside of you. It can be very hard writing a novel. It’s easy to second guess yourself or compare what you’re doing to what others have done. It’s nice to remember that my story is exactly that, mine. I am equipped to tell it if I just stop getting in my own way.


And one that doesn't.

Real writers must write every day! Sorry. That just isn’t my reality. I write when I have the energy and the time. I’ve tried to sit down and write when I don’t have either of those things and nothing happens. It may take me longer to get those drafts out, but I still do.


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

Dream Frequency takes place mostly in the United States Agency of Dream Work. Readers finally get to see what that place is like and what it’s all about.


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

I have always wanted Paul McCartney to ask me to dinner. The answer would be YES! Does that count?



Brilliant! I love this answer - and hope one day Mr. McCartney gets in touch! Thank you so much for joining us today, S.J. Lomas. We wish you heaps of luck with and your other titles and future works.

If you want to follow S.J. Lomas' journey and find out more about her, here are some links that will help!







Wednesday, February 22, 2017

When a 'Meet Cute' Becomes 'Meet Am I being stalked'?



Writing the random meeting of two characters that you know are going to have romantic or friendship relationship is one of my favourite parts of being a writer. Whether it’s the love interest of the MC, or their future best friend, the Meet Cute is so much fun to create!

However, recently I realised how important it is to step outside of the fact that you, as the author, know these two characters are destined to spend a lot of time together. Instead, get into their heads during that first meeting. For example, when revising the love interests’ first meeting in my WIP a few months ago, I revelled in their witty banter and loved making both characters’ personalities shine through so that they could see they were meant to be. It wasn’t until I reread it, getting into my characters’ heads at that particular point in the story (rather than my own head which knows them inside-out), that I realised…

THIS GUY WOULD BE REALLY ANNOYING – DOESN’T HE HAVE ANYTHING ELSE GOING ON IN HIS LIFE? WHY IS HE SPENDING SO MUCH TIME ON A STRANGER?

My poor characters were simply trying too hard. Realistically, when you meet someone for the first time, you aren’t that invested. Yes, I believe in instant attraction, and you can want someone to like you straight away, but ultimately, if you’re going about your daily business and strike up an unexpected conversation, you aren’t going delve into straight-up teasing/banter/surprising that person with your one-of-a-kind personality. In fact, if someone starting taking the mick out of me within seconds of first meeting, I’d probably think they were an idiot, and not in a ‘hate-to-love’ type of way, just a ‘leave me alone’ kind of way.

Of course, if you want your characters to find each other annoying then it’s perfect! A person who is initially annoying to your MC can grow into something else (and it’s SO much fun to watch that happening!). But my point is if you’re trying to give your characters an instant spark, then sometimes you have to forget that you already know they’re going to become friends or lovers. Imagine the situation as though the interest were any Tom, Dick or Harry and ask yourself, WHY is my MC continuing this interaction? WHY is the friend/love interest continuing this conversation? Have they got a super friendly personality and talk to anyone? Or are they singling your main character out (if so, why? And is that a bit creepy? Are they just hanging around waiting to meet your MC?)

These are all questions that I ask myself when I write character meetings. Of course, fiction isn’t an exact reflection of real life, and so it’s OK to keep your characters talking when in reality your MC might have walked out of that coffee shop checking their bag for stolen items. Simply take a moment to get into your MC and romantic/friendship interests’ heads and ask yourself why they’re still chatting. If you know that, then the Meet Cute will stay cute!

Monday, February 20, 2017

#PitchMadness - I want you to woo me!

There is no doubt about it - I love pitch contests. And my two favourite are definitely Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness, which I am both involved in.

And Pitch Madness is about to start! You'll find me as the leader of Team Liquorice Castle, waiting impatiently for your pitches, along with my cohost, Jeyn Roberts, and our readers Heather Bryant and Laura Brown.

What would I love to have on my team this year? Well, at the moment it's totally up for grabs! Woo me with your wonderful words.

There is no doubt I'm a fan of weird. I adore unusual stories, especially those that come under the speculative fiction umbrella. SciFi and Fantasy are my jam. I love underrepresented voices in fiction, and there's bonus points for Own Voices. Geek is a family past-time so anything to go with gaming, cosplay, comic lovers and the like could make me swoon. Topics that are dear to my heart at the moment include women's rights, refugees, mental health, hidden conditions (such as epilepsy) and family. I'd also like to see some non-conventional settings (outside of the US/UK).

Here's some #MSWL inspired topics that also tickle my fancy:


  • A villain MC. 
  • Space Opera
  • Activists/protest kids - in YA or MG
  • YA Mystery
  • Gender-flipped League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Historical female superheroes...time travel optional). 
  • Spies
  • Anything with dialogue that rivals Buffy!
  • Cowboys from a wild west that isn't in the US.
  • YA X-Files
  • Under utilised historical figures in retellings/reimaginings
  • Bookstore romance
  • Literary Horror (Think Stranger Things)
  • Intergalactic refugees (Think Titan A.E.)
  • Ancient underused folklore
If you're thinking about entering, you can find deets here, and the agents participating here

I hope you see you in the slush. Make me fall in love with your pitch and your opening words, and you just might end up on my team. 





Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Normal Love

The month of love is nearly over. Whether it was great, or you just curled up in bed and waited out the baby with the bow and arrow, congratulations, you’ve survived another Valentine’s Day!
In writing YA it’s easy to believe that every date is a make or break moment for your life. This boy is the one! This date is the start of something amazing (or, depending on the genre you’re working in, how a serial killer chooses you as his next victim)!
Sometimes I worry that the literary community is setting the world’s youth up for disappointment. In all likelihood, that date is just going to be a date. Hopefully it won’t be terrible. If it is terrible, maybe you’ll at least get a good story out of it. Maybe you’ll have a second date, maybe you’ll stay together for a while, but in all likelihood, it’ll just be a date. Telling stories that promise breathtaking romance seems like a cruel lie when the beginning of Bridget Jones is more likely to be the truth.
In an age where social media gives us polished looks into people’s lives, it’s easy to think that being swept off your feet by the perfect partner happens once a week, lavish bouquets are standard practice for Tuesday breakfast, and if a relationship does end, it will be in utter tragedy. It’s all either perfection or disastrous. It’s what we see in storytelling and online.
How do we normalize…normal? It wouldn’t make a good book. A long string of average dates with a side of being ghosted rather than dumped. I don’t know how many people would want to read a whole book about having nothing to say when someone flirts with you.
So then what? If the author platform won’t work, then perhaps we should rely on the storytelling of those around us.
My Valentine’s Day consisted of brunch with my husband and a ten hour rehearsal. There were no rose petals or drama involved. But that’s okay. That’s how life should be. It might not be a great book, but it is a great day.

So how was your normal, non-literary Valentine’s Day?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

ABC's Revenge Taught Me How To Write An Ambiguous Romance

It might seem strange to realize this, but television and literature overlap despite being different mediums. One common element is romance. People will always love shipping (rooting for a couple) regardless of whether the couple is from a book or television show. Shipping isn’t silly because it’s the sports equivalent of fantasy football. One type of element related to romance is a love triangle. Common examples are Team Edward and Team Jacob in Twilight and Stelena versus Delena in The Vampire Diaries. However, there’s another complicated love situation people might not be aware of. It’s called a love square (or love rhombus). The former ABC television show Revenge made the concept of a love square famous because Emily (real Amanda Clarke) had three suitors (Daniel, Jack, and Aiden). But for today’s post, I’m going to talk about Emily and Daniel’s complicated relationship. Daniel and Emily’s romantic entanglement is a good writing teaching tool for illustrating how love is not always a binary.

Revenge starts season one with Emily pursuing Daniel Grayson so she can get revenge on his parents (Victoria and Conrad Grayson, and other elite Hamptons people) because they framed her father (David Clarke) for terrorism. Daniel therefore grants Emily access to Victoria and Conrad. However, the relationship isn’t black and white. Emily is the one who pushes her and Daniel to sleep together for the first time without hesitation. She also stands by Daniel during his murder trial-even though that postpones her revenge mission by making it take a back seat. She also accepts Daniel’s proposal despite how he’s the enemy’s son (a fake relationship is one thing, but an engagement complicates things).

The ambiguity festers in Season 2. Daniel and Emily are initially broken up. But she gives him advice on how to deal with his mother in addition to telling him how he can still be a good person and not be like his parents when they dance at Victoria and Conrad’s second wedding. Emily even tells Aiden that Daniel isn’t a joke after Aiden mocks Daniel (when Aiden and Emily have wine after Victoria and Conrad’s wedding). Emily admits Daniel is a casualty in her revenge. Doubt is clearly present because Emily has no reason to defend Daniel in that instance since Daniel isn’t there. Emily also fantasizes about Daniel when she’s really with Aiden while still trying to court Daniel for a second time. Emily even breaks up with Aiden just to court Daniel again, and flashes a nervous smile while saying, “please” when Daniel mentions he’s thankful for a second chance. Emily ultimately allows herself to become engaged to Daniel for a second time. Furthermore, she prioritizes talking to Daniel over Aiden when she is frustrated with Aiden at one point.

Season 3 doesn’t contain much ambiguity apart from Emily putting her relationship with Aiden even more on the back burner because she needs to see her engagement to Daniel through. Emily’s revenge is contingent on framing Victoria for her murder on her wedding night. The Emily and Daniel situation is more complex than her simply using him. Putting Aiden on the back burner is inconsiderate if her feelings for Aiden are 100 percent genuine. As a result, Emily will never be able to have an honest relationship with anyone while she pursues her revenge.

Season 4 is the payoff Revenge fans deserve. Daniel learns Emily is really Amanda Clarke. Daniel isn’t mad at how Emily treated him now that he knows she schemed because of being David Clarke’s daughter; not a shallow socialite. Daniel even looks at his laptop again at a photo of him and Emily like he does in Season 2 right before he likes her again. Emily admits there was a time when she and Daniel could have had a real relationship (in front of Daniel). Victoria also reveals she didn’t tell Daniel the truth after she learned Emily’s real identity because she was afraid he would side with Emily. Daniel even asks Emily about how she can’t say that she wasn’t in the moment with him when he proposed. Emily also pats Daniel on the shoulder in a subsequent episode when they talk. Additionally, Emily later says, “I’m not in the mood to do whatever it is we’ve been doing” to Daniel in Season 4 Episode 9. That’s yet another moment showing how there’s a spark between Daniel and Emily. But then Daniel dies in Season 4 Episode 10 when he takes a bullet for Emily. Emily holds Daniel in her arms while sighing before admitting it wasn’t all a lie with him.

Bingo. A direct admission on Emily’s part. Emily even admits she knew marrying him was wrong, yet she did it anyway in Episode 4x11 in addition to thinking back about a fun memory with Daniel and being furious when Victoria won’t let her go to the funeral. Emily wouldn’t have been furious if she felt nothing for Daniel. Emily also admits how too much blood has been shed (including Daniel’s) and is furious again when confronting Victoria about how she accidently set Daniel’s death in motion by meddling. Emily also subsequently reveals how she never wanted any of this (his death) to happen to Daniel.

Emily and Daniel should have been endgame because she always disrespected Aiden by not prioritizing him in addition to how she had ZERO chemistry with Jack.

Anyway, thank you for following my analysis. The point is, Emily and Daniel’s relationship is a powerful learning tool. Their dynamic informs my own writing by highlighting ambiguity. Ambiguity is necessary because life isn’t always black and white (side note: the Revenge Wiki page dedicated to Emily and Daniel’s relationship even concedes how it is unknown if she is in a relationship with Daniel out of genuine affection, just for her revenge, or if the truth is somewhere in the middle). Ambiguity makes Revenge richer because it would be so easy if Emily felt nothing towards Daniel or if they didn’t get closure in Season 4 with their interactions). But Revenge doesn’t take the easy way out. Writers can learn from Revenge even if they aren’t writing about love triangles/squares, or revenge schemes. Ambiguity is real because people often have contradictory emotions. For example, it’s possible to both hate and love someone at the same time. Ambiguity also creates clarity despite how the idea might seem nonsensical. For example, it is the ambiguity in Revenge that gives the show clarity because the confusion between Daniel and Emily exists in actual spoken words as opposed to subtext.

And to all my fellow writers out there, don’t be afraid to add ambiguity to your writing. I know I will.