Sunday, September 13, 2009

Interview with Victoria Schwab

And now for my first ever author interview... drum roll please....

Victoria Schwab is YA lit author who is represented by Amy Tipton at FinePrint Literary Management. Disney Hyperion just bought her novel, The Near Witch, the first of hers ever to be published!! She was nice enough to do this author interview with me!! So here goes...

What is your full name?

Victoria Elizabeth Schwab

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Sacramento, CA and my family moved to Nashville when I was three, then back to San Jose, CA, and finally back to Nashville. So I basically split my childhood between the two.

How old are you?

Where did you go to school?

After attending an all girls' southern prep school (don't laugh!) I just graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, with a degree in book design.

Do you have siblings?

I am an only child! But I try to be as much work as two or three children, to make the family feel bigger.

Now for some legitimate questions about her book and the writing industry:

Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?

I always wanted to work with words. I grew up on Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss, and then Blake, and when I was young I practically thought in rhyme. I didn't try my hand at fiction until I got to college, and I didn't try writing a book until my junior year. I tried every other genre first (poetry, screenwriting, short fiction) because I was determined I would be terrible at full-length fiction.

What is your favorite part about being a writer?

Aside from the incredible energy and enthusiasm of the writing community, particularly YA, I just love the way words sound. I love putting them together and listening to the way they work and flow. I love telling stories, and I love the WAYS you can tell them.

What advice can you give to young adults who want to write professionally when they are older?

I can't stress the importance of exposure. Expose your eyes and your minds to everything you can. Read books, of course, but also look around, and just generally be a sponge. Everything you encounter has a story, or can have one. I've been most inspired by the things I stumble on, from my morning walks to foreign cities to forgotten corners.

How in the world did you get published at 22!? How did you find time to write in college? Not even Meg Cabot got published until her thirties!!

The to-be-published at 22, NOT EASY. I didn't start writing full-length fiction until college, though (I wrote poetry in high school, much of it remarkably bad :p but it gave me a feel for words and the way they flow together that I try to capitalize on in fiction). In college, I took a few fiction courses, and between my Soph and Junior year I wrote a book! And I was happy, but it wasn't very good, and I put it away, and focused on school. The next summer, an agent named Nathan Bransford hosted a dialogue contest, so I pulled the book back out, and entered, and got third!
The prize was a query critique, but he loved the query and the story (I was 20 at this point) and he wanted to read the partial, then the full. During this time I polished up the book I'd shelved, and queried other agents, and thirteen days later I signed with Amy Tipton at FP, who I ADORE. But this book DIDN'T sell. It went on sub for months and months, and in February of this year, I started NEAR WITCH, to keep my sanity. And then in the summer, NW went out on sub! Right after my 22nd Bday. And then a couple weeks ago, it sold!

Well, by the time THE NEAR WITCH comes out, I'll be 23! Time flies.
I'll just add that I made time. If I had tried to find time, I never would have been able to. But it's almost always there, if you make it work. I set aside an hour here or there, and when I couldn't write, I thought about it. I joke that I did most of my plot work staring at the stripe on the swimming pool floor. If you can make space in your head to think about your stories, you can carve out time to write them down. That said, I didn't do much sleeping.

What are some of the books that have most influenced you as a writer and/or a person? What were your favorite books growing up? What are some of your favorite books currently? Any favorite authors?

Shel Silverstein influenced the way I saw the world, and still see it. As did fairy tales (I love fairy tales and folklore). The Giver, The Princess Bride, and the Secret Garden were some of my favorite stories (secret gardens seems to come up a lot in my writing, actually). I spent my teens with Harry Potter, so that definitely influenced me, too.

How did you get the ideas for your books? How do you come up with your characters? Do you base them off of people you know?

It's always a bit different, and I don't recommend my approach, but I always start with an image, or a line. I love words, and I love the way they sound, so I'll get a sentence sometimes that I love, and then unfold the story around it.
With my first book, the one that hasn't sold (my editor might decide she wants it), it is called THE SHADOW MILE. And it all started with an image of a door standing in an empty lot, without a room behind, just standing there, half-rotted. I walked past the door a few times on my daily walks in real life, and always wondered what it might have led to, once.
With THE NEAR WITCH, however, it was a line. The very first line of the book. "The wind on the moors is a tricky thing." I wrote that line, and had no idea what it meant. I went back to it six months later, and felt like the story was there, sitting and waiting for me.
It always starts its own way. You just have to keep your eyes open, and ask questions :)

My main characters are never people I know, though I do tend to base secondary characters on people I've met, teachers I've had, relatives...My main characters do, however, tend to embody something I don't, some trait I wish I possessed.

Tell us about Near Witch!! What should we look forward to seeing in this book? Will there be a sequel?

The Near Witch is fairy-tale like story set in northern England. Here's the shorter pitch:

There’s an old ghost story in the town of Near. It tells of a witch that lived
on the edge of the village, and gobbled up all the darkness, and sang the hills to sleep, and loved the children almost as much as the garden she kept beside her house.
Sixteen-year-old Lexi Harris, the daughter of a tracker, has heard
the stories her entire life, first from her father, and then from old Magda and Marta, who might be witches themselves. Everyone loves to tell the story, but everyone knows a different ending. Some say that the Near Witch blew away on a gust of wind. Others tell of darker things. Of murders and curses and buried bones.
To Lexi, they’ve always been stories, nothing more. But when a strange
and silent boy walks into the village of Near, and then the wind begins to lure children from their beds at night, she starts to wonder if there’s any truth in them. Could the Near Witch be more than a ghost story?

There is romance! And mystery. And suspense. There's also a different take on the meaning of "witch." In my book, it's not someone with a crooked nose who leans over a cauldron. It's something else. It has to do with the way we interact with the world. It's about the balance between man and nature, and those who are more earth and stone than flesh and blood. As far as sequels/prequels/companions, nothing official :)

Who is your favorite character in Near Witch?

I love all my characters :)

If you could pick one character in Near Witch to be real, who would you choose?

I would love it if the stranger, whose name is Cole, could be real. I have a crush on him :) I have a soft spot for wild + mystery + brooding.

If you could be one character in your book, who would it be?
If I could BE a character it would be my narrator, Lexi. I adore writing her, and she's a really strong, independent girl. I admire her.

What are you most excited to tell us about your book?

I just can't wait to share The Near Witch with you guys. I hope you fall for the characters and their world the way I did writing it. And I hope that, while you're somewhere between the two covers, your own world falls away. That's all I could ever want.

What are some things you were surprised about during the publishing/editing process?

It's a lot of work! And it's not all writing. AND even though it seems like it takes forever for a book to come out, there is a lot that has to happen, and the deadlines are pretty fast!

These are some goofy personal questions:

What is your favorite movie? Favorite TV show of the moment?

Movies: This changes ALL the time, so it's hard, but as far as shows: I am in love with Dexter, and True Blood, and So You Think You Can Dance. It's an eclectic mix :p

What was you favorite/ least favorite part of high school/being a teenager?

Well, I went to an all-girls southern prep school, and my favorite part was not having to think about what to wear (uniforms). My least favorite part was that I was one of the ONLY girls that wasn't a native Nashvillian, or a Debutante, so I often felt excluded.

Favorite song/artist of the moment?

My current obsessions: Blue Foundation, Tegan and Sara, A Fine Frenzy, Coldplay, Mirah, and Ludo.

Favorite color?

Slate blue.

Have any pets?

Haha, YES. I've always had animals growing up, and right now there are five. Three dogs: a golden retriever named Sammie, a terrier named Mitzi, and my 16-month-old puppy (a mutt including but not limited to golden, collie, and German Shepherd) Kuma. Two cats: Loki, and Oliver.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

England. No question. My mom's British, and I've always felt more at home on English soil.

If you were trapped on a desert island and you could only bring 3 items and 1 person with you, what/who would they be?

I'd bring The Princess Bride, a hunting knife, sunscreen (I am of the paler variety), and Bear Grylls, from the show Man vs. Wild. He seems like he knows what he's doing.

If the world was being invaded by aliens and you just won five million dollars in the lottery, what would you do with it?

I'd buy books! One, because I never have money to buy as many books as I'd like, and two, because maybe I could use them to barter with the aliens. I might also buy a place in England. And another cat.

Personally, I am really excited about this book! It sounds like it has all of the makings of what will be a fantastic story: suspense, romance, putting a new spin on what we think fairy tales and folklore are and that one creepy character that makes you wonder what the helk is going? on while still being drawn to them. My one disappointment: this book doesn't come out until 2011 :(. Still, I'm glad that I have something great to look forward too! Thank you Victoria for doing this interview with me!! I had a blast and you couldn't have been nicer! Keep me updated :P!! You can find out more about Victoria by reading her blog!!


Anna said...

Great interview! And I loved the description of the book - looking forward to reading it one day!

courtney summers said...

What a fantastic, in-depth & thoughtful interview! Yay! I loved reading the questions, I loved reading the answers. Great job, OfficiallyMRS and great job, Victoria! Victoria is one of my favourite writer people and I can't wait for The Near Witch!!!

Victoria Schwab said...

Thanks, Anna, and ~*thank you*~ Courtney!

suzie said...

Fantastic interview Mary! NEAR WITCH is an awesome story and Cole is a great mysterious, brooding, and intriguing boy. I love him too :)

Victoria - When you move to NY we can add So You Think You Can Dance to our list of things to do together (jk - sort of)

Sean Ferrell said...

Terrific interview. Well done. And Victoria, you continue to be utterly charming. Can't wait to read the book.

RKCharron said...

Hi :)
Thank you for the great interview.
Congratulations again on your book deal. I am looking forward to reading THE NEAR WITCH.
Also, thank you for the awesome vlog on your site!
All the best,

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great book! Can't wait to read it. And I'm totally with her on the England thing, as well as Coldplay!

Victoria Schwab said...

Thanks guys!

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