I‘m very happy to be hosting fellow Torontonian Megan Crewe today for an interview. Megan is the author of the YA paranormal novel Give Up the Ghost (check out my review). She’s also a Class of 2k9 member. Weclome Megan!
What inspires you?
Um, everything? :) Honestly, inspiration can come from anything—a conversation I overhear on the bus, a book I’m reading or a movie I just saw, an article in a newspaper or online, something I see out the window. But I find I’m most inspired by other stories, in all their forms.
Tell us about the moment you learned Give Up the Ghost would be published.
It wasn’t really one single moment—even the moment we got the first offer was drawn out because an editor told my agent he was going to offer a couple weeks before the offer actually came. And even once you have an offer you can’t assume anything until it’s negotiated and official! But that time period was filled with a lot of celebrating and many excited conversations with my husband and family and close friends, and waiting eagerly to be able to share the news more widely.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing your first novel?
The most challenging part of writing Give Up the Ghost was the voice. It was the first novel I’d written in first person. I knew that telling it in Cass’s voice was the right thing to do, but it was difficult finding a balance between staying true to her personality and the way she perceived herself, and still revealing the vulnerabilities that made her sympathetic (even if she liked to pretend they didn’t exist).
Describe your writing process. Are you an outliner, or do you discover your characters and your story as you go?
I’m definitely an outliner. I never write a book without a scene-by-scene outline on index cards. It’s my way of “testing out” the book to make sure it’s ready to be written—because if I get stuck or bored just writing the outline, then the story idea’s not ready yet. But while I’m writing I’m still discovering all sorts of things about the characters and events that I didn’t think of while I was outlining, and I often make changes to the outline as I go to reflect important things I’ve figured out.
What books have you read that made you want to write for young people?
It wasn’t specific books I read so much as the experience of being a teenager. Books were so important to me at that age (not that they aren’t now, but the intensity isn’t quite the same), as a way to visit other worlds, to understand different perspectives, to consider new ideas, to figure out who I was. I love writing for readers who get so much out of books.
What is your favourite scene in Give Up the Ghost?
I can’t say too much about it because it’d be spoilery, but I’d have to say my favorite is the scene near the end when Cass finds Tim by the lake. It’s such an important moment for both of them.
Why do you think it’s so hard for Cass to “give up her ghosts”?
I think for Cass the ghosts (both literal and figurative) are her protection. As long as she believes her ghostly friends are all she needs, she doesn’t have to feel bad that her classmates shun her. As long as she focuses on what happened in the past, she doesn’t have to think about her problems in the present. The trouble is, of course, that she’s shutting herself off from a lot of good things, too.
You’ve done so many cool things to promote your book (book trailer, contests and giveaways, fun stuff at your website, interviews). How important you do think promotion is for debut authors, and how much did you know about promotion before publishing your book?
It’s hard to say how important self-promotion is, because I have no way of knowing how successful my efforts have been! My rule is just to do things that I think are fun and interesting, and hope they help more people find out about the book. I think it’s important for authors to focus on what they feel comfortable with and enjoy, because if you don’t enjoy doing it, it’ll show, and your effort won’t get you anywhere.
I didn’t know very much about promotion beforehand, but I’d always noticed the different ways people were promoting their books online, and bookmarked discussions on methods that appealed to me, and that sort of thing. And after I signed with my agent I read a few books on marketing that gave me some great ideas.
What are you working on now?
With only a few weeks left before Give Up the Ghost’s release, I’m focusing most of my attention on that. I have a couple of YA projects that I’ll be going back to for revisions afterward.
Your top 5 ghost stories of all time: (Films and/or books allowed!)
Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell – spooky and atmospheric with a great mystery and authentic characters
A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb – a very unique and intense take on ghosts, with one of my favorite YA romances ever
Flying in Place by Susan Palwick – another very intense and emotional read, with a great sibling relationship
I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder – sweet but haunting, a very realistic portrayal of teen relationships and grief
Remember Me by Christopher Pike – possibly the first YA ghost story I ever read, a creepy tale with an intriguing version of the afterlife
Thank you Megan for visiting Shelf Elf!
Thank you for having me!
Give Up the Ghost is published by Henry Holt.
(author photo credit: Chris Blanchenot)