I’m delighted to welcome Holly Cupala, debut author of Tell Me a Secret, to Shelf Elf for a stop on her Worldwide Blog Tour. She is funny, she is cool, and she is super-talented. Welcome Holly! The theme for our interview today is “The Secrets Behind Tell Me a Secret.”
What do you think are some of the secrets to success as a YA author?
Goodness, I wish I knew! When I was early in the learning process of writing, I would go to every conference, workshop, and class in the hopes of finding out the secret to writing. I definitely learned a lot from such amazing writers as Kirby Larson, Janet Lee Carey, Randy Powell, and others, but there was no one secret to writing. Just giving yourself time and space to figure out the process, that’s a secret. From there you can write the best story it is possible for you to write, and hope it strikes a chord with readers. I think it’s also good to connect with them. The TMAS readers have been amazingly wonderful!
What’s your secret cure for writer’s block?
I have one now! I used to be hopeless at overcoming it, especially with Tell Me a Secret—perhaps because it was a very intense novel to write. The hounds of doubt were always biting at my heels. For the second novel (which is nearly as intense but less personal), I discovered I could outrun the hounds! It was quite by accident—during the half-NANO (that’s my half-cheeked way of tackling National Novel Writing Month), I was way behind. One day I decided to write 5K words, and I set the timer for 15 minutes with a goal of 300 words. I wrote 450! I kept it up for the rest of the day and ended up surpassing my goal. I thought it was a fluke until it happened again, and friends joined in.
Tell Me a Secret took four years to write (with lots of stops and starts). Street Creed (tentative title, for Fall 2011) took four months. I’m hoping the third book will take four weeks…
Your most essential, secret snack while writing is…
Trader Joe’s strawberry licorice. I could eat barrels of the stuff and try not to, because I have clothes to squeeze into!
What scene/moment/character came to you first before you actually started writing your novel?
The whole novel idea—characters, major plot points, conflicts—came to me in an instant, like a movie trailer in my mind. I’m kind of an overview person, so the details, how to get from scene to scene, came a little at a time. I didn’t have a handle on Miranda’s voice until she spoke to me in the middle of the night (rather inconvenient, since I was a sleep-deprived new mom). The first sentence popped into my head, and suddenly I knew exactly who she was. I got up to write and ended up writing what are now the first three or four pages of the novel.
What was secretly the hardest part about writing this book?
Because it grew out of some difficult events in my own life, I think the writing process was painful but necessary. I’d always envisioned TMAS as a story about hope, and I remember when it turned that corner. Such a happy day! Conflict and dialogue are immensely difficult for me to write. I really loved the secret moments of comedy—the Q-tip costumes, the tuna sandwich, the Thanksgiving turkey. I hope readers like those little moments of joy!
What are the 5 things (ideas / books / songs / objects / people) that most inspired you as you were writing TMAS?
Ideas: you can’t find yourself in other people, and the reasons for life-changing events may be in the future and not in the past.
Books: Speak and Weetzie Bat. Lots more, but I’ll leave it at that!
Songs: *Splashdown’s “Ironspy,” Universal Hall Pass’ “Katrina Josephina,” lots more.
Objects: labyrinths, birds, doors.
People: Oooh, I could get in trouble for this, right? A couple of characters were a tiny bit inspired by real people, but not people I know. (Sorry, it’s a secret.)
*Here’s a secret: the soon-to-be-released book trailer will feature a Splashdown song!
We’d love to know about a scene that didn’t make it to the final draft. Is there a scene that was especially hard to let go of, or perhaps one that you were happy to toss out during editing?
I will read it to you! I loved it because it showed the dynamics of Miranda’s family when her sister Xanda was still alive, and it always made me laugh.
What do you secretly hope readers will take away from your book?
I think the ideas in question #6—you can’t find yourself in other people, and sometimes reasons may be in the future and not the past. To me, those are revolutionary ideas that continue to fascinate me, even into the next book.
Thank you so much for inviting me to visit Shelf Elf! I invite you all to comment here and at my blog for chances to win this week’s prizes: signed books, t-shirt, music and more!
(Told you folks that she’s delightful, didn’t I?) Thank you for making a stop here Holly, and all the best with Tell Me a Secret and all the stories still to come!