Monday, November 28, 2011

Lessons on book beginnings and NaNoWriMo and other things I'm bringing to my writing retreat

I went to great lengths to document my struggles with the Bartender book so that I would have a reminder of what I’d been through before and what I did to get past the hard parts. I even wrote a post for Nova Ren Suma’s inspiration series on her blog about how my struggle with that book will inspire me in the future because I’ve learned how good a hard-won victory feels. (All of the inspiration posts on Nova’s blog are amazing, so be sure to check them out.) But I've never documented how I start a new book and this is proving to be a bit of a dilemma as I try to settle into a groove with my new YA project, which henceforth shall be called the Modern Myth book. (Just like the the Bartender book-- and before it the Rock Star Girl book and the Suburbia book--it has a real title, but I'm superstitious.)

I don't remember struggling with the beginning of a book in quite the way I am now. All of my books definitely come together slowly, but generally they do so visually in that I start clearly seeing (and writing!) characters and scenes. IWBYJR worked like that. I saw different moments in both Emily's and Louisa's lives, I wrote them and then one day while I was in an underground tunnel waiting for the train, it all came together. Emily would be a rock star and this fucked-up Louisa character would be her mom. From there, I just wrote and wrote, mostly in a non-linear fashion until I reached my usual point of self-doubt and chaos roughly three-fourths of the way through the book when I finally sat down and outlined. As I've mentioned before, BALLADS was actually started years before IWBYJR. I wrote a crappy rough draft that was way too autobiographical, decided I didn't feel comfortable with it and would write another suburbia story once I had better (ie. not as real-life based) ideas for it. When I finished IWBYJR, it was the only time I went directly to work on another book without having to flirt with several ideas first. It was also relatively simple (in my memory at least) because I pretty much took the ideas I'd come up with while I was working IWBYJR, combined them with my old draft and had a outline. I plowed ahead linearly that time until I reached the usual self-doubt part, which actually came about after I finished my draft that time.

And then there was the Bartender Book. The characters in the Bartender Book date back to grad school (ie. IWBYJR writing days) and they went through a few different incarnations too: a short story, fifty pages of a YA version of the novel. I also flirted with an early incarnation of the Modern Myth book at that time, but I sat down and drafted and then re-drafted the first 100-125 pages of the Bartender Book between March and early July of last year. That was a happy time. Then all hell broke lose. But ultimately, as you know, I finished that last month and was pumped and ready to dive into my next project.

The usual battle of the ideas took place. I'd been meaning to go back to the Modern Myth book, which is actually an idea that I’ve been toying with since early 2008 and wrote a 75-page partial for last spring. That partial failed to sell because it just isn't a good market for selling on partial unless you are a big name and I'm not. I'm actually relieved it didn't sell because I knew that partial was Just Not Right for reasons I couldn't quite put a finger on. So I did the same thing I had with that old, Not Quite Right version of BALLADS while I was working on IWBYJR, I set aside the Modern Myth book and made notes occasionally while I worked on the Bartender book. However I did not make as many notes because the Bartender book was frustrating and all consuming. Also I was intimidated by the Modern Myth book and I got another great, shiny new idea that seemed easier. So I spent the last week of October/first week of November going back and forth between the ideas, trying to decide which I liked better and since I like both and unfortunately still have a lack of confidence in my own gut, I sent to them my agent and some critique/brainstorming partners to decide. They voted Modern Myth book. I totally adore it as well, but it scares me shitless. Some of that is the usual self doubt (those natural fears that I suck/I'll never write another book/if this book isn't super awesome my career is shot, fears that aren't fun, but do keep me motivated and on my toes in a way), but the fear mainly stems from this being new territory. This book is still edgy and contemporary and *mostly* realistic, but the key issue here is the *mostly.* It has a twist, a bit of otherworldliness or magical realism, that modern myth thing.

Getting going on this book has been strange because instead of diving headlong into it like my first three, I'm slowly dipping my toes in, contemplating how the water feels and what it looks like in front of me. Maybe I did do this with my other books and just don't remember.... That's the problem with taking over a year to write a book, you really *don't* remember. All you can do is try things until something seems right and remind yourself all the while that every book is different.

I've done a lot of plotting for this book, which is something I rarely ever do. I usually see a scene, write it, then another scene, and so on til I get stuck and then I outline. Or more recently, I write roughly 50 pages for an agent or editor and put together a rough outline to go with it. But this time I sat down and started writing a summary. I even sent it to a couple of critique partners and brainstormed with them on it. I'm not entirely sure why I felt the need to do this--because it's story with mythical/otherworldly elements so it seemed like I was supposed or because I was just nervous after all the struggling with the Bartender book and because the previous partial didn't work.

After writing a general outline, the first 30 pages and confirming with my agent that this should be the next book, I decided to take advantage of NaNoWriMo to get going. This is also something that I've never tried before. I told myself I was aiming for 30K instead of 50 since I was already "cheating" by using a project I've written on. Secretly though, I kinda wanted that 50K. It started strong at first, but by the second week, I hit a wall, I couldn't see the scenes that I needed to write. I had no idea what was going on. So I went back into summary mode and wrote 10k words figuring out the back story and the middle of the book that has been hazy. Then I dove back in again writing fast and furious. By Thanksgiving, if I counted the chunk of summary, I'd met my personal goal of 30K. I ranged from writing 19 words (on a day when I had *no* time, but wanted to get something written, so I wrote a sentence) to over 2k. I averaged closer to 800-1000 words. Some days were good, but a lot were bad in that they *felt* bad. I wasn't enjoying the writing, I was just doing it to make my quota and it was crap.

This is when I discovered that there are varying degrees of crap. I expect my first draft to be shitty. I mostly want to get it over with, so I can get to the rewrite and polish, which is what I consider to be the good part. But there is that kind of acceptable crappy and then there is the crap where you are writing words for words' sake and you aren't connecting with the story at all. Maybe some people don't see the difference and can write through that disconnected feeling. I envy them as they probably write way fast than me. But I can't do it.

I didn't write Thanksgiving Day, and the day after I banged out about 150 shitty words because I was exhausted (Thanksgiving is a very busy bar time and I'd been working). Saturday when I was better rested, I tried to push myself to write 1500 or 2k words, thinking that if I just keep going til November 30th, maybe I'll have a full 30K that doesn't include summary or maybe I'll even get 50K if I really push. Then I could go back and fix all of it and finally capture the spirit of the story.... Hold on, I realized, why am I waiting to a certain date or certain word count to do what I know I need to do.

NaNoWriMo doesn't work for me in this stage of the game. Looking back at the Bartender book and my other two books, I realized that I really spent time on and homed the first 100 pages. Sure I end up doing a lot more polishing, and in the case of the Bartender book a lot of changing and restructuring, but by spending that time trying to write at a higher quality (not gourmet Mexican food, but not Taco Bell either, maybe Qdoba or Chipotle), I got to know my characters and their voices, my place, and the tone of the story. I don't have that for the Modern Myth book because I only wrote 25-30 polished pages. I won't ever find that by speeding along and writing a rough draft that is basically an outline with dialogue. It's just not how I function.

So, even though it's not December 1, I am done counting words for now. I met my personal goal and NaNoWriMo *did* work for me in a couple ways. It got me writing daily, something I plan to continue whenever possible even if it just means putting in 30 minutes or a couple of sentences on my busy days. I also loved the community of support and plan to keep posting about my goals and cheerleading other writers online. It also got my brain spinning on this book. Sometimes just putting the shitty words on the page got me to think about other parts of the book and helped me figure more out. And last but not least I learned (again in some ways because I did have disastrous results when I tried to write part of the Bartender book fast, though that was for different reasons) that I'm a turtle writer and I just have to accept this. Especially at the beginning of the process. I need a long time to stew and then I need to ease in to get to know the story. Then I can pick up momentum and set bigger word count goals and be less perfectionist (unless I have a major out of control sub plot, which was the issue with the Bartender book and why writing fast just dug me into a deeper hole.

I actually think that NaNoWriMo might work for me on novels that I'm roughly 30 to 35K into. That's the point when I need to stop lingering, obsessing and just go. I'm kind of hoping (though given my usual writing pace, it may be wishful thinking) that next year will line up that way. I know that is "cheating," but 50K isn't a whole book and I'm not the kind of writer who can write a bare bones book and then expand in the rewrite. (I wish I was! I feel like it would be less painful than all the cutting I've had to do.) So using it to finish a book when I'm at a good place to sprint would be awesome.

But for now, I'm going back to the beginning (or almost the beginning) to try to break into the story world. I'm actually writing this from an airport baggage claim while I wait for a friend that I'm going to a writing retreat in the Arizona desert with. I hope that removing myself from my busy life and fully immersing myself in writing the book will help.

I did a similar retreat (warm locale, same writer friends) in January when I was finishing up the first draft of the Bartender book. I talked about what I was packing and what my approach to that retreat was here, but this retreat is different since I'm starting a novel rather than trying finish/save a broken one. So I brought pics of the moodboard that I'm building for the novel at home:

Of course I can always look at my tumblr for visual muses too. (And so can you by going here.) I also have a very messy playlist (mostly a hodgepodge of Distillers, Hole, and The Corin Tucker Band songs that capture the general feeling of the book, but don't necessarily correlate directly with scenes/chapters as my playlists tend to do more of as my novels progress). I added a few more songs to the playlist ("Burn" by The Cure, "Clown" by Switchblade Symphony, "Ash Gray Sunday" by Screaming Trees, and "How Dirty Girls Get Clean" by Hole) and I also put the Faith and The Muse CDs I found in a box recently on my iPod because I feel like they might help. (I need to combine punk and goth for this book...) I only brought one paperback, which along with critique partner manuscripts will be my pleasure reading. Then I brought my research books, two nonfiction books on lore and mythology from a feminist perspective and a graphic novel that is a big inspiration behind this book. I also brought a plot book, which I read some of on the plane and used to go through the print out of my outline/summary. I still have a lot of questions for myself and I'm nervous as hell, but I think I have as much of a grip on the plot as I can right now and tomorrow I shall wake and begin a week of serious work.

I know it will be rough and crappy, but as long as I connect with it I'll be pleased. Hopefully I can return in love with this story and eager to keep up the daily writing routine that NaNoWriMo got me into with more realistic goals (500 words) until I'm ready to start sprinting.

That's my plan of action, what's yours? Especially if you did NaNoWriMo or some version of it, how did it go and what did you learn?

Monday, November 7, 2011

My November Writing Goals, Tips, and Roadblocks

While I didn't officially join National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, I've been trying to set active daily goals and a larger monthly goal so I too can benefit from the creative energy that my fellow writers put out into the universe during November. In other words, I'm a member of the NaNoWriMo Cheaters Club. I'm not following the rules of NaNo, but I'm trying to use that same sense of motivation to get myself into a new project. Suzanne Lazear wrote a great post about making NaNo work for you that pretty much sums up why I'm doing what I'm doing and she also is running a huge month long contest for all you guys with November goals, so check that out. I did sign up there and I've also been posting my goals regularly on facebook, twitter, and doing my best to cheer on those who respond. A group of friends of mine from high school are keeping each other motivated and checking in together as well. Oooh and I have a new office, freshly painted by my husband, perfectly arranged by me, but still in the process of being decorated so no pictures for you yet. Anyway, I feel like I have all kinds of good writing juju going on and that I could do this NaNoWriMo thing--or my version of it at least.

I suppose I should tell you what that version is and explain my goals for the month.

A week ago I sat down with two YA ideas that I couldn't decide between. I had roughly 30 pages written on each as well as general outline. My indecision and pages already written were what stopped me from officially signing up for NaNo, not to mention the fact that in the past word count goals that make me write fast and furious have not worked well for me. They go against my nature to write slowly and thoughtfully at least until I get into a groove. They also pushed me wayyyyy off track with the Bartender Book. So I wasn't ready to commit to 50K words in a month. I decided that 30K was more my speed and I thought I would alternate back and forth between my two book ideas until I picked one.

Day one I worked on the book idea I've had the longest. I've been toying with it in some fashion since the spring of 2008 and spent all summer hashing out what the problems with my older versions of the idea were with some critique partners and coming up with a general synopsis, some characters and these muses that I blogged about back in August. Yeah, that's right, August. I've been struggling with it ever since then, mainly because I see the very beginning of the book and I see the last third or so and I know what has to happen to get me there, but I can't see it unfolding. And normally the way I work on a book is that I have a character, a general theme, and I see a really compelling scene so I write it. Then I write the next scene and the next and so on. I don't usually even outline or plan until I'm a ways in, sometimes not even until I'm stuck. This book is not happening in my usual way. It made me think it was either a good candidate for NaNo-style writing because it would force me to write fast and push past the parts where I was having trouble and make discoveries or it was a terrible candidate because even though I think the idea is brilliant, I am not capable of carrying it out. Day one went well though. I had only limited time and I still managed to pound out 1710 words. They were awful and ugly but the story was moving forward.

Day two, I started work on YA idea #2. It's a shiny new idea as far as my ideas go, meaning I've only been playing with it since spring. It's been flowing like my ideas usually do. I had a character, a general theme or concept and I saw a really powerful scene and just started writing. It was unfolding pretty brilliantly except I had the nagging feeling that it was missing something, the big something that would make the structure work and define the spirit of the story, like the notebook of "ballads" in Ballads. It might still be too new, I worried, but I told myself it could be perfect for NaNo style writing since it was unfolding pretty well in my head. I found out pretty immediately that it wasn't. I did 861 words in the amount of time it had taken me to do 1710 on YA idea #1. I was wondering if it was a sign. Then my agent called. That was definitely a sign.

My agent told me how much she adored YA idea #1. She liked #2 as well, but she felt like #1 was so me and had so much potential and she reassured me that even though it was huge and scary I could totally pull it off. We figured out one of the things that had been stumping me and I told her I would do it, I would commit to YA idea #1. I had a couple of hours before I had to go work so I dove in and wrote as much as I could on YA idea #1 so I would have a decent word count on it for the day. I got 974 words on that project, bringing my total for the day to 1835.

I was revved by all of this, my inspiring talk with my agent and surpassing my own 1K goal to acheive real NaNo-size word counts for the first two days. I forged ahead and got 1722 words on day 3, but then things started to go downhill. Friday and Saturday are my busy days of the week and generally I don't write on those days. I view writing as my full-time job (even though I have a couple of part-time jobs on top of it that actually pay the bills) so usually I take Friday and Saturdays "off" and run errands or on some rare occasions, I socialize. Friday I actually had a ton of errands and staff meeting for my teaching job, so I only had half an hour to write, but I managed 655 words. Saturday I had a good couple of hours but only wrote 714 words. Sunday is usually a writing day for me, and though I am generally worn out from working til 3 am at my bar job on Saturday nights, I have a writing meet-up with one of my best friends that keeps me pretty productive. I did squeeze out 1013 words, but they were abysmal. Then yesterday, Monday, which is usually my best writing day of the week because I don't work the night before *and* I'm not going to either my teaching or bartending job at night so I don't feel the pressure to get done at an exact time, I wrote a terrible 741 words.

What is happening here? I think it's a couple things:

1. I'm stuck. As I mentioned before, I'm not seeing scenes for this part of book. I was hoping I could speed my way through and stumble on something but

2. while it got me over an initial hump, writing fast is not satisfying. I need to develop the voice of this book, it's texture, it's imagery and when I speedrace through, I'm not taking enough time to do that.

Nova Ren Suma wrote a great post about taking her writing slowly and rewriting as she goes and that is something I feel more comfortable with. But at the same time, I hate the fact that I write so slowly and I hate first drafts so I kind of want to get the rough draft done fast so I can get to the good bit: the rewriting!

Clearly what I need is to find some sort of balance where I take my time on some bits to develop voice and imagery and all that good stuff, but I don't worry about getting every scene perfect. However, time management is a huge issue for me. As I mentioned before, I only write 5 days a week, but I feel like this month, I should try to squeeze in even half an hour every day. I'm also trying to figure out how to deal with my life so I actually accomplish all I need to accomplish in one day and am not up at 12:42 am when I want to be in bed reading AMPLIFIED (have you seen the Women Who Rock Wednesday interview on that? Go read it and enter the contest.) but instead I have to finish the blog entry I meant to write at 5 pm and couldn't because I got behind on my teaching stuff and my freelance stuff and ended up totally neglecting my husband yet again. I know that for a lot of my friends who do NaNo, it's a way to fit writing into their hectic lives. Writing is already in my hectic life, but ever since I added teaching and writing for ROOKIE into the mix this fall, I haven't figured out how to get all I want done in a day. Anyway, that is probably a whole separate and personal issue (though I'd love to take time management tips if you have them as long as they don't involved get up ass early since I am a bartender and work til 2 or 3 am), but my point is I think I rush to reach word count because I have limited time to write fiction, and then even on days like yesterday (which is still today as I type this because I'm up too late) when I have plenty of time, I get these anxiety about building up words for days like today where I'll have limited time. But I need to start thinking about quality as well as quantity. I don't want to move at a snail's pace, but I don't want to throw words on the page just for the sake of a number. Of course this is easier said than done for the girl who is very clear concise goal oriented.

Also the larger problem is this "not seeing the scenes I need to be writing" thing. I'm really not sure how to remedy that. I did write my first book non-linearly by just "going to the moment that takes your attention" as I was coached to do in my MFA program, but since I wrote my last two books linearly, I'm a little freaked out about doing this, especially since in this case I'm seeing the very last part of the book and it seems just wrong to write that first.

I'm really hoping that slowing down and really lushly describing the places or the backstory or whatever might help. Part of me honestly wants to make a moodboard for the story. This is ROOKIE's influence on me. You can see the monthly moodboard for our latest issue here as an example and Tavi shows off her moodboard for the month here. I don't know if this moodboard thing is like a fashion world thing or what, but I think it is rad as hell. I also think I should have done it to prep for this month and now maybe it's just procrastinating. In my defense, I didn't have time to prepare. I finished revisions, I caught up on everything I put off while doing revisions and then I dove back into this thing. Maybe I need some muse time...

Though I would rather try to find the muse while writing. Last week one of my friends was struggling and I told her about some exercises that I teach. I'm going to share them here in case they are useful to you, too. I also may take my own advice and try a couple of them. Or jump ahead. Or slow down. Or perhaps one each day this week til I get it right. However I would also love any writing exercises or tricks you may try when you know the basic plot but aren't seeing the scenes unfold.

Here are my tools:

1. The Hands exercise: In the first paragraph, describe the space, the room the character is in which may be significant to them. In the second paragraph, describe the character's hands. That's right, skip over their face and other features we usually go to and describe their hands. You can tell a lot by hands: age, job, past through scars and tattoos, do they bite or manicure their nails. Next paragraph describe what they are doing with their hands: rolling a cigarette, lighting a fire, putting on lip gloss. Then bring another character into the scene and have them interact.

2. The photo exercise: Look for a photo that reminds you of your story in some way. Write a scene about it in which there is CONFLICT. Could be internal conflict but actual interaction is better. (NOTE: Ooooh this gives me an excuse to look for moodboard stuff....)

3. The flow exercise: See your character in their flow, meaning doing an activity they love so much they lose themselves completely in it. Like playing music, a sport, cooking, painting, etc. Describe how they do it, how it makes them feel, make it really visceral. But again, move it toward a conflict. The example scenes I read my class were from Firelight by Sophie Jordan, where the main character a draki (part dragon, part human) sneaks out to fly, a thing she loves, but she gets caught. Also from Graffiti Girl by Kelly Parra where a girl experiments with graffiti art for the first time to bring her own art to the next level, but then she sneaks back into the house and her mom is pissed. And last but not least from Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly where a girl with Aspergers who has always played music on her own, meets two other people and starts to write a song with them and realizes the experience is so much better that she has to get past her own blocks about other people and form a band with them.

4. Draw your plot on a giant piece of paper. Whatever shape it forms, however it best suits you. Use lots of colors, collage if you want. (AGAIN: MOODBOARD POSSIBILITIES!) You can also list your conflicts, assign them a 1-10 rating for conflict and graph them to see how the book flows.

5. Those were admittedly all exercises that I learned from another teacher and modified a bit, but I also have my own. The Ballads exercise. Yep, like my characters in BALLADS OF SUBURBIA. Take the character you are struggling with and write their ballad. Let them put a song quote up top and the dive into their inner darkness, and let them write as it says in the BALLADS back cover copy, "heartbreakingly honest confessions of the moments that defined and shattered their young lives."

Those are my main tools, but as you can see most are character-based because I'm a really character-driven writer. Maybe #2 and #4 would help me, but #4 doesn't involve putting words on the page and #2, well, I could totally waste hours looking for that picture. So if you have good tips for when you are stuck discovering plot and scene, please let me know!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Tara Kelly

I'm taking a bit of a hiatus from Women Who Rock Wednesday while I get a new YA project going, but I had to invite Tara Kelly back to the blog to celebrate the release of her new book AMPLIFIED! Tara is one of my all-time favorite writers and I've been dying for this book since I finished HARMONIC FEEDBACK. She knows real teen characters just as well as she knows music and the result is incredible contemporary stories that music lovers like me will devour. I can't wait to crack my copy of AMPLIFIED this week and I think once Tara tells you about it, I think you will be running out to buy it, so let's meet her, shall we?

Q: Tell us about AMPLIFIED. What inspired you to write it?

TARA: Amplified is about a girl who is kicked out of her house because she decides to pursue music over college. She lies her way into a band (saying she has experience she doesn't have) and has a modest savings (for Santa Cruz standards) to live off of. Naturally things go wrong.

Funny story: Amplified was originally a paranormal about a ghost-hunting band. Jasmine was psychic and could see ghosts and..well, it didn't really work. I also realized I was far more in love with the story of the band than the 'main' ghost story. So, the Amplified that's out now was born. I've always wanted to write about a band, especially band practice. Some of the most intense/funny/liberating/crazy moments happen while you're stuck in a hot room together trying to coordinate a bunch of personalities into one song. Remember that old movie The Breakfast Club? What would happen if you gave those characters instruments and told them to write a song together? Chaos, fighting, and even some common ground? Probably.

The band in my book (C-Side) brings five very different people together. Sure, they all like industrial rock and music. But...they all have different ideas of what a song should sound like. They all have completely different personalities and ways that they approach writing and performing. And I have to say it's a hell of a lot of fun to write. I also wanted to focus on girls in music, especially girls who do more than sing. Not saying there is anything wrong with singing. I personally love it! But I'd just like to see more stories out there about girl guitarists, girl drummers, girl bassists--girl banjo players? That might be interesting.

For more info, go to my new book website:

Q: If AMPLIFIED had a soundtrack (and knowing you, it probably does!), what are five songs that would be on it and tell us how they relate to the story or characters.

TARA: Ha--actually I just did a post about that very thing here.

Q: I'm an enormous fan of your first book HARMONIC FEEDBACK and I know that AMPLIFIED is music-inspired, but I imagine that you'll be bringing something new to the table with AMPLIFIED because every book is different. Can you talk a bit about those differences and maybe even how your process for writing them differed if it did?

TARA: Well, as I said above Amplified was originally a paranormal, so a big difference right there. But when I decided to make Amplified about a band, I pretty much wrote an entirely new book.

Harmonic Feedback was more like a violin. Slower paced, rich with emotion, dark, intense, with a dash of quirk. Drea's unique view of the world really drove that story forward, making every day things a big deal. Just about every new experience was intense for Drea. Some of the scenes were tough to write because they would draw so much emotion out of me, but so worth it. I felt like that book made me become a better really tested me in many ways.

Amplified was more like an electric guitar. Faster, louder, and more light-hearted. After writing Harmonic (mind you I was watching a LOT of Gilmore Girls), I wanted to write another music-driven story, but I wanted the main focus to be on the band. And I wanted the story to have a lot of funny moments. This isn't to say Amplified doesn't have its dark or emotional parts--I can't write a book without some grit/emotion. But overall it's a fun book and it was fun to write--something far more likely to make you laugh than cry.

Q: You are a musician in addition to a writer, can you tell us about your music? Do your two creative processes feed each other or are they very separate?

TARA: I AM a musician, although I haven't had as much time for my music as I like. The day jobs and writing have to come first...which often times means I can't write songs as much as I used to (which breaks my heart, to be honest) If I could be a full time writer and musician? Ha...if only all of us could, right? My music tends to be all over the board in genre. I love writing guitar-heavy industrial stuff, trip-hop, synth-pop, and even some acoustic stuff. My main love is electronica, though. I also love to produce since I'm a perfectionist and all. My favorite instrument is most definitely the guitar--it's raw, can be kind of painful sometimes, packed with emotion and sass, and releases me like no other instrument ever has.

My creative processes aren't generally separate. I need music to write and I need to write to make music. I often write songs from my character's POV. My lyrics come from them!

Q: Can you tell us a bit about what is up next for you?

TARA: Right now I'm working a psychological thriller that I'm super excited about. It's much different from my previous books and a little intimidating, but I'm also kind of obsessed with the characters right now and want any excuse to spend time with them. I consider that a good sign :)

Q: I have two standard questions for my Women Who Rock. The first is a two-parter: What was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we don't judge.

TARA: know I always say the first album I bought was Alice in Chains "Dirt", but I was thinking about this the other day. It might have been Bjork's Debut album. Either way, it was ONE of those :) The first concert I went to on my own (not my parents dragging me) was White Zombie and Babes in Toyland. And even today, that remains one of my favorite concerts of all time.

Q: Please dish about the moment where you felt most like a rock star. Maybe it was a moment of big success in your career, an "I'm Not Worthy!" Wayne's World type moment where you met someone cool, or a time where you just got the rock star treatment.

TARA: Last time I said Poe, but I've had a rockstar moment since then. Earlier this month Harmonic Feedback won the Oregon Spirit Book Award from the English Teacher's council. They invited me to the award ceremony where the organizer presented each book and talked about why it won an award or honor. When she got to mine, she talked about how much one of the character's reminded her of some of the kids she works with. How much it moved her, made her gasp at one point and made her cry. But mostly how true it rang to her. Then she went on to talk about a student who never did any of her work, but she read my book in two days. That's when it really hit me that my book is out there and its reaching the kids I wanted it to reach. Can I ask for a bigger rockstar moment?

No, you couldn't! That is really awesome! And the award was well-deserved.

Today's Contest:

Tara has a very special prize planned that is so appropriate for this book. She's giving away an iMix of her playlist for AMPLIFIED!

To enter all you have to do is leave a comment. However you can gain additional entries:

+1 for tweeting or posting on facebook about this interview
+1 for tweeting or posting about AMPLIFIED
+5 for blogging about AMPLIFIED

Note your additional entries in your comment as well as giving me an email address or some way to contact you if you win.

Since this is a download, it is most definitely open internationally!

Since I'm going on blog hiatus, please be sure to leave an email address or way to contact you. I will be drawing the winner on November 16.

And speaking of contests....

Tara's agent is running a really awesome one. Buy and spread the word about AMPLIFIED and you could win a ton of cool prizes including a basket of books. It runs until November 7th and you should get on it here. Especially since I'm guessing you are already running out to get AMPLIFIED :)