Tuesday, October 23, 2018

YA Guy Hosts...Barbara Barrow, author of THE QUELLING!

One of the nicest things about being an author is meeting other authors--and authors-to-be! This year, YA Guy's been thrilled to see a number of friends realize their dream of authorship with their debut works of fiction or nonfiction. Though not all of these fellow authors write YA, I wanted to celebrate their achievements and spread the word about their books.

So I'm going to be running a series of guest posts over the next several months to do just that! First up is Barbara Barrow, whose psychological thriller THE QUELLING was published last month. Barbara has kindly written a post about her path to publication, and after you read her story, you can find out more about THE QUELLING and its author.

Ever since my debut novel, The Quelling, was released, people have asked me two questions. 

The first: What inspired your book? 

This one is easy! I love Gothic novels like Wuthering Heights and The Woman in White: sinister books about madhouses, gender, hysteria, and crime. So I wrote a contemporary Gothic novel about a couple of bloodthirsty siblings, a murder, and a rare psychiatric disorder. I told the story through multiple narrators: two sisters, their doctor, and their two nurses. 

The second question: How long did it take to get published? 


This one is hard. The truth is, my road to publication was less a direct path and more of a long, meandering detour, the kind that can leave you feeling stranded and lost and desperately behind schedule. But just as a detour can make us slow down and pay attention to new scenery and unexpectedly beautiful vistas, so too did my winding path to publication teach me invaluable lessons about the publishing process, and about my own writing. 

The road to publication began with an email and a phone call from an editor at a small press. I had revised the manuscript five times, over the course of several years, and had been submitting for a few months when he requested the full manuscript and showed it to the lead editor. He liked the manuscript very much, he said, especially its elegiac and mournful mood. However, he felt that the characters’ voices needed to be “peeled apart” more, to be made more distinct, perhaps with different vocabularies and ways of speaking. Would I be willing to make revisions? 

Thrilled that a press liked my book, I said yes right away. And I began the revisions. I re-read and studied classic multiple-narrator books like William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and began to peel two of the first-person narrators apart. I gave my learned doctor character more of a scientific vocabulary and a clipped, businesslike tone, and my loutish nurse character Simon a frank, talky, and arrogant voice. I worked through a revision or two with my beta reader friend, and I sent the chapters in. 


Finally, the editor emailed back. He appreciated the revisions, especially to Simon’s chapter, he said, but he felt that with the new voices the book had lost some of the lyric, elegiac quality that he had admired so much in the earlier draft. What did I think about trying a close third-person omniscient narrator who could get into all of the character’s heads? 

So I went back to my desk. I studied novels with a close third-person narrator like Meg Wolitzer’s The Position, and, over the course of one bleary weekend, I switched my whole novel into third person. I sent the revised book back in, and waited. 

And waited. 

This was the hardest part. Months elapsed without much other than a few lines of acknowledgement, and I began to wonder if the novel would ever be published at all. I dallied. My creative life felt stalled. At the encouragement of my friend, I kept submitting the original version of the manuscript, since I hadn’t yet had much feedback on the third-person revision. And I waited and waited. It was a long, agonizing summer.  

At the same time, that interval deepened the third-person revision for me. I began to think of my characters in the third person. Whenever I read fiction or watched television I paid even more attention to perspective and point of view. Whenever I listened to a friend tell a story, I noticed the switch between the I and the They. In that time period, my novel went from being written in the third person to actually becoming a third person novel.  

Then, one day, I checked my email and found some correspondence from a small press that specialized in the “weird and strange.” Expecting another rejection, I clicked on it to discover the opposite: the editors had read my submission, loved it, and felt that the style was a great fit for the aesthetic of their press. Was the manuscript still available? 

I was elated. I reached out to writer friends (including YA Guy!) for advice, I parted ways cordially with the first editor, and in a week, I had a contract with the new press. A year later, after some revisions and some copy-editing, the book came out: with its original cast of first-person narrators. 

It’s tempting to think of my experience as roundabout: almost as if I had to walk in a very long circle in order to get back to square one. And there were days, especially during that long summer, when it felt that way. But the process taught me patience, and also a kind of creative flexibility, a willingness to re-imagine my characters and story and structure in radically different ways. 

It also reminded me that the editorial process is subjective. At the launch party for The Quelling, someone asked me about the revision process, and I talked about the third-person alternative version. Afterward, a colleague and writer friend who had read the book said, “Oh, I don’t think this would work in the third person at all.”

Was he right, and the editor wrong, or vice versa? Probably neither. In the end, I learned, the best stylistic choice is the one that a publisher and author agree is right for this story. There is another version of The Quelling that exists in an alternative universe, and I’m okay with that. It also taught me the importance of always submitting up until you have a signed contract in hand. It’s important to revise, of course, but it’s also important to find a press whose aesthetic vision merges with yours. 

Finally, the process taught me that editorial feedback has a long, rich afterlife. For my next novel, a multiple-POV book, I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of richly contrasting voices, about other uses for the different versions of the two characters I revised, and the lessons I learned from studying other books and re-thinking my own manuscript.

As it turns out, even a long, agonizing detour can be worthwhile.

Thanks, Barbara! Readers, when you dive into THE QUELLING, I think you'll be pleased to see that Barbara stuck with her vision and her gut (while also cultivating the flexibility to make the editorial changes needed). It's a taut, tense story with great characters and tone, and I can't wait for the next book to come out of Barbara's (dare I say slightly twisted?) imagination!

About THE QUELLING: Addie and Dorian have always been together. They're clever, beautiful--and hopelessly violent. Diagnosed with a rare psychiatric condition and accused of murder in childhood, the sisters have spent most of their lives in a locked ward under the supervision of eccentric researcher Dr. Lark. Now on the cusp of adulthood, Addie has a plan: start a new family to replace the one she lost. Dorian struggles to quell her violent tendencies in time to help raise her sister's child.

But Dr. Lark sees these patients as key to the completion of his revolutionary cure, and he will not allow Addie's absurd ideas to get in the way. As his "treatments" become increasingly bizarre, they put Addie and Dorian's safety at risk. The girls' only lifeline may be Ellie, a ward nurse with troubles of her own, who's never felt the need to protect anyone--until now.

Harrowing and bittersweet, at times claustrophobic, this gritty debut explores the fragility of familial bonds and the sometimes intractable tension between freedom and safety.

Order THE QUELLING from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Quelling-Barbara-Barrow/dp/1941360181
Or directly from the publisher: 

About Barbara: Barbara Barrow is a literary critic and fiction writer who loves all things Gothic and strange. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Cimarron Review, The Forge Literary Magazine, Folio, and elsewhere. She is Assistant Professor of English at Point Park University in Pittsburgh. In her spare time she eats mangoes and binge-watches old seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. THE QUELLING is her first novel. Anca L. Szilágyi calls it a “ferocious, tender, astonishing” book that “lays bare our animalistic drives toward violence and love.”

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

YA Guy Participates in... The Fall 2018 YA Scavenger Hunt!

YA Guy's super excited to participate in this year's FALL YA SCAVENGER HUNT! This is my sixth Hunt, and I've got a new book, the YA fantasy ECOSYSTEM, out this year, with the sequel due in another month. So I'm totally ready for the Hunt, and I trust that you are too! (I mean, why would you be here if you weren't?)

As you can probably tell by all the green lettering in this post (not to mention the banner at the top), I'm on the GREEN TEAM, along with the other awesome authors you see below:

The YA Scavenger Hunt is a bi-annual event first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! Add up the clues on each GREEN TEAM page, and you can enter for our prize--one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in our team! There are SEVEN contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! But don't delay: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will be online only until noon Pacific time on OCTOBER 7! (My personal giveaway, though, will run a little longer, through October 9.)


Directions: In the author biography below, you'll notice I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the Green Team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!). 

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form to qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally. Anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by Sunday, October 7, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered. For more information, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

Personal Giveaway: In addition to the prizes named above, readers who enter my personal giveaway will have a chance to win a signed copy of my forthcoming novel THE DEVOURING LAND! The sequel to ECOSYSTEM, this novel is having its cover revealed right here, right now! Like the Hunt itself, the personal giveaway is open internationally. Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter!

Got all that? Then let's meet the author I'm hosting, SHANNON KLARE!

Shannon Klare is a writer, teacher, reality TV fanatic, and movie connoisseur. A born and raised Texan, her writing is heavily influenced by small town living and year round sports. When Shannon isn’t writing or daydreaming new plots (22 of them to date), she can be found frequenting Starbucks or hanging out with her family. SURVIVING ADAM MEADE is her debut novel. It's available in stores now!

To find out more about Shannon, go to her website!

About SURVIVING ADAM MEADE: Seventeen-year-old Claire Collins has a plan: get into college and leave North Carolina behind. What she doesn’t have is an idea for how to get rid of the local football star and womanizer extraordinaire―Adam Meade, who she can’t even avoid (despite many efforts), because Claire’s dad is the high school football coach.

Seventeen-year-old Adam Meade never fails. He always gets what he wants . . . until he meets Claire, the new girl who leaves him unnerved, pissed off, and confused. But there’s something about her that he just can’t resist....

With the bite of lemon meringue pie and the sugar of sweet tea, Surviving Adam Meade is a sexy and compelling young adult novel about two strong-willed people who think they know what they want but have no idea what they need.

To buy the book, follow this link!

But wait, there's more! Enter below for a chance to win one of two signed copies of my forthcoming YA fantasy novel THE DEVOURING LAND! This personal giveaway runs through October 9, and the cover is being revealed to the world for the first time ever!

About THE DEVOURING LAND: On the day of Miriam and Isaac's wedding, Sarah’s village is overrun by monstrous creatures from the Ecosystem. With the community’s leaders dead and few Sensors remaining, Sarah shepherds the survivors into the deadly forest surrounding the village. Her own Sense badly damaged in an earlier attack, she must fight through a host of new threats in hopes of discovering the place where her mother was born, rumored to be home to a community of healers.

When another attack decimates her band, the survivors are rescued by a group of people under the leadership of a man named Gabriel. Taking Sarah and the remnants of her village to a sheltered city ruled by healer-women known as queens, Gabriel instructs Sarah in the Ecosystem’s origins and teaches her a new way of coexisting with its creatures. But the City of the Queens is haunted by a dark secret from the past, and Sarah will have to learn the truth of her lineage in order to save the people she loves and protect the world she knows.

The second book in a fantasy-adventure trilogy that begins with Ecosystem, The Devouring Land will be released on November 20, 2018. Sarah’s story concludes with House of Earth, House of Stone (2019).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Fall 2018 Hunt is over, but my personal giveaway is still going on for a couple of days. Thanks to everyone who participated, and I hope to see you back in Spring 2019!