Join us to chat with Jennifer Caloyeras about her young adult book, Urban Falcon.
What advice can you give aspiring YA writers?
Read. Read. Read. Know what’s out there. Don’t try to imitate it, but find your own voice within it so you’re actually joining the YA genre conversation in some way.
In the time since your book was first released, do you see a change in the trend of the YA field? If so, what is your opinion of it?
I’ve attended a lot of book conferences, festivals and fairs over the past year and a half (since the release of my book) and I have seen a couple of shifts, it seems, in the industry.
Fantasy fiction has been big over the past few years with Twilight and then the Hunger Games to name two of the most successful book series. But I think the pendulum is swinging back the other way now, away from fantasy and towards more realistic portrayals of teens. (An agent at a recent conference specifically said, “If it has a vampire in it, I won’t even look at it!”)
Also, I think there’s a real push to regain some boy readership back, which means a push for excellent boy-oriented fiction.
It’s an exciting time to be writing YA! I think it used to be thought of as this inferior genre and now it’s looked at as an equal to “adult” fiction. In fact, much of the audience for young adult fiction seems to be adults who want to look back, in a safe way, at what it’s like to be a teen again.
Would you consider Evan Falcon to be your average teen? What makes him similar to other teens and what makes him unique?
I guess Evan is “average” in the sense that he’s full of insecurities and has this slightly rebellious side. He’s on that eternal teenage quest to “find” himself and part of that journey is trying on different selves – the rebel, the lover, the silent sufferer. He negotiates these different sides of himself throughout the book. I’d like to think of him as a sensitive male teen, which I think might make him more unique than other, more stereotypical portrayals of teenage boys in realistic fiction. He sometimes over-thinks / over-analyzes his situation. I also think that deep down he’s a good kid. He doesn’t have any glaring social or emotional problems, but even the best kids sometimes find themselves in trouble.
What inspired you to develop the Urban Falcon characters? Are the characters based on people that you know or are the completely fictional or a mix?
This is definitely a piece of fiction! (I’d hate for anyone who knows me to try and read themselves into the text) – that being said, everyone I’ve ever met kind of enters this storage space in my writing vocabulary that I can pull quirks/traits from. I spent a long time developing the characters in the book – listening them and getting to know them so that they would translate as three-dimensional on the page.
The best part is the idea that people are reading my work! That’s just so thrilling – equally thrilling – even a year and a half later! I don’t know that there is a worst part – maybe the pressure that comes with a second manuscript? Writing without a publication past is very liberating – there’s no standard to measure myself against, but now I’ve raised the bar for myself and I want to be able to make each proceeding work that much stronger.
Are you working on any new projects?
I tend to write multiple things at once. I think I do this because I am prone to restlessness. I have a completed manuscript of adult short fiction (Which, consequently was part of my graduate thesis for my MFA in creative writing which I completed in the spring of 2010.) I have recently finished a draft of a second young adult novel and I am writing my first non-fiction book proposal that involves cooking – one of my favorite hobbies!
Do you have any book signing stories that you would like to share?
The signings have all been a great experience and a wonderful way to connect with my audience! I used to be a singer / songwriter in my 20’s and I would get so nervous before I took the stage to sing and play – it makes getting up there and reading a passage from my novel seem easy – I don’t have to worry about wrong notes or forgetting my lyrics!! I was especially proud to be invited to speak at California State University, Los Angeles where I received my MA in English literature in 2004. It was a thrill to lead a discussion about young adult fiction in a room full of my English professors and current creative writing students.
What outlets have you found to be the most or least helpful in marketing your book? What suggestions do you have for other authors to help with marketing their books?
I think the Internet it the most amazing tool for marketing. It’s been a learning curve – but I feel as though I’ve learned so much. There are tons of bloggers willing and eager to read and review your book, conduct interviews, enter a discussion about writing and reading. The literary world online is full of energy and forward momentum. It’s such a phenomenal way to connect.
I also learned that there are many exciting writing contests for published (and unpublished) writers. Urban Falcon was recently a runner up in the Hollywood Book Festival in 2010!
Outlets like Facebook and Twitter certainly help to get the word out. I think people especially love to learn more about the person behind the book. I think that in the past, writers were a bit more of a mystery…only coming out once a book was finished and ready to be promoted. But now, writers can connect with their audience during the creative process.
I had these glossy postcards made for the book when it was published. I always carry them in my purse with me. I like to leave them at various locations, especially when I travel….hotel bathrooms, restaurant tables, gas stations. You never know who might pick them up and check the book out!
QUESTION FOR BLOGGERS:
Who were you in high school? Who were you perceived to be versus who you felt you were?