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Monday, May 2, 2011

Diversion Press Welcomes Jennifer Caloyeras, Author of Urban Falcon

Join us to chat with Jennifer Caloyeras about her young adult book, Urban Falcon

This is not how it was supposed be. Evan was all set to finish his high school years at Elbow Creek High, pursuing his passion for photography in the small town where he grew up. But mid-junior year, his Dad's job forced the family to move to Lincoln Heights, a booming metropolis - a city one could get lost in. Now his best friend Denny won't even talk to him and something suspicious is going on with his Mom. When Evan's worst fears are confirmed, he starts acting out in ways he never thought possible. Caught between who he used to be and the possibility of who he could become, he's thrown into a world of dating, out of control parties and family drama. Evan Falcon learns more about himself than he ever though possible.

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.

What is the best and worst part of being a published author?
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?

12 comments:

  1. Looking forward to reading, Urban Falcon. I've added it to my poolside reading list.

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  2. Hello Jennifer, Great to read an interview with you. I love your writing and cannot wait for the next 'chapter' of your writing career.

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  3. Oh - I forgot to add - I was a group floater in high school, part academic geek, part eco minded, part hippie, part athletic. See, float, float, floating between groups ;)
    Thanks again for "Urban Falcon" -- it's a fave here.

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  4. Great article! Jennifer is very inspiring for YA writers. I can't wait for her next book.

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  5. Hi Jenny, I'm so happy and excited for you to see you out there getting published! Even though I'm 29 I still see Evan as such a real character; I recognize, in him, so much of my experience as a young man. I can't wait to see what else you're working on. My cousins are 14 years old and this book will make a great gift for them. Keep up the great work!

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  6. Jennifer, where was this book when I was a teen-ager? Even in the 80's all the YA novels were mostly for girls. That's why I always read the classics, sci-fi, or comic books. Thank you for realizing boys like to read too!
    And i love the postcard idea!!! Mind if I borrow it?

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  7. Hi All! (I see my maiden name has popped up here on my ID, but it's me, Jennifer Caloyeras) Thanks for sharing your reactions to the novel as well as who you were in high school! It's funny how these things change over time. I think I was kind of a floater...I was really into music and theater, but was friends with the sporty kids, but then floated all over the place....(like you Carey! I bet we would have made great high school friends!!) And Sean, please do steal that idea!! I like to think of it as the poor-man's billboard!

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  8. she is so inspiring! what a great read for YA and for adults

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  9. I read Urban Falcon and loved it. I can't wait to read your next book! And read more of your short stories. Really enjoyed the interview. -Lizabeth

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  10. I love your advice about reading and being an author! Great interview!

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  11. Thanks, Tiffany! I loved being your guest! Anytime!

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