Friday, December 16, 2011

My Book is Here, for realz

There have been a load of fun moments in this 2 year process of publishing a novel. I've learned a lot along the way, never knowing what to expect next until I got an email or phone call from my publisher or agent. (Actually landing an agent and editor were HUGE moments in and of themselves.)

Some of the highlights include my "first pass" pages, which was basically my book in a stack of loose leaf pages bound by a single rubber band. This was the final chance I had to make revisions and tweak my a dedication/acknowledgments. A fun moment following that was receiving my ARC (advanced readers copy). This was basically my book as a paper back. That was an awesome day.

Then I was assigned a publicist and she has worked like crazy to set up events for me surrounding my launch (only a couple of weeks away - eek!). It will be fun to be on Channel 27 news back home with an anchor who is actually a girl I know from growing up in the same small town. And it will be great to do book signings and read aloud from a book that's been like my baby for a couple of years now.

But the most exciting part happened today - when I received my copy. The real deal. A hard cover copy of The Queen of Kentucky. I'm in love with the cover, the copy, the bound book itself. When I opened that box today, not expecting anything in the mail to begin with, I was surprised that new book smell is actually even better than new car smell. It was a beautiful day.

And the best part is that you'll be able to get your very own copy soon! If you haven't ordered your copy yet, you can pre-order by calling these bookstores and they'll have your copy waiting at the signings... where I'm sure you'll want to come get it signed by yours truly. Right? 

BOOK SIGNINGS
The Corner Bookstore  -  Jan 5th, 6pm
1313 Madison Ave @93rd St
NY, NY
(212) 831-3554

Carmichael's Bookstore  -  Jan 13th, 7pm
2720 Frankfort Ave
Louisville, KY
(502) 896-6950

Joseph-Beth Bookstore  -  Jan 14th, 6pm
161 Lexington Green
Lexington, KY
(859) 273-2911

Joseph-Beth Bookstore  -  Jan 15th, 2pm
2785 Dixie Highway
Crestview Hills, KY
(859) 912-7860

Cynthiana Public Library  -  Jan 17th, 4:30pm
104 North Main Street
Cynthiana, KY
(859) 234-4881

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fan Club Friday - My Book Trailer!

Book trailers have become huge in the young adult world. Teens are connected, are online all the time, and are much more willing to watch a clip on YouTube than read a synopsis on a blog. And why not? Moving images paint a vivid scene and can draw you in quickly while leave you wanting more.

I knew I wanted to do a book trailer from the get go. And since the book is already an homage to my home state, I wanted to use young Kentucky talent for the job. I contacted The Kentucky Governor's School for the Arts and they hooked me up with a couple of 17 year old New Media students: Sam Stucky and Julie Willian. I mailed them advanced copies of the book so that they could get a sense of the story. Then I posted a casting on Facebook and used this social network to cast the actors. Everyone, including the actor playing Ricki Jo's dog Bandit, is from Kentucky! The students were so professional and amazing to work with. I organized the major shooting day and wrote a shooting script, we had lots of long phone calls, and I sent emails with character descriptions. But it's amazing to me that I've never personally met these kids, we did it from different states, and the outcome is this rewarding. 


So, I hope this book trailer makes you as eager to buy and read my first book as I am for its release on January 2, 2012 wherever books are sold. Of course, you can go ahead and pre-order it at B&N.com or Amazon.

Check out more of Sam Stucky's videos here. I'm a Sam fan - a big fan.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Twitter Tuesdays - KIRKUS review!

I know advanced copies of my book are out there floating about. I know folks are forming opinions of my story, as well as me and who I am as a writer. I've gotten two wonderful blurbs from writers I admire, I've gotten praise from my family and friends, and even some of my contemporaries in the YA writing biz seem to have enjoyed the read.

But I forgot about the reviewers. You know, the people who don't know me and have a responsibility to their followers to tell the absolute truth. I survived Publisher's Weekly. And now... Kirkus! From what I hear, the folks at Kirkus don't pull punches, don't sugarcoat things, and aren't afraid to tell it like it really is. For all of those reasons, I am humbled beyond measure by their words:


The Queen of Kentucky
By Alecia Whitaker
Jaunaury 2012/ Ages 12 & Up/ $17.99
ISBN: 978-0-316-12506-2
Set in small-town Kentucky, this coming-of-age story depicts the ups and downs of 14-year-old Ricki Jo Winstead as she tries on a new identity.
High school is about to start, and Ricki Jo seizes the opportunity to reinvent herself. The first thing she does is ditch her “plain ol” name, taking on the new, more sophisticated (to her ears) moniker of Ericka. Swiftly getting the lay of the high-school land, Ricki Jo decides that she wants to move with the popular girls. She tries out for cheerleading rather than band, buys hipper clothing, and jettisons the real Bible for that subversive gospel according to Seventeen. Her new friends are a little faster than she’s used to, and she begins a rather daring (for her) flirtation with the handsome-and-he-knows-it David Wolfenbaker. All these changes displease her neighbor and best friend, Luke Foster, a grounded guy who is struggling with the more serious issue of his father’s alcoholism and abuse. In her debut, Whitaker paints a vivid, finely detailed picture of life in the sometime-hardscrabble heartland. But what draws the reader in is the chaotic precision of her characters, youngsters who are conflicted and frequently inconsistent, yet feel rounded and real.
Solid, just like its setting.


I've only read this review about twenty-five hundred times. Isn't this amazing? The last line is my favorite. Ahhhh. You must be a subscriber to see it on their website, but two weeks before the release of my book, it'll be available on their site to anyone. Of course, I'll post the link then. I can't wait til everyone can read The Queen of Kentucky. I share Ricki Jo with you all in a month and a half. Hurray! As I type, my awesome publicist from Little, Brown and I are lining up events in New York and Kentucky for January. I hope you'll all come out and celebrate with me!  xoxo

Monday, November 07, 2011

Momma Mondays - First Haircut

Well, Knox's first haircut went exactly how I'd always imagined it. He cried through the whole thing. I have to give props to Mariana at Blue Bird Salon for hanging in there and being stone cold to the tears of babes. Even as Knox swatted at her hands, she kept snipping with nary a blade nicking his little petulant fingers.

It was a weird milestone for all of us. Jerrod and I had wanted to keep Knox's long hair til his second birthday, but it was just too much. He had a thick, glorious mane. Long hair flowing over his eyes and ears, cascading down his back to his shoulder blades when wet.

Hipsters


A picture of him playing with one of his besties in the park shows him sporting the hair over his hood, hanging down in his face, while his gray skinny jeans started to sag. I was seeing the early makings of Justin Bieber.


And then Saturday, as Jerrod and I watched him tug at those locks as he played at the park, we realized that it was an unfair distraction. Hair gel had become too much of a hassle and bobby pins had been vetoed, so away we went to the salon.

The following pictures should pretty much sum up that day and those unforgettable twenty minutes in the chair.  Just click Read More to see them all.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Publisher's Weekly Review!

Great news! Publisher's Weekly just reviewed The Queen of Kentucky and, thankfully, we fared well. It seems that the reviewer loves Ricki Jo as much as my editor, agent, and I do. As we get closer and closer to the book launch, I get all the more antsy to share her story with you all!

The Queen of Kentucky
By Alecia Whitaker
January 2012/ Ages 12 & up/ $17.99
ISBN 978-0-316-12506-2

Fourteen-year-old Ricky Jo has lived in the same Kentucky farming town her whole life, right next door to her best friend Luke. But she’s still the new girl, of sorts, on the first day of high school, having previously attended a small Catholic school. Renaming herself Ericka and hoping to become popular, she tries to fit in with a group of cool girls from homeroom and develops a crush on cocky fellow freshman Wolf. Ericka’s honest and insecure voice, her penchant for mishaps, and her frustration with her boyish physique will easily resonate with similarly conflicted readers. Debut novelist Whitaker paints a rich picture of life in rural Kentucky, as Ericka struggles to maintain tenuous friendships as well as her moral center. The subplot of Luke’s alcoholic and abusive father rings painfully true, as does Ericka’s ongoing crush on Wolf, who is alternately cruel and flirtatious with her, putting her self-worth through the wringer again and again. This coming-of-age romance holds few surprises, but will capture readers with its honesty and heart. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Twitter Tuesdays - CONTEST WINNER!

Drum Roll please! Twitter Contest winner announced! 

Thanks to everybody for following me on Twitter @aleciawhitaker and thanks to my assistant, Knox, for helping me choose my very first contest winner!

To our winner: To receive your signed advanced copy of The Queen of Kentucky, please message me on Twitter/FB/or email (through my website aleciawhitaker.com) with your mailing address... oh, and your real name. :)


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Fake Laugh

Anybody can fake laugh. Even when you're feeling your rottenest, you can toss back your head, open your mouth, and guffaw. "Bwaa-ha-ha!" No one needs to say something clever. No one needs to trip over their own feet or inadvertently moon you by bending over in their low rise jeans. Simply summon up the will, and laugh.

Go ahead.

Laugh.

Did you know that if you make yourself laugh for two minutes in the morning, you will actually have a better day than otherwise? You're starting out your day by getting into the right frame of mind, come what may.

Now, you may be thinking that this advanced ideology is too much to comprehend for, say, a nearly 15 month old baby. But my son, Knox, has broken barriers once more. He does things sometimes that shock us, make us wonder at his mind, bring us joy.

A couple of nights ago at supper, Jerrod and I were deep in conversation while Knox shoveled in the rest of his food. Then, without warning or provocation, Knox began to laugh hysterically from his high chair. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present Knox Jericho Pace: High on Pasta

video


Since that night, he has used the fake laugh a few other times. While on the swings yesterday, I was talking to another mother next to me as we pushed our babies when Knox let out a few hearty chortles. Next thing we knew, Knox was throwing back his head in the swing, back and forth he went laughing and looking around at the other babies and moms, giggling until finally leaning over to one side on his arm as if exhausted from the effort. The mother next to me got so tickled that tears came to her eyes.

I don't know what's so funny, but Grannie said it best: "I'll have what he's having!"

Monday, October 03, 2011

Momma Mondays - Do NOT Push My Sleeves Up

Well, we're there. I'm not sure we're in "the terribles" per se, but we're definitely in the "I want it my way" stage. Problem with this stage is, besides the fact that his way isn't always my way (and my way is best, obvi), that he can't tell me what he wants. He's not speaking, so he looks for other loud and obnoxious ways to get his point across. He whines, he cries, he kicks, and he pouts - oftentimes simultaneously - and I avoid a black eye while asserting my position as the boss.

Knox displayed a perfect example of this during breakfast today. He has recently let me know, in no uncertain terms, that he will feed himself. He will not be spoon-fed and he will not eat baby food. He will eat grown-up food and he will shovel it in with both hands all by himself. (Keep in mind, he's 14 months old.) Armed with this knowledge and accepting his choice, I do my best to make the work of cleaning up after him as painless as possible.

That was how we met our first meltdown of the day head on. You see, Knox was wearing long sleeves for the first time this fall, so I pushed them back because while he is adept at getting the food into his mouth in at least two tries, he is also quite skilled at rubbing his dirty hands all over his face, hair, and arms. I knew I'd be wiping down these body parts as well as the high chair, his tray, and the floor afterward, so I thought I'd spare myself the chore of washing strawberry stains out of his long sleeves. Silly mommy.

Knox is, apparently, a young man who prefers sleeves to cover the body length for which they were designed. If a sleeve is long, let it hang long. He squirmed and kicked, he reached one little arm over to where the material bunched up over his elbow and hollered like a madman trying to pull that sleeve back down. He looked up at me with tears in his eyes, searching mine for some sort of help, glaring as though I had betrayed him, "E tu, Brute?" How could any self-respecting mother saddle their own son with this sort of torture?

I faltered a tad, I'll admit it. It's hard not to give him just what he wants. But though he tried to glamour me, I looked away and employed my own tactic. I started eating his breakfast. I popped the Cheerios and cut up strawberries on his tray into my mouth while making sounds of delight with each bite. Although he truly hated his sleeves being pushed back, he is really protective of his food. If anybody eats his food, he wants to be the one to feed it to them personally. So with a little distraction, he soon forgot about the sleeves and attacked his food, offering me a morsel here and there while occasionally taking food right out of my hands to feed himself.

Every now and then he absentmindedly fidgeted his elbows, trying to work the shirt down his arms while feeding himself, but overall, Momma came out victorious today. I know that the sleeves war has probably just begun and I know that "the terribles" will only get worse, but I have to admit, it felt good to win The Battle of the Pushed Back Sleeves.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Twitter Tuesdays - Michael "Pun King" Northrop

For the folks reading this blog who know me personally and/or spent much time around my dad, you know that we Whitakers aren't afraid of a good pun or a corny joke. You know that with conversation, as well as movies or television, the cheesier the better. And you know that the show Leave It To Beaver was a dead-on foreshadowing of my actual childhood.

That said, this is 2011 and it's tough to find a person in my generation who not only appreciates a good pun, but responds with a hearty pat on the back versus rolling of the eyes. It's even harder to find someone who can fashion a remarkable pun ingeniously within the strict 140 character limit imposed on us all by Twitter. That's why when you come across such a soul, you tell the world about him and neither of you pardon anything, especially the use of a mighty pun.

Michael Northrop is a young adult author living here in NYC who I get to see from time to time at book events in the city. His two novels Gentlemen and Trapped are anything but corny or cheesy, (in fact, I'd use dark, suspenseful, or gripping instead); yet I've found his own personality to be charming and funny, both in person and online. Here are a few tweets that have made me COL (chuckle out loud):


 Michael Northrop 
Dreamt I was driving a pickup w/ my left hand while firing a shotgun at some ducks w/ my right. Not sure what it means but it's pretty fowl.

 Michael Northrop 
You must be Djoking. Surely that's Nadal there is.  

 Michael Northrop 
My new place is about a mile from the Prospect Park Zoo. Perhaps I will gopher a walk... 


Michael started the day at 999 followers and is itching to break into 4-digits. Head on over to Twitter and help him out. Also, and this should go without saying, follow me! 




Monday, September 19, 2011

Momma Mondays - Pull up!

My mother-in-law visited this weekend and not only spoiled her grandson, but also her daughter-in-law. I could really get used to having someone with her energy around, doing our laundry, fixing home cooked meals, and cleaning my kitchen. Also, I got to get a mani/pedi with my good friend Becky because Knox's Grannie stayed home and offered free babysitting!

But the best thing that happened this weekend was that she got to see a milestone: Knox pulled up for the first time! He stood all by himself, looked at us with a huge smile, and then plopped back down on his bottom. But it was a fabulous moment and one I'm glad she got to experience. Just like I wrote recently, it kills me that he doesn't get to spend more time with his grandparents, so when moments like this happen live - right before their eyes - it really brings me joy.

Here's a little video for those who, like me, doubted it would ever happen:

video


Kimpossible (Grannie) hollered, "Can he do this?" from the living room as I was doing the dishes, so I ran in wondering what he was eating/playing with/destroying. What I actually saw was his fascination with Excedrine and to just what lengths he'd go to get a bottle. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday Tweeps - The Fuggirls

So y'all know that I am now pretty obsessed with Twitter. It's so fast and easy and I love scrolling through people's updates on my phone ap. And I think I've mentioned before about the book SPOILED by fellow Poppy gals Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan. (We share the same editor, Elizabeth Bewley, and she told me about them a while ago and sent me an advanced copy of their book.)

Well, since reading Spoiled (which you should also read) I've started following their blog www.gofugyourself.com. It's a fashion blog that keeps me up to date with what celebs are wearing these days and whether or not they're wearing it well. The girls are hilarious and their posts are super fun. And now that I follow their blog, I also follow them on Twitter.

Go to Twitter and search fuggirls. Their updates will keep you in the loop and make you chuckle. For instance, if it weren't for these girls, how would I have known that Brody Jenner chewed gum while he drank white wine at a fashion show this week? How would I have known that just a mere glance from Gerard Butler could impregnate an unsuspecting onlooker? And how would I know that Lindsay Lohan is best friends with a real life pirate? I'm telling you folks. If you don't keep up with fashion or celebs yourself, let these girls do it for you. Follow them on Twitter.

Oh, and buy their book!

PS To the Fuggirls, in the event that you read this blog post, I just slicked back my son's hair with gel for the first time because it was getting in his eyes. Then I realized, my 1 year old looked like Kourtney Kardashian's boyfriend, Scott Disick! Oh Lordy.


Justin Bieber
Scott Disick


Fug or Fab? Which hairstyle is better on 13 month old Knox?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Momma Mondays - Only Grandparents

Over Labor Day weekend, my husband and I joined my sister and my parents for a short visit in New Hampshire. My retired parents are trying to document time spent at every capital in the US and the New England states are especially enticing to these road trippers now that their only grandson is a Yankee. We drove the 5 hours up to their time share and I have to say that there is nothing more gratifying that seeing my folks love on my baby like I do.

My husband suggested that we go apple picking so we Googled an orchard and made our way over. Knox even got to go on a tractor pulled wagon ride! (We're pumpin' him with as much country style as we can). It was a gorgeous day and beautiful time spent with family.




As my dad, sister, husband, and I walked through the grass and used long "pickers" or poles to grab the finest looking apples and pears from the trees, my mom held a sleepy Knox and got some rare lovey dovey time with the boy. This picture says it all.

We also went swimming and boy does Knox love the water! He always has. He loves bath time and he loves swimming pools, whether kiddie or Olympic sized. My dad has a blast helping him kick and splash. And Jerrod held Knox near the stairs where he (finally) put his weight on his legs. I think it was easier to finally attempt standing with the water making him so bouyant.

And that brings me to the highlight of our trip. On the last morning of our trip, my dad helped Knox to stand on his own in the living room. While Knox usually kicks his legs or lifts them up when we try to work with him on standing, that day, he let Granddad help him pull all the way up on the couch. They both grinned from ear to ear, and I have to admit, it made me super homesick. I'm not homesick for a place, because I truly believe that Home is where you make it, but homesick for my grandparents. I got to spend time with mine every day after school and I am already sad that my own children won't get that same quality time. I need to just treasure the time we do get, but seeing my dad help my son stand really made it even harder to say our goodbyes that afternoon.


But thank goodness for the 2000s and the Information Age. We've got Skype and we've got Facetime. And of course, we've got Skymiles.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Momma Mondays - Hurricane Fever

Pace men before hurricane


Much has been said about Hurricane Irene, who had actually transformed herself into Tropical Storm Jose by the time she reached us here in Queens. The news, as well as family and friends from landlocked states, did their best to instill panic. The news harkened back to hurricanes from the past while friends commented on Facebook and Twitter about whether or not we were ready. I even had to ask my mother-in-law to please step away from the television and assure her twice that we were absolutely not in an evacuation zone. We knew not to worry since that solves nothing, but we did prepare. In the event of 100 mph winds, we tied down our patio furniture and moved our car into a garage. We didn't have a sitter, so I carried patio chairs with Knox on my back while Jerrod carried most of the heavier items. Knox and I even stood watch over our furniture out on the street while Jerrod figured out where we'd store it, which actually turned out to be a good thing because a woman with bags full of cans to recycle moseyed over as if it were a yard sale and I had to tell her otherwise. (Looting pre-disaster?) In the event of power loss, we bought gallons of water and gave some to folks in our building, we had two flashlights at the ready, stocked up on non-perishable food and extra diapers, and made sure that our phones were charged. Click READ MORE in blue to see videos of a last minute trip to the grocery store and park and read the rest of this post:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fan Club Friday - Small Town Sinners

I read and watch TV/movies as an escape. I'd say a lot of folks do. It's a way to unwind, let my mind wander and imagination run off. I immerse myself in the make-believe world, whether it's life on another planet or hitting a grand slam in the World Series or being swept off my feet by a gazillionaire who also happens to be a good listener and devilishly handsome. But once in a blue moon, I dive into a world that is uniquely suited to my reality, my own truth, my very existence and feel like the writer is actually just transcribing a home video. That was very much the case with Melissa Walker's recent release Small Town Sinners.

The book follows Lacey Anne, a junior in her small town high school and active member of the local church where her father is the children's pastor. Lacey Anne is a good girl, always has been, and has a close relationship with God. She feels passionately about the teachings of Jesus and turns to her parents for guidance and the Bible for wisdom. Her best friends are also members of the youth group and they are all excited to try out for Hell House, the annual haunted house of sin her church holds every year.

But then smart, handsome, and thought-provoking Ty Davis comes into her world and all the things she always knew to be absolutely black and white start to gray a little. She comes face to face with big issues like gay marriage, abortion, and drunk driving and for the first time, she searches her heart for how she really feels about them versus what she's always been told to feel. (click read more to expand this post)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Throwback Thursday - Songs of my youth

Today is a quickie, but goodie. Just want to pay homage to my youth. Vote for your favorite and comment below! Do these songs or videos bring up any old memories?

Pump up the Jam


Blame it on the Rain



Smells like Teen Spirit

Friday, August 05, 2011

Fan Club Friday - The Day Before

A few weeks ago I went to an author signing at Books of Wonder here in NYC. There I met Lisa Schroeder, an administrator of the young adult blog The Contemps. I was excited to meet her because I had just applied to be a contributor to that very blog; but after reading her newest novel The Day Before, I am ten times as stoked to be working with her.


The Day Before follows Amber, a young girl who wants to lose herself in her iPod and sneak away from her family and friends to have one last day to herself before her life changes dramatically. Although she had planned on spending the day before this ultra scary life change alone, she meets Cade, who also seems to be escaping something in his life, and the last thing she wants to be is alone... unless it's with him. They decide to spend the day together, asking no questions, but living in the moment.

This book is so great. And what I really love is the concept! Unfortunately, I can't really go into the awesome idea this book is centered around because it would be a major spoiler, but let's just say that by the time Amber reveals what's to happen the day after, we are salivating to know. I loved the suspense of that and really loved that, although I tried to guess as I turned the pages, I was surprised to learn of Amber's situation. (click read more to read the rest of this post)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Word Up Wednesday - Young Man

I recently read that it's best not to use the word "no" too often or it will quickly lose import to my one year old son. If I said "No!" every single time Knox reached for electrical wires, tried to rip off my shirt to breastfeed in public, or reached for the substance in his dirty diapers during a change, it would come out in just about every other breath. They say on babycenter.com that he doesn't truly understand many words anyway, but he certainly gets tone.

I tend to agree with this. I've found myself using the words "young man" and "excuse me, sir" quite often and having really great results. The other day I was on the phone with my best friend Whitney and in the middle of her story, I accidentally interrupted her with a firm, "Excuse me, sir." She was baffled, it not being a video call, and surprised by my tone herself - she had no clue what was going on! Because it sounded like I was talking to an adult, and not a baby, she actually said, "I'm sorry, are you talking to Knox?" And if that got her attention, you better believe it got the attention of the baby in question, who was at that very moment on all fours leaning forward toward the dirty stroller wheel with his mouth wide open. Did he french kiss that wheel, the one he was drooling over? He didn't. It amazed even me, actually. But that firm comment was all it took to stop him, mid-way. Mouth still agape, he looked over at me as I walked toward him because I still needed to stop the behavior and remove him from the temptation. That was made obvious by the fact that before I got to him, he looked back at the tire greedily, but then back at me again when I enforced my meaning with, "young man."  (click read more to read the rest of this post)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tuesday Tweeps - An interview with author Micol Ostow

Hey Tweeple! You're in for a treat today. My good friend Micol Ostow, author of over 40 books and super talented writer extraordinaire, is stopping by the blog today to answer the normal Tuesday questions as well as a few extras about her recent release family, which I blogged about several weeks ago.

Okay Micol, starting off easy:

Me:  What's your favorite book? I'm talking all time here.

Micol:  I definitely don't have one favorite, but "The Shining" by Stephen King is probably up there. 


Me:  I'm visiting your hometown today, one day only. What can't I miss? 

Micol:  My hometown (South Orange, NJ) is so suburban! But I guess one thing that's unique or fun is the South Mountain Arena (actually in West Orange, where I was born), which is an ice rink where the NJ Devils practice. The Turtle Back Zoo is located behind the arena, and I personally LOVE the zoo. If it's nice out, you can go for a picnic in the South Mountain Reservation afterward. 


Me:  Who are you following on Twitter right now that would surprise your friends?

Micol:  Probably my reality tv guilty pleasures -- Real Housewives and etc. Though, I don't know if that would surprise my friends so much. My readers, maybe!


And now... extended Tuesday Tweeps edition...

A little bit about the novel:  
"Told in episodic verse family is a YA novel that is a fictionalized exploration of cult dynamics, loosely based on the Manson Family murders of 1969. It is an unflinching look at people who are born broken, and the myriad of ways in which they try, over and over, to make themselves whole again."


Me:  When writing family, how did you weave it together? There are so many short pieces that could almost stand alone as poems. Did they flow chronologically like following an outline in your other novels or did you write them individually and piece them together like a puzzle afterward?

Micol:  I didn't outline, but I had a sense of the story's arc, and I wrote as chronologically as I could. Obviously the vignettes also jump back and forth in time, and so 'chronologically' maybe be a the wrong term, but for the most part, I wrote the vignettes in the order in which they appear in the book. There was a little bit of shifting around during the revision stage, but more than that, I was adding new pieces to help flesh certain characters and plot points out. 


Me:  Henry's name is the only one capitalized throughout, as well as any pronouns referring to "Him." This is similar of many translations of the New Testament Bible when Jesus speaks. Was this on purpose as a reflection of Henry being the family's savior?

Micol:  I wasn't thinking specifically of the New Testament, but I was definitely trying to communicate that Mel perceived Henry differently than anything or anyone she had ever known. When I first began writing, I thought there might be other phrases or words that would be capitalized, but as moved forward, that turned out not to feel right for the character. I think you never really know until you're in the thick of the writing how these things are going to work themselves out. 


Me:  The book takes place in San Francisco and the description of the family compound is quite vivid. Did you visit California? Is the compound imagined or based on research from the Manson murders?

Micol:  I appreciate your saying that, because I feel personally like a lot of the descriptions in the book are fairly hazy! But then, Mel's state of mind is generally pretty hazy, so that makes sense somewhat. I've been to California a few times, but only to LA and San Diego, never San Francisco. That said, I'd read a lot about the Manson murders by the time I sat down to write my book, and I had seen many pictures of the Spahn Movie Ranch, so I suppose I did have a fairly vivid sense of the source material in my head as I worked. 


Me:  The main character Mel is broken, but by the end, we discover that she's not completely shattered. Can you talk about the last moments and what led you to your ending?

Micol:  I don't like to talk about the ending because of spoilers! Sorry to be a party pooper! But I will say that the ending is the one part of the book that changed the most drastically in the revision process -- I wrote three completely different versions. The first version felt too ambiguous, and the second version felt too bleak. I think this one works!


Okay, I get it, no spoilers. We'll discuss that one next time I see you. Thanks so much for doing the interview. I must admit that I, too, am following a select few "Housewives" on Twitter and I, too, love the zoo.




Tweeps, check out Micol's website at www.micolostow.com and follow her on Twitter! Look for family and her new release What Would My Cellphone Do? online or in bookstores now.