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Saturday, November 26, 2011
Author Interview with Stacy Juba
The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Stacy Juba. Stacy has two new YA books that were released this fall: Dark Before Dawn, a paranormal thriller, and Face Off, a young adult novel.
Stacy told me she was painfully shy growing up, and writing was a way she could express herself. She wrote her first short story, "The Curse of the White Witch," in the third grade. By fifth grade, she was writing her own mystery series about a teenager amateur detective named Cathy Summers and her sidekick Katie.
"They always managed to get themselves kidnapped or held up at gunpoint, or solve the crime by wandering by and overhearing the bad guys confessing. I used to think they were brilliant detectives," Stacy remembered, "but now I can see that the police arrested the criminals in spite of Cathy and Katy's interference!"
I asked Stacy how she came up with the titles to her books.
"Usually, the title comes to me first. Naming my first two mystery/romantic suspense novels was easy. I chose the title Twenty-Five Years Ago Today because it's about a newspaper editorial assistant who stumbles across a cold case on the microfilm while researching her 25 years ago today column. Sink or Swim is about a young woman who goes on a reality show set aboard a Tall Ship, and the name of the TV show is Sink or Swim as losers are required to walk the plank. The book starts when the show has ended and she is returning to her normal life as the target of a stalker, so the Sink or Swim also has a double meaning - will she rise above this adversity or will she let the stalker control her life? So far, my books have been pretty easy to name."
Twenty-Five Years Ago Today was Stacy's first adult novel. She once worked as a newspaper obit writer and editorial assistant, and later was promoted to reporter. One of her editorial assistant responsibilities was researching the 25 and 50 years ago today column on the microfilm.
"It was a tough job finding eight facts for each issue (four from 25 years ago and four from 50 years ago.) Sometimes scrolling through the microfilm gave me eyestrain and I'd fudge the dates a bit!" she confessed. "One day, I got an idea: what if an editorial assistant came across a 25-year-old murder and was driven to solve it as a way of redeeming herself from a tragedy in her own past? What if she got involved with the victim's family and fell in love with the nephew?"
Stacy's latest adult book is Sink or Swim, a cross between a cozy mystery and a romantic suspense novel.
After starring on a hit game show set aboard a Tall Ship, personal trainer Cassidy Novak discovers that she has attracted a stalker. Can she trust Zach Gallagher, the gorgeous newspaper photographer assigned to follow her for a local series? As things heat up with the stalker and with Zach, soon Cassidy will need to call SOS for real.
"It was a fun book to write and has been endorsed by former contestants from Survivor, The Amazing Race, and Big Brother, though you don't need to be a reality show fan to enjoy the novel," she said. "Most of the book takes place in Cassidy's hometown after the show has ended, as she tries to resume her normal life after her time in the spotlight."
" How do you develop your plots and characters?" I wondered.
"First, I make a list of my main characters and fill out character charts listing all their traits, quirks, strengths and weaknesses. I also do some free-writing from the perspective of my main characters. Basically, my characters and I have a little chat! Then I jot down some plot ideas. Once I have a handle on the characters and the overall plot, I sit down over a few days and type an in-depth chapter-by-chapter outline which could grow as long as 20-25 pages. I make sure there are points of rising action and conflict, sections with comic relief, and I also track subplots and character development to make sure I don't drop any threads of the story. Then I'll start writing the book."
Stacy has an office with a big desk, a treadmill, and two bookcases.
"I love my desk as it's my own personal space," she said. "I have a folder with my plot outline and printed out manuscript pages from my work-in-progress. I do most of my writing on the computer in my office, though I also write on the go sometimes on my AlphaSmart word processor, which has no Internet or email to distract me. I also write in longhand if I'm waiting somewhere for an appointment. My desk also has two monthly planners - one that tracks my appointments and family schedule, and the other tracks my blog schedule and interviews so I know where I need to check in online on a given day."
For Stacy, the hardest part of writing is in the first few chapters, because it takes a while for her to get into the head of a new lead character.
"After a few chapters, it gets much easier, but it's a little nerve-wracking moving past that fear of the blank page and the knowledge that you have a few hundred pages to write," she told me. "Editing the finished manuscript is the easiest part."
Stacy balances her writing career around her family's schedule. She mostly writes in the early morning, the evening, or when her husband is home to hold down the fort. She also does a lot of book promotion, i.e., blogging, interviews such as this one, chats, contacting reviewers, social networking, participating on various message board forums, emailing bookstores, or chatting with book clubs.
"I do at least 2-3 marketing tasks per day, most of it online," she said. "I just love crossing tasks off my to-do list!"
On a personal note, Stacy told me she didn't want a dog—for two reasons. One, her cat would be very upset! Two, she's recently found out from allergy skin testing that she's allergic to dogs. In fact, the only animals she's not allergic to are cats and cockroaches. Of course, she loves cats, "and not just because they're the only animal that doesn’t make me sneeze," she assured me. "They are good companions and fun to be around."
"Do you have any strange handwriting habits?" I wondered.
"I apparently write in my own personal shorthand. It looks perfectly normal to me, but in my reporting days, my sources and interview subjects would crane their necks to peer at my notebook and ask, 'Do you write in shorthand? You can really read that?' It wasn't just a few people who made that comment; it was dozens."
Finally, I asked Stacy, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"
"I would recommend taking some writing classes, either locally or online; either joining a critique group or finding a few regular critique partners; and learning how to edit your work because writing is just the first part...you also need to be able to take that rough draft and make it polished and publishable. I'd also recommend reading lots of books on marketing and book promotion, and learning about the different options available to authors nowadays including the whole e-book phenomenon. This is an exciting time to be a writer, but there is a lot to learn."
You can keep up with Stacy on her blog, http://stacyjuba.com/blog .