Interview with Holly Cupala author of Tell Me A Secret!
What made you decide to write YA?
Thank you so much, Ezmirelda, for inviting me to your blog! I didn’t really set out to write YA, though looking back, it makes sense that I would land here. I wrote teen romances in eighth grade and tragic short stories and poetry in high school. When I decided to make writing a career, I spent some time learning the craft and writing some horrendously bad picture books and an almost pretty good middle grade novel, though the subject was clearly a YA topic. I think what stopped me was fear of writing something so long—until I hit on a novel idea that just wouldn’t let me not write it!
What was the process like when you were writing Tell Me a Secret?
A bit on the slow and painful side! Partly because the story was a very personal one to write, and partly because I plagued myself with doubt all along the way. Luckily I had many wonderful writing friends who encouraged me to keep going. The original ending was supposed to be quite different and far more tragic, but I just couldn’t write it. Then a writer friend, Janet Lee Carey (DRAGONS OF NOOR comes out in October), suggested maybe it didn’t have to be that way. That freed me and the story. Later, I could see how harsh I had been on myself, and how many of the roadblocks had been of my own making. In the end, I felt like Miranda and I had been through a really difficult journey together. Maybe that makes me love her more!
Outline or no outline?
A movie trailer in my mind…and a lot of notes! I usually have a big-picture view, and the real challenge is figuring out the dialogue and details that will get me from one perilous moment to the next.
How was it like when you got The Call?
Unbelievable! I was about to get on a plane to go to the SCBWI in Los Angeles when my agent called—a pre-empt! For two books! From my dream editor! Then, to top it all off, my husband sent a massive bouquet of red roses to the conference. I was floating all weekend.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Usually can be found enjoying the city with my husband and our little girl. I’m also a contributor to readergirlz, an online teen lit community devoted to connecting readers with YA authors, great books, and community service. TELL ME A SECRET will be featured throughout August—I hope you’ll drop by!
What helps you get through those fast paced scenes, or does it just come naturally?
Ok, I’m going to admit something to you that I haven’t told anyone yet…I talk out the scene as I write. (Writers, do you do this??) Something about telling myself the story helps get all of that tension and conflict onto the page. I also read over the whole draft and rate each chapter: green for breathless, yellow for almost, orange for uh-oh, red for red-alert! Then I revise each chapter to get it as close to green as humanly possible. My goal is for you to want to read the novel in one sitting.
Do you have any advice for young aspiring novelists?
I’ve found that writing is a two-part process: learning the craft, and finding the story you are meant to write. You can learn the craft by reading and writing, taking classes, going to conferences, meeting writer friends. You can find the story by living. And don’t waste time beating yourself up for bad writing! It’s all a part of the process.
Thank you for having me, Ezmirelda, and best wishes to all of your readers on their writing dreams!
Visit Holly at http://www.hollycupala.com