Interview with bestselling author Becca Fitzpatrick

Back before I’d sold any of my stories, I was in an online writing class and then an in-person writing group with a young woman who was writing a sort-of LDS teen romance novel.  She had a great “voice” for writing YA novels, and I was sure that she would eventually get published.  However, to my dismay, she kept rewriting that same novel, making various changes after it got rejected by agents and/or editors.

I told her that wasn’t a smart thing to do, because different editors and agents have different tastes, and so changing the story to fit advice from one might actually make the next person she submitted to less likely to want it.  Instead, I advised, she should just keep submitting the same version to different places, and spend her time working on new novels.

She ignored my advice, and that much-revised novel went on to become Hush, Hush, the first in a series of international bestselling novels about a teenage girl’s relationship with a fallen angel.  The fourth and final book, Finale, will be released next week.

Fortunately, Becca apparently does not hold a grudge against me for my bad advice, so she agreed to an interview for this blog.

1. Congratulations on the upcoming release of the final book in your Hush, Hush series.  How does it feel to be saying goodbye to characters you’ve been working with for so long?

Thank you! You know, it feels pretty scary right now. That’s probably because I’m working on my first contracted book not set in the Hush, Hush world, and I keep asking myself, “Can I do this?” But the deeper I get into the story, the more I understand the characters, and the more I refine the plot—well, obviously that makes me feel hopeful. Writing takes faith. It’s creating something from nothing, and not knowing ahead of time how (and if!) everything will come together. It happens one idea at a time.

2. What can readers expect to see from you next?

I recently sold a YA psychological thriller, Black Ice, that takes place against the treacherous backdrop of the mountains of Wyoming. The main character, seventeen-year-old Britt Pheiffer, has been training to backpack the crest of the Teton Range. But along the way, she uncovers the truth about a series of murders that have taken place in the region…and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target. The book is scheduled to release in Fall 2014.

3. What role, if any, do you feel your LDS faith played in writing Hush, Hush and its sequels?  Beyond that, what influence does your faith have on your writing in general?

You know, it’s funny. I was talking to a co-worker recently who told me, “Your books are fairly religious,” and I tilted my head to the side in confusion and said, “What?” I don’t think my books are religious. When I wrote Hush, Hush, I didn’t have any clue what I was doing, beyond exploring and working through issues in my personal life. It’s not the best way to write a book, but again, I didn’t know what I was doing and I don’t beat myself up too much because I wasn’t being paid to write. I was writing purely for me. With the sequels, I was more aware of my audience. There was a lot of pressure, and I don’t think I always handled it with equanimity. Put plainly, I was stressed out big time! But that feeling of writing under the gun? It was an invaluable experience. Over the past three years, I’ve learned how to cope with doubt, how to find balance, and how to genuinely appreciate my blessings. I even think I learned a thing or two about storytelling. I don’t write stories to teach a lesson or deliver a message, but when I look back, I see redemption as a theme threading my books together. All of us make mistakes and are trying to find our way back.

4. Who are some of the authors who have influenced you the most?

Oh, there are so many! Diana Gabaldon, Richelle Mead, Sandra Brown, Kristin Cashore, Jenny Han, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Emily Bronte, Sue Grafton. Bet you couldn’t guess that I love romance and suspense!

5. What got you into writing for young adults, and young adult fantasy in particular?

In 2003, I took a writing class through what was then Utah Valley Community College. Clearly I wasn’t a very imaginative student, since I stole experiences from my teen years, changed the character names, and called it fiction.  All good and well, except my writing read like bad Gone With the Wind fanfic. My wise teacher told me if I wanted to write YA, I first had to read YA. I went to the bookstore and said, “Point me toward the YA section.” The first book I read was Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I remember thinking, “If all YA books are this good, I’ll never stop reading them.” I feel a special kinship to writing for teens, because those were the years when I started to figure out what kind of person I wanted to become. I’m still trying to figure that out. As for the fantasy element, okay, I concede. Maybe that has to do with being LDS. I’ve read the Old Testament. Donkeys talk, prophets command bears to eat irreverent kids, people have visions. I think having faith, and believing in things that can’t be seen, makes inventing fantastical story elements easier. Like, of course the angels in my book are telepathic—why wouldn’t they be?!

6. What advice do you have for would-be writers? 

Keep a journal. Not only is it good writing practice, but it helps hone the magical key to storytelling—voice. Since I write YA, I often go back and read the journals I kept as a teen for inspiration. I’m constantly stealing tidbits from my own life. That’s not to say my works are autobiographical—they’re not. But I’m constantly trying to be aware of the emotions I felt during my teen years with the Big Moments: my first kiss, the first time a friend betrayed me, the first time I realized my parents’ marriage wasn’t perfect, etc.

7. What question should I have asked you, but didn’t, and what is your answer? 

I feel like this is a trick question! I will say this: The interview was thorough and thoughtful, and I appreciate it very much. But if you’d like a question from me, and since I’m all about spreading booklove (yes, one word), I’ll go with this one. What are the last three books I read and loved? Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey.

 

1. Congratulations on the upcoming release of the final book in your Hush, Hush series.  How does it feel to be saying goodbye to characters you’ve been working with for so long?  Thank you! You know, it feels pretty scary right now. That’s probably because I’m working on my first contracted book not set in the Hush, Hush world, and I keep asking myself, “Can I do this?” But the deeper I get into the story, the more I understand the characters, and the more I refine the plot—well, obviously that makes me feel hopeful. Writing takes faith. It’s creating something from nothing, and not knowing ahead of time how (and if!) everything will come together. It happens one idea at a time.   

2. What can readers expect to see from you next? I recently sold a YA psychological thriller, Black Ice, that takes place against the treacherous backdrop of the mountains of Wyoming. The main character, seventeen-year-old Britt Pheiffer, has been training to backpack the crest of the Teton Range. But along the way, she uncovers the truth about a series of murders that have taken place in the region…and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target. The book is scheduled to release in Fall 2014.

3. What role, if any, do you feel your LDS faith played in writing Hush, Hush and its sequels?  Beyond that, what influence does your faith have on your writing in general?  You know, it’s funny. I was talking to a co-worker recently who told me, “Your books are fairly religious,” and I tilted my head to the side in confusion and said, “What?” I don’t think my books are religious. When I wrote Hush, Hush, I didn’t have any clue what I was doing, beyond exploring and working through issues in my personal life. It’s not the best way to write a book, but again, I didn’t know what I was doing and I don’t beat myself up too much because I wasn’t being paid to write. I was writing purely for me. With the sequels, I was more aware of my audience. There was a lot of pressure, and I don’t think I always handled it with equanimity. Put plainly, I was stressed out big time! But that feeling of writing under the gun? It was an invaluable experience. Over the past three years, I’ve learned how to cope with doubt, how to find balance, and how to genuinely appreciate my blessings. I even think I learned a thing or two about storytelling. I don’t write stories to teach a lesson or deliver a message, but when I look back, I see redemption as a theme threading my books together. All of us make mistakes and are trying to find our way back.  

4. Who are some of the authors who have influenced you the most?  Oh, there are so many! Diana Gabaldon, Richelle Mead, Sandra Brown, Kristin Cashore, Jenny Han, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Emily Bronte, Sue Grafton. Bet you couldn’t guess that I love romance and suspense! 

5. What got you into writing for young adults, and young adult fantasy in particular? In 2003, I took a writing class through what was then Utah Valley Community College. Clearly I wasn’t a very imaginative student, since I stole experiences from my teen years, changed the character names, and called it fiction.  All good and well, except my writing read like bad Gone With the Wind fanfic. My wise teacher told me if I wanted to write YA, I first had to read YA. I went to the bookstore and said, “Point me toward the YA section.” The first book I read was Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I remember thinking, “If all YA books are this good, I’ll never stop reading them.” I feel a special kinship to writing for teens, because those were the years when I started to figure out what kind of person I wanted to become. I’m still trying to figure that out. As for the fantasy element, okay, I concede. Maybe that has to do with being LDS. I’ve read the Old Testament. Donkeys talk, prophets command bears to eat irreverent kids, people have visions. I think having faith, and believing in things that can’t be seen, makes inventing fantastical story elements easier. Like, of course the angels in my book are telepathic—why wouldn’t they be?!  

6. What advice do you have for would-be writers?  Keep a journal. Not only is it good writing practice, but it helps hone the magical key to storytelling—voice. Since I write YA, I often go back and read the journals I kept as a teen for inspiration. I’m constantly stealing tidbits from my own life. That’s not to say my works are autobiographical—they’re not. But I’m constantly trying to be aware of the emotions I felt during my teen years with the Big Moments: my first kiss, the first time a friend betrayed me, the first time I realized my parents’ marriage wasn’t perfect, etc.    

7. What question should I have asked you, but didn’t, and what is your answer?  I feel like this is a trick question! I will say this: The interview was thorough and thoughtful, and I appreciate it very much. But if you’d like a question from me, and since I’m all about spreading booklove (yes, one word), I’ll go with this one. What are the last three books I read and loved? Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey. 

About Eric James Stone

A Nebula Award winner, Hugo Award nominee, and winner in the Writers of the Future Contest, Eric James Stone has had stories published in Year’s Best SF 15, Analog, Nature, and Kevin J. Anderson’s Blood Lite anthologies of humorous horror, among other venues. One of Eric’s earliest memories is of seeing an Apollo moon-shot launch on television. That might explain his fascination with space travel. His father’s collection of old science fiction ensured that Eric grew up on a full diet of Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke. While getting his political science degree at Brigham Young University, Eric took creative writing classes. He wrote several short stories, and even submitted one for publication, but after it was rejected he gave up on creative writing for a decade. During those years Eric graduated from Baylor Law School, worked on a congressional campaign, and took a job in Washington, DC, with one of those special interest groups politicians always complain that other politicians are influenced by. He quit the political scene in 1999 to work as a web developer in Utah. In 2002 he started writing fiction again, and in 2003 he attended Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. In 2007 Eric got laid off from his day job just in time to go to the Odyssey Writing Workshop. He has since found a new web development job. In 2009 Eric became an assistant editor for Intergalactic Medicine Show. Eric lives in Eagle Mountain, Utah.
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