At a recent SCBWI chapter event, I had the pleasure of meeting author Rhonda Stapleton. She presented a session about young adult literature and the market today. She talked about what elements make a successful YA novel (successful = high selling!) and story elements to consider if you write YA. And she was funny. Very funny.
I was her “hostess” for the session, which meant that I introduced her to the audience and got her a glass of water. In return, she planted a song in my head by humming it while she was preparing to begin her presentation. A song that is still….STILL…stuck in MY HEAD.
So, thank you very much Ms. Funny Writer Person with your cute bob hair cut and your tattoos and your love of the crazily addictive tune for “The Girl from Ipanema” for taking the time to talk with us here at Carpe Keyboard!
Carpe Keyboard: We met at a recent SCBWI conference in Columbus, Ohio. When you spoke, you talked about YA lit and we had some discussion around the difference between “sweet” YA and “edgy” YA. How would you differentiate between the two? Where do your books fit?
Rhonda Stapleton: My books are definitely on the sweet side. There are no sex scenes, only mild cussing, very light alcohol use, and the focus is more on romance/love than grittier topics like sex, pregnancy, abuse, etc.
For your Stupid Cupid series, you cross over into a little bit of a paranormal-y storyline. Little mythology. Little romance. Did you set out to write something that was based on myth or legend? Why do you think the myth/legend/fairy tale retellings are all the rage right now?
I think people are always drawn to myths, and when an author can find a way to breathe new life into them it helps them continue in popularity. My original plan was to write a heroine who had an unusual job. Being a cupid came to mind. But I made mine different and breathed new life into the "cupid" concept by having her be one of many, and they use technology to make love matches. :D
Do you have any teenagers in your life? Do you use them? Do they shine your shoes, read your drafts, make you dinner, sing to you when the power goes out? Anything? Or do eavesdrop on tables of teenagers at a coffee house to get a glimpse into the lives of teenagers, like many other YA writers?
I have a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy. My daughter has helped me brainstorm, and she's read my books. My son...well, I think my writing is a little too girly for him, haha. I shamelessly eavesdrop on their convos when they are within listening range. I also hang at the mall sometimes and just listen. It's amazing what you hear.
In oh-so-writerly classes and (self-help) books for writers, I’ve read lots about the character’s arc or the character’s journey. I’ve written, here on Carpe Keyboard, about craft topics, like voice and plot and dialogue… Do you follow any specific methods for developing plot or characters….or anything else about your stories? Any advice on craft for writers who are trying to break in to the biz?
For me, plot and characterization go hand-in-hand. And I base them off Deb Dixon's GMC (goal, motivation, conflict). What does your character want? Why? And what keeps the character from getting it? Being able to answer those questions gets me started on my storyline and keeps me focused. My biggest tips for writers: get that book, post-haste. It's amazing, and it changed my writing. Also, read read read READ. Analyze the stories that resonate the most with readers. WHY does it work? What is the character's path? How is the plotting woven? Those things will help you grow.
What did you do when you signed with your agent? Dance around like a crazy person? How about when you heard your agent sold your first novel? Run to the driveway and proclaim your talent to the entire neighborhood? (See…I’m planning what I’m going to do. Can you tell?)
When I signed with my agent I totally went out to dinner to celebrate. And I told EVERYONE. When I sold the trilogy...well, I bawled. haha. I sobbed and sobbed. And then went out to dinner to celebrate. Sensing a theme? lol
Can you tell us about your next book?
I'm working on a couple of different things right now--a teen paranormal that's waaaay more serious in tone, and an adult novel, actually. :D
When do you carpe your keyboard? What are your writing habits?
I started writing in 2004. I used to write daily but it's not practical for me right now since I'm self-employed. So now, weekends are my sacred writing time. My goal is to do 10 pages each weekend day, which is definitely doable. I can break it up as I need to, so I don't always do the pages in one sitting unless I am in a groove.
Thanks, Rhonda, for your time and sharing your talent with us! Good luck on your next works…and keep humming!
To enter the drawing to win a copy of Ms. Stapleton’s Stupid Cupid, leave a comment below! I’ll draw the winner next Saturday, May 28. (As always, if the winner does not email me to claim their prize within one week, the book will go to another winner.)