Friday 26 June 2015

In the Limelight with YA Author Melanie Hooyenga…

I want to thank and welcome fantastic young adult author, Melanie Hooyenga for sharing her personal writing journey with us on my blog today. Melanie’s last book in her Flicker Effect Trilogy, Faded can be purchased from Amazon, and other on-line bookstores. Bonus: For a chance to win an ebook bundle of the Flicker Effect Trilogy please enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of this post. So let’s get this interview rolling…

How long have you been writing, Melanie?

I first started writing in middle school and wrote a lot of overly-emotional poems, songs, and short stories (didn’t we all?). I stopped writing creatively when I graduated from college and didn’t pick it back up again until I was in my 30s, while living in Mexico. When I was getting ready to move, a coworker said, “Now you can write the great American novel!” I think he was half-joking, but it’s what got me back to writing. It’s been eight years and I haven’t stopped since.

I believe we’re kindred spirits since I didn’t start writing until I was in my 30s too! 
Where did you get your idea and inspiration to write Faded?

Faded is the third book in my trilogy, the Flicker Effect, so I’ll answer this about the first book, Flicker. You know how when you’re driving on a sunny day, the sun filters through the trees and makes a strobe-like effect? Well that really messes with my eyes, to the point where I have to shield them in order to keep them open (and watching the road!). I experienced it while driving to see my gramma in the hospital in December 2009 and wondered, “what if there was a girl who when this happens, she goes back to yesterday?” The rest, as they say, is history.
I was working on another (unpublished) novel at the time so didn’t start writing Flicker until NaNoWriMo in 2010. When I first wrote it I didn’t plan for it to be a trilogy, but when I realized it had the potential for a series (plus series are very popular in YA) I wrote a one-page synopsis for Fracture and Faded. So while I didn’t write Faded until 2014, I knew how the series would end way back in 2012.

Great foresight, Melanie! What sets Faded apart from other books/series in the same genre?

Parents are often an after-thought in YA -- which makes sense since the story is about the teens -- but when parents ARE present, they’re often cruel, detached, or uncaring. Especially the fathers. That’s why I decided to make the dad in my series the most important person in Biz’s life. I wanted to show that even kids with loving, involved parents have very real struggles and face life-changing issues.

True that! Teen readers need those kinds of stories. As a YA author, what is your writing process?

I don’t have a set process for the actual writing, but I do for plotting and outlining. Writers are split between outliners and pantsers (those who write by the seat of their pants), and I am firmly in the outliners camp. I cannot write a novel unless I know how it’s going to end. I don’t need to know all the in-between stuff, but it helps me to know what I’m writing towards. My outline is basically a sentence or two describing what happens in each chapter, so there’s a lot of freedom to change things along the way.

As for the actual writing, I aim for 1000 words per day, but if I only have time for 500, then I only write 500. I have a full-time day-job so I try to concentrate on moving the story forward rather than getting hung up on the numbers. When I’m on a roll, I can write 1000 words in 45-60 minutes, but as all writers know, some days the words just refuse to come.

Oh, I’ve had plenty of those days! How long did it take for you to start and finish Faded?

I wrote the synopsis for Faded in 2012, then outlined it at the beginning of 2014, but I didn’t start writing until the summer of 2014 because I was getting Fracture ready for publication. I finished the first draft on New Year’s Day and edited for five months. So start to finish was about a year, but the plotting had already happened.

Do you have any advice for other writers striving to write in your genre, Melanie?

There are two things I tell writers who are just starting out: try to write every day and set very low word-count goals. When I wrote my first novel I was in a group that had to write 100 words per day. 100 words is nothing. It’s barely a paragraph. Because it’s so short, it’s really hard to make excuses not to write it, and more times than not, once you’ve started, you keep going. And if you don’t, you’ve written 100 words and progressed the story. The worst thing for me is to go several days knowing I’m STILL on the same passage where I last left off. As you write more, you’ll learn what works best for you.

I think it’s important to read a lot in the genre that you write. That doesn’t mean you can’t read other genres, too, but you need to know what works, what doesn’t, and why. It also helps to eavesdrop on teenagers when you have the chance. ;)
Finally, just keep writing! This is a very solitary endeavor and it’s easy to let self-doubt take over, but there’s nothing like the feeling when you type ‘The End’.

Sage advice! What’s next for Melanie Hooyenga the author?

I’m glad you asked! I’m writing a new book that’s more light-hearted, romantic, and (hopefully) funny. Biz (from the Flicker Effect) is very sarcastic and tough on herself, so I have to remind myself to let this new character experience her emotions and wear her heart on her sleeve.

Okay, here’s one for me, since I’m writing a time travel series—If you could time travel anywhere into Earth’s past, where would you go and why?

The first thing that popped into my head was ancient Greece, but I think that’s because I’m craving feta cheese and kalamata olives. If I could go anywhere, I think I’d like to be around when women fought for the right to vote. I recently went through papers I wrote in high school and was surprised to see how strongly I felt about women’s rights. It’s always been an important issue for me, but I wrote a term paper on Title IX and a satire piece where, among other things, men weren’t allowed to speak until women had finished their thoughts. I think it would be inspiring to live in a time when women fought so passionately for a right we now take for granted.

Blurb for Faded:

Biz didn’t think life could get worse after the tragic events that surrounded her last flicker, but when she accidentally flickers on her eighteenth birthday after doing shots of vodka—she’s forced to face the consequences of her actions in a way she never imagined.

When an anonymous email threatens to reveal her secret, Biz must decide if flickering is all it’s cracked up to be, or if she needs to stop. Forever.

Book links:

Author Bio:

Melanie Hooyenga first started writing as a teenager and finds she still relates best to that age group. She has lived in Washington DC, Chicago, and Mexico, but has finally settled down in her home state of Michigan with her husband Jeremy. When not at her day job as a graphic designer, you can find Melanie attempting to wrangle her Miniature Schnauzer Owen and playing every sport imaginable with Jeremy.

Connect with Melanie:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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