Author Paula Stokes reached out to me via social media when she saw I had read a review copy of LIARS, INC. Several changes went into the final edits of LIARS, and she created a document so her readers could be aware of them before reviewing. (I’d like to add that reading the document only allowed me to love Paula more. There was one tidbit of information I was happy to see changed because it was a clue for me in the ARC.) Writing back and forth with Paula led to realizing she and Estelle had connected last year and I couldn’t stop thinking, “I really adore her! She’s so great and nice and I just want everyone to feel this way about Paula!”
Even after 3.5 years of working on Rather Be Reading with Estelle, I still get nervous when I reach out to authors about interviews. I’m not sure why I worried because Paula is the nicest person ever, and I’m so extremely grateful she set some time aside for us. I hope you’ll adore her as much as we do after reading her interview with RBR below and I sincerely hope you’ll pick up LIARS, INC. (in stores as of 3/24/15) and THE ART OF LAINEY.
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Estelle called THE ART OF LAINEY a pick-me-up-book after a rough day; I called LIARS, INC. trippy and suspenseful. How difficult was it for you to shift gears after writing a feel-good story to one that involved a lot of meticulous detail work to make sure everything flowed well and you weren’t contradicting yourself?
It wasn’t difficult to switch gears because I wrote LAINEY at the same time I was finishing up VENOM and I wrote LIARS at the same time I was drafting BELLADONNA (my work-for-hire books for Paper Lantern Lit) so if anything, writing LAINEY just felt like a break from keeping track of clues and red herrings, more like an exercise in catharsis than work. Lainey isn’t me and her breakup isn’t my breakup, but her pain IS my pain and as much as I wanted THE ART OF LAINEY to sell, I wrote that book to heal myself more than anything else. Along the way, I realized I had a knack for writing swoony contemporaries so I sold a couple more.
As an author who has written several very different books, what do you hope to produce in the future? Have you enjoyed writing one particular story more than another or found that you’ve really discovered your niche? (We love how diverse you are!)
I don’t really prefer one type of story so my brand is just going to have to be brandlessness, I guess. Or maybe my brand is writing books that people don’t want to put down. Those are the ones I prefer to read so I try to write prose and chapters that propel readers through stories. In the future, I hope to produce both dark and light stories every year (I’m set for 2016 and 2017) and then I’m also finishing up the beta draft of an NA book right now and toying with an adult medical thriller idea. I would also really like to write a Parvati companion novel—totally different from LIARS, a spy girl story in the vein of Homeland meets Nikita. This book is about 25% written, but I’ll have to wait and see how LIARS does before making any decisions.
I fully, fully support you completing Parvati’s story, and hope I get the chance to read it one day. You’re a woman of so many talents! You’re an RN, an author, a world-traveler (who has snuggled with snakes? *shivers*), and you’re crazy talented at staying connected to your readers via social media. How do you balance it all, and what’s your best tip for creating an online presence and making lasting connections?
I’m not currently working as a nurse, though that will probably change once I get caught up on my deadlines, because even writing for two publishers, money is tight without a reliable day job. My work-life balance is currently slanted way, way, way in favor of work and not anything a healthy human should emulate I do try to take at least one cool trip a year, which often ends up with me having odd animal encounters.
As far as making lasting connections online, I start by treating bloggers like industry professionals, like equals, and I think that goes a long way. I also don’t quit talking to people because someone doesn’t like a book. I hate a bad review as much as the next person, but that doesn’t mean the person who wrote it doesn’t have anything to offer me in the way of conversation or information. It doesn’t mean they won’t like my next book. All my books are different so it would be ridiculous for me to expect anyone to like them all. Finally, I remember there are real people behind the screen names. If someone is worried about a sick pet or a parent in surgery or has a real world concern I can comment on meaningfully, then I do. I love reading and writing books, but there are more important things, and I try never to forget that.
We love a lot of different things here at Rather Be Reading; we’re huge nail polish, Zac Efron, make-up, and Fossil fans. For a little lightening round, name your favorites:
- Everyday make-up essential: eyeliner
- Favorite nail polish brand: It would be a complete lie to pretend like I have a favorite brand. I have a fave color—blue/teal. Aside from that, anything decent that doesn’t chip off immediately works. Right now it’s Revlon Colorstay Gel Envy.
- If you could only shop at one store for the rest of your days it would be: Again, I feel like the correct answer here is something like Sephora or [insert fashionable clothing store I can’t even name] but the real answer is probably Kohls
- Character most like yourself that you’ve written (ha! snuck in a writing one): Parvati. (Apparently I need one of those Unlikeable Heroine IRL shirts.)
- Your go-to favorite food to order when you eat out: Korean
- City you hope to travel to on a book tour: Prague
- Your daily mantra is: Don’t look back. The mistakes you made, the things you gave up, the things you should’ve known but didn’t—those will swallow you whole if you let them.
We’ve been working on the Dive Into Diversity challenge this year with Reading Wishes to highlight diverse aspects of the books we’re reading. Liars, Inc. was a fantastic example of a really well-rounded set of characters and backgrounds. What are some of the best diverse book examples that you’ve read? What do you hope to see in the coming years in the young adult world in regards to diversity?
I would point out Antony John’s FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB, which has a well-rendered deaf protagonist and April Henry’s GIRL, STOLEN, which has a very believable blind protagonist. What I like about these books is that the main character’s disability figures into the plot without being the whole story. DUMB is a fun contemp about a rock band and GIRL is a kidnapping mystery.
I guess what I hope to see in the coming years is that readers, bookstores, and publishers really embrace all sort of books and main characters, and that a culture is created where authors can feel comfortable writing inside or outside their zones of experience. At one panel I recently attended, a white writer asked how best to create authentic diverse characters without falling into the trap of relying on stereotypes and was quickly told that if readers want good diverse books then they need to support diverse authors—end of story. I’m all in favor of supporting diverse authors, but the subtext there—white authors shouldn’t even try—was really troubling. I felt marginalized and excluded as a human being. Isn’t that the antithesis of this movement?
Can you share three of your favorite under-the-radar books that you think deserve more attention? And how about three authors you will auto-buy books from without even reading the summary?
I don’t really do the auto-buy concept, because a lot of my favorite authors also write books that are different from one another and I don’t have the money to buy books I’m not sure if I’ll like. I do have a group of author-friends who have supported me along the way and vice versa, whose books I’ll always buy and read as a show of support, but there are more than three of them.
Thanks for having me on the blog!
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Thank you so much for stopping by, Paula! Looking forward to soooo many more books from you! <3