Tuesday, September 1, 2009

And out guest today ... Rita Winner .... Rosemary Clement-Moore

Please welcome our special guest today, two time finalist and 2009 winner of this years Rita Heart(c) for the Young Adult Category, Rosemary Clement-Moore.

#1. Last year you were up for your first Rita Awards, as Best First Book with "Prom Date From Hell". How did the conference this year compare last year to this year? RWA does treat their finalist as royals but it was your first time and now you are an old pro with a beautiful statue (can we see it?). How did it feel both times around?

Old pro? Does anyone ever feel like this? I am a big geek, and the best I can do is try to hide it. Last year I was so nervous about the dress, and the heels, and what I might say, and being on time, I left my tickets to the event in my room, had to run and get them, run back down all flustered and hot. (And not in a good way.)

This year at least I knew what to expect. Also, I’m friends with my fellow nominees. I knew their books were awesome, but very different from mine (which is also awesome), so there was no way I could lose--I could only not win, if that makes sense.

That said, winning was amazing! I don't remember anything I said. I don't even remember walking to the stage. I just remember thinking: Don't let on what a dork you are, or they might take back the statue. (I think I did, but they didn't. She's still on my desk!)

#2. I like your description of your series, Girl vs.Evil as Nancy Drew meet Kolchek -- and yes -- I remember Kolcheck. I even remember when he guested on the X-Files!! Can you elaborate more on this description?

My protagonist is sort of a hybrid of Nancy Drew, Brenda Starr, Kim Possible, Veronica Mars-- The Plucky Girl Detective archetype. But I love fantasy novels and television, including Kolchek, the X-Files, Buffy, etc., I knew I wanted to have her solving supernatural mysteries.

I’d envisioned her as a recent college graduate. But when I had the idea for Prom Dates From Hell, and the vague ideas for its sequels, I knew Maggie would be the perfect heroine, so I made her a recent High School graduate instead. That lets me tell college stories--which Hell Week, the Rita winner, definitely is--and revisit one of the best times of my life. (I loved college. Probably had a little too good a time, actually.)

#3. It seems as if you were able to breach the dreaded "not in a particular genre" by putting your series character, Maggie Quinn in the area between teenage and adult/young adult books and full blown romance novels. Kudo to that for it is a very difficult feat. You described your books, in a quote I love, as: "I write in that bubble between tradition teen books (15-16 year old heroine) and grown up books. My characters exist in that stretch where they can vote, have credit cards, serve in the army, but can't buy beer." This is very different then a lot of other areas of RWA. How does it compare?

You pretty much put your finger on it when you said "not a particular genre." The Young Adult/Teen shelves aren't divided into genres, which is how I get away with writing fantasy/mystery/horror/romances. (I didn’t pick YA for this reason; I just wrote the book I wanted to write.) I think we’re seeing more and more blending of genres in adult books too, but the advantage in YA is that you don’t have to pick a section of the bookstore to put it in. It all goes on the “teen” shelves.

Rather than content, what sets YA apart is theme. It's about the steps we take to prove ourselves in the adult world. YA books are about the apprentice who defeats the sorcerer, the young prince who has to rescue the princess (or vice versa). It's the cheerleader who has to correct a mistake that, for the first time, neither her parents or her popularity can solve.

You see everything in a YA book that you might see in a 'grown up' book. The difference is how you handle the material. Restrictions or conventions usually come from the line or the house. For instance, some YA imprints are comparable with “sweet” romance lines, and may have shorter word counts, or younger heroines, or language taboos. Others go for an older or edgier market. Just like the adult romance market, you have to do some research to see where your book is going to fit.

#4. How does this translate into terms of RWA? When paranormals and inspirationals and eroticas are so hot, how does it work to be in a genre that is so different?

Maybe it’s not so different. Paranormals are the hottest trend in YA. (Erotica, not so much.)

Young adult is a vibrant, growing market. Not only with teens, but adults (even not so young ones) are discovering it as well. Authors of adult series are now writing YA books. Harlequin just launched a teen line, and I don't think anyone can look at the success of certain vampire romance novels and say that the YA market isn't something relevant to the RWA. Teen readers are the future romance readers. (If they're not reading them already. I certainly was, both the ones Mom knew about and the ones she kept under her bed.)

Everything I learned from RWA, in my local chapters and at national conferences, helped me get published, even without a special interest chapter for YA. That said, we are in the process of forming one: (YARWA-- I say it like a pirate.) Craft is craft, but I'd like to see a venue for writer's to share information more specific to our target market.

#5: If you were starting today, writing your first book, what advice would you want to hear from the winner of the Rita Award? What one question would you ask them and what answer could they give you that would make you *know* that you could do it, too?

The science fiction geek inside me appreciates the conceit of going back in time to tell myself the actual thing that made the difference for me. See, I’d STARTED a LOT of first novels, but I kept getting into that vicious, perfectionist cycle of revising and never going forward. I was terrified of getting it wrong. Then, I read a book. And I’m not going to say what it was, because I HATED it. This was a popular novel from a bestselling author, so probably it was just me, but whatever. I asked myself: Why is this person published and I’m not?

Duh. She’d finished a book. That was my light bulb moment: “Wrong” is much preferable to “unfinished.” For one thing, “wrong” can be fixed. For another, there is no such thing as “wrong” as long as you’ve given it your best effort.

Writing isn’t about perfection, it’s about potential. The crappiest book in the world has more potential than the greatest unfinished novel in the whole history of the printed word. I could have the first two chapters of To Kill A Mockingbird on my hard drive, but that and $3.50 will buy me a latte. So, who knows. People may read Hell Week and want to ask me: how the hell did this win a Rita award? Answer: I finished it and someone (besides my mother) liked it.

So, aspiring writer, go finish yours. Maybe only your mother will like it. Maybe a whole LOT of people will like it, and it will be a blockbuster, or a literary masterpiece, or a respectable mid-list novel. But you’ll never know as long as it’s just in your head.

#6. And of course, the most important question of all: In Gunga Din ... who played the better hero, Cary Grant or Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and explain why? Ballantine or Cutter ... who would you want in your next book? ;)

Cary Grant trumps all others. Why is this even a question? Cutter is much more fun than Ballantine. Usually I go for the responsible, dutiful types. But… Cary Grant. Hello.

Thanks for joining us Rosemary ... ... and thanks for all the great advice. For those who want to participate, there will be a drawing for several of Rosemary's books from all those leaving a comment by midnight, September 7th.


  1. Congratulations on winning the Rita!!! Wish I could've been in D.C. to see you win.

    Great interview Rosemary and Jax. I particularly liked Rosemary's comment that "Writing isn’t about perfection, it’s about potential. The crappiest book in the world has more potential than the greatest unfinished novel in the whole history of the printed word." Great advice for when the going gets tough.


  2. Awesome interview, Rosemary, but I'm not surprised. You're awesome and you totally deserved that RITA. My oldest is reading your first book now and says "It's REALLY good!" I'm pretty sure I told her that several times, butwhat can a mother do. lol

  3. Great interview! And I agree with Kelly on the above comment. Can't do anything with an unfinished ms!!

    Tracy Ward

  4. Well you know I already love you (like a fat kid loves cake) so i want to ask, when is your next book coming out? I know it's not a Maggie Quinn novel. Was it hard stepping out of Maggie's world?


  5. Congrats on your RITA, Rosemary!
    Now, whenever I see YARWA, I'm going to hear that pirate "Yar!" :)


  6. Man, you are just glowing. Or is it the statue? I love the way you put things. Wrong can be fixed. Just great.

  7. As a fellow geek (I dont know many girls who had STARLOG MAGAZINE as a kid) I will definitely be checking out your books
    rr smythe

  8. Finish the book. Regardless of genre, that pretty much says it all!

    Congrats on the RITA. I am a big Sci-Fi fan and have several sci-fi projects going on the side. Maybe someday....

  9. Great interview, Jacqui and Rosemary.

    I loved both Prom Dates from Hell and Hell Week. Now that I've FINALLY gotten my own book turned in, I can have time to read Highway to Hell (and I'm sure hum the AC/DC tune all the way through it). Huge congrats on the RITA!

    From your answer to Question 2, I think we have a lot of similar tastes. And yay for geekdom! I'm going to Dragon*Con this weekend and plan to totally embrace my inner geek. :)

  10. This is awesome! I actually have your Hell Week as the next book on my To-be-read pile. Congratulations on your success, Rosemary, and may much more follow. With your attitude and talent (and taste in men - of COURSE, Cary! Sheesh!), I'm guessing that's a given.

    Wonderful interview, Jax.

  11. Cary Grant does indeed trump all others!

  12. Really enjoyed the interview. Congrats on your RITA win too, you look like one happy writer in your picture! I'm going to put Hell Week on my TBR list, because anyone who grooves on Cary Grant has got to write most awesomely! :~)

  13. I keep writing book-length posts and then they don't post for some reason. I only mention this in case suddenly there are three or four ginormous (and redundant) posts from me, you'll know why.

    Thanks for all the congratulations! That was a thrilling night, even if it's a bit of a blur. Seeing the pictures brings it rushing back.

    "Wrong can be fixed" is something I still struggle with. Every book comes a point where I freeze up, write in circles, terrified I'll make the wrong choice. Like most of life lessons, it's something I have to learn over and over.

    The Splendor Falls comes out in less than a week! I loved writing it. It's a gothic romance paired with my own style--maybe not as laugh out loud funny as the Maggie books, but it has it's moments.

    The challenges was the voice. Maggie had grown very comfortable after three books--plus she's just easier in that she's very open about her feelings and opinions. (Boy, is she!) Sylvie, the protagonist of TSF has a darker sense of humor, and she's more complicated and complex. And she did NOT want to open up about her feelings.

    But because she was a tough nut to crack, it made it that much more satisfying to... well, crack her. :-) Hopefully readers will find it satisfying, too.

  14. I love Cary. I have to admit I have a ton of his movies ... but ever since I saw Gunga Din last fall and noticed Doug had a better butt than Cary, I became intrigued. I read his IMDB page and was blown away by what that man accomplished. He was so much more than an actor and I ended up reading both his autobiographies ... and then visited his grave to take him flowers. Love Cary, yes, but Doug is one of my heros!!

  15. Congrats again on the Rita, Rosemary!!! So well deserved. (And I'm not just saying that because I'm another geek!) ;-)

    As to YA being relevant...I was at the summer SCBWI conference recently, and everyone there acknowledged that after a certain vampire book got lots of adult fans, many of those fans sought out more YA to read. (Which may be one reason Borders upped the size of its YA sections...)

    BTW, great interview!