Saturday, July 6, 2013

Words With Writers: Q & A with Ilana Waters

Welcome to the second installment of Words with Writers! You can check out the last interview here. Words with writers will run every other Saturday, right here on YA Stands. If you're interested in being featured and you write YA, please email jolene dot haley at gmail. dot com. 

Now, on to the awesome interview today!

I was lucky enough to interview the fabulous and versatile Ilana Waters, who writes both middle grade and young adult books. Let's meet her!

1. Tell me a bit about yourself.
I can do better than that! Here is my official author bio:
Ilana Waters is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey. When not creating content for websites, she can be found working on novels and short stories—as well as nibbling string cheese. She once pet-sat an electric eel, and enjoys walking in circles around the park for no particular reason.”
So, yeah. String cheese, electric eels, and walking in circles. Ilana Waters in a nutshell.
2. When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s an interesting question. Many folks think you need to write a book to be a writer. Or that you need to be published. Or . . . a lot of other things. But the literal definition of a writer is simply “one who writes!” So if you love writing and it’s what you do, either as a hobby or profession, guess what? You’re a writer! Yes, a “real” one. Being a writer is part of who you are, and only you can know that for sure.
Oh, and I first considered myself a writer at age six. Kids are sooo much better at this stuff than we are.
3. What inspired you to write your first book?
Believe it or not, The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt isn’t actually my first book. My first book is a
paranormal vampire romance (because there weren’t already enough?) called
House of Cards. It takes place in Paris, where a newly-graduated high school student is kidnapped and held by vampires in the catacombs beneath the city. Of course, she falls in love with the only one who isn't evil.
I was inspired to write it based partly on wish fulfillment (Paris!), and partly because I needed a distraction from a difficult time in my life. The chilling, heart-pounding thought of trying to escape from catacombs with the vampire boy you love certainly provided that distraction!
4. Who is your favorite character you've ever written? Published or not.
Oh Jolene, why do you make me choose between them? *wails* The apothecary Sophie—Stanley Delacourt’s best friend—was certainly fun to write. She’s as feisty as Stanley is shy. In fact, she’s been known to yell at her customers and threaten to hit them with frying pans. But one of my other favorite characters is Oberon, the fairy king. We get to meet him in this novel, and he’s not the typical “evil” fairy king we see so much of these days. I hope to have him back in Book II and III as well, and in other, future works of Hartlandia.  
5. What is your favorite novel or one that has most influenced your life?
Again you ask the tough questions! Oddly enough, my favorite novel isn’t a children’s book, or even a fantasy. It’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. It’s simply a beautifully-told tale of a girl who overcame poverty at the turn of the (last) century. I love its quiet, dogged determination. As a writer, one of the skills you need is perseverance, and this book definitely taught me that.
6. What book are you reading now?
I like to read more than one book at a time—I’m just scattered that way. Right now I’ve in the middle of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl, and The Scarecrow and His Servant by Philip Pullman.
7. Did you learn anything from writing books? If so, what is it?
I learned so many things, it would be impossible to list them all! I learned how not to “overwrite” (I think), how to take feedback, how to layer in different things, and most of all, how to have FUN!
8. Do you have any advice for other writers?
It’s going to sound clichéd, but “don’t give up!” And don’t forget, as I said above, how to have fun. Writing is supposed to be fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong. If it seems like work, find a way to make it fun. Remember why you fell in love with it in the first place.
9. Did you have a favorite character in Stanley Delacourt, besides Stanley? Why?
Please see my answer to question 4 ;-) (heh-heh).
10. Did you have a favorite chapter to write in Stanley Delacourt?
Chapter 16: “In Which Stanley Meets Some Unusual Characters,” was pretty fun to write. It’s all about the unnerving fairyland in which Stanley finds himself. Hint: the “unusual characters” he meets only look human ;-) You’ll have to actually read the chapter to find out more!
11. How do you market your books?
Like this: The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt: Book I of Hartlandia is available at AmazonBarnesandnoble, AppleKobo, and Smashwords.
See how easy that was to slip in there? Okay, okay; just kidding. My main marketing activities consist of blogging (ilanawaters.com), tweeting (@ilanawaters), and guest blogging (like I’m doing here!). An interview is a form of guest blog, as is a giveaway. I often do giveaways with the help of lovely bloggers like yourself, as well as on my own site. Oh, and I’m on Goodreads, if readers want to get in touch that way (http://www.goodreads.com/IlanaWaters).
12. Do you experience writer’s block, and if so, how do you fix it?
I sometimes experience what I call “writer paralysis.” I know what to write, but I get so caught up in doing it perfectly the first time (which is impossible and ridiculous, of course) that I have trouble getting it down. To solve this, I remind myself to work in layers. First layer is the major structure of the story, second layer adds more detail, third adds even more detail, etc.  
13. What are your writing methods?
You mean “what is my writing madness!” Heh-heh. See my answer for question 15 below. It sorta explains it.
14. Do you outline before you write?

Absolutely. Unless a short story or something just rolls right out of me. But usually, I make very meticulous outlines for all my projects.
15. Did you make the cover of your book? If not, how did you find your cover?
I can honestly say I could never make the cover of a book myself. Well, maybe I practiced a lot, and had patience to work with the software. But I hired a professional designer to do Stanley Delacourt’s cover  instead. There are many of them out there with very reasonable rates (less than $200 for an e-book cover). You give them ideas and suggestions, then they combine them into set of images. This can take a lot of tries to get just right, but it’s all part of the process.
16. What has been the most challenging thing about Stanley Delacourt being published?
There was a steep learning curve—I didn’t know a lot of the technological things that go into publishing and marketing e-books. But it’s getting easier as I go along.
17. What is something about you that readers wouldn't know?
That I taught myself to whistle while waiting for my after-school carpool one cold and lonely winter’s night. But I’m not sure how they could possibly have guessed that. Um, I also once drove my car into a house.

Thank you so much, Jolene, for interviewing me. You’re a lot of fun to talk to on twitter.

Huge shout out to Ilana for the interview. In case you haven't checked out her work, do it!

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