Catherine, tell us about this new series. What makes your series different?
CATHERINE STINE: It takes place on a future earth (2099), and the world has suffered from extreme weather and border wars, but it is not an oppressively dystopian atmosphere. There are signs of renewal. I’m more interested in what takes place during a perilously delicate recovery, and what kinds of events and people affect it.
VENTRELLA: My fantasy novels are also considered “young adult” books, primarily because of the age of the protagonist. What else makes a story YA?
STINE: The hallmarks of YA are yes, the age of the protagonist (14 to 18), but the pacing must be fast and the plot high stakes. There is always a romance, yet the romance is not graphic. Themes are geared to teen concerns. RUBY’S FIRE addresses drug use, core identity issues, runaways, love triangles, extreme peer competition and genetic mutation. How’s that for suspense?!
VENTRELLA: When you’re approaching a story, how do you begin — characters, plot or themes? What’s your writing style? Do you outline or just jump in?
STINE: I begin with a compelling situation and characters. Then I construct the plot. I always outline, and I do thematic freewrites. The more I think through the novel and outline beforehand, the stronger and more focused the novel becomes. I advise my students to outline, even a few lines per chapter. I encourage them to think of it as a fluid entity they can tweak as they go. This seems to help.
VENTRELLA: Who do you like to read?
STINE: I read adult and YA speculative fiction. That includes horror, sci-fi and techno thrillers. Occasionally I’ll read a literary mystery to study how to craft tension.
VENTRELLA: Tell us about how you got RUBY’S FIRE published.
STINE: I published Ruby’s Fire with my own imprint, Konjur Road Press. That said, I’ve also published with Random House, American Girl and Scholastic. I’m a hybrid author, meaning I’ve done it both ways, and would like to continue publishing both ways. Why not? I do have an agent. He’s okay with that.
VENTRELLA: What do you think we will see in the future of publishing?
STINE: I think more and more authors will publish both ways. Even well published authors are choosing to self-publish certain projects. For instance, one trend is to write a “short” or a novella with one of the characters in a novel, between longer projects, and self-publish the shorts. It satisfies readers while they wait for your longer opus.
VENTRELLA: Even authors with major publishers need to know how to market. What are the smartest things one can do to promote a book?
STINE: For RUBY’S FIRE, I’m doing a big blog tour. Last time I organized it all myself. This go-around I hired a book tour host. But from my first experience, I “met” so many great book reviewers that this time I was able to contact them again, and they were thrilled to read the next book, and also to blurb. People are very generous online and they love getting the word out about books they like. The funny thing is that I have a friend who is published with one of the Big 6, and her publicist is approaching the very same bloggers I have a relationship with. The whole process has become democratized. It’s also good to do giveaways on Goodreads, and to host other authors.
VENTRELLA: You’ve received quite a few good reviews and awards for your work. How did those come about? Do you have to search them out or do they contact you?
STINE: Write the best book you can, and good reviews will follow. I did apply to certain indie award sites; there are good ones, and questionable ones. Do your homework. More and more, these organizations and awards will be helpful to readers to discern the best of the indies.
Thanks for interviewing me on your blog, Michael!