Welcome and thanks for the opportunity to chat with you!
I received an ARC of ALMOST MIDNIGHT and happily discovered the world of Shadow Falls. Count me in as a fan! I admire your ability to weave believable teen backstories with compelling threads of the supernatural. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the “Supernatural Personality Traits” document that you share on your website. You certainly know how to bring characters to life! When you first begin a new project, do you tend to jot down character traits and/or outline the story? Or do you free-write and shape it later on?
First, thank you! I love what I do and I’m so fortunate that others can relate to my stories and characters. I’m a complete free-writer, or as some writers call it, pantsers. (We write by the seat of our pants.) I love discovering who my characters are and what happens as I write. I might spend some time in my head with them, trying to feel what they feel, trying to get in their skin, but for the most part, I just start writing and discovering. One of my biggest issues was trying to figure out different traits for the different supernaturals. When I realized that I could give the species traits from real people it made it easier to write them. I mentally took a stroll back into my high school years and started defining cliques of people. That’s how I came up with their personality traits.
ALMOST MIDNIGHT contains four novellas that were previously released as e-novellas along with one new novella. Does the novella format suit your characters better than a full length novel? Can you explain.
No, it’s so hard to write a novella, I am constantly having to tell myself, “No you cannot add another character,” or “No you can’t give them one more problem, because you can’t write that many pages.” You probably noticed that Spellbinder was basically a short novel. I had so much story to tell about Miranda, I finally just said, the heck with it! I wrote the story the way it needed to be told. Then I had to call my editor and say… “Oops, you know that twenty-thousand word story you wanted, well, it ate too much pizza and put on a few pounds as well as about twenty-five thousand extra words.” Luckily, I have a wonderful editor and she’s not so much worried about word count as she in the story. And it was a good mistake, too. It was because Spellbinder was so long that they considered publishing the anthology. In my full-length books, even those written in only one point of view, everyone has a problem or issue, and I try to show each of these characters growing and overcoming their own issues. In novellas, I’m limited to how many different stories I can tell. In Fierce, I would have loved to have told more about Linda, Brandon’s sister, the ghost. I know there’s a story as to why she always chose the wrong guy. I would have loved to delve into her life, but I already had one chunky story, so I was unable to go there.
Under your real name, Christie Craig, you’ve been writing romance novels, described as humorous romantic suspense, for a long time. What inspired you to make the shift into the YA world as C.C. Hunter?
I tell people that I didn’t just stumble into the YA genre. I was dragged here kicking and screaming. I did not plan on doing this. I’d published around ten of my Christie Craig books and was very comfortable in what I was doing, and I felt as if I’d mastered that genre. An editor at St. Martins had read some of my work, and she contacted my agent and asked if I would do a young adult series. My response? “Me? Have they even read my work?” My agent told me to play nice, just talk to her and tell her no politely because they also published romance. So I talked to the editor, she explained she thought my sassy, smart-mouthed writing voice would do well in YA. I pretty much thought that editor was a few fries short of happy meal. But then it hit. The reason I wanted to say no was because I was scared. What if I tried and couldn’t do it? I was a success already. Why try something else when I might fail at it? I’m not a very brave person, but I hated the idea of failing at something before I even tried. So I told the editor I’d give it shot. Man did I love it. She was right, my smart-alecky voice with both humor and heart worked very well when writing for teens. So, now I do both.
Wow — your bio is certainly impressive! As an accomplished photojournalist, author, and speaker, can I ask you to think back and tell us how you eventually landed a literary agent? Any advice for newcomers on how to get out of the slush pile?
My advice to any writer looking for an agent is to work on their voice. It’s the writer’s voice that catches an agent’s or an editor’s attention faster than a good plot or characters. Hence, the reason I was even asked to write young adult. The problem is that sometimes you have to write several books before you discover your voice. And how can you work on something until you discover it? The key is to write, write and write. After a while you begin to see a theme or tone to your work. Maybe even a blend of tones. Once you feel as if you’ve honed your skills and have a handle on your voice, get your work out there in the hands of agents. Don’t be afraid to submit your work. Send out queries. Enter contests where agents will be judging. Attend conferences where you can get an appointment with an agent. And do not be upset when they say no. Books are like ice cream. You just need to find the agent who likes your flavor of voice. I’ve got a whole file drawer of rejections from agents who didn’t care for my flavor.
I noticed the schedule for your upcoming appearances include some school visits. My own children love when authors visit their school and share inspirational stories. What message do you like to deliver to young kids?
I hated, can I say that again, I HATED BEING A TEEN! My parents got a divorce. We had a death in the family. I was the kid who didn’t fit in. Not that I was picked on a lot, most of the kids just didn’t even know I existed. I’m dyslexic, and that made school very hard. It seemed everyone else in high school had a “thing.” They were musically inclined. On the debate team. They were gorgeous and cheerleaders. Or into sports. Me, I was “thingless.” If I hadn’t been dyslexic, I’d have probably been the kid who always had a book in her hands. But reading was hard, and it wasn’t fun for me. So, I was a loner. I spent all my time in my head telling myself stories. Never realizing that storytelling was my thing. My message to teens is that it’s okay to be different, that just because you don’t fit in in high school doesn’t mean you aren’t going to fit in in life. And that once you discover who you are and find that thing that defines you, it may require work, but you shouldn’t give up. I have thousands of rejection letters for novels and short magazine pieces. Thousands of editors told me no. I didn’t give up. And look what happened. I bring those rejections to the schools and let the kids see how many times someone told me no.
Thank you for the interview!
For more information about C.C Hunter, visit her website www.cchunterbooks.com