Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Interview with HAUNTING JOY author Lena Goldfinch

Lena Goldfinch
Today on the Inkpot it's my pleasure to welcome Lena Goldfinch, author of Haunting Joy.  Lena and I have never met in person, but since we're name-sisters, I was particularly excited to do this interview--and I was even more excited after I read her book, a charming ghost story that completely won me over.  Here's the summary from Goodreads:

Haunting Joy
by Lena Goldfinch

Joy’s new dress has a secret – one with a little supernatural history, one that’s a little more than she expected.

It all starts one ordinary afternoon, as seventeen-year-old Joy tries on some thrift-store clothes her grandmother gave her. The little white dress fits perfectly. Trouble is, now it won’t leave her alone. Soon Joy is swept up in an extraordinary journey to help a ghost complete some unfinished business.

If only that didn’t involve Joy driving through dangerous intersections...

Or calling up her high-school crush, Nick...

Or getting stuck at a cemetery after dark.

Will Joy accept this ghostly challenge to be "more"? And just how far will she go to uncover the truth?

LC: I was fascinated to read in your Author’s Note that the incident that launches the story—Joy
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being awakened one morning by the sound of an otherworldly sigh—is something that really happened to you.  So…do you believe in ghosts?


LG: Hmmm... Can I say I wouldn't rule out the possibility? ;) I think we're all spiritual beings with souls, something apart from our brains ticking away. So what happens to that part of us after we die? This is actually an underlying theme in the story. Nothing too overt, but it's there ticking at the edges of Joy's mind.

LC: What made you decide to write a ghost story?

LG: *Decide* may be too strong a word. LOL It really was a story that came to me out of the blue one morning. The concept kept nagging at me until I had time to work on it. I typically write longer historical fantasy, so writing something light and contemporary — and set here in Massachusetts, right in my neck of the woods — was a refreshing change of pace for me. 

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LC: I love Joy because although she can be timid, she’s always challenging herself to be more than what she is.  How did you come up with this character?

LG:  I don't know... Joy just came to me that way. She's probably a lot like me as a teen and some of my friends growing up. I think the teen years are such a tender age when we're finding our way. It's a very emotional time too. I remember thinking a lot about what I should say, or what I just said, or what people thought about me, or...really, there's a whole lot of thinking going on about yourself, about others, and about the world at that age! That’s Joy. 

I didn't consciously set out to explore the idea of wanting to be “more,” but that's where my sub-conscience led me. Joy starts off feeling a bit less than her best friend, Emily, and she’s pretty much accepted it, because that's the way it's always been. Then she has this sudden desire to kick things up a notch. I think we all have that inner yearning to some degree. It gnaws at us. We want to be ourselves and explore what that means, but there's also a little part of us that's not fully satisfied with staying where we are in life. For instance, it's not that Joy doesn’t like herself, but I think she just wants to see if she has more inside if she gives herself an extra little nudge. And then discovering she’s haunted definitely forces the issue. 

LC: I was so happy to see that Joy’s story will continue.  This is the first of your books to have a sequel, isn’t it?  What made you decide you wanted to turn Joy’s story into a series?

LG: I've been toying with the idea of writing a series for a while. I just never had it come together. I'd create my fantasy worlds and characters, but then when the story was done, I was done. I don't knowhow else to say it. So this is the first time a second story about the same characters has really come to me. 

I also grew up reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon, and I read historical mystery series as an adult. I'm also a big fan of shows like PSYCH, ELEMENTARY, and BONES, where there's a puzzle to solve each week. We see the same key characters in every episode, but they're faced with a new scenario. That's kind of how I envision Joy's series. There will be a new haunting with each book, a little mystery to solve, and a resolution. There will also be some changes in Joy’s personal life and with her friends and family with each new book.

LC: I have to ask, because he’s such a dreamy love interest, will Nick feature in the sequel?  How did you develop that character?

LG: Well, Nick *may* show up in book 2... but that's all I'm saying. ;) 

Nick felt very real to me as I was writing. I kept bringing myself back to the idea that these are two suburban teenagers, not adults in teen bodies. He’s seventeen, not twenty-seven. I’m sure there are teen guys out there on the super self-assured, gregarious end of the spectrum, but I picture Nick as more a nerdy-but-cute guy. (Maybe not unlike, ahem, my husband would have been at that age?? ;)) Nick's the real deal, a genuine nice guy. He's what I'd call "crush-worthy". LOL He's smart and attractive, but not over-the-top magazine-pretty. He's not full of himself either. In fact, he doesn't always have the perfect delivery, but he's responsible, kind, and willing to help out when he's needed. He accepts Joy for who she is, and he *likes* her, even when she says or does things he doesn't fully understand. 

LC: Something I totally forgot about my teen years, but which your book brought back to me, was the weight of responsibility of being a newdriver.  I love how you use driving as a metaphor for the burden and scariness of Joy’s coming adulthood.  Did you know when you started the story that driving would be so important in your book?

LG: I'm so glad to hear you connected with that. Getting your driver's license is sort of a universal rite of passage, isn't it? It's all about that transition of becoming more--no longer a kid, but not quite an adult.

No, I didn't know when I was first starting out that driving was going to play such an important role in the story, but my kids are teens, so the risk involved in learning to drive was very much on my mind (and still is!). I remember how scary driving could be as a teen, and now I feel it as a mom. 

When I think of my own high school years, I remember my best friend, the guy I crushed on in secret, all the worry about homework and tests, and *getting my driver's license*. I remember thinking about college, what I'd choose to study, and who I wanted to be “when I grew up”. All that. Wow, it's just so much. Joy brought a lot of that back for me, and I'm living through it now with my kids too. 

LC: I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but so many authors are curious about how to self-publish successfully, I wonder if you could tell us something about your experience.  What have been the pros and cons of self publishing for you?

LG: I love it. I initially resisted the idea because I was pursuing traditional publishing and had published one book with a small press, but at one point I felt compelled to give it a try. Looking back, it was the best route for me. I love the freedom and control. I love the ability to try different genres and settings. I love working with good people, like my freelance editors. I love doing cover design and book formatting. It suits my personality and my skill set, I'd have to say, but it's also a lot of work. A lot of times I feel stretched, and I'm afraid I'm going to drop a ball. I feel the pressure of wanting to put out a professional product, and when I commit to a schedule, like a release date, I work hard to stick to it. I think the hardest thing for me is the promo and marketing piece. That doesn't come naturally to me. I'm so glad that I connected with Amber Stokes, my freelance editor, who also helps me with that part. She organizes and manages blog tours and that helps so much. 

Pros: creative freedom, control over the process in general, speed to market (I still have wait times when I'm waiting to get notes back from my editor, but on the whole my publishing process is faster), control over pricing, ability to see (near) real-time sales numbers, higher percentage of royalties,... I also get to wear a lot of different hats, which makes it challenging and interesting to me. I like connecting with readers too, and I've been able to form partnerships with talented people whom I enjoy working with. 

Cons: it's time consuming and wearing lots of hats means I feel stretched at times. Mastering new skills takes time (even though I enjoy it). I don't get an advance (i.e. money up front). In fact, since I'm the publisher, I'm the one putting money into the process (buying stock art for covers, paying distribution fees for print editions, advertising, and any other expenses come out of my pocket). The self-publishing process consumes a chunk of the time I'd normally put into writing something new (like staring off into the ether gathering new ideas ;)). 

LC: I’d love to know a little bit about your process, both for Haunting Joy and in general.  Are you a plotter or a pantster?

LG: I have a constantly changing, very messy process that refuses to be pinned down. ;)

Basically, I go after each story and shake it out whichever way works. I'm a puzzler, which is a mix of pantster and plotter, fitting thepieces together as they come to me. Sometimes I'm seeing a scene but the sequence is out of order. (It's going to come later on, or it's something that needs to be worked in earlier. I often  know the ending but not exactly how we're going to get there.) Sometimes it feels like the pieces are turned upside down. Or are hidden under the couch cushions. ;) Sometimes I have to map things out on paper, and I always take lots of notes. Sometimes I may get stuck (often actually), and I have to go for a walk or take a nice warm shower. Basically, I do whatever works.

Some stories are harder for me than others. For instance, Songstone was the hardest book I've ever written (it was emotionally hard to write and hopefully it will remain the hardest story I've ever had to write ;)), and Haunting Joy was probably the most, er, joyful? (Sorry!;)) 

With Haunting Joy, I really just tried to be as spontaneous as possible. The voice is lighter and chattier than my historical fantasy voice. I also drew a lot on my life and things I was seeing and hearing. For example, I saw this guy on the highway one day. He was agitated with the car in front of him, kept swerving in his lane trying to pass, but he couldn't because of traffic. So, when he finally gets his chance and is passing the car, I see him point an imaginary gun at the other driver and pull the imaginary trigger. He did it so cold too, like a professional assassin popping a round in the movies. Pop. Man, that totally flipped a switch in me. I almost wrote down his license number. Driving behind him, I was wondering if pretending to shoot someone could be considered assault. (It could beconsidered a threatening action, right? But is it illegal?) I also remember worrying that he'd somehow start to harass the other driverand actually do something physical (road rage right there on Route 2!). Then he sped way ahead of the pack, so I figured that was that. But inside I was seriously shaking. Even though I wasn't the recipient of his rage, it really upset me. (I'm a peace-loving soul at heart.)That one little action brought up such a visceral response in me. So, later, it very organically made its way into the book. 

LC: In addition to Haunting Melody, the sequel to Haunting Joy, you’ve also got Through the Spyglass coming out.  Can you tell us first aboutwhat’s next for Joy and then a little bit about Through the Spyglass?

In Haunting Melody, Joy is haunted by an mp3 player. The ghost is a skateboarder who doesn’t remember how he died. (Which cracks me up. A ghost with amnesia. ;) This mixture of humor in the midst of some very tragic circumstances is what makes the haunting series concept work for me. Exploring issues like loss of a loved one appeals to my more serious nature, but I think if it was too heavy it would wear on me.) As for Through the Spyglass, it’s a Steampunk/Gaslight fantasy that’s very much a work-in-progress. If I had to give it a Hollywood pitch, I’d call it The Bourne Identity meets Sherlock Holmes (the one withRobert Downey, Jr. :-)).  The hero, Keane, is a teenage earl and spy-in-training. Though he’s experienced a crippling memory loss (this will be my year for amnesia stories, I guess — totally unplanned that way ;)), he seeks to rescue the captivating, generous-hearted girl he sees through the lens of an enchanted spyglass. Lysandra, a foreign emissary, is pursuing her jealous cousin, aptly named Pandora, who’s stolen both her identity and a box of enchanted objects. Mystery and adventure ensue...and possibly romance. Okay, probably. ;)

LC: Fantastic! And finally, what books are inspiring you these days?

LG: I’ve been so busy with this book release that I haven’t had a whole lot of time for reading, but I did recently read ABSENT by Katie Williams and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a short YA ghost story, and it has inspired me to rethink the plot I had in mind for Haunting Melody. There were a couple of very strong similarities with the premise I’d envisioned, so I’m pondering ways to differentiate my book. To say what those similarities were would be too much of a spoiler for ABSENT — so I won’t go into details. But having gone through this experience, I’ve decided to sit down with a big ole pile of YA ghost books (though probably on my Kindle ;)) and do a lot of reading. I want to get a better handle on what’s already been done, so I can give my haunting books a unique spin.

LC: Thanks so much for telling us a little bit about your process, Lena, and about Haunting Joy!

Unlike Lena Goldfinch, who pronounces her name "Lee-na," Lena Coakley pronounces her name "Lay-na."  Her first novel, Witchlanders, was called “one stunning teen debut” by Kirkus Reviews and won the SCBWI Crystal Kite award for the Americas.  It is a 2013 MYRCA nominee and a 2013 OLA White Pine honouree.  Lena is also the author of two children’s picture books and the former administrative director of CANSCAIP. Learn more about her at www.lenacoakley.com

9 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for the interview, Lena!

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  2. Loved the interview ladies! Love the fact that Lena G. was a Trixie Belden fan! I still have all of my TB books and enjoy going back and reading them now and again. Looking forward to sharing them with my grandchildren. Also looking forward to reading Lena's next books!

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  3. Oh my goodness, this sounds adorable. Great interview!

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  4. I'm sure I would have loved Trixie Belden because I loved Nancy Drew mysteries. Perhaps it's not too late to read them now! It is an adorable book, Crystal. I'm sure you'll love it as much as I did. Thanks Leeeee-na!

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    1. It's never too late to enjoy something from our childhood :) I'm 48 and read through the TB series a couple of years ago again ;) Of course I love a good YA novel still too :) The problem with TB now is that you can't find the entire series. ANYWAY...back to Haunting Joy, loved it! It was cute yet had its serious times that were tender and heart-warming. I'd definitely recommend reading it.

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    2. Aww, thanks, Julie! I still have a stack of TB books but I haven't read them in ages. Maybe I'll have a TB party at some point... (Where else can you hear the phrase "old jalopy"? ;-))

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    3. Or "jeepers" and "dungarees"? I'd join that TB party! ;)

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  5. Very interesting! I need to look for this book. Hmm. I like the BW cover better than the pink one. It's spookier. :-)

    Irene Guided Rifle Montana Elk Hunts

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  6. Thanks, Irene! I hope you enjoy it. :)

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