Sunday, October 30, 2011

Author Interview/Giveaway, The Implosion of Aggie Winchester

The blogosphere has been celebrating all month with spooky stories and great giveaways. But I'm a fraidy cat, so I have a non-scary author interview and giveaway for you.

Lara Zielin works for the University of Michigan, my alma mater - Go Blue! She graciously answered a slew of questions. Read on, then join us for trick-or-treating and a special giveaway!

The Implosion of Aggie Winchester is your second YA novel, following Donut Days. Congrats! Tell us about your path to publication. How did you find your agent?

As most writers do, I struggled for a long time to get my debut novel published. From the time I started the book to the time I held the finished hardcover in my hand, it took 8 years. Now, that's on the long side for most writers, so if you're reading this and trying to get a book published, don't despair! I had a lot of growing to do as a writer during that time, and that was my path - it's not everyone's path.

The good news is that along the way I had wonderful people helping me. One of those people was Brad Meltzer, who has a new show on the History Channel called Decoded. You should totally watch it! Anyway, Brad recommended I speak to Larry Kirshbaum about representation. At the time, Larry had just opened a new agency, LJK, and Brad knew him. I querried LJK, and Larry passed me along to Susanna Einstein, who ended up becoming my agent. So, happy endings all around!

Aggie was inspired by some true-life events. Tell us more.

When I was in high school, a pregnant Goth student was elected homecoming queen. The school administration burned the ballots and put a pretty, popular girl on the throne instead. This happened my junior year, and my dad was my principal at the time. He was embroiled in the scandal, which made national headlines. My dad lost his job over the whole thing.

Aggie is definitely fiction, but the ways in which she figures out that leadership and parenting aren't always black and white are certainly things I personally discovered. Today, my dad and I are both grateful Aggie afforded us the opportunity to talk about what had happened all those years ago. Would you believe it, we never had before I started writing the book. Maybe it's a Midwestern thing - you just smile and nod and pretend everything is fine, just fine. It was great to finally have a chance to honestly discuss what went down.

Speaking about honest discussions... Let's talk about sex, baby... In some stories, the scene heats up, then the curtain is drawn, leaving readers to their imagination. You took a more direct approach, wrote honestly without glossing over details, and used straightforward words. Masturbation, penis, orgasm.


Tell us about your thought process, and if these scenes changed in revisions with your agent or editor.

I think the frank talk about sex is either something readers appreciate about the book, or something they think is just way too much, over the top, why'd-you-put-that-in-there content.

My goal was to write a book about a very real girl who didn't pull any punches. She's not every girl, and Aggie makes some seriously bad choices throughout the book. But she's at least honest and straightforward about what she's experiencing - and at the end I believe she's totally redeemed, even though she stumbles and falls over and over again in the story.

This kind of literature isn't for everyone, and I totally understand that. It's also literature that my editor and I decided from the get-go wouldn't get pared down to make it more "safe." I'm so lucky in that way - my editor is very strong and she's not afraid to put edgy stuff out there. We definitely collaborated closely to give Aggie her strong voice and to not gloss over details.

Yes, Aggie is totally redeemed in the end. I was rooting for her! What's next for you?

I finished my third book, The Waiting Sky, and it comes out in August 2012. It's about a girl who chases tornadoes with her brother in Oklahoma for a summer. Currently, I'm working on my fourth book, which is about a girl who suffers from panic attacks. I also am busy helping writers with their manuscripts through my website:

Never a dull moment, that's for sure! Whew. :)

Thanks for sharing, Lara!

Lara is giving away one signed copy of The Implosion of Aggie Winchester to a random commenter. (Sorry, U.S. mailing addresses only - it's a hardcover!) Please leave a comment by Saturday, November 5th, and tell us if you're dressing up for Halloween. Or, what was your most memorable costume in the past? Here's one of mine:

Yep, that's me as Sherlock Holmes. Even at age 9, I was a book nerd!

And you have to check out Lara's 6th grade costume. Go to her blog here, to see the picture!

The interview with Lara Zielin continues on Monday over at YA Stands where you can enter to win a second copy of a signed hardcover edition of Aggie!
You'll also find a yummy Halloween recipe for pumpkin/black bean chili!

Back to work on Tuesday! I'm sharing a writing tip at Literary Rambles for Casey's Tip Tuesday feature. Stop by and explore the wealth of information on that site.


Tracy Bilen said...

Great interview, Kristin! Yes, I'm dressing up in my Star Trek costume tomorrow - which reminds me, I have to find it in my closet!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

I love Lara and Donut Days :)

Kristen Simmons said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristen Simmons said...

This was great - thank you! I appreciate all this frank talk about sex (giggles). Sometimes books are the only place people feel safe learning about real world issues.

Tanya Reimer said...

Thanks for sharing your journey with us. It always brings tears to my eyes to read these types of interviews, because I KNOW how long that journey is.

Oh, and cute costume!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great interview Kristin and Lara. It's always inspiring to hear of other authors journeys to publication.

No, I'm not dressing up. Just giving out candy and picking up my daughter after her fun filled night.

Kristin Lenz said...

Tracy - I want to see a picture of your Star Trek costume!

Shelli - I read Aggie first, now I need to go back and read Donut Days.

Kristen - so true.

Tanya - good luck on your journey!

Natalie - thanks for stopping by - have fun tonight!

Kurt Hampe said...


Although I do own a spider hat with eight purple and black striped legs, I tend to go for the come-as-you-are costume. This year I'll go as an author. A few years ago I dressed as a guy who was tired of remodeling his house--which I was.

Thanks to you and Lara for the interview.


Colette Ballard said...

Great interview, Kristen! I love finding out the stories behind the stories: )
My best costume to date was Napolean Dynamite--wig, glasses, 'vote for Pedro t-shirt, and most importantly, the snow boots!!

Danielle H. said...

This Halloween I am dressing as "Smarty Pants" with Smarties pinned to my pants. Easy, cheap and you get to eat them when you're done!

mja said...

big BIG fan of Lara's; her thoughtful presentation of YA material is a welcome highlight, standing out as a shining beacon of hope against the tempestuous mediocrity of most literature geared toward teens. Thank you for interviewing her.

The Happy Booker said...

Wonderful interview! I wasn't familiar with either of these books but I've just added them both to my to read list. I enjoy edgy reads that are unafraid to explore the character's experiences in a realistic way.
As far as Halloween, I rarely ever wore a costume. My youngest son's birthday is the day before Halloween and even though we have a combination Halloween/Birthday party every year, he rarely wants anything more than a simple mask that he sets aside about 10 minutes into the party. lol

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

I can appreciate the frank honesty in such a book. As well as the author's honesty about her real life experiences. The Implosion of Aggie Winchester sounds like an excellent read.

My favorite costume was when I dressed up like a Pepsi can in 7th grade.

Nikki Jefford said...

Glad to read about an author not glossing over the sex stuff. I had to start reading adult romance novels as a teenager. I think it’s easier these days. Back then it seemed like YA was very PG. Babysitters Club and all that.

In 5th grade my mom dressed me in head to toe black, spread fake cobweb over me then pinned plastic spiders and bugs all over my body. I was a spider web.

Kim Van Sickler said...

Really enjoyed the interview Kristin and Lara. Kristin, saw your Tuesday tip at Literary Rambles and it makes a lot of sense. We've got to get comfortable spewing stuff out there BEFORE we get preoccupied with making it perfect. Thanks for following Swagger! I've posted your blog address on our site.

Halloween costumes: I've had a few memorable ones. One year I attended a murder mystery event dressed as a knife-wielding pregnant nurse. I was all bloody like I'd just killed someone and I had all these cool nursing gadgets prominently displayed. I think the costume looked cooler than I'm explaining it. It won first place.

Kim Van Sickler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristin Lenz said...

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your fun costumes everyone!

Unknown said...

Great interview. I am surprised at what the school administration did. Not shocked. Just surprised.

Sounds like an awesome book. It's definitely going on my TBR list. :D

Katie McGarry said...

Thank you so much for stopping by! That was a great interview!

Barbara Watson said...

I really love hearing, Lara, that your publication took eight years. I have non-writing friends who ask me how my writing is going--and sometimes I feel I have no news for them because, well, I'm still writing and re-writing.

Thank you for all the thought-provoking questions and answers.

Lisa Tapp said...

Thanks for bringing Lara to our blog. Like others, I appreciate hearing 'journey' stories, both of the author and individual books.

I did not dress up this year. Most memorable costume of the past was as a nun. Grandma had high hopes. I had to let her down gently. :0

Anonymous said...

I didn't dress up this year. My most adventurous Halloween costume was dressing up as a pumpkin. Hey, I like cute, round gourds! :)

(extemter at hotmail dot com)

Vivien said...

I dressed up as Marie Antoinette.
"Let them eat cake!"

deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Georgia Summers said...

Hi! This sounds freaking AMAZING!

Okay, for Halloween, I was a narcoleptic, and walked around in my pyjamas with a teddy bear.