Manuscript update: Current word count is 14,577. I am managing to wake up early and write, but the writing is going slowly. This is a book that I think will really come together in the revision.
And now, as promised, onto Valerie Hobbs‘ answers to your questions. You might remember that Valerie is the author of a bunch of children’s books, most recently the middle-grade coming-of-age novel The Last Best Days of Summer. Two weeks ago, I asked you to give me questions for Valerie, and her favorite one will win a copy of Summer.
First, congratulations to Susan Ruch Roush, who won the copy of Valerie’s book. Thanks for the great question, Susan. I’ll email you to get your address.
And here are Valerie’s answers to your questions, starting with the winning one:
Hi Val, can you share a magical moment of the writing of The Best Last Days of Summer … perhaps when a character did something completely unexpected/unplanned, and it was just wonderful for the story? –Susan Ruch Roush
Valerie: It was magical when I let Eddie follow Lucy to the lake. It was what he wanted and he livened up that book so much.
As a published author myself, I would like to know what you think about the Kindle and it’s affect on young readers. –Doris Fisher
Valerie: I don’t see much of an effect yet, but I expect there will be one.
How do you develop your characters? How do you create a character that seems real? How do you connect with them and know how they would think and act and effectively convey that on the page? Also, just for fun, how do you decide what your character will look like, what their name will be, what they’re house looks like, etc.? –Erin
Valerie: Great question for which there are many answers. In short, I don’t always know (!) Toby in Defiance just “came to me” out of the blue, but many of my characters (well, all of them really) are me in various guises. They become more and more “real” as themselves as I write. If they don’t, I’m “outa there”!
I try to “see” them in my mind (I think I could actually do a better job of that) and I look in a character naming source book for names.
My question for Valerie: What do you do to overcome a missing muse and get your writing going again when you become stuck? –Rosi Hollinbeck
Valerie: Hardest thing in the world! I go for a long walk. And pray.
Do you find that the best and very private qualities of yourself go into your characters? I’m thinking of those qualities of fine feeling level, which don’t necessarily find their way easily into public interactions. Thanks. –Gillian Foster
Valerie: Absolutely. Although the characters don’t usually start out with the best values, for example, that’s where they end up. So, yes, the characters get the best and the worst of me.
Valerie, when have you rewritten enough and how many times would you say you rewrite your book before you send it out to publishers/agents? –Liz Maxwell
Valerie: I just rewrote a book three times that got rejected three times. How’s that?
I feel like I’m finished when the end comes together and gives me chills. It takes a while!
Hi, Val, what do you see as the piece of the puzzle that keeps The Last Best Days of Summer from getting “lovely but too quiet” comments? If this had been your first book, would it have made a difference? –Claudia Harrington
Valerie: PW just gave the book a starred review which, I think, answers your question. If it doesn’t, write to me and I’ll try to answer it.
Are all of your stories from real life events and people? Or, have some come from your imagination alone? –Jean
Valerie: Mostly real events and made up people, although most of them are “me” in various guises. Toby in Defiance was a gift from the gods.
Thanks for all that you shared. This is twice in two days that I’ve looked at middle school and YA readers. What subjects are most appealing to middle graders right now? –Lynn
Valerie: Fantasy, fantasy, fantasy.
The title of your book, The Last Best Days of Summer, is so intriguing. What inspired the title? Was this always the title of the book? –Joannie Villegas
Valerie: The title originally was “Lucy In The Sky,” which, I guess, was not good because of the drug connection (!) So then my editor and I went crazy trying to come up with titles. I like this one now.
My question to Valerie is this: There may be many authors who have a completed manuscript but lack the financial resources, the personality required for self-marketing and/or the knowledge about publishers/publishing/agencies that will help them get their work considered. Do you think it is possible to have a platform where first time writers post/send their work (without copyright concerns) to be looked at by publishers and agents? –Farida Mirza
Valerie: I don’t think there is a free one, but there are several who will do this for a fee. I’m sorry, but I don’t know much more than that. You might check with SCBWI.org for more information.
Thanks for the interview. So, my question for Val is, did you have a “best summer” memory or dread that you used as a springboard for this story? –Mary Ann Dames
Valerie: I didn’t have a best summer memory or a dread to use as a springboard. What I have I guess is a fear of Alzheimer’s disease!
Thanks so much, Valerie. And good luck with the book.