Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with YA author Brynna Gabrielson. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Brynna. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Brynna: My name is Brynna Gabrielson. I’m originally from a small town called Ladysmith in British Columbia Canada, however since last September I’ve been living in Oxford, England where I’m completing my Master of Arts degree in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University. Writing has always been a part of my life, however it wasn’t until senior year in high school when I took a Creative Writing class that I knew it was going to BE my life. I had previously applied for a Tourism Degree in university, but within weeks of starting the creative writing class I was researching other options and decided I wanted to do a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Creative Writing at Vancouver Island University. It was an amazing program and since then I’ve been pursuing my dreams of becoming a published author.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Brynna: On August 14th 2012 I independently published my first novel, Starkissed, as an eBook. I write under my given name, Brynna Gabrielson. No pen names here!
Morgen: What age group do you write for?
Brynna: These days I primarily write YA fiction, so for those aged 12-19 I’d say. Though I’m 25 myself and I love YA fiction and there are many out there like me, so I’m sure my age range is a bit wider than that.
Morgen: Which authors would you compare your writing to?
Brynna: I’d say my writing is somewhat on par with authors like Meg Cabot and Stephanie Perkins. Authors who write fun, comedic, and light-hearted books.
Morgen: Do you get a second opinion on your stories before they’re published – if so from adults, children or both?
Brynna: Starkissed was read by quite a few people before I ever considered publishing it. In fact I’d initially written it as part of an assignment for a course in my BA, so the entire class had a read of at least part of it, if not all. I also test read it with family, friends, other course mates, and even a few strangers.
Morgen: Do you have any tips for anyone thinking about writing for children?
Brynna: I’d say the best thing is to know your genre and know your audience. If you’re going to write for kids, then go out and read as many children’s books as possible. Get to know as many children as possible. And the same goes for YA. Read all the YA books you can, see what’s out there. And befriend your audience and see what they really want.
Morgen: You’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Brynna: Multiple factors really. I used to harbour this opinion that the only way to publish was by being taken on by one of the big houses. But the more I’ve learned about publishing over the past year, the more I’ve really grown to appreciate what self-publishing is. I still believe in the traditional publishing model, but I’ve grown quite enthusiastic about how self-publishing is evolving the industry. For my Masters Degree we have to complete a Major Project, and I really wanted to look into self-publishing. It was then that I realized the best way to do so was to try it myself.
Starkissed had been sitting on my computer for about two years. I’d tried submitting it to agents, about 50 of them, and got a few requests, but nothing ever happened. I probably could have kept going, but it was disheartening and time consuming and I just wanted people to read my work. So I decided why not use Starkissed for my project. It was a bit scary at first, but now that I’ve really learned about self-publishing and what it can do, I’m thrilled.
Morgen: Is your book available as an eBook? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Brynna: My books are only available as eBooks at this time, though I’m considering Print on Demand for the future. I was wholly involved in the process of making them as I made them myself! I did all the editing, proofreading, formatting, cover designing. Personally I read both eBooks and paperbacks. I will never give up the feeling of holding a real book in my hand, but at times eBooks are a godsend. I love my Kobo reader, it’s light and I can take it anywhere. It’s perfect for tossing in my purse to go into town, or throwing in my bag to go travelling. I’ve got all my favourite books on there, and they’re always with me.
Morgen: Did you choose the title / cover of Starkissed? How important do you think they are?
Brynna: The title for Starkissed existed before the story itself, it’s what inspired it, so of course that’s the title I kept. As for the cover, I actually designed the whole of it myself. It’s not necessarily the most professional design, but I was really happy with it when I finished. Especially as it was my first attempt at cover design. It really feels in sync with the novel itself.
I think covers are hugely important, an interesting cover is the reason I pick up a book in the store, and it’s the reason I click on a book link online. Having a great cover is one of the first steps in reaching your reader.
Morgen: I really like your cover. You should be proud. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Right this minute I’m working on finishing my Major Project for my degree and pushing the marketing for Starkissed. I have a few novels planned out, and I’m itching to pick up them all, but I’ll have to choose just one. One is sort of a companion piece to Starkissed so that might take precedence depending on how well Starkissed does!
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Brynna: Right now I don’t have the time to write at all which drives me nuts! When I am in the zone though, I usually manage to put out at least 1000 or more words per day. Writer’s block is definitely something I am familiar with though. Usually if I get out and put my mind on something else for awhile though, it goes away.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Brynna: I think about them endlessly. I like to know where I’m going before I start.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Brynna: I self-edit a ton. I have this horribly irritating habit, where when I start working on something I’m writing for the day, I go back and reread everything I’ve written first, and I edit along the way. It can be terribly time-consuming and means I don’t get nearly as much work done. But in the end the MS has been edited so many times that it’s usually in far, far better shape than if I’d just gone ahead and written without looking back at all.
Morgen: It’s always advisable to leave a piece of writing for a while then go back to it so you’ll be less close to it. Self-publishing will inevitably lead to writers being impatient and just put unfinished work out. I obviously don’t mean incomplete, but work that could still be pulled apart because the readers will do it for you, if they last that long. What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Brynna: I’m a big fan of first person. I’ve never really gelled well with third, and who wants to write in second? I think first person allows the reader to really connect with the main character and get in their head. It also gives me the chance to really develop a voice for my character, which is something I love. Though one day I hope to get over my third person hurdle and give it a proper shot!
Morgen: I want to write in second, and I do, but it’s certainly an acquired taste. 🙂 Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Brynna: The very first novel I wrote when I was 19 (and now is sitting pretty waiting to be rewritten) was picked up by the first agent I ever showed it to. It was submitted to about eight different publishers and rejected. My agent and I agreed that I’d go through and rewrite some bits that the editors had pointed out, however as this was happening my mother passed away and I took some time off. So by the time it was rewritten and ready to be submitted again, over a year had passed. Unfortunately I hadn’t talked to my agent in a long time, and after I submitted the revised novel, I never heard from her again! She disappeared. Didn’t answer the phone or emails, her website vanished. She was my one and only agent. I did try and submit Starkissed to other agents after it was written, but no bites. I believe agents are great for an authors success, and are vital when it comes to the traditional publishing model, but with self-publishing an agent isn’t really necessary for me at this point.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do?
Brynna: For Starkissed I’ve been doing as much marketing as possible, primarily using Social Media to reach readers. I use Facebook, Twitter, my own website, and Goodreads the most. Right now I’m really just pushing my book, but once I’ve got another book out, I’ll try and start develop a following more of me as an author and not just my work.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Brynna: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
Morgen: I like that. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Brynna: Well sort of. I am working on completing my Masters Degree in Publishing and the goal with that is to one day work in the publishing world (hopefully very soon) in tandem with continuing with my writing. I’d love to be an editor of Children’s / YA fiction, though I’m interested in so many areas of publishing that I would be happy almost anywhere.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Brynna: Well I read a lot. And I spend too much time watching TV shows. I have a mild television obsession.
Morgen: I used to watch too much TV; soaps and so on but then stopped watching almost anything but I’ve connected Freeview up to my computer screen and watch most of the crime (fiction) programmes going. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Brynna: I use Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads primarily these days. I think they’re incredibly valuable when it comes to reaching my audience and I make sure to check them and update them at least once a day!
Morgen: Social networks do have to be part of an author’s life these days but hopefully they’re an enjoyable part. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Brynna: I’m hoping that Starkissed does well, and continues to do so, and thus I’ll be able to continue self- publishing my work. One day I’d love for it to become profitable enough that I could do it full time! There’s no telling what will happen, but no matter how well I do, I will always be writing and always looking for an audience for my work.
Morgen: That’s good to hear. You have to have passion and you clearly do. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Brynna: I have a blog / website www.brynnagabrielson.com, and I’m involved in multiple other sites. You can follow me on Twitter @brynna87 and Facebook www.facebook.com/StarkissedbyBrynnaGabrielson or connect with me on Goodreads www.goodreads.com/book/show/15825552-starkissed.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Brynna: Putting Starkissed out there for the world was a huge thing for me and I’m so grateful to all those out there who have chosen to read it! All I ever want is to create stories that make people happy.
Morgen: You’re very welcome, Brynna. I feel that’s part of the reason why we write.
I then invited Brynna to include an extract of her writing…
As if he senses my stare, he looks over and catches my eye. I automatically look away, staring down at my fingernails, and once more curse Alyssa. Where the hell is she?
“You’re blushing,” he says.
Oh crap. My heart thumps against my chest. I blink at him and words stutter against my lips. “Huh? What?” I can feel my cheeks, which were already a little aflame, ignite to inferno. I reach up and touch my face, then quickly pull my hand away. “It’s not, I mean, it’s just warm in here and my skin is so pale…and I’m not like… well you know?”
He creases his brow and stares at me like I’m a crazy person, rightly so. “You’re phone,” he points to spot on the bar where I dropped it, “it’s buzzing…vibrating?”
Buzzing, blushing…why do they have to sound so similar? It’s just so loud in here and oh shit, the buzzing stopped. I reach for the phone, one missed call from Alyssa.
And a synopsis…
Kissing movie star Grant West may be every teenage girl’s dream, but when it happens to Sydney Kane, it’s nothing but a nightmare. Sure he’s cute, but having her face plastered all over celebrity gossip blogs is not something she’s interested in. Now cheerleaders are trying to befriend her, reporters won’t stop calling, and her mother keeps chasing her with a curling iron so she won’t be caught by the paparazzi with flat hair ever again.
Forgetting Grant is all Sydney wants and Colin, the guy she’s had a crush on since seventh grade, seems like a pretty good way to do it. Then Grant shows up at Sydney’s door begging for a second chance and the more she gets to know him, the more she isn’t sure she wants him to go away. But with Grant in the picture, Colin is backing off and she definitely doesn’t want that. Everything is a mess and Sydney doesn’t know what to do, who to choose, or how to make those pesky cheerleaders leave her alone. She only knows one thing for sure, being STARKISSED isn’t a dream come true at all.
Though she hails from the small town of Ladysmith, British Columbia in Canada, Brynna currently lives in the not-so-small town of Oxford in the United Kingdom, where she is pursuing her Master of Arts Degree in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University. When she’s not studying or writing, she reads, loses hours on the internet, and watches far too much TV for her own good.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on the mixed blog but everything else (see Opportunities on the main blog) is free.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have this blog, https://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com, on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
** NEW!! You can now subscribe to the main blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!
or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **
You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internet, view my Books (including my debut novel, which is serialised on Novel Nights In!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.
For writers / readers willing to give feedback and / or writers wanting feedback, take a look at the main blog’s Feedback page.
As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. I welcome items for critique for the online writing groups, and their associated Facebook groups, listed below:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
We look forward to reading your comments.