Spotlight Interview: Paranormal YA Author Deborah Kreiser by Ria Boulay

Join us as we spotlight various members in the Savvy Authors community. We’ll introduce you to recently published authors from Our Authors, our hard working volunteers, members active in the Savvy writing community, editors, and agents.

This week the spotlight shines on paranormal YA author Deborah Kreiser. While attending last years Savvy Authors Summer Symposium, she scored a contract with Astrea Press for her debut novel “Three Wishes”. An intriguing twist on a genie story, it is sure to please YA fans looking for something new. Pull up a chair, grab your coffee or hot chocolate because while it’s cold outside we are warming up talking about magical genies, the joys of interning and how to snag a Twitter friend!

Congratulations on your debut novel, “Three Wishes” (Astraea Press) which will be available April 15, 2014. You connected with Astraea Press during the 2013 Savvy Authors Summer Symposium. Tell us about your experience with the Summer Symposium and give this year’s aspiring authors some tips on making the most of participation.

Thank you so much! I’m still pinching myself, all these months later.

So, frankly, any pitching opportunity is a thrill, and the Summer Symposium is no exception. It feels great to be one of the ones picked! But it can be tough to remember it’s not just a game—it’s important to do your research on the agents or publishers you’re pitching to. Don’t waste their time, or yours, by pitching to someone you’re not really interested in representing or publishing you. There are a number of bloggers that have forums where you can try out your pitches, so find one of those and get some feedback on your pitch before trying it on an agent/publisher. Make the most of your participation! 

You describe “Three Wishes” as “I Dream of Jeannie set in high school”. I love that! Can you give us a peek into the story and especially the main characters?

Thanks again! I hope lots of readers agree with you!

The biggest difference between Jeannie and Genie, my main character, is that Genie has a lot more on her mind than pleasing her master.

Eugenie (Genie) Lowry is certain she’s an ordinary teen on the lower end of her high school’s social hierarchy. But when her body changes in an instant from meh to va-va-voom!, she learns she’s one of a long line of actual genies. She’s catapulted into popularity, and finally catches the eye of Pete Dillon, her long-time crush.

Genie’s under pressure to find a master before her eighteenth birthday, though she doesn’t know if Pete’s really Master Right, after all. His controlling ways are giving her second thoughts, and she’s not sure what she really wants as a girl–and as a genie.

Spoiler alert: there is a happy ending! 

You have a few stories in the works, including “Onward” and “A Pox on Both Your Houses”. Two very different tales and genres. What inspired you to write them, what are they about and where are they in the pipeline?

As I continue my writing journey—“Three Wishes” was my first-ever manuscript—I am finding that what I write reflects what I read. Though the bulk of what I read is Young Adult (most of it speculative fiction, but a great deal of contemporary, too), my reading material truly runs the gamut. From picture books to adult non-fiction, and everything in-between.

With “Onward,” I started thinking about something I’d learned as a Park Ranger at Women’s Rights National Historical Park: Wyoming was the first place in the United States to grant women the right to vote, in part to attract women to move there, where they were outnumbered by men five to one. I wondered if any woman in 1869 actually chose to make that journey, and the story flowed from there. It *still* needs a lot of revising and polishing, but I have hopes.

A “Pox on Both Your Houses” came about when I was reading the manuscript wish list (#MSWL) on Twitter, where agents post what they’re hoping to get in their inboxes. I don’t even remember now who said it, but he or she was looking for a retelling of Macbeth, perhaps from the viewpoint of Lady Macbeth. Well, that sounded too dark and depressing to me, but I did contemplate some of the secondary characters from other Shakespeare plays, and it hit me that I never quite understood why Paris was so obsessed with Juliet. “A Pox” was born: a contemporary retelling of Romeo and Juliet, but from Paris’ point of view. It, too, needs work before it’s ready for the world.

I’m confident that over the next few months I’ll get at least one of them ready to start querying. My critique partners tell me it’s “A Pox.” 

In addition to being a busy working mom and community volunteer, you’re an intern for Inklings Literary Agency. Since writers are fascinated by any job connected with writing and publishing, tell us how you landed the position and what exactly does a literary intern do?

It’s been great working for Michelle Johnson. I had followed her for a while on Twitter and happened to see her tweet that she was looking for an intern. With multiple fingers crossed, I sent in my resume and a cover letter, and she picked me out of the intern slush pile (I don’t think this really exists, BTW). She’s been very helpful in giving me advice on my writing career. In return, I get to read some of the manuscripts she’s requested, and give her feedback on character, plot, voice, and all the other goodies we writers are supposed to have in our manuscripts. It’s pretty-freaking-awesome!

I’ve also just started interning with Spencer Hill Press/Contemporary’s Reading With Me program, where I’ll be working on the Tumblr page and other outreach and social media. It’s still so new to me—as of two days ago—that I’m still learning just what I’ll be doing!

For anyone interested in an internship, the key is to stay connected. Follow relevant people on Twitter and on blogs, as much as you reasonably have time for. The more you know, the more opportunities you’ll find. 

You’ve mentioned having amazing critique partners. What is the biggest impact their advice has had on your writing?

They have helped me in every which way, both in being generally supportive, to telling me when I can do better.  I get mad at them if they’re not being brutal enough. We have a great trio going.

There’s so much to say about the value of critique partners (and I’ve already said a lot on my blog and in a post on the Savvy Authors website last summer).

Bottom line? If you don’t have a critique partner, do not pass go, head straight to the numerous places you can find one. Choose wisely and you won’t be sorry. 

There’s an interesting blog post on your site about your struggle with guilt over not being able to do it all, with writing commitments being left by the wayside at times despite your best efforts. Have you been able to create more balance in your life and what would you say to writers struggling with those same issues?

Yes, I think it’s every parent’s job to worry about not being able to do it all. Well, nah, I probably felt that way before my kids came along . . .

But I have divested myself of a couple of my volunteer commitments, which has helped tremendously. And I’ve given myself permission to keep my house clean “enough” (as in, no one has to call the health department). If we have clean clothes, dishes, bathrooms, and basic decency, I don’t need perfect. That’s been liberating.

It really comes down to deciding where your priorities lie, and planning accordingly. There are writers who write religiously. EVERY DAY. That’s not me. I work in spurts, because it’s how I work best, unless I’m under a deadline, and then it’s an all-out crank. Otherwise, I try to carve out time here and there, and somehow, it works.

I read a great story about you following another author, beginning a twitter conversation, asking for her advice and unexpectedly receiving a phone number and invitation to call. How did that go and do you remain in contact?

Yes, we’re still Twitter buddies, and I’ve been happily following her career over the past year. As it turns out, we’re both being published by Astraea Press, though we reached our publisher through different paths.

Twitter has been a tremendous resource for me, and she’s just one reason why I say that. Anyone who wants to learn the industry really has to be on Twitter, as far as I’m concerned. There is a wealth of information out there. 

Last, but not least, what book are you currently reading or the most recent book you read, and are there any new authors you are particularly excited about?

I’ve been reading so much great stuff lately! It’s really hard to name just one, though, and I’d probably feel guilty not promoting an Astraea Press or Spencer Hill author.

Instead, I’ll tell you about an independent author I read recently, and totally by accident. I was looking for something YA to read on my Nook, and my finger slipped and I ended up clicking on “Brightest Kind of Darkness” by  P.T. Michelle. It was free, and I thought, why not? Well, I fell into the story and fell in love! She’s got a whole series and though the rest of it isn’t free, it’s so worth it. And I think it was fate that made my finger slip.

Thank you again for this wonderful opportunity. I am so glad to be a SavvyAuthors member—it got me where I am today!

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today! You can learn more about Deborah by going to her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook. 

DebKreiserDeborah was born in upstate New York and grew up in Maryland. She attended Vassar College for undergrad and the University of Delaware for graduate school and spent her junior year of college in Ireland. While she is 5’11″ please don’t challenge her to a game of basketball as she has no hand-eye coordination. She did row crew in college, though. She also sings–la la la la la!–a cappella. In addition to being a bookworm, she is a total history nerd.

Deborah caught the writing bug at age 9 and wrote to Tamora Pierce way back then just to let her know she would also be a writer someday. Fulfilling that promise, her first novel is called “Three Wishes”. It’s I Dream of Jeannie set in high school, but the genie is smart, athletic, and has more on her mind than pleasing her master. Deborah interns for the Reading With Me program at Spencer Hill Press/Contemporary, and with Michelle Johnson of Inklings Literary Agency.

She has two lovely children and two hairy dogs, but only one handsome husband. They all live happily ever after in Massachusetts, which she considers a wicked cool place to be.

Tall and lanky, Eugénie (Genie) Lowry is usually noticed only during academic awards assemblies–until the moment she turns 17 ½, when her body morphs from Kate-Hudson-flat to Katy-Perry-curvy. She discovers she’s a real, honest-to-God genie, with exactly six months to find a master, or she’ll return to her original self.

Suddenly, Genie’s new body has made her the toast of high school. She hooks up with popular and funny Pete Dillon, but he’s set on controlling what Genie eats and who she sees, creating a major rift with her friends. She isn’t sure if Pete is Master (or Mr.) Right, but she is sure she wants more than anything to fall in love and live happily ever after.

With help from her dead mother’s interactive diary and the imposing Dr. Morocco, a mentor with questionable motives, Genie uncovers the family history and genie rules she never knew. She grapples with her new powers and searches for the perfect master as she tries to make her own wishes come true. 

Ria Boulay writes contemporary and paranormal romantic comedy as well as dystopian YA/NA. With Savvy since 2011, she is the Editor of the Spotlight On column. The Spotlight is dedicated to acknowledging the work of our member authors and volunteers, as well as informative interviews with editors, agents and publishers.