Sunday, December 19, 2010

Q and A with the Awesome Leah Clifford

We have an awesome treat for you today! The amazing Leah Clifford has stopped by the OA today for a little Question and Answer session :D

I first met Leah about three years ago on the then brand new Querytracker.net forum. There were only a few of us back then and we formed a tight-knit group that is still one of my main sources for support and inspiration. We were all just starting out on our querying journeys back then, but it has always been evident that Leah has what it takes to be a rock star :) It has been a pure joy and thrill to see Leah find her incredible agent, Rosemary Stimola, and land an amazing three book deal.

Her first book, A Touch Mortal, will be coming in Winter 2011 from GreenWillow / HarperCollins.

Leah has offered to stop by throughout the day today and answer any questions that you might have. In fact, she said you can ask her ANYTHING, questions you might be afraid to ask another writer :) Bring ‘em on!!!

I asked Leah to tell us a bit about her book to get us started:


LC: This is a mishmash of my query and the PM announcement...

Death isn't what Eden expected. Where the hell is her release? Her quiet ending? Not that Eden remembers the details of her final hours, but one thing is for sure--becoming a Sider, trapped between life and death, was definitely not part of the plan...

For Eden, nothing seems to be coming easy. Somehow, word's gotten around that her power can kill her own kind. With desperate Siders already camping out on her doorstep, the last thing Eden needs is the rumor to spread. Especially since it's true...

When her ability pulls her into a feud between Fallen and Bound Angels, she'll have to figure out who to trust and get to the truth behind her death, even if the answers will alter heaven, hell and everything in-between.

MM: I cannot WAIT to read this book! :)

All right folks! Your turn! Leave your questions in the comments and Leah will stop by to answer them :)

26 comments:

  1. Hi Leah! Thank you so much for coming! I LOVE your title and cover and am looking forward to reading your trilogy.

    On that note, is this strictly a trilogy, or is the three-book deal just the beginning?

    And could you tell us how many drafts of your query you actually sent out and which one 'worked'?

    Thank you! You're awesome!

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  2. *waves at Leah* Hi!

    Okay. Two questions for ya.

    1) I've always been a fan of characters who get stuck between life and death, whether in books, movies or TV shows :D But your spin on this mythology is (refreshingly) different. How did you come up with the mythology for the Siders?

    2) There's been debate regarding what constitutes "dark" and "edgy" in YA books lately. As a YA author, what goals did you set for yourself when approaching the subject of death, the afterlife, and any other elements that might make some readers label your book this way?

    Thanks for doing this, Leah!

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  3. Hi Katrina! Thanks for the questions (and compliments :) )
    A Touch Mortal is the first book of a three book deal, though we weren't sure at the time it would be a trilogy. The deal was specifically for A Touch Mortal and the next 2 YA books I write. I think this may have been a bit unusual.

    For querying, I started working on my letter a good ways before I was done editing. I also had a lot of eyes on it, some who had beta read, some who hadn't and some people who didn't know anything about writing to see if it intrigued them. I only sent one version out (minus a few tweaks. The actual query I sent to my agent is online at querytracker.net/leahc.php

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  4. Hi Amparo!

    Wow good questions! :D


    1)How did you come up with the mythology for the Siders?

    My writing process is pretty scattered, to be honest. ATM started as a short story (the jumper scene if you've read) and I couldn't figure out why the characters were so jaded. Like 8 years later I finally did. They were dead. My ideas start bad. Really bad. I think there was some weird nephilim thing and winged dragon demons? I just kind of wandered around in my head, getting it on the page until it felt "right". Don't be afraid to write the wrong stuff!



    2) There's been debate regarding what constitutes "dark" and "edgy" in YA books lately. As a YA author, what goals did you set for yourself when approaching the subject of death, the afterlife, and any other elements that might make some readers label your book this way?

    I didn't really set out with goals to make my story a certain way, I just wrote the story that felt true to me. Anyone who knows me knows I gravitate toward the dark and twisty, and that definitely comes out in ATM. Also, I don't have such a great filter...I've got a mouth like a sailor and so do most of my characters. Some people think it's edgy because of my different take on Upstairs and Downstairs (Heaven and Hell) and the angels. Or having my opening scene dealing with a girl on a beach deciding to kill herself. I guess my only goal was to tell the story true, and not censor things because I was afraid of how people would react.

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  5. Leah!

    I was wondering, is it easier to write the first book in a series or the sequel(s). For the first book, you get do do anything you want, but with the sequels you already have everything figured out. Hmm.

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  6. Hi Alex!

    For me, it's kind of a double edged sword. The first book was tough with setting up a complicated world, and that's already in place for the sequel. At the same time, that stuff is in place, in print, and there's no changing it. I can't tweak things to fit anymore. There's also the need to look into setting up for the third book, but not letting the middle book just be an excuse to GET to the third. I've gotten to explore some side characters that I LOVED writing in the first book, and learning their stories and reasons for acting the way they do is so much fun. Book one was FAR easier for me than book two, but the second book brings some interesting things to the table. I actually think book 2 is darker than the first one. (cryptic writer is cryptic...)

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  7. Hi Leah! Thanks for being here today.

    You mentioned above that your writing process is a bit scattered. Are you a planner or a pantser?

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  8. Hiiii Leah. What's your favorite book?

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  9. Hi Lindsay!

    I'm a TOTAL pantser. I've tried to plot. I've tried REALLY hard. But I'm finding as I go that the more I plot and try to fix things instead of just going along for the ride, the more stuck I tend to get. I had to learn at least a LITTLE outlining though when we went out on submission. It's just a fact of the publishing industry. But outlining and plotting are my downfall for sure. (see nephilim thing above. Oy.)

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  10. Leah,

    I have to know, what will you do when you finish the series? Go to Disneyland? Eat a whole cake? Tattoo WINNA on your forehead?

    Also, how will you deal with the masses of fans that will result from people discovering your awesome? A stick? A team of Leah lookalikes?

    ~Victoria

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  11. Chelsea,

    I just debated this for a period of time. I scoured my bookshelves. Pondered. I've come up with two. The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein and House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski. What this says about me I'll leave up to you.

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  12. Oh my lovely Victoria!

    Well, I went to Disneyland when I finished A Touch Mortal (pre-agenting) and I've eaten a substantial amount of cake during noveling periods. I AM planning a tattoo, but haven't settled on one for A Touch Mortal yet. I think when I finish the series I will hire a professional cookie maker to live here in the House of Awesome. Know anyone? ;)

    As for dealing with the masses of fans that will result from people discovering my awesome? We have an elaborate labyrinth set up on the front lawn, complete with minotaur. If they make it through that, I have Scott Tracey answer the door pre-coffee. If THAT doesn't work, they're in. They earned it. *disclaimer: Please don't accept this as a break in challenge. My mother actually worries about these things and my cat is a trained assassin.

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  13. Now, is the trained assassin cat the same one that is blind and often runs into walls? ;)

    Thanks so much for coming today! My favorite question to ask any writer....do you have any weird writing quirks/habits? What is your "must have" for when you write?

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  14. Michelle,

    ...he's only blind because his other senses are just so overpowering. And he doesn't run into walls, he battles them for practice.

    Weird writing quirks... hmm... I've shed a lot of mine over the past year. There's usually a new one for each phase of a project. I had a phase where I had to write by candle light and another where I *HAD* to have M&Ms. Right now, it's winter and my writing cave is in the basement so I MUST have my blanket and space heater. I'd say my only overreaching quirk is that I must have something to drink at all times, usually two things.

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  15. Hola!

    What inspired the book?

    How many books will be in the series?

    Do you base your characters on people you know?

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  16. Hey Devyn!

    What inspired the book?

    The book was inspired by a short story I wrote for a creative writing class in college. The story was about these incredibly jaded teenagers watching a guy jump off a building. In the original version this was just their normal Tuesday night thing to do. Part of that story is now Ch. 21!

    How many books will be in the series?

    So far, I'm contracted for three, so I BELIEVE that will be it.

    Do you base your characters on people you know?

    Actually it's kind of the opposite. I base most of my characters around people I WISH I knew. (Yes, even Kristen...)

    Thanks for your questions!

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  17. When you got stuck on any one part of your story, would you take breaks from it? or go to a different part, or brainstorm?

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  18. Puaili,

    Hi! When I got stuck, it was usually because I was going in the wrong direction. I tend to edit as I go, so I'd start at the beginning, edit as I went and eventually find the spot where I got offtrack. That or I was able to better get into my character's heads and figure out their next steps that way!

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  19. Leah,

    I was told once, that you are actually composed of particles of awesome. :o) Do you remember what those particles are called?


    And for everyone else, go buy her book when it comes out. It rocks. :o)

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  20. Yes, they are called QT Particles. You have them too :P

    xoxo

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  21. If you and Scott Tracey arm wrestled who would win? (Note: I'd like to see this backed up in some sort of YA Rebel Vlogging Spectacular. You're welcome.)

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  22. Scott has declared that he would win. I think he's full of it. This has future vlog written all over it...

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  23. Ooh, I'm looking forward to THAT!

    Thanks for answering my questions! And I loved your query on querytracker, especially the Devil-may-care/devil-actually-does-care part. I can totally see why your agent signed you from that!

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  24. Leah, thank you thank you thank you for joining us!!!! I hope you had as much fun as we did :) Can't wait to read your book!!!

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  25. Thank you everyone so much for your questions and thanks to the Operation Awesome crew for having me!!!

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