Merged by Jim Kroepfl and Stephanie Kroepfl
1- For you, what defines the difference between graffiti, street art, and murals?
The first big difference is that graffiti is illegal, while a mural is often commissioned, or at the least, the artist has approval to paint the mural. Even the small rural town of Granby, Colorado recently hired a number of artists to complete murals on a number of buildings in the town. Street art is more difficult to define in that it may have elements of both graffiti and murals. Some people say that street art is painted in daylight in view of the public, but Banksy is considered a street artist and he certainly does not create his art in view of the public. I think our feeling as to whether something is street art or graffiti has to do with the goal of the artist. Do they mean to create a piece of public art, or do they mean to just make a mark in the world through tagging or painting stylized words or pictures? Of course, the big question then becomes, who gets to decide what is art? Ultimately, that may be up to the person that owns the building and whether they want it gone or not.
2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?
Create a gripping character who people can relate to or want to emulate, and put them in trouble. In other words, make the reader care!
3- What is the best piece of writing advice you've received?
The first reply we ever got from an agent was “The pacing seems off throughout.” That was it. Boy, we took it to heart. We spent months trying to understand pacing, since, at the time, we didn’t have a clue. Now, pacing is so important in our stories: how to make the story move, and yet, breathe. After twenty drafts, we will still cut entire chapters, just because they don’t have the right kind of pacing. The agent may have thought that was an off-the-cuff comment, but we have never forgotten it.
4- What lead to you two writing together?
We met when we were teenagers, and from our first conversation, we knew we would write together at some point. We had corporate careers in jobs that involved a lot of writing. At some point a few years ago, it became apparent that we were done working for other people, and the first thing we did was start writing fiction. It almost wasn’t a conscious decision, but something that happened because we knew it was inevitable, and it became a matter of “now or never.”
5- Would you share a picture with us of your book somewhere fun?
Here is one of us with a bull moose, which roam around our neighborhood at the edge of the Rocky Mountain Park all the time. The people around us (standing many, many yards back) thought we were crazy. Knowing how impertinent moose can be, they were probably right.
6- Would you two want your consciousnesses transferred into clone bodies after death, if that were an option?
We don’t think so. Life is precious, and we’re actually fascinated by what comes next. If John Lennon had been cloned, then wouldn’t he just be taking the place of who might be the next John Lennon? That being said, we really do think it’s going to happen, and probably sooner than we all think.
7- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?
@JoshuaDBelin (author of the Ecosystem series) @DallasWoodburn (author of the upcoming “The Best Week that Never Happened”) @paulaertker (author of the Crime Travelers series)
8- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?
To be honest, my favorite is the profile of Brandy Vallance, a historical romance writer: brandyvallanceauthor. She fills her profile with fascinating photos of historical buildings and interesting settings. I get the feeling that I know what story she is working on when I browse her Instagram page.
9- What most motivates you to read a new book?
Is the character and the situation gripping to the point that we can’t stop reading? I think more than anything that has to do with the main character having a real goal. They must be proactive in a challenging situation, and that has to happen right away. This is true for both heroes and villains. Artemis Fowl wants to take over the world, and the reader loves him for it.
10- It's our tenth anniversary! How far has your writing come in the past ten years and where do you see your writing career ten years from now?
We have come from wanting to write a novel, to writing one, to getting an agent (actually, quite a few), to getting the right publisher, and finally seeing our first book in print. These sound like career goals, but they were also writing goals. We were very conscious of how we had to develop our writing all along the way, and winning awards, getting short stories published and responding to criticism from agents and editors were so important in becoming better writers. In ten years, it would be wonderful if we had ten published novels and a well-developed career. In fact, it’s hard to imagine anything else when we think ten years ahead.
11- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!
Author name: Neal Shusterman @NealShusterman
Love because: It’s a great YA science fiction book that explores a unique solution to the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate. The story is not preachy and doesn’t take sides; instead, it shows that every answer creates heartache. Plus, it’s a fast-paced adventure story with a rich cast of characters you care about.
12- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader?
We would love the reader to walk away with a better understanding that everybody is smart in their own way, and the best ideas often come from including people who don’t think like you. Life is far more interesting when we don’t only hang out with clones of ourselves.
13- What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?
“Merged” indirectly explores the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) vs STEAM (the addition of art) debate in education. We would love our book to be influential in increasing the Arts in school curriculums, and giving kids more access to explore music, art, and creative writing.
14- What is the best writing tool, program, or reference book you've ever bought?
The best writing tool we’ve discovered is a very basic plotting device. We have a large cork board hanging on the wall, and we pin on it different colored index cards. Each card represents a chapter/scene. This has allowed us to visually see plotting snags such as whether the three act structure is sized correctly, how many chapters each point-of-view character has, a sagging middle, where the dark moment lies in the story, and it helps us see what needs to be changed when we move around scenes.
15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks
One of the two protagonists in “Merged” is Orfyn, a mixed race sixteen-year-old boy who is raised by a nun in an orphanage. His skin color is not what causes him to be discriminated against, it’s the fact that he’s a street artist. But it’s his artistic ability that gives him the opportunity to change his life. Discrimination is not necessarily about the obvious.
16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?
Hannah, the Rainy Reader. It’s obvious that she takes the time to read the entire book. She always includes well thought out positive feedback and constructive criticism. Her input on our book has given us guidance on how to improve the sequel.
17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
We both have a marketing background, so we understood the difficulty in getting a wide distribution and reaching diverse audiences when self-publishing. This is our first published book, and it has always been our dream to experience all that the traditional route has to offer. “Merged” is traditionally published by Month9Books, a small publisher who specializes in YA and MG science fiction and fantasy.
18- Which author, past or present, do you feel most resembles your work?
We study John Green’s novels. We don’t presume that we’re as accomplished as him, but we try to follow his example in creating relatable characters with flaws, a story that includes smart humor, and to ask important questions that make the reader tackle their own assumptions about right and wrong.
19- Would you please ask our audience a question to answer in the comments?
So many people work for the money in jobs they’re not passionate about. If you didn’t have to worry about money, what is your dream job? Please remember your answer and don’t give up on it.
20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
Our favorite type of science fiction is that which isn’t that far away from becoming a reality. We hope our readers have fun thinking about “what if.”
Merged by Jim Kroepfl and Stephanie Kroepfl