Archive for February 2015

Interview with Elizabeth Briggs, author of the Chasing Your Dream Series

I am so excited to interview Elizabeth Briggs today, author of the Chasing Your Dream series. I’ve devoured each of her New Adult novels as they’ve come out, and am thrilled I got to read an ARC of the latest, More than Comics, which comes out Monday, February 23rd! See our interview below.

Hi Elizabeth! I’m so excited about your series! All three books so far have been unputdownable and I’m thrilled with the success you’ve seen. I have a few general questions about the series before talking about More than Comics in particular.

Thank you so much for having me! I’m so glad you liked the books!
  • This series has (so far) three books with six different leads. Who did you find easiest to write? Hardest?
The easiest to write was Maddie in More Than Music because I’m just as awkward and geeky as she is and her voice was very natural to channel (plus I play the guitar, too). The hardest was Kyle in More Than Exes because it was the first time I’d ever written from a guy’s point of view and I had no idea if I could pull it off. Oddly, Jared is my absolute favorite character to write, despite not ever writing a book from his POV!
  • Which band would you say Villain Complex sounds the most like? Did you intend there to be a one-to-one correlation with any real life band?
The band was very loosely inspired by Thirty Seconds To Mars and in my head Villain Complex sounds a lot like them. But I try to keep the descriptions of Villain Complex’s music vague enough so they can be whatever the reader wants them to be.
  • One of Villain Complex’s most popular covers is a dark, edgy take on Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance. Is there a real-life version of Bad Romance that inspired you? I, for one, would love to hear it, if you have a YouTube link.

Yep – it was inspired by Jared Leto doing a cover of Bad Romance on the piano! The Villain Complex version would be edgier and have more guitar, but this is a good idea of how the vocals would sound at least. (Go to number 12 in the playlist menu on the upper left).

 

Oh my goodness, that is amazing. Almost exactly how I pictured it, too. Thanks for sharing!
  • Some of the first writing that I ever did was lyrics. Did you ever write any lyrics to Villain Complex songs like “Behind the Mask” or imagine any particulars about the song (style, theme, etc.)?

I did write some lyrics to “Behind the Mask,” but I find lyrics in books more distracting than anything, so I didn’t include them in the book. Plus, I’m not a songwriter so they’re not very good, ha! The theme of that song is about presenting a certain image to the world but no one seeing the real person underneath, which is something Jared struggles a lot with (until he meets Maddie, anyway). The song also goes with the villain/hero theme of the band, from it’s name, to Jared’s obsession with villains, to Hector’s own comic book Misfit Squad.

 

  • Regarding More than Comics, what was it like to write from the perspective of Tara, an author? Did you find yourself more self-conscious of writing from her perspective since she is a writer as well?
Tara’s perspective was fun to write because I could draw upon a lot of my own experiences. For her POV I did use more literary terms and longer or more flowery words (for example, she mentions cliches and a deus ex machina, which Hector would never think about). In contrast, Hector has a much more blunt and direct voice, although he sometimes thinks in terms of art or music.
  • Each of your books set up the next one so well, and More than Comics was no exception. How much of your series did you have planned when you started? Have you had to juggle side plots to prepare for the next book in the series?
Originally the series was going to be three books about Maddie and her roommates going on different reality TV shows. But the other band members Kyle and Hector demanded stories be written about them too, so I had to put the other two books on hold so I could write those first. More Than Comics was originally going to be a novella like More Than Exes, but Hector’s story kept growing and growing and it ended up being a full novel in the end. Plus I got lots of messages from readers asking for Hector’s story and wanting to see the band at Comic-Con, so I really wanted to do a good job with his story!
It’s so weird how things grow like that. I truly can’t imagine you finding a better way to set up Julie’s story than you did with the end to More than Comics. Near the end of the book, Julie says, “It was originally just going to be me, Maddie, and Carla, but it became so much better after the rest of you joined us.” I can only imagine that was about the series, and not just the event Julie was talking about. 🙂
  • Hector originally appeared as a minor character in More than Music. Did you already know his backstory when that book was written? Did anything come as a surprise to you as you wrote him as a main character?
When I wrote More Than Music I knew Hector’s backstory about his family, his side career as a comic book artist, and how he became best friends with Jared in high school and started the band with Kyle. What surprised me while writing More Than Comics was that Hector had another secret from high school, which he reveals to Tara at one point in the book…
That was actually the very scene I was thinking about when I wrote that question!
  • Comic-Con features strongly in your book. Did you attend? How many of your experiences at Comic-Con made their way into the book and/or do you have an anecdote that didn’t make it into the book but you wish you could have included?

Yep, I’ve been going to Comic-Con every year since 2008! Lots of real experiences made it into the book in some form – for example, the pirate ship scene was inspired by an actual pirate ship that was at Comic-Con a few years ago to promote the video game Assassin’s Creed Black Flag. One anecdote that didn’t make it into the book: while I was camping out overnight (which Hector and the others do in the book, too) Joss Whedon came along to say hello to everyone in line at 3 AM, and signed autographs and everything. I even got a photo with him!

Elizabeth with Joss Whedon!

  • One of the things I love about the series is how we get to stay connected to earlier characters while meeting new ones. We get more characters and more nuanced relationships further down the line, because they’ve already been established. In More than Comics, this is definitely true with Maddie, Jared, Kyle, and Alexis. You’re able to weave in their continuing stories as you establish Hector and Tara and introduce us to the next two important characters: Julie and Carla. What did you find harder about having to juggle so many characters and storylines? Was it easier at all? Why?
It’s definitely trick to juggle many different characters in a series, especially when they’re all in a scene together! I did have to consider who was going to appear in each book and in what way, so that it didn’t get too overwhelming for the reader. I love introducing future characters and checking in with previous ones, but I also have to make sure those side characters don’t dominate the story too much either. But the more I write about the characters the more I discover about them, so that makes it easier to channel them, too. Some of my favorite scenes are the ones where the characters are all hanging out together!
  • This will be a busy year for you. What’s next?
Up next is Julie’s book set on a show similar to Project Runway, Behind The Seams, followed by Carla’s book, Going The Distance. I’m also working hard on my upcoming Young Adult time travel series, which begins in March 2016 with Future Shock, followed by a sequel in 2017, both published by Albert Whitman & Co.
 
That definitely sounds like a busy and exciting year. Thanks again for the interview!
Here’s the information to connect with Elizabeth and buy her books—you know you want to!
MORE THAN EXES – FREE!
MORE THAN MUSIC – Out now
MORE THAN COMICS – February 23, 2015

The Cost of Doing it All (plus an announcement!)

When I first started my day job in 2010, my manager at the time pulled me aside and told me that when a project manager asked me to do something that was technically impossible to complete in a certain amount of time, to say yes anyway and figure out how to complete it after they’d left.

It didn’t matter if I was swamped beyond reason, I was to say yes. So for a long time, that’s what I did. I felt like Joe, who works at the button factory, but I got it done. When I was twenty-one, newly graduated, and living on my own, it was easy. Work was cyclical and my busy seasons were predictable. When I was busy, I would come in early, or I would stay late, and almost certainly by the end of the week I would be caught up and get to leave early. I never worked for more than 44 hours in one week.

In 2011, I started pre-marital counseling with my soon-to-be husband. The man who performed our first session started by asking us about ourselves. Flash forward ten months, and he remembered that I was an editor and liked my job. He asked me if I wanted to try my hand at editing a dissertation for the university he worked at. It sounded fun. I said yes.

By the middle of 2012, I was a recommended editor for the university and one of the admin staff asked me if I would be interested in being in charge of all dissertation formatting. I would spend an hour on each dissertation, making sure they followed the guidelines. It would be no more than 30 or so hours of work spread out over a month twice a year. My husband and I were saving for a house. It sounded fun. I said yes.

In 2013, I started taking my writing seriously again. I wrote and completed a novel. I found a forum for people looking to agent their work and after a few months I got an email from a member saying I sounded like a good fit for a critique partner, and would I be interested in exchanging manuscripts. It sounded fun. I said yes.

In January of 2014, I worked my usual 40-ish hours a week at my day job, which was getting busier month by month. My less busy seasons were becoming shorter. I was still in charge of editing dissertations, and completed five of them. I would have several more to QA in March and April. Also, I was 20 weeks pregnant.

In January of 2015, I worked my usual 40-ish hours a week at my day job. There hadn’t been a slow period since I returned to work from maternity leave in September. I was incapable of working much overtime because of daycare arrangements, so I got further and further behind. It was all I could do to keep my head above water. Then I would go home and work on the nine dissertations I was in charge of editing, because I said yes to every single person who asked me.

From November 2014 through January 17, 2015, I worked on something outside my day job every single day except Christmas. I was either writing my own work, editing novels, or editing dissertations. Every single day for almost a quarter of a year. On January 16, 2015, I had a breakdown. I sat bawling in front of my computer, yelling in the general direction of my husband because he was there, staring at the very first piece I’d been given to edit that I would not be able to complete.

This was me:

I couldn’t even.

I took a good long look at my life that weekend. I thought about my goals for the year. I thought about how I saw my daughter for less than ninety minutes a day on weekdays, and spent all of January praying she took long naps on the weekend so I could keep working. I spent two hours of every day commuting to work, then to daycare and home again. I considered myself a slacker if I worked for less than 11 hours on weekdays and 6 hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Which basically means I was expecting 67-hour workweeks out of myself for five or six weeks straight. In addition to raising a child and running a household. Not to mention 10 hours of commuting every Monday through Friday.

Work stayed busy even after it should have slowed down. I started doing a mediocre job at everything I was supposed to be doing: day job, freelance work, cleaning, being a wife and mother. Something had to give.

So on January 19th, I did the scariest thing I have ever done in my life. I gave notice at my day job.

I was becoming the kind of person I didn’t even like much. I was always stressed, running with all cylinders firing at once. I didn’t know how to relax anymore, and I was constantly guilty. I felt guilty at work because my mother sees my daughter more than I do. I felt guilty playing with my daughter, because I was behind at work. I felt guilty when I worked from home, because I shouldn’t spend my precious free time with my baby girl playing with toys beside my computer so I could keep working. I felt guilty when I took nights off to spend time with my husband.

I’m tired of feeling guilty.

When I started telling people that I was quitting my job so I could freelance full time, I braced myself for criticism. It was not, and is not, financially responsible for me to quit my job. I’m technically not sure how we’ll make ends meet this summer. I didn’t get a single note of criticism. Not from my husband, whom it affects the most. Not from my pragmatic mother. Not from my boss. So even though it’s scary, I have faith that I’m doing the right thing. I will continue to send Alexis to daycare two or three days a week, and I will do my best to find work on those days.

BUT, on the days she’s with me, and on the weekends, I will be present with her. I’ll do my best to not feel guilty about work I could be finding, and I will be a parent. I’m scared to death. I’m not sure what we’ll be doing for food this summer, but I know it’s the right decision. After all, when you say yes to everything, nothing gets your full attention. That needs to change.