Tricia Mills, author of Heartbreak River is our surprise! Her debut YA novel comes out on the 16th so go out and buy yourself a copy!
What were some inspirations for your book?
Even though I live in the South, I love the American West. And during an Amtrak trip to California, the train meandered along about 200 miles of the Colorado River, through these beautiful red-rock canyons. So that inspired my setting. I love the outdoors, though I (like Alex, the heroine in Heartbreak River) struggle with a fear of water. So those things played into the story as well. I've always loved teen-centered stories, whether they are books, movies or TV shows, so it was easy to imagine a story centered around a teen girl going through a tough time but set against this beautiful and restorative background.
What was hardest part of the novel to write?
The sad parts. I'll leave it at that so I don't spoil anything.
What motivates you to write?
I've always been making up stories for as long as I can remember. It's really cool to create this entire world, populated by entirely new people, that didn't exist before I put my fingers on the computer keyboard. This is the career I want, so I'm always coming up with more ideas than I have time to write.
Do you listen to music while you write?
Actually, no. I'm too easily distracted. I like to have it quiet when I write.
What is on your current playlist?
While I don't listen to music while I write, I do listen to it when I'm driving or cleaning house or some other task that doesn't require a lot of brain activity. :) I'm a big fan of movie soundtracks (Twilight is my current fave, though I like ones for everything from Underworld Evolution to Lord of the Rings to the Pirates of the Caribbean to Buffy the Vampire Slayer). I also like a lot of European bands like HIM, The Rasmus, Within Temptation, Delain, and Apocalyptic. I also discovered Cruxshadows, from Florida, when I went to DragonCon last year.
How has the road to publication been?
In a word, long. I began writing books in college, but I didn't start submitting to publishers until 1996. It took me 11 years to sell my first book, which is Heartbreak River. It ended up not being the first one released. Three months after selling Heartbreak River and a second book to Razorbill, I sold two romances to Harlequin American. Those are published under my real name, Trish Milburn. The first of those, A Firefighter in the Family, came out in September 2008. The second, Her Very Own Family, comes out next month (May 2009). During those 11 years, there were lots of rejections and many times when I wondered if getting published wasn't in the cards for me. The summer before I sold, I got pretty depressed about it. I actually call it my Summer of Buffy. I'd not watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer before, so I started borrowing DVDs from a friend. I got so hooked that all I did was curl up on the couch and watch all seven seasons of Buffy, then all five of Angel, and the first season of Supernatural. But all that TV watching actually got me out of my funk and spawned a story idea that eventually became a paranormal YA novel that I hope to sell soon. So, I guess the key is to just not give up, to persevere no matter how many times you get knocked down.
How different is the writing process of YA books compared to Harlequin American books?
The process is different in YA in that I have to come up with a very detailed outline, basically a synopsis of every chapter. That has to be approved before I can write the book. It's a more heavily collaborative effort than writing romance. That's not to say that I don't have editor input at Harlequin because I do. In fact, I have wonderful editors at both publishing houses. But for Harlequin, I write a proposal (first three chapters and a synopsis). That's what they base their buy decision on. If they buy it, I'm off and running. While there are different conventions for the two markets, a lot of the stories are the same. The heroes and heroines are dealing with the obstacles life throws at them while also dealing with falling in love. This is something that almost everyone on the planet can relate to. None of us falls in love in a vacuum. We're having to deal with family issues, illness, school or work, etc., at the same time.
Do you like the cover of Heartbreak River?
Love it! That's always something that is nerve-wracking to authors -- waiting to see if we'll get good covers. I mean, we've all seen really odious covers on bookstore shelves and wondered how that happened. Once you become an author, you just keep your fingers crossed that it doesn't happen to you. I've been very fortunate with both publishers so far.
Were you there when they shot the cover? If so can you describe it?
No, that's not typical at all. And I don't know if this cover was actually shot specifically for Heartbreak River or if it's a stock photo. I think a lot of publishers use photos from stock photo sites to save money in a tight economy. You can sometimes notice this by seeing the same photo on the cover of more than one book.
Do you often spend your time outdoors like Alex? If so what types of activities do you participate in?
I do love the outdoors, especially hiking. I've not done any long-distance hiking, mainly because I don't know anyone other than my sister, who lives two time zones away from me, who'd want to go with me. But one of my life goals is to through-hike the Appalachian Trail, all 2,000-plus miles of it. But until then, I love to go walking in parks. I'm a huge fan of U.S. national parks, have been since my sister worked in Yellowstone National Park for a year. Another goal is to visit all 300-plus units of the National Park Service system.
Who or what was your inspiration for your characters?
I'm constantly clipping photos of people out of magazines for use as inspiration for characters. When I get ready to start a new book, I pull out that folder (which also has clips of things like houses, settings, jewelry, clothing, etc.) and do a collage for the book. The first time I collaged, I honestly didn't think it would help. But it really did help to have a visual representation of the story. Alex, Sean and the other employees of Cooley Mountain Whitewater Rafting were based on random photos from magazines -- at least their physical appearances. For who they were as people, that just filters down out of my brain somehow. :)
Can you tell us more about your latest YA novel, Arctic Heart?
First off, the title might change though I don't know that for sure. There was talk of it changing. But it's set in Alaska, near Katmai National Park, famous for the shots we see of the brown bears catching salmon midstream during the salmon runs. The mini synopsis I have on my Web site says:
"Marissa Craig finally gets up the nerve and tells her long-time friend Spencer that she likes him as more than a friend. The best part? Spencer likes her as more than a friend too. With the perfect boy to love and be loved by, she begins her senior year at her small Alaska school and indulges in the dream of becoming a costume designer for the movie industry. Life is perfect — until tragedy strikes. Marissa’s perfect life turns upside down as she deals with an unbearable loss, doubts about her future, a best friend whose home life is getting worse by the day, and unexpected feelings for an unexpected boy."
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I'm really excited to finally have my first YA book out. I'm anxious to hear what everyone thinks of it, and I hope they enjoy reading the story as much as I did writing it.
Thanks so much for hosting me here today!
Give her a round of applause you guys! To show your support visit her website and blog. And once again pre-order yourself a copy! And it's paperback so that should convince you to go out and buy one! Now onto the interview!
My review for Heartbreak River can be found here. I read it and reviewed it quite a while ago so my writing style has changed some what.