Today I'm chatting it up with the adorable Shannon Grogan, author of From Where I Watch You, an amazing YA thriller due out August 4, 2015 via Soho Teen.
You guys. I recently read this story and--HOLY CATS--it. is. insane. Check out the blurb:
Sixteen-year-old Kara McKinley is about to realize her dream of becoming a professional baker. Beautifully designed and piped, her cookies are masterpieces, but also her ticket out of rainy Seattle—if she wins the upcoming national baking competition and its scholarship prize to culinary school in California. Kara can no longer stand the home where her family lived, laughed, and ultimately imploded after her mean-spirited big sister Kellen died in a drowning accident. Kara’s dad has since fled, and her mom has turned from a high-powered attorney into a nutty holy-rolling Christian fundamentalist peddling “Soul Soup” in the family café. All Kara has left are memories of better times.
But the past holds many secrets, and they come to light as Kara faces a secret terror. Someone is leaving her handwritten notes. Someone who knows exactly where she is and what’s she’s doing. As they lead her to piece together the events that preceded Kellen’s terrible, life-changing betrayal years before, she starts to catch glimpses of her dead sister: an unwelcome ghost in filthy Ugg boots. If Kara doesn’t figure out who her stalker is, and soon, she could lose everything. Her chance of escape. The boy she’s beginning to love and trust. Even her life.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background? And what drew you into the young adult genre?
I originally tried to get into the children’s book market as an illustrator. I was fresh out of art school and ready to illustrate picture books! Back then, every art director I met or sent my work to in Seattle said I had to move to New York if I wanted to succeed. I didn’t. I just sent my postcards around to every publisher I could. I had a lot of rejection, and some of ‘we like your work and we’ll keep you on file if something that fits your style comes up’. I got a little bit of freelance work from those postcards and I realized then that I didn’t want to illustrate other peoples stories, I wanted to do my own. I was working on it when I realized that I wanted to go back to college and pursue my second career choice: teaching. I did. Then I got married, had kids, taught kindergarten. In the back of my mind was the picture book writing and the illustrating, but after having kids I lost all of my art mojo! During the summer before my youngest started kindergarten I read all of the Harry Potter books. I was a substitute teacher at the time and when my son started kindergarten I was DESPERATE for a distraction, for something to do when I wasn’t subbing. When I finished that last Harry Potter book I was so inspired! I always knew someday I would write novels, but for adults, and after I’d lived about 70 years so I’d have a lifetime of experiences to draw from. But those HP books inspired me and made me feel like I could do it now and I didn’t want to wait! So I bought a new notebook (one of my favorite things in the world to buy) and started plotting out a story about a 12 year old girl and her guardian angel. I was so excited about it! My kids were both in school all day, I was subbing, and I had some time. But we were in a situation where we needed me to be making more money so when I had the opportunity to go back to full time teaching, I had to take it. And there went all of my writing time. For awhile. I kept hearing about this book called Twilight. And there was a movie coming out and everyone telling me ‘oh, you must read this book Twilight’ and I’m all like, yeah, whatever, if you say I HAVE to read it then I won’t. Just like how I dragged my feet with starting to read the Harry Potter books. In the winter, my sister shocked me, absolutely shocked me, when she told me she was writing a book! I can’t even remember if I told her I had started my girl and angel story. But she was one of those people forcing Twilight on me at a time when I needed a brain escape from the stress of a teacher’s life. So I read it. Then I read it again. I loved that book because it was so fun! Not to be outdone by my sister, I dug out that angel story and got back to work on it! But, after reading Twilight, I changed my characters ages to teens, so I could have more romance in it, and kissing. Fun! That is how I got into writing YA. Via Harry Potter and Twilight!
What is your writing process like?
1. I use the W plot method with a bit of Save the Cat methodology to visually plot out the story, with all of my colored Sharpies (here is the one for FWIWY)
2. I fill in a rough outline based on all the points of the W plot/Save the Cat and leave lots of space so when I print it out I can handwrite it. The outline this way, with lots of space is usually about 15 pages. BTW, it really really helps later on when you need to write a synopsis!
3. I write a crappy crappy fast first draft. And when I mean fast, I mean like two months max, and it never has the ending in it.
4. I focus in on the first few chapters and send it off for critique so I can find out if I’m headed in the right direction or if I need to re focus entirely.
5. I’m almost done with my third full novel and the revision takes the longest. I revise in layers. The book I am working on now is getting close to two years of revision. I think it takes me a long time to get to really know my characters.
I read through and revise for one thing at a time, like for a character trait, or a relationship. Always in layers.
6. When I am to the point where I can’t do anything else on my own then I send it to critique partners. And then I revise again.
Where is your favorite place to write?
My favorite place to write is at my dining room table, with my grandma’s shawl draped over me, and my vanilla candle lit, and a cup of coffee or tea next to that. It’s right next to my desk, where I never write because it’s usually piled high with writing stuff and teacher stuff.
Can you tell us a little bit about your heroine?
My MC Kara is dealing with a huge betrayal by her sister. She wants to forget it, she wants to escape it, and her entire life. She’s trying to do this by winning a baking contest which will help her escape her life, escape all of this if she wins.
What was the hardest part about writing this particular book?
The hardest part of writing this book was the sexual assault scene. My editor ended up wanting to cut some of it, and I was partially relieved, but also in a way disappointed. Because although she’s not actually raped, she is assaulted and my intent was to show that just because someone might not be raped, it doesn’t make what happens any less hurtful or any less wrong. But the focus of the story is really about betrayal and forgiveness, so I can live with what has been deleted. And I had to write it to get the most out of Kara.
What other projects do you have coming up?
My current WIP will be on sub sometime in the near future so I can’t say much, but it is a YA thriller set on a summer beach in Washington State. So if you know the Pacific Northwest, you’ll know that sometimes on the beach in the summer you have to wear a sweater!
Shannon Grogan is a second grade teacher who writes at night (and while her kids are at ballet and baseball) in a small logging town east of Seattle. She holds degrees in education, and graphic design/Illustration. When she isn’t writing, she's baking, reading, watching scary movies, and wishing she were at the beach. You can find out more about her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.