Wednesday, 26 February 2014
Wakefield By Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner (Interview/Promo)
Young Adult Paranormal
Date Published: October 2012
Orphans Astrid Chalke and Max Fisher meet when they’re sent to live at Wakefield, a residential and educational facility for teens with psychiatric and behavioral problems. Astrid’s roommate cuts herself with anything sharp she can get her hands on and Max’s roommate threatens him upon introduction.
Just as Astrid and Max develop a strong bond and begin to adjust to the constant chaos surrounding them, a charming and mysterious resident of Wakefield named Teddy claims he has unexplainable abilities. Sometimes he can move things without touching them. Sometimes he can see people’s voices emanating from their mouths. Teddy also thinks that some of the Wakefield staff are on to him.
At first, Astrid and Max think Teddy is paranoid, but Max’s strange, recurring dreams and a series of unsettling events force them to reconsider Teddy’s claims. Are they a product of his supposedly disturbed mind or is the truth stranger than insanity?
Tell us a little about your writing journey.
Troy: I started writing fiction on our family computer when I was a kid. I drifted away somewhat in high school by pursuing acting and film studies, but I got back into it during college when I got a dual degree in film and writing. After graduation, I wrote some stories that will never see the light of day, as I continued honing my skills and finally started coming up with stories I wanted strangers to read.
Erin: I reread a lot of my favorite YA books while I was in college and I kept thinking, "Maybe one day I’ll write YA fiction." I thought a lot about writing without doing any actual writing until six years ago, when Troy and I were browsing in a bookstore and he said, "We should stop talking about writing a YA series and actually write a YA series." It took me a long time to feel any sort of confidence while writing fiction and I’m still not completely there. I had a lot of academic habits that don’t lend themselves to creative writing that I needed to learn to set aside.
What do you enjoy most about being a writer?Troy: When a reader really gets what I was going for or connects to the characters.
Erin: I also enjoy when readers "get it," but I think my favorite part of the process is when I’m revising and I can feel a draft really starting to come together. Troy’s not a big fan of editing, so that’s one of the many reasons why we work well together.
What is the hardest aspect of being a writer?
Troy: If the best part is when people enjoy the story, the worst part is when they hate it.
Erin: LOL—so true! Dealing with some of the reviews we’ve received has been tough. It’s hard to find a balance between allowing critique to make you a better writer and letting reviews get into your head. At some point, you have to learn that you can’t make every reader happy. It sounds cheesy, but the best bet at the end of the day is to write what will make you (and your co-author, if you have one) happy.How much research goes into your story?
Troy: It completely depends on the needs of story. With some, like Wakefield, there’s a ton of research, whereas others I’ll look into the city a story is set in and some of the history for inspiration. I also tend to look up common baby names from the region in the time frame characters were born. That can be a handy technique.
Erin: Troy does a lot more research than I do, though when I’m writing about a location that exists, I do try to make the details as accurate as possible. While writing Tunnelville, the second book in the Mad World series, I spent a lot of time looking at Boston subway maps. The residential treatment facility that serves as the setting of Wakefield also required a lot of research. But we chose the setting, in part, because we knew we’d have access to the information we needed—my husband worked in a similar facility when we started writing and then I later took a job there.
Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives. Are you?
Troy: Definitely. I tend to rely less upon events and more on physical locations, like describing a character’s house based on one I’ve lived in.
Erin: As stated above, I worked in a facility similar to the one featured in Wakefield. Some of the conversations between Astrid and Eduardo are almost direct quotes of conversations that I, as a case manager, had with one of the residents. I think the question also applies the other way around. Because we were writing Wakefield primarily from the perspective of teenagers living in an institution, it allowed me to have more empathy for the teens I dealt with on a daily basis.
Tell us about your publications?
Troy: I’ve self-published a horror novel (The Sylvanville Spirits) and two non-fiction collections of essays on slasher movies (Examining Sleepaway Camp and Examination of Chucky). With MuseItUp Publishing, I’ve released two short horror stories (The Locked Door and The Control Room), as well as a comedy/fantasy series (Evermore Island). This is in addition to the Mad World series I’m co-writing with Erin.
Erin: Troy’s resume makes me look lazy, though I have full-time job that cuts into my writing time. :) My only publications so far are the two (soon to be three) books in the Mad World series. I’m also working on a solo YA novel that’s probably six months away from a solid first draft.
What is the most surprising thing about writing/publishing you have learnt?
Troy: When you sit at home thinking I want to write a book, you don’t tend to think of it as I want to write a book and then revise it, tweak it, edit it, research publishers, submit it, receive rejections, re-submit it, read over a contract, wait for more edits, revise some more, start a website, promote it, and continue to advertise and talk about it. Now when I think about starting a new project, I consider the entire process.
Erin: I’ll second Troy’s answer. Sometimes, it blows my mind how much time I spend doing writing-related things (updating our website, emailing bloggers, posting on our Facebook account) that don’t consist of actual writing. On a more positive note, I was surprised by how much I’ve learned from working with professional editors.
Top tip/s for writers.
Troy: To misquote Glengary Glen Ross, ABW. Always Be Writing. I just had the flu and on my worst day, I was upset that I only managed to revise two chapters and update several pages on my website in between trips to the bathroom.
Erin: Since Troy misquoted a movie, I’ll quote Stephen King: The road to hell is paved with adverbs. I’m a rampant abuser of them, but learning to use strong verbs and imagery, rather than relying on adverbs, is key.
Other than writing what else do you love?
Troy: I love film, board games, RPGs, theatre, dinner parties, and music.
Erin: I’m a huge music fan, which is one reason why we created a few "character compiled" playlists for our series. You can find them on our website and listen to them via Spotify. I also play volleyball with a rec team every Wednesday, and I soak in as much of the new golden era of television as I have time for.
Who is your favourite author and why?
Troy: There’s a lot but I’ll have to go with David Sedaris. I can pick up any of his books and I know I’ll be laughing within seconds.
Erin: If I can only pick one, I’ll go with Margaret Atwood. Her prose is thoughtful, lyrical and evocative, yet rarely pretentious. And her world building...don’t even get me started or we’ll be here all day.If you had a premonition you would be stranded on a desert island what 5 books would you take?
Troy: Les Miserables, Paradise Lost, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Mrs. Dalloway, and The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Erin: I’m not saying these are the greatest five books of all time, but if I had to read the same five books over and over again, this is what I’d choose The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Wise Child by Monica Furlong, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Watership Down by Richard Adams, and The Goats by Brock Cole.
Five words that sum you up.
Troy: entertaining, imaginative, humorous, obsessive, and night-owl
Erin: dedicated, creative, idiosyncratic, compassionate, and overly-organized (I wanted to say obsessive, but Troy stole it)
How can we learn more?