Monday, September 07, 2009

Interview with Saundra Mitchell!

Today, we have an interview with the fabulous Saundra Mitchell, author of SHADOWED SUMMER.

Tell us about SHADOWED SUMMER.
Shadowed Summer is a southern gothic ghost story, about a girl who accidentally calls up an unsettled spirit, then spends the summer putting things right again.

What was the inspiration behind your idea?
I actually set out to write a paranormal romance. I wanted to write a book like Annette Curtis Klause's The Silver Kiss. But once I got started, my girl didn't want to fall in love with my ghost, and my ghost didn't want to fall in love with my girl. I had to sort them out on the page. The final book doesn't look at all like what I intended!

How long did it take to get from the initial idea to a completed novel?
I used to have the dates written down, but now I can't find them, wah! But it took me about six weeks to write the first draft. But that was in 2003- it then took several years to revise it, to get two different agents, and to finally sell it in 2007. And, of course, I revised again for almost 2 years with my editor. So it took six weeks or six years to finish the novel, depending on how you want to measure it!

Your knowledge of southern customs, language, and habits is deep. Have you lived there, or did that come from research?
Well, southern Indiana thinks it's the south (even though it's not, really,) so some of it comes from living where I live. And much of it comes from my best friend Wendi, who was born, raised and lives in Georgia now- and my many visits down to meet her. One day, I'll set a book in Georgia so I can call grocery carts "buggies"!

But the rest is research. I like to read linguistic surveys, which teaches me a lot about common phrases and words in an area. And I'm not shy about asking the experts- I called the Louisiana Sheriff's Department to find out the colors of the cars and uniforms, and who would respond to certain kinds of calls.

I bothered the Louisiana Native Plant Society to make sure Iris didn't pick flowers that don't exist there. I feel like the setting is a character in the book, so I worked hard to make it real.

Your research is seriously impressive!!
What was your favorite part of writing this book? Least favorite?
I really enjoyed writing the Delancie brothers. In the first draft, we saw a lot more of them. They amused me, so I included way, way, way too many of their antics. I also had more of Shea Duvall in the original, which also got cut. I thought he was cute, what can I say?

My least favorite part was hurting Jack Rhame. I really do feel bad for him. He lost the most and gained the least of everyone in this book.

How often do you write, and how much do you write in one sitting?
I write every day. How much I write depends on the project. If I'm working on a novel, I schedule myself 1000 words a day, period. That's my minimum. I can stop there, or go on, if I feel particularly inspired. Screenplays, I have to write two whole shorts (20 pages) or 1 act for an episodic (about 20 pages.)

However, I've been known to break up blog posts into 200-word gasps dragged over several days. My jedi mind-skills don't apply to blogging, it seems.

How did you go from screenplays to writing novels for young adults?
Most of my screenwriting is *for* young adults. I'm the head writer and an executive producer of Fresh Films ( and for more than a decade, I exclusively wrote all the films based on ideas that teens sent into the program. Now I instruct young screenwriters with the Fresh Writers program- so really, I wrote when I was a young adult, I have always written movies for young adults, and now I'm writing YA novels. It was a pretty seamless transition!

What are you working on now?
I'm revising my latest novel, THE VESPERTINE, for an editor (fingers crossed!) It's about a girl in Victorian Baltimore who can see the future, but only at sunset.

Crossing fingers for you! :)
How much do you read, and what are you reading now?
I read *constantly* and *voraciously*. Right now, I'm reading The Friar and the Cipher, which is non-fiction about an untranslated medieval manuscript. I'm also reading Pemba's Song by Marilyn Nelson & Tonya C. Hegamin, and The Afterlife by Gary Soto. I also just finished an awesome review copy of Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan. I love a book with consequences, and this one is rich with them!

Thanks again for doing this interview!
Thank you very much for having me!

For a chance to win a copy of this book, go here. To see my raving review of her book, go here. To see more of what Saundra is up to, check out her website,


Julia said...

Great interview! I loved Shadowed Summer! Saundra has really nailed the atmosphere (aside from it being a great story!)

Nayuleska said...

Thanks for the interview! Book sounds great - plus Saundra is clearly a Star Wars fan :)

lkmadigan said...

I consider Saundra one of the most talented writers in the world of children's literature, so the fact that she has complimented my book makes me giddy.

Terrific interview! I was lucky enough to read an early draft of VESPERTINE, and my fingers are crossed that I'll get to own it in hardcover someday!


PJ Hoover said...

Great interview, Tabitha and Saundra! And the book you're working on revisions for sounds wonderful. Good luck!

C.R. Evers said...

great interview! Sounds like something I'd love to read.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

i still struggle with balancing reading and writing. how does she do it.

Tabitha said...

Glad you all like the interview! And I totally agree that Saundra is a fabulous writer. I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for her future books, especially the one she disclosed here. That sounds really good!

Unknown said...

6 weeks...or 6 years. WHOA. That's sticking with it!