Monday, October 19, 2009

2K9 Interview: Megan Crewe

Another installment of the 2K9 author interview series right here on the Slushbusters’ blog:

Photo Credit: Chris Blanchenot

Today we are interviewing 2K9 member Megan Crewe about her YA novel, Giving Up The Ghost, which was released September 15, 2009.

First: Megan Crewe’s Bio, from www.megancrewe.com:
Megan Crewe lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and two cats. She works as a tutor for children and teens with special needs. In her free time, she reads everything she can get her hands on, practices kung fu, and speculates about the ghost that may or may not be living under her bed. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines such as Brutarian Quarterly and On Spec. GIVE UP THE GHOST is her first novel. Visit her online at www.megancrewe.com.


Give Up the Ghost synopsis, from www.megancrewe.com:
Cass McKenna much prefers the company of ghosts over "breathers." Ghosts are uncomplicated and dependable, and they know the dirt on everybody... and Cass loves dirt. She's on a mission to expose the dirty secrets of the poseurs in her school.

But when the vice president of the student council discovers her secret, Cass's whole scheme hangs in the balance. Tim wants her to help him contact his recently deceased mother, and Cass reluctantly agrees.

As Cass becomes increasingly entwined in Tim's life, she's surprised to realize he's not so bad--and he needs help more desperately than anyone else suspects. Maybe it's time to give the living another chance...


Slushbusters’ Interview:

Why this book? Of all the ideas you have for possible stories, how did you decide that this was the one you would commit to? (Do you have drawers full of ideas, half-finished novels, or completed manuscripts?)

I have lots of ideas, but I can usually tell when one's ready to be (and worth being) written. If the story continues to intrigue me, and more and more details come to me when I think about it, then sooner or later I'm going to write it down. With GIVE UP THE GHOST, I think the most important factors were the main character, who had such a strong voice and so much emotional turmoil that I wanted to see her through, and the different take on ghosts--having them as friends, getting gossip from them--which I thought would be fun to explore.

How different is the final product from your first conception or first draft of the book?

Not very! All of the important elements have been there since the beginning. Some of the details changed--a few minor characters were taken out or replaced, scenes were expanded or trimmed or set in different locations--but the main characters, their struggles, and how they dealt with them have remained the same.

Were some of the scenes or themes harder to write than others? Tell us about some of the trickier aspects of writing this story and how you were able to overcome them.

I think the hardest scenes to write those when Cass was on her own. I find it much easier to keep the characters engaging and the plot moving when there's dialogue and interaction happening, but sometimes she needed time to contemplate what was going on. The way I dealt with it was by having her doing something else while she was thinking, and to keep her thoughts as focused as possible--not to drag those moments out.

Did you outline all the plot points and themes that run through the story from the beginning, or you did you go back later and add in, for example, Cass’s storyline with her absent mother or her lack of fashion sense? What about the world building of the ghosts -- did you make up details as you needed them or plot everything out ahead of time?

The most important things (like the characters' relationships with each other) I knew ahead of time, as part of my planning and outlining. But a lot of the details came as I wrote--whatever seemed natural in the moment. Picturing Paige in the first chapter, for example, I knew the kinds of things she would say, and it seemed to fit that she would brighten and fade depending on her mood, and that she'd have trouble with her memory. But I didn't know any of that until I wrote the scene.

As you know, the Slushbusters are primarily a children’s writer’s critique group. Did you use a critique group for your book before you sent it out? If so, describe how your group works and how they helped you.

I have both an in-person critique group and critique partners online, and they all helped get GHOST into shape. My in-person group meets every other week to discuss short stories or a few chapters from members, so from them I got more focused comments on specific sections of the book. They helped me see when I was on the right track and when the story was confusing or wandering, and they also caught details that were contradictory or implausible. My online critique partners read the whole book at once, and gave me feedback on big picture factors like plot, characters, and themes. They let me know what worked for them and which didn't quite, and how I might strengthen the latter. I'm incredibly grateful to all of them--I don't think I'd be at this point without the help of my critiquers.

Is this the first book you have ever submitted to an agent? How many submissions did you send out, and how long before your agent took you on?

The first book I ever submitted to agents was the YA novel I wrote before GHOST, but I only queried three and then started to feel the book wasn't quite ready yet. (I might still go back to it.) With GHOST, I queried about 50 agents over the course of six months, and got about 15 requests for more material. Right after I'd sent out the last round of queries, my agent called and offered representation!

How did the revision process go? Were there any surprises, difficulties or major changes?

The most major change was that I took out an entire subplot (that consisted of three scenes in the book) and replaced that material so that the scenes fit the overall story better. But that wasn't a surprise--I'd actually always had the feeling the subplot didn't entirely fit, but I was hoping it was just me being paranoid because I wasn't sure how to fix it. ;)

The most difficult part was that I disagreed with my editor on a major change to the ending. But after discussing it and hearing my suggestions, she understood my point of view. I made a few changes that I think do make the ending stronger, but was able to keep everything that was important to me.

What are your thoughts on creative inspiration vs. discipline? How do your family and loved ones fit into your writing life?

I think it's a lot easier to be inspired than to write a book! Seriously, I have tons of ideas, but only a few of them have become actual novels. And that's because not every idea, however inspiring it might feel, is actually going to make a good book, and no idea is going to make any sort of book if you don't find the time and energy (and determination!) to sit down and turn it into one. I adore inspiration, and the feeling when I see something from a completely different angle that seems brilliant. But I would attribute most of my success to the fact that I'm disciplined about sitting down and getting those words out, and then trying to make them the best words possible in revisions.

My family, thankfully, has always been supportive of my writing. I used to spend hours in my room tapping away on the computer as a teen--I even had an old laptop I brought along on family vacations so I could keep going with my stories--and my parents never complained (in fact, it was my dad who helped me find and purchase the laptop for that very purpose). My husband has his own creative endeavors, so he totally understands the odd schedules and emotional ups and downs that come with this kind of career.

You have said in your author’s bio that you have never met a ghost. Are there any parts of this story that are semi-autobiographical?

The closest parts of the story to my life are not actual events or people, but the settings. I borrowed a lot from my high school in describing Cass's school, and the lake and the park nearby look like Lake Ontario and the Beaches area of Toronto in my mind.

There are scenes of alcohol abuse by teens, drinking and driving, and references to specific sexual activity in your book. What are the rules for dealing with sensitive topics in this genre and for this age group? Did your editor change any of these scenes?

I'm not sure that there are any specific rules! My rule for myself was to try to deal with those issues in a way that was true to life--including the consequences. Some of the issues I touch on in GHOST are pretty serious, and I made sure to treat them that way. My editor had no problem with that content and it's changed very little from the earlier drafts.

What have you learned from your first publishing experience that might be helpful to those of us still trying to get there?

The most important thing is to keep at it, and keep writing. I wrote several books before GHOST that I knew weren't ready yet, so I just kept writing until I reached the level where I felt comfortable sending my work out into the world. If I'd given up because my first, or second, or third book wasn't quite there, then I wouldn't be here talking to you right now.

What are you working on now and can you give us any ideas when we might see the next book by Megan Crewe on the shelves?

I can't give you an idea because I don't know myself. I can tell you that I've been working on a couple of different YA novels involving ghosts (among other things), but ghosts of a different sort than you see in GIVE UP THE GHOST!

Thanks, Megan, for a great interview!

Alison

3 comments:

TerryLynnJohnson said...

Yeah Megan Crewe! Yeah Slushbusters! I'm still waiting on Megan's book to arrive in my mailbox. Thanks for hosting a great interview!

Michelle said...

Thanks, Megan, for visiting with us, and to Alison for the great interview.

Amy Tate said...

Wow! What a fantastic interview. Thank you so much for doing this!