Surly Questions is back again with YA author Rachel Desilets. Her recently released novelette, Hipstopia, is available now! Thanks for taking the time, Rachel!
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I wrote my first short story in 4th grade. I didn’t understand how dialogue worked, so I ended up with a giant block of text and quotes everywhere. My mother saw it and (as the English teacher in the family) corrected everything I was doing wrong. I’ve written a lot of beginnings, never to visit the story again.
In 2011, I decided it was now or never and wrote a novel in a week. During NaNoWriMo, I finished novel number two. They were both terrible, but the fact is: I finished. That’s when I knew I could actually do it. That’s when I started taking myself more seriously as a writer.
Tell us about your debut YA novelette, Hipstopia.
Hipstopia originally started out as a joke through a twitter conversation. But once I started to think about it, I couldn’t get the characters out of my head.
Hipstopia is the city that formed after the Hipster uprising. Murphy led the revolution, kicking out everyone who believed in corporate personhood. It’s told from Jay’s perspective – and he tries to be the perfect hipster, the right-hand man to Murphy. It’s a coming-of-age story, where Jay makes plenty of realizations about himself, Murphy, and Hipstopia.
You write about Young Adult literature for the Examiner. What is it that drew you to YA, as compared to other genres?
Most young adult books, no matter what genre, tend to focus on relationships. When I grew up, friendships and relationships taught me who I was. I love that YA explores these bonds that change us, and I love how young adult forces main characters to find themselves – for better or worse. This isn’t definitive of all young adult, but it is pertinent in most.
What does your typical writing day look like?
In between projects, my writing days are non-existent. I have a really hard time getting focused after I self-publish. When I am actively writing, I set aside time every single day. I’m very goal oriented, so I usually go by word count, anywhere between 1,000 to 2,000. Usually if I reach 500 words, the rest comes easy – getting into can be hard. Sometimes it requires lots and lots of tea.
What has been the most rewarding thing about connecting with other writers through social media?
Actually finishing my first book! Seriously, G+ and my husband saved my writing life. Connecting with writers before NaNoWriMo was perfect, because all of us were charged to write more, write faster, and write every day. It was such a treat to do something so solitary in a writing hangout, taking breaks to chat, before getting back into it.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
To just do it. My husband was a huge supporter of my writing – he saw me start and abandon projects. He knew I had a huge problem with finishing what I started, partly because I was scared of failure. He knew I needed to convince myself I could do it and remove my self-doubts. I know now that perfection comes with editing, not with the first draft. If you never finish the first draft, you’ll never finish the book.
Tell us about your other project, The Unanswerable.
The Unanswerable is the first in a conquel series called The UnSeries. Matthew is trapped in New York City during a mutated ebola outbreak with his wife and son. They have to try to navigate the city, which has devolved into absolute chaos. It’s dark with just a sliver of hope.
It’s currently being edited, with the release date to be determined (hopefully this year).
Who inspires you?
I’ve already explained how my husband has been instrumental to my writing life – so I’m going to say other authors. I read a lot, which has improved my writing and keeps me motivated. It forces me to come up with new, original ideas.
Are there any other exciting projects in your future?
I have the sequel to Hipstopia (currently untitled) that I have to write, edit, and publish by the end of next year, which is good since I needed a NaNoWriMo project! I recently finished No Sugar Coating, a young adult magical realism novel, which will be released sometime in the beginning of next year.
What are your top five “desert island” books?
Oh boy… This is almost impossible to choose, but I’ll try. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton because it had such an impact on me when I first read it. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers because it has all the feelings and zombies. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green because of the emotions portrayed. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness because he writes a darn good story, even though I would hate not having the sequels with me.
Then, if I was allowed to bring the whole series, it would be a toss up between Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien for an amazing dystopian/sci-fi series and The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken for intense emotions. But I don’t think I could bring either of those if I can’t bring the sequels… So I might settle on The Child Thief by Brom for an awesome depiction of evil Peter Pan.