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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Holly Cupala, TELL ME A SECRET Blog Tour and Prizes!

I'm so happy to welcome readergirlz diva and debut author Holly Cupala (TELL ME A SECRET) to my blog. I've known Holly for a couple years now, through blogging and readergirlz, but didn't have a chance to meet her until the 2010 Midwinter ALA Tweetup.

Holly is such a bundle of energy, with true joy and enthusiasm. People gathered around her, wanting to find out more about TELL ME A SECRET. And there's good reason...Holly's book is raw emotion. It's haunting and beautiful. It's devastating knowing the place where Holly had to dig to write this novel, yet through it all, we see hope and a reason to go on.

Go and read TELL ME A SECRET. You won't be able to put it down.
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HWM: When did you realize you wanted to write YA?
HOLLY: Quite possibly the day I began writing my first teen romance, Stolen Love. Of course, that was when I was 13 and had not yet experienced teen romance, but that did not matter. What mattered was the line of girls in my class who waited to read it page by page… But art sort of began imitating life. After I actually experienced teen romance, heartbroken poetry and short stories followed…then hopes of writing the Great American Novel (while secretly writing an epic 1600-word rhyming picture book saga). At some point I realized I was completely off track, finished my M.A. (I was studying world lit), and joined SCBWI. For several years I spent time learning the craft of writing, then a painful event in my life inspired the story.

HWM: You won the SCBWI Work-In-Progress Grant in 2006. How did this change your writing life?
HOLLY: It was a beacon of hope! As writers, we spend so much time trying to get the story out on the page and having no idea where it might lead. The grant helped me keep going, and it was terrific motivation to finish the story because suddenly everyone wanted to see it. I’m very grateful to SCBWI for opening so many doors.

HWM: How long did it take before you signed with your agent and how did you know he was the right one?
HOLLY: I’d sent the manuscript to a select few agents in the summer and fall, but I really began actively seeking an agent in January—something about everyone having clear desks! I ended up with five or six agents looking at the full, and I met my agent, Edward Necarsulmer, Children’s Director at McIntosh and Otis, at an SCBWI event. There was another agent offer on the table as well, but he was just so passionate about the manuscript, and I really felt he would go the extra mile. He’s turned out to be a fantastic agent!

HWM: Do you write full-time or do you have a real world job?
HOLLY: Right now I am full time, but I’ve been a freelance graphic designer and writer and volunteer with readergirlz! My work hours happen to coincide with preschool (and soon kindergarten) hours. :-)

HWM: When did you know you had the right ending for TELL ME A SECRET?
HOLLY: Oooh, good question. The ending was quite possibly the most difficult part to write. I knew the second-to-last chapter would have the final knock-down-drag-out with the primary antagonist, and that there would be some significant secrets revealed that would shed light on the entire story. The first draft, I skipped it! The second, I muddled through and kept peeling back the layers until I felt like I’d hit on something true. My writing group (the wonderful Janet Lee Carey, Justina Chen, Molly Blaisdell, Peggy King Anderson, Katherine Bond, and Judy Bodmer) were also a tremendous source of help

HWM: Which character is most like you?
HOLLY: Every one, at least a little bit! I used to identify the most with Miranda, but then I realized the character most like me, at heart, is probably Nik. At least, I hope.

HWM: Who was the toughest character to write about?
HOLLY: I think maybe Miranda’s mom. I didn’t really understand who she was until I realized she had a secret, too, one that was driving her in ways she doesn’t even realize. Once I understood her, I could see why her behavior could be so caustic, and yet she was dealing with a mountain of internal shame.

HWM: Do you outline or free form?
HOLLY: I have a rough movie trailer in my head, and a big, free-form, crazy document where I record notes for the novel. I write a lot of notes! But I’m far too lazy to outline.

HWM: What is your writing process or ritual?
HOLLY:
Procrastinate…tea, Earl Grey, hot…candy…Twitter…ack! Only two hours left! I’m trying to get better. A timer is great for this. I joke that TMAS took four years, the second took four months, and I hope the third takes four weeks….wait, I really do hope that!

HWM: What project(s) are you working on now?
HOLLY:
I’m about to start editor revisions on my second YA, STREET CREED (tentative title, slated for Fall 2011), about a suburban girl with secrets who runs away from home to live on the streets of Seattle, in search of a boy called Creed. It’s gritty and romantic, ultimately about what it means to love. And I’m avoiding writing that third novel. (Four weeks? Please, four weeks?)

HWM: Your husband creates awesome videos (check out the "Parent Trap style" video below) and designed your website. What were the challenging aspects of working together (if any) so both of your creative visions shone through?
HOLLY: He does do awesome work! And luckily, we work really well together. He’s totally my secret weapon.



HWM: What has been the biggest surprise of your writing career?
HOLLY: Writing YA. Before, I was writing nice stories to impress people and not reveal too much. It took a major life event to strip all of that away…and suddenly, there was the story. It was tantalizing and terrifying. I’m amazed and grateful at the reader response.

HWM: Are there any genres you'd like to try writing?
HOLLY: I have a couple of other projects on the backburner…a fantasy, and maybe even an end-of-the-world thriller. Who knows, anything could happen!

HWM: What was the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
HOLLY: Write through the bad stuff, Randy Powell and Kirby Larson. Your first draft can be sixty pages, Karen Cushman. First drafts are like hacking through a jungle with a machete, Laini Taylor. Find the dozen or so emotional anchor scenes in a story and write from there, Nikki Grimes. What can I contribute? Mitali Perkins.

HWM: What makes you laugh?
HOLLY: Heartfelt silliness…as you may have noticed on this blog tour! :-)

Thank you so much, Holly!
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TELL ME A SECRET Tour Contest Entry Rules

• Leave comments at any official tour stop or Holly’s blog (www.hollycupala.com) throughout the tour! Each comment counts as an entry (one comment per post*).
• Tweet about the tour (@hollycupala) and tell us what you think!
• Post about the tour, then leave a comment at my blog with a link.

Each week's prizes will be announced at Holly’s blog the following week - check back to see if you've won and contact Holly at the contact link at www.hollycupala.com (prizes will be held for 2 weeks).


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Where You Can Find Holly:

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