The best advice I was given and can pass along is to read widely from the best books, not only in the genre(s) you want to write, but the classics, too. We all absorb patterns of language while reading, so you ought to read the best. While you're reading, write every single day, even if it's only vague notes or a very rough draft. The only way to learn to write well is to write a LOT of words. I wrote story after story and two complete novels (never published, thank goodness) before I ever sold my first short story (about 500,000 total words in seven years). That was back in the "olden days" (1980's and 1990's) and I collected over 600 rejection letters before that first acceptance. No, that's not a typo!—Katy Huth Jones author of the YA fantasy Mercy's Prince.
Write what you love despite the trends. If your heart is in it, the reader will love it too—Rita Monette author of the MG adventure The Curse at Pirate's Cove.
Always get your facts straight. And never embellish unless you have to (blush)—N.A. Cauldron author of the children's story Anya and the Secrets of Cupola,
And now for our author interview!
Here's a bit about HL Carpenter:
Hello, Cheryl! Thanks for sharing your blog space with us! We're happy to be here!
And hello readers! We're delighted you're here! We're HL Carpenter, a mother/daughter author duo. We write family-friendly fiction from our studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like our stories, is unreal but not untrue.
Why did you choose to write books for middle grade and young adult readers?
We're not sure we chose to do that so much as our work simply evolved in that direction. Our books span genres and can be hard to pin down to a particular age group. All our books do have signature similarities: a strong, practical, intelligent female protagonist, a steadfast friend or two with a sense of humor, and a supportive if exasperating family or family substitute. They're all "clean" too. You won't find explicit sex, violence, or foul language in our stories. While we don't whitewash reality—our characters go through real struggles and their worlds are not all helpful chirping bluebirds and good shoes—we strive to create a world where readers of any age are welcome.
What types of books do you like to read?
Probably easier to say which types we don't read—if we could think of any. We're voracious readers. We like books of all genres: Historical, contemporary, mystery, fantasy, self-help, how-to. Sometimes we read two or three different genres at once, in different formats, with one on the e-reader, another in hard copy, and a third in audio version.
When you are not writing, what do you like to do?
Besides reading, we love the outdoors. We garden, bird-watch, walk, and journal the activities of the wildlife in Carpenter Country.
Tell us about The Ghost in The Gardens and how the story came to be.
The Ghost in The Gardens sprouted from an article we read about a small botanical garden and a woman who spent her entire working career cataloguing the plants in that single garden. Her dedication was inspiring, and we were awed by the variety of plant life in such a small area and how difficult finding a particular plant is.
The ghost was not in the plan.
After the first visit, I still didn't really believe in ghosts. But when she came back the second time, I had to change my mind. I hadn't been dreaming and I wasn't crazy. The only other alternative was: I had seen a ghost.
I started researching ghost visitations. What made them stick around in this world? How did they choose who to haunt? Why had no one ever caught a legitimate sighting on video or made a recording?
Mostly what I learned was that people argued a lot about whether ghosts existed. People who believed in ghosts liked other people who believed in ghosts. People who didn't believe in ghosts thought people who did were crazy.
I was not crazy.
Finding out the answers to my questions about ghosts should have been easy. I had my own personal ghost to ask. But every time she visited me, I couldn't say a word. My thoughts got all tangled and my breath stuck in my throat and I got dizzy. Having my own personal ghost was not helpful. The visits were...creepy. Like are-you-here-because-I'm-going-to-die creepy. Maybe the creep factor was why no one had ever documented a ghost.
I shivered, though I hadn't seen the ghost in hours and cheerful sunlight warmed the early June morning. The Water Garden, a magical green fairyland of trickling streams and arched bridges, closed in around me. Shadows shifted. Bushes rustled.
I'd never seen a ghost before, not even when my dad died. Why had one decided to haunt me now?
"Just lucky, I guess," I said. "What do you think, Barkley?"
My long-legged Schnauzer scratched his ear with his hind foot.
Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.
Yeah, we've written a few others. We're compulsive and we can't stop ourselves from writing new stories. :) Counting The Ghost in The Gardens, we currently have eight published works.
Jack and The Fountain of Youth: a new-adult novella about a girl who helps a young man rediscover the fountain of youth so he can reverse the spell he's been under for 500 years.
The SkyHorse: a fantasy about a girl who finds a mysterious egg that hatches into a flying horse.
Walled In: the story of Vandy Spencer, a teenager who has everything—and then discovers her father has been involved in a massive fraud.
Pirate Summer: the story of a teen who has to travel back in time two hundred years to save her brother.
Dream Stealer: a fantasy novelette about a teenager who is expected to carry on the family business of stealing dreams, even though she doesn't want to.
A Cause for Murder: a cozy mystery novel featuring a septuagenarian sleuth who solves a murder at her retirement community.
The Demise of Fyne Literature: a short story about fighting the demons within.
What's next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?
We're taking a brief break as we begin introducing The Ghost in The Gardens to the world.
In terms of writing work-in-process calling for our attention, we're waiting to hear back from a publisher on a cozy mystery, we're nearly done with the first draft of a themed collection of short stories, and we're in the revision stage of a collection of contemporary satire. We have a futuristic novella ready for re-release, and a couple of completed cozies for adult readers that we're thinking of publishing as a series, along with novellas featuring the same characters.
What advice do you have for other authors?
Write what you enjoy writing. Find your trigger—that is, find a theme or a plot or a character that sparks your imagination and makes you smile. If you try to write what's popular or what sells, your writing will suffer. Ask how we know—go ahead! :)
If you have a story to tell, tell it. Then put it in a drawer and go study authors whose books you love. Ask yourself what draws you to those stories. Write or type out passages that resonate with you. After a couple of months of immersing yourself in your favorite books, take your manuscript out of storage, and read it with fresh eyes. Revise it based on what you've learned. Repeat the process at least once more.
Anything else you want readers to know?
Once upon a time, we shared Carpenter Country with a horse whose sire was a movie star. But that's a story for another day.
Where can readers find you and your books?
The central hub for all Carpenter Country adventures is HLCarpenter.com, where you'll find links to our social media and author pages, free reads, audio excerpts, reader's guides, and photo-essay updates of the latest happenings in our neck of the human experience.
Release date for The Ghost in The Gardens: June 17, 2018
Mirror World (ebook): https://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/collections/juvenile/products/the-ghost-in-the-gardens-e-book
Mirror World (paperback print): https://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/collections/juvenile/products/the-ghost-in-the-gardens-paperback