Friday, July 27, 2007

Guest Blogger Tina Ferraro Buzzes About YA and MORE!

posted by Aunty Cindy

Your old Aunty has been writer-buddies with the WONDERFUL Tina Ferraro for *ahem* some years now. Matter of fact, Tina and I were 'roomies' at RWA National in Reno in 2005. Tina got to wear her pink First Sale Ribbon and Aunty introduced her to the addictive TV series "Lost." Whereupon we immediately became perpetual fans of our mutual lust object Sawyer/Josh Holloway. But I digress... Tina's young adult novel, "Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress" came out earlier this year to rave reviews. Her next YA novel, "How to Hook a Hottie" will be out early in 2008 and is sure to be equally well-received!

Tina regularly blogs with a group of six other YA authors (including 06 Packer Heather Davis!) at Books, Boys, Buzz (
Check it out! And now give Tina a BIG BANDIT WELCOME as she answers all kinds of questions from your old Aunty!

AC: Please tell us a little about your current release, "Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress" and your soon to be released, "How to Hook a Hottie."

TINA: All my recent ideas have started with titles. TOP TEN USES FOR AN UNWORN PROM DRESS came to me when I saw a nonfiction book called something like 101 THINGS TO DO WITH A BRIDESMAID DRESS. My brain came alive with what-if's: "What if it was a prom dress? An unworn prom dress because her date dumped her two days before the prom. And what if her mom--in an attempt to help her heal--started a list of 101, no, no, 10 silly things to do with it..." A week later, I pitched it to my agent, Nadia Cornier, and she gushed, "Oh, I could sell that on the title." Okay, it didn't exactly happen that way, but I loved her enthusiasm!

The title, HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE, came to me while brainstorming with my teenaged daughter, but oddly enough, by the time I submitted the proposal, I'd changed it to something slightly different. When Nadia called to say they wanted to buy it and told me what they'd proposed as a title, I laughed, realizing I'd actually gotten it "right" the first time. And I'm very happy we went back with that because it encouraged me to come up with "how to tips", including a Six Point Plan, a hexagon for hooking hotties! (And how could THAT go wrong???) The basic idea is that kids at school hire 17 year-old Kate to help them hook their secret crushes, assuming she's got some insider info on the ways of the heart because how else could such a no-nonsense girl like her have hooked the hottest guy in the school? ("Thanks a lot, people!")

AC: Aunty knows that once-upon-a-time you wrote contemporary romantic suspense (and won some contests with your efforts). What made you decide to switch to YA? Any advice for other writers thinking of trying to break into the YA market?

TINA: I am also a Confession short story author, and over the years, have sold as many teen stories as I have adult. So the teen voice has always been with me. But I had always heard to "write what you love" and romantic suspense what was I loved to read, so when my youngest went to kindergarten and I joined the RWA with serious aspirations of selling a novel, I set my sights on romantic suspense. And yes, I did have some success with writing contests, but the truth was, I had trouble bringing a good idea or a good first few chapters to a good 300 page conclusion.

I knew that first person writing (the tense used for Confessions) was my natural voice. So when a couple of the Harlequin/Silhouette lines started accepting first person, I gave them a try, and found I was suddenly writing better books. Meanwhile, a friend had told me about the Dorchester YA "Smooch" line. After hitting a bump in my professional life, and then one in my personal, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try writing a "Smooch". My daughter was a high school freshman at the time, and she read all the chapters to make sure I didn't sound like a grown-up pretending to be a teen, and when I'd finished, I could honestly say it was the best thing I'd ever written. Too bad it didn't sell, huh? But it got me my agent, and she sold the next one!

For those interested in writing YA, you will probably hear the advice to pay attention to the teen market. Read the books, watch the movies, go hang at Starbucks and listen to them talk. I completely agree. But here's something you may not hear: do not feel you have to be a representation of today's teen. Be yourself, just tap back to the teen you were, or the teen you wished you were. Write a book that the teenaged you would have wanted to read, and you'll have a much better chance of selling it. (Just make sure your heroine has a cell phone and calls her best friend her BFF!)

AC: Please give us a few highlights of your "Rocky (or not so) Road to Publication."

TINA: Highlights! Okay, at age 23, I sold my first story to True Love magazine, and still write for them today (when time permits). About 5 years later, I had the Big Boss at my job come into my office to tell me I'd been nominated for a special performance evaluation, all the while a first draft a romance novel gleamed behind me on my computer screen. It gets better: months later, he returned to tell me I'd won and hand me a check, and guess what was on my screen again? Yep. Jump ahead some more years, and I've joined the RWA, am finaling in writing contests. I made the switch to YA in 2004, signed later that year with Nadia Cornier, sold first book in 2005, second in 2006, third and fourth in 2007.

That's all the good stuff! Just know that in and around those highlights, there were numerous days and weeks and years when there were no advancements, and I wasn't even sure I believed in myself. But the simple truth is I love writing. I love being in-the-zone. I love looking back on the good pages and thinking, "I did that". And it makes all the other stuff fade in comparison.

AC: What is on the horizon for you (and your readers)?

TINA: In addition to HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE, my January, 2008 release, I have two more books contracted with Delacorte Press (Random House) for Spring 2009 and Spring 2010.

The Spring 2009 book has the very silly title of THE ABC'S OF KISSING BOYS, and will have 26 chapters, each with a heading featuring a fun-fact about kissing. The premise is that high school junior Parker Stanhope watched her JV soccer team get promoted to Varsity without her...and she and her brother devise this crazy-but-just-might-work plan to get her on Varsity, which includes giving the prom king a kiss he'll never forget at the sports fair kissing booth. But first she has to learn everything there is to know about the art of kissing...

The next book has a crazy-ass title and premise, but until it's been formally approved, I need to keep my lips zipped!

Also, both TOP TEN USES FOR AN UNWORN PROM DRESS and HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE have been optioned for film/tv rights, and I'm presently working with producers to get those projects rolling...

(AC falls over in a swoon at the thought of her buddy Tina writing a TV series or movie! Tina obligingly slaps AC with a wet cloth and murmurs something about hunks to bring her round and finish the Q&A.)

AC: What piece of advice or life-lesson has helped you most in your writing career? And any pearls of wisdom you'd care to pass along to us AYUs (As Yet Unpublished)?

TINA: Well, I have long lived by the belief that everything I have written--no matter how awful--was a step in the right direction. It's all about staying in the game. I'm also a huge believer in networking. Many doors have opened for me out of the kindness of others, and I try to "give back" whenever I can, by making introductions I hope are helpful, doing contest coordinating and judging, etc. I see other authors as friends or potential friends, and there's always room for more at the table.

AC: Finally, you didn't think Aunty would let you out of here without mentioning your connection of one of the GREATEST Bandit Icons of all time, Clint Eastwood. What has Cousin-In-Law Clint been up to lately?

TINA: LOL--you've "outed" me, Aunty Cindy! Yes, my cousin, Dina Ruiz Eastwood, is married to Clint, which makes for some very interesting family reunions! My favorite memory is from a pool party. He was telling my husband how great a particular movie was. My husband said, "We were going to rent it, but Tina thinks it's going to be too violent for her." Clint turns to me and explains it's more a drama, not all that violent, etc., and all the while, I'm biting my tongue from saying, "Excuse me! Consider the source here! You're Dirty Harry!" But to be fair, we later rented it, and it was great. He was right. Imagine that!

I can also tell you that it's really hard to talk to him on the phone without giggling because he does this dead-on Clint Eastwood imitation...

As to what he's up to, we saw them a few weeks ago at a family reunion, and I heard talk about a new movie he's filming in LA this fall. And as a side note, Dina told me she bought every copy of my book they had in her local store, and gave them to teen girls in her neighborhood. Generous and kind--that sums the two of them up perfectly!

Thank you SOOO MUCH, Tina for hanging out here in the Bandit lair today and answering our questions and (as Foanna and Christine like to say) giving us the GOSS! Aunty happens to think Dina and Clint aren't the ONLY kind and generous people in your family. ;-) And not that we needed more convincing after her wonderful and insightful answers, but Tina will give away an autographed copy of her novel, "Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress" to one of our commentors (winner chosen by AC's handy-dandy random number generator)!


Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Tina Babe!!! How fabuloso to have you over here with the Bandits. Thanks for popping over to play (or drink margaritas - your choice!).

Tina is one of the most generous people I've had the good fortune to meet. Yes, Ms. Ferraro, I know you're blushing now. She read the first chapter of No Ordinary Duchess which became CLAIMING THE COURTESAN in a contest (the Suzannah?) and went ahead and introduced this total stranger to her wonderful agent Nadia Cornier. I still think that's one of the classiest, nicest things I've encountered in writing. Totally selfless but so Tina. We've been firm friends ever since!

I think all your good fortune (a MOVIE deal or two? You really are showing off, madam!) is just good karma coming back to get you. Oh, and talent and smarts and charm and...

Yes, you're now as pink as the cover of your book. Get used to it, hon!

Lots of love

Anna xxxxx

bamabelle said...

Hi Tina!

Your books sound really wonderful! I've recently started reading more YA books, and have been finding some wonderful new-to-me authors. I love your catchy titles too, by the way. It's nice that you have your daughter to help with the research. :)

Wow, Clint Eastwood in the family. That must have been surreal at first. I would have been a complete dork I'm sure if he had married into my family. I would probably try to get him to say "Go ahead, make my day" everytime I saw him, or something else equally annoying.

I really enjoyed your blog and I'm looking forward to reading your books in the future. Congratulations on all your success!

Christine Wells said...

Hi Tina, Thanks so much for visiting Romance Bandits and thanks Aunty C for a lively interview. I hope you recovered from your fainting fit!

Your books sound like so much fun, Tina. Why weren't stories like that around when I was a teenager?:) All I remember is Judy Blume and Sweet Valley High.

And thanks for spilling the goss about Clint!

Caren Crane said...

Tina, thanks so much for visting with us! Like Christine, this is always my question. Why, oh why, didn't we have great books like these? I have a 14-yr-old and an almost-13 and they have tons of great reads all the time. So unfair!

I'm glad they do, though. My 14 is quite hooked on the Simon Pulse books, but I plan to run out and get yours for her today! It's also fun for me at the Literacy Autographing to buzz my girls' favorite YA authors and get pics and autographs. I had to drag home lots of Niki Burnham, Jennifer Echols and Meg Cabot books this year. Next year, it will be that fabulous Tina Ferraro book!

And I love it that you are a "give backer". I have been helped along by so many fabulous writers and try, in whatever small ways I can, to help others. I think it's the best thing we can do for ourselves and others. Thank you from all of us! (And anyone who hangs out with Anna C is obviously good people. *g*)

Sonja Foust said...

Fantastic interview! Loved it. Can't wait to read the prom dress story-- sounds like I would have loved it as a teen, and since, um, I still pretend like I'm a 12-year-old girl sometimes ("Ponies! I love ponies!"), I'm sure I'll get a great kick out of it. Thanks for sharing with us!

Kirsten said...

Tina, thanks for a fabbo interview, and I loved PROM DRESS! Can't wait for HOTTIE.

I'm a avid YA reader (and AYU writer) and loved your comment about not trying to write like the teens today, but rather channeling your inner teen. Of course, my inner teen resembles my mid (ahem) thirties self, perhaps a bit too much, so this is pretty easy for me. :-)

One thing I've never been crazy about is when YA books try too hard to be "today"--using brand names or talking about bands or fashion trends. How do you balance having the right mix of what makes the story feel real and keeping it generic enough that it can end up on the keeper shelf, just as fresh and meaningful in twenty years?

Thanks again for joining the Banditas!

TinaFerraro said...

Thanks for this warm welcome, and to all of you who left comments!

Anna, you did a mighty fine job of turning my face red. However, I doubt there is one among us who could have read the first chapter of CLAIMING THE COURTESAN without jumping up and down with delight over the discovery of a fabulous new author!

Christine and Caren, as far as good books when we were teens, I remember being frustrated with the choices, too, and digging deep into the library stacks and coming up with stuff from the '60s and '50s...Beverly Cleary comes to mind now. And thanks for your compliments that you think mine sounds like fun!

Kirsten, so glad you enjoyed PROM DRESS! To answer your question about how to stay "today" without using too many brand names or current trends...well, I have an easy-out there. I'm too much of a book geek to care much about labels or to keep up on the latest in pop culture, but my editor also has a real sharp eye for keeping things current without dating the book. What we tend to do is mention a lot of well-established names like Fritos and Scrunchies and Heath Ledger (that we hope won't go off the scene any time soon). However, we got burned on Teen People. But so far, no PROM DRESS readers have called me on it! Hope that helps!

Keira Soleore said...

Tina and AC, what a fun, informative interview, and I loved hearing about your process leading up to your first call. Here's to hoping your books are sell like hot cakes!

Aunty Cindy said...

Morning Tina!

Our dear Foanna is RIGHT! A lot of this good stuff happening to you is KARMA coming back to you (the rest being talent and hard work, of course). Stop blushing, you know it's true!

Thanx again for guesting with us and BE SURE to keep us posted on any new developments in the movie/TV department! Any parts in "Hottie..." for Josh Holloway?!?!?!

just another of your fan girls ;-)

Beth said...

Hi, Tina! Thanks so much for visiting us! Great information *g*

My daughter finished Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress and loved it! Oh, and she chose to read it before Harry Potter! She can't wait to read How to Hook a Hottie and now I can get my hands on Prom Dress :-)

I also read a lot of YA and I love the diversity in the genre. What's your opinion on the next Hot thing in YA? Or do believe anything goes with today's YA readers?

Caren Crane said...

Tina, Beth's question about the next big thing made me think of another question I often have about the YA books available. I know many (like the Simon Pulse line) are about high school kids (mostly) but they are geared for middle school kids.

Often, though, in the same section, you find books like "Rainbow Party" that I do not find appropriate for my 14-year-old. I am not so naive as to think there are not kids doing these things at 13, 14, 15, but my girls aren't and their friends aren't. There are kids their age who are, but my kids don't hang out with them and it is not socially acceptable in our rather conservative part of the country.

For your books, does your publisher want you to aim for a certain level of sensuality or implied sensuality? How much is too much for the YA romance? There aren't ratings on books and sometimes the back cover blurbs aren't much help! Just wondering if there are any standards or if it depends on the publisher or author or editor?

Kelly Parra said...

Hey Tina & Cindy, great interview!! It's always fun reading Tina's interviews on her cool books!!

Loved visiting Romance Bandits! :)

~Kelly Parra

TinaFerraro said...

You guys are so great. Thanks again for this warm welcome and the compliments!

Beth, so glad your daughter liked my book! My opinion on the next big thing in YA? Well, basically, you hit it on the head that anything goes today. But it seems to me that suspense/intrigue is coming around again. For instance, fellow Delacorte author, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, has a series coming out soon about “underage government operatives” posing as cheerleaders, and my agency-mate, Shannon Greenland’s got a fast-selling series about a secret government spy agency that trains teen agents. I also heard from an agent that romantic suspense would definitely sell in YA. Hope that helps!

Caren, as a mother of teens as well as a YA author, I totally understand your concerns about shelving the edgier books with the sweet ones, and was excited when an independent bookstore in my area came up with separate shelves. I have never asked my editor about standards, but she likes to think of my books as being “school book club friendly”, and that’s great by me. I have seen my publisher let other authors take things much farther, and I guess it’s just what seems appropriate to that author’s voice and situations.

Trish Milburn said...

What a fun interview, Tina. I can't wait to read your books. Some of the absolute best books I've read in the past year were YA titles (Libba Bray, Stephenie Meyer, etc.).

I'm so glad you said, "Be yourself, just tap back to the teen you were, or the teen you wished you were." I don't have kids of my own, so I'm not around teens daily as a general rule. But I've always loved TV shows, books and movies geared toward the younger set. Supernatural, Veronica Mars and Smallville are among some favorites. I'm probably way out of the CW's demo group, but I do like many of their shows. And I love writing YA, and since that's what got me my first sale, I love it even more! :)

Congrats on your many successes. I love it when nice people make good.

Cherie J said...

Thanks for another great interview! I found it interesting to get more insight into the YA books out these days. Alot more variety than when I was a teen. I actually have a few YA novels on the TBB because the plots are so impressive. Your books sound really great Tina. Thanks for being here.

tetewa said...

Glad to have you here today Tina! Enjoyed your interview and good luck on your releases.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I think I am going to enjoy your book although I have not been a YA in.....uh...decades!

TinaFerraro said...

Trish, I'm out of CW's demo, too, and that doesn't stop me, either! And allow me to congratulate you again, and welcome you to the YA fold! :)

And big thanks again to all of you who read the interview and commented. Wow, this is one friendly and terrific place to hang out!

Authorness said...

Hi, Tina! Great interview. I loved Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress, and I'd walk over flaming hot coals to find every one of your stories. (Thank goodness for Amazon, though, eh?)

:) Vanessa

Trish Milburn said...

Thanks for the congrats, Tina.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hi Tina! Glad you could join us at the Bandit lair and congratulations on such great titles for your books. I wish my girls were a little younger so they could enjoy them. Luckily, they became romance fans as teens, reading both Jenny Cruise and Julia Quinn respectively.


Cassondra said...


Great interview! Thanks for blogging with the Banditas!

Especially thanks for the comments on how you found your voice and evolved. Those stories are always inspiring for me, and keep me writing!