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 (http://yawriters.blogspot.com). 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 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, . 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 !" 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 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)!