Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Monday, July 28, 2014

XY, a new YA novel exploring biological influences: An interview with author Shanta Everington

When I learned that friend and fellow author Shanta Everington had a new book out, I jumped at the chance to host her on my blog. Her new YA novel, XY, sounds intriguing and I love how she got the idea for this story by asking questions and eventually getting a better idea of what kind of story she'll write just from a bit of research. Ideas for books can take a little coaxing to fully develop and it can be the most unexpected of things that'll put that final piece into the idea puzzle.

Welcome, Shanta!

Your name: Shanta Everington

The title of your book (please include the publisher, genre and buy link):

XY, young adult dystopian novel, Red Telephone Books (an imprint of Bridge House Publishing)

How long have you been a writer?

It all depends on what you count as 'being a writer'... My debut novel, Marilyn and Me was published in 2006 but, of course, I was writing for a long while before that!

What was your biggest obstacle in getting your book published and how did you overcome it?

Getting a debut novel published is always tricky. I had a literary agent  when I finished Marilyn and Me, and the book received lots of 'rave rejections' from mainstream publishers, but things didn't work out. After having the book rejected from mainstream publishing houses, I started submitted to smaller presses and literary competitions. Marilyn and Me was shortlisted for the Cinnamon Press First Novel Award, and although it didn't win, it was taken on by Cinnamon.

How did you end up getting your newest book published?

XY was the joint winner of the Red Telephone Books YA Novel Competition run by Bridge House Publishing. Winning the competition led to publication. My debut poetry chapbook, Drowning in Cherryade, also reached publication after winning a competition (with US publisher, Bedouin Books). Similarly, I have had short stories placed in competitions... So, I guess you could say that I am a fan of writing competitions! I think they are a great springboard for writers seeking publication.

How did you get the idea for your book?

Jesse's story in XY came out of my fascination with the question: What does it mean to be male or female? Is gender identity biologically, psychologically or socially constructed? Writing helps me unravel questions and make sense of the world. Often several unconnected threads come together to form an idea for a book.

When I became a parent, I was shocked at how much gender stereotyping still exists. You can't walk into a children's store without being bombarded with pink for girls and blue for boys. Why shouldn't my sons wear pink tutus or play with dolls? Why, as a society, do we tend to see this in a different way from girls wearing trousers and playing with fire engines?

I read an article about scientists' discovery that 'blended gender' in fish was linked to contaminants in the water, including pesticides, household laundry detergent and shampoo, and many pharmaceuticals. This led me to wonder what would happen if we lived in a world where humans were born with indeterminate biological sex. And Jesse's story was born...

What is the most important lesson you have learned as an author?

I have learned that determination, perseverance and flexibility are of the utmost importance if you want to be published.

What genres do you write in? If more than one, how do you balance them?

I write fiction for adults and young adults, novels and short stories, poetry, non-fiction and articles. For me, being creative is about having the freedom to experiment with different forms and audiences. My next big project will be life writing.

What are some of your other books we might want to check out?

I have published seven books - literary novel, Marilyn and Me (Cinnamon Press), young adult novels, Give Me a Sign (Flame Books), Boy Red (as S D Everington, Musa Publishing Euterpe) and XY (Red Telephone Books), poetry chapbook, Drowning in Cherryade (Bedouin Books) and parenting books, Baby’s First Year and The Terrible Twos (Need2Know Books). I also have stories and poetry in various anthologies including Seeking Refuge (Cinnamon Press), Mosaic (Bridge House Publishing), Even More Tonto Short Stories (Tonto) and Unthology No. 2 (Unthank Books).

What else do you do besides write books?

I currently work as an Associate Lecturer with the Open University in London, teaching creative writing. I am also a mother to two young boys.

It’s common knowledge that writers are also readers. What kind of books do you like to read?

I read widely across fiction, non-fiction and poetry. At the moment, I am reading biography and autobiography. I enjoy life stories such as Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters and Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay.

Do you read books in the same genre you are currently writing in? Why or why not?

My latest books have been young adult fiction and yes, I've read a lot of young adult fiction. But I write – and also read - in various genres. I am currently immersing myself in life writing, as this is going to be the focus of my next big project (after the sequel to XY).

What can we expect to see from you next?

The sequel to XY will hopefully be next. In the future, you should also expect to see life writing.

What is your advice to a writer trying to get a book published?

Get editorial feedback from a range of readers, redraft as many times as you need to in order to get your writing to the best possible standard and then submit widely. If at first you get rejected, take a look at any comments, rework where necessary and try again. Don't give up!

Bio: Shanta Everington is the author of seven books with small presses. She has had all sorts of jobs in the past, from baking vegan muffins and working as a private tutor to appearing as a guest agony aunt and running a teen sexual health helpline. With an MA in Creative Writing with distinction, Shanta currently teaches Creative Writing with The Open University. She lives in London, UK, with her husband and two children.


Publisher website: http://www.trtpublishing.co.uk/xy.html
Author website: www.shantaeverington.co.uk
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShantaEverAfter
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shanta.everington
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/XY-Shanta-Everington/dp/1907335323/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403088848&sr=8-1&keywords=9781907335327
Amazon USA: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1P1RPU
Goodreads page: www.goodreads.com/author/show/1419856.Shanta_Everington

Book blurb:
Fifteen-year-old Jesse lives in a society where babies are born neither male nor female - Compulsory Gender Assignment is carried out at birth. Will the secret she closely guards be found out? Boyfriend Zeus, mother Ana’s Natural Souls, and new friend Ork, leader of We Are One, pull Jesse in different directions, forcing her to make her own mind up about who she really is.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

My Writing Process

 Last week my friend, ML John, (http://mljohn.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/writing-process-blog-tour/) invited me to participate in the world-famous Writing Process Blog Tour. She asked me to answer a series of questions about my process and to share them on my blog. This post isn't exactly similar to all the other "My Writing Process" blog posts because I was supposed to feature 3 other authors to participate. But everybody I asked said no. However, since I took the time to answer these questions, I will post them. 

1. What am I working on?

I am working on many books at one time. I am currently writing the next book in my middle grade paranormal series, The GHOST Group, as well as writing a spin-off book of my book, 365 Tips for Writers. This one will be for authors. I am also writing two poetry books which will be released next year, as well as a health book.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I bring a bit of myself to every book I am writing. One book I wrote, Parenting Pauses: Life as a Deaf Parent, obviously had a lot about my personal life in it, but for every book, I come to it with some aspect of my life that relates to it in some way. My novel, Shadow of Samhain, was based on a dream experience I had, and I also have family who have battled breast cancer, thus why I did an ebook on breast cancer.

Also, I always try to bring something original to my books. I try to get information, stories and quotes that aren’t out there on the Internet. I strive to get the latest and most important information on a subject I write about so that this book will be able to hold its own against the many others it will compete against. An author must really make his/her book stand out.

Basically, it is important to find a need and fill it with your book. I always ask, what can my book bring to the table that all the other books don’t have?

3. Why do I write what I do?

Why do I write the books I write? Because I am a storyteller. A truthseeker. Someone who is curious about so many things in this world and wants to explore it in a book.

Also, if I see a story or a book, but there is not a book out there on this subject or with this story, then I’ll jump on that and write it.

On the other hand, some of my personal experiences will inspire a book. I start asking questions and if I don’t get those answers from a book, I’ll write the book myself to get those answers.

Sometimes my dreams inspire a book idea, but usually a short story idea. Several of my short stories were inspired by my dreams, but my dreams have also inspired book ideas. A children’s book I have coming out in the near future was inspired by a dream.

And sometimes someone inspires me to write a book. Someone in my family inspired me to write the health book.

Additionally, sometimes I am approached by a writer and asked to collaborate on a book with them. If the subject grabs me, I’ll say “yes.”

4. How does my writing process work?

My writing process differs with the type of book I am working on.

I don’t start writing a novel right away. I allow the story to “grow” and build up first. I tinker with it in that workshop in my mind. I spend some time getting to know the characters, understanding their world and witnessing what their lives are like. I really need to get comfortable with my characters before I can write their stories. I need to literally be in their skin, in their thoughts, in their dreams and actions. I have to know my characters and get a better idea of the story before I write that first draft. When I feel I am ready, that’s when I’ll start writing the story. After that first draft, I let the manuscript sit for several months while I work on other things, then when the time is right, I will revise it, get feedback on it, revise it some more, then send it out.

For nonfiction, I think about my idea first and jot down a bunch of notes. I’ll do a bit of research on the subject and check to see if there’s already a book out there on this subject. If there is, I ask myself if I can make mine different. If there isn’t, I do more research to see if this could actually be a book. Once I decide that an idea could actually be a book, I go further with my notes and create a basic outline. Something to give me an idea of where I want to go with this book. Next, I spend a year doing research, gathering information and interviewing people. After that, I’ll write a first draft. Then I do more research to see if I can add anything new. From there, I work on finalizing the manuscript and get it ready for submission. I am very fortunate to have publishers who I can send a manuscript to without worrying about finding a publisher or drafting a proposal while I’m busy writing my next book.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Coping with a Widow's Grief: An Interview with Nita Beshear

Today I would like to welcome author and longtime friend, Nita Beshear, to my blog. She is here to talk about her new book, Beyond the Grief: A Widow's Survival Guide. It seems we both have the same technique nailed down when working on more than one book. :) 

Welcome, Nita!

Your Name: Nita Beshear

The title of the book:   

Beyond the Grief: A Widow’s Survival Guide 
Published by Bear and Butterfly (my own company), Self-help and inspirational book.

How long have you been a writer? 

Good question. I started writing for money in 1981 for our newspaper. Took a long break for personal reasons. Returned to writing for pay/publication in 2009 when I wrote my first book, Devoted to Quilting.

What was your biggest obstacle in getting your book published and how did your overcome it? 

I was my biggest obstacle. My insecurities slowed me down the most. I didn’t think the book was well written (grammar rules and I don’t often hang out together), I didn’t know anything about self-publishing; was afraid of it. How did I get over it? I hired an editor to polish my prose. Not to say there aren’t still glitches we missed, but I felt better about sounding professional. A couple of friends encouraged me to just go ahead and “hit send.”  In the early morning hours, after my good sense went to bed and I was still awake, I published it.

How did you end up getting your book published?  

I went with self-publishing because I wrote the book to be an ebook first, and a print book second. I had a mentor/teacher who encouraged me to write the ebook.

How did you get the idea for your book?  

Several of my widow friends encouraged me. They would ask me questions about how they were feeling, or how they should handle a certain issue. While I was no expert, I could tell them what I or others had done. I thought maybe other women might need the same encouragement. Also, after my husband died, I didn’t have access to the internet, and our local library only had clinical, doctor-type books on grief, I wanted something more personal. That’s what I tried to write, a personal book of suggestions, from one widow to another.

What is the most important lesson you learned as an author? 

Schedules are important, in life and in writing. They don’t have to be carved in stone, and they can be fluid, but to have some sort of schedule to fall back on helps. A schedule, even a loose one, keeps me moving forward.

What genres do you write in? If more than one, how do you balance them? 

I write both fiction and nonfiction. The fiction, to date, is what I call women’s western. They are more western than historical. They are set in the 1870-1920’s in the western part of the United States. Most often in Indian Territory or Oklahoma (for the later years) and I’m not against the woman handling a gun if the need arises. My nonfiction tend to be inspirational, the quilt devotionals and this self-help. I balance by writing one thing at a time. If I must work on two projects during the same time period, one gets its own day, or at least time of day, morning for one, evening for the other.

What are some of your other books we might want to check out? 

Devoted to Quilting, Devoted to Quilting 2 and the anthology, Romance, The Spice of Life, which has my story, "Muskadine Love."

What else do you do besides write books? 

You mean, besides being a mom and grandmom? I sew and quilt. I am the Southeast Oklahoma representative for Quilts of Valor. I’m a member of Toastmasters International, I read, in the summer I enjoy time in the pool. When it becomes necessary, I do housework. 

It’s common knowledge that writers are also readers. What kind of books do you like to read? 

Books in print. I’m always surprised by the books I read. I enjoy women’s inspirational, and mainstream women’s books. Some romances, westerns, and (surprising to me) mysteries. When I read fiction, I read to relax and enjoy, I don’t want to have to think too hard. In nonfiction, I’m the opposite and want to learn so most often I’m reading some sort of self-help, whether it’s something simple, like recipes, or more complicated, how to build something. Sometimes I enjoy a nonfiction book written like a novel.

Do you read book in the same genre you are currently writing in? No. Why or why not? 

I don’t want to be influenced by someone else’s words and inadvertently use their words or scenes in my story. 
What can we expect to see from you next? 

Next up is my western/historical, Blood Child. After that will be a memoir of my beginning of life as a widow, tentatively titled, “What do I Do Now?”

What is your advice to a writer trying to get a book published? 

Write the story of your heart. BEYOND THE GRIEF was written because I knew it, I was living that life, and I knew others needed to read proof they aren’t alone. In addition to writing the book of your heart, decide what your goals are and write toward them. Do you want to be published by a traditional publishing house, or a small publisher? Find out what they are looking to publish and write your story with that in mind. Don’t try to follow a trend. It takes time to write and publish a book. By the time you finish writing a story following today’s trend, there will be something new grabbing everyone’s attention.

Bio: Nita fell in love with writing in middle school when she realized her answers on the essay questions often saved her grades. Later, she and a cousin would make up stories to entertain themselves. Today she writes books that answer essay questions, and shares the stories in her head.

Blogs: http://nitabeshear.wordpress.com/ and  http://devotedtoquilting.wordpress.com/

Book blurb

Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy. For the spouse it’s made hard by the fact that no longer is he there for breakfast and morning coffee, or the evening news. There’s no one to bounce ideas off of, and no one who understands those private jokes. After the death of her spouse a wife/widow must learn to do everything, including doing those things she always handled. Alone everything is more difficult.. A widow is never truly alone. Not only does she have memories, she has a whole sisterhood of widows and a book full of friends and ideas.

Buy link


If you’ve ever flown, you’ve heard the flight attendants stress that in emergency, passengers MUST put on their own oxygen masks before tending to others. For many, this is a hard concept to accept. When traveling with young children, the elderly, or someone with disabilities, people want to care first for those less able.

However, the airlines are correct. We must take care of ourselves before we can tend to the needs of others. 

We need to be able to breathe.

The same is true in life. We can’t help someone else in need if we haven’t taken care of ourselves first.

Taking care of yourself first doesn’t mean you have to be healed or “over” the death. It just means you have to take time every day to take care of yourself so that you can be available for your children or others, both physically and emotionally.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Getting back on track

I had all of these plans for July. I wrote down certain writing-related things to do in my dayplanner, starting with the beginning of this month. But as it happens every single time I try to DO something or when I PLAN for something, things never work out the way I want them to. (I once saw a pin on Pinterest that said something to the effect of how my life’s motto could be “Seemed like a good idea at the time.” Tell me about it!) Things just never, ever go according to plan in my life. Sometimes, some things I set out to accomplish or to do end up ACTUALLY happening, but in a completely different way than I had hoped.

Well, the former is true with the plans I made for the first week of July. Things just didn’t pan out, only because I had a medical situation which drastically reduced my time at the computer. While this setback is frustrating, I will not abandon my plans. I’ll just start everything at a new time. Sure, it didn’t happen on schedule, but it WILL happen. It’s still July.

I have decided to do the very same thing I do when I can’t get Monday stuff done: I make Tuesday be my “Monday.”

Thankfully, I am a lot better now and nearly fully recovered. So, as of this coming Monday, I will proceed with my plans for July. Hopefully, I can get things done, but if not, at least get SOME things done. I still won’t be at the computer as often as before, because part of my doctor’s instructions was less time sitting down, but I will do what I can in the time that I have.

One of the things that I want to do in July is try to get an acceptance at a major magazine. This has always been a goal for my writing career. I was not able to accomplish this goal a long time ago when I was working as a freelance writer, and I have realized, you know, this is a goal I REALLY don’t want to let go of. Some goals I’m willing to let go of because there’s just no way I can accomplish them, but others I don’t want to let go of. This is one of them. In thinking about it some more, and also pondering how I planned to focus more on short stories this year, I have decided that instead of trying to get an article into a major magazine, maybe I can try a short story instead. It COULD work. And I’ll be very happy to have SOMETHING published in a major magazine. So that is what I will be aiming for this month as well as next month. (The two months that I don’t have any work!)

So when I get back at it on Monday, I’ll be querying magazines with short stories. I will also resume the book work I have been doing: Getting all release forms signed for the haunted cities book (due out VERY soon!) and interviewing writing parents for the second Burning the Midnight Oil book.

I am also still at work on the spin-off book of 365 Tips for Writers. It’s on the agenda to finish that book this year! And I'm also working on Books 5 and 6 for The GHOST Group. I am planning to submit those to my publisher later in the year.

And on another note of “getting back on track”: I was recently informed that a contract I had for my “Revise Your Writing” book series was canceled because that particular imprint of the publishing company was being shut down. One of my other publishers is currently looking at all three manuscripts to consider for publication. So, yes, I was discouraged when that roadblock came up, but hopeful again that maybe this book will still be published SOMEWHERE now that it’s with another publishing company.

Yes, there are things that will happen that slow me down or knock me off that horse, but I’m going to dust myself off and get back up in the saddle to keep things moving forward. Some things may not happen when I want them to, but I won’t give up on them. I’ll just try again at a later time or try to make them happen in a different way. As long as they happen!

P.S. And by "major magazine," I mean, one of the glossies. I have been published in a national magazine, but not one of the glossies. That would be the ultimate for me. Unfortunately, I don't write the kind of short stories that get published in those types of magazines, so I'll send my short stories elsewhere and try to get SOMETHING published in one of the glossies.