Monday, May 21, 2012

And then there were two

Of me, that is.

Let me explain. I spent most of my life being pulled in various directions. Sure, I wanted to be a writer, but I also wanted to be a pastry chef and a veterinarian and one of those people who digs trenches to fight forest fires. We're not talking about when I was nine. (Back then I wanted to be a dolphin trainer and a scantily clad magician's assistant.) We're talking about in my early twenties, long after most of my friends had decided on a career path.


I would have rocked this outfit as a nine-year old.

A couple of years ago I graduated from nursing school (don't ask) and suddenly I could support myself working just three 12-hour shifts per week. Suddenly I had all of this free time, and while my friends picked up extra shifts at the hospital, I finally got serious about writing. It was classic Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. After I could eat and pay bills, my brain was free to focus on non-survival-related things, and I quickly realized I didn't just want to be a writer, I needed to be one. (You should totally click that Maslow link, btw, because it is funny.)

So I signed up for the Oregon Coast Children's Book Writers Workshop (which happens to be awesome and is where I met my agent) and also took an online writing class. I was writing contemporary and dystopian stuff for the class, a mix of action and romance. My instructor challenged me to develop a proposal for a historical fiction novel. She was interested in something that focused on action and romance instead of the formal language and overwhelming descriptive detail that can make historical fiction inaccessible, especially to teens.


Worth. Every. Penny.

I like a challenge, but I knew zilch about history. For realz, I graduated from a pretty schmancy college without a single history credit. I had no idea if I could write historical, or if I did it whether anyone would want to publish it. That proposal turned into--you guessed it!--my first novel VENOM. But at the time it was an experiment, totally different from what I'd been working on, so I decided to use a pen name. I knew I would continue writing contemporary YA (romance, mysteries, magical realism, etc.) and decided to save my real name for those.

Today, I am super-excited to annouce that my agent, Jennifer Laughran, sold my first contemporary YA novel, THE ART OF LAINEY, to HarperCollins in a two-book deal. It's the story of popular but slightly clueless Lainey Mitchell whose perfect summer comes crashing down when her boyfriend Jayson dumps her. Lainey vows to do whatever it takes to win him back, and when her friend Bianca finds a copy of Sun Tzu's The Art of War, the girls decide to go all Zhou Dynasty on Jayson and his new girlfriend, with unexpected results. It's a light, funny read about discovering the person you're meant to be with, and more importantly, discovering the person you're meant to be. Many of the settings are loosely based on real life places around St. Louis, so I'm excited about that too. I'll be writing as Paula Stokes which is (close to) my real name.

So what does this mean? Not too much right this second, except that I now have five books under contract. YAY! You can still call me Fiona, or Paula or 'hey lady' or even use my super-seekrit RN identity if you know it. I will eventually be moving this blog to a place where I can blog about all of my writing from a single URL, but I'll keep you posted on that. Mostly, I just wanted to let you know that I've got some fun, non-historical things in the works.

Oh, and also that I'll be starting a contest for one of these awesome Breathless Reads slipcases next week.


Somehow the word 'slipcase' does not adequately convey the awesomeness of these. Also, I stole this picture from my Breathless sister Jessica Khoury's facebook because I am lazy :)


20 comments:

  1. Wow, 5 books under contract. That's a whole lot of awesome for you! Congrats. Why a different name for this series if it is YA also?

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    1. I know, right? The good thing is that 4 of those books are already drafted.

      The name thing has to do with how the VENOM deal was structured and the fact that the project was developed collaboratively. Also, historical is such a different animal that the books won't necessarily appeal to the same audience (though I am hoping they do!)

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  2. Congrats! Sounds like a fun story!

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  3. Thanks guys. The book has a smoking hot boy, a flawed but endearing protag, and copious amounts of baked goods, so that's the fun book trifecta, right?

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  4. That's SUPER DUPER Awesome! I love contemp and this sounds like a funny awesome "War"! Haha, just our of curiosity, have you read "All's Fair In Love, War and High School" by Janette Rallison? That's what your book totally made me think of! While on the subject of Rallison, haha it's funny because she also just emerged from Chick-Lit genre to Fantasy (via Slayers) and she has a new pen name as well! I think that's totally cool. :D WIll definitely be reading some Paula Stokes books. Can't wait!

    BTW- i should mention that I'm like DYING for Venom. I've blurbed it on my blog and it's like the NUMBER ONE book I want to be released right now! (I could give you proof.) Can't wait!

    And while I'm blabbing, I'm so excited for the Breathless Tour this year! Fabulous books that look INCREDIBLE. Will so be coming. That "Slipcase" is BEE-YOO-TI-FUL!

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  5. Very cool! Congrats! But don't give up on the scanty outfit. :)

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  6. WHAAAT? This is so awesome, Fiona/Paula!!!! I'm so excited and thrilled for you! And even MORE excited now to meet you! Many many congrats--this looks like the start of a long and glamorous career. =D

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  7. DAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNGGGGGG....I WANT THOSE! I love/hate Breathless Reads because of the five books I suddenly have to add to my to-buy list. -_- CONGRATS!

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  8. Well, dang, girl. I always knew you had the chops. But it doesn't stop me from being totally super envious!
    Ken

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  9. I WILL STILL BUY ALL THE BOOOOOOOOOOOOOKS

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  10. congrats! that is amazing news! also now i want all of those books 0.o

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  11. OMG! I'd sell a kidney to get one of these!! TOO MUCH AWESOMENESS!! AAAAAAAAAH! Im breathless!!

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  12. Thanks for all your well-wishes lovely people.

    I am happy to report that the Breathless slipcases have arrived and are being closely guarded by the assistants :) I am working up another Where In the World... contest but you guys are SO SMART it's gonna take me a few days.

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  13. Comtemp, historical fiction, and mystery? I think we may have a triple threat author in our hands here, folks! :D The slipcases look gorgeous! Oh, and I see Cass! (Yes, I address her by her nickname because me and her are tight)

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    1. I think what we have is someone whose commitment issues bleed over into her writing :) But hey, they always say to write the book you wanna read. I like lots of stuff!

      I am working up the WITWIV clues and this time there will be a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize, but the location will be harder!

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    2. Yeah, that too ;D Haha, me too. I wonder how many novels I could write ....

      Yay! Oh dear. Have mercy ..but 3 chances to win. That's awesome! October is coming closer and closer so the wait is kind of bearable now. :)

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  14. Out of curiosity - does it ever feel like you have less ownership of your book, because it's not your everyday name on the cover? Or does it feel like some delicious secret because you get to be someone else and most people won't know? I imagine that's how Samuel Clemens felt when everyone was praising this Mark Twain guy. :]

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  15. Gabi--It feels more like a fun secret to me, but I think it depends on how private you are. There are times when I positively do not want to talk about writing. These include at the bank, at the gym, at the express checkout, etc. I have a weird first name, weird last name combo that makes me literally the ONLY person on the interwebs with it (crazy, eh?) If the bank teller had read my books, there is no way he or she would not recognize my name. Plus, I might end up working in academia (because practically NO ONE gets to be a full-time writer) and probably don't want a potential employer googling me and reading my terrible reviews.

    Honestly, the way the world is today--with every stupid thing you ever do getting logged on a website somewhere only to be dug up later when you accomplish something great--I don't get why EVERYONE doesn't want a pen name. Let's face it, the people you care about will know it's your book, and who cares about what those ex-boyfriends or people you knew in high school think?

    I dunno. Maybe I'd feel different if I had a cute name like Gabi :)

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  16. Also, because if I give myself a deadline I will stick to it, my 'Where in the World is VENOM??' contest extravaganza with awesome prize packs will start June 8th!

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