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Author Interview : Brenna Yovanoff

Today is Halloween so I thought it would be fitting to feature an interview with one of my favorite people, Brenna Yovanoff, the New York Times Best Selling author of THE REPLACEMENT and THE SPACE BETWEEN. Brenna writes some of the most delicious horror short stories over at merry_fates, delighting me with her sharp wit and wicked sense of humor.

Here's a quick bio of Brenna in her own words :

I'm good at soccer, violent video games, and making very flaky pie pastry.

I'm bad at dancing, making decisions, and inspiring confidence as an authority figure. I suspect this is because I am short, and also terrible at sounding as though I have any idea what I'm talking about.

I was homeschooled until I was fifteen, which has probably affected my world view in ways I can't fathom.

Also, I really, really like parentheses. (Really.)

Without further ado, here's her interview.

1. What were you like as a child?

When I was little, I read all the time and was completely obsessed with horror movies. I liked monster movies best, and anything that had to do with discovering the unknown. Also, I loved hide and seek. Because I was good at entertaining myself, I could pretty much stay hidden indefinitely.

2. Do you remember the book that made you want to become a writer?

I always wrote stories to entertain myself, but the book that actually motivated me to start writing seriously was The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros. I read it when I was about fourteen, and it completely changed the way I thought about storytelling.

3. Can you share a little on what your novel incubation process is like from the idea to the actual writing?

Well, when I get an idea, it's only ever just this little tiny spark that sits quietly in my head for awhile. If I want to find out where it's going, I have to write it out and then start decoding it. Basically, the first draft of pretty much everything I write is totally unusable, but it helps me figure out what the story is.

4. What’s your writing ritual like?

I like to write in the mornings, because that's when I get the most done. I'm not a morning person, but it's in this very weird way. I mean, I'm definitely awake, but it doesn't really feel like it. I just don't like to talk much before noon, so I find that it's the perfect time to sit by myself and write.

5. What’s your favorite aspect about writing and what don’t you like?

I love being able to come up with really crazy images, and then figuring out what kind of story they belong to. I hate hate hate transitions. It would be so much easier if transitions worked like they do in dreams, how you can be standing in a bomb shelter one minute and at the carwash the next!

6. What are the hardest scenes for you to write and which are the easiest e.g. action scenes, love scenes, etc? How do you overcome the hard scenes?

I have a really hard time with expository, world-building scenes. I have to write them over and over before they actually get to a point where they're doing what they're supposed to. Up until the world-building stage, I just ask myself what a given scene needs to show and then try to get all the necessary parts down. Later, I go through and start adding details and then taking them out again. And that goes on for . . . a while.

7. Of all the books that’s been published which book(s) apart from Harry Potter did you wish you had written and why?

I SO wish I'd written American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I know it's a book that's guaranteed to generate mixed opinions, but I love it! It incorporates pretty much all my favorite elements, and the characters and the world are just incredibly vivid. If I'd written it, I probably would have put in more kissing, but you know what? I'm not even convinced it needs it, which is a big deal coming from me, because I am a huge advocate of kissing.

8. Looking back on your journey as a writer, what advice would you give yourself when you were starting out?

I would tell myself that structure is important and yes, you really *do* need to think about plotting—even quiet literary novels have plots, so for the love of all that is good in the world, get on the plot bandwagon! Please!

9. How has your life changed pre and post agent?

My life has changed a lot in the ways you'd probably expect—i.e., I sold a book. But it's also changed in ways I should have expected, but didn't. Before I got an agent, I was really focused on the steps it takes to get one. It wasn't until afterward that I actually started thinking more about audience and how to tell a story that a certain (hopefully fairly broad) group of people will read and enjoy.

10. How would you like people to see you as an author?

I'd like to be seen as approachable and essentially pleasant? I mean, I write about scary things, but I'm not a scary person. As far as what to expect from my books, I think people can rest assured that I will always write dark stories, but the darkness is not total and the people are very often redeemable.

11. Can you please give us your writing mantra in 15 words or less.

Writing is an endurance sport.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 31st, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
Hi :)
Thank you for the informative interview with Brenna & thank you to Brenna for sharing here. I enjoyed learning about the behind-the-scenes writing experience. Also, "Writing is an endurance sport" is awesome.
All the best,
Nov. 1st, 2010 03:43 am (UTC)
Re: Hi :)
Thanks for stopping by, Rob. Glad you enjoyed the interview.
Oct. 31st, 2010 06:32 pm (UTC)
Ha! I'm listening to American Gods on audiobook right now :) Thanks for a great interview.
Nov. 1st, 2010 03:45 am (UTC)
I have a fantasy as to what kind of book Neil and Brenna would write if they ever got together :D
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )