Long and Short Reviews welcomes Lea Nolan whose debut novel Conjure was released yesterday. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of this novel. You can see the other stops on the tour by clicking on the tour banner.
Lea is currently working on Allure, the sequel to Conjure.
"The plot takes some dark, delicious turns that are as exciting as they are creepy," she told me. "How great is that?"
I asked Lea to share something about Conjure that's not in the blurb.
"My heroine, Emma Guthrie, develops a close relationship with Miss Delia Whittaker, an elderly Gullah root worker. Miss Delia takes Emma on as an apprentice and 'passes the mantel' to her, teaching her the hoodoo magic she’ll need to undo the curse that threatens her brother’s life. Miss Delia is based on two dearly departed friends who meant the world to me. When I was writing her, I consciously thought of one of these women, a ninety-seven year old lady I used to help care for, but I didn’t realize I’d also included my other dear friend until my husband read the first draft and pointed out they have the same 'voice.' Now as I read the book, it’s so obvious I can’t believe I didn’t notice it before, but it’s wonderful to still have her around me, if only on the page."
In her writing, Lea has learned she has a wicked imagination.
"Even though I wrote it, some of Conjure’s twists and turns still take me by surprise. I’ve learned to trust myself and let the story go where it wants, never second-guessing it because I know my subconscious will tie up all the loose ends," she said.
Like many YA writers today, Lean caught the bug after reading Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.
"She captured the essence of first love so perfectly, the longing and deep need to be with your soul mate, and the lengths you’ll go to stay with him forever. It evoked many powerful memories for me," Lea explained. After I’d finished the series, I was hooked on YA. So thanks, Stephenie Meyer. I swear I won’t fan-girl all over you if we ever meet. Okay, maybe I will. Just a little. But it won’t totally be my fault."
Lea's been writing for four years—it took her two years to write and revise her first book until it was good enough to hook an agent. Unfortunately, she passed on that project but loved Lea's voice enough to ask her what else she had available. Luckily, Lea had a good fifty-page partial to send her way. The agent signed her and Lea spent the rest of the year drafting, revising, and submitting what would become Conjure. The contract was signed just after Lea's third writing anniversary and she spent the remainder of the year getting the manuscript ready for publication.
I asked Lea what drove her to write books for teens.
"Simply, I write the kinds of books I would have wanted to read as a teenager. Without dating myself back to the stone ages, and not to come off as too whiney, but when I was a teenager back in the 80s, there wasn’t much in the way of YA literature. Basically we had lots of books for middle grade and junior high students, but once you’d read Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, you were pretty much left with…nothing. I blew through the Nancy Drew books in the fifth grade, traversed through Narnia in the sixth, and trekked through Middle Earth in seventh. Back then there was no Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Princess Diaries or Twilight. The only place a geeky bookworm like myself could turn was to VC Andrews and her creepy and not YA Flowers in the Attic; Anne Rice’s sexy and again, decidedly not YA vampires, or Stephen King’s horror stories that freaked me out. Don’t get me wrong; these books were my constant companions and I gobbled them up like Ms. Pac Man, but they weren’t directed at me, a teenager who was struggling to come of age in the midst of family chaos dominated by chronic illness. That’s why I love today’s YA literature. No matter the genre or subject matter, it’s written for tweens and teens and speaks to them on a personal, age and developmentally-appropriate level."
Lea generally works around her kids' school schedules so she tries to start working around 8:30 or 9 AM and work straight through until 3:15 PM when she has to start afternoon pick-ups. She primarily works at a Panera Bread Café with her best friend and fellow writer, Laura Kaye.
"The food is great, the staff are friendly, and the wi-fi is free," she explained. "And better still, there’s no laundry staring at me, begging to be washed, and no dust bunnies taunting me to pick up a broom or run the vacuum. "
"What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?" I asked.
"Read, read, read and when you think you’re ready, read some more. There’s no better instructor than an edited book written by a great writer. Once I decided to write, I began to read differently, noting sentence and story structure, character development, how setting and imagery was used to convey character feeling, etc. Also, I highly recommend joining writing groups like the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and it’s affiliated Young Adult Chapter (RWA). They provide opportunities to learn craft and the business of writing, find critique partners, and discussion groups where you’ll find fellow supportive writers."
I asked Lea to share with us the best and worse pieces of advice she herself received.
"First the worst: In a college creative writing course, one rather nasty, sophomoric piece of work told me my writing was 'trite' and basically advised me to quit. He of course claimed to be writing an 'important' novel based on the Bible. Well, I’d be willing to bet he never finished that tome yet I’m a published author. Booyah! Now the best: Finish the book. Rebecca Johns, author of The Countess and Icebergs, told me this after she read the first forty pages of what eventually became Conjure in her Advanced Novel Writing course at the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Festival. She told me the story was there, full of potential. I just had to write it and it would be great. She was right. But I never would have found that out if I hadn’t finished the book. I realize it sounds pretty obvious, but this advice is really more complex than it seems. For me, it’s about learning not to worry about every tiny detail in the first draft. Just write and get it all out, allowing the story to evolve on the page. You can worry about making it perfect later in your revisions. "
"Have you ever eaten a crayon?" I wondered.
"I’m proud to say I haven’t. I did however, have a sister who stuck them up her nose as a child. Once my parents had to take her to the emergency room to have it removed. Now that would make a great scene in a book!"
Finally, I asked, "What challenges do you think teens face today that you did not?"
"Two words: Social media. I know this is going to make me sound ancient, but life was simpler back in the day when we only had a telephone that was attached to a cord, and you got a busy signal because there was no such thing as call waiting. Back then, it took time and considerable effort to spread rumors about a frenemy. And if you wanted to pass around compromising pictures of someone, you had to first take those pics with a camera, drop them off at a photo booth for developing, wait a few days, pick them up and then show them to your friends. Things happen so much faster today, and word spreads like wildfire, surging out of control in just a few minutes. I know several teens who’ve had cyber wars fought against them by literally a hundred of kids and it was all based on lies and innuendo. And sadly, I also know some girls who make the mistake of taking pictures of their parts and texting them to the wrong person. Make no mistake, today’s technological advances and enhanced capabilities are amazing, but sometimes I think they’ve outpaced our ability to navigate them. This is especially true of teens who may not be able to anticipate the consequences of their impulsive actions."
"Thanks for stopping by, Lea."
"Thanks so much for having me; this was great!"
About the Author:Entangled Publishing under the Entangled Teen imprint. You can learn more about Lea on her website, on Facebook, Twitter and on Goodreads. CONJURE is available at both Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
Be careful what you search for...
Emma Guthrie expects this summer to be like any other in the South Carolina Lowcountry—hot and steamy with plenty of beach time alongside her best friend and secret crush, Cooper Beaumont, and Emma’s ever-present twin brother, Jack. But then a mysterious eighteenth-century message in a bottle surfaces, revealing a hidden pirate bounty. Lured by the adventure, the trio discovers the treasure and unwittingly unleashes an ancient Gullah curse that attacks Jack with the wicked flesh-eating Creep and promises to steal Cooper’s soul on his approaching sixteenth birthday.
But when a strange girl appears bent on revenge, demon dogs become a threat, and Jack turns into a walking skeleton, Emma has no choice but to learn hoodoo magic to undo the hex, all before summer—and her friends—are lost forever.