by Savannah J. Foley
When I asked Twitter extraordinaire and pre-published YA author Georgia McBride for an interview, she responded in just the cutest way: “How could someone named Georgia say no to someone named Savannah?” An interview was born:
If you’re on Twitter you’ve probably seen her around… she’s under the moniker georgia_mcbride and hosts a weekly chat about YA genre topics under the hashtag of #YALitChat (read more about YALitChat here).
Georgia’s one cool cookie. As she states on her website, she “used to manage indie rock bands for a living, market new teen and tween (you heard me) music releases for record labels (N’SYNC, Sugar Ray, Fall Out Boy, Destiny’s Child) and produce large, complex websites along with their content, such as toysrus.com and shopping.com (an eBay company). But that seems like a lifetime ago. Fast-forward to today. Now, I write full-time.
I am an avid music lover, a songwriter and singer–though nowadays that takes place mostly in the shower and the car. When I am not writing, I am hanging out with my daughter, Girl Five-ish, my son, Two The Terrible (formerly known as Boy-Oneder) and our three Chihuahuas!”
Georgia was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule (writing, querying, managing both #YALitChat and its community, and being a mom!) to answer a few questions for us:
When did you first hear about/join Twitter?
I can’t recall when I first learned about Twitter or joined. I only know that I tried to avoid doing so for the longest time until it became a necessary part of my life.
What inspired you to begin #YALitChat?
There didn’t seem to be a concentrated effort being made to bring together YA professionals at all levels in one space on a regular basis. A twitter chat seemed like the logical solution.
What’s the purpose/function of #YALitChat?
YALITCHAT is actually a few things. It is a weekly gathering of professionals in the young adult publishing industry on twitter–that’s the chat part. It is also a young adult book publishing industry non-profit organization created for the advancement of young adult literature around the world. Current membership is right around 1500 international members from 22 countries.
It’s certainly made an impact in the writing world; how has #YALitChat made an impact on your life?
Wow. That would take much longer than the time I’m allotted here. What started as a simple weekly chat has evolved into an international membership organization with a reach far beyond twitter. Members have utilized the chat to not only secure agent representation and improve their writing but make friends around the world. The letters and emails I receive from members who thank me for the community overwhelms me at times.
How has #YALitChat has grown/evolved?
I never imagined the community would grow as much as it has, as quickly as it has. Even with twelve volunteers, the need of more than 1500 members is great–especially when you have an international basis and an “always on” promise. We’ve gone from a weekly chat on twitter to a full-fledged non-profit organization with employees in under one year. That’s not evolution, that’s a revolution.
What’s the goal/vision for #YALitchat?
The vision for YALITCHAT has always been to be the medium by which the world sees and understands young adult literature. Through our members and their works we aim to impact readers, reduce illiteracy, reduce prejudice and stereotyping and encourage reading in teens worldwide. Did you know that in some cultures or subcultures teens are afraid to be caught reading a book? That they’d be ridiculed for it?
An announcement went out lately about the #YALitChat foundation beginning to charge for membership. Can you talk a little about why that decision was made, and what benefits it will bring?
YALITCHAT was handed what I considered a huge blow a few months ago by Ning, our technology provider, when they told us they would charge all users a fee for their service. I was already considering charging an annual fee and to begin advertising on our site, but had thought the days of doing so were at least a year away. Ning simply hurried that process along. The service that YALITCHAT provides is really priceless, and the fact that it is always on and available is a huge plus. Members don’t have to travel to a conference and pay huge fees to attend or pay for a hotel or airfare. They have access to well-published, NY Times and USA Today best-selling authors, agents, and editors all at the click of a mouse. They have peer critique support twenty four hours a day and seven days a week. They have a team of over 50 teen beta readers who gladly give open and honest feedback. There is a panel of agents seeking out new clients and others quietly trolling the site.
Then there is the content that is mined from around the web–hand-picked for the YA market and served right to members by topic to the different groups within the community. Should it be free? I wish I could afford to pay for it so that it could remain free. But I can’t. The time that it takes to maintain that site alone is worth–well–we won’t get into that. But for anyone to think that there isn’t cost involved with meeting the needs of nearly 2,000 members in 22 countries all day, every day using a technology rich system to deliver content, security, programming, response, interactivity, etc. I’ve been bearing the cost of this alone since November 2009. I can’t see how anyone could expect me, one person, alone to pay for the cost of YALITCHAT while everyone benefits from it.
I do understand that some people do not like to have to pay for that they have previously been getting for free and when they are asked to, they feel as if they should be getting more thrown in with it. There’s nothing I can do about those few people. You can’t make everyone happy and so I won’t try. My focus is the membership base that wants to be a part of something awesome. Those people who get what YALITCHAT is and the merit of the services we offer and feel that cost of an annual membership of $30.00 per year (students are FREE) seems like a bargain. Many were shocked that the fee was so low and had braced themselves for a much higher amount. Those people are excited about the new direction and see that change is good for all of us. With the establishment of YALITCHAT as a non-profit organization in June of this year, we’ve reached yet another milestone. We are now able to offer grants, scholarships, webinars and courses (listings are on our public site to our members that we haven’t been able to do before. I’m excited about the future. Keep watching the website for more news regarding changes. Change is good.
When did you first decide to be a writer? Was there an ‘aha!’ moment or some catalyst event?
You could say that being laid off, falling into a depression and assuming I was losing my mind after hearing voices was cataclysmic. Turns out the voices were those of my characters. I started writing as fast and as often as I could, often not sleeping. The result was the first draft of PRAEFATIO. I think the original version was like 140,000 words. Thank God for revision.
A lot of writers mention their characters ‘talking’ to them, but it happens in an internal way. Were you actually hearing voices or was it the internal voice speaking to you?
I actually heard their voices externally and thought I was going crazy. My husband was ready to send me to the looney farm. Gosh I hope I haven’t offended half the world. The only way to describe it is it sounds as if there is another person in the room with you–only there isn’t.
You haven’t offended us! What draws you to YA as a genre?
I read all genres–even picture books. I have small kids. I know that I could never write a picture book. I just don’t have it in me. It would start out all cute and cuddly then some otherwordly creature would come out of the forest and sneak up on the kid and try to kill it. I don’t think parents would like that. So, I tend to write books that teens can read. And they tend to have creatures in them that you would probably not ever want to encounter–asleep or awake. Did I answer your question? I think the bottom line is, I’m spooky and cynical. Younger kids need happy. I don’t do happy.
Tell us about Praefatio!
Grace wouldn’t let me sleep until I told her story. Three long months of daily blibber-blabbering in my ear and I had to write it. No inspiration–just constant noise from my characters. Grace, Gavin and Grace’s brother Remi spoke to me constantly as I wrote.
Summary: PRAEFATIO is about a girl who is believed to be a runaway and then assumed kidnapped by an international rockstar. When she is found on his estate, half-clothed and screaming for help the police assume they have their man. But Grace has quite a compelling tale for the police–one that they cannot believe. She tells them that she is an Archangel and her alleged kidnapper, is also a fallen angel. They think she has Stockholm Syndrome–a condition which causes her to have sympathy for her captor–and is that she is delusional. She must prove that she is sane and telling the truth about hers and Gavin’s identity without upsetting the balance between Heaven and Hell in the process (or getting herself killed).
We’ve seen the beautiful trailer made for Praefatio. Did you make it or did you hire someone? How much creative control did you have over the project?
I hired the super awesome M2 Productions. I had as much creative control as I wanted but I totally gave it up to Madison of M2 Productions as I trust her completely and knew I was in great hands. I basically sent her a synopsis and first chapter and she did the rest. She’s awesome. I never would have been able to come up with anything like that on my own. I get a ton of compliments on the trailer. Give it up for Madison!
What is the plan for Praefatio? Have you signed with a literary agent or publisher, or do you plan to self-publish?
PRAEFATIO is out on submission to agents but as I understand it is bad luck to talk about it. Thus, my lips are sealed.
We totally understand! Do you have Critique Partners?
I do not have formal critique partners. I have folks that I ask to look at my stuff who whack me up side the head when need be. Usually, it’s the team from The YA-5, my team blog. http://www.theya5.com which relaunches on July 19. Those guys are brutally honest and never let me write anything that will let me look like a moron.
It seems as if you’ve started a Georgia McBride literary empire! What’s the goal for you personally?
Empire? Hardly. I stay busy. I write, I run YALITCHAT and I write some more. I also read a lot, vet for a few agents and editors. I recently started offering critique and editorial services to unpublished writers as opposed to only pros. I figure I see so much. I may as well help the people who really need it. Link for more info is here.
Despite what you say, you ARE running an empire! With all this going on, do you also have the dreaded ‘Day Job’ on top of it?
I was laid off–I think I may have stated that earlier–in 2008 from my “day job” when all of this started. The voices that is. That is when I started writing their story–PRAEFATIO. I had no idea at the time that I was writing a book. I just had no idea.
Do your children know about how active you are in the YA community? What do they think about that, and about writing books?
My kids are 6and 2. My 6 year old says I take too long to finish any one book and my editor will not like it. She also adds that she’s better than me since she is the author AND illustrator of her books.
When were you inspired to start the YA-5?
I’ve wanted to do a team blog since last year but sadly, no one wanted to join me then. This year when I put the call out, it was a different story.
What’s the goal for the YA-5? How has it made an impact on your life?
The YA-5 is blog focused on teens–how they think, what they want and who they are. I think we are writers for teens tend to put up blogs that focus on us and our writer friends who are our age. We don’t focus on our teen audience. The YA-5 seeks to change all of that. We don’t want to tell teens what to read or think. We want them to tell us. We are actively engaged with teens and are blogging about it reporter style as The YA-5. Of course, we bring the perspective of each of our personalities into it so that’s what makes it unique. Does that make sense? We’ve had some growing pains and have taken a few weeks off for the summer but we re-launch on July 19.
Do you have plans for your next book?
I’ve been writing 2 books but as for which one is THE next ONE, I can’t tell at the moment. Neither of them has really grabbed me in the way that PRAEFATIO has. I suppose I will have to let the characters speak for themselves.
Where do you write? A desk, the couch, in bed?
I write anywhere I can as I have a dedicated home office with a desktop as well as a laptop. Sometimes I take my laptop outside and write on the back deck. It all depends on the mood, the weather and how much time I have. I’ve even written while waiting in line at carpool to pick up my daughter.
Who is your hero/mentor?
I always talk about JJ Abrams. I suppose I sound like a broken record. I learn from him every time I see his work. I take notes. It feels like school to me. It’s exciting and engaging and fun the way that learning about something you love should be. I appreciate that about him.
Judy Blume, Anne Rice
Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret
Favorite ice cream flavor?
Favorite relaxation activity?
Favorite TV show?
Favorite child? Just kidding!
Sam Jones-God rest his soul. Our beloved beagle who died in 2006.
If you could be any famous person from history, who would you be?
If you could be any literary character, who would you be?
Too many to choose from. Sorry about that.
The Prayer by Andrea Bocelli
Thank you so much for joining us today! We really appreciated getting to know you better!
And now, for our readers, we have a special surprise… Georgia has agreed to let us share an excerpt of Praefatio!!!