author of After Zero, out September 4, 2018
Author, I Never is a segment in which I interview fellow authors about the writing process, breaking into the industry, and breaking rules. I ask some hopefully novel questions along with some of the old standards, and finish it up with a round of I Never to find out what cardinal writing rules we've broken.
Question the first: Christina, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Probably in the fourth grade. One day, my teacher asked everyone in my class to write a story on a sheet of paper. I wrote ten sheets too many about the adventures of an orange house cat. My teacher was impressed by the length and asked me to read the story in front of the class. I can’t for the life of me remember what happened in that story, but I do remember that everyone clapped at the end. That means it was genius, right?
I haven’t written about cats since (though I’m still a cat person).
It may be a sign of genius. Question the second: What has been your proudest or most exciting moment as an author so far?
Getting a two-book deal! Before that, getting my first offer of representation from an agent was very exciting. Both of those moments felt extra magical because I happened to be traveling at the time. When I got the offer of representation, I was in Armenia on a writing residency, and when I got news of my book deal, I was at an airport about to board a flight to Italy. What are the odds? It goes without saying that those were both memorable trips.
I'd say! Question the third: At what point did you think to yourself "I've made it" or at what point do you think you'll feel that way?
I suspect I’ll feel that way if I start receiving messages from readers I don’t know who’ve reached out to tell me that my book(s) resonated with them or touched their lives in a positive way. So many books did that for me, especially when I was in middle school and high school, and I can only hope that mine will do the same for some readers out there.
Question the fourth: Did any experienced authors or industry people mentor or give you helpful guidance on your journey to publication?
In my undergraduate and graduate creative writing programs, I met several wonderful professors who encouraged me and became mentors to me. I also got fantastic feedback on my short stories from author Julie Berry many years ago, shortly after her debut novel was published. Julie used to live in my hometown, and as part of a spring auction at my old elementary school, she offered a certificate for a fiction manuscript critique. My mom bid on and won that certificate and gave it to me as a college graduation gift. An awesome gift, I must say!
That is a fabulous gift! Way to go, Mom. Question the fifth: Have you ever had a time when you've felt like giving up?
Absolutely. The three years between getting my first agent and getting my first book deal were riddled with self-doubt and moments when I almost gave up. There was one particular stretch of time where the self-doubt was so bad that I couldn’t write a thing. Little did I know that I was going to get an offer on After Zero just a few weeks later. Never give up!
It's amazing how close the highs can follow the lows. You don't believe it's possible and then BAM. Question the sixth: What was the most inconvenient time or place you were struck by inspiration?
The shower, always the shower. I need to get one of those waterproof notepads!
They exist?! Question the seventh: Can you give us a hint to help us find an "easter egg" or hidden item to look for in one of your books? Maybe an obscure clue if there's a mystery thread, or a reference you threw in to a favorite book or song?
If you’ve read the Grimm fairy tale “The Twelve Brothers,” you might notice some nods or slight similarities to it in After Zero. The tale served as a very loose inspiration for the novel’s plot.
Question the eighth: Where do you look for inspiration?
I often look to fairy tales or my own experiences, or both.
I love stories inspired by fairy tales! Or folk tales. Or anecdotes. Or drinking games. Speaking of which, it's time for the...
I Never Round
The basic rules of I Never, the kid friendly version- I state a generally established writing rule (or at least a norm). If you've broken that rule, state your guilt for the record.
I never made up a word in my manuscript, and stood by it during copyediting.
After Zero’s protagonist, Elise, has insomnia, which she refers to as “the unsleep.” Despite the squiggly red line that Microsoft Word always puts under “unsleep,” I never had to defend the word, and my awesome copy editor didn’t have a problem with it.
As a nearly lifelong insomniac, I LOVE the unsleep. Brava! I never had an amazing idea right before bed, and decided sleep was more important.
I usually try to at least make a note of the idea, and then I go to bed feeling all hopeful. When I read the note the next morning, the idea is seldom as amazing as it seemed the night before. But I think that’s a great way to test an idea: Can it withstand a night’s sleep? Does it still excite you the next day?
My theory is that everything is better at night. But I guess an insomniac would say that. I never started a story with a character waking up, looking in the mirror, or in a bathtub.
Actually, I don’t think I have. But admittedly I have started stories with a description of the weather. (You’re not alone, Snoopy: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BQcpj7ACMAAHRp4.jpg.)
Ha! I never worked on two manuscripts at once.
Well, I’ve never been in the drafting stage for two manuscripts simultaneously, but I’ve definitely worked on revisions for one manuscript while drafting another.
I like that system. I never went several days or even weeks without writing.
I actually went more than a month without writing, when I was going through a self-doubt slump (see question the fifth above). Fun times. We all need breaks, and I don’t believe that writers need to write every day, but I definitely didn’t feel great when I went on for that long without writing.
I know the feeling. I never wrote "for a long moment."
Hmm, I honestly don’t think I’ve used that one before…but I’ve written “a long pause” and “a long look” plenty of times.
I never cheated during NaNoWriMo.
I haven’t, but that’s because I’ve never done NaNoWriMo. I like the idea of it, and admittedly there were a few Novembers when I tried it for a day or two, but alas, NaNo has always been a NoNo for me. Maybe next year…
Maybe this November will be a YeahYeah! Thank you so much for appearing in Author, I Never! When and where can we look for, preorder, or buy your next or most recent book, and where can we follow you on social media?
Thanks for having me, Dana! My debut novel, After Zero,is available for preorder on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/After-Zero-Christina-Collins/dp/1492655325.
You can also add it on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32194556.
Bonus question: If After Zero had a theme song, what would it be?
I’d probably go with “Far Far” by Yael Naim. But parts of “The Voice Within” by Christina Aguilera, “Murder of One” by Counting Crows, and “Mad World” (Adam Lambert’s version) also floated through my head a lot while writing After Zero.