Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Healing Wars Trilogy by Janice Hardy, and Happy Halloween!

Last post, I mentioned my upcoming "What Keeps You Going" post to supplement my post on "What Stands in Your Way." But it will probably have wait until next week, so please stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, I'm super excited to feature one of my favorite authors on Halloween.

Janice Hardy, as well as being the author of the awesome Healing Wars Trilogy, also writes a blog called The Other Side of the Story, which is necessary reading for aspiring authors. I wish I'd found Janice's blog sooner--it gave me a much better idea on how to construct my first novel. Seriously, if you haven't put this blog into your RSS feed yet, do it. You'll thank yourself later.

I also read THE SHIFTER, which is the first in the Healing Wars series, and it's the most exciting YA fantasy I've read in a while. I had it finished in no time. See for yourself:

Nya is an orphan struggling for survival in a city crippled by war. She is also a Taker—with her touch, she can heal injuries, pulling pain from another person into her own body. But unlike her sister, Tali, and the other Takers who become Healers' League apprentices, Nya's skill is flawed: She can't push that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it into another person, a dangerous skill that she must keep hidden from forces occupying her city. If discovered, she'd be used as a human weapon against her own people.

Rumors of another war make Nya's life harder, forcing her to take desperate risks just to find work and food. She pushes her luck too far and exposes her secret to a pain merchant eager to use her shifting ability for his own sinister purposes. At first Nya refuses, but when Tali and other League Healers mysteriously disappear, she's faced with some difficult choices. As her father used to say, principles are a bargain at any price; but how many will Nya have to sell to get Tali back alive?

Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.

War has come.

Nya’s the one who brought it. And the people love her for it.

With Baseer in shambles and Geveg now an impenetrable military stronghold, Nya and the Underground have fled to a safer location—without Tali. Nya is guilt-ridden over leaving her sister behind and vows to find her, but with the rebellion in full swing and refugees flooding the Three Territories, she fears she never will.

The Duke, desperate to reclaim the throne as his own, has rallied his powerful army. And they are on the move, destroying anyone who gets in the way.

To save her sister, her family, and her people, Nya needs to stay ahead of the Duke’s army and find a way to build one of her own. Past hurts must be healed, past wrongs must be righted, and Nya must decide: Is she merely a pawn in the rebellion, a symbol of hope—or is she ready to be a hero?

And finally, Janice was extremely kind to answer some questions:

On your website, you mention "the difficult transition from writer to author." What was this transition like for you, and what advice do you have for those working through the same process?

When I was just writing, it was all about the fun and the excitement of the story and the dream of one day getting published. I set personal goals, but if I missed one it didn't matter. But once I sold a novel, I had editors and deadlines and readers and all kinds of pressures and expectations. I was a writing professional, with all those professional responsibilities. It's hard to juggle at times.

What helps me get through it is prioritizing.  I know when I write best and I set aside that time for writing. I also carve out time for promotional and marketing tasks, answering emails, keeping up my blog, etc. All of the non-writing things can take over your life and you discover you're doing more social media and blogging than actual writing. It's important to remind yourself it's the books that matter and they get priority. (after family of course) Setting aside specific times to do certain tasks is a lifesaver. I actually get more done because I'm not pulled in so many different directions, or constantly interrupted throughout the day.

Excellent time-saving advice--definitely worth trying! The Healing Wars trilogy has an excellent premise. Where did the idea for the series come from, and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished reading it?

Thanks! The idea hit me at a time when I was playing around with common fantasy tropes. I went to see the first X-Men movie, which includes a character named Rogue (my favorite superhero). Her superpower is that she accidentally steals your powers if she touches you. I left the movie wondering what would happen if someone could heal like that. They'd bump into a random stranger and heal them. That mixed well with my trope playing, and I realized that you rarely saw a downside to healing magic. I wondered how I could make something so inherently good used for evil. Could healing have terrible consequences? The pain shifting developed from there.

I hope readers take away a sense of satisfaction at reading a great story. That's my goal as a writer--to tell a compelling story and entertain my reader while they're in my world. Anything beyond that is a bonus. That said, I do love playing with moral gray areas, so I hope readers wonder what they'd do in the same situation.

You've definitely managed to tell a great story with a compelling premise. Both THE SHIFTER and its sequel, BLUE FIRE, have superb openings. What advice do you have for aspiring writers trying to tweak their beginnings? Is there a good way to tell when an opening resonates the way it's supposed to?

I spent a long time on those openings, so thanks! The opening line for THE SHIFTER took me a month to get right. (I'm weird in that I can't start a book until I have a great first line) Openings are all about grabbing the reader. If they like what they read they keep reading. That's usually a character they care about and a situation that makes them curious to see how it turns out, but you can hook them with a great voice and character as well.

What hooks a reader will vary by genre, which makes it that much harder. A thriller, for example, might open with a scene setting up the major problem the hero has to solve and pique reader curiosity. A young adult romance might start with the main character in a rough situation that gains reader sympathy. However it starts, something is happening. It's not just setup to explain why what's going on matters.

That's probably a good test for a beginning. Are you explaining things to the reader or showing a dramatic scene? And by dramatic I mean things happening, not "drama." If you find a lot of description or backstory or any type of explanation, odds are you're setting it up and you're not to your story yet. That's probably going to bore your reader. But if things are moving and there's a character in the process of doing something, you probably have a decent opening.  It's not quite that simple, but it's a good start.

Great tips, especially for those challenging beginnings! You write an awesome blog, "The Other Side of the Story," which provides excellent writing tips and examples. Is it difficult to keep the content new and fresh? How do you balance the blog with other writerly tasks?

With over 1000 posts now, it can be hard to come up with things to blog about. Writing is a finite topic and there's only so much out there. To keep it fresh, I pay attention to what I do when I write and look for tips and techniques that might help other writers. How I do something, why I do it, a trick I use to get around a common snag. I also get inspiration from my Real Life Diagnostics column (where writers submit snippets of their own work for me to critique on the blog). These show me the things folks are struggling with. I've discovered the more specific a topic is, the better the chance that I haven't written about it before, and there aren't already a dozen blogs posts out there on the same topic.

It's tough to balance the blog and the writing. The blog is immediate, so I feel like I've accomplished something when I work on it (which makes me want to work on it). The writing can feel like it takes forever if a scene isn't going well or a book takes longer than expected. What finally worked for me was to designate when I work on each. Weekday mornings (7-11am) are for novels, and Saturday mornings are for the blog. I also make notes or write down ideas for the blog during the week so I'm not staring at a blank page come Saturday. I have times of the day set aside for certain tasks as well (like reading other blogs and scheduling my writing link tweets).

Thank you for the Real Life Diagnostics column--it really helped me with internalization. Your website bio also states that your favorite holiday is Halloween (Happy Halloween!). What makes it your favorite, and has it influenced your writing in any way?

I've always loved monsters and scary things. Creature Feature was my favorite show when I was a kid. Halloween is about fun and embracing the things that scare us, and it's the one night of the year when we can be anything we want. I guess embracing the darkness shows up in my writing. I'm not afraid to do terrible things to my characters (that's my favorite part). The things that scare us also thrill us, and that thrill makes a great story. If I can make a reader feel that, I've done my job.

A big thank you to Janice for a wonderful interview! To buy her wonderful series for yourself, click on the links below:


Robyn Hood Black said...

Great interview with one of my favorite writer-folks! Thanks to both of you. Happy Halloween!

Janice Hardy said...

Thanks Robyn, Happy Halloween to you too! And a big thanks to Karen for having me.

The Writer Librarian said...

Robyn: Thanks! Janice is one of my favorite writer-folks too. Janice: It was a pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity!

Angelica R. Jackson said...

I've been following Janice's blog for a while, but have yet to read her books. *slaps own wrist* Just not enough hours in the week to write, and catch up on my TBR pile!

Janice Hardy said...

Angelica, my TBR pile is huge as well, so I completely understand how that goes :)

Jess said...

Great interview! I love the Healing Wars trilogy, and was hoping to hear what Janice is working on now (in terms of novels~ obviously the blog is a big time investment) :)

Janice Hardy said...

Jess, right now I'm working on two projects. My YA fantasy is with my agent and I'm waiting to hear back from her any way now. That one s about a deep cover spy who gets caught between love and loyalty when she uncovers a plot to kill the boy she's spying on.

I also have a MG project I just started. That's more of a caper/mystery. Still too early to have a good pitchline for it, hehe.

Marilee Haynes said...

Fabulous post! Great to learn more about Janice the author - I'm already a huge fan of Janice the blogger:)
A belated Happy Halloween to all:)

Jess said...

Both of your new projects sound great~ thanks for taking the time to respond to my comment!

Janice Hardy said...

Marilee, aw thanks :)

Jess, no problem, thanks for asking. It's always fun to talk about a new project.