Catherine Stine is the crossover queen. Already established in the Middle Grade and Young Adult markets with works ranging from American Girl’s Innerstar University “make your own ending” stories to the teens on the run “Refugees”, she’s moving onto the adult market with a new romance. Add in her work as an artist and an editor and manuscript evaluator, she’s a literally quadruple threat every time she sits at a keyboard.
Catherine’s latest work, Ruby’s Fire (the sequel to her acclaimed “Fireseed One”) was released this year. I met Catherine at the 2013 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference and she’s graciously agreed to share her thoughts on reading, writing, and the world of a crossover artist. Here’s what she had to say:
Your Twitter handle is “Crossover Writer.” Is this because you cross over so many age groups with your work?
Yes, that’s it, but mainly because I straddle the YA and older YA/new adult market. Many of my readers are also adults!
Many of your novels have a fantastical element. Is there something about fantasy that resonates with Young Adult audiences?
Young adults love to dream, and to plunge themselves into dramatic stories with flair and lots of switchback twists and turns. Fantasy and soft sci-fi exudes these creative, imaginative elements. It takes the characters out of the classroom and into other worlds, allowing them to love and fight with monsters, witches, spacemen and hybrid freaks. Who doesn’t like to be transported completely out of their norm?
Your novel Ruby’s Fire is set ten years after the events of Fireseed One. Did you find it difficult slipping back into that world? What were some of the challenges created by setting it a decade in the future?
I set it ten years later on purpose, so that the novels would be companion books rather than a series that you’d have to read in chronological order. The other reason is that I wanted to follow Ruby, the girl Varik met in book one who lived in the Fireseed cult. She was seven then, and I wanted to tell her story at seventeen. Sequels are a challenge to write, because all of the details about the world have to synch up. But once I committed to it, it got easier and easier.
You have a new novel coming out soon. What can you tell us about it?
I have a new adult romance novella coming out in January or February with Inkspell Publishing. I’m using the pen name Kitsy Clare, so that my new adult stories are separate from my middle grade stories. This new adult romance is called Model Position and it’s set in the glitz and peril of the Manhattan art world.
Which authors inspire you? Who would you recommend reading before ever starting to write a young adult novel?
I read young adult books but also adult fiction. I loved The Passage by Justin Cronin, and the novels of Cherie Priest. As far as young adult reads, there are so many types—realistic, dark fantasy, sci-fi, mystery and more—that you should determine which genre you want to focus on first. The Hunger Games is a good book to study because the first one is so tightly plotted.
Switching from your author hat to your manuscript evaluation hat, what are the biggest mistakes you see when new authors submit their work.
Submitting too early when the novel still has plot flaws, inconsistent characters and spelling errors. Sometimes there are too many plot elements, as if the aspiring author felt they needed to throw in everything he or she could think of. Other times, the stakes are not high enough and the story is lacking in tension. Always run your story by a beta reader or join a writing workshop.
And switching from your manuscript hat to your illustrators hat, do you find that your artwork lends inspiration to your writing (and visa versa)?
Yes, the two disciplines feed into each other. I had a lot of fun illustrating Fireseed One and Ruby’s Fire. People tell me that my writing is very visual, and that my illustrations are quite narrative. I usually do pen and ink drawings, scan them into Photoshop and digitally airbrush them.