I recently chatted to Heather Anastasiu about her debut novel GLITCH (St Martin’s Press, Spring 2012) – the exciting first book in the GLITCH series, dealing with rejection and Twilight!
Your debut novel GLITCH is being published by St Martin’s Press in Spring 2012. Can you tell us what it’s about?
When asked this question recently, I haphazardly described Glitch as a kissing + action + talking + superheroes book. But here’s a more cohesive summary:
Zoe, a cybernetically-enhanced teenager living in an underground society, slowly realizes her body is changing when her internal hardware begins to malfunction. She’s developing powerful telekinesis and even though getting caught could mean reprogramming, or worse, deactivation, Zoe begins to seek out other glitchers in her society, including a dreamer named Adrian who can see the future, a boy named Max who can mimic others’ appearances, and a girl named Molly with x-ray vision. They work together to plan their escape, but soon learn there is another powerful faction at work whose ambitions could threaten all their carefully laid plans.
If you were a Glitcher what would your superpowers be?
Oooo, great question. Super strength and endurance, I think. I’d love to be able pick up anything, run forever without tiring, and be absolutely able to take care of myself and my loved ones no matter the obstacle!
What’s your writing process? Do you carefully plot your books before starting, or just dive in and let your characters tell you the story?
I’ve slowly turned from a Pantser into a Plotter, and only after I realized how many hundreds of pages I was wasting on story-lines that didn’t end up working out!! Wasted pages and time = huge motivation to start plotting! So I started to sort of plot, just jotting down some basics about what would happened next a few chapters at a time. This book totally helped my plotting with a simple structure to each scene, it’s turned me a tight plotter:
- statement of character goal
- tactical disaster
With this structure, there’s no space for scenes that are meandering or don’t directly add to the plot. With each scene, I have to figure out what my character wants (and why), add spicy conflict that challenges the goal, and usually end with some kind of disaster where the character does NOT achieve their goal completely (and thus keeps you flipping pages to the next chapter and next goal!).
But I’d still never outlined a whole novel until I got my agent last year. We wanted to pitch Glitch to publishing houses as a trilogy, so he asked me to put together in-depth outlines of the other two books. I was like okaaaaaaaaaaaaay. But now that I’m actually writing book 2, I’m really, really, really glad for the outline. For me, a basic outline frees up the actual writing from stress and wasted time—I always know what’s coming next and how each piece I’m writing fits into the bigger puzzle. And there’s still plenty of space and allowance for the surprises that inevitably come when you’re writing. At its best, writing is an act of discovery.
Can you tell us a little about the next two books in the GLITCH series, REBOOT and OVERRIDE? And when are they due to be released?
Glitch comes out next Spring, and the other two books will be released every six months! This is just one of the many reasons I’m so stoked to be with St. Martin’s, they have a quick release schedule for their YA books. I feel like the series will be able to gather momentum easier this way. Also, as a reader, I always love it when I don’t have to wait as long for the next installment!
And hmmm, what can I say about Reboot and Override without giving too much away J ? I’ve written the first draft of Reboot, and I can say we that we’ll keep following Zoe as she learns to understand emotion even more, as she sees first hand how the world works with all its ugly and all its beautiful, and how she’ll learn what embracing her destiny really means. And as with all my favorite hero journey stories, the series takes pretty epic scope by the end. Oh, and kissing. Lots of kissing 😉
You spent a year in a wheelchair. How did that change your perspective on life? Has this filtered through in your writing?
It’s absolutely filtered into my writing—how could it not? Being sick changed my whole world. Growing up, I was the epitome of The Good Girl. I made straight A’s and never got in trouble, went to church, even planned on being a missionary for awhile! Then I fell ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome when I was 19, and the boundary lines of what I could and couldn’t do became really narrow. There was a year or so where I became so ill I couldn’t walk. The only way I was going to be able to finish college was do what I’d been trying to avoid for years, and use an electric wheelchair.
Funnily enough, the best thing about being in a wheelchair was that for the first time in my life I allowed myself to be angry! After being so quiet and meek and obliging for my whole life, I just got furious at everyone and everything. I was 20 and all my friends were active, exercising, going out and having fun all the time. Then there was me: stuck in a wheelchair, and still too tired most of the time to do anything else but lay in my bed and read or watch TV.
Self-pity and anger at the world are not healthy in the long-term, but for awhile it was exactly what I needed to grow a thicker skin and stop letting myself be a meek doormat all the time. I got tougher, slowly gained confidence, stopped feeling sorry for myself, dyed my hair pink, and decided that, even if my life might be smaller in scope than other young people around me, I was still going to be a kick-ass human being and enjoy the hell out of life. That was when I started writing again and decided I was gonna pursue this getting published thing for real.
You wrote an interesting post on your blog about rejection. What’s your advice for writers about dealing with rejection?
Ugh, rejection!! It’s the most painful part of trying to be a writer!!! Me and rejection got real familiar over the years. I started writing when I was twenty-three and was happily oblivious that it would be five years and four books later before I’d actually get an agent!! It’s probably better that I didn’t know it then, lol. The only way I was able to scrape myself back up off the pavement with each round of rejections—agent query rejections, literary magazine rejections, rejections from MFA programs—was to think, okay, okay, try again, and again, and again. My rejections numbered in the HUNDREDS by the end!
With every big rejection, I’d cry and moan and hole up under the covers for awhile. Then eventually I’d eat my humble pie and try to figure out why I’d gotten rejected: I needed to learn pacing, how to write dialogue, needed to learn what the hell “voice” meant. I started reading books about writing and going to a writer’s group where they would regularly, and mostly gently, rip my work to pieces—which was just the absolute best thing that ever happened to my writing.
Trying to be a writer often feels like running head-long into walls, but eventually, I started getting some acceptances. I got some poems and short stories accepted into some small literary magazines at first. Then with the novel before Glitch, I actually got, for the first time, requests from agents to read my manuscript! Followed ultimately by, you guessed it! REJECTION.
But still, I’d cling to every little victory, try to regain confidence again, and then just go back to what I loved doing best—writing and telling stories. Because ultimately it comes down to the fact that if you’re a writer, you just can’t not write.
You’re a fan of Twilight and even wrote a chapter for the book ‘Theorizing Twilight: Critical Essays on What’s at Stake in a Post-Vampire World’ about it. What is it about Twilight that appeals to you?
Stephanie Meyer managed to put down on paper what so many of our most ridiculous fantasies about what an epic, forbidden romance might look like. She writes with an easy style that lets the reader drop right into the storyline and participate first-hand in all the luscious melodrama. For all its ridiculous and problematic elements, Twilight is just pure id—Freud’s term for the lusty, reckless, and absolutely unrestrained parts of ourselves. It’s a horrible story to take as a handbook for How to Live Real Life, but it’s excellent for letting ourselves stretch and play in the escapism of fantasy for awhile.
Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?
Edward, all the way. Jacob might be a great guy, but it’s Edward with all his blood-lust and chivalrous restraint that made Twilight so seductive in the first place.
What’s your favourite novel and why?
My favorite novel of all time that I could always read over and over growing up is Christy by Catherine Marshall. It’s about a young girl just on the cusp of adulthood, full of optimism and naïveté, and how she navigates some difficult situations. And of course love too, natch 😉
What are your top 3 tips to becoming a successful author?
- BIGGEST Ultimate-Mondo Tip: accept and incorporate critique!
- Write. Regularly. Jane Yolen put it best when she said her biggest piece of writing advice was: “Butt in chair!” Being a writer might sound nice and romantic, following your muse and all that, but really it’s about the brass tacks of getting your butt in that chair everyday and actually putting in the time and work of writing.
- Don’t give up!!!
GLITCH is being published by St Martin’s Press, 2012.