Thursday, January 23, 2014

Holly Schindler, The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, plus #giveaway

Please tell us about yourself:
I’m a sixth-generation Missourian, a music junkie, coffee fanatic, art freak, animal lover, and a fan of classic movies.  A nail polish and lipstick addict with a new hairdo every time I walk out of the house.  An admirer of beautiful skies.  A writer.

Please tell us your latest news:
My third novel and first MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, releases from Dial / Penguin on February 6, 2014!  (My first two novels, A BLUE SO DARK and PLAYING HURT, were YAs; my next YA, FERAL, is also in development with Harper Collins.)

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I’m full-time.  I have been ever since the spring of ’01, when I got my master’s.  Having been witness to my love of writing for years, Mom encouraged me to stay home and devote full-time attention to my writing.  I’m really lucky—because of my family’s support, I didn’t have to divide my time between a nine-to-five job and writing.  (I did pay my bills by teaching music lessons for a few hours each afternoon.) 

The thing is, though, nobody, not even a full-time author, has distraction-free writing time.  You have to learn to write even when the situation isn’t perfect—when you’ve got a headache and you’re tired or worried about a sick child or pet.  You have to learn to plot your next chapter while mowing the lawn or painting the front porch.  That’s the key, whether you’re full-time or part-time: you’ve got to make progress on your writing every single day, no matter what other situations are making demands on your time or attention.

When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always written.  I was a painfully shy kid (I actually cried when my parents took me to playgrounds, because other kids were there).  Sometimes, I wondered if (in the beginning, at least) writing was an easier way to “talk.”  But then again, even in the beginning, I wasn’t writing about myself.  I was making up stories with fictional characters.  There’s something about storytelling, about fiction, about making stuff up, that just fits me like absolutely nothing else.

What was the toughest criticism given to you?  What was the biggest compliment?
In many ways, the toughest criticism was the entire seven and a half years it took to land my first book deal.  I’d published some short pieces in college (poetry, short stories, literary critique), and when I graduated, I had it in my head that the only thing standing in-between me and a published novel was the time it would take to get my novel on paper.  (Very FIELD OF DREAMS: “If you write it, they will publish it.”)  In reality, it took drafting a floor-to-ceiling stack of novels—and well over 1,000 rejections—in order to get that first yes. 

I’d have to say the biggest compliment came when I was seeking blurbs for my first novel, A BLUE SO DARK.  I’d been a fan of Catherine Ryan Hyde’s for years; she graciously agreed to read the manuscript, and after a few weeks, sent me an email to tell me a blurb was coming.  I remember the email said, “I read it.  It’s really good.”  And I remember thinking that in itself was the blurb of a lifetime: “I read it.  It’s really good”—Catherine Ryan Hyde.  It’s something to get a compliment from a writer you’ve long admired.  That, more than anything else, made me feel like I’d really gotten the stamp of approval.  Like I’d “arrived.”

Did those change how or what you did in your next novel?
Reader response always has an impact, I think.  I’m one of those gluttons for punishment that reads her reviews—trade reviews, blog reviews.  All of it.  And while I’m not thinking specifically of those reviews when I write, I do believe it all goes into the “file folder” in my head, has an impact on the next thing I write.

For example, when PLAYING HURT (my second YA) came out, I learned that many reviewers feel they have to like a character in order to like a book.  This came as an utter surprise to me—it’s completely outside my own reading experience.  I definitely think that’ll have some impact in creating main characters from here on out…

How can we find you?
I’m on Twitter: @holly_schindler and FB:  I can also be found on my website:, and on one of the group blogs I administrate: Smack Dab in the Middle (for MG authors):, and YA Outside the Lines (for YA authors): 

Young readers can interact with me on Holly Schindler’s Middles, the site I created just for them:  I’m also going to be featuring reader reviews from the MG crowd on that site!  Be sure to get all your young readers to send their reviews through the “Contact Me” page on Holly Schindler’s Middles. 

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” meets Because of Winn Dixie in this inspiring story of hope.

August “Auggie” Jones lives with her Grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” Auggie is determined to prove that she is not as run-down as the outside of her house might suggest. Using the kind of items Gus usually hauls to the scrap heap, a broken toaster becomes a flower; church windows turn into a rainbow walkway; and an old car gets new life as spinning whirligigs. What starts out as a home renovation project becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time. Auggie’s talent for creating found art will remind readers that one girl’s trash really is another girl’s treasure.

What genre do you write in and why?
Contemporary fiction.  I switch up the subgenres a bit—in my YA work, I’ve written a problem novel and a romance, and my forthcoming YA is a psychological thriller.  But there’s just something about realistic fiction…as a reader, I always feel closer to books that take place in my world (as opposed to a dystopian fantasy, for example).  So those are the books I find myself drawn to as a writer.

What is your experience working or being around children or teens?
While I was seeking publication, I taught music lessons in the afternoons.  It was the perfect setup: I’d write all morning, then start teaching music in the afternoons, when the kids got out of school.  I wasn’t very old when I started teaching, but I expected my students to be different than the kids I’d known in school—after all, there’d been sort of a technological revolution since I’d graduated.  When I was a high school freshman, we didn’t even have an answering machine.  I typed my papers on a typewriter.  Somehow, I expected the teens to be…savvier.  Older. 

But they weren’t.  My students reminded me very much of the friends I’d had in school.  Their struggles hadn’t changed.  At all.  They were so familiar, in fact, that I decided to try my hand at writing for children and teens.

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?
THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY started out as a picture book, actually.  Auggie didn’t even have a name in the original book.  She narrated the story of her grandfather, a folk artist.  When I submitted it, though, editors told me the idea of folk art was too advanced for the picture book audience.  I plunged into the task of turning a 1,000-word story into a roughly 45,000-word novel.  Once I’d turned it into a novel, I subbed to a few agents; Deborah Warren of East West picked it up.  After several rounds of submission to editors, we sold it to Nancy Conescu at Dial.  Even after the sale, it took a few rounds of global rewrites.  From beginning to end, the book was drafted in ’05, and will be published in ’14…What I’m finding now is that it’s really tough to let go of a character I’ve loved for so long!

Which comes first: the plot or characters?
Each book is different, actually.  This time, the characters came first.  I saw Gus, every bit as clearly as I’ve seen any person in my life.  It was as though I were staring through Auggie’s eyes, straight at her grandfather.  From there, the words just started pouring out…

Describe your writing space:

My brother’s an antiques dealer, and I go on buying trips with him…which means my office is absolutely brimming with collectibles and tchotchkes.  In addition to writing in my office, I also spend plenty of time writing on the couch next to my dog, and when the weather’s good, on my deck.

What has been your favorite part of being an author?  What has been your least favorite?
I think that in the pursuit of ANY dream—to be a musician, an artist, own a shop, become an MD, etc.—there comes a point at which it feels as though the dream is really beating you up.  There will inevitably be times when you feel like you’re never going to scale the wall that’s blocking you from your goal.  (That, of course, was my least favorite part…)  But when you push through it, get to where you want to be?  Seeing a dream begin to come true?  There’s absolutely nothing like it…

There will be a giveaway, running from Jan.22-29. Click here to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I'm really enjoying this "tour" and learn something new about Holly at each step along the way.