Carrie Harris | Young Adult Author

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Happy book birthday, Demon Derby!

I don’t even know what to say about this, so I’m going to let my spokesman, Richard Simmons, say it for me.

PEEEOPLE! Demon Derby is out today! I’ve been so excited to read this book that I’m rolling around in vegetables! Okay, so I’d take any excuse to do that, but still, it's EXCITING! Also full of vitamins! And good for your hair!

I'm not sure about that last claim, but I'm still pretty darned excited. In case you haven't heard about it, Demon Derby is about a girl named Casey Kent. Casey is a cancer survivor turned demon fighting derby girl. The book is inspired by my husband, aka Slayer of Bees, who is a bone marrow transplant doctor, a cancer survivor, and a ninja. He is also awesome. I am also biased.

Totally biased.

One of the best things about this book is that it gave me a chance to get to know a lot of terrific junior derby girls. If you haven't taken in a junior derby bout, you are missing out! These girls are tough cookies, and it's been so nice to get to know them. I'm particularly biased toward the following teams, who signed up to help spread the word about the book and hold bone marrow drives to help make more cancer survivors like Casey and Slayer, even if they don't become demon fighting derby girls. You should totally check them out:

  • Central KY Junior Roller Derby (Louisville, KY)
  • Cherry Bomb Charmers Junior Roller Derby (Jacksonville, FL)
  • Delta's Angels (Memphis, TN)
  • Frogtown Fallgirls (Toledo, OH)
  • Greater Edmonton Junior Roller Derby All Stars (Edmonton, AB)
  • Hoosier Bruisers Junior Derby (Anderson, IN)
  • Hudson Valley Frightmares (Kingston, NY)
  • Indianapolis Junior Roller Derby (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Jersey Junior Roller Derby (Jackson, NJ)
  • Juvenile Dollinquents (San Diego, CA)
  • Lansing Junior Vixens (Lansing, MI) 
  • Lilac City Pixies (Spokane, WA)
  • Miami's Lil Miss Demeanors (Cutler Bay, FL)
  • Rolling Rebellion (Sanger, TX)
  • Second City Slaughter (Chicago, IL)
  • Southern Colorado Junior Roller Derby (Colorado Springs, CO)
  • The Atomic Cupcakes (Linden, MI)
  • Twin Cities Junior Roller Derby (Blaine, MN)
  • V Town Derby Delinquents (Hanford, CA)
  • Wasatch Junior Rollers (Taylorsville, UT)

But these are just the teams that have signed up to help promote the book, so if you don't see anything near you, that doesn't mean your area doesn't have a team. Here's a handy listing of teams, and there are lots of new ones popping up too. Google is your friend.

And vegetables! Don't forget the vegetables!

And also vegetables. Thanks for the reminder, Richard.

Bookstores are also your friend, but if you can't find a copy of Demon Derby at your local one, you can also get one at these fine retailers:

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go flail with excitement. That's my plan for today. Lots and lots of flailing. Also accompanied by some high pitched noises. I'm so excited for this book, and I hope that if you read it and like it, you'll take the time to tell someone about it. It really does make a difference.

But don't worry. If you don't, I will still think you are awesome.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Come See Some Derby!

Looking for something to do this weekend?

If you're anywhere in the Indiana-ish, Toledo-ish, Michigan-ish area, consider coming out to the Great Lakes Junior Roller Derby Tournament! It starts on Friday and runs through Sunday. Lots of fun derby action, PLUS the opportunity to win the last of the Demon Derby advance copies before the book releases in July, PLUS you can support some kick butt teen and tween girls, PLUS we'll be running a bone marrow drive for Gift of Life Foundation, PLUS it's probably the only time I'll leave my house in the next forever. Seriously, I've been writing all the words and barely see the light of day these days.

If you make it, come and say hello!

Friday, June 6, 2014

YA is an opportunity

I read YA. It feels like a huge, embarrassing confession now given recent articles like the latest from Slate, which makes a firm, unyielding argument that adults should NOT read books meant for teens. That they are not for us. That they are somehow lesser—the diet version of real literature, dumbed down for teenage consumption.

Is it me, or does that seem backwards?

Here’s the thing: I started writing YA because it was one of the things I really liked to read. Because it fit the story I wanted to tell. Because it fit my writing voice.

I stayed because YA is an opportunity.

If you want to really make a difference in the world, I’d argue that your best bet is not to write for adults. After a certain point, we’ve got our worldview pretty well locked in. We might even get a little jaded. Things happen, you know? Those big dreams that once seemed so possible…not so much. But if you think about the times when the world really changed, it was because people held on to those big, impossible dreams. When they defied the way things are, dared to take a step into the unknown. When they were inspired to think of things in a new way.

YA is an opportunity to light that spark with an audience who is actively looking for answers. An opportunity to say something about the way things are or should be to people who dare to dream about how to change it. People who are already asking those questions and engaging in that discussion.

Why on earth would we automatically assume that literature is and should be dumbed down if it’s written for teens? If they’re our future, if they’re in the process of figuring out what they want their legacy to be, then it’s in our best interest to make sure they have the BEST literature available. Good YA is about asking the biggest questions, taking the biggest risks. Challenging teens. Asking them point blank what they hold important, where their moral compass points. Sure, not all YA holds itself to that standard just like not all adult lit is earth-shatteringly good. But dismissing the entire genre of YA as lesser and unsophisticated because it’s written from the POV of a teen? Completely misses the point. If you don’t get it, that’s fine. That’s your prerogative. But don’t judge other adults because they’re not too jaded to say that we could learn something from young people. Because they’re willing to dare to dream. Because they’re willing to question what they hold true, regardless of how old they are.

Ultimately, that’s what YA is all about. It’s a search for answers. And I say that’s a good thing at any age.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

It’s the writing process blog tour! Nothing like a good swift kick in the pants to get you blogging again, right? You can thank my friend and bacon sister Gretchen McNeil for tagging me and giving me that kick in ye olde pants. Gretchen’s awesome yet scary books include Possess, Ten, 3:59, and the upcoming titles Get Even and Get Dirty, which she describes as John Hughes with a body count. I think this is the most awesome thing ever. If you don’t already follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog, you’re missing out. Particularly since she's doing a Get Even giveaway right now.

The whole idea of this tour is to get authors talking about their process. I find stuff like this fascinating; I like to read about how other people get words on the page. Half the time I end up stealing their processes, and the other half, I go all googly eyed and say things like, “Wait. You do WHAT?!?!” But it just goes to show that the right process is the one that works for you, and who cares what other people think? Having said that, feel free to steal any bits of mine if they appeal to you. :)

What am I working on?

I don’t like to work on a bunch of different books at one time, but of course I keep doing that. I just finished a round of edits on a book for my agent which is a really different direction for me—it’s not funny at all. It’s a book about cyborgs inspired by the Boston Marathon bombings, and it was really emotional for me to write. I’m also starting to work on a new book whose sale we haven’t yet announced, but I can promise lots of action and punching and one-liners. And if that’s not enough, I’m also starting to work on my world for the Storium Kickstarter. You could play in my world of teenage pulp adventurers traveling the world with a circus. That would be awesome.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I think part of what makes me different is that I’ve been very lucky to work in multiple genres! My first few books were comic horror, and now I’m moving into more serious YA. Plus, I have a lot of work in the game space, and I think that really influences all of my writing. In character driven games, you really have to think hard about what the characters are likely to do and build your plot around that. It’s really forced me to take a good hard look at my own plots and move away from writing scenes just because they’re fun. I admit, I’ve done a lot of that. Don’t get me wrong; fun is good! Fun is awesome! But if they can be fun and make sense, that’s an added bonus.

Why do I write what I do?

Well, people pay me for it.

KIDDING. I have tons of book ideas, and I’m really not exaggerating. At least once a week, I come up with an idea that seems like it should go into a book. The ones that make it are the ones that I can’t stop thinking about. Okay, let’s be honest. I obsess about them.

How does your writing process work?

I used to be a firm pantser, as in I wrote every book by the seat of my pants. This may help to explain why Bad Taste in Boys was revised about ten times (ish?) before it sold, and then my first edit letter from my new editor asked me to scrap everything after chapter eight. Pantsing is fun, but for me it doesn’t do a great job of creating a plot that holds together logically and moves at a good pace. Mostly, it’s an excuse to write a bunch of one-liners strung together by things that might be scenes. Maybe.

From there, I moved onto pantsing the first draft and then using a spreadsheet to look at the book’s structure. I liked that approach, partly because I have this weird love of spreadsheets and partly because it gave me an easy way to see the whole book at one time. But still, I found myself editing a LOT.

So now, I’ve moved onto pantsing the first chapter or two just to get a feel for the characters and voice and really get into the book. Then I write what I call an outline, but really it’s a paragraph for each chapter of the book. It walks me through what happens in each chapter and how that makes logical sense. It also gives me the opportunity to see big chunks of the book at one time and get an idea of whether or not there’s enough action or too much action or if a character disappears for too long or whatever. Then when I write the actual pages, I’ve already taken care of a lot of the plot problems, and my edits are usually much smaller in scale. I used this approach for Sally Slick and the Steel Syndicate, my upcoming title Demon Derby, and for the cyborg book I just turned in, and I still love it. So I guess that makes me a plotter/pantser? A plantser? A pansotter?

Completely nuts? THAT. Probably that.

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