Once upon a time, Grier Cooper and I were in a critique group together. I have watched her writing morph and evolve into something you won't want to put down!
Grier is passionate about writing and ballet and it pours through her work. Below are the questions I asked her about her debut novel, WISH.
- You’re releasing your debut novel on Dec. 2nd. How are you launching?
WISH will be available in paperback and digital formats so I am planning to launch using a few different methods. There will be a blog tour beginning December 2nd and a number of guest posts and interviews on several sites that focus on ballet and young adult literature. I'm doing a countdown on my blog with posts covering different aspects of the book. I regularly use social media, primarily Twitter and Facebook, to reach readers across the globe. In early January I will host a book launch party and then begin a local tour promoting the book through author visits and book talks/signings.
- Who did the cover? How did you find them?
LJ Anderson of Mayhem Cover Creations made the cover for WISH. I discovered LJ through Joel Friedlander's blog and liked her work. I took the photograph of the ballet dancer (I worked for more than 15 years as a commercial photographer before turning to writing full-time) and LJ took it and did her magic, adding colors and layering in additional elements.
- What makes WISH something YA readers should read?
Dance has been one of the few constants in my life and my dance life has shaped who I am in the world today. Many people don’t get to experience this world firsthand and I wanted to give readers an insider’s perspective.
I also feel strongly about the difficulties of growing up in a dysfunctional family. I know the long-term implications from personal experience: my mother was an alcoholic. You learn to distrust your instincts and feelings, to play small, and to stay quiet when you know you should speak up.
Young adulthood is a time of huge transition and change even when there are healthy family dynamics. It’s a time to find your voice, to clarify who you are and who you want to be in the future. It’s not an easy road to navigate. I wrote WISH to give readers hope, to show them a path to self-empowerment, and to help them understand they can create change in their lives.
- How long did it take you to write this book? Revise?
I began writing WISH several years ago, in between writing a bunch of other things. The first draft took me a little over a year to write because I wrote in very short bursts. As we all know a first draft needs a lot of editing. I spent a lot of time combing through my novel and polishing it, then worked with a group of other YA writers to get feedback. My critique partners asked a lot of questions, often about things that I hadn’t thought about.
Even after the work I’d done revising and implementing some of their suggestions my novel still wasn’t quite there. I tinkered some more; focusing on the parts I felt needed more work. I'd say all totaled it took me 2-3 years.
- What made you choose to self-publish?
The publishing industry is changing so much and independent publishing is really growing. In today’s market it’s the author’s name that sells a book; we writers are our own brand. All writers have to do the work of growing that name through marketing and promotion, whether they are traditionally published or self-published. That is the reality. I realized if I’m going to do the work anyway, why not do it on my terms?
I also didn’t want to wait years to see my book on shelf. I have many other books in the pipeline and I wanted to keep moving forward. I’ve enjoyed maintaining my creative freedom and having the ultimate say on things like cover design. I also like knowing that after all I’ve put into it my book won’t expire or go out of print.
I’ve found the world of indie publishing to be incredibly giving and supportive, which has been a nice surprise. I’m really grateful to the other indie writers out there who share their knowledge and expertise so willingly.
- Why did you choose the name Indigo Stevens as your main character?
A lot of people have asked where the name Indigo came from. It’s an unusual name, I’ll admit, and there’s a story behind it. Before I tell the story, humor me and guess which of the following is true:
a. Indigo’s mom is an interior designer who named her daughter after her favorite wall accent color.
b. The name is a secret identity.
c. It’s a family name.
If you guessed a or c then you failed this pop quiz (kidding). The real answer is b, the name Indigo is a secret identity. Specifically, it is my secret identity, but only for a few weeks each year when I am a summer camp counselor. Don’t ask me why the counselors all have alter egos – this mysterious practice has never been fully explained to me, even though I’ve been working at this camp for five years now. All I know is the first day I showed up for training I was told to pick a name – although there were certain rules: I couldn’t pick a name that was already being used by another counselor and the name had to fit on the name tag.
Mostly this secret identity thing works really well, except for a few random encounters with other counselors outside of camp. At that point I always feel a little awkward because I’ve worked elbow to elbow with these people and I still don’t know their names. It feels a little funny to say, “Hey, Bluebird, how’s it going?” anywhere outside of camp.
But then again, they’re stuck in the same awkward name conundrum that I am, and when they say, “Hey, Indigo, how are you?” I just smile.
- This book is set in and around a ballet studio. What do you know about ballet?
I've been a dancer since I was five years old so I've spent decades (I won't say how many but more than two) in dance studios. I received my training at the School Of American Ballet and performed with companies including San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Today I still enjoy writing and blogging about ballet as well as attending performances.
- Which character is most like you in WISH?
I’m a bit like of many of my characters. I have aspects of Indigo’s emotional sensitivity, Miss Roberta’s work ethic and perfectionist tendencies, and Becky’s supportive nature. I wish I had more of Monique’s sass and Jesse’s laid back attitude.
The cool thing about creating characters is that even though I come up with the initial vision they eventually take on a life of their own. I’m often surprised by some of the things they say or do and I’ll think to myself wow, I never would say that to someone. Which is strange since the idea came out of my head. But it’s what the character would do, not what I would do.
- How difficult or easy is it to self-publish?
I'd advise anyone who is considering self-publishing to develop a solid plan before starting. This process is not particularly complicated but there are a lot of details to manage so organization is key. It's a process I've thoroughly enjoyed although it's been a lot of work. Essentially you're doing the job of four people when you self-publish. I've written and edited the work, researched and hired professionals to help me create the finished product and I've done all of my own marketing and PR....which means I wrote another novel's worth of content! Oh yes, I also built and maintain my own website. However, I think it's amazing that today's technology makes these things possible.
- Where should your fans send mail? Email?
The best way to find me is by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me on Twitter (@griercooper) and Facebook.
- Is there a sequel in the making?
I'm happy to say that this is a planned trilogy and it's already in the works.
- Coffee? Tea? Chocolate? Or all three?
I enjoy all three...although chocolate is a rare treat and I drink tea during the winter. When I was younger I never thought I'd get into coffee. A friend told me that would change once I became a parent. She was right... but I stick to one cup in the morning.
It's a little nerve-wracking because you never know how well it will be accepted. A famous musician friend once told me she never pays much attention to what people say about her work because she always makes sure to do her absolute best. There's peace of mind that comes along with knowing you've done your best. you can't do any more than that, right? So you put it out there, let it take flight and move on to the next project.