Welcome, Raj. Time for the questions :-)
1. Seeing Through Stones is the sequel to your first book that tells Jesse's story from Swimming Through Clouds. How did your writing change from your debute novel to your sophmore novel? Was there any change? Comfort level? Enjoyment?
Great question! For months, I had a love-hate relationship with this story. Simply because just when I thought I had arrived, I had to start over. Three times. And we're not talking little edit here and there. More like, select all. Delete. Blank page staring at you type of starting over. Writing Seeing Through Stones taught me both humility and courage, because as disheartening as it was to bury manuscript after manuscript, I also experienced the wonderful high of finding the right story. I learned something about myself too: if I wanted to pen the best journey for my characters, I needed to stop limiting their reach, move out of their pasts, and push them forward—all while striving to stay true to the unique world I had created.
Swimming Through Clouds has essentially three characters. With the occasional appearance of the father. But Seeing Through Stones has a much larger cast, and venturing outside the high school cafeteria bubble was terrifying for me in the beginning. Like I was the parent and sending out my teens to the big bad city for the first time on public transportation. They were bound to meet new people, make mistakes, and have all kinds of experiences. So I guess you could say I did some growing up alongside my fictional friends. :)
2. What was the inspiration for this story as opposed to Swimming Through Clouds?
Fear silences. Swimming Through Clouds gave me a chance to meet one quiet suffering teen and build her an amazingly simple yet beautiful love story. Fear also paralyzes. And Seeing Through Stones gifted me the opportunity to watch a once bed-ridden young man move both physically and emotionally to a place of new dreams.
3. Both books take some very dramatic issues and place them in the genre of YA (which is fantastic, btw). Why do you think it's important to confront these deep issues in younger audiences?
The teen years are when most young adults first learn the horrors in human history and begin to pay attention to the tragedies in current events. This is also the time period that students begin to formulate their career choices and shape their dreams. I have no intention of trying to create an army that stands up for my causes, but I would love to build some compassion and grace into the next generation for their neighbors, the suffering, and the less fortunate. And also for themselves. Stories are my conduit.
4. For those of us in the great and grand journey toward publication what are some tips/words of encouragement you can share from your personal experience?
Sure. I'd love to! Thus far, the three (I know there are many more) most helpful things I've learned are 1. Let others read your writing and give you honest feedback, 2. Tosca Lee says, "If it doesn't make you cry, it won't make your readers cry," so cry, laugh, and swoon with your characters, and 3. from Maya Angelou, "Write about what you don't know," because then the sky's the limit! And a BONUS: Be Patient. From my Agent who says it best, Chip MacGregor always reminds me, "Good is better than fast."
Thanks for having me, Alley Cats. Hope you and your readers will take a dive into my books and don't forget to jump in on the GIVEAWAY that runs for a few more weeks! Plenty of chances to enter and lots of fun Book Swag to be won.
And thanks for bringing your passion, gifts, advice, and joy to The Alley, Raj!
READERS: You can watch a book trailer of her new book, Seeing Through Stones, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM3VOyHfoao
FOR YOU CHANCE TO WIN a copy of Raj's novel, enter here