Tuesday, January 19, 2010

YA Author Stephanie Morrill: Interview PLUS a chance to win her new book!

Today we not only have a fun interview with YA author Stephanie Morrill, but also a chance to win a copy of her new book, Out With the In Crowd. Leave a comment on this post if you would like to be entered in the drawing. (See details and boring legalese at the end.)

Stephanie Morrill is a twentysomething living in Kansas with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their daughter. She’s the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and loves writing for teens because her high school years greatly impacted her adult life. That, and it's an excuse to keep playing her music really, really loud.

Of course, the first question has to be--tell us about your new book!

Out with the In Crowd is the second book in The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series. In the first book, Me, Just Different, 17-year-old Skylar got herself into a bad scrape at a summer party and decided she wanted to change her lifestyle. Where Out with the In Crowd picks up, Skylar discovers while she may have vowed to change her partying ways, it's not so easy to change her friends. Even though the old Skylar is gone, she's still not sure who this new Skylar really is. Add to that two parents battling for her loyalty, a younger sister struggling with a crisis pregnancy, and a new boyfriend wishing for more of her time, and Skylar feels like she can't win.

What about your other writing? Have you published other YA novels? Adult novels?

The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series is the only one I have released at the moment. There’s a third book, So Over It, releasing in July.

Recently I’ve played around with the idea of writing a novel for adults, but it’s very different from writing for teens and doesn’t feel quite so natural to me.

Why do you write YA?

Because those are the only story ideas I consistently have. Seriously, that’s how I knew it’s what I should write. I’m so thankful that I do. I’ve never written for adults so I don’t know what the reader e-mails look like, but I love the energy in the ones I receive from the girls. And I think receiving those letters makes me a better writer. I’m able to see what in the story connected most with them.

What YA books do you like to read, or would you recommend?

My favorite in the Christian market is Jenny B. Jones, both her Katie Parker and Charmed Life series are fun, fabulous reads.

In the general market, I really enjoy Sarah Dessen. She writes quiet, soulful types of books that really stick with you.

What about us older folks? Are there YA books you think we should be reading, regardless of our age?

I read This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen the summer I got married, and I probably enjoyed it even more than I would have as a teenager. The main character has some serious control issues, same as me, so she was a character I really connected with. I also enjoyed a lot of the subtle messages about the value of relationships, particularly ones that might not last forever. Good stuff for anyone, I felt.

The other obvious one that I should mention is Twilight. I hardly meet a woman these days who hasn’t read those books or seen the movies, and most of them love them just as much as the teens I talk to. (Not as many Jacob fans in the older set, though.)

And what about writing for young adults? For those of us who would like to do just that, do we need to be young, ourselves? (If so, I'm in trouble!) Hang out with young folks? What's the biggest requirement in becoming a good YA writer?

Wow, big question. First I’ll tackle the age issue. I’m young, I’m 26. I graduated in 2001. But even with how short of a time I’ve been out of high school, SO much has changed. Like nobody texted. If you were really cool, you had a camera on your phone. If you were normal, the screen on your phone wasn’t even color. Nobody was on Facebook or MySpace. If YouTube existed, I hadn’t heard of it. So even for someone as young as I am, I can’t fully rely on my high school experiences. The emotions are the same, of course. But we didn’t worry that someone who didn’t get invited to our birthday party would see the pictures on another guest’s Facebook page, you know?

Hanging out with teens is a good idea. My husband and I work twice a month in the toddler class at church, and we always have middle and high school volunteers. I try to get as invested in their lives as I can. If you have time, volunteering for youth ministry is a great way to go. It doesn’t work for me right now, so I settle for the volunteers in the toddler room, and eavesdropping on conversations at the mall or movie theater.

The other big suggestion I have is staying in touch with teen media. Watch movies geared toward them, watch TV shows they like, read the books in the teen section. Study the dialogue in those things, and that can go a long way toward strengthening your own writing.

What do you think teens are looking for most in their reading material? What turns them off?

Same thing adults are—something real, something that connects with who they are. And they’re turned off by the flip of that. Situations and dialogue that reads fake or preachy, and characters they don’t like.

I always have to ask writers these questions. How long have you been writing fiction, and how did you first get published?

I wrote my first (and suckiest) novel at age 17, so I’ve been writing novels for almost ten years now. I got published through trial and error, and learning from my mistakes. Like when I wrote my first novel, I just printed off all 90 single-spaced pages and started sending them to publishing houses. I slowly learned about concepts like unsolicited manuscripts, query letters, literary agents, and book proposals. I met my first agent at a writer’s conference, which is something I totally recommend. Once I signed with her, everything happened within a couple months. It doesn’t always work that fast, in fact I’d say it rarely does. I received my first contract about 8 years after I wrote that first book.

Anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

The first chapters of both Me, Just Different and Out with the In Crowd are available for download on my web site, http://www.stephaniemorrillbooks.com/. Definitely take advantage and read those before you buy the books!\

And now for the best part! Stephanie is providing an autographed copy of Out With the In Crowd for one lucky reader. Just leave a comment on this post (and be sure I know how to contact you if you win) by the end of this week, January 24, if you'd like to be entered in the drawing. I promised you boring legalese and here it is: No purchase necessary to enter or win. You must be a legal resident of the U.S. to enter. Odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Thank you!


  1. I actually can say that I know Stephanie and she is just as sweet as she sounds. I hope that anyone who knows a teenage girl that you will encourage them to read these books. Even if you aren't a teenager, I'm a 30 something mom of 2 boys and I loved it:)

    Trish Medlin
    Gardner, KS

  2. Trish, you're such a sweetie!

    Robin, thanks so much for having me on your blog!

  3. The book sounds so good!!! can't wait to read it!

  4. I'm so excited! i've been waiting for this book to come out for a really long time!!!

    Lizzie Boyd
    Huntsville, Al

  5. I work at a junior college library and am responsible for our best sellers collection. I'm always looking for authors that would appeal to this age group. This interview provided me with some good ideas. Thanks Robin and Stephanie!

  6. i would LOVE to read this one...thanks for the opportunity :)