Tom Ryan's debut YA Contemporary, WAY TO GO is getting lots of great advance buzz, and ARCs (advance reviewer copies) have been snapped up quickly, but there's still one left! What does that mean for you? It means that you have a chance to win an autographed ARC of WAY TO GO!! Plus a bookmark! You can find details at the end of this post. But first, Tom was kind enough to answer a few questions!
Please tell us about yourself.
I'm a proud Canadian, currently living in Victoria, British Columbia. I grew up on the east coast, in a small town on Cape Breton Island, and although I really love the west coast, I'm an easterner at heart and I can't wait to get back! I've been writing full time for almost two years, but prior to that I had all kinds of cool and crazy jobs. I've done everything from giving career exploration workshops to high schoolers, to building and painting props and sets for children's television shows. It's also probably worth pointing out that I have an awesome, unbelievably supportive partner and the coolest, most adorable dog in the world. Life is pretty good.
What inspired you to write this book?
WAY TO GO was heavily influenced by my teenage memories of summertime in a small seaside town. At heart, WTG is a story about friendship, and the people you lean on when you're young and still trying to figure out who you are.
More specifically, WTG is a teen coming-out story that in some ways reflects my own experiences. Growing up as a gay kid in the 90s wasn't always easy, especially in a remote little town where I often felt as if I was the only person in the world who felt the way I did. I was a voracious reader, and I could have really benefited from reading about other kids like me, but LGBT fiction for teens was almost unheard of at that time. When I began to notice, a few years ago, that books for gay teens were being published more frequently and that they were being positively received, it made me really happy and got my wheels spinning. I wanted to be part of it.
It's easy to forget that it wasn't very long ago when there were very few gay role models in the media, and although we've made leaps and bounds in that regard, being a gay teenager, even in relatively progressive parts of the world, can still be a scary and isolating experience. The spate of gay teen suicides in recent years tells us that there's still a whole lot to be done to put a stop to anti-gay bullying. The "It Gets Better" campaign was an incredibly powerful and important response to that awful trend, and I wholeheartedly believe that books in which LGBT teens see themselves reflected can have a similarly positive impact.
Tell us a bit about your main character.
Danny is 17 and trying to come to terms with who he is while navigating the expectations of his friends and family. He's spent his whole life in a really small town, but now the future is looming and he has no idea where he's going to end up. When he gets into some trouble and has to find a summer job to make up for it, he discovers a passion for cooking and becomes friends with Lisa, a girl from NYC with some problems of her own.
Do you have a favorite scene?
I really like the scene where Lisa invites Danny to a party at her aunt's summer house. Danny gets a glimpse of a world that he'd love to inhabit, but knows he'll never be part of - I think most of us have had that kind of experience at one time or another.
Can you tell us about your path to publication?
I moved to BC when my partner, who is in the navy, was posted across country. For several reasons, it was the perfect opportunity to attempt writing full-time. In one of those fortuitous moments that you hear about happening to other people but never expect to happen to you, I met my editor, Sarah Harvey with Orca Book Publishers, at a writing class she was teaching. I'd been working on another project - an adult novel - that I was going to use to query agents, but the contact was too great to ignore, so I re-focused my energies onto another idea that became WTG. I submitted it to Sarah and she liked it and agreed to take it on. Working with Sarah was great - she's written several great YA novels of her own and she's a fantastic editor. During the editing process I woke up every day feeling as if I was getting a free Master's level education. It was a great experience and I've just signed a contract with Orca for my second book.
Are there any writing courses or books that you would recommend?
There are lots of great books about writing and writers. I'd definitely recommend ON WRITING by Stephen King - it's part memoir and part advice manual and well worth the read, even for non-fans. Last year for Christmas, my partner gave me a four volume collection of Paris Review interviews which is just incredible - Hemingway, Toni Morrison, Alice Munro... dozens of amazing writers going into detail about their writing lives and histories.
What marketing advice do you have for other authors?
Even authors who have massive marketing budgets backing them up (which most of us don't!) should expect to do some work to market their books. How much effort is really up to the author, but I think a web presence is essential. There's no question that the internet is the greatest book marketing tool in history - most importantly, it gives readers a chance to directly connect with writers, which is amazing. I've made lots of great connections and friendships online - via the Apocalypsies, Twitter, Youtube, etc... and the enthusiasm and information that gets shared is priceless. It can be really daunting to tackle online marketing, so it's important to realize going in that it's impossible to be active on all available platforms, so focus instead on the ones that you enjoy and that you'll actually use! Eventually it stops feeling forced and becomes a genuine and enjoyable process. I recently posted a (tongue in cheek!) vlog about book marketing to the Apocalypsies YouTube channel - I'd love to hear what people think! http://youtu.be/JSMru4iaMqs
Tell us about your upcoming second novel.
I'm so excited about it! TAG ALONG (working title - it'll probably change) is in so many ways a total departure from WAY TO GO. It's a four voice story set over the course of one night. I wanted to bring four very different characters together and see what happened. Chapters are narrated by each of the characters, in sequence, which was a really fun challenge to take on. It's scheduled for a fall 2013 release.
TAG ALONG - SYNOPSIS :
Interviewer's note: I love this back cover excerpt of WAY TO GO:
Maybe Lisa had appeared out of nowhere for a reason. I was kind of like a frog in a fairy tale who needed a kiss from a princess so he could turn into a prince. Only, instead of a frog, I was a might-be-gay kid who needed straightening out, and instead of a princess, she was a cigarette-smoking, tattooed city girl with a bag full of mix tapes. I figured that was close enough.
FOR A CHANCE TO WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED ARC (advance reviewer copy) of WAY TO GO plus a bookmark, please include an e-mail address in the comments to this post by Friday March 23, 2012 at midnight. (writing out AT and DOT). One person will be randomly selected from all the entries. U.S. and Canadian entrants only please.