Check This Out: Breaking Sky

Break out your flight suits, kids! Today on the blog, we’re going up, up, and away, with the totally awesome Cori McCarthy. She’s here to talk about her new young adult novel, Breaking Sky, published by Sourcebooks on March 10. Perhaps you’ll recall that Cori was here in 2013 to talk about her first book, The Color of Rain.

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BSky Cover FinalCori is represented by Sarah Davies. Here is the synopsis for Breaking Sky:

In this high-flying, adrenaline-fueled thriller, America’s best hope is the elite teen fighter pilots of the United Star Academy.

Chase Harcourt, call sign “Nyx,” is one of only two pilots chosen to fly the experimental “Streaker” jets at the junior Air Force Academy in the year 2048. She’s tough and impulsive with lightning-fast reactions, but few know the pain and loneliness of her past or the dark secret about her father. All anyone cares about is that Chase aces the upcoming Streaker trials, proving the prototype jet can knock the enemy out of the sky.

But as the world tilts toward war, Chase cracks open a military secret. There’s a third Streaker jet, whose young hotshot pilot, Tristan, can match her on the ground and in the clouds. Chase doesn’t play well with others, but to save her country she may just have to put her life in the hands of the competition.

Exciting, huh? Stay put after the interview for a giveaway announcement.

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Cori: (1) I am restlessly creative. (2) I do not like sweets, desserts, or chocolates, but if you place a bowl of pasta in front of me, beware of losing your fingers. (3) My goal for retirement is to live in the New England woods, writing full time without access to the internet. (4) My two big brothers are my heroes—well, tied with Walt Whitman.

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El Space: Tell us about Breaking Sky. What was the inspiration behind it?
Cori: The inspiration was about ten different elements coming together. I wanted to write about an unlikeable character. I wanted to write about fighter jets and militarized youth. And perhaps most importantly, I wanted to write something fun.

Front CoverEl Space: You’re known for your strong characters. How is Chase different from Rain in The Color of Rain? What aspect of your interior life did you give to Chase? Why?
Cori: Rain is all survivor’s heart, and Chase? Chase is a bit of a jerk. I have, at many points in my life, been a bit of a jerk as well. The problem is that I sometimes become obsessed with my creative ambitions, and I don’t always notice when I’ve hurt someone’s feelings or neglect them. Chase feels as badly about mistreating the people around her as I do, and she is constantly trying to rise above it. But as I have learned over and over again, it’s not easy to change who you are. Harder still to apologize for it in a way that doesn’t sound like an excuse.

El Space: Congrats on the movie rights to your novel being sold to Sony Pictures. How do you wrap your mind around that? What scares or excites you about the thought of being “the next big thing”?
Cori: Thank you! The movie news was as unexpected and as it was exciting, and I’m not sure that I have wrapped my mind around it. There’s an element of Hollywood that just can’t be predicted. Will the movie happen? Yes, no, maybe! I’m along for the ride. As far as the title “the next big thing,” I know less about processing that than I do about Hollywood!

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El Space: You’re also a screenwriter. How did that training enhance your writing of Breaking Sky?
Cori: Screenwriting taught me how to plot. Hands down. If you’re a writer who is having trouble plotting, I highly, highly, highly suggest taking a class or reading a book on writing screenplays.

El Space: Do you or someone you know have a military background? How much research did you have to do to write Breaking Sky?
Cori: I chose the Air Force because my grandfather and father served in the Air Force, and my big brother is currently a Master Sergeant in the Air Force. They inspired me, and then from there I did copious amounts of research. I read firsthand accounts of fighter pilots stretching all the way back to World War I. At the same time, I created a fictional jet and academy so that while I could use my research, I could also set my own rules. I mean, I don’t think anyone could write a book about West Point without having attended West Point, so I made up the United Star Academy and the streaker jets.

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Air Force bombers

Blank TShirtEl Space: I read an article online where a female recruit discussed her participation in basic training in the Air Force. She mentioned:

Around your 5 WOT [week of training], your flight can start designing a flight t-shirt. . . . . Let your shirts’ design represent the essence of your flight.

I love that idea. As an author, you’ve gone through a “basic training” of sorts now that your debut period is over and you have written multiple books. What would you put on a T-shirt to show where you are today—the “essence” of your career?
Cori: What a cool question. I think my t-shirt would say: CHASE RAIN. Beyond being my characters’ names, that’s pretty much what I do every time I sit down to write a book. I pull things out of the air and try to make sense of them. For every book that I’ve sold, there are two more that aren’t going anywhere outside of my computer. Some days writing feels Sisyphean. Some days it’s poetic. Most days? It’s the best job on the planet.

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El Space: What genre do you plan to tackle next?
Cori: For some crazy reason I’ve decided to write a contemporary story told from five different points of view! It’ll be out March 2016 and is called, You Were Here. I’m excited about it but also terrified because there are no flashy speculative fiction tricks. No distracting jets or heartbreaking prostitutes. This is a story that will allow every single person who reads it to peer directly into my soul. Will anyone like it? I have no idea. . . .

I’m betting we will, Cori. Thanks for being my guest.

If you’re looking for Cori, you can find her at the usual places: her website, her author page on Facebook, and Twitter.

Breaking Sky is available here:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Indiebound
Great Lakes Book and Supply

One of you will win a copy of Breaking Sky just by commenting below. The winner will be announced on Thursday, March 26.

Author photo and book cover courtesy of Cori McCarthy. Walt Whitman photo from Wikipedia. Blank t-shirt from youthedesigner.com. U.S. Air Force bombers from osd.dtic.mil. Sisyphus from arrowinflight.wordpress.com.

A Writer’s Process (12b)

Nora_Carpenter_photo_2I’m back, talking with awesome and multitalented Nora Carpenter about young adult fiction. And you’re here too. That’s awesome as well. If you haven’t checked out the first part of the interview, you can click here and do so. Nora’s young adult novel is A Beautiful Kind of Crazy. Are we ready? Then, let’s go!

wocLOGO_OrangeEl Space: In an article at WriteOnCon, Kelly Jensen mentioned three elements to a good realistic young adult novel: world building, authentic characters, and dialogue. In fact she stated:

World-building is not solely about where a book is set, though. It also means developing a dynamic and fluid world within your story.

Would you agree about the necessity of the three elements? How did you go about “developing a dynamic and fluid world” in your book?
Nora: I 100% agree that a character’s “world” encompasses not just his outer environment, but also his inner world—in other words, the people with whom he comes into contact, his relationships with those people, how those people’s worldviews are a result of their environment, and how they impact the protagonist, etc.

Lego-people-lego-8853733-2560-1718Once we get past setting—okay, we’re in a boarding school . . . or at a homeless shelter . . . or in a large city—those places have to feel real. Ultimately, it’s the characters that populate those places that make the worlds come alive. They have to talk, think, and act like people who would be in those settings in real life. And out-of-place characters have to be explained.

I’m from a small, rural town. Like, really small and really rural. I graduated with 60 kids, and we drove an hour across windy roads to get to the mall. Kids from other schools in West Virginia made fun of us for being hillbillies! Anyway, I’ve always been interested in how people act and why, and I have very clear memories of high school. My parents still live where I grew up. So, in some ways I relied a lot on experience and memory in building Cay’s inner world. Her town is peppered with people of different mindsets—a lot of them conservative, but not all, because a small town where everyone is über conservative is not realistic, either. But they all have explanations for why they think/act they way they do. And those are the people who are influencing Cay, which helps explain what’s going on in her head.

I love Jensen’s point about real people not being consistent. It’s so true. Of course, you don’t want a character being wildly inconsistent, but small inconsistencies reflect real life and make characters come alive. In A Beautiful Kind of Crazy for example, Cay’s dad cares a lot about his kids, and Cay respects him a lot. But he doesn’t have the best relationship with Cay’s sister, Skye, because their personalities are so different. Like a real person, he’s not intrinsically bad, but he sometimes behaves in ways that bother Cay and so cause tension.

lego peoplePretty much every character in the book is flawed in some way. I love flawed characters, because everyone—EVERYONE—in real life has flaws. And I am really interested in the idea of trying to be a “decent person,” while at the same time discovering that “decency” is often subjective and even fluid. And what happens when you think you’re a pretty good person, but then you do something shameful, or something you think might be shameful, and does it matter if no one knows it was you? And what if it’s something that an apology won’t fix? I think most people struggle with these questions at some point, and they are ideas that A Beautiful Kind of Crazy explores.

143555El Space: Some writers have talked about the lack of contemporary realistic YA fiction. In an article at Entertainment Weekly.com about the movie adaptation of Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume, writer Hillary Busis stated

I realized something else about her [the main character of Tiger Eyes] essential ordinariness: In a modern YA landscape glutted with fantastical dystopias, supernatural romances, brand-name-soaked glamoramas, and hyperbolic tragedy, what makes this heroine remarkable is the fact that she’s not very remarkable at all.

Busis goes on to state:

Trends, of course, are cyclical. I have no doubt that someday soon, the tides could change, ushering in a new wave of regular kid lit that replaces the Katnisses and Trises with characters who are less flashy but no less fascinating.

A Publishing Perspectives article by Dennis Abrams quoted from the Busis article. Yet many commenters took issue with the pronouncement of a lack of “regular kid lit.” How would you respond?
200px-Hunger_gamesNora: There is definitely great realistic fiction out there, but usually it’s the life-or-death fantasy stories like The Hunger Games that are in the public consciousness because of big movie deals. And let’s face it: stories like that are exciting. They are fast-paced, provide a great escape from a stressful world, and, because of the pace, can be emotionally exhilarating. I love a good fantasy novel with complex, interesting characters to go along with the exciting plot. I can tear through those things! I think young readers especially like stories like that because they imagine themselves as the protagonists. Middle and high school can be tough, so who doesn’t want to fantasize about what it would be like to save the world?

I’m not going to say that one genre is more important than the other, because I think we need all types of books because there are all types of readers. But realistic fiction is extremely important, not only to provide relatable characters in situations similar to readers’, but also to provide relatable characters in very different situations. Entering into a world of poverty or wealth or depression or anything different from their own circumstance can be enlightening and encouraging for young readers. Similarly, recognizing that characters have problems similar to theirs—and reading about how characters deal with them, or don’t—can be so healing for kids.

At the end of the day, no matter what the genre, I think a middle grade or young adult book is successful if it connects with a reader, if it makes her think without offering answers or preaching, and if it provides even a glimmer of hope.

Thanks, Nora, for hanging out on the blog yesterday and today!

Got questions for Nora? You know what to do. . . . While you ponder what questions to ask, I’ll leave you with this question from LOL Cats:

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Book covers from Goodreads. Lego people photos from fanpop.com and a-jenterprises.com.