An Interview with Mindi Scott

courtneybooks, interviews, young adult lit

Sorry for the delay in announcing the Freefall winner! Life has been super hectic. The winner of a copy of Freefall was Liz A., and she has been contacted for her prize. Thanks everyone, for entering!

(There is an international giveaway at the end of this interview. I am just saying.)

Internet, I have been looking forward to this book:







FOREVER.

I think Mindi Scott is awesome and I’ve loved following her publication journey. This book released in October, but I was smack in the middle of 80 million (no exaggeration!) different things and I couldn’t sit down and read it until this month and I would not wish a similar fate upon anyone. It was hard. Anyways, it’s always a dangerous thing when I have to wait to read something. I’ll either lose interest in the novel or put it on such a high pedastal, it’s doomed to fail. Not fair, I know, but life isn’t fair and if anyone knows that it is SETH MCCOY.

Freefall follows the life and times of Seth McCoy (or maybe call him Dick), after the death of his best friend, Isaac. Seth and Isaac were part of the same band–The Real McCoys–and they both partied hard. One night, Isaac drinks way too much… and ends up choking to death on his own vomit.

Needless to say, Seth spirals hard. He can’t shake the feeling he’s responsible for Isaac’s death. He’s bored of helping his egocentric friend Daniel supply booze for the rich kids at school who think they’re both trailer trash wastes of space. He often binge drinks before playing gigs to cope with stage fright as well as the general pressure his bandmates pile on him. After bender # whatever, he winds up waking up to dead Isaac’s on-and-off again girlfriend, Kendall.

Oops.

Clearly, things need to change, and that’s when this book begins, with Seth making two positive choices: to stop drinking and commit himself to an intense class schedule so he can graduate. Both of these decisions are the beginning of the rest of his life. In one of the elective classes he attends to boost his grade point average–Interpersonal Communications–he comes face to face with Rosetta, a beautiful girl he may or may not have nearly run over with his car. Thankfully, she gets over it and what follows is a really tender and sharp debut about two similarly wounded people coming together to bring out the best in themselves.

I am happy to report that there was not a trace of fail in the pages of Freefall. It was funny, engaging and romantic and I adored the voice; Seth’s quick wit–spot on and cleverly timed–made me chuckle repeatedly and laughing out loud with a book is always a special thing. Rosetta was a sweet and slightly mysterious love interest and the gradual build of Seth’s relationship with her felt natural. The way she coped with her own tragic past gave Seth new insights on how he could cope with his own, and in both of them, I got the sense of two people who needed each other and were good for each other. Kendall is quite possibly one of my most favourite secondary characters EVER. She stole every scene she was in. I was pretty much rooting for every single one of these people. I wanted them all to be happy.

I loved watching Seth try to discern the best course of action for himself and the people he cared about and his stumbles along the way were so genuine. I adored the sincerity in his screw-ups and his attempts to fix them. That’s another good word for Seth and his story as a whole: it’s sincere. It’s sincere and it’s hopeful, despite the heavy subject matter. Overall, Freefall to me, is the epitome of a feel good novel. I felt good when I read it. I felt good after I finished it. And if you read it–and you should–I think you will too.

Which is why I am giving a copy away! YOU MUST HAVE THIS BOOK, INTERNET. But first, I’m thrilled to say that Mindi Scott totally agreed to let me interview her about its development and being a writer and I hope you enjoy what she had to say as much as I did.


AN INTERVIEW WITH MINDI SCOTT



Congrats on your rockin’ debut, Freefall! I adored it. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to publication?

Thank you so much, Courtney!

My journey to publication went like this: I tried NaNoWriMo in 2003, wrote around 20,000 words, and quit. I decided that I wanted to make writing novels a part of my regular life; not just a thing that took over completely the month of November. The following spring, I quit my full-time job and started working part-time so I could write more. Fall 2004, I enrolled in a novel-writing program at the University of Washington where I completed my first manuscript, for which I went on to collect 75 agent rejections. I then wrote the book that become Freefall from August 2006 to February 2008. I spent all of 2008 collecting agent rejections (over 75 this time), and signed with my agent in January 2009. He sold it to Simon Pulse that May and it came out in October 2010.

So, yeah, that’s a pretty passionless paragraph right there. My journey wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy, but I can be sappy about it now and say that I’m grateful for suffering. I’m a better writer as a result, I adore my agent and editor, and I’m happy, happy, happy that everything turned out this way!

That is not a passionless paragraph at all. As a reader and fan, I’m happy it turned out this way too. :) How does it feel to have your book out there and read and if you could go back in time and tell pre-pub Mindi one thing, what would it be?

It feels exciting, gratifying, overwhelming, terrifying, surreal. Now that the book has been out for three months, sometimes it almost feels kind of . . . normal now. I imagine all the emotions will be out again in full force for a book 2, though.

As far as going back in time, oh man. Time travel gets me all flummoxed. Like, if I went back and gave pre-pub Mindi some encouragement that it will happen eventually, would her misery cease, and thus her hard work? If I gave her friendly suggestions about how to better manage her time (for example), would she be stubborn? I just don’t know what she would do! And if I went back in time to meet her at all, what would that do to the space-time continuum? I mean, I’ve seen Back to the Future! That stuff is tricky.

Hah! Good point. Seth is a wonderful character. I loved him. He’s totally sincere and a total riot–his quips had me laughing out loud. You wrote a wonderful guest blog on what it was like to write a guy POV over at Me On Books and I’d like to touch on that topic further, so this question comes in two parts: A. what was the most surprising thing about writing Seth? And B. Who are some of your favourite YA male protagonists written by women?

I’m glad you loved him! Me too! I think the most surprising thing about writing Seth was realizing that I really loved this kid, but that I would not have liked him at all in high school. In a weird way, that realization increased my empathy toward people, in general. For reals! Because, sure, some people out there really are dicks, but many are just going through stuff, you know? Seth showed me that. That’s how swell he is.

Some of my favorite YA male protagonists written by women are Robin from What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones, Blake from Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan, Tyler from Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, and Nick from I Know It’s Over by C.K. Kelly Martin.

Great choices! I love C.K. Kelly Martin’s stuff. The secondary characters in Freefall are very vividly drawn. Kendall is my favourite–she is AWESOME–so I have to know: did her character evolve much from the first to final draft? And if so, how so?

Kendall was pretty much always Kendall, but in the earliest draft, she was Extreme Kendall and Seth’s main antagonist. She was very brash and every single scene in which she appeared was a snark fest. She also despised dead Isaac and didn’t care that Seth knew it. Fire cracker, that girl.

One of my critique partners during that time (author John C. Ford), suggested that Kendall would be better utilized if she actually had her own tie to Isaac. I fought that suggestion at first because I liked Kendall hating on Isaac. But then I decided to make her Isaac’s long-time-girlfriend. When I reworked all her scenes to reflect this very major change, everything fell into place. She was still Kendall, but she went from being this girl who turned up periodically to annoy Seth to someone who turned up to maybe not always annoy him, who was experiencing the same loss as he. It changed everything between them and made Kendall (in my opinion) the most important character in helping Seth come to terms with what happened to Isaac.




Watch the Freefall book trailer!



And she’s still a fire cracker! Freefall touches on a variety of issues without ever seeming overstuffed or coming across as heavy-handed or forced. There’s drug use, death, sex, class, dealing with phobias. Did you worry about how you’d balance them all out? What are your main concerns as a writer when you approach these topics, if any? What advice would you give to a writer who wants to explore darker, edgier topics?

I didn’t really have conscious thoughts about balancing these things; I simply included whatever I felt was realistic for my characters. It was important to me that my approach was always honest. Sometimes characters don’t do the honorable thing, but that’s part of what makes them real.

The advice I would give to a writer who wants to explore darker, edgier topics is to go for it and to be real. Don’t force “lessons.” I beg of you! Don’t force anything, actually. It never really works, right?

You’ll get no argument from me. What I liked about Rosetta was that she was quirky and interesting without ever veering into the realm of The Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Was there anything you were conscious of NOT wanting to do/steer clear of while you were developing her?

Aww! Thank you for saying that! One thing that not everyone knows is that Rosetta was originally going to be the star of this novel. Which would have made Seth the love interest. He could have been Rosetta’s Depressed Pixie Dream Boy. Or whatever. :-D

When I made the switch very early on, I realized that Rosetta’s phobia and goals were driving (ha) everything even though I’d given this story to Seth to tell. I decide that I had to stop it. I had to be fair to the narrator I’d chosen and put the major focus on his arc.

So I guess I would say that the things I became most conscious of were not letting Rosetta take over the novel and not making solving her issues the true focus. As much as I might have liked to, putting Rosetta on Seth’s timeline would not have been realistic for her experiences; some problems take more time to solve than others.

I agree with you. I loved the way you handled Rosetta’s arc. What was your favourite scene to write? What was the hardest?

It’s difficult to pick, but one of my favorites to write was actually two shorts scenes (pages 40-45) when Seth walks into Daniel’s place and misinterprets what he’s seeing. I think it’s really the first time we get a sense of the trauma Seth experienced from Isaac’s death and it’s his first major turning point. Obviously, it isn’t a pleasant thing for him to go through, but I’ve always liked it because it’s like you can pin-point that this is where he starts to change. Plus, I love to write intense scenes where characters experience their strongest emotions.

The hardest scenes for me to write were the ones where Seth is hanging out with his band(s). It wasn’t that what was happening was so difficult to put into words; it’s just that I find it a bit torturous to have to maneuver four characters through a scene.

Seth plays in two bands, THE REAL MCCOYS and SCRATCHING AT THE 8-BALL. What do these guys sound like? Can you give us some musical points of reference?

The Real McCoys are rockabilly, whose original roots are the likes of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. I picture their band sounding a little like Rattled Roosters, Reverend Horton Heat, or Season of Nightmares. The latter two are actually psychobilly, not rockabilly, so clearly you shouldn’t listen to me!

In the book, Xander tells Seth that Scratching at the 8-Ball has “a pop-punk sound–heavier on the punk” and Seth tells readers that they have “loud, fast guitars and drums” and were “obviously inspired by old Green Day or the Offspring.” I, personally, picture their music like My Chemical Romance with the vocals of The Graduate (not a pop-punk band). Again, you should probably trust Seth and Xander, though!

Either way–I get new music to check out. :) What five books have influenced you most as a writer, YA or otherwise?

MERMAIDS by Patty Dann
HOMECOMING by Cynthia Voigt
THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by JD Salinger
LOOKING FOR ALASKA by John Green
Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus







What are you working on now and where can we find you on the web?

Right now I’m working on a dark YA about an almost-sixteen-year-old girl who can’t tell the truth out of fear of what it will cost her. As it happens, she is a member of a 21-member dance team and lives with her family of seven. Remember what I said for question #7 about maneuvering lots of people in a scene? Yeah. Wow.

You can find me at MindiScott.com, Twitter, and The Contemps!

Yay! Sounds exciting! Anything else you want to add?

Thank you so much for having me, Courtney, and for asking such thoughtful questions. And for reading my book and getting it and telling others. I’m always gushing because your writing truly inspires me, so this has been an honor. An honor, I say!

The honor is all mine, Mindi! I loved Freefall and I’m excited to be following your career. Thank you so much for your time and for indulging my questions!

***


NOW! What about that giveaway I totally mentioned at the start of this post? Should I get to that? I think I should. If you would like to win a copy of Freefall, here’s what you gotta do:


1. Live anywhere The Book Depository ships! This contest is pretty international. For a list of countries The Book Depository ships to, check out this page on their website.
2. Comment on this post! If you’re reading from a feed (Facebook, LJ, GoodReads etc.) do not comment over there–those entries will not be counted, sorry!



Easy, right? You have until February 1st to enter. The winner will be contacted on February 2nd and they will have 24 hours to give me the deets I need to get the book out to them before a new winner is contacted.

What more can I say, people? READ THIS BOOK.

In case you couldn’t tell, it’s great.