Thursday, August 5, 2010

Interview with YA paranormal author Judith Graves

Please welcome my special guest, YA paranormal author Judith Graves. Her first novel, Under My Skin, was published by Leap Books last March. Besides being an author, Judith works as a library technician and is also a singer/song writer. In addition, she keeps a popular blog called, rather appropiately, Wolfy Chicks: The Blog with Bite.

A reader's guide for Under My Skin can be found here. The second book in her series, Second Skin, will be published early next year by Leap Books. If you want to take a peak at the cover, click here.

Thanks for this interview, Judith. What was your inspiration for Under My Skin?

I’ve always been keen on the folklore from different regions. I enjoy discovering the similarities, and the variations, between our cultural / mythological gods and monsters. After reading about the Windigo, a shapeshifter creature from First Nations lore – one that was once human, turned cannibal, and can be destroyed with silver to the heart – I marveled at this alternate version of a werewolf. What would happen, I began to speculate, if these beasties from around the world were to battle over one last bit of unclaimed territory? What then? And from that, UMS (and the Skinned series) developed.

Tell us three words that describe your protagonist.

Feisty. Tempted. Powerful.

I understand the story went through 6 versions during a 4-year period of writing and rewriting. That shows a lot of dedication and commitment. How did you understand that the book was finally ready for submission?

Yeah, lol…UMS was my first novel and I refused to give up on it. The book went through several drafts with my critique group – at which point I sent it out to agents. I received some excellent feedback and revised again. Subbed it out. Got a contract. Then UMS was further revised under the guidance of my editor, Susan Yates. So, while it had been contracted, it still needed tweaks. The moral of the story is…the end really is just the beginning.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this novel?

For me, voice, dialogue and setting the tone came easily. What I consistently struggled with was plot – choosing the best scenes to show, rather than tell, the story. I learned a lot about increasing impact and drama by deciding what was worth keeping and what was mere filler.

What is your writing schedule like?

I’m religious about my writing, because I have to be. I write at 5:00am until I have to get ready for work (I’m a library technician in an elementary school), I write on my lunch break and if I’m really keen, I’ll tweak that day’s work before I hit the hay.

Please share with my readers a bit about your road to publication. How did you find Leap Books?

I originally contracted with Climbing Rose, the YA line from The Wild Rose Press, but when they announced the line was closing I elected to take a Leap of faith and join Laurie Edwards (another TWRP author) who had started her own small publishing house. She’s an amazing woman and I’m proud to be with a growing company like Leap.

When you first submitted the manuscript, did you mention it was the first book in a series or did the publisher suggest the series?

I had mentioned the book was one of three, but didn’t expand on the notion, just tagged on the info. I don’t know if that was a deciding factor, but both TWRP and Leap were interested in the other stories. I signed a contract for the remaining two novels shortly after my moving to Leap.

What is your greatest challenge as an author?

Learning my craft will always challenge me, but as a person – with a life outside of writing – my greatest challenge is finding a balance between writing and the real world. At times one or the other will take precedence – there are deadlines, there are crisis moments – but the trick is to blend both worlds together so neither collapses.

What is the single most important tip of advice you’d give new writers?

Let your first draft be crappy. But get it DONE.

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

See previous answer.

What’s next for Judith Graves?

October is going to be a busy month. I’m touring schools around Alberta with the Young Alberta Book Socieity’s Taleblazers Festival, I’m presenting at the Pure Speculation Festival in Edmonton, and I’m organizing a wicked cool blog tour: 15 YA paranormal authors – 15 days. The Crossroads Tour: This Halloween, meet us at the Crossroads. For more info, check out my website:

Thanks so much for having me!!

Thanks, Judith, and good luck with your series!


Kristi Bernard said...

This sounds like a really good read. I love a good werewolf book. Congratulations and good look with your series.

madcapmaggie said...

Judith, so nice to meet you -- this book sounds like one I'd really enjoy .. am putting it on my to read list.

So interesting to read about another author who struggles with plot. Do you ever outline or do you just start writing with the broad arc of the story in your head or what? And how much of the world view did you have laid out before you started writing?

Janet Ann Collins said...

Good interview. It's nice to be reminded I'm not the only writer with time constraints.

Judith Graves said...

Hi everyone, thanks for commenting.

Kristi: YES! Weres rule. ;)

madcapmaggie: I started with the overall arc of the series, and yes, I plot things out to a certain extent. But characters always surprise you. I'm also big on world building.

Janet: Ah, yes...time. It can be a curse. Not enough makes you frantic and too much makes you procrastinate. ;)

Mayra Calvani said...

Thanks, Ladies, for visiting!

It's a pleasure having you on my blog, Judith.

I also love wolves and werewolf novels. In fact, I have a werewolf novel sitting in my drawer, waiting... I have about 20K words, so maybe one day I'll finish it--if I can manage to be done with about a zillion other projects first! :-)

Nicole weaver said...

Hi Mayra,

Great interview! It is good to know I am not the only one who works full-time and needs to find time to write. I too spend most of my lunch time writing.
I admire your dedication to finding to finding time to write! You should be very proud of yourself.

Nicole Weaver

Irene Sonia Switankowsky-Roth said...


What a great interview! I know all too well how hard it is to fit writing into our lives of work. I have to do the same. Sometimes, I have over 200 students a semester!

I love the book. I will make sure that I read it. Thanks for your inspiration Judith.

Irene Roth

Margot Finke said...

I must admit that paranormal stories are not my cup of tea, but this one does look intriguing. Love the cover.

Best of luck with it, mate. Great interview, Mayra.

Books for Kids - Manuscript Critiques

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm sdtill trying to finish my first full novel. If I had a "real' job. I'd probably never get it written.
J. Aday Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Writer
Children's Book Author & Inspirational Spokesperson
Klutzy Kantor & Marta Gargantuan Wings available in August 2010

Susan J. Berger said...

Great Interview.
I totally agree with your advice Judith. You can't revise till you finish it.
Most of us have time constraints and I admire your dedication it keeping such regular hours.

I took a course once at UCLA from Sonia Levitin, a children's author I admire. I asked her how she managed it with four children. She said one of her books took her seven years, but she did finish it and it was published.
I am awed that you came up with a series. You rock

Suzanne Lieurance said...

Hey, Mayra,

I talked to Judith Graves not long ago on my show, Book Bites for Kids - so it was nice to see you've also interviewed her. We need to get her book reviewed for the National Writing for Children Center next.

I think it's wonderful that Judith points out how she is religious about her writing and gets up every morning at 5:00 to write! She just proves the point that if you WANT to write a book, you'll FIND the time to do it!

Great interviews, Mayra! Keep 'em coming!

N. R. Williams said...

I found you through Realms of Thought and I'm glad I did. I enjoyed reading how you came up with a fairly new monster for your series. I like inventing monsters as well and borrow from whatever source suits me. My epic fantasy is not strictly a YA, but I have written it so everyone can enjoy it.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author