My friend M.B. (that stands for MaryBeth) Mulhall has written a novel called Near Death. As one of the first readers of this book, I can tell you it’s a great little YA romance/adventure, and well worth the read. The book follows a young girl named Aya, who’s making a habit of escaping deadly situations. Her secret? She’s got a fallen Angel of Death on her side. This post is part of the blog tour for the book, and I hope it helps her sell oodles and oodles of books. If it does, I’m asking M.B. for a loan. (And I’m sure I’m supposed to put up a blog tour badge or something. Maybe eventually.)
M.B. has kindly consented to answer 10 probing, thought-provoking, incisive questions. And here’s the fun part: her answers are even better than the questions. Take it from me: M.B. Mulhall is a name to watch in the YA indie scene.
Without further ado, meet MaryBeth:
1) Tell us a little bit about what attracted you to Aya as a character. Was she based on someone (or an amalgam of people) you know or knew in your life?
Who said you’re allowed to use big words with me? Heh.
Nope. She’s not based on anyone I actually know. I practically minored in Japanese while in college and I watched a lot of anime and read a lot of manga so she probably came from those things. I think I always liked the quiet girls who had that spark of strength that comes out in times of need. Know what I mean?
2) Sara is great as an annoying, potentially dangerous character. Tell us a little bit about how it felt to write her? Did you get to cut loose a little, mentally or emotionally when you were writing her?
Ooh Sara, Sara, Sara.
Sara let me release the inner bitch a bit. Everyone always claims I’m soooo nice (except maybe you Bob 😀 ) but really, there’s that catty bitchy chick inside that makes snide comments in my head that I’m too polite to say out loud. So writing for Sara was a bit … cathartic for me, I suppose.
3) Tell us a little bit about your writing and editing process. Did you have a daily quota you wanted to meet when you were writing a rough draft? And how many edits did you go through before you called it done?
My writing process is always just get it done. I don’t give myself quotas to hit, on a daily basis anyhow. Near Death, like most of the stuff I write, started during NaNoWriMo, so my only goal was to hit the 50k word mark in one month. It took another month and a half or so for me to write the other 20k+ and finish up telling the story. As for the edits, I want to say there were five or six run-throughs of the manuscript. I had several sets of beta readers throughout the process and their comments and critiques were what prompted the editing.
4) I know you enjoy a wide variety of fiction, but you really love YA. Talk about three authors who influenced you and why.
Number one, without a doubt, is the amazingly talented Hannah Moskowitz. Not only does she write these emotional, deep, gripping stories, but the girl is still in college! Hannah is who I wish I had been at that age.
Another YA author that influences me would be Suzanne Collins of Hunger Games fame. I like that she didn’t shy away from a story with difficult topics and politics. She has strong a strong female character and I can really relate to that as many of my stories have the same. I also love that YA is not all she has written. She has an amazing Middle Grade series that I don’t think gets enough press either. I dig multi-talented folks!
One more huh? Ugh! How to pick just one? I guess I’ll have to go with Maggie Stiefvater. I love her writing style and the Irish/Celtic twists she works into many of her stories. She has a lyrical voice in her writing and many of her works inspire me to look more into the legends and creatures she writes about. In fact, there’s a book idea brewing that came from something I found during one of those research sessions.
5) The pdf I read was really well-put-together. It looks like you put the same amount of thought into the book’s design as you did the writing. What was your visual ideal for the finished product, and do you think you hit the mark?
I wanted the book to look as professional as it could, which isn’t as easy as it sounds when you’re self-publishing. It took me a long time to work it all out.
I’ve done a lot of e-book reading and found I disliked it when the chapters run together. I wanted chapters to start fresh on a new page, just like a print book. I wanted scene breaks to be a little more interesting than just three stars, hence the skull and crossbones. I think, along with the stunning cover design of Danielle Corso, that I was able to deliver an attractive and captivating professional looking product.
6) You made a conscious decision to publish Near Death independently. Why?
I knew several people that were having good success with self-publishing and I liked the idea of having control of all aspects of the process. It really showed me all the work that goes into getting a finished product out there. Also, I know the YA market is very competitive right now and I thought that there could be a perk to pitching a novel (the traditional way) later and be able to tell them I already have a fan base.
7) What was the biggest thing you learned from publishing independently, and what would you do differently?
I learned that it’s a long tedious process! There’s so much that goes into it, so much more than just the writing of the novel. There’s the editing, the re-reading, the marketing, the promotion, book trailers, giveaways, etc. etc. It really could be a full time job for an indie author. What would I do differently? Perhaps a secondary editor. Mine was very easy to work with and super speedy in getting things back to me, but they’re only human and some things were missed and perhaps having another editor take a look after would have helped to catch those things.
8) How hard is it for you to embrace that sort of younger mentality in characters that are YA? When I write, I almost have to get “in character” with some of the make-believe people I’m writing about. Did you have to do anything like that for your cast?
Umm, if you’ve had any real discussions with me, it’s not hard to see that I am silly and immature at times (fart jokes still make me laugh, people) and while I haven’t been in high school in oooh over 15 years, I still feel like I haven’t been gone that long. Working with kids and reading a lot of YA works helps keep me in that frame of mind as well. Besides, YA literature is something that adults can relate to because we all went through those first loves, nervousness about high school, peer pressure, etc. You may not remember the names of teachers or students, but I bet you remember the first time someone showed you attention in a romantic way or those awkward teenage feelings while going through puberty, and so on. I do have to make a conscious effort to keep the characters talking young, but I think I’ve mastered that more in other novels I’ve written since Near Death.
9) I know you’re hard at work on another manuscript. Tell us a little about it — and when should we expect it?
Just one? Ha! I’ve got 5 other works in varying stages of readiness. The next book to come out though will be my contemporary YA novel, <a href=” http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13415677-tears-of-a-clown”>Tears of a Clown</a>. I love this story so much! It’s ridiculously funny and overdramatic, but still has some good lessons thrown in. I’m hoping to publish by the end of spring/beginning of summer of this year. If you like a good romance and like to laugh, I highly recommend it!
10) Okay, last chance to give us the hard-sell for Near Death — GO!
(Disclaimer: I know they’re important, but I hate pitches! Gah 70k+ words into two sentences? HARD!)
After cheating death twice, Aya finds — with the appearance of her new friend Christoph — that she may be running on borrowed time. Is he there to protect her or to finish the job?