A few months ago, I read and adored Carrie Ryan's Forest of Hands and Teeth. (Read my review of Forest of Hands and Teeth here.) It was a thrilling read. Simply put it was unputdownable. So I am very pleased to bring you my interview with Carrie Ryan. You may visit her on the web. She blogs at Carrie's Procrastinatory Outlet.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and your journey towards becoming a published author?
I started writing my first novel right before graduating from college (I’d thought I was too young before then – little did I know!). My first year out of school I taught and ended up writing two novels, neither of which I tried really hard to sell. Then I stopped writing for about four years while I applied to and went to law school. It was after I’d been practicing law for a few months that I decided I really wanted to try writing again. I realized I wished I hadn’t stopped writing all those years before and I didn’t want to wake up in ten years wondering why I still hadn’t tried to go after my dream.
So in early 2006 I decided that I’d give it a go! I started and stopped a few different novel ideas and even subbed one partial. I started writing The Forest of Hands and Teeth in late 2006 and ended up selling it about a year later. A year after that, in the fall of 2008, I quit my law job to write full time! It’s been a pretty crazy experience so far!!
What inspired you to write The Forest of Hands and Teeth?
My fiancé told me I should write what I love. I’d been casting around for a new story idea for NaNoWriMo and I realized I’d been reading a lot of dark apocalypse and post-apocalypse books but had been writing light chick lit. So I decided I’d take a risk and trying writing something totally different than usual for me. I really loved the idea of what stories we remember and what we pass down and I wondered what would happen to a society that had been totally cut off – what they’d remember and what they’d have lost to history.
How long did it take to write?
I started writing The Forest of Hands and Teeth for NaNoWriMo in 2006 and finished it in April 2007, so it took me about 5-6 months to write the first draft. Then I revised it for about 3-4 months before I started querying agents.
What came first, the premise or the characters? How important was it for you to have resonating characters that readers care about?
It’s hard for me to remember what came first. I had a vague idea for the world but hadn’t really planned to do anything with it. Then I was walking home from work one night when the first line came to me and that’s when I first thought about Mary. I wrote about a third of the book in two weeks so I guess I already had the world but it took the character for me to really start writing.
I really wanted the characters to resonate with readers (especially since it’s told form the first person point of view) but I had no idea if I’d accomplished it until I started reading the book out loud to my fiancé. I think creating characters that resonate is really hard because there will always be readers who just don’t think it works!
Do you have a favorite scene or a favorite quote from the novel? What is your favorite bit that you’re extra-proud to have written?
Some of my favorite scenes are spoilers – lol. I still really love the first line – the opening never changed during the entire revision process. I think part of what I love about it is that it really seemed to come out of nowhere – was totally unexpected and it’s what really started it all.
Do you share Mary’s love of the ocean?
I really do – I love everything about it (except jellyfish).
What was your first impression of the cover art for The Forest of Hands and Teeth?
It wasn’t at all what I was expecting but I love it. My editor told me she was going for something lush and romantic. At that time most YA covers didn’t have people’s faces on it and a lot were iconic (think Stephenie Meyer’s books). So to have a girl and see her face was a shock. But they TOTALLY nailed everything!
What do you love about writing? What do you find the easiest? What do you find the hardest?
I love it when I lose myself in the writing – when the words just flow. That’s usually when it’s easiest to write. At the same time, there are days when it’s just hard to get lost in the story – that’s always the hardest!
Can you describe what a typical day is like as a writer?
I joked the other day on twitter that my day was basically: “typitty type type type. Pause. Ponder. Delete delete. Take sip of diet coke. Ponder. Type type type. Pause. Delete.” And that’s pretty much it. I think everyone had a different process. For me, when I’m writing I try to reach a certain number of words a day and when I’m revising I pretty much dedicate all my time to it.
Can you tell us anything about your current work in progress? Do you have any upcoming releases?
Right now I’m revising The Dead-Tossed Waves which is the companion/sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth and is coming out in Spring 2010. There will also be a third book in the series out in Spring 2011. Right now pretty much all I can share about the companion is that it’s written in a different point of view and starts after the end of the first book.
How do you find the time—do you find the time—to keep reading? Do you have any recent favorites?
I LOVE to read and I make time for it! I read every night before bed and if I finish work early for the day I’ll usually pick up a book. Some recent favorites have been Dull Boy by Sarah Cross (hilarious!) and the next in Ally Carter’s series, Don’t Judge a Girl by her Cover.
If you had twenty-four hours, a time machine, and a limitless supply of money, what would you want to do?
What a great question! I’m sure I’ll change my mind on this a million times, but right now I’d go to a gorgeous island with a huge stack of books and have the ability to raise a little flag when I wanted something to drink or eat as I sat on the beach reading. Maybe doing a little scuba diving in the afternoon before napping ☺
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Saturday Review of Books: October 25, 2014
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