Here is the blurb from Goodreads:
Ben could date anyone he wants, but he only has eyes for the new girl — sarcastic free-spirit, Ani. Luckily for Ben, Ani wants him too. She’s everything Ben could ever imagine. Everything he could ever want.
But that all changes after the party. The one Ben misses. The one Ani goes to alone.
Now Ani isn’t the girl she used to be, and Ben can’t sort out the truth from the lies. What really happened, and who is to blame?
Ben wants to help her, but she refuses to be helped. The more she pushes Ben away, the more he wonders if there’s anything he can do to save the girl he loves.
You can check out my book review of FAULT LINE here.
Christa graciously agreed to join me for an author interview about FAULT LINE, as well as her experience as a writer, and even her The Voices and Faces Project Workshops. Not only that, but she has offered an autographed, signed hardcover of FAULT LINE for a lucky reader to win.
This interview does refer directly to the topic this book is about. If you've been around the internet and blogosphere much, you've likely already learned what the topic is about. Pretty much anyone with active brain cells can deduce what the topic is, given Christa's volunteer work and platform. If you don't mind reading about that, the rest of the interview will not ruin your reading of the book. Read away! It's a great interview. Otherwise, stop reading now, go read the book, then come back and read this interview. You can still scroll to the bottom and enter to win the signed copy of FAULT LINE.
Without further stalling, I welcome Christa Desir, brave and bold author with an amazing panache for brilliant writing. Christa, thank you for agreeing to do this author interview. I will try not to fanboy too much, but SQUEEE, you're my new favorite author, so, like, EEEEP, and stuff.
*nothing but crickets*
1. FAULT LINE is your debut novel. Is this the first novel you've written? How did this all happen? Can you share your agent offer of rep to publishing contract story? Also, since this book is unusual, in that it came out of a workshop experience, can you elaborate on how that worked? (Click the book cover to add this to your TBR pile on Goodreads)
It's not the first novel I wrote. I wrote a crazy game book first that I revised and rewrote to draft 76 before I decided to trunk it. While I was working on that book from hell, I attended a writing workshop for rape survivors. In that workshop, one of the exercises was to write a scene from the POV of a different gender or sexual orientation. When I was doing it, Ben sort of crawled into my head and wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote his story.
So my first book was out on sub with a couple of full requests, but I'd sort of lost hope for it. And Fault Line was a better book. I just knew it. So I queried it to five of my top agents. I got offer of reps from three of them, and I chose Sarah LaPolla because she planted her flag in dark, edgy books and understood what I wanted to do with this book, where it came from, my own story as a survivor, and all that it could be.
We went back and forth on whether I should fix the game book and put that on submission with editors first, but in the end, Sarah and I decided that Fault Line was sort of the book of my heart. I didn't have much hope for it, honestly. It was short, dark, didn't have a happy ending, was told from a boy's POV, was pretty graphic, etc. I always knew if it went forward, I'd give half the money from all of it back to survivors so we could do more writing workshops.
Less than a month after we went on sub, Simon Pulse called and said they wanted it. It was amazing and so unexpected. My publisher and editors at Pulse have championed this book from the beginning. Taken it on knowing that it would be difficult to get into schools, libraries, etc. They believed in it and I couldn't be more grateful.
And so I paid for another survivor writing workshop with my advance, then I did an IndieGoGo fundraiser to be able to do a workshop in NYC (happening in May 2014), and all of this is because of the writing and publishing community. People ask me what success for this book looks like: it's exceeded my wildest expectations. Two testimonial writing workshops have come out of it, I just sold audio rights for the book so that money will be poured into a third workshop, etc. I couldn't ask for more and am incredibly grateful for the mountain of support I've gotten for this difficult book.
2. BLEED LIKE ME is coming out next. Can you tell us anything about it or is it all sekrit things and such? (Click the book cover to add this to your TBR pile on Goodreads)
I love this book. Still, even when I'm just now doing final pass pages and should be sick of it, I love it. It's about two messed-up teenagers who get involved and their relationship becomes way dysfunctional and drags them further into a crap salad. It's what I call my Sid and Nancy YA. There's YA out there where two troubled teens get together and pull each other out of the mess. This book is not that. It's an exploration of when a relationship pulls you further down. When you lose yourself in someone else to the point of it being dangerous for both of you. I don't know. Not very many people have read it. It's much different than Fault Line in that way, where I had lots of beta readers and agent feedback, etc. This one had only a few betas and my agent and editor. And my editor and I changed something pretty significant in it so it's really only the two of us who are in on it. I'm such an extrovert, I covet feedback all the time. But there's something magical about how this book is going to land in people's hands with no one but my editor and I knowing how it all ends.
3. What does a typical writing day look like for you? Do you have a daily word count goal? If so, how many words per day?
Right now, I write every morning from 5-7am. I'm a romance editor for my day job so I spend the rest of the day doing that. I write on the weekends sometimes. I write on holiday. I write at night sometimes. Then I won't write for months. That's the way of it for me. I am crazy prolific in the fall and winter and then won't write a word for months. This is not a system to model. It's what works for me. I think different things work for everyone. I don't follow rules. I fall in love with something and write it. Then I spend a few months fixing it. Then I putz around and read lots and wait for another idea to come. I have many novels drafted that don't work. I'm sitting on them, waiting for the time when I know how to fix them. I have a few novels that are ready to go on submission, but my agent and I are sort of figuring out what to do with them.
4. How do you edit a WIP (Work In Progress)? Do you revise cover to cover? Do you target specific things? (adverbs, passive voice, dialogue, etc.)
I do edit cover to cover. I go in. I read through, I fix things, I go through the whole book. I send it to my CPs. I get their feedback. I go back in again. I fix cover to cover. I send it to my teen betas. I get their feedback. I go back in again. Then I send it to my agent. I'm rarely 100% happy with it, but I don't think authors ever are. And I have a great relationship with my editor, so I know she'll be able to see something and suggest ways to fix it or suggest what isn't working so I can see the forest through the trees a bit better.
5. How do you find and create a character? Do you hear their voice while you're writing, or even between writing? At what point do you know you've found your character for sure? In FAULT LINE, your MCs and your supporting characters were fleshed out so well. Did that come naturally (side eye/jealous of your talent), or did you have to cultivate them to discover the characters we read in your book?
I struggled with voice a lot when I first started. That's why my game book got revised 76 times. No heart. No voice. Then Ben came, and I stopped struggling with it. I realized I just had to wait for my characters to come to me. I won't write a book without a character in my head, without their world and their friends and their family fleshed out in my brain. And they tell me their story. That's what I think it means to be a pantser. I generally know the plots of my books from a macro perspective, but all the little unexpected things that happen, that's my characters telling me.
6. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Writing a new story (I hope!)? Can you tell us any specifics? Do you have plans already? (beyond BLEED LIKE ME)
*squeezes you for details about current projects*
Well, I did a collaboration with Jolene Perry that sold to Simon Pulse recently called Love Blind. It's about a leader of a girl band with macular degeneration and this shy, troubled boy who she befriends and the course of this friendship over three years. I love collabing with Jolene. She pushes me into an optimistic space that my writing rarely has.
My agent has a few solo projects I've finished. We're sort of deciding what to do with them. One is relentlessly brutal and maybe too dark for YA. One is sort of a YA American Psycho. And the current one I'm writing is about addiction. I also hope to do more collab's with Jo in the future. I don't know where I'll be in five years. I keep wondering if the book I'm writing will be my last, but so far, I still have more stuff to say.
7. YA novels are the new darlings of Hollywood. What are your thoughts on what's come out so far? Are you a closet Hunger Games fan (for example)? Would you like to see any of your books as a movie? If so, which ones? Why? Would you like to be involved in the process? How so?
Gah, this is where I tell you I don't watch movies or TV. I mean, occasionally I'll see movies, but really I'm such a reader and I never think movies do books justice. I've heard good things about the Hunger Games movies. I'll watch them eventually, but it'll be like 2016. LOL.
My books aren't exactly "movie material", you know? Fault Line for sure isn't. Hollywood doesn't really make rape movies like this, I don't think. As for the rest of them, we'll see, I guess. Because I don't watch movies, I don't think I'd really get involved in all of that. I have a hard enough time with feedback as is, to have to take it about a movie that I have so little control over doesn't seem like something I'd want to get into. Like I felt really bad that John Green had to defend that tagline for TFiOS poster. I'm guessing he didn't write it or have one thing to do with it.
This is the hard thing with authors, there are things that aren't in our control that we still have to get the feedback from. Covers, for example. We get little say, but if people don't like your cover, it's not like they're telling the art department. They're telling you. It comes with the territory, but being held accountable for a movie isn't something I'd want to get too involved with.
8. FAULT LINE faces the issue of rape in a very direct and powerful way. I especially love the focus on the aftermath that comes out of the incident at the party. As a survivor of CSA myself, I found it quite believable. As a person who works in mental health, I believe this book honestly portrays survivors reliving their trauma as self-inflicted punishment. Given your background, why did you choose to write about this issue, and what kind of flack have you received in tackling this topic in your debut novel?
Mostly people don't like the ending. Survivors like it. Or they get it. But a lot of people want more closure for Ani, not understanding that rape doesn't just get healed or go away after six months. I wanted to write this book because I had something to say about how rape transforms people beyond the survivor, I had something to say about the issue of culpability, I had something to say about healing and happy endings and the reality that sometimes we "lose" survivors no matter how much we try to make things better for them. And I also wanted boys to read a book where they identified with someone who wasn't a perpetrator, but was really just a kid trying his best.
Also, people want both Ben and Ani to be heroes, which they are not. They're teens dealing with a crappy situation. They do dumb things, they don't do things they should. This isn't a morality book. It's a book about the reality of things. I worked as an advocate for many years, I've seen both Bens and Anis in hospital ERs. Surviving rape is difficult, painful. You take two steps forward and four steps back and you hope that someone is there to hold your hand. There's always this weight, even years afterwards. You heal, but it's not like you're without scars. That's the reality. I didn't want to focus on the perpetrators or getting the bad guys. That happened so rarely in the ERs when I'd go in. I wanted to focus on how rape changes everyone.
9. Ben and Ani hook up pretty fast. Did your MS always move this quickly, or did this come out through the revision process? What does this say about teens today, and would you consider this the norm, or unique to the story you had to tell?
Well, when I first drafted this book, it was maybe 22k. Then I got an agent when it was 34k. We went on submission with it at 39k. The final book was 50k. I originally spent very little time with the love story. But my agent and editor both felt I needed to spend enough time with it so we understood why Ben would stay. But in terms of the pacing, yes, it was very intentional. Clipped scenes that moved fast and skipped over chunks of time. We did this to match the pacing of the second half of the book. All of it is meant to be like a montage for Ben. What he would remember about that time. What it was like before, what it was like after. It was a stylistic choice and I stand by it because of who I was writing for. I wanted this book to be short and hard-hitting because I wanted reluctant readers to give it a chance. To find something in this story that they could engage with and stick to.
10. Ben and Ani want to work out this problem on their own. In fact, they keep the rape secret from parents, family, and teachers/coaches. Ben eventually reached out for more help once he realized it was too big for him. What made you choose this for your book? Have you explored other options? It definitely worked for me, keeping me frantically turning pages.
Well, in my teenage life, I told my parents nothing. Or next to nothing. I wanted to be my own person. And I wanted to make my own mistakes. For Ani, I wanted her to not get her mom involved because of her independence and her feeling of culpability. It took me over ten years to tell my parents I was sexually assaulted. It is a difficult thing to tell anyone, particularly parents who want to protect you so much. And Ani's mom was a single mom who had things of her own she was working through. Disclosing rape is very, very hard...think of the number of people who keep it secret for years. I don't believe my characters acted differently from how many teenagers would act. Particularly considering that Ani held herself responsible for what happened.
And with Ben, I wanted his independence, his Haitian stubbornness, his feeling like this was something he could do himself to be one of his big flaws. And I wanted him to think this wasn't his secret to tell...because many teenagers are faced with that issue in lots of different forms. They know their friends have eating disorders or are cutting or have addiction issues and they think, "this isn't really my business." That's why so much of the current "anti-bullying" curriculum is about engaging teens into being more active bystanders. Think about the kids in Steubenville who watched that girl dragged to three different parties. No one did anything. They took pictures or tweeted them. Teenagers do not like to get adults involved.
Thank you for the chance to discuss your book and your writing process. I'm looking forward to many more books from you, Christa. And, thank you very much for your generous offer to giveaway an autographed HC of FAULT LINE.
You tackled so much. Thank YOU!!!! This was a great interview.
You can find out more about Christa Desir at her website: www.christadesir.com and via her Voices and Faces Project website: http://www.voicesandfaces.org/index.html