Way back in the day, when I was an intern at the much-missed Teen People magazine, this fun chick named Cara Lynn Shultz was one, too. Our paths crossed again every so often at People, but I didn’t know that, like myself, Cara’s long been toiling away at a novel or two. And now we finally get check out Spellbound, Cara’s first effort. TeenWritersBloc.com caught up with her to chat about paranormal pursuits, marketing yourself and making time to write.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer?
I’ve always been a writer/editor, just in a different capacity. I was the Editor-in-Chief of my college newspaper, the Fordham Observer, and after college I worked in magazines as an entertainment journalist and editor. But I didn’t write fiction professionally, just recreationally.
When I was fresh out of college, I used to email my friend Vanessa little stories about characters I came up with who lived in New York. The characters were seniors in college, named Claire and Alex, and Vanessa would read these tales during her commute between Manhattan and the Bronx. Years later, Vanessa moved and she found print-outs of the stories in an old purse, and gave them back to me. I was reminded how much fun I had with these characters, so I took them back out and began playing with them at the end of 2008. So that’s when I “officially” became an author.
Can you give us a quick synopsis of Spellbound? How did you come up with the concept for the book?
After a rough couple of years, Emma Conner moves to New York to live with her aunt and start over at a new school, a posh Upper East Side prep school. As she’s learning to navigate the somewhat shark-infested waters, she finds herself drawn to a classmate, troublemaker Brendan Salinger — and strange things start happening. Streetlamps explode over her head. She has disturbing dreams of herself in another time, and her late brother appears to warn her to stay away from him — or else.
About the concept, I had the characters already, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with them. So, I just started writing with a rough idea of what I wanted to do. I don’t really write with an outline; I kind of let the characters do what they want to do and see where it goes. I knew I wanted to do something paranormal since personally, I’m drawn to that kind of entertainment. And I knew I wanted a romance, since I was a newlywed and my head was filled with hearts and flowers and lollipops at the time. I’ve always been interested in past lives and reincarnation. So I just kind of put that all together.
Do you think kids and teens are especially interested in fantasy these days?
With fantasy, there’s all this possibility and unpredictability. Anything can happen — and anything usually does. It’s fun and unlimited and I think that’s attractive to teens and adults.
Can you talk a bit about your process, from conception to publication? What does a typical writing day look like?
Spellbound, originally, was a stand-alone book — writing a sequel came later. So, after I got my deal, I tweaked things in the first book to set up a sequel. I have a day job, so I don’t start writing in this capacity until night. I start writing around 8 or 9 p.m., and write until about 2 a.m. I’m a better writer at night; I’ve always been that way. On Fridays and Saturdays, I stay up until about 6 a.m., then sleep until noon, then it’s back to writing. There’s so much that inspires me; for this book, I drew heavily on my own teen experiences — and they’re ones that I think, for the most part, are pretty universal. The mean girls who you persecute you for no reason. The all-consuming crushes. Feeling awkward and out of place.
When I write, I write with my headphones on, so music plays a big part in my writing. It’s a huge influence, actually. As I write, I listen to songs that resonated with me in high school — it helps put me back in the headspace of being a teen — and some more current stuff, things I think my characters would like.
What has your path to publication been like?
My media background highlighted the importance of social media, and I’m really active on Twitter and Facebook. I think I’ve been pretty lucky — the YA community is really supportive, smart and dedicated community, and I’ve gotten to know a fair number of bloggers through Twitter.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? What advice would you yourself give aspiring authors?
Keep writing. It’s the best advice I’ve gotten, and the advice I’ve give an aspiring author. Even if you don’t have an idea for a novel, start a blog. Start a Twitter feed. Just stay active.
What was your favorite book when you were a kid/teenager? What are you reading now?
When I was a really little kid, I loved the Little House books. As I got older, I was crazy about The Baby-Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High, Sweet Valley Twins. Then I went through phases: Agatha Christie, Stephen King. Now I’m reading Got Junk? by Tom Acox and Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
What’s next for you writing-wise (and otherwise)?
Right now I’m writing the sequel to Spellbound, Spellcaster, which is due next year.
Thanks Cara! Can’t wait to read it!