I'm super-excited to welcome Yvonne Ventresca to the blog today. Yvonne is the author of Pandemic (published by Sky Pony Press, 2014), winner of a 2015 Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (for the Atlantic region of the US). The School Library Journal called Pandemic "an engrossing apocalyptic story” and Kirkus Reviews said “this realistic page-turner will keep most readers enthralled.” Yvonne’s next YA novel, Black Flowers, White Lies will be published by Sky Pony Press in October, 2016. She is represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency.
Pandemic is available in paperback, hardback and on Kindle. Buy it from: Book Depository, Amazon UK and .com, Indiebound (US), B&N and Books A Million. Do watch out for Yvonne's new book Black Flowers, White Lies!
Welcome to the blog, Yvonne. It’s a pleasure to have you here. Huge congratulations on the paperback edition of Pandemic. To begin the interview could you tell the readers what the book is about?
Pandemic is about an emotionally traumatized girl and the new boy in town, and how they struggle together to survive a deadly bird flu outbreak. Here’s a longer description:
In Pandemic, only a few people know what caused Lilianna Snyder's sudden change from a model student to a withdrawn pessimist who worries about all kinds of disasters. After her parents are called away on business, Lil’s town is hit by what soon becomes a widespread fatal illness. With her worst fears realized, Lil must find a way to survive not only the outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons.
It's such a great story. What was the inspiration behind it?
I like to think about worse case scenarios. A highly contagious, fatal disease is particularly terrifying because it would isolate people and cause chaos. I thought it would be interesting to explore how that situation would affect teenagers’ moral decisions. The other aspect of the story that I wanted to include was an emotionally damaged sixteen-year-old. It’s hard enough to survive crazy times – but what if you had trouble trusting people? What if you were obsessively hoarding canned goods to feel prepared, and then realized it wasn’t enough? I liked the challenge of putting my main character, Lilianna, in that situation and having her grow stronger for it.
How much research was required in writing this novel?
While writing the novel, I read many books on both historical and emerging diseases. For example, although the blue flu in Pandemic is a fictional disease, it was modeled after the Spanish Flu of 1918 (like the fact that it primarily affects mostly healthy people, not infants and senior citizens). I also interviewed a local public health official to understand the possible ramifications of a widespread disease on a small town.
I love the book cover. Who created it and how much input did you have into the final design?
The Pandemic cover was designed by Brian Peterson at Sky Pony Press. I provided a collage of pictures ahead of time. He found the amazing bird that’s made up of hundreds of other birds that appears on the cover.
What do you hope readers take away from reading this book?
Most people have greater internal strength than they realize.
Pandemic won the prestigious 2015 Atlantic Region SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, and a 2015 Readers’ Choice Award from Morris/Essex Health & Life Magazine. What has winning these meant to you?
Pandemic is set in Morris County, New Jersey, so the Morris/Essex award ties to my local community. The Crystal Kite is special because it is a peer-given award through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and I’ve been an active SCBWI member for the last fourteen years. The organization contributed to my success as a writer, so that recognition means a lot to me.
I see that you have another novel being published this October. Can you tell us a little about this book, please?
Black Flowers, White Lies is about how fragile our perception of reality can be.
Here’s the blurb:
Her father died before she was born, but Ella Benton knows they have a mysterious connection. When an eerie handprint appears on her mirror, Ella wonders if Dad’s warning her of danger as he did once before. Could her new too-good-to-be-true boyfriend be responsible? Or the grieving building superintendent? As the unexplained events become more frequent and more sinister, Ella becomes terrified about who—or what—might harm her. Soon the evidence points to Ella herself. What if, like her father, she’s suffering from a breakdown? Ella desperately needs to find answers, no matter how disturbing the truth might be.
The new novel also has a striking cover. Who’s the genius behind that design and how much involvement did you have in it?
Sarah Brody at Sky Pony Press created the cover for Black Flowers, White Lies. In this case, the black flowers from the title really drove the design.
Tell us about Prep for Doom and how you came to be involved in this?
I belong to a Facebook group called Band of Dystopian Authors and Fans. (Feel free to join us here.) Some of the founding members came up with an idea for an intertwined anthology. I submitted “Escape to Orange Blossom” and it was accepted. The anthology is an integrated collection of twenty short stories that tell the tale of a single catastrophe as experienced by many characters, some of whom cross paths. You can read more about the project at www.prepfordoom.com.
What else have you had published?
Two nonfiction books: Publishing (Careers for the 21st Century), about careers in the field, and Avril Lavigne (People in the News), a biography of the singer.
Now to that thorny subject of plotting versus pantsing: which is your preferred working method?
I journal my story ideas first, asking a lot of what if questions, until I have a strong sense of the characters and a general plot. Then I start writing. After I’ve completed a rough draft, I reverse outline to get a handle on what I’ve actually created. Then I continue revising from there.
Are you ever blighted by writer’s block, and if so how do you deal with it?
I recently blogged about this! Here’s a link: yvonneventresca.com/blog/g-is-for-getting-creatively-unblocked.
(Some terrific advice there, writer/readers - well worth chceking out!)
Tell us about Teen Tuesday Posts.
There are so many great resources available to teen writers today. These posts are my way of giving back to the writing community. I share markets, editor interviews, and contests for teens. I’ve compiled a collection of these posts on my Resources for Teen Writers page.
What three pieces of advice would you NOT give to a yet-to-be-published writer?
Anti-advice #1. Write to trends. Don’t write what’s in your heart or what has significant interest to you. Instead, write only what you guess will sell.
Anti-advice #2. Don’t read at all, in any genre, ever. Why bother?
Anti-advice #3. Don’t submit anything after you write it because then you might be (gasp!) rejected. Keep your dream alive by never sharing your work.
Brilliant! Now, to round off the interview, let’s have a fun quick-fire round:
Life as a global pop star or a famous movie director?
Movie director – I am definitely a behind-the-scenes kind of person.
Paperback or hardback?
East coast or west?
Twitter, Facebook or Instagram?
What’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told?
I never lie! ßThat would be a lie.
River deep or mountain high?
Sushi or pizza?
Both, but not at the same time.
Complete the sentence: I wouldn’t be where I am without…
I wouldn’t be where I am without persistence. I wrote three novels and received 152 rejections before Pandemic sold.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions, Yvonne. I wish you continued success with Pandemic, and the best of luck with Black Flowers, White Lies and all of your future books.
Thanks for having me, Christina!