I live in a scenic small town in Massachusetts with my husband, two kids, and a very spoiled Black Lab. I write fiction for young adults, mostly light fantasy with a dose of “sigh-worthy” romance. You can visit me online at LenaGoldfinch.com. I love to hear from readers!
I have two books out right now: THE LANGUAGE OF SOULS (a novella) and AIRE (a full-length NOVEL). Both are young adult fantasy romance.
What inspires you to write?
I love to explore the themes of language, culture, loyalty, and falling in love. I’m also interested in what it means to discover our purpose, to use our unique gifts (fantastical or otherwise!). My characters tend to struggle with family loyalties, friendship, and first love. I like characters who are driven by some internal force to accomplish something. And there’s usually some sort of intrigue or danger element going on too. I love writing fantasy because it makes me feel free. I can explore and build different worlds, though mostly they’re our world, with a tweak here and there.
For instance, in The Language of Souls, my YA novella, the people in their world carry around a small molten vessel called a votif that holds the embers of their souls and they’re taught from a very young age to protect their soul at all costs. The question that drew me into that story was: How could two people fall in love if they couldn’t understand each other’s language? Or: what makes you fall in love with someone, the things beyond words? Wouldn’t it be their actions & their character? Some extraordinary acts of kindness or sacrifice maybe.
In AIRE, my new release, a full-length YA fantasy, the inspiration for that was initially just a sliver of a scene, a shadowy snapshot of a young woman who has a gift of visions and wants to use it to find a missing person. But she has this gift in a time and place when it’s not accepted and she’s conflicted. She wants to use her gift for good, but she has to prevail against obstacles to do so. I felt all this conflict and earnestness coming from her and it really drew me to her as a writer–that sense of “what is my purpose?”
And I could also see this young man who was personally invested in the search. He was driven too, but he had a suspicious bent–he’d been burned before perhaps?–and didn’t initially trust her. I was confident she’d win him over with her sincerity. And they’d fall in love. (I’m a terrible romantic, I’m afraid. ;))
I also tend to explore characters who have dealt with abandonment or have been adopted, perhaps because I’m an adoptive mom myself. I think this is a very tender issue and has a lot of pain associated with it. It heightens the natural questions we have as people about our identity. The next novel I’ll have coming out, SONGSTONE, deals with these issues the most overtly and perhaps the most personally, even though it’s set in on a remote Pacific island where there’s no written language, which is so completely different from the world I inhabit as a writer living on the East Coast of the US! The main character, a girl named Kita, is a storyteller and she can meld words into stone. She’s sooo different from me, but we do have the storytelling thing in common!
Tell us about your writing process
My process is terribly messy and changes from book to book. This can be very frustrating on one hand, but on the other I’m never bored! Some have called this style of writing “puzzle writing,” where things come to me kind of randomly, not subsequently, and I have to piece them together. And imagine some of the pieces being flipped over to the wrong side. LOL
For each story I do whatever works. If I need an outline or index cards, I do that. If I need to do character bios or interviews, okay. If I feel the urge to plunge in and just start writing that first scene, I go with that. And I revise a lot. I mean, A LOT.
One process I’ve come up with which helps me when I get stuck is what I call Big Paper Plotting (although it may not be plotting so much as brainstorming or doodling). What I do is get a big piece of paper, ex. a sheet of craft paper or large sketch pad paper, and I make bubbles with story questions, draw little pictures of objects that are important to the story (ex. a Victorian era spyglass for a work in progress, Through the Spyglass), scribble names of characters, cross them out, etc… The messier the better. And I use fun-colored markers to work in. It makes it seem more like play and not oh-so-serious, “I must plot this novel now or I’m never going to finish and that will make me feel like a total failure!” 😉
It’s fun and I’m always kind of surprised that it works for me.
How do you think writing for children and young adults is different from writing for an adult audience?
I think when you write for teens, you’re tapping into what it was like to be a person that age. As a teen you filter everything much more personally. The emotion has to be authentic. So in that sense it’s not different from adult fiction. No matter what, you have to be true to character. In the case of teen fiction, that character is a young person looking at the world through the level of experience they have. They can feel so self-conscious and even the smallest things can feel so embarrassing. And then there’s the amazing discovery of who we really are and what we were meant to do. Being separate from our parents and yet maintaining those relationships…. That’s a really tricky skill to master. So many things are new and sometimes that’s scary. It’s a huge deal, for instance, the first time you hold a boy’s hand. A huge deal. Adult fiction is just different: you’re living through the eyes of a character who’s already had those experiences.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Sort of. I have these times as a writer when I’m kind of drifting mentally, getting in the zone, and I’m feeling and seeing things as that character, sort of like falling into a movie mid-action. And that’s the best possible way I can describe what it’s like to become lost in a character or getting lost in the story. You become that person in that moment and it’s kind of magical and mysterious. And fun.
It’s a similar experience to reading a good book, when you’re so engrossed in the story that the room you’re sitting in and the sound of the TV your brother is watching fades into the background and disappears. You’re in the story. You ARE that character. In fact, you’re completing the story. Your mind unconsciously fills in the gaps that the writer left out, and you’re bringing your own worldview and experience, your own senses to the page. That too is magical and that’s one reason why I love connecting with readers so much. They’ve completed the cycle. 🙂
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I published my novella with a small press a couple of years ago. When my rights came back to me (meaning our contract came up for renewal), I decided to get my rights back and publish it myself. I wanted to rewrite it as a straight-up YA (and not adult-fantasy-romance-but-YA-friendly, which was what it was). Once I did that and self-published the novella as YA, a light switched on in me and I knew I wanted to self-publish AIRE too. I’d experienced such long waits trying to get traditionally published, which was discouraging and consumed a lot of my time. And I also felt I wasn’t getting any younger. Plus, I write a lot and I want to keep going. I feel I can do that best when I know I can publish the book I’ve just worked so hard on. I was at a stage when I was getting great feedback from editors & agents on my writing, so I felt confident about the quality of my work (well, as confident as an introverted, sensitive-soul, writer-type like me can be!). One editor in particular made a comment in a rejection letter that made me think I could do it. She said– after a two-year back-and-forth–that she felt teen readers would get “swept up” in my story, but she just wasn’t able to get 100% support from her publisher to contract the story. Something clicked inside me and I said, “I may have an audience out there! And I can publish this book myself!” And I love the path I’ve chosen.
PS I’m grateful to that editor and still have fond feelings toward her. Sending my thanks, Editor M! I mean that. I appreciate your belief in my work, and I’m sorry it didn’t work out. But I’m also kind of glad it didn’t, because I’m really happy.)
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think it’s a big, wide-open world. It’s an exciting and a scary time, with lots of changes. You have to adapt. You do the best you can and you try to find readers. That’s the only part of the equation that really matters. How you get there is up to the individual writer. And, perhaps, like me, you want to support yourself with an income from your writing. That may take some creativity, and it will absolutely take a lot of hard work, whatever road you end up on.
What do you use?
Ghostwriter, Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write:: young adult teen fantasy romance
What formats are your books in: Both eBook and Print
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