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Authors Sonia Gensler & Tessa Gratton CHAT…..With Each Other!

October 26, 2011

Today we’re joined by not one but two YA Authors! Tessa Gratton, whose novel BLOOD MAGIC was released in May, and Sonia Gensler whose novel THE REVENANT was released in June. The Halloween season seemed like the perfect time to put these wonderfully spooky books and authors in our own spooky spotlight.

Join them for a look at their writing process, writing groups, their favorite scary stories and movies, and Halloween memories too.  


TESSA: Howdy, Sonia! Lately, I’m having kind of early-life-crisis where I rebel against technology – so I want to know how you use social media, and how important a role you think it has in your life as a writer? 

SONIA: Oh, Tessa! You’re making me nostalgic. For me, social media started with Livejournal in the summer of 2004. Back then, it was a fun place to connect with like-minded people about good books, TV, movies and other obsessions. Once I started writing full-time, I noticed a certain bias against Livejournal as an exclusive, clubby sort of place. A lot of people moved to Blogger or WordPress, especially when LJ got buggy. (So many strikes against poor LJ!) I still try to blog at least once a week, both at Blogger and LJ. I also do the Facebook and Twitter thing, though rather sporadically. I like that they offer quick ways to check in with friends and stalk my favorite writers! 

What’s with this early-life-crisis, Tessa? We want details! You’ve used social networking very successfully — one particular example is the Merry Sisters of Fate, the wildly popular fiction site you co-created with Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff. How did that partnership come together and what role does it play in your professional and personal life?

 TESSA: I’m taking my own advice about social media – if I don’t love doing something, OUT IT GOES! So although I’ve been blogging for 10 years I shut my blog down last month. I still love Twitter and am getting into Tumblr, so I haven’t abandoned social networking at all, I’m just shifting around how I use it. I want the optimal advantage! And obviously the Merry Fates is still going strong – we met online and as we started to become critique partners we had the idea to publish free fiction. The purpose was to force ourselves to grow as writers and build an audience. We definitely do have an audience these days, and my writing improved by leaps and bounds. Besides that, Maggie and Brenna are two of my best friends and we wouldn’t have each other at all if not for blogs.

Do you have a writing group, Sonia? How does it work?

SONIA: I met my writing group at a local writing conference years ago. Actually, it was the first writing conference I ever attended. These ladies have since become very dear friends — we do our best to meet in person for critiques once a month and we have a weekend retreat on the lake every summer. We also meet up at conferences when possible. I always feel safe sending my writing to them when it’s still new and fragile. I try to give them my best draft, but at the same time I know their eagle eyes will catch things I missed, and they’ll offer great insights into character and plot. I might be embarrassed when they point out weak spots, but I never feel wounded. 

You and your crit partners live in different states and yet still manage to meet in person from time to time. What’s the biggest difference when you critique in person rather than online? Pros and cons? I know your partnership with Maggie and Brenna has proven a huge inspiration, but I’d also love to hear about other authors who have inspired you. 

TESSA: We rarely critique in person – when we’re together we’re usually just hanging out and having a good time. Sometimes we’ll brainstorm and knock around ideas, or talk about big things like the changing book business, why our cats don’t love us, or teenager brain chemistry. But we tend to leave critiquing for the work week. 

I didn’t think about authors inspiring me until people started asking me this question! I’ve always been inspired by stories, by the sunset, by the changing seasons – the world around me, but when I think about what authors have influenced me the most, I’d have to say Robin McKinley, hands down. I love how she weaves narrative, how she characterizes. I don’t want to write just like her – I want my own voice – but when I need to remember what I love most about novels, I’ll reread Beauty or The Hero and the Crown or Chalice. They always bring me back to my core love for the written word.


Do you have any books or authors like that? Who remind you why you write? 

SONIA: Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty and Jennifer Donnelly’s A Northern Light made historical fiction so vivid and relevant, and I ached to create characters that would affect readers as much as Gemma Doyle and Mattie Gokey affected me. More recently, Franny Billingsley’s Chime knocked my socks off, compelling me to take more risks — to reach deeper and write truer. There’s also Sarah Waters, who writes Gothic mysteries for adults that are both plotty and character-driven. I’m always taking mental notes when I read her books. 


When it comes to spooky fiction, I’d point to Henry James’ Turn of the Screw and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. I always prefer psychological horror to actual beasties that leap out of the darkness. And with these two books you’ve got governesses, creepy old houses, ghosts, insanity, thwarted desire, and more — all the things that make a horror story work for me. What about you, Tessa? Blood Magic was pretty spooky, so I’m wondering what your favorite horror story might be. What elements do you like to see in spooky fiction? 


TESSA: I maybe am not supposed to admit this, but I don’t actually read scary books. I do, however, LOVE ME SOME SCARY MOVIES. I adore The Others with Nicole Kidman with a raging love and though it may be uncool these days I will forever be a fan of The Blair Witch Project. My favorite kind of horror is the slow, creeping, tension-building kind where you don’t actually see the monster, but the monster is slinking around just outside of your peripheral vision. I also enjoy some gore – as long as it’s over-the-top Sam Raimi gore. I laugh so hard at Evil Dead and Drag Me to Hell because of the beautiful, messy, gore. 

When I was little, my friends and I used to have Halloween movie marathons, and our favorite was Disney’s Watcher in the Woods. I should see about restarting that tradition now that I’m an adult and can be totally in charge of my own Halloween! Do you have any Halloween traditions, or particularly awesome memories? 

SONIA: I love scary movies, too! The Others is one of my very favorites, and another is El Orfanato. Love those fierce women of horror! And campy gore is the best — like American Werewolf in London (which actually did scare me) or Fright Night. As for Halloween memories, I’m sad to say that most of the trick-or-treating experiences of my childhood were pretty forlorn. There always was a problem — a sudden illness, a wardrobe malfunction, our parked truck slipping out of gear and rolling down the hill (breaking the passenger door in the process). My mom created innovative costumes for us and displayed the patience of Job when we gutted & carved our jack o’ lanterns, but somehow or another, something always went wrong on Halloween night. 

However, when I was in 8th grade and perhaps too old for trick-or-treating, my friends and I had a Halloween sleepover. We dressed in goofy costumes — I think I was a square dancer — and collected bucketloads of candy. We then stayed up all night playing poker with that candy. Most. Brilliant, Halloween. Ever. Honestly, I’ve never been able to top that one!

Before we wrap this up, Tessa, I really want to know about your upcoming projects. Can you give us some details? 

TESSA: Oh I WISH I could! I’m working on a new series that I love, and all I can say right now is that it takes place in an alternate history America and will PROBABLY have trolls and kissing and missing gods. Soon all will be revealed, though. What about you, Sonia? Any exciting new projects?

 SONIA: My next project is another Gothic mystery, but it’s definitely a departure from THE REVENANT in terms of setting and characters. Like you, I hope to be able to talk about it in more detail soon. For now I’ll say that this story MAY contain spirit photography, metaphysical transit, paranormal experimentation and . . . kissing. Well, there’s definitely some kissing. 😉 

 Thanks for chatting with me, Tessa! 

 TESSA: It’s been a blast!

Many thanks to Tessa &Sonia for joining us at RAoR today! Please leave your comments or questions in our comments section.

Happy Spooky Reading!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2013 1:55 pm


  2. June 20, 2013 8:02 am

    とき もたらしたバーバリー 内側に ニューヨーカー、リンデン マリー ブラボー として 最高経営責任者 警察官 1997 年 私のガール フレンド はじめた テレビに 物事 誘致 ケイト ・ モス
    ので スポークマンでもあります。 エンブレム 名前約束 timelessness、耐久性と 洗練された によって比類のない 、 ブランド。


  1. Spooky Books for Staying Up Late…..with the Lights ON. « Random Acts of Reading

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