November 8, 2013

Casual Friday: Interview with Author Vivi Barnes

 Today I am SO excited to have Vivi Barnes on the YA Misfit Blog. If you haven't heard (and if you haven't OMG you're in for a treat!), she has a fantastic new book out this week - OLIVIA TWISTED. I have been waiting for this one forever and I'm so excited for you guys to get to know her - she's an amazing author and person!

So let's get started!

Jamie: I know OLIVIA TWISTED is a retelling of Oliver Twist – can you tell us a little bit about OLIVIA TWISTED and what inspired you to write it?

Vivi: OLIVIA TWISTED is a story of sixteen-year-old girl who’s headed to her latest foster home, which appears to be no more special or worse than any other. At school, she meets the fun-loving, bubbly girl Sam and mysterious Z (yeah, it’s not his real name) and befriends them. But as soon as they figure out that she’s “unattached” from any family, they begin twisting her into their gang of online crime.  All the stars seem to align for Z and Sam’s attempts, but when it comes down to it, Liv has to decide if she’ll stay true to herself or join them.

As a retelling of the classic OLIVER TWIST, the story follows the general plotlines of the classic, and many of the characters are the same (though they might be playing mixed roles, as in the case of Nancy and Bill Sykes—both of whom have some of Fagin’s attributes). Liv, like Oliver, is innocent (though a little more hardened than Oliver).

I was inspired by two things, honestly. One was the musical version (Oliver!) which I watched probably a hundred times as a kid at my aunt’s house. The other was the title—I always thought it’d be interesting to do a contemporary retelling of the story, but call it Olivia Twisted with a female protagonist and make them hackers instead of pickpocketers.

Jamie: I absoultely love that concept! And I work in IT myself, so my inner geek is pretty much dancing right now :) Like you mentioned above, OLIVIA TWISTED is about hackers, kids who are amazing using computers. How much research did you have to do to write about these characters? Did you learn any interesting facts that surprised you? Are you a computer genius yourself?

Vivi: Most of my research involved the art of hacking, as I am not a hacker, nor am I a programming genius. I got a lot of help from people who are, though. And my online searches I’m sure proved to be entertaining to the FBI (though I am sure they have a file called “writers”). I re-read the original story before writing OLIVIA TWISTED, as I wanted to ensure I followed the plotlines for the most part. I did take license with certain characters—for example, I made Nancy the “mother” of the  Monroe Street Gang because I always liked her in the story and felt she was dealt such a terrible hand in life. I never cared for the Fagin in the original story (though I loved him in the movie Oliver!), so I gave some of his attributes to Nancy and some to Bill.

As far as what I learned from my research, it is WAY too easy to be hacked. Most of the drama you see on TV is not always accurate (shocker)—mostly a bunch of people crowded around a computer tapping keys frantically. Crackers seem mostly to thrive on social engineering, which is why it’s very important to create passwords that are strong and make sure your computer is protected.

Jamie: Always a good idea! Do you have a favorite line or excerpt you can share with us?

Vivi: Honestly, the very first lines are my favorite—maybe because I worked them over so many times (I had three different openings over the course of writing/revising this book). “I should be used to this by now—the emptiness that fills me when I become homeless for the stretch of a car ride. I’ve done this more times than I can count, but the truth is that it sucks. Every. Time.”

Jamie: LOVE THAT. It's such a hooky opening! So can you tell us a little bit about your journey from writer to agented writer to published author? How did it happen? What were the best and worst parts of the process?

Vivi: It took me 11 years to write a book that was more middle grade (and I had to enlist a friend to co-write it with me, as I was not good at finishing projects!). Then after reading The Hunger Games, I wrote a dystopian novel, which my beta readers loved but the time was already starting to ebb on dystopia. So I began writing Olivia Twisted in 2011. It took me two months to write, then forever-and-a-day to revise (with the help of two awesome crit groups and several beta readers). I received almost 65 rejections, which actually were great because I kept revising and polishing until it became much stronger. Then, in the spring of 2012, I received three offers from agents. I went with Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary, and I love her! We went on sub to publishers that summer, and I accepted Entangled’s offer in the fall. The best part of the process was that it was always moving. Querying, requests, offers—it’s exciting until it stops and you wait.

And wait.

And WAIT. The waiting is by far the worst part of the process. Working on a new project really helps distract you during that time.

Jamie: Yeah, I'm totally there with you! I'm awful at waiting. So what have you learned since becoming a published author? Do you have any advice for new writers?

Vivi: I’ve learned to trust the process. I have control issues, I guess, so it’s hard for me just to turn something in to my agent or editor and wait. But it’s all part of the business, so I just take a deep breath and start a new project.

My advice for new writers is to never, ever, ever give up and never stop trying to learn more about your craft. There are too many resources out there—conferences (free and paid), blogs, and Twitter—to help you learn. I’m still learning and hope to never stop!

My advice for newly agented writers is to trust that your agent and editor know what they’re doing. If you have questions, feel free to ask! They don’t mind. But trust that they know how to do their job—after all, they are the experts!

Jamie: Great advice! What’s next in the writing world for you? Are you working on anything new?

Vivi: I’m working on new stories, yes. I decided I really love writing for young adults, though I might revisit middle grade again at some point. I’m also working on getting my kids to bed on time. It’s not working out too well.

And now for some fun questions:

Who are your writing inspirations? What author (living or dead) would you love to meet in person?  
 My greatest inspiration is JK Rowling, not because of the fame and the (amazingly written) stories, but because of her perseverance when she had nothing to her name.

I’d love to go back in time to Oxford University, meet my most favorite childhood authors—J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis—and watch them banter back and forth.

Favorite writing snack?  Wine and dark chocolate. Divine!

Biggest literary crush?  Legolas from Lord of the Rings

Favorite book villain? Bill Sykes, of course!

Coffee or tea? Tea. Well, hot chocolate, but tea if there’s none.

Excellent answers :) Thanks so much Vivi  for stopping by and good luck with your release!!!

You can buy OLIVIA TWISTED on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other sites.


Dahlia Adler said...

Ooh I also love that opening!! B&N says my copy's on its way; can't wait til it gets to me!!

Vivi B. said...

Thank you Jamie, Dahlia & YA Misfits!!! I had a great time with the interview and really appreciate all the <3!

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