SUMMARY: THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY by Holly Schindler:
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” meets Because of Winn Dixie in this inspiring story of hope.
Auggie Jones lives with her grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” But Auggie is determined to prove that there’s more to her—and to her house—than meets the eye.
What starts out as a home renovation project quickly becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time.
Holly Schindler’s feel-good story about the power one voice can have will inspire readers to speak from their hearts.
Today on the blog, I’m so pleased to welcome Holly Schindler and the blog tour for THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY (Dial), Holly’s debut middle grade novel, which hit shelves on Feb. 6, 2014! Holly is also the author of the acclaimed YA novels A BLUE SO DARK (Flux) and PLAYING HURT (Flux).
Welcome, Holly! Talk a little bit about your journey toward becoming an author of young adult and middle grade novels.
I graduated with my master’s in the spring of ’01, and was encouraged to stay home and devote full-time effort to getting my writing career off the ground. I’d published some short pieces (fiction, poetry, lit critique) while in school, and was under the grand delusion that it would take a year, year and a half to draft a novel, it’d sell, and I’d be off and running.
Seriously. You can stop laughing now. It took seven and a half years to receive my first book deal. (Not an unusual amount of time for most authors.)
When I first started writing, I was drafting adult work. And while I did have an enormous amount of financial help, I also wanted to do my part to pay for my own bills. So I started teaching music lessons out of the house. It was the perfect setup: I’d get up early and write until the kids got out of school. Then I’d teach for a few hours each day.
I was honestly shocked at how familiar my students seemed. They were so similar to the kids I’d known when I was at school that I was inspired to try my hand writing juvenile work. It’s funny—I never would have anticipated that the work I took on just for cash would actually give me career direction.
In general, how do your stories come to you? Do you begin with a character? A concept?
I’ve done both, actually. For my first two YAs, I started with a scenario: In A BLUE SO DARK, I started with the very vague idea of how creativity and mental illness could possibly be linked. In PLAYING HURT, I started with the difference between loving someone and being IN love with someone.
With THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, my first MG, I started with a character: Gus. Some backstory: four years into my pursuit of publication, I hit a make-or-break time. Because I’d started my pursuit the day after I tossed my last mortar board hat into the air, graduation season was an impossible-to-ignore marker for how much time had passed. It had taken four years to get through high school. Four years to get my undergrad degree. Four years into my pursuit of publication, though, I hadn’t yet really gotten much in the way of “good” rejections (editors and agents offering advice with their “no”). I had friends from college who were wrapping up PhDs, moving on with their lives. Me? I felt like all I had was a hole in the drywall, where I’d been banging my head against the office wall in frustration.
Obviously, I decided to keep at it…The first book I drafted after that make-or-break time was THE JUNCTION. I saw Auggie’s grandfather as clearly as I’ve ever seen any person in my life. And I heard Auggie’s voice—it was as though she were in the room talking to me! As I wrote (and rewrote…and rewrote…) the book, it became clear that I was writing a book about a young girl standing up for her art. In many ways, that book is me standing up for my own art, insisting I wasn’t going to back down from a life spent writing.
Can you talk a little bit about setting? The geography in your novels is diverse.
Actually, all my published books take place in the Midwest. (I’m a lifelong Midwesterner, actually—a sixth-generation Missourian.) Both my published YAs take place in Missouri, at least to some extent (PLAYING HURT also takes place in Minnesota—still pretty Midwest). THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY takes place in a fictional town in…yup…Missouri. And my forthcoming YA, FERAL, also takes place, for the most part, in Missouri as well. But I do find myself starting to branch out from my lifelong home in my works-in-progress…I think it’s only natural to want to explore new settings as an author—it’s a bit like wanting to try your hand at a new genre!
What time of day do you write? Do you have a certain process?
I usually do like to get up and get to it. When I’m in the midst of promoting a book, I start with that—I try to do something for a frontlist book each day, whether it’s an interview, sending a few copies of the book out, touching base with a few press releases, etc. I ultimately prefer to spend a solid eight hours writing (obviously that’s not possible, when I’m promoting a book). But even when I’m promoting, I still try to give it a good four hours minimum.
First drafts are my least favorite part of the process—I try to get through that as quickly as possible, throwing down around 5,000 words a day. I LOVE revision. And I’m lucky, in that I have an in-house first reader (my mom, the same person that insisted I stay home to devote all that time to my work). It’s invaluable to have someone close by that you can bounce ideas off of…
What does a good day of writing for you look like? How about a bad day?
Honestly, I never get to the end of the day thinking I’ve had a bad day. Even if I know I’m going to scrap everything I’ve drafted in a day, I also don’t quit until I know what I’m going to do instead the next day. So I feel as though I’ve worked my way through a problem. That’s key, I think—always going to bed knowing what your plan of attack is going to be the next day.
Other than reading, what fuels your creativity?
I’m a total music junkie. I used to be terrible at writing to music—I’d get so wrapped up in it, I’d wind up typing lyrics! These days, I’m much better at it—I find myself turning the TV off and turning on the radio. Instead of distracting me, music puts me in a positive mood—the kind of mood that makes me feel I can conquer any problem I encounter when writing…
You’ve created some fantastic trailers for your books. Can you talk about that process? What are the advantages of book trailers?
I truly enjoy creating video content for my books—whether it’s a full-blown trailer or a vlog of me talking about some aspect of writing a specific novel. I’ve heard from several school librarians recently that they have an easier time getting kids interested in a book that has a trailer they can watch. But beyond that, video content is just a fun way for me to promote my work, and a way to express myself creatively in a non-written way. (Taking a break from writing can sometimes be a fuel in itself…I wind up finding myself itching to get back to my keyboard after a day of filming vlogs!)
Check out the trailer for THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY HERE!
What have been some of your biggest surprises, good and bad, about becoming a published author?
The best surprise is how much I enjoy promoting my books online. When I sold my first book in ‘09, I was nowhere online—actually, when I first started writing full-time back in ‘01, I didn’t even have Internet access in my home. I was hesitant to get out there, but once I did, I absolutely fell in love with it.
The biggest disappointment? I had it in my head that if I just sold the first book, I’d be “in.” Once I sold that first book, I realized there’s not just one hurdle to jump, but hundreds—one right after another…
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
The best book on writing is Lisa Cron’s WIRED FOR STORY. Hands-down.
What’s next? What are you working on now?
’14 is gearing up to be a promo whirlwind: THE JUNCTION releases February 6, and FERAL, my next YA, releases in August. I’ll be putting together a blog tour for FERAL soon—contact me at writehollyschindler (at) yahoo (dot) com if you’re interested!
Where to find Holly:
Author site: hollyschindler.com
Site for young readers: Holly Schindler’s Middles – hollyschindlermiddles.weebly.com. I’m especially excited about this site. I adored getting to interact with the YA readership online—usually through Twitter or FB. But I had to create a site where I could interact with the MG readership. I’m devoting a page on the site to reviews from young readers themselves! Be sure to send your young reader’s review through the Contact Me page.
Group Author Blogs: YA Outside the Lines (yaoutsidethelines.blogspot.com) for YA authors and Smack Dab in the Middle (smack-dab-in-the-middle.blogspot.com) for MG authors.
Get your copy of THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY on Amazon now!
Check out the next stops on the blog tour tomorrow, Feb. 11th:
From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors: http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/
I Am A Reader, Not A Writer: http://www.iamareader.com/