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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

On Taking Chances: An Interview with M.J. Labrooy

What inspired you to write a novel? 
The inspiration for writing The Runaway House originated from a desire to investigate the teenage mind. Young adults present such a voluminous spectrum of emotions. Life can often be volatile for this age group, ultimately offering an abundance of problematic situations. This is one of the reasons I find the YA genre so appealing.

What was your writing process like in creating this novel?
When I first wrote The Runaway House, I created a detailed blueprint of my story, allowing the creative process to flow without too much editing interference. From there, I fleshed out my characters, allowing them to show me the psychology of who they really are. Then it was during the editing process that sections of the narrative were rewritten or deleted.

Who helped you with the editing?
I usually make use of my academic qualifications in editing to revise my own work, however, it is challenging to switch hats from writer to editor and still be impartial. Despite these obstacles, writing offers the gratifying opportunity to fictionalize life with the objective of making a positive impact.

What did you enjoy most about writing your story? 
The most rewarding aspect of writing The Runaway House was being able to create a world where the repressed triumph and use their experiences to offer hope to the world, something disadvantaged youths don’t often have the opportunity to do. 

What is the hardest part of writing for you? Starting? Creating a scene? Tension?
I think the hardest part about writing is being able to create enough distance between you and the story in order to look at the manuscript objectively. As the creator, there is a deep intimacy of the narrative that keeps you emotionally confined to the dimensions of the plot and its characters. This often results in a blind-spot that can prevent you from identifying plausibility issues or deeper structural problems that a fresh reader may easily spot. 

Could you give me a short synopsis of your book?
The Runaway House centers on the remote Alexandria Cassell, a wealthy heiress raised in a loveless, but privileged world. Immune to misery, Alexandria abandons her rich parents in search of a different life. She spends her first night at the mysterious Runaway House. The other runaways attempt to connect with Alexandria, but she is instinctively drawn to the menacingly dark Rayne, a hostile teen with a decaying soul. However, as each runaways’ heartbreaking story unravels, a remarkable enterprise evolves amongst them testifying to the power of humanity and the prospect of a promising tomorrow. Now the runaways must decide if broken hearts can learn to beat again in a house where hope is extinct. 

We have all experienced rejection. How have you learned to write past it?
My most disappointing rejection was with an editor from one of the big five publishing firms. I had previously submitted a few chapters of my latest manuscript and had an appointment for a pitch with her at a writer’s conference. After the pitch, I was walking on air. She said she’d absolutely loved the chapters she’d read; she commented they were ‘beautifully written’ and couldn’t wait to read the entire manuscript. I emailed her the manuscript the instant I got home. However, I never heard from her again.

The most difficult part was not knowing what she didn’t like about the manuscript. How was I supposed to improve it? What could have made it more publishable? As disappointed as I was, I didn’t give up on it. Given the editor’s initial enthusiasm, I thought there must be something promising there. Her encouragement compelled me to send the manuscript to a writer’s group to get further feedback. This ultimately assisted me in producing a better story. Now, this manuscript is going to be my next self-published book, due for release in October 2018.
What has surprised you the most about writing or publishing?
I'm surprised the most about the amount of marketing a writer has to do to promote their books, especially in self-publishing. This has been the most frustrating part of the publishing process for me. As a very private person, I’ve never been comfortable plugging myself in a public forum. However, I’m learning that self-promotion is an essential requirement of the writing process, so I’m working on conquering my inhibitions.

One attribute I find that assists the introverted writer is encouragement. During my Professional Writing and Publishing degree, my creative writing professors, many of them published authors themselves, offered enthusiastic support and praise that kept me steadfast to the writing path. Their commendations helped me nurture confidence.
What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
There are many sources of advice I take on board every time I write, however one aspect that’s important is to write from the heart. Sometimes writers are too afraid to step out of their comfort borders for fear of embarrassment or rejection, however being able to express yourself through words is one of the most liberating and privileged aspects of being human. It’s what makes a good story great. 
Are there any other points about writing that you would like to add?
Don’t be afraid to take chances. Write as often as you can. The more you write, the more you will find your sense of style. Once you discover that certain style, you’ll probably want to change it but experimentation in writing is what it’s all about. Dare to be different.

What is the next book that will be coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?
My next book, due for release in October 2018 is titled The Vision. It’s the first book in an exciting new YA trilogy. The Vision is the story of Willow Blue, a reclusive girl with the impossible ability to see the guardians who abide with every human on earth. 

Unrelenting in her pursuit to discover the purpose of her vision, Willow is guided to the sunny coastal town of Blue Angel Bay. Trying to resurrect her life, she is unexpectedly confronted by Tyler Sharp, a local student. He is blindingly perfect, but something is wrong…he is without a guardian. Willow’s fate is thrown into upheaval as she fights her addictive attraction to Tyler in order to discover the foreboding truth about his true identity. But what Willow doesn’t know is that the truth sets the course of the world on a dangerous new trajectory. 

That’s all for today’s interview. If you would like to learn more about M.J.’ writing, here are a couple of links to get you started.

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