23 May 2007

Author Answers with Kelly Parra

If you want to find this week's author, Kelly Parra, on the web, you won't have to look too hard.

Parra's got a handful of websites and blogs where she's a regular writer. She's regularly on her blog, Words of a Writer, chats up authors at Words of an Author edits the flash fiction site Fictional Musings and talks about YA fiction on YA Fresh. You can also find her debut novel, Graffiti Girl, on shelves now.

Tell us about Graffiti Girl…. How’d you give the idea for the story?
PARRA: Graffiti Girl is about a high school Mexican-American artist named Angel. Angel is drawn into the underground world of graffiti art, feeling this is the only method her artwork will be accepted and still allow her to stay true to her cultural identity. It's a story of finding where you belong and believing in your talent enough to be different.

The idea for Graffiti Girl came about because I was big on art during high school, and I had friends who were into graffiti art. I tried my hand at the style on paper with no success but I always admired the bold artistic style. So when I thought of the story line, I started research and put together a proposal.

WN: What was the process like from when you got the idea to now and having a book out?
PARRA: Since Graffiti Girl is my first young adult novel, it was an uphill battle. I hadn't read much YA since high school and was unsure of the voice I wanted to write for teenagers. Did I have to change my writing tone? Did I have to write in a way that was uncomfortable to me? It took a couple of drafts for a partial that eventually sold to MTV/Pocket Books. I then heard from my new editor and she gave me a revision letter. I had a brief deadline to finish the book, which was a splash of water in the face. I couldn't just write when I felt like it anymore! The whole process to first draft, revisions, copy edits, to packaging has all been an interesting and rewarding experience.

WN: You’re a mom in addition to being a writer. How do you balance those parts of your life since both are time-consuming?
PARRA: The balance is often uneven. When I'm not on deadline I'm doing all I can for my family, but when it comes to crunch time, I have my face on my laptop any spare moment I can manage. I depend on my husband and children to help with some of the duties I usually handle. It's definitely a team effort.

WN: Were you a reader as a kid… what turned you on to reading/writing books?
PARRA: I was addicted to V.C. Andrews as a kid, yet I didn't decide to try my hand at writing an actual novel until I was pregnant with my first child and had a lot of time on my hands for reading. One day I read an author's bio that she was a stay-at-home mom and living in a neighboring town. It was the first time I thought I might be able to try and write a book too, and that day sat down to write.

WN: What’s the best part of being a writer to you? What’s the most challenging part of writing for you?
PARRA: The best part of being a writer is to be able to think up people that don't exist and have them come alive for readers. And it's really a great feeling to be paid for something I love.

The two most challenging parts of writing is writing to a deadline and keeping up with the market by thinking of story ideas with a new twist. Editors are always looking for something new and fresh. Writers have to fit that bill, especially if they are debut writers.

WN: What’s next for you as a writer?
PARRA: I just sold my second young adult novel to MTV Books about a girl who anonymously blogs about her ability to see psychic images or signs on her fellow students and attempts to piece together the clues in order to help save them from unfortunate fates. I'm excited about finishing the book and playing with the paranormal element, which is a new aspect for me in my writing.

WN: What is the best/most influential book you have ever read and why did it inspire you?
PARRA: I've actually read many powerful and influential books in the last few years, however the most recent was The Pact by Jodi Picoult. She is a fascinating storyteller and able to create complex and unique characters. This book made me feel many emotions. It has inspired me to one day be able to write such intriguing stories.

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