I’m pleased today to introduce you to Joanna Karaplis. I met Joanna a few months ago at one of our regularly scheduled tweetups, and at the time she was a yet-to-be-published author. Well, things have definitely changed since then and Joanna is now officially published and has a couple of launch parties and book signings under her belt, too! Congrats, Joanna!
Meet Joanna Karaplis.
Please introduce yourself to us.
Hi, my name is Joanna Karaplis. I’m originally from Vancouver, but in 2008 I moved to Toronto and I’ve been here ever since. I work for a children’s publishing house (not the same one that published my book) and my hobbies are swing dancing and learning new languages (I speak Japanese and am learning Spanish, but I gave up on French when I graduated high school).
Were you an avid reader as a child? What were your favorite books?
I read anything and everything as a child. I loved all of Roald Dahl’s work—I remember identifying with the main character of Matilda (though I wasn’t a math genius) and shivering with terror while reading The Witches (it really is a diabolical, deliciously terrifying book!). I went through a phase of reading boy-and-dog-vs.-the-wilderness books, mostly by Jack London or Jim Kjelgaard. I also devoured formulaic series: Archie comics, Baby-sitters Club books, horror stories by R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike, and the Sweet Valley High books (which I would skim for dialogue and drama, skipping over most of the rest).
Tell us a bit about what’s inside this killer cover.
Fractured: Happily Never After? 3 Tales is a collection of three classic fairytales—Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid—retold for the 21st century. There are no horse-drawn carriages or magic potions; instead, you’ll find text messaging, Facebook drama, reality TV stars, and even a handsome prince or two.
Why did you choose to write children’s books?
I love young adult fiction. There’s just something about the drama of adolescence that I find so compelling: it’s a time when you’re becoming independent, discovering who you are, and falling in love for the first time. There’s just so much happening; so many feelings and bits of new information to digest and figure out. It’s an exciting time, and I love re-imagining it when I create my characters.
Can you describe your writing process for us? ie: How do you get from having an idea to finishing a first draft? And, are you a plotter or a seat-of-your-pantser?
My ideas often come in the form of an opening sentence that pops into my head. Then I jot down some notes, and begin writing the first paragraph. If it flows, I try to keep writing until I get stuck.
Unless I have a very clear idea for what the ending will be, I sort of figure it out as I go. (And then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, so that it looks like I knew where things were going all along!) But other times, I’ll have a rough outline and I’ll plot out the main scenes that need to happen (for example, “fight with mother,” “steals a car,” etc.). Then I write the scenes, but not necessarily in order. Also, I don’t sweat the small stuff on the first draft: I’ll type notes to myself in all-caps so that I can come back later and fill in the details (minor characters’ names, locations, etc.).
Do you think you were born to write or is writing something you discovered along your life’s journey? Either way, when did you decide to do it in earnest?
I’ve always thought of myself as a writer. As a child, I used to make little booklets of stories for my mom: my very first reader. In early high school, I was reading and writing a lot of fantasy and science fiction. In university, I didn’t make as much time for creative writing; I just assumed I’d get around to it later, when I had more free time (ha!). I didn’t really start writing in earnest again until after graduating university.
However, whether I was actively writing or not, I was always jotting down story ideas, “for later.” Some of them must be a decade old by now, I should see if there’s anything I can use…
Is the writing community important to you? How so?
The writing community is hugely important to me. First of all, writing is a solitary activity, but I’m a very social person. I enjoy talking about books and writing, and a writing community provides me with a great group of people to do that with. Plus, if I meet someone with similar interests, who knows what wonderful collaborations we might end up creating? (Witness the anthology Zombies vs. Unicorns, or Geektastic.)
The writing community is also a great place to swap notes on every part of the writing and publishing process. No matter what issues you’re struggling with—you now hate your protagonist, you’ve got writer’s block, you missed a deadline, you need an agent, you need ideas on marketing your book—there’s a writer somewhere out there who’s dealt with something similar. So the community is like a huge database of personal experiences that you can learn from.
Finally, the writing community is supportive. (And if it’s not, you’re in the wrong community!) I’m fortunate to belong to a small writing group that meets regularly to workshop each other’s works-in-progress, and it’s been a great experience. It’s hard to get perspective on your own writing, so it’s wonderful to get constructive feedback from other writers. It also motivates you to write regularly so you’ll have something to bring to the meetings!
So I guess it really comes down to friendship and knowledge: two very good reasons to participate in the greater community of writers!
What advice would you give your pre-pub’d self?
The same advice I’d give any aspiring author: Write every day, or as often as you can manage. I used to write pretty much daily, from about age 10 or 11 or so. (That’s how I taught myself to type.) In high school, I continued to write a lot, but no longer daily. In university, I wrote editorials for the school paper to motivate me to write something that wasn’t an essay, but I stopped writing stories. And after graduating university, I put my writing aside completely for a while. I wish I’d gotten into the habit of writing a little each day; even 250 words would have been helpful.
Can you share a favorite quote with us?
“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” ~Elmore Leonard on writing
Thanks for the interview, Joanna!
And the rest of you have exactly 3 days left to go out and grab a copy of FRACTURED for your favorite YA reader for Christmas. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, well, I guess you’ve got as long as you want. But I’d still suggest getting a copy soon.
This being the last Toronto Tuesdays Interview of 2010, I’d like to say thanks to you all for such a great year, for reading and commenting on this blog, and especially for supporting the Toronto Tuesdays Interviews. Your interaction, retweets, and reposts are hugely appreciated! And just so you know, there are more interviews to come, beginning in January. Until then …
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!