I interviewed Giselle Rocha by email, and here it is!
Q: How did you get interested in writing? Are your parents writers, or did someone/something inspire you?
A: Did you know that November is actually National Novel Writing Month? Well, I didn’t! My seventh-grade English teacher (I’m in 8th now) introduced us to NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. She said that anyone who could write a 50,000 word novel in that 1 month would get a perfect A in her class for the quarter, and with me being a total nerd, of course I had to take her up on that offer! I had started thinking about the plot line and characters for A Dark Sky quite a while ago–when I was in fifth or sixth grade–and I finally had a reason to write it! Eventually, a little after I had completed the first draft for NaNoWriMo, my dad (Ricardo Rocha) introduced me to an editor, Melody (Last name redacted for privacy reasons…). She brought me into the editing process! (We’ll have more on that in question 6.)
Q: You said in one of your emails to me that you’re writing a second book in a series. Is it the sequel to A Dark Sky?
A: Yes! A little while after I had finished writing the first draft of A Dark Sky, I decided I wasn’t anywhere near done writing about Kristen and her friends. I currently have 10 books plotted out–I thought about having 14, but I was having trouble coming up with that many individual plot lines.
Q: I haven’t finished A Dark Sky yet, but the plot is fabulous! I love the characters so far and the setting is very original, a mix of modern day life and medieval times of a sort. How did you come up with the ideas for the setting, plot, and characters?
A: Funny story about my inspiration for A Dark Sky! I got a big chunk of my ideas for the book from other pieces of literature–a few being Fire and Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Eragon by Christopher Paolini, the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson (NOT where I got the idea for winged humans, by the way! I came up with that WAY before reading his books!), and the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. Yes, I know the Warriors are cats, but I got a few of the fighting techniques mentioned in A Dark Sky from reading about their battles. Also, hints of inspiration from movies and TV shows are evident in my novel as well–some are The Lion King, Get Smart, Dragon Rider, Eragon, The Princess Bride, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Now don’t you roll your eyes at the ponies; if you look deep enough, you can see real-life themes buried in the escapades of the rainbow-colored unicorns and pegasi. I actually got the idea of having different species of humans from My Little Pony, as I thought the mix of unicorns, pegasi, earth ponies, and other animals was much more exciting than all unicorns or all earth ponies. Also, don’t underestimate the power of music! I always listen to music when writing–it helps, trust me. Different songs go with different scenes in the book, and all of the characters have theme songs.
And now, how I developed the characters for the book! I’ll let you in on a secret: the characters in the draft I had written in sixth grade were all flat, 2-dimensional, static characters who all had the same basic personality: happy, corny, and bad at sarcasm. They also had very common American names that I had come up with in two seconds: Tino was originally Todd, Tina was Alice (They weren’t related then), Lyro was Richard, and Vani wasn’t even included–I had only five main characters. But, when I looked back at it in seventh grade, I winced; what was I thinking? Now, over the years I had studied character development on my free time, so I was able to build up the characters into something else–and also, Taizkehwa became a little more than an evil-king-who-wants-the-throne cliché. Music and the characters from other works of literature and theatre helped me build up my characters’ individual quirks and traits–don’t be afraid to take inspiration from other authors and TV shows, because they all get inspiration from each other!
Q: It’s great to see another young writer, especially published. Have you met any others or read their books? What are your thoughts about tweens and teens writing and publishing books?
A: I have a close friend at school who is working on her own novel! Her name is Rosa Gonzalez, and her main character’s name is Ariella–I just felt it necessary to give the main character’s name too, don’t ask me why, it’s a very, very long story. Rosa’s story is similar to mine in genre, NOT in plotline or characters. Though some of the characters’ personalities may be a bit similar, human nature doesn’t give us authors very much to work with, does it? Anyways, Rosa isn’t published yet, but she’s working hard on Ultimate Dread, one of ten books planned out in the Heroes and Heroines series. I’ve read some of her writing, and it is absolutely amazing! I hope she does publish soon, because I can’t wait to have it in book form! No pressure though, Rosa.
My opinion on teens and tweens writing novels? Go for it! Writing fiction is so much fun! And even if you are more of the serious nonfiction type of reader/writer, writing a book is something anyone can do, as long as you stick to it and have patience with the entire writing process. Free time you don’t know what to do with? Curl up with a laptop or notebook (I prefer a laptop), sip hot chocolate and/or lemonade (it depends on the season) and think about what you want your characters and plot to be like. It’s not easy, but it sure is a whole lot of fun–and it pays off when you finally finish.
Q: The art on the cover of A Dark Sky is really good. Who did it for you?
A: Me, actually! I really, really, really don’t mean to brag or anything, but I drew my own cover art. Drawing is another one of my hobbies, alongside writing and taking short walks around the woods near my house. I didn’t use any fancy materials–I decided I wanted to draw my main character one day, and then, after the pencil sketch turned out right, I decided this would be my cover. So, I inked Kristen and the castle, leaving the rest in pencil, and colored it with my markers. (Prismacolor or Pro Art work best, since they’re alcohol-based, but they are a lot more pricey than Crayola! You have been warned!) I showed it to my family, they all thought it fit the book, and so we handed it to a graphic designer in the publishing company and a few days later, I received the edited cover in my inbox! (The designer’s name was Matthew O’Leary, by the way.)
Q: You self-published A Dark Sky. What was your editing process? Did you have a mentor? And can you tell me about the process of self-publishing?
A: My editing process took about three months to complete, but that’s because I was nervous about publishing because I saw that my manuscript was FULL of errors. Ms. Melody helped me through the process, and my dad rooted for me on the sidelines, so I guess I could call the two of them my mentors. Ms. Melody was very understanding about the whole thing, as she knew I was nervous–frankly because she saw the errors as plainly as I did! Well, maybe I’m being to hard on myself, but that’s what I think. Anyways, we went over each chapter together, and she gave me the option to either keep or reject her editing suggestions. We published on a self-publishing site called Fast Pencil, and it was great. It lets you post each chapter on your account, you can edit directly onto the site, and you have a team of editors and a project manager to help out with the whole process. I changed something in almost every chapter (I was being paranoid) and after I was done, I wanted to go over the whole thing again, but Dad practically prohibited me from editing anything else! So, we pressed the publish button, and soon we found that A Dark Sky would be $24.95 on Fast Pencil as an eBook on the website, and I would only be getting about 10 cents for each book! What? That wasn’t right! My dad almost immediately withdrew the book from that publishing company and found out that Bookshop Santa Cruz does publishing and printing. We went with that option, and soon we got our first hard copies of A Dark Sky–and we could price them however we wanted. I’m not saying Fast Pencil is a bad choice in publishing–I’m only saying that most likely because of something about my book, they needed to charge a bit more in order to pay their designers and editors. You can try it if you like–they’ll format it for you and everything, and it’s great. The publishing process is easy and you don’t have to worry about making your own cover from scratch. Send in a photo or drawing and they’ll format it for you, spine and back cover included.
If you have any more questions for Giselle that I didn’t cover, put it in the comments and I’ll email her.