Thursday, March 1, 2012

Got Teen Fiction? welcomes author Judith Graves

Today I'm excited to welcome Judith Graves, author of Under My Skin, its sequel, Second Skin and a contributor to the anthology, Spirited: 13 Haunting Tales. She's also got a new series coming out called Strangeways. Judith was one of my "classmates" in the Class of 2K10--in fact, she was Class President! 

Were there any characters who showed up unexpectedly who became critical to the plot?

The character of Sebastian Cale was originally intended to be a distant overlord / “drop in” bad guy. He’d pop into the story, throw down some threats, and disappear. But he had such presence from his first scene that I knew I’d have to further develop his role. Which I have in subsequent books within the SKINNED series.

But then something interested happened. I began writing a steampunkghosthunter series and lo and behold, in dropped Sebastian. At this point I realized my steampunk series was really a prequel to SKINNED, complete with cross-over characters. Though there’s a century of time between the stories, time is not a factor to several of the immortal / undead characters. Like the vampire, Sebastian.

And so in Strangeways Versus The Blood Brothers, the first novel in the STRANGEWAYS series, we get to meet Sebastian when he was an up and comer in vampire politics – back in the day when he still had remnants of his human soul.

I’d say his character arc - along with that of Kate, a witch who can control time, and another cross-over character between worlds – was the most unexpected and critical plot twists yet.

Did your children, spouse or significant other read your novel? Their reactions?

My husband is a high school social studies teacher and basketball coach. While he hasn’t read any of my stories in full, he’s the first person I bounce ideas off, the first I run to when I need insight into the ever evolving world of a high school classroom, and he often offers up zinger lines for my snarkier male characters. However, he’s also the king of honest responses. When I ask him, “Does this work?” – I’d better be prepared for the cold, hard truth. I think every writer needs a reader like this – one who doesn’t hold back – one whose intent is not to undermine, but push you to improve.

I’ve always valued his honestly, especially when I was starting out as a singer/songwriter – doing open mics in small cafes or pubs. He’d always be there to help me setup and tear down my gear, but more importantly we’d evaluate my performance, the audience reaction to specific tunes, and he’d help me to up my game for the next show.

When pitching ideas, possible plot twist, or the opening chords to a new song, I know I’m onto something if I can make his face light up.

I often read my work aloud and it seems to send my two crazy labs to sleep, not sure if that’s a good thing. Then there’s my mother. Lol….she’s a tireless cheerleader and loves everything I write/sing. I go to her when I need a boost. But, hey, that’s what mums are for, right?

What advice do you have for teen authors when it comes to writing a novel?

Get it done. When I first started out, I’d perfect the first three chapters of a project, rewriting, editing, revising – but never plotting out the full story, never asking – what’s next? Because the thought of having to complete the tale was overwhelming. It was easier to fuss over the FIRST THREE, then to tackle all the challenges that would get me to THE END.

Now I write a first draft in full before revising. I may send chapters to my critique partners for input, but I won’t tweak anything until I get to the end. Then I’ll go back and fill in the gaps, add sensory detail, crank up the conflict / tension between characters, etc.

The most important thing for any writer working on a book, short story, poem, song -  is to GET IT DONE.

What writer’s maxim have you found to be either true or false? What happened to make you believe it?

Write what you know.

While there is much truth in this maxim, there’s also the danger that a writer may take it too literally. Did Tolkein know that hobbits eat a million meals a day? No, he made up that tidbit. In fact, he made up hobbits, period. Did Stephen King have his legs hobbled by a crazed fan? Nope, but he could imagine the terror, the pain of such an experience, because he drew upon his life experiences and then MAGNIFIED them.

Write what you know doesn’t mean that if you’re a file clerk, you can only write about paper cuts and alphabetization. It means that somewhere along the line you might inject a character with a bit of an OCD quirk – they’re obsessed with alphabetizing their pantry, maybe what they do that day has to be in alphabetical order: Bathe, Breakfast, Brush teeth, etc. (actually that would cause a ton of conflict in a thriller tale…lol…).

Your own personal life experience will naturally provide details in your work that no one else could dream up. So, don’t worry about writing what you know – that’ll happen anyway….write what you imagine.

What do you do when you get writer’s block?

I haven’t experienced a full writer’s block – being unable to write a single word. I think that’s because I work on multiple projects at once. At any given time I may be juggling four or five works-in-progresses (progressi?). If I get stumped in one story, I’ll set it aside and work on something else. In doing this, the solution to whatever was bugging me about a scene, or bit of dialogue will present itself – as if the snag was slowly being unwound in my subconscious – and I can move forward.

Multiple projects also provide a break when a scene in one story is challenging, emotional, or complex. When it’s completed I’ll often switch to a lighter scene in another project.

I rent movies the same way. If I watch a horror flick, I have to follow it up with a comedy. Kind of a ying yang thing that seems to work for me.

Thanks for visiting Got Teen Fiction? today and good luck with the new books!


Judith's website: and the site for her new steampunk series:
The trailer for Second Skin:
The trailer for Strangeways Versus The Blood Brothers:

Follow her on Twitter: @judithgraves @AStrangeways


  1. Thanks so much for having me, guys! Your blog is amazing. ;)

  2. Thank you for taking the time to share with us today. The more I read about these books the more I want to get my grubby fingers on them :) I wish you all the best on the tour and send congratulations on the new release!!

  3. I am sadly behind in my blog reading this month, but wanted to stop by, read and say _thanks_. What a great and in-depth interview. Strangeways is a must must read for me. _Loved_ the second book in the Skinned series.

  4. And! Glad to have found your blog.

  5. I'm so jealous Judith doesn't get writer's block!

    Denise & Deb, thanks for joining us! We have plenty more to look forward to!