Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stephanie Morrill - Me, Just Different - and a Free Book!

Today it is my honor and privilege to introduce you to Stephanie Morrill, friend, author, and all around cool person. Stephanie and I met at the Florida Christian Writer's Conference in 2006, and we've been friends ever since. And that Angela Hunt workshop she mentions? We sat side-by-side through it all, and I'd have to agree with her about it being instrumental in the road to publication.

Last summer, Stephanie signed a contract for three terrific books with Revell.

Here's a bit about the book, and about Stephanie:

Me, Just Different: Welcome to the world of Skylar Hoyt, a high school senior whose exotic Hawaiian looks have propelled her to the height of the "in" crowd, but who's no longer sure that's where she really fits. New friends, old friends, a reluctant romance, and a family crisis swirl around Skylar as she tries to keep it together and figure out who she really wants to be. Debut novelist Stephanie Morrill opens her first young adult series with a compelling story about characters every teen will recognize and relate to. Morrill addresses real teen issues, like popularity, friendship, sexuality, and more, with grace and style.

From the back cover: Getting a fresh start is harder than it looks. Skylar Hoyt is a girl who seems to have it all--she's pretty, popular, and has a great-looking boyfriend. Her senior year should be the best one yet. But a horrible experience at a summer party has changed everything. Now she's vowing to make better choices, including going back to church. But as
Skylar tries to gain new perspective on life, the world as she knows it begins to fall apart. Her parents are constantly fighting. Her younger sister has a big secret that Skylar is forced to keep. The guy she's dating is annoyingly jealous. And the new guy down the street is just plain annoying. In the midst of the chaos, Skylar starts to wonder who her real friends are and, even more importantly, who she is.
About the author: Stephanie Morrill is a twentysomething living in Kansas with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their daughter. She loves writing for teens because her high school years greatly impacted her adult life. That, and it's an excuse to keep playing her music really, really loud.

Stephanie and I had a little Q&A.

1. How are you most like Skylar?

Well, we both have hair. And eyes. Okay, just kidding, but Skylar and I have almost nothing in common. Especially in the first book of the series. Though, like Skylar, I spent a lot of high school trying to figure out what it meant to be a Christian and how to talk to my non-Christian friends about my faith.
2. How are you least like Skylar?

For starters, Skylar would totally roll her eyes at my dressing style (I'm a plain tee and jeans kind of gal). One of the fun things about writing Skylar was how confident she was about her looks, but not at all when it came to her "inside stuff." I've always been the opposite, unsure of my looks, but okay about who I am on the inside.
3. What surprises have you encountered since Me, Just Different was released?

The enthusiasm of my extended family, and that includes the extended family I married into. They are gung-ho about promoting Me, Just Different and a lot of the early success I'm seeing has to do with them chatting it up with their friends.
4. What is your greatest challenge as a writer these days?

Getting enough time at my computer. I have a 19-month-old daughter so my work time is mostly 30ish minutes in the morning before she wakes up and 2ish hours in the afternoon when she naps. I often struggle to balance blogging, e-mailing, marketing, and actual writing.
5. Which comes first for you, plot or character?

Usually character, though sometimes it's actually neither. Recently, I've had a few times where I think of an opening line, then build everything from there.
6. How do you turn an idea into a novel? What is your process?

After a lot of trial and error, I feel like this has become a fairly refined process for me. I get scraps of ideas all the time. A couple weeks ago, I got an idea when I was walking across the supermarket parking lot. It wasn't a full idea, just a bit of one. I racked my brain to see if it fit with any other ideas I'd had recently, but it didn't. All day I dwelled on it, asking myself questions like, "Okay, what are her parents like? How did she feel when this happened?" I wrote down what I could think of, but it was still wishy-washy at best. Then, a few days later, I got another idea that fit perfectly with that one. I now feel like I have enough to at least weave together a story.

What'll happen now, as soon as I wrap up the projects I've got in the works now, is I'll write the first draft. I'm so not a plotter. I've tried, and it just wastes my time. My first drafts always really stink. They're the bare bones of the story. When I do the first round of edits, it often feels more like a total rewrite. When I'm done with that, I read one more time for continuity/typos, then give it to my husband and writing partner to read. After I've applied their edits, I read it one more time, then turn it in to my agent.
7. Do you have a favorite craft book or workshop teacher?

Yes I do! I have three favorite craft books, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and On Writing by Stephen King. As far as workshop teachers go, I took a fiction class from Angela Hunt that I LOVED. It was a key step to getting me published, I believe.
8. How do you balance being a mom, wife, and writer?

Uh, I don't know. How's that for an answer? McKenna is the priority. If I can help it, I never work when she's awake. I rarely even do e-mails. When McKenna takes her nap, I usually pop her milk in the fridge, then head down to my computer and work until she wakes up. Ben gets home from work around 5:30 and we spend that time as a family. When McKenna goes down, I'll usually take 30 to 45 minutes to get to a few e-mails, but for the most part I'm able to hang out with Ben at night. But that can vary. If I'm in a crunch, he's really good about letting me write a night or two. Somehow all the important stuff gets done. It's a God thing.

9. What were some of those milestones along the way that showed you things were going in the right direction in your writing career?

The first one that jumps out at me is when I went to the Florida Christian Writers Conference in early 2006. Everyone kept saying Christian YA wasn't selling, that it was an impossible genre to break into. But I left that conference with an award and a lead with a publishing house. Ultimately that lead didn't go anywhere, but I still felt encouraged that an editor had liked it.

After that, I got more comfortable with people reading my work, including other writers. Hearing positive feedback from them and also constructive criticism made me think, "It's not good enough ... yet." I knew I could get published, that it would just take a little more grit and determination.

When I went to the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in the fall of 2007, I had an amazing conversation with Natasha Kern. She really encouraged what I was doing, and even though I ended up with a different agent, I walked away from that conversation invigorated. Shortly after, I signed with my agent and the ball really got rolling.
10. What's next for you and for Skylar?
There are two more books in The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series. Book two, Out with the In Crowd release in January 2010. Skylar's committed to leading a new life, but her stupid old one won't get out of the way. Book three, So Over It, comes out in July 2010. She may or may not spend some time off the continent. (Sorry, I'm trying not to give away surprises in book two!)
Erica Here: Thank you, Stephanie, for stopping by OTWP. For the readers, Stephanie is graciously giving away a personalized copy to the winner of a drawing. Leave a comment here before 6 pm Central Time, July 31st, and you'll be entered to win. Be sure to leave a way for me to contact you in your comment. And once again, Thank you to Stephanie.
P.S. I'm really, really, really hoping someone finds a home for The Escape Route. I LOVE that book!


  1. I just love reading about author's and their journey into publication. I especially love the sneak peak into their world of writing, how their books come together etc. Great interview. I would love to be entered into the comp for a book. But I am in Australia so that may count me out. But just in case my email is tab@zaeya.com

  2. What a great interview! I can relate to the balancing time thing! It's wonderful to hear fo success stories--they give us a glimpse of hope!

  3. Reading how creative types get their ideas and how they balance their creative life with real life is fascinating. I always hope I'll find that magic bullet

  4. What fun to read this! You go, girls. I'm rooting for you!


  5. The time struggle seems to hit us all. Can so relate to that.

    Thanks, Erica for featuring Stephanie. A great interview!

  6. That was a great interview! I love, love, love, stories like this--they help keep me motivated. Thanks!

  7. Great interview! I just got my copy yesterday (OK, it's my daughter's copy, but we're negotiating) and I'm totally excited to read it. Look for my review soon :D

  8. Like Tabitha, I also love reading about writer's journey and how they balance life and writing. Thanks for the wonderful interview Erica.

    Stephanie - you should teach a worksho on balancing life and writing. I'm majorly impressed that you never write when your little one is awake. I need to take a page out of your book! I have a long way to go in the whole balance thing.

  9. FYI, Katie, I have a meltdown about once a month that there's "too much to do" that I "can never get it all done" and/or I'm a horrible wife/mother/daughter/friend, etc. I think balance is a regular struggle for all of us! On her blog, Angela Hunt posted some great tips on getting things done. http://alifeinpages.blogspot.com/2009_05_01_archive.html

    Thanks for all the nice comments guys! And thank you for having me, Erica!

  10. Thanks for the link! I'll go check it out. :-)

  11. I know just the young lady who could learn from this book. I like to read them to keep up with the youth and what they are thinking. Please enter me. Thanks.
    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

  12. Erica and Stephanie, I enjoyed the interview. I'm looking forward to reading Me, Just Different--I read the first chapter on line and enjoyed it much.

  13. All right, I'll bite. Ann told me the new books I just received (and blogged about reviewing in the future) didn't have any romance (well, one kinda does, but I hope that doesn't ruin it!!). So, here's hoping this will enter me in said drawing and that my name will rise up from the GREAT ORANGE HAT OF FATE. As for contact info? I know where you live!

  14. Great interview! I'm so glad I found you. I hope I'm not to late to be entered in the contest! This book sounds terrific.


  15. Fun interview. If it's not too late, please sign me up for a chance at the book.