SPOTLIGHT: Veronica Rossi -- Just Keep Going

 

Veronica Rossi is a best selling author of fiction for young adults. Her debut novel, UNDER THE NEVER SKY, was the first in a post-apocalyptic trilogy. Released in January 2012, it was deemed one of the Best Books of Year by School Library Journal. The series appeared in the NY Times and USA Today best seller lists and was published in over 25 foreign markets.

Her second series for young adults began with RIDERS and concludes with Seekers, due out on Tuesday, May 16th. Riders is the story of four modern day teens who become incarnations of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and the prophetic girl who brings them together. 

Veronica completed her undergraduate studies at UCLA and then went on to study fine art at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She is a lifelong reader and artist. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she has lived in Mexico, Venezuela, and all over the United States, to finally settle in Northern California with her husband and two sons.

When not writing, Veronica enjoys reading (it’s worth repeating), painting, and running. She does NOT like anything involving numbers, the addition of them, subtraction of them, you name it. They terrify her. Her obsessions generally lead to fictional works. Currently, she’s exploring New York City during the Revolutionary War.

 

"It is always exciting to see a book move into the world. It never gets old. It humbles me. It inspires me. I feel very, very fortunate."

 

As a New York Times bestselling author of over half a dozen published novels, how does it feel to send SEEKER out into the world? Have your feelings changed since the publication of UNDER THE NEVER SKY?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, with SEEKER’s upcoming release. It’s my fifth YA book, and the eighth book I’ve published (three of which are co-authored with our dear Lorin!) It is always exciting to see a book move into the world. It never gets old. It humbles me. It inspires me. I feel very, very fortunate.


Now that SEEKER is about to be released, what project are you currently working on?

I can’t get into too much detail quite yet, but it’s my first historical fiction, also in the young adult category. I’m really excited about it. I think it’s my best work yet!


Has your writing process changed since you finished SEEKER?

My process changes with every book I write. Sometimes it’s only a slight modification, sometimes it’s significant. I do have tools I almost always rely on. For example, every one of my books gets a trifold poster board, where I break out the three acts in scenes. But I’ll use that at different stages for different books.

In RIDERS and SEEKER, for example, I wrote my way into the stories much more than I did with my UNDER THE NEVER SKY series. I just do what works. 


What do you do know as a writer that you didn’t do or wouldn’t have done before?

As far as what I do now that I didn’t do before: super early mornings. It’s my new thing. My way of achieving deep focus. I get up at 4:30 every morning and get a couple of hours in before my kids wake up.

I’ve discovered that my mind is in a really good creative space at that time. I have a quiet brain then. I can look at my manuscript and really see it (rather than zoning into that space where I’m thinking of my to do list, lunch, how I need to get laundry going, etc.) If I skip my early mornings now for whatever reason, I’m a little devastated. I love them.

 

"I’m still learning as a writer. I’m still developing. I don’t think I realized just how much that would happen on my journey."

 

What is one of the most surprising things you've learned about yourself or your writing? 

I’m still learning as a writer. I’m still developing. I don’t think I realized just how much that would happen on my journey.  


What do you consider is your biggest writing success right now, at this very moment?

I think I’m getting better. At least, I’m more motivated than ever. And I’m writing for a living and managing to stay alive in a pretty tough arena. I’m legitimately living my dream, and it’s awesome. I don’t know how I got this lucky but I’ll take it!


What challenges or fears do you face with writing and what steps have you taken--or do you take--to overcome them?

I face challenges and fears in my writing every day. Every single day.

One of the ways I cope with them is to keep a running list. It’s literally called, “My Worry List.” If I have a fear about a thin character, a flimsy scene, etc. I add it to the list. Just doing that takes some pressure off. I can then turn to finishing whatever draft I’m working on, knowing I have that list to turn to when the time is right. 

So, that’s a practical way to push through. But most of the work is mental. I have to talk myself into the right headspace a lot. And I have great writing friends who I can lean on. We support each other through the doubt and the discouragement.

The whole thing with writing is to keep going. Writing is layering. It’s revision. But the only way to get to those later drafts is through pure grit. Just keep going.

 

". . . the only way to get to those later drafts is through pure grit. Just keep going."

 

What were the highlights of your editorial work with Free Expressions or attendance at a workshop? How would you describe its overall effect on your professional/creative trajectory?

I met Lorin Oberweger about eight or nine years ago at a FIRE IN FICTION workshop in Austin. I also was super inspired by Don’s teachings. Between the two, I was hooked.

After that I attended a BONI in Northern California, where I live. I got to know Lorin better. I was critiqued by Don (and cried, because he told me the truth… Don knows this.) It was a life-changing critique. Because of Lorin and Don’s honesty and guidance, I found the right path. I turned to the manuscript that would launch my career. 

Lorin and I have become good friends over the years, and co-authors, as I mentioned above. I’ve worked with so many people who “do books” but I have the highest regard for her ability. She’s just gets me, creatively. And we do enjoy our sushi dates. 


In a recent article for the Tor/Forge Blog you mention “Trust the process.” What advice would you give writers who may be having a hard time with Trusting the Process?

This is something that gets a bit easier to believe the more you write.

You start to be able to look back at all the times you felt lost in the woods, and somehow, miraculously, made it out. I’ve written a few books now that, at some point, I thought just weren’t going to come together. In fact, most of them I feel that way! But, as I said above, the whole thing is to keep going. You have to be bullheaded about it. Your desire to finish a manuscript only needs to be a teensy bit greater than the sum of your fears about that manuscript.

 

"Your desire to finish a manuscript only needs to be a teensy bit greater than the sum of your fears about that manuscript."

 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given that's helped you as a writer?

I’ve had a lot of great guidance over the years. One thing that resonated with me personally was when my mom told me, “Write for yourself. When you do, you write beautifully.”

Now, that’s such a mom comment, right? But it hit home for me because I have a tendency sometimes to look at what others are doing, or to care too much about what others think. I’m trying to get better about limiting external influences to those that only help me do what I want. My mom’s words remind me of that. I keep them on a post it by my desktop!


What outside hobbies or interests help fuel your writing? Especially when you’re feeling “lost in the woods?”

I’ve come a bit late in life to running, but that’s what I have been doing for the past few years that helps me. Writing is so sedentary. Years ago, when I first started, I could spend the bulk of a week indoors with my computer. I have learned I need fresh air and movement. Apparently I wasn’t designed to read and write books all day, unfortunately.

 

FAST FACTS

  • Currently reading: 
    So many things! I am reading a dozen research books at the moment. I’m also reading a young adult fantasy called THE CROWN’S GAME, which is about a battle between two magicians in a fantasy world based on Imperial Russia. And I also just finished a really gritty and excellent adult historical novel called THE NORTH WATER about a whaling expedition in the late 18th Century that goes terribly wrong.
     
  • If you could enter the world of any novel, which would it be?
    This is a bit obscure, but I love this book called ACROSS THE NIGHTINGALE FLOOR, inspired by feudal Japan. The setting is just rendered in such a poetic and gorgeous way. I’d go there!
     
  • Do you write to music, or do you prefer silence?
    It depends on my mood. I’ll do whatever is working best. I do have playlists for each of the books I’ve written with songs that set the right tone. And I especially love writing to film scores; sometimes I just need atmosphere with no lyrics.
     
  • Is there a specific food or drink that fuels your writing?
    Coffee. Sometimes tea. I don’t like to eat while I write. I love food too much. I wouldn’t get many words down.

You can find out more about Veronica at her website, www.veronicarossi.com. Her books are available through all major retailers and independent bookstores.  Purchase Seeker at Amazon.