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As many of you know I am currently working on my first young adult (YA) manuscript. As a creative spirit I find it motivating to surround myself mentally and physically with “doers” (people who have accomplished major life goals and continue to strive toward new ones). With that said I would like to introduce you all to M. Molly Backes, a fellow creative and doer, who had her first YA novel, The Princess of Iowa, published earlier this year.

Molly was kind enough to take part in a Marti Ink Q&A to share her own motivations, her writing process, the best advice she received on her journey and much more. Without further delay, here’s Molly!

YA Author M. Molly Backes

1. What was the inspiration for this novel?

To tell the truth, I’m not sure! Inspiration is a mysterious thing. I was teaching middle school English at the time, so a lot of the teen angst I witnessed on a daily basis went into the first draft. 

2. How long did it take you to complete your final draft?

It took me six months to write the first draft, and six years later I signed off on the final draft. Of course, I wasn’t writing the whole time! But I went through four or five major revisions between first draft and publication.

3. What is your writing process like?

Good question! It’s constantly evolving, and seems to be different for every project. What’s true across the board is that I’m a slow writer, and that characters come before plot does.

4. On the days when writing was a challenge how did you cure your writer’s block?

By starting small. I’ve been at this long enough that I know the only cure for writer’s block is writing, so tackling any small corner of the manuscript can help, even if you just write one new sentence.

5. Which of you characters in this book has personality traits the most like your own?
Of course, they all have elements of me! But Mr. Tremont has some of my lesson plans, Shanti has some of my bossiness, Ethan has some of my working stiff anger, and Paige has my teen angst.

6. What was the easiest part about writing this novel? What was the most challenging?

The easiest part was the first draft – I haven’t been able to repeat that particular feat. The most challenging aspect was having to reimagine huge scenes and plot points – that scary moment when you realize everything in the story is up for grabs.

7. Do you see yourself using the characters in this novel to tell another story in the future? If yes, who would the character be?

Probably not, but if anyone got their own spin-off show, it would probably be Shanti.

8. Which character was the most fun to write and why?

Nikki and Mrs. Sheridan were my favorites to write. Nikki, because she has all these quirky ways of looking at the world, and Mrs. Sheridan because she was so over the top.

9. What inspired you to be an author?

It never felt like a choice. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and I really never imagined doing anything else.

10. Do you see yourself changing genres in the future to tell another story? If yes, what genre would you try?

I start with the story, and worry about what genre it fits into after the fact. So, sure! Who knows what kind of story might tug on my sleeve in the future?

11. Will there be a sequel to this book to let us know how Paige ended up?

Nope. She’ll go to college and be fine in the long run. Learning to listen to your own voice is a long process.

12. What was the best advice you received while writing this book? Who gave it to you?

The best advice I got was from a musician friend: “Everything takes ten times longer than you think it should.” It has become my rule of thumb in the publishing industry.

13. If you could do it all over again what would you change about your first-time author journey thus far?

I don’t know, the whole process of publishing and promoting a book seems like it’s so different for everyone. I’m just happy to be on the journey.

Thanks Molly!

M. Molly Backes is the assistant director of Story Studio Chicago, a center for writing and writers. To learn more about Molly and her latest projects visit her blog at www.mollybackes@blogspot.com.

About the book:

Paige Sheridan has the perfect life. She’s pretty, rich, and popular, and her spot on the homecoming court is practically guaranteed. But when a night of partying ends in an it-could-have-been-so-much worse crash, everything changes. Her best friends start ignoring her, her boyfriend grows cold and distant, and her once-adoring younger sister now views her with contempt. The only bright spot is her creative writing class, led by a charismatic new teacher who encourages students to be true to themselves. But who is Paige, if not the homecoming princess everyone expects her to be? In this arresting and witty debut, a girl who was once high-school royalty must face a truth that money and status can’t fix, and choose between living the privileged life of a princess, or owning up to her mistakes and giving up everything she once held dear.

Until next time…