Linda Kage is the debut author of The Stillburrow Crush, a book that I'm dying to read! Though without a further ado, here's my interview with her.
Can you describe The Stillburrow Crush in four words?
Teen crush, happy ending.
Are you similar to your main character Carrie in any ways?
Not really. Carrie will say and do things that I never would've had the guts to say or do. That's why I liked writing her so much; she could be lots bolder than I am. But I did wear a long, brown trench coat in high school like hers. Plus I didn't really care about popularity the same way she doesn't, yet I always found myself awed by those gorgeous, popular boys.
How did the title The Stillburrow Crush come to be?
I'm still not sure about that one. I debated and argued with myself over titles forever. Two lines from the poem "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John Keats (Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave / Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;) are pretty important in the story, so I tried to make a title out of that...something like Song of Youth. But it just didn't feel right. The story was mostly about a girl getting a crush on a guy, so I tried to use the word crush in there. I added Stillburrow because that's the name of the fictional town where she gets her crush. It sounded unique to me (shrug), so it stuck. When no one tried to change it, I figured it'd do.
How do you decide on character names? Is it something that just comes to you or do go through many before picking the perfect one?
Usually, I do go through about a dozen names when writing a manuscript. I'll get halfway through a story and have to change names because they're just not working for me. But I don't remember doing that with The Stillburrow Crush. I just tossed in a name (not even sure why I picked them), and they seemed to work, so I kept them.
I love reading those leading-up-to-the-kiss scenes, so I'll share mine!
I turned to stare out the passenger-side window, focusing on an old house that had been abandoned for as long as I could remember. I said, “They really ought to tear that place down. Just look at that sagging roof.”
Luke gave a soft laugh behind me. “That would involve change.”
“What do you mean?”
“Haven’t you ever noticed this town’s stuck in a time capsule? It’s like we’ve never heard of the term progress. I mean, there’s hardly any cell phone towers around and forget about high speed Internet.”
“High speed what?” I asked, glancing back to give him a puzzled look.
He opened his mouth to explain, when it dawned on him I was joking. “You always have to be a smart aleck, don’t you?”
We shared a smile.
I looked into his face and relished these minutes where I could ogle him selfishly. I knew I should give him the information he wanted from me now, but I could only stare. It took me a moment to notice his expression, though.
His gaze had been roaming my face but had paused on my left ear. When he snorted out a surprised laugh, I frowned.
He pointed a finger toward my hair. “Uh, I think the wind messed it up some.”
I patted my head, my face flaming.
“Here,” Luke said, and flipped down his visor, lighting up the mirror underneath. I looked up and groaned. Not only had the wind caught a hold of my hair and ripped it half out of its ponytail, it had also knotted and twisted it into a healthy-sized rat’s nest.
I tried to ignore the fact that Luke was sitting next to me—and already knew exactly what the disaster looked like—and ripped the holder out of my hair. I combed through the mess with my fingers but there were knots everywhere. When I caught him staring again, I glared.
“What?” I demanded. But he continued to gawk. I patted at my hair and wondered what he could possibly be thinking about the mess.
“I’ve never seen it all down before,” he said.
Startled, I glanced back in the mirror. I’d seen it down millions of times. I just didn’t leave the house with it loose. There was too much of it to let it run wild. I tried to see it how Luke must see it. It was curly—so curly it bobbed. Tight little curls framed my face like a border full of personality. From the corner of my eye, I saw Luke lift his hand toward one spiraling lock.
But when I turned to him, he lowered his fingers and shifted his attention out the window. I stared at his profile for a second, breathing hard.
“It’s pretty,” he said, more to the windshield than to me.
I wanted him to lift his hand again. I wanted him to touch my hair.
“I think yours is prettier.”
He laughed. “Guys do not have pretty hair.”
“Well, yours is.”
I reached over and touched his hair. I thought maybe if I touched his, he might get the guts to touch mine. But at contact, I gasped.
“It’s so soft.”
I ran my fingers through the part that always curled around a cowlick when it got wet. I scooted over, leaning across the console between us.
His voice sounded strained so I looked down. I hadn’t realized I’d moved so close. But when I gazed into his face, we were only a breath apart. I was positioned a little above him so I could reach his hair. He lifted his face up to stare at me. His eyes were a blazing blue.
That’s when he touched my hair. He drew his fingers through the curls to cup my head. Then he tilted his chin to the side and pulled me down. I was shocked when our mouths connected. He was kissing me.
Oh my God, Luke Carter was kissing me.
How does it feel to know that your book will be in bookstores soon?
Surreal. I still can't believe it.
What was your road to publication like?
Loooooooooong. I wrote my first full-length story when I was sixteen. Thirteen years, eighteen finished manuscripts, and a couple dozen rejections later, I finally sold The Stillburrow Crush. I've gained a lot of writing skills in that time, but I know I still have so much more to learn.
Is there a book out there that you just wish you had written yourself?
I know my husband wishes I'd written the Harry Potter series!! But, seriously, I'm just as much a reader as I am a writer, and I like to read stories how the author writes them. Harry just would've have been the same if I'd tried my hand at creating him.
What’s your favorite part of being an author so far? Least?
Favorite part: Knowing I'm just about to hold my very own book in my hands. That's just too cool. But I also love hearing someone say how much they liked readng my story. That's why I tried to sell them; so I can entertain others like I've always been entertained by books. Oh, but I also love writing the two words, "The End." There's just something very satisfying about finishing a story.
Least favorite part: Getting critiques and rejections, espeically when their advice on what to change is right. Sigh. But the plus side is all those critiques and rejections have helped me develop my writing skills, so I'm still thankful for them.
What part of the writing process is the hardest for you? Easiest?
Oh, man. I don't know. Different parts at different times are easy and hard. Sometimes, I'll have a genius idea in my head and then, when I try to write it down, I get stuck. Other times, I stress and debate over an idea, but when I finally just start writing it out, it flows like water. And sometimes the rough draft comes easily, but revisions are hard, while other times the rough draft seems to take forever to sludge though, but the revisions go quickly. It's always changing on me, so I just ride the muse however it goes.
What’s up next for you book-wise?
Next, I have a comtemporary adult romance, titled The Trouble with Tomboys, sold to The Wild Rose Press. It's in the edited stage right now, but will probably be released in late 2010. I've mostly completed adult romance manuscripts, but have a few more ideas for some young adult stuff. I guess I'll just wait to see how well The Stillburrow Crush goes over before I decided if YA is my forte or not.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thank you so much for listening to me blabber on. I hope you like The Stillburrow Crush. That's the most important thing to me; that a reader doesn't go away from it feeling like reading the story was a complete waste of their time (see, I don't have impossible dreams!) Thanks again!
Thanks. Oh, and I don't know about you alll, but that sceane she shared makes me want to read The Stillburrow Crush even more. :) If you would like to find out more about Linda and her books visit her site.