Friday, March 6, 2015

utopYA Con Interview - C. J. Redwine - Query Letter Workshop

Happy Friday! Do I have a treat for you all today! The amazing C. J. Redwine is here to answer some interview questions and talk about her upcoming workshop—Query Letter—at utopYA Con 2015. If you don’t have your ticket yet, you need to get one soon! There are only 104 days until the event, and you don’t wanna be the only one not at the party. Get them here (hint: you can purchase a ticket to C. J.’s workshop here and find out more about it).

In addition to the amazing information you'll get this month from the official bloggers, be sure and write down the partial phrase you'll find on each blog. We're giving away Saturday signing space, and you'll need the whole phrase in order to enter. 

Ready? Grab a cup of coffee and let’s get going!

Jo: Welcome to the blog, C. J.! I’m super excited to have the opportunity to learn about you and your Query Letter workshop at utopYA. Without dawdling around, because I know you’re a super busy lady, let’s jump right into the questions (these first few will be about you, then I’ll get into the workshop). If you wouldn’t mind, could you talk with me a little bit about being the amazing adoption advocate you are? What made you consider adoption, and what have been the best and most trying things about your experience?

C. J.: We had three biological boys in four years (Which is nuts. NUTS, I tell you.), and I was stick-a-fork-in-me done with being pregnant, but I couldn’t shake the sense that our family wasn’t complete. I began feeling drawn to China, and felt like I had a daughter waiting for me there. My husband was resistant to the idea at first, but a few years later, he too felt drawn to China. We brought our first daughter home in 2010 and our second daughter home in 2014. The best thing about adoption is seeing our daughters blossom and feeling absolute joy at discovering who they are. They are light and happiness in our family—their older brothers dote on them! The most challenging thing about the process was the wait. We waited 5 years for our first daughter, and it was very difficult, but the moment I held her in my arms, I knew I’d wait as long as I had to just to have that little girl in my family.

Jo: Yup. I had four sons in four years, so I feel ya there. Wow. Five years? That's incredible. It's amazing it all worked out! Congratulations! Now, I hear your husband, Clint, is a lot like Superman. Could you share with us what he does for work, what he’s like on an average day, and what’s the most incredible cake he’s ever baked?

C. J.: Ha! We have a long-standing debate in our home about whether Batman or Superman is the better super hero. I am firmly in the Batman camp, but yes, my hubby has some superhero traits! He is a dj and producer on a morning radio show, so he leaves very early for work each morning without complaint. He is also a movie critic for both the radio and a local tv news channel, so he is often out at night viewing movie screenings. So he’s often tired and busy, but he still takes time each day to spend with his kids, he helps me by doing a lot of the chauffeuring required in the afternoons (Teens, man. They have places to be!), and he tirelessly supports my dreams by picking up whatever slack is left behind when I’m on deadline.

The most incredible cake he ever made was a nativity scene that was under a glass dome and that spun slowly so you could see it from all angles. I mean … a cake with a motor in it, amiright?

Jo: He certainly sounds hero-like! You guys seem like you'd fit together perfectly; a match made in Heaven.  A motor? Oh man... Great, now I want cake... Anyway, let's move on! *shakes off hungry feeling* I’m all about being dramatic in novels and surprising the reader, but you take your YA Fantasy books to a whole new level of amazing. Tell me which book was your favorite to write, how long it took you to write it, and which romance pair you love the most.

C. J.: I think my favorite to write is whatever book I’m currently working on, because I have to be in love with the characters and the story in order to do the book justice. So my upcoming early 2016 release THE SHADOW QUEEN is my current favorite because it combines some of my absolute favorite things—fairy tales (it’s an epic fantasy retelling of Snow White), dragons, magic, and a heroine who is both brave and smart. But if you were asking which book of the DEFIANCE trilogy I loved writing the most, I’d have to say DELIVERANCE, the final book, because I got to give the villains their just desserts, I got to bring my characters through the fire and give them hope, and my hero and heroine got the kind of happily ever after that gave them peace.

I loved the romance between Logan and Rachel (from the DEFIANCE trilogy) the most because there’s so much history between them, and such strength in their loyalty and love. They are both survivors, but both of them have this mile-wide streak of self-sacrifice in them that endears them to me even as it worried me because I wasn’t sure if I could bring them out of the story alive. They complement each other so well, and they earned every piece of happiness they got. It isn’t easy to survive a post-apocalyptic world with dragons that tunnel up from beneath and egotistical power-hungry men who use people like pawns in a chess game that started before either of my main characters was born.

Phrase part one: Learn how to

Jo: Holy moly, Batman! That new book sounds off the charts good. Let’s dive into questions about your utopYA Con workshop: Query Letter. What can folks expect to get information on?

C. J.: My query workshop focuses on unlocking the key to writing the kind of query that gets results. I go over format and what not to do, but most of the time is spent teaching writers what questions need to be answered to distill their plot into a compelling 2-3 paragraph letter that will read like the back of a book. I also do cold reads and on the spot critiques, so writers can immediately hear what worked, what didn’t, and how to fix it.

Jo: *signs up* Sounds like a great class to learn how to write compelling back cover copy. Count me in! How long will the workshop be, and how might people benefit from attending?

C. J.: I actually don’t know how long I’m scheduled for, but I imagine it will be 1-2 hours. People will benefit from learning how to write a query from a writer’s perspective (I have such an easy formula to apply!) and from hearing critiques on both their own letters and the letters of others. The critiques take the lesson from theoretical to practical in a heartbeat, and often bring a lot of clarity to the process.

Jo: That makes me a little nervous... haha! I'm not a most excellent public speaker, but I'm game! Have you held similar workshops before? When and where?

C. J.: Yes, this is actually one of my most popular workshops. I’ve taught it online (I offer workshops throughout the year at and across the nation at book festivals, writing conferences, and individual writer’s groups.

Jo: *Looks at audience* Did you hear that, everyone? Go check it out! Okay, last question! Do you have any workshop success stories to share with us?

C. J.: One success story is author Shannon Messenger (KEEPER OF THE LOST CITIES series), who took my query class, my synopsis class, and my plotting class before finding an agent. The query we worked on in class together ended up getting her a load of requests from the agents she queried, and she signed with one shortly thereafter.

Jo: So there's proof it works! What else could we possibly ask for? Thank you so much for giving me the honor of interviewing you! I can’t wait to meet you at utopYA in June!

About C. J. Redwine:
C. J. Redwine writes speculative fiction and is represented by Holly Root of Waxman Leavall Literary Agency. Her DEFIANCE trilogy is available from Balzer + Bray. Her book QUERY: How to Get Started, Get Noticed, and Get Signed is available on Kindle and Nook. C. J. has an English degree and a teaching credential from Pepperdine University. She's spent the last five years teaching workshops on all areas of writing. C. J. regularly offers workshops online and can also be booked for teen workshops at schools and libraries, as well as adult workshops at conferences, writing chapters, and book festivals.

Now, why don’t you give C. J. a follow on social media?

Workshop Website
Amazon author page
Tumblr Blog

Don't forget to visit the other official utopYA bloggers this month for information on the other workshops, and the special event going on Friday evening. Here's the schedule:

Week 2 – A Book Vacation hosts Victoria Faye's discussion on her workshop - Book Branding Blueprint
Week 3 – The Paisley Reader hosts Regina Wamba's discussion on her workshop for graphic designers and photographers
Week 4 – Book Junkie: Not so Anonymous  will be talking about the special Friday night event, will have a list of Saturday signing authors, and will be giving away a spot at the signing

What do you think? Is C. J.’s workshop something you’re excited about? Why?

Well, that’s all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


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