Courney Vail is the author of Kings & Queens and Death Calls.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I work as a freelance graphic designer and copywriter. I basically design covers and promotional materials and layout books for some publishers, artists and authors, and I also work as the advertising and public relations coordinator for a nonprofit that seeks to benefit others through music.
What was your favorite book as a child or teen?
I’ve always been an avid reader. Ramona and the Fudge books had me in stitches. In junior high my favorite books were Anne of Green Gables, The Chronicles of Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time and around high school age, I loved The Outsiders, Lord of the Flies and Skeleton Crew.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest thing about writing was knowing right off the bat, from the language to the circumstances that keep sliding into Kings & Queens, that most of the people in my circle of influence would find the book too gritty. You just always believe that the people who love you will have your back, but when you move out of your own comfort zone, and far out of theirs, when it comes to art, there’s always risk there. I had to just accept that risk and follow the story into and through its dark and ugly descents regardless. It took me a while to be okay with that and to be confident in my story.
I find it interesting to know what environment people write in. Do you use a pen and paper, laptop? Quiet room, music or what? Dog at your feet? Cat on the desk?
I use both paper and pen and a laptop. I like to write down my ideas. I get more accomplished when I can brainstorm freely. When I’m in front of the computer, I’m tripped up by my need to get my words perfect. I write a few chapters, edit them, then write some more. I’ve done Nano a couple times and that has helped to break me out of that pattern, at least for that one month, but I should aim to write like that more often, to just fly, rather than hop along and nitpick. Getting to the end with my method takes forever.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I do a minor plot sketch, not really an outline. I write down some plot points that I hope to hit, but my characters usually end up surprising me, so I let them dictate direction.
Which character speaks the loudest to you? Do any of them clamor to be heard over the others?
My character, Derek, probably speaks to me the loudest. I developed my characters so fully that they feel real to me, and to many readers too, but he’s the most raw, real and damaged, and he was loosely based on my friend who was abused as a kid, so his impact is everlasting. I’ve done a couple of guest posts in his voice, and I love doing that, getting to reconnect with him again.
What sort of Starbuck’s coffee would your characters order?
Majesty would order a frappachino. She loves chocolate, so she’d probably get the javachip.
Derek wouldn’t read the menu. He’d ask for the strongest, LARGE not VENTE.
Alec, the most all-American boy in the book, would get an iced mocha. It’s a non-pretentious blend of coffee and chocolate, and he prefers cold drinks. Warren, my loner artist, would get Very Berry Hibiscus. He never follows the norm.