Tell us about your latest book.
“Tenderfoot” is my debut novel, and I’m overwhelmed with the good response it’s getting! It’s about four orphan teens, from all over the world, who wake up one day in another world called Enova with no memory of how they got there.
I chose to tell the story through four different pairs of eyes:
- Linnea, a traumatized recluse from Iceland
- Sammy, a teen soldier, fighting his inner demons from the Dem. Rep. of Congo
- Logan, an alcoholic Lothario from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota
- Daisy, a brassy, vivacious victim of human trafficking from San Francisco via the Philippines.
“Tenderfoot” has the elements readers expect from YA sci-fi: resilient characters to connect and feel with, a wild adventure in a fantastical world, quirky technology, heart fluttering romance, self-doubt and discovery, and a dose of rebellion to round things out. However, I worked to package these themes in a story that differs from the usual dystopian/paranormal/fantasy YA fare. A novel free of clichés and predictable plotlines. Y’all will have to let me know if I was successful!
Tell us a little about some of the others who contributed to your book, such as cover designer or editor.
I can’t talk about contributors to “Tenderfoot” without mentioning my son, Joshua. He almost deserves a writer’s credit! We started discussing my ideas for “Tenderfoot” when he was in 5th grade, and he’s now in High School! He helped develop characters and plot, but also doing things like drawing pictures of the Enovan animals. His biggest contribution to the story comes in Chapter 4. He “fixed” a lifeless scene for me. Chapter 4 is “Daisy’s” first chapter. This character is bold and dramatic, and her first chapter felt flat as a pancake. Josh said, “Mom, you need a monster or an explosion. Preferably both.” I took his advice, but you’ll have to read the book to see how I used his ideas in Chapter 4…
I had two volunteer editors. The Wonderful Robynne Elizabeth Miller (an amazing emerging author) and the Phenomenal Bev Wilson. Both ladies read my manuscript multiple times. They offered advice from micro to macro editing. They truly went above and beyond to help me make “Tenderfoot” shine.
Last, but not least, my long-time friend, Alden Olmsted, drew the map of Enova for me. He’s an artist with his fingers in various medias including screenwriter, film maker, photographer, and (luckily for me) map maker. You’ll have to check out the cartoon maps he makes of real places on his website www.aldenolmsted.com. Really cool stuff!
Who are your favorite authors?
YA authors: Suzanne Collins, Veronica Rossi, Anne Aguirre, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle, and Judy Blume.
General authors: Alexander McCall Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri. George R.R. Martin, and Maeve Binchy.
What advice do you have for other writers?
First, write something you want to read (I steal this piece of advice from Toni Morrisson). Write something you’re passionate about, a story you can become completely invested in. I’m not sure I could have made it through the roughest parts of the editing process if I didn’t absolutely LOVE my story and its characters. And when it comes to marketing if you’re not entertained by your story how will you sell it to others?
My second piece of advice comes from Elmore Leonard who wrote the novels the TV series
“Justified” was based on. Mr. Leonard said, “I try to leave out the parts people tend to skip.” For your first draft, write everything. Hammer out very detail for characters, scenes, and settings. And then, strip it down to the bare minimum of words needed to tell your story. And I mean it, BARE MINIMUM. Take a machete and hack away everything redundant or unnecessary. Keep only the very best stuff. I still haven’t mastered this, but when I edit my primary focus is to find the “chaff” and burn it!
What's the best thing about being a writer?
Experiencing my stories as they unfold. I love to find out “what happens next.” For me, it’s as exciting as reading someone else’s novel. I’m “Tenderfoot’s” biggest fan!
What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?
I’m an extrovert so all the alone time it takes to write something of quality wears on me. I think I’d dry up completely without my writer friends. Having people to talk to about my work, and writing in general, rejuvenates me.
Also, I’ll be honest, I’m not aces at grammar. I make a lot of rookie mistakes in the area of punctuation, sentence structure, and the like. Without copy editors, and Grammarly…oh, y’all don’t want to know what my writing looks like! My fourth grader has a better grasp on proper sentence structure than I do.
Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
Pinterest: pinterest.com/abbydrinen (lots of pictures of Enova, plus characters, and other extras!)
Wattpad: wattpad.com/user/enovalady (rough drafts of my novellas)
Movellas: movellas.com/user/enova/movellas (rough drafts of my other stories & novellas)
How long did it take you to write your book?
Two years of planning, and three years of writing. I was really learning how to write on this one so it took a while. Book two in the Enova Series, “Guardian,” only took me six months to write.
Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?
Yes! That it’s challenging work to get the vivid pictures in my head to translate to the page. I knew “Tenderfoot” was an interesting story and the characters were captivating, but my first drafts were dull in comparison to the vision I had in my head. My early readers (husband, dear friends, critique group) had to really dig through my boring writing to find the gold. But, with the help of a great mentor and my fabulous critique group, I learned how to use tools at a writer’s disposal to make stories accessible to the reader. The two most important tools in my Writer’s Toolbox are: cutting away excess words/scenes/chapters, and Deep Point of View.
Where can a reader purchase your book?
It’s currently available on Amazon.com in paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited.
What are you doing to market the book?
This lovely Blog Tour for starters! I also share large chunks of my book on social media. I put longer excerpts out there because I’m an unknown author. I twitter like crazy. You can practically read my entire book in my tweets!
I talk to anyone and everyone about my book, and offer free copies to bloggers in exchange for review. Specifically, I target high school English teachers, other authors, and bloggers to tell about my book.
I’m also fortunate to have a few rabid fans who do a lot of promoting for me. (Amber Calderón and Bev Wilson, I’m talking about you!)
Who inspires you?
My critique group. They’re dedicated to putting in the work to develop their writing skills, and making their work the very best it can be.
How do you research your books?
I rely on my experiences as a Social Worker for much of my “research” on human nature, relationships, personalities and psychology. For everything else, I use the internet…all the time! If I’m going to write something into my story I want it to be as accurate as possible. I hope someday to afford to travel as part of my research. If I could have traveled to research this book my stops would have been Iceland, The Democratic Republic of Congo, The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and The Philippines.
Do you have another work in progress? Tell us about it.
I have three. The main one is Book Two of the Enova Series, called “Guardian.” I’m also working on four novellas, one for each of the main characters from Tenderfoot, to accompany the Enova Series. And when I get writers block on the Enova Series, I’m writing a stand-alone novel called, “Rae at the End of the World,” about a teen girl whose parents and four brothers are doomsday preppers
Have you written other books? Where can readers purchase them?
My first novella from the Enova Series, “Sammy’s Last Day,” will be available this Fall on Amazon.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?
I think both are valid options for authors.
I self-published “Tenderfoot,” because this story was a hard sell to traditional pubbers. Why? Because “Tenderfoot” and the Enova Series don’t fit into a neat marketing box. It’s kinda sci-fi, but kinda fantasy. It’s a rich, character driven story, but it’s an adventurous plot driven one, too. I was often rejected because it doesn’t follow the “proven” YA formula. After several rejections, I realized I just wanted the story out there and didn’t want to wait for an agent or traditional publisher who wanted to take the risk on something outside the norm. I’m grateful for the ease of modern self-publishing making it possible to put “Tenderfoot” into the hands of readers now.
However, I still submit my other work to agents and would love to have representation someday!
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
Judy Blume. Sassy, funny, honest, soulful writer, Judy Blume was my inspiration. I devoured her books as a kid and teen. Often re-reading her titles until they fell apart (I read “Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself” about a dozen times). I wanted to do what she does: explore the heart of the adolescent experience and do it with depth, humor, and grace. To talk about the strange stuff, the icky stuff, and all the weird and incredible parts of the teen years. Not to give answers, but create questions and open dialogue. I want to be like Judy when I grow up.
Does your family support you in your writing career? How?
My husband and three kids give me time and space to write. Which is really important, and I’m grateful for their sacrifice. It’s hard when wifey/mommy needs to spend hours at the computer with a bunch of words instead of in the pool with them. I’ve already mentioned my son Josh and how he talks through plot points and characters with me. My husband was my first reader and biggest cheerleader. They also listen to me talk about my writing journey. Even my nine-year-old daughter will lend me her ear when I need to fume and fuss about the challenging parts of writing (like when the frickin’, frackin’, friggin’ formatting is STILL OFF in the digital proof!!!). And my extended family all have read my book and recommend to everyone on social media and in person. My mom emailed info about the book to, like, everyone in her high school graduating class.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished the “Across the Universe” trilogy by Beth Revis and loved it! The books currently on my night stand are: “The Red String” by indie author D. Marie Prokop, and “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Reading! I read, like a really lotta the time. Other than that, I’m shuttling my kids to school, lacrosse, dance lessons, etc. Driving for Uber and Lyft (I get LOTS of writing material from some of my more colorful passengers). Vegetable gardening when I need to decompress. And watching sci-fi/fantasy TV with my husband. Some of our favorites include: “Game of Thrones,” “Killjoys,” “The Colony.”