Sweet Sixteener Julie Eshbaugh recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Shannon Grogan about her debut YA thriller, FROM WHERE I WATCH YOU (August 4, 2015 from Soho Teen).
About the Author:
Shannon Grogan is a second grade teacher who writes at night (and while her kids are at ballet and baseball) in a small logging town east of Seattle. She holds degrees in education, and graphic design/Illustration. When she isn’t writing, she’s baking, reading, watching scary movies, and wishing she were at the beach. You can find out more about her online at www.shannongrogan.com.
Visit Shannon at Goodreads.
About FROM WHERE I WATCH YOU:
Reeling from the aftermath of her sister’s drowning and the collapse of her family, 16-year-old Kara focuses on what she knows best: baking cookies. Winning a prestigious baking contest could take her away from a miserable home life. But someone is watching and leaving threatening notes: Kara has a stalker. If she doesn’t figure out who it is, she could lose everything. Her chance of escape. The boy she’s beginning to love and trust. Even her life.
Julie: Shannon, congratulations on FROM WHERE I WATCH YOU! This book has everything–a thrilling premise, plus BAKING! How did you find your story idea?
Shannon: I was driving down the highway and I heard a Campbell’s soup commercial on the radio. I had to pull over and write down all my notes! The commercial, for some reason, inspired the first character in the story–my MC’s mom. By the time I pulled back onto the highway I had basically her entire back story and how she came to be her crazy, holy roller self. Then I needed to develop an MC who wanted to get the heck away from her!
Julie: I love that your protagonist, Kara, is dealing with so many complex pressures. Her story is really intricate. What’s your method for getting the first draft down? Do you work from an outline?
Shannon: I wrote the first 50 pages and then learned a great visual via an SCBWI conference called the W-Plot. I was able to visually plot out the main story and all of the subplots in different Sharpie colors. I’m such a visual learner so it really helped me fit all my ideas in one place. From this visual I developed an outline, which helped keep me on track as I was making my way through the first draft, and then later drafts. I definitely write and revise in layers so this is a helpful method for me. I feel like I used a ton of worksheets and tables and checklists for this story! But it was all worth the work. And I believe in outlines because they sure help with writing your synopsis later on!
Julie: I have to ask about the baking! The book is set against a backdrop of a national baking competition. What inspired you to add this element to the story? Did you have to do any special research?
Shannon: I’ve had, and still have, many hobbies and decided early on that I wanted to incorporate those hobbies into my MCs wherever I could. Kara needed a dream, a goal to carry out her escape. For her baking and cookie art came about naturally because Kara’s mom had a little café so it’s a hobby that naturally went well with a café. And I knew it was something she could earn a scholarship for culinary or pastry school for. For research, I watched a lot of Food Network baking and candy-making competitions! I took a lot of notes on what went on and tried to imagine the stress the competitors felt trying to create their scrumptious goodies in front of judges and a TV camera. I’ve always been a cookie baker, but of course I made a lot of sugar cookies with Royal Icing and took notes along the way, good stuff and bad!
Julie: Why do you choose to write for and about young adults?
Shannon: I feel like I can offer more to teens than adults. Maybe it’s the teacher in me. This time in life is so intensely dramatic emotionally. I kept journals as a teen and I look back and see it and remember what that time was like. Everything felt like a crisis, like the end of everything, and the beginning of everything. Now my daughter is going through it and I’m suffering and rejoicing it with her, and feeling some of it all over again and taking notes!
Lightning Round Questions
Oldest, youngest, middle, or only child?
Favorite book when you were 16?
‘It’ by Stephen King
Music to write by? (Or do you prefer silence?)
Worst distraction when you should be writing?
First person you tell when you have a new story idea?
Favorite baked good? (Had to ask that one!)
Gluten Free Blackberry Pie
About the Interviewer
Julie Eshbaugh used to have trouble staying in one spot, having lived in places as varied as Utah, France, and New York City. Julie eventually returned home to the Philadelphia area, where she now lives in the house she grew up in with her husband, son, cat, and dog.
Set in a time of woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats, Ivory and Bone is historical fiction that reads like fantasy. It tells the story of two star-crossed teens whose competing clans share a dark history, and who must choose between trusting—or fighting—each other. HarperTeen, May 2016.