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Ya Lit Gets Gritty: Carol Lynch Williams

Carol Lynch Williams (as seen in Photo 1) is the award-winning author of more than twenty young adult books, including The Chosen One (as seen in Photo 2), winner of the 2010 American Library Association’s “Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers” and “Best Books for Young Adult Readers.”

Her books address heavy topics (including suicide, mental illness, child abuse, abandonment, conformity, death, and religious cults) and her blog Throwing Up Words reveals a bit about her process.

thalo recently caught up with Carol to find out even more about the nitty gritty of gritty storytelling.

thalo: What is your writing process? Do you outline and research first or jump right in and free write?
Carol Lynch Williams:
Whenever I start a new book, I already have a bit of an idea about what I’m going to write. I don’t outline. I start with a word or a line or a character or an incident, and I write. [For The Chosen One] I heard on the news about a girl [whose polygamist] father was forcing her to marry her uncle. Right then, I knew I would write a book about this; however, I had no idea how to go about it. In fact, the first idea for the book, one that sat in my head and never made it to paper, was quite different than the final product. For years, a book about polygamy sat in my brain. Then came the first line, like a gift: “If I was going to kill the prophet, I’d do it in Africa.”

th: Glimpse was written in prose poem format. Can you explain how that process differed for you?
I started Glimpse (as seen in Photo 3) years ago. I still remember the first line: “By the time I was 12 yrs old, my sister had already tried to kill herself three times.” I realized very quickly that I had the beginning of a book. … I worked on the book for years. It was one of those novels that made me sad, so it was hard to write. The book was in normal prose for half a decade. One day, it came to me that the story was something that Hope [the main character] saw only in bits and pieces. She saw her life, her story, only a glimpse at a time because that was all she could bear. I made the story a short, choppy line. I never call Glimpse a poem, but a short, chopped-up line book.

th: What are you working on now?
I am doing revisions on a dystopian novel—that is really kicking my butt; however, I’ve had a few break-throughs, I think. Now, I just have to try to execute them. In fact, when I finish this interview, I’m rewriting again.

th: What draws you to such dark subject matter?
I believe my writing comes from a place of emotion. If something moves me, I want to write it. The darker stories. The harder stories. The news is full of them. But so are our individual [lives]. Sometimes, finding a book with a character who survives what the reader is going through is all that readers need to make it another day. Once, I got a letter from a young girl who told me she knew how Kelly in Kelly and Me (as seen in Photo 4) felt when the character’s sister died because the reader’s three-year-old sister died from electrocution. I still, to this day, ache for that child. For her family. How awful. How sad. I want to touch that sadness and maybe add a bit of healing salve to it.

th: What advice do you have for other writers?
I meet lots of people who don’t make time to write, and that means they never get a book done. Can’t get a book out if you have no product. So, set aside a bit of time each day. My dear friend, Claudia Mills, writes about an hour a day and she has had many wonderful books published — more than 40, I believe. All with an hour a day. Reading will also teach you how to be a better writer. So, read well-written books that move you. Authors were my first teachers. I read like crazy as a kid. I loved Steinbeck, Faulkner and Twain, to name a few. They taught me to love beautiful language. I always try to write with beauty, even if I’m telling a hard story. Finally, if something moves you, it will probably move someone else. Don’t follow trends. Follow your heart.

Check out her latest book, Waiting (May 2012), a contemporary novel that deals with grief and self-discovery when the main character London's brother Zach dies. Look for it in a store near you. For more information about Carol Lynch Williams, please visit her website: Carol Lynch and be sure to follow her blog Throwing Up Words.

Photo 1 Courtesy Of Kyra Williams

Photo 2 - 4 Courtesy of Sera Rivers