Monday, May 4, 2015

PUYB Chats with 'Grey' Christi J. Whitney

Christi J. Whitney is a former high school theatre director with a love for the arts. She lives just outside Atlanta with her husband and two sons. When not spending time with them or taking a ridiculous number of trips to Disney World, she can be found directing plays, making costumes for sci-fi/fantasy conventions, obsessing over Doctor Who, watching superhero movies, or pretending she’s just a tad bit British.

Her latest book is the young adult urban fantasy novel, Grey (The Romany Outcasts Series, Book 1).

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About the Book:

Sebastian Grey always thought he was a fairly normal teenager – good friends, decent grades, and a pretty sweet job in his foster brother’s tattoo shop.

But when strangers arrive in town, Sebastian soon realizes that his world is nothing at all what it seemed. Secretive gypsies surround him, shadowy figures stalk him, and the girl he’s been dreaming about turns up at school.

Now Sebastian must protect this girl at all costs, even if it means he will never be normal again.

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Thanks for joining us at the book club, Christi!  Can we begin by having you tell us how you got into writing for young adults?
Christi: Thanks so much for having me! Well, I’ve always been an avid reader, especially of fantasy, and I wrote stories all the time—in notebooks, journals, or using my typewriter (Yeah, that dates me, doesn’t it?). But I never finished anything I wrote. Looking back, I believe it’s because I lacked the confidence.
After college, I became an English and drama teacher, and it was the most amazing job. I hardly had time to write, but during one Christmas break, an idea for a story came into my head, and I started jotting pieces of it down. I shared it with a few of my students one day. They loved it and urged me to keep writing. A few weeks later, I found out I was losing my job due to budget cuts. It was a very emotional time for me. Finishing my story—which became the first draft of Grey—was my new focus, and it provided a creative outlet I desperately needed.
Being a former high school theatre director, did that help you get into the young adult mindset and would you recommend other authors who want to write the genre to do the same?
Christi:  I do think it’s important to be familiar with genre you write, and there are lots of ways to do that. Spending the majority of my day with teenagers definitely helped keep me in the mindset. But, to tell the truth, I think that’s my mindset most days, anyway. Writing YA wasn’t a conscious choice – it’s just what felt the most natural and comfortable for me.
Can you tell us a little about Sebastian Grey?  What is it about the character that people would fall in love with?
Christi:  I’m biased, but I’m quite fond of Sebastian. He’s the type of character I was always drawn to in books and in film. He’s a good guy—fairly average, a bit socially awkward at times, but creative and artistic, and he has a witty, self-deprecating style of humor. He’s not the typical hero you see in a lot of young adult stories, and that’s what I love most about him.
Can you tell us a little about the supporting characters?
Christi:  Sebastian lives with his brother Hugo, who co-owns a tattoo shop in town with several of his buddies. They are Sebastian’s only family, and while they are a bit rough around the edges, they’re an entertaining lot.
Sebastian also has some good friends at school, most notably his best friend Katie, who is one of my favorite characters.
And, of course, there’s Josephine—the girl who shows up in town with the Circe de Romany and throws a wrench into Sebastian’s life. Josephine is also a lot of fun, as well as mysterious and interesting.
They say that all fiction books have pivotal points where the reader can’t put the book down.  What’s one of the pivotal points in Grey?
Christi: A good portion of Grey has to do with unraveling secrets. There’s a point in the novel when Sebastian realizes something unusual and a bit scary is happening to him, and his brother knows more than he’s been letting on.
What’s next for you, Christi?
Christi: Well, Grey is the first installment of The Romany Outcasts Series, so I’m busy working on the next two books. I’m super excited about this series and the opportunity to continue its journey. I also have a sci-fi novel in the beginning stages.

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