Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Interview with Semi-Finalist Cassandra Griffin

Today I am interviewing Cassandra Griffin, one of three potential winner's of Penguin and Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Contest in the YA category!

GC: Tell me about your novel!

CG: It’s about an amnesic girl’s desperate search for where she belongs in an untrusting post world war III society. 
Seventeen-year-old Jane Doe’s sweet and innocent appearance is the perfect means to sucker people into helping her get what she wants:  her life back. 
Waking up with no memory is frightening enough for Jane, but after surviving an earthquake, fleeing from an institution and wandering through the slums of the Trench, the last place she thought she would find trouble was in her dreams, or rather, the space between dreams and reality. 
Stumbling upon this new world, Jane comes face to face with the stuff of nightmares that take whatever form their Dreamer fears most, be it a three storey tall monster, an exploding metal man, or a pair of deadly oversized spiders.  As they hunt down their frightened Dreamer, their destructive actions wreak havoc on the Trench in reality, killing innocent bystanders.  When a group of misfit teens, called the Dreamcatchers, arrive to protect their beloved neighborhood, Jane impresses them, and herself, with her ability to control the dangerous creatures. 
Jane soon finds out that in places like the Trench, suspicions are rampant and those without a past just can’t be trusted.  Her amnesia becomes a closely guarded secret, and her innocent looks make it easy to win the Dreamcatchers over.  There’s only one problem:  Sam.  Her growing feelings for the charming leader make it hard to keep up the pretense and she’s driven to stretch her lies just to stay with him.  She wants to confide in him, but more than anything she needs to uncover her past, and using the Dreamcatchers seems the only way.  Torn between remaining in her newfound life and her desire to find her real family, deceptions run high and each new clue drags her further into the Dreamcatcher’s nightmarish war that could leave her with no place to call home.
GC: How did you begin writing it?

CG: I began writing my novel for National Novel Writing Month.  While I wasn’t exactly successful in finishing the novel in a month, it gave me a great start to Dreamcatchers.  The idea originally stemmed from when I was shopping and saw a Native American dreamcatcher.  The word “dreamcatcher” began a stream of ideas for a new novel, but I wanted to use the idea more literally--kids who actually catch dreams.  It just sort of fell into place after that.  

GC: When did you hear about Penguin and Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest?  Were you set on entering right away?

CG: I first heard about the contest through my friend, and the best critique partner ever, Claire Merle, author of The Glimpse.  Last year was the first time I entered.  I used the first novel I ever wrote.  While I only made it to the quarterfinals, I found the community on the forums to be very positive, and I received a lot of feedback that I used to improve my writing.  It was a great experience, so this year it was a no brainer and I entered Dreamcatchers.  

GC: What was the waiting process like?  Do you consider that you were calm, cool and collected, or were you biting off your nails like the rest of us mere mortals?

CG: Throughout the competition, it was difficult to distract myself during the days leading up to each announcement.  For the few seconds it took me to scroll through the names of those making it to the next level, I felt nauseated.  But for the finals, the call came a week earlier than the official announcement, which I’d completely forgotten.  I hate getting my hopes up too high, so for the weeks leading up to the announcement, I tried to be realistic and tell myself that I was happy to simply be in the semi-finals and that it didn’t matter if I made it any further.  Well, I must have had myself convinced because when I got off work that day and listened to Amazon’s voicemail that said they needed to talk to me, I just couldn’t imagine what it was about.  It sounds stupid now, but I suppose you can imagine my shock when I called them back and they gave me the good news.  

GC: When did you hear you were a finalist?  What was the moment like?

CG: When I called Amazon back I was actually at work on a quick break.  Thankfully, I was alone in the locker room so no one could see me dance on the phone.  I must have sounded pretty excited, because the poor guy on the other end listening to my squeals of delight actually suggested that I sit down for a few minutes.  The moment was sort of rushed, though, because I realized that all my coworkers were waiting in a hot bus for me to get back to work.  The hardest part was skipping all the way back to the bus then having to pretend everything was totally normal until the official announcement was made a week later.  

GC: Have you had the chance to read your fellow nominees’ work?  What do you think of their novels?

CG: I’ve had the chance to read the excerpts from both Rebecca and Regina’s novels and I thought they were fantastic.  I love how Rebecca is able to infuse a humorous tone to her main characters daily life, and how Regina’s imagery really brings her character’s emotions and the surroundings to life.  It was immediately apparent how different our novels are, just based on the imaginary setting of Dreamcatchers, but my fellow nominees are obviously very talented and I’ve got a tough challenge ahead of me. 

GC: If you win, what will you do to celebrate?

CG: It will definitely involve another embarrassing happy dance!

GC: Here's hoping for a happy dance, may the odds be ever in your favor, Cassandra. Also, might I say that trying not to mess up the GC/CG initials was a chore? First time I've ever had to do that!

CG: Thank you very much for this opportunity. 

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