Meet My Writing Counterpart: Holly Cagney

Since my first collaboration with Holly Cagney is on the verge of being queried--and is already making the contest rounds--we thought it would be good to introduce each other. (You can find her interviewing me over on her blog, here.) Without further ado, meet my co-author for FIRE, LIGHTS, AND SLEEPLESS NIGHTS.

Give us a snapshot of who Holly is by providing a list. Name three things you “love,” three things you “hate,” one thing you “fear,” and one thing that you “know.”

1. Bread  
2. Creating  

1. Filth  
2. Scraping noises   
3. Sickness


You’re not alive unless you’re living.

In your personal bio, you’ve said that you were inspired to write because of your great-grandmother’s writings. Would you mind explaining a bit more of that? How do your writings differ—and how are they similar?

When I learned that my great-grandmother had been an author (published by Simon and Schuster), I wanted so badly to follow in her footsteps. I think a lot of that had to do with being adopted and not really having my own past. After I was adopted, I really clung to my new family’s history and let it become a part of my own. And once I tried writing, I was hooked.

Our writings differ in the obvious. She wrote adult fiction, with the exception of one children’s novel (The Hoogles and Alexander). I, of course, write young adult. We do have similarities, though. Her writing was very much inspired by her own life, and I think a lot of mine is, too.

Have you ever thought about genre or style-hopping in your writing? What is it that started you on the YA path and has kept you there?

YA has such a heartbeat. That’s what really drew me to writing it. There’s so much room for pain and insecurity, but at the same time, it can hold intense love and magic. I feel alive when I write YA. I feel present. And that’s really what YA is about.

I have genre-hopped within YA, for sure. My first novel was a thriller, my second an urban fantasy, my third a paranormal…then I finally landed on contemporary, where I’ve stayed. Sometimes you have to try everything to find out what you love most. I love reading contemporary YA the most, and I derive the most enjoyment from writing it, as well. But even within contemporary, my style has changed. I started out writing commercial contemporary, but lately, I’ve seen myself shifting more toward literary. It’s all about finding what awakes your passion for writing.

What YA book do you wish you had written, and why?

What a hard question! Can I pick two? I’m going to anyway.
For commercial, it would be Anna and the French Kiss. This is really the model of how to write a great commercial contemporary YA. It has a unique MC, it keeps you reading, and it has love…which we all need, whether we’re willing to admit it or not.

For literary, it would be Imaginary Girls.  This book chilled me to the bone, yet the writing was so painfully beautiful that I couldn’t put it down.

What’s something that you had to learn the “hard way” in the writing world? What advice might you offer others?

To take rejection in all forms. I cried when I got my first critique. It was hard to take. And then there’s not making it into contests…being the loser amongst winners. And, without a doubt, there’s the actual rejection from agents. Those can hurt a lot.

But you HAVE to do these things in order to succeed. You must have your work beta-ed and critiqued to make it stronger. You must put your work out there to see if it’s relevant in today’s YA climate. And if you want to be a traditionally published author, you must submit to agents. It’s growing pain. Without the pain, you will not grow.

What is the biggest surprise about being a co-author? What makes it different from your own writing?
The biggest surprise was how easy it is. I really wasn’t sure how two writers who’re used to doing their own thing, their own way, could be able to come together for one cohesive novel, but it clicked. It really clicked hardcore. For me, it was like having your subconscious come alive. All those ideas that you’ve forgotten or didn’t know how to articulate suddenly spring to life in the form of this other person. Because of this, I think you really have to find the right person to co-write with. I think it has to be an organic process.
You know, it’s not different from my own writing. That’s why I love co-writing so much. I didn’t have to sacrifice who I am as a writer to be a co-writer. But it’s better…richer. It’s like my writing 2.0.
Once your book(s) sell(s), where do you see your writing life going?

Besides writing a hell of a lot more, I see myself interacting with people. I would love to go on a book tour and interact with readers. I would love to have an agent and meet said agent. I would love to go to conferences. I would really, really, really love to meet other writers and go on writing retreats. Writing can be such a solitary experience, so I’m ready to get out there and interact.

If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be—and why?

My great-grandmother, Dorothy Langley! I would love to hear which relatives inspired which characters. I would love to hear where her inspiration for writing came from and how it evolved. I could imagine myself sitting by a fire with her, warm tea in hand, listening to her tell me about her passions, ideas…and maybe even a few inside tips on how to become an amazing writer. 

Take a few moments to stop by and say, "Hi," to Holly. You can also find--and I recommend following--her at her blog and her Twitter account @HollyCagney. And if you want to check out our co-site, "Chris + Holly = Novels," click here.