Friday, December 14, 2018

Interview with Christine Grabowski, DICKENSEN ACADEMY

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
Dickensen Academy is a young YA contemporary fantasy that bridges the gap between MG and YA. It is about a fourteen-year-old girl, Autumn, who is invited to a fine arts boarding school in the secluded mountains of the Pacific Northwest. However, she soon realizes the faculty is secretly teaching dream telepathy.

As Autumn uncovers more about the dark side of the high school and struggles with its curriculum, she questions whether Dickensen Academy is where she truly belongs. When tragedy strikes, Autumn must learn to believe in her own power and stand up to her greatest fear or risk having her memories destroyed to protect the school’s secrets. 

Although the premise is considered a paranormal or a fantasy, the focus of the book is as much about Autumn’s relationships with her friends and family and her struggles in school and for independence—something many teens can relate to.

The book was written as a standalone with series potential. But now that readers are asking for more, I’m planning to make it into a four-book series, one book for each year of high school.

Are you currently under a traditional publishing contract for future books or do you have manuscripts that you will self-publish? Are you doing both?
Dickensen Academy is traditionally published with a small publisher, The Wild Rose Press. Once I finish the sequel, I will present it to them as well. For non-Dickensen books I will likely try something different. I still dream of getting the huge publishing contract, so my book will be in bookstores around the country. But I would also consider self-publishing because I would like to have more control over parts of the process and higher royalties to help cover marketing expenses.

If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
At The Wild Rose Press, the authors are involved in the design of the cover up to a point. We fill out a two-page worksheet with our vision of the cover as well as answer many questions about the book such as the mood, the plot, the key characters, etc. Then this worksheet is turned over to a professional graphic designer. Unless we have a huge problem with it, we are encouraged to go with it because the designers know what style of covers work best in the market.

What is your writing process? Do you listen to music or do you like silence?
My ideal environment is Starbucks. It provides the perfect level of background noise without interruption. However, most days I work at home, and the only sounds are my dogs barking or ringing their doorbell to go in and out about fifteen times each hour.

Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?
I am somewhere between a plotter and a pantser. I always begin with some sort of an outline, but it tends to be most detailed at the beginning and the end. Once I start writing, I’m constantly adding to my outline as I come up with more details about my characters and plot.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
This is a huge struggle, and I’m still trying to get it right. Since I have a marketing degree, I actually enjoy the marketing which is unusual for authors. However, the best thing you can do to market a book is to write a second. Since my time is already limited due to responsibilities with my family, if I spend too much time marketing, there isn’t much time for writing. And for me to get into writing a draft of a book, I find I need large chunks of uninterrupted time.
Besides writing, do you have any other passions?
My family is are everything to me. (Human and furry.) I left work to stay at home when I was pregnant with my second child and have enjoyed writing because it’ fslexible, so I can do it around everyone else’s schedules. During the winter we really enjoy skiing as a family. I also have been a runner since I did cross country in high school, so I am working on training our one-year-old wheatens to run with me. Now you can see where Autumn’s interests came from.

Some fun facts about you, which do you prefer – dogs or cats? Chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or Tea? Talk or Text? Day or Night?
Dogs, Chocolate, Coffee, Text, and Mid-Morning

What’s next for you?
Although I wrote Dickensen Academy as a standalone, my readers really want to see more of what takes place at the academy as Autumn gets older. Therefore, I dusted off my old outline (I had originally imagined the story as a four-book series,) and am writing Book Two about her sophomore year. I am also well into the editing phase on a contemporary fairy tale reimagining, so I hope to be able to finish that soon too.


Dickensen Academy isn’t a typical boarding school. The faculty is hiding an unbelievable secret within their fine arts program. When Autumn Mattison receives an invitation to attend the high school, she yearns to escape her overbearing father yet remains reluctant to leave her mother and brother. Her doubts fade away when a vivid dream convinces her she belongs there.

Away from home, Autumn discovers a unique school environment that awakens her creative potential, and her new friends become like a second family. However, as she uncovers more about the dark side of the school and struggles with its curriculum, she questions whether Dickensen Academy is truly where she belongs.

When tragedy strikes, Autumn must learn to believe in her own power and stand up to her greatest fear or risk having her memories destroyed to protect the school’s secrets. Caught between secrets and dreams, can she find her true self?

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AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Dickensen Academy is Christine’s debut YA novel. After graduating from the University of Washington, she earned her MBA at the University at Albany. She honed her technical writing skills in marketing and consulting but attributes the creative part of the process to her passion for reading.

When she isn’t reading or writing, Christine can often be found running, skiing, or hiking. She lives in Newcastle, Washington, with her supportive husband, two avid teen readers, and their energetic wheaten terriers.


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