Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 29, 2011

A Bit of Backstory

Every writer knows that the cliché “writing can be lonely” is true. In the end, no matter how extroverted you are (and all writers are massive extroverts, right?), the work comes down to just you and a blank page.

Finding comrades-in-arms is important to a writer’s sanity and morale. Other writers help fuel your passion and empathize with your trials and triumphs like no one else can. Even the most supportive spouse doesn’t “get” why pacing problems in your novel make you pace, or why rogue commas chase you in your nightmares, or why having multiple voices in your head makes you “creative” rather than insane.

Understanding like that takes other writers.

I was lucky enough to find such comrades in 2006, when New York Times best-seller Jonathan Maberry started a workshop called the Advanced Writing Workshop. All the participants had completed one of his many Novel in Nine Months courses, and Advanced Writing was designed to help us through the often long and arduous process of polishing and publishing our work.

That Advanced Writing workshop (which still meets today) spawned The Author Chronicles. We have found mutual support and encouragement, helpful advice, and a lot of laughter on our journey so far. We hope to share what we have learned—and continue to learn—about the craft, business, and life of writing with you.

There’s something for everyone here. The five writers of The Author Chronicles write in different genres and are at different points along the writing-publishing continuum. All of us will introduce ourselves over the course of the next few weeks, but here we are in brief:

Kerry Gans (that’s me) writes middle grade and YA while running after her toddler daughter. Kerry is shopping her middle grade coming-of-age adventure novel, The Egyptian Enigma, while actively writing two more projects.

Nancy Keim Comley writes YA and middle grade novels while wrangling dogs, cats, bees, and children on her farm.

Matt Q. McGovern is wrestling his YA dark fantasy trilogy Goth Spirit into shape. He’s not ready to query yet, but sees the light at the end of the tunnel. Professionally a software developer, he spends his time working, writing, and playing the cello.

Gwendolyn Huber is restructuring her fantasy post-apocalyptic Gothic murder mystery, Blame it on the Moon, while also working on a YA novel, Not Extinct. Like Matt, she has not yet started the query process.

J. Thomas Ross is a poet, novelist, and short story writer. One of her poems, “Winter,” won a prize at the 2010 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. J. Thomas is currently working on a future-time YA adventure/fantasy novel, Digger & Swat, as well as multiple short stories. Her short story “A Rock Is a Rock Is a Rock … Or Is It?” has just been published in the anthology Tales of Fortannis: A Bard’s Eye View, edited by Michael A. Ventrella.

As you can see, we cover a broad spectrum in both genre and experience, so we will have a lot to share as our journeys towards publication continues!

Up next: J. Thomas takes us inside Balticon and her book’s unofficial launch.


  1. I look forward to seeing much from this crowd!


  2. Congrats! Looking forward to many mystic revelations and cosmic troofs!


    • Thanks, Al! I’m hoping to find some of those myself!


  3. Awesome! Congrats on a great group blogging together. Cant wait for more and to hear success stories!


    • Thanks, Donna! We’re hoping to learn a lot on our way to success, and share it all with our readers.


  4. Fantastic! I’m always up for reading more blogs!


    • I know! The list I follow keeps growing – I’m going to need to clone myself just to read everything!


  5. Here’s a dumb question: what unique challenges does YA novel writing offer, as opposed to other kinds of writing? Those who have not tried it might think it’s easy!


    • Well, any type of writing is hard. That’s the first thing people need to understand! As to unique YA challenges, there are the ones you would expect: go easy on the bad language and no explicit sexual content (violence seems to have fewer limits, oddly). The big challenge I find in writing YA is that “voice” is all important. Many YA books are in first person, so that voice has to carry the entire book and always sound genuine. One slip and you lose the reader. Anyone else have an opinion?


    • You’ve given us a good topic for a future blog post!

      As Kerry said, any type of writing is hard, and she gave the basic parameters of YA literature. One other thing a writer must do at the end of a YA novel is have the main character(s) solve their problems, get out of their difficulties, or resolve their conflicts themselves. No adults can rush to the rescue.

      The voice is a critical element and perhaps the most challenging. Whether writing in first or third person, the writer has to get back into that teenage mindset with all its angst and uncertainties. In addition, whatever level of children or young adults forms the book’s audience, the writer must respect them and their intelligence and avoid writing ‘down’ to her/his readers. That said, writing is an individual process. What is most challenging for one writer could be easy for another.


    • I started out writing adult, but switched to YA because I found that it was more of a fit for me; my writing voice *wanted* to go in that direction. I started reading YA again for the first time in decades just to see for myself. I then asked all the characters that were in my head what got them there, and what they did when they were in high school, etc.

      The challenges are many: the rationale behind the point of view, being mindful of the attention of the reader (don’t waste their time), book size, violence and its rationale, language, setting and environment (gotta get it right, the audience cares about it).

      This is *definitely* a future blog post.


  6. I can’t wait to see what you guys will cook up on this blog! Congrats on its launch!!


    • Thanks, Jonathan! We’re excited about it!


  7. […] I’d like to announce a new group blog I’ve joined, called The Author Chronicles. This is a group of five writers from different genres facing inner demons and navigating the […]


  8. […] when we would post. Kerry set up the blog for us, and The Author Chronicles inaugural post, “A Bit of Backstory,” written by Kerry, appeared on Sunday, May 29, 2011. Our first Top Picks Thursday post […]


  9. […] years ago today, The Author Chronicles kicked off our blog with an introductory post. We’ve been rolling ever […]


  10. […] May 29, 2011, The Author Chronicles blog was born. Every week for 10 years, we have brought you a compilation of our favorite writing tips, advice, […]


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