Virtual Book Tour Guest: Christi J. Whitney, author of 'Grey'

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:

Title: Grey (The Romany Outcasts Series, Book 1)
Author: Christi J. Whitney
Publisher: HarperCollins/HarperVoyager
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult (Urban Fantasy)
Format: Paperback/Kindle

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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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

Thanks for the welcome! I love talking about my publication story, because it’s been one of the most frustrating, disheartening, exhilarating, and amazing experiences I’ve ever had. I grew up wanting to be a writer, but then my interests changed to other things. I found myself in a teaching career, but stories continually rattled around in my head. I got the idea for Grey based on a few favorite fairy tales from my childhood, combined with some research I’d been doing for my family tree, and then directly influenced by my own love of particular characters and books in the sci-fi/fantasy genre.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

I wrote Grey in bits and pieces over the course of six months while I was teaching. It was difficult finding the time, so I wrote during lunch breaks and between classes. I stayed up late and typed away at my computer. I jotted down scenes while sitting in doctors’ offices or waiting in car pool. Every writer I’ve ever talked to has his or her own journey, and we’re all so different from each other, but I would encourage aspiring writers to just keep at it. There will be days and weeks when your creative well is completely dry, but if you can write one paragraph, even one sentence, then you are moving forward. Don’t give up. You will finish.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

My publisher is HarperVoyager – specifically, the UK branch of the global science fiction and fantasy imprint of HarperCollins. They publish some of the most amazing talent in the sci-fi/fantasy realm, including George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb. I stumbled upon their website one day and read an announcement that changed the course of my publishing journey. HarperVoyager was opening its doors for two weeks in an open submissions call for un-agented authors. I’d been trying to find a home for Grey for about three years at this point, which included landing an agent and coming very close with submissions to big publishers, but ultimately, everyone turned it down. The story was a hard sell at the time, at least, to the editors we’d been focusing on. I know many authors don’t sell their first novels, but Grey just wouldn’t let me go, so I started over back at square one, determined to give it another shot. My manuscript was one of a handful chosen out of nearly 5,000 submissions, and I still find myself grinning every time I think about the whole experience. Because of that open submissions call, I now have a three-book deal and an amazing literary agent, and I’ve gotten to work with the wonderful people at HarperVoyager.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Oh, there have been lots of surprises along the way! Just working with a big publisher and figuring out how everything functions has been eye opening. I think publishing a book is a huge learning experience, and I’m grateful for a support system of fellow writers. You often read of quick successes and rags-to-riches stories when it comes to authors and book publishing, but honestly, this was an extremely tedious and emotional journey reaching all the way back to 2009. Of course, it’s all worth it, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

Grey is the first installment of The Romany Outcasts Series, so I’m busy working on the next couple of books. As of now, the second book is due out next year. I’m also working on a couple of additional projects as well.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

I suppose it depends on what mood I happen to be in that day, really. I’m definitely active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but I tend to hang around Tumblr a great deal, mainly to feed my geeky fandom addictions.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

Grey is an adventure story and an urban fantasy, but at its heart, it’s the story of Sebastian’s struggle against himself and finding his place and purpose in the world. The series as a whole is my take on the classic fairy tale theme seen so often in stories such as Beauty and the Beast – don’t judge books by their covers. We are all made up of so many layers.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Thanks for having me here! I hope you will enjoy reading Grey as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

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