Fancasting The Order of the Key

In August, I participated in an online event for Kyra Dune’s release of her latest YA Fantasy novel, Elfblood. As those events go, I played a game with attendees. For this specific game, I decided I would throw out some character description and let other people cast the characters for my upcoming novel, The Order of the Key. I promised to post the best results here, so here we are (Also, read to the end for a quick publishing update)!

Jacklyn Madison: Jacklyn is 18 years old with dark curly hair, hazel eyes, and an athletic build. She’s kind and loving, but she’s got a sarcastic streak, quite a bit of pride, and a big mouth that always seems to get her into trouble. She starts out a little naive but she becomes stronger the more she learns in her time at the Estate. She’s tough, a fighter, but gentle…even killing monsters leaves her feeling guilty.

The submissions for Jacklyn, some of them seemed far too innocent. Some of them seemed far too sexual. To me, the best entries skated the middle of the road between sweet and sexy. 

If you wanted known actresses, you could go with one of these two.

Belinda Clemons suggested Pretty Little Liars star, Lucy Hale. I could totally see this!

Belinda Clemons

Another good one? Lori White Lazzara suggested ex-Disney star and musician Demi Lovato.

Lori White Lazzara 4

If we’re looking at a relative unknown, Lori White Lazzara came up with another option.

Lori White Lazzara 3

I HAVE NO IDEA WHO SHE IS! Her picture is all over the place on hair styling websites and she’s gorgeous, but I don’t know who she is. So…if anyone does, let me know. 🙂

Kyp Franklin: Kyp was born a leader. He’s incredibly intelligent and driven, but he’s emotionally closed, somewhat hard to read. Known for his complex relationship with the truth, Kyp has a one-track mind. He has every intention of turning the current mission of The Order upside-down. Dark-haired, dark-eyed, brooding and attractive, Kyp would probably be the last person in the world to even consider his own appearance…unless he can use it to manipulate his way into a better position to meet his goals.

MANY gorgeous guys were submitted for Kyp, but all of them…while fun to look at…scanned a little too old for Kyp, and…I hesitate to say this, a little too beefcake.

Personally, I’ve never had a casting idea for Jacks. But I have had one for Kyp. Kevin Zegers of The Mortal Instruments would be my choice…although the eyes are wrong. The rest, however, are so perfect for Kyp, I almost made his eyes blue. No, not really.

600full-kevin-zegers tumblr_mdo0mzEmdS1rgdltlo1_500 tumblr_mfx3109ioW1rak8qko1_400

I’ve written about this before. I had no idea who this guy was when I dreamed Kyp up, but I saw him and was blown away by how close he was to my mental image of him.

Lavinia Franklin: Lavinia is refined and cold. She has a temper, but is far more the type to cut you with her words through gritted teeth, or wait until later, so she can destroy you when nobody is watching. Her brutal side is mostly hidden unless she feels she requires a show of strength. Devious and manipulative, Lavinia always has a plan. With long brown hair and a tall and slender figure, Liv is just as beautiful as she is deadly.

For this one, Angela Walker Cruz was the closest to my idea of Lavinia. Actress Jo Champa has the right look in many images of her.

Angela Walker Cruz

My own personal casting choice for Lavinia, would be Hemlock Grove‘s Famke Janssen.

Her entire face screams, “Don’t screw with me.”

There are plenty of other characters, but if I did all of them, it would take quite awhile. I think that once the book is released, I will revisit the idea again, and ask for some feedback from readers about who they would like to see.

For anybody wondering what’s up with the release, it has been delayed due to a few necessary edits and the fact that we are hard at work at an amazing cover that will do Jacklyn and her crew justice. Once things are set and the wheels are in motion, I will let you know all about it. Don’t forget about me. The Order of the Key is still well on the way. It will be in your hands soon, and now that I’ve found my forever publishing home, the next ones will be released much more smoothly.

Do you all have any casting possibilities for me? Please feel free to post them below!

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Genre Choice

Leather boots

Being asked by a friend who only reads true literary fiction what I am writing used to feel like a pop quiz I was sure to fail. “Hi, my name is Justine and my current works in progress contain a computer virus alien race, a divorcee with an imaginary friend, and superheroes who fight monsters that come through inter-dimensional rifts. Please do not throw tomatoes or insults at me.” I would say it with shyness, with shame, as though what I was writing was any less valid than your normal everyday literary work. There’s literary fiction and there’s commercial fiction, and my muse just happens to like superheroes who fight monsters that come through inter-dimensional rifts.  So sue me.

But the truth is, this is where the muse takes me. It takes me to weird stuff, and, in this case it takes me to fantasy. When I came up with the idea for The Order of the Key, it only made sense that the main character, Jacklyn, would be young. She couldn’t be too young, for reasons I can’t really express without spoiling the plot for Book 1, but she had to be in that stage where she was figuring out who she was as a person. Initially, because some of the themes could run a little dark, I attempted to write Jacklyn as an adult, but it didn’t track well. The voice Jacklyn had placed in my head was plucky, young, and irreverent.

There was also a very specific theme that I wanted to explore, and that was this idea of dreams vs. reality. Jacklyn has this love for comic books, superheroes, and all things geeky. So, at first, when she is pulled into this world where she is the superhero, it seems like a dream come true, even if the circumstances surrounding it aren’t the best. But, as she struggles with the responsibilities of actually living that dream (risking those around her, putting herself on the line, being forced to do things she wouldn’t otherwise enjoy doing), she grows to understand that there is a big difference between imagining a situation and enduring it. And I think this is a hard won lesson for many—this idea that we’re going to grow up to be something amazing, just to have that amazing thing turn out to be…not so amazing. And it was important to tell that story in a YA framework, because I feel like that is a lesson worth teaching to kids who are about to head into college and out into the real world—to feel free to dream, but to inject a little practicality into it. Dream big, but dream smart.

In the end, I didn’t so much choose my genre as my genre chose me. What genres do you guys write? Read? Tell me a little about why in the comments!

Submissions – An Insiders (and Outsiders) View

It’s official. I’ve converted to the Dark Side. Once upon a time, I was just a lowly author.

A short time after signing my book deal with Fantasy Works Publishing, I was given a job there as well. After several back and forth conversations with owner, Jen Leigh, in which she would hand me a potential acquisition and ask me to evaluate it to see whether or not our interests lined up, I suddenly found myself working with her in acquisitions. Instead of the rejected, I have become the REJECTOR. And I feel the need to talk about it a bit, because it’s a huge difference, looking at it from the inside. And possibly because I need a little talk therapy.

Here’s what I’ve learned from working in acquisitions through two pitch sessions.

  1. It is a SLOG. I used to be very annoyed at how long it took agents and publishers to turn manuscripts around when you sent them in, but I was wrong. Reading through that many submissions can be a lot of work, especially when you consider the fact that we have other duties in acquisitions, like sending out contracts or rejections (more on both, later). And that isn’t even factoring in the fact that in small publishing you can wear many hats. Also, for me, specifically, I have a day job, a writing career, and a family. We try to keep your manuscripts for less than a month before we say something, and that’s mostly due to Jen, who reads so much faster than me. But in small publishing, all it takes is one minor business hiccup to mean we can’t read acquisitions for the rest of the day until we get it straightened out. Because putting out fires with the authors you have takes precedent.

  2. It is a JOY. People are creative. REALLY creative. And a whole lot of fun. Even if something doesn’t fit our particular vision for our company, we usually fall in love with something about every manuscript we read.

  3. It can be disappointing. There are few things that hurt worse than discovering a manuscript that you fall in love with, and having that author decide not to sign with your company. You invest a lot of time when you read a manuscript from cover to cover, and a lot of emotion as well. And when you fall in love, you fall hard. So it’s sad. But it’s also important that you are both on the same page, business-wise. So just like you have to make the best choice for your manuscript, we have to make the best choice for our company. The only thing I would suggest is that you only submit to a small publishing company if you would be interested in publishing with them. If you are relatively sure you are looking for an agent, it wastes everybody’s time for you to submit. It happens far more than you would think.

  4. We know, very quickly, if we want to sign you. Nobody wants to hear this, and nobody wants to say this, but it’s true. I often know by page 5 or 6 of whatever you send me, if I’m going to want to read further. If I fear a no, I’ll still read the entire packet you send, hoping you’ll prove me wrong, but I have yet to have that happen. Taste is subjective, and that doesn’t mean that the same will be true for the same writer any other place. By no means does this mean you have to be perfect, but when I pick up a manuscript, I have to be captivated by something (your writing style, a character, voice, plot) by the end of the first several pages, or you’ll be hard pressed to win me over.

  5. We hate rejections. If Jen tells me she has grabbed a pint of ice cream, I know it’s time to send out rejections. We hate every single email we send, because we don’t want to crush anybody’s dream. We’d much rather say yes, because…

  6. We love to make a dream come true. Jen has said this to me time and again, but it wasn’t until just recently, when I was given the chance to make a call on a manuscript by myself, that I understood the power of selecting a novel for publication. That book became my baby. I’d worked on books in their nascent stages before – mine, my husband’s, my good friend, Louis’ – and you become emotionally invested in them. Their success becomes just as important as your own. But never, had I read the work of a complete stranger (though, thankfully, not anymore) and had that same magic happen to me. And then it did.

And this is why I wanted to do this. This is why I added Acquisitions Editor to the many pieces of my puzzle. Because the writers we have chosen deserve to have a voice, deserve to have their day. And I’m enjoying every chance I get to make that happen.

Big Announcement!

Hello all!

I wanted to announce that, due to unforeseen circumstances, I will no longer be publishing my series, Keys & Guardians with Distinguished Press.

I will now be publishing the series with Fantasy Works Publishing. Though my release date may be pushed back slightly because of this change, the team at Fantasy Works is already hard at work getting book 1, The Order of the Key, ready for the world. We’re still looking towards a late Summer, early fall release.

In addition to the acceptance of my series by Fantasy Works, I will also be joining the staff as a line editor. I am very excited to be working with this group of passionate and inspired people.

I’ll keep you posted on further information as it comes in!