Hey all here is my wonderful interview with Juan Villagrana! Enjoy, and thank him for his awesomeness!
1. Despite the fact that this question is generally vague, and terribly hard to answer, I’m going to ask it anyway. Where do you find your inspiration for your writing?
I find inspiration in so many different things. Sometimes it’s a particularly interesting line that springs into my head and demands to be expanded into a story. If I hear a song that goes with what I’m writing, I try to shape a particular scene around it. And strangely enough, really amazing cover art inspires me to some degree. Maybe it’s the desire to see my own books bearing gorgeous covers of their own. I could go on and on about inspiration, really.
2. Now, I know that your current WIP is mainly STARSONG, but you’ve recently embarked on a manuscript called DEVASTATE, can you tell us a little about it, and where you got the idea?
Ooh, DEVASTATE. It’s basically a post-apocalyptic dystopian/steampunk novel that takes place in a future where Earth is all but entirely shattered by something Totally Ambiguous. The bulk of the story follows a winged boy who is held captive by the shady government. It chronicles his discovery of the lies they’ve spun around society and his consecutive fight for freedom and too many other things to list. And since I can’t say too much, that’s all I’ll say for now. *feels paranoid* But I promise that it’s way better than this meager description makes it seem.
As for the source of the idea: I’ve always wanted to write a story about a winged character. Just because. No matter how hard I tried, though, I just couldn’t build a story around that little bud. So I put it away. That was also around the time I got into dystopian literature and had the urge to just carve out a broken future of my own. I was also really interested in writing a steampunk novel at some point, but I wasn’t too sure it would happen, as I’m not a big fan of researching and researching and researching Victorian-era things. So I had to put that away, too.
And one cold midnight, magic happened. A line popped into my head, so I busted out the Trusty Laptop and typed it out. The end result was the bumpy prologue for DEVASTATE.
3. A lot of writers (myself included) use music as a backdrop to their writing, do you? Do you have a specific song that gets you writing, or that seems to be the theme for your manuscript?
It’s not very easy for me to find an addicting song that really gets me going, so call me excited when I first heard “Slow Life” by Grizzly Bear. The lyrics don’t represent STARSONG, but the song is just incredible. The haunting little lilt to it or whatever really fits the mood of STARSONG, and helps me get into the mood while working on it. It’s also the song that fits perfectly with one of one of my greater scenes. The Sucker Punch soundtrack has been an invaluable source of inspiration lately, for either STARSONG or DEVASTATE. Currently, only one song actually goes with a scene in STARSONG. For DEVASTATE, I’m hoping to find some songs that I’ll really like, but that also get me in the mood to write in a dark and gritty and broken tone. I’m always open to suggestions, by the way. *nudge, nudge*
4. Who would you say influenced your writing the most? Anybody you aspire to write like?
I think Lauren Oliver has probably had the biggest impact on my writing as of yet. Sure, I’ll never reach her level of skill, but it’s obviously something worth aspiring to. Her way with words is just amazing, so I try to my best to make my writing as clean and smooth as possible. As for who I’d like to write like, it’d probably be a mix of Julie Kagawa/Lauren DeStefano. I’ll get there when I get there. Of course, that’s not to say I don’t have a cheap style of my own.
5. Everybody has their own challenges in writing, what would you say is the hardest thing for you to do in the writing process? What’s the thing you enjoy doing the most?
The hardest thing for me would have to be writing through the first draft. See, I’m not the kind of guy who outlines his stuff. If I map it out, it’s all in my head, which seems a lot easier to me. So I basically kind of live in my stories as I’m writing them, typing and typing away, just waiting for my characters to do this or that or whatever. The thing I like the most about the writing process is actually going through the written material and shredding it to pieces, picking out all the unnecessary adverbs and purple prose or twisty descriptions that just don’t make sense, and then going back through and stitching up whatever’s left behind, only to dive back in and tighten/shine/smooth all those composited bits up.
6. First drafts always seem to suck, but in your experience how do your first drafts compare to your final or later drafts?
If you read my blog, then you’ll know I’m very disdainful toward my first draft. It is horrible. I’m not saying this to garner any form of sympathy. You’d have to be a pretty good liar to even half convince me that it’s good. That being said, my second draft isn’t exactly perfect, but it’s like gold compared to its predecessor. My main issue with the second draft is the abundance of purple prose, unnecessary dialogue tags and things of the sort. Since I’ve already somewhat started working on the third draft (just writing out the revised prologue by hand) I can see that it’ll be thousands of times better than the second.
So, case in point: compared to later drafts, my first draft will always be a disgusting, unreadable hunk of crap.
7. Finally, if you could only offer one piece of advice that you’ve learned to other teen writers what would it be?
Don’t be afraid. Don’t not write the story bouncing around in your head just because you assume no one will accept it. There’s always going to be someone out there who needs it more than you know, more than they know, someone who will escape into the pages of your story and love it and dread the moment they have to tear themselves from the words. Don’t abandon your beloved story just to write to a certain trend. Write what you want to, not what the world wants you to.
Thanks for reading all, and may I leave you with saying: Have a nice Apocalypse!
O, and check out Juan’s blog HERE before we all spontaneously combust… or whatever is supposed to happen *shrugs*