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"When I started writing, I didn’t intentionally set out to write YA. Honestly, it’s just what felt the most comfortable to me,"

Interview: Christi J. Whitney, Author of ‘Grey’

Christi J. Whitney is a writer of young adult and new adult fiction. She’s a former high school teacher with a background in theatre — a hobby she Christi J. Whitneycontinues to enjoy. She can be found directing plays around town or wearing costumes to her local sci-fi/fantasy conventions. Talk to her about Doctor Who or most anything British, and she’ll be your friend for life. She’s here today to chat about her latest novel, Grey, book one in The Romany Outcasts Series.

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Grey. When did you start writing and what got you into young adult fiction?

Thank you so much! Well, I’d had aspirations of being a writer when I was younger, and I still have loads of terrible, unfinished stories tucked away in a box to prove it. But as I grew older, other activities took precedence. I went on to teach English and drama in a couple of different high schools. When I started writing, I didn’t intentionally set out to write YA. Honestly, it’s just what felt the most comfortable to me, and I had more than my share of teen readers standing at the ready with their opinions of my work!

What is your book about?

Grey is the story of eighteen-year-old Sebastian, who lives in a small town with his brother Hugo, a tattoo artist. One day, Sebastian wakes up feeling unusually sick, and he can’t figure out what’s going on. Then, strangers arrive in town, along with a mysterious girl Sebastian can’t seem to shake. Pulled into a world of Outcasts Gypsies with closely kept secrets, Sebastian discovers his life is not what it seems.

Did you have a mentor who encouraged you? 

I didn’t have a mentor when I first began writing, but my high school students were amazing encouragers. Some of them would read chapters and give me notes, others would ask me questions about the story and urge me to keep writing. They were adorable and enthusiastic, and they were a bigger help to me than they probably even knew. Later on, I joined a critique group with other fabulous writers, and they have been a great support system. 

Grey 2Did your book require a lot of research?

It did, actually. In creating this world of Outcast Gypsies, I wanted things to feel real, so I built my foundation on bits of actual history and culture, but I also wanted the freedom to form something totally new that wasn’t confined to those parameters either. That’s the beauty of fiction, and it was the basis for my characters and their backgrounds. Although Grey scratches the surface of this world, the bulk of my research went into the development of the series as a whole. 

What do you do when your muse refuses to collaborate?

Ah yes, she does this to me quite a lot. Well, I first try to appease her with additional cups of coffee or a bar of chocolate. If that doesn’t work, I turn to my music. If she’s still being obstinate, I’ll let her win for a bit, and I’ll step away from my manuscript and go find something geeky to do with my time. 

What was your publishing process like?

A rollercoaster. A long and drawn out, frustrating, exhilarating, heartbreaking, and joyous rollercoaster. I’ve had more rejections that I want to admit to, but let’s just say, I stopped counting ages ago. I got very close to publication several times, but I’d ultimately hit a dead end, and then I’d start all over again. Even with HarperVoyager, it was a long process. I submitted my story as part of an open submissions call back in 2012, but it was over a year of waiting before I received that breathtakingly wonderful telephone call from the editor with the offer of a three-book deal. 

Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?

Yes, absolutely. My website is christijwhitney.com. It’s sort of a home base for me, which I’m working on developing more, but my blog is located there, as well as all the links to other places I hang on social media. I’m active on Facebook and Twitter, and I also love Tumblr and Instagram. I write and post about writing and YA, but there’s also a ton of geek stuff, including science fiction, fantasy, costumes, theatre, and British television. 

Where is your book available?

Grey is a digital first release, and it’s available on the Harper Collins and Harper Collins UK websites, as well as Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Amazon, and really just about anywhere you can buy a digital book. Grey is also scheduled for a print run later on in the year.

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.

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