Katie here. I’d like to introduce you to Fran Kefalas. I first met Fran at the Algonkian Writer’s Conference in December. We found we had much in common with our YA Fantasy manuscripts. I’ve since come to know Fran from working with her in our peer group on Author Salon. She is just as kind-hearted, determined and passionate as I found her to be at first meeting. Please welcome Fran Kefalas!
Katie: First of all Fran, please tell us about your manuscript, City of Her.
Fran: City of Her is a young adult fantasy set both in the NYC of our world and the Manhattan of world hidden from human eyes right here on earth. The two cities are very different, with the Manhattan of the other world actually being a living, breathing character. The Protagonist, 15-year-old Erin Angelo, finds herself pushed into the other Manhattan after being pursued by a menacing stranger. Then the real excitement begins. Erin is uniquely connected to Manhattan and that connection could be the savior or destroyer of both worlds.
Katie: You’re received lots of attention from agents and publishers on Author
Salon. How has Author Salon changed how you are handling City of Her?
How has guidance from Michael Neff changed or molded your story?
Fran: I didn’t know the first thing about writing a pitch, or a query for that matter, before I met Michael at the Algonkian Pitch Conference in NYC. Some how, Michael understood City of Her and helped me frame it in a way that sounded unique. Manhattan was always alive in my book, but I never bothered to mention it. Once Michael figuratively slapped me upside the head, a whole new set of possibilities opened up. I threw out the first 100 pages of the book, rewrote 60 of them and joined Author Salon, where I keep rewriting and pushing the manuscript thanks to an amazing peer group, which you are one of. Michael helped me see the possibilities of City of Her, and the Author Salon has meant I have the both the support and feedback needed to keep pushing. AND, they are actively pitching the work on the site, so I’ve gotten interest without having to send a single query. It’s the best of all worlds for me.
Katie: I know that you, like many of us, have a family, hold down a steady
job, but still find time to write. What drives your writing?
Fran: There are a few things that really drive my writing. The first is the idea that everyone has a story to tell. That comes from my journalism
background, and I have had a blast meeting some truly incredible people (and incredible is not always meant in a pleasant way). I've seen the best and worst of humanity fairly intimately.
The second, and again this starts with my journalism background, is the search for truth. Am I writing the truth? It's a question I ask myself a lot, even in my fiction. But the answer has become anything but absolute. That stems from my meditation practice, which has taught me truth is truly relative in many ways. What is my truth, is not yours or anyone else’s and vice versa. So, I’m talking about truth in a really pragmatic way but more in a philosophical way. That meditation practice is the third thing that really drives my writing. It has opened my mind and my creativity has flowed much more freely.
Fran: Journalism taught me about people. I have no idea how many true characters I have met in my 20-year career. It’s taught me a lot about suffering and joy and how both are temporary. I hope it has given me the ability to empathize and understand the place people are in and coming from. My greatest desire is to write characters who feel real to readers. It’s also given me the ability to take criticism and to self-edit, sometimes a little too harshly. One of my challenges with City of Her has come with rebuilding characters after my massive 100-page cut. I think without my journalism experiences I would have been lost in how to do that.
Katie: When you aren’t writing, what will we find you doing?
Fran: I write for fun and I write for a living, so I try to avoid it completely every now and then. My son is great for that. But, my other passion is my meditation practice. I am the president of the board of directors for the school at which I study meditation. It is a non-profit, and I spend much of my time volunteering.
Katie: Fran, thanks for joining us. To our readers, if you want to see an excerpt of City of Her here on UBR next Friday let us know by subscribing to our newsletter, liking us on Facebook, and commenting on this interview. For more of Fran you can find her on her Facebook page. If you are an agent or publisher you can view also her profile and query for City of Her at Authorsalon.com.
Pitch for City of Her
Erin Angelo loves running in Manhattan. Slicing her way through the living maze
of people on every avenue and street provides the adrenaline rush and escape Erin craves, until the day she runs right into trouble. Chased through the city by a menacing stranger, she is rescued by a family friend who pulls her into an alley.
Emerging into the light, Erin finds herself in a very different New York, one familiar and yet alien. It is a city where buildings grow from the Earth, brushing up against the clouds, able to speak and tell you what they’ve seen and what they know, but only if you know how to listen. Erin can listen better than most and soon learns that Manhattan is a solitary being of many parts, an entire city of life. It is only there, nestled in the protective womb of this sprawling and magnificent being, that Erin learns to develop and use the power latent within her.
But even Manhattan cannot keep her completely safe. Erin learns her attacker in the other New York was just one tendril of a dark plan meant to control all life in both worlds, and Erin must work with Manhattan and meld with her in a strange new way to defeat the enemy before it can make the two of them do the worst thing imaginable: turn on each other.