Ask Me Anything: Esther

Using my Ask Me Anything page, Esther wrote:

I notice that you will be teaching Creative Writing Course (6/12-16) at UGA this summer. My daughter (13 yrs old) is an avid reader (especially mythology and science fiction) and burgeoning writer. She wants more writing opportunity this summer so your course may be a wonderful fit. Could you tell me a little bit more about the course in terms of instruction time (time duration, morning, afternoon?), any homework/writing assignment of the course, and anything else that may be relevant? Thank You

Thanks for your interest Esther! The UGA Creative Writing Courses are one of the highlights of my year. I love teaching creative writing. You can learn more about the program in general here. There’s a residential program, where the students attend classes, enjoy activities around campus, and stay overnight in the dorms, there’s an extended day program, where the students come in the morning, go to my class, and then participate in different activities around UGA’s campus before going home, and there’s a class only option, where the students are dropped off before class and picked up after.

No matter which option you choose, the class is the heart of the program. Students spend all day working with myself and another very talented author, Elizabeth Sadler, to hone their craft. There are several creative writing camp options, but the one offered the week you specified is our introductory class, plot and structure. I teach the content of this class to adults and students alike, and my adult writers are always blown away by how incredibly helpful it is. That’s not to toot my own horn, it’s very much the techniques themselves, because I had the exact same experience when I learned them. Completely focused and enhanced my writing.

Here’s the camp description:

Have you ever wanted to write a story or novel but had no idea where to begin? Using the Snowflake Method and applying the 3-Act Structure, we will transform our ideas into finished, publishable work! Join us for a week of creative writing as we hone our craft as writers through lessons on refining ideas, creating a scene and setting, writing dialogue, describing actions, and creating cohesive texts. We will combine hands-on activities to develop details, workshops with fellow writers, and time to write every day! By week’s end, you will have everything you need to take your story from idea to finished product!

I’ve written several blogs on the snowflake method if you wanted to preview what we’ll be learning. I really wish I’d had a camp like this when I was thirteen. I’d have far fewer trunk novels.

We also collect feedback at the end of every day to see what specific questions students have for their projects, and we adjust the next day’s lessons to make sure we cover that. So if a student wants to focus more on, say, dialogue, we would make room for that. The course changes depending on the needs of the students.

I hope that answers your questions. Feel free to send me an email if you’d like to know anything more specific.

Ask me Anything: Persephone Research

Noor sent: I am a master student from Belgium, studying classical languages. For the moment I am writing my master thesis which has as subject the reception of the myth about the rape of Persephone in YA literature. Your book ‘Persephone’ will be one of my case studies to do this research. So I would like to take this opportunity to ask you some questions, and if you could get back at me it would really be wonderful. 

Questions, and my answers embedded below.

-Which ancient versions of the myth did you study?

I looked at everything I could find on and off line. was a valuable resource. I had a decent background with mythology before I began and had read Homer, Hesiod, and Ovid translations through school, but for specific book research, I also  read a great book called Life’s Daughter, Death’s Bride that was very helpful as well as Lost Goddesses of Early Greece: A Collection of Pre-Hellenic Myths

-Did you look at some commentaries or scientific articles about these ancient texts?

   Absolutely. I can’t recall any further specific sources, but I tracked down everything I could find back in 2009/2010 when I was writing Persephone. 

-Did you draw inspiration from other retellings of the Persephone myth (both older and more recent)? Yes. In my childhood, I’d read an interesting version of a retelling called The Forbidden Games by LJ Smith that absolutely influenced how I saw Hades. I never much cared for any other versions of Persephone I found in popular culture*, because it always felt like her side of the story was missing. I was also a huge fan of the Princesses of Myth series by Esther Freisner, and while she doesn’t have a Persephone myth retelling, her retelling of young Hellen of Troy was absolutely an inspiration. I also read a book called Radiant Darkness closer to writing Persephone that I enjoyed. 

I do have to note that Persephone retellings exploded around the time my story was published, so there are now several wonderful retellings. You can find them on this list here.

-Did you follow any studies in ancient Greek or Roman literature or do you sometimes read these texts of antiquity in their origin languages?

I had to do a translation of an Ovid myth for a Latin class I took once, but it was so long ago, I can’t even remember which myth I was assigned. Otherwise, no.  

-What was your main goal in this rewrite: empowering Persephone, giving her more voice, picturing another image of Hades,…? So in other words, is there a sort of feminist background playing?

In every version of the myth I encountered, Persephone’s perspective was left out. We see her mother’s reaction, Zeus’s reaction, Hades’ motivation. We even get some turmoil from Hermes. But Persephone herself is largely left out of her own origin story. She’s not even given a proper name until she’s abducted. I wanted to know her side of the story. So I rewrote it. But at the same time, I had no interest in writing a Stockholm Romance, so I took some liberties. 

-What is your view on rewrites of classical mythology in general? Should people still read the original stories? Absolutely. Whenever and wherever possible. These stories have resonated with people for centuries. You can’t fully appreciate all the ways the myths echo in all of our stories without having read them. 

I would really be grateful if you could help me with these questions. Thank you in advance.

You’re welcome!

Ask Me Anything: How to Avoid Formulaic Writing

Question mark in a blue bubble. Repeating icon for the frequently asked questions in the Daughters of Zeus series a young adult greek mythology retelling by Kaitlin Bevis

Brad reached out on my Ask me Anything page to say,

“I’m trying to avoid writing the formulaic novel. terrified of it in fact, regardless of how it can put it on the NYT best sellers list. I understand the storygrid, and other methods/tecniques/etc. 
Any suggestions for my nightmare?

That’s a great question, Brad.

My number one suggestion is to write things that fall into the conventions you’re trying to avoid, because the most effective way to break a rule in a way that feels satisfying to the reader is to fully understand the rule you’re breaking. Why does this formula work? What’s satisfying about it? What are its strengths. Approach it at disdain at your peril, because that formula, whatever it may be, has been around longer than you have and will continue to succeed after you’ve gone. Writers write in it unconsciously because as readers they’ve internalized it. Formulas are the fabric of fiction. Save the Cat is a really great introduction to plot structure and mechanics.

Once you know it inside and out, then you can play with it, and that’s when the real fun begins. You know what the reader’s expect, you know how to deliver it, and using the knowledge of both, you can subvert those expectations in a way they never saw coming.

In order to do that, you’re going to first have to define what a formulaic novel is to you. It can mean a few different things to different people. If by formulaic, you mean that it follows a particular plot structure like the three act structure, that’s going to be harder (though not impossible) to avoid.

If you mean that it follows the tenets of a specific genre, spend a lot of time studying the genre in question. Genre is basically just a fancy word that encompasses the reader’s expectations when they pick up a certain type of book. Notable exceptions exist, but if I pick up a mystery, I expect there to be something to solve, clues along the way, and characters attempting to solve those clues. There are certain tropes, characters, key scenes, and tonal expectations that come with that genre. Study those. What elements do you want to remove, what do you want to add, what will you keep? You have to keep something. A mystery without a mystery isn’t a mystery. You’ve already mentioned The Story Grid, an excellent resource for breaking down the parts of a genre.

For the other meaning of formulaic novel, plug and play characters- books are basically indistinguishable from one another set ups, I’d identify those books and take some time to study them. Are they all part of the same genre? If so, is it one you plan to write in? Is it one you read a lot that you might have internalized? Is it your least favorite type of book in the whole world and you find yourself getting irrationally made every time you spot it on the shelf (I know that sounds crazy, but I hold grudges against books, I figure somewhere out there, other people do, too). In those cases, my advice to write it until you understand it stands a hundred fold, because to some extent, you’re going to have to get it out of your system. Every writers first couple of projects are subconscious homages and responses to what they’ve read. So not only will you be mastering your craft and learning the rules so you can break them, you’re also battling your reading and writing demons.

I hope that helps!

Dragon Con

Dragon Con is just around the corner, and I’m an attending professional. Below is my tentative appearance schedule. Be sure to drop by and see me. Looking for something to read before the con? Aphrodite is on sale for .99 cents.

Title: Reimagined: New Takes on Old Stories in YA
Description: Whether it’s new takes on Camelot or Greek myths, or retellings of classic books or fairy tales, YA literature is full of reimaginings and retellings. Which are your favorites, & what makes a retelling work?
Time: Fri 11:30 am  Location: A707 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Mari Mancusi, Kaitlin Bevis, Esther Friesner)

Title: Young Love: Writing Romance in YA
Description: What is love? How do we write romance for a young adult audience? What is enough, & what is too much?
Time: Fri 01:00 pm  Location: A707 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Kelly Lynn Colby, F T Lukens, Kaitlin Bevis)

Title: Writing & Rewriting Your YA
Description: Come chat with our authors about making your characters strong, your plots thick, & your beats on point. How to take your writing from good to great through the magic of revision.
Time: Sat 04:00 pm  Location: A707 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: A. J. Hartley, Kaitlin Bevis, Sara Hanover)

Title: Thrills & Chills in YA
Description: YA can be suspenseful & even terrify you. Whether knife-wielding killers, pandemics & plagues, or werewolves & vampires, come hear about what gives us chills.
Time: Sat 07:00 pm  Location: A707 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Caleb Roehrig, Kaitlin Bevis)

Title: Reading Session:Kaitlin Bevis 
Time: Sun 01:00 pm  Location: Marietta – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Kaitlin Bevis)

Title: Author Signings:
Time: Sun 04:00 pm  Location: International Hall South 1-3 – Marriott (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Laura Hayden, Jeffrey Falcon Logue, Kaitlin Bevis)

Ask Me Anything Bob and Luna

Luna reached out to me with the  “Ask Me Anything” submission form to ask the following:

I just finished reading the entire Daughters of Zeus series! WOW, what a wild ride that was. I read it all over 2 weeks and really enjoyed the characterizations, imagery, and pacing. (Without dropping apoilers for anyone who may be reading this) At the end of the 6th book it seems as though you created an opportunity for a new series centered around Artemis…do you expect to continue this story in a new book or maybe a mini series on wattapad? 
Also, thanks for the world that you created and shared with us all!

Thank you so much! You are absolutely correct. I wrote the end of Venus Rising with the intention of following up with an Artemis series as she hunts down the escaped spoilers. I’d planned to write the Artemis series after completing Blood and Other Matter, but I was sidetracked by another project that I’m super excited about (think Sailor Moon meets Once Upon a Time), and then the pandemic hit, and right now things are kind of crazy writing wise.

I can tell you I have an outlined book for Artemis. I just need to get my act together and finish writing it. Hopefully when schools go back to normal, I’ll be able to make more progress. In the meantime, thank you for your patience :).

Bob also asked for some resources for a report he’s writing. Bob, I wrote a blog about Greek gods associated with love and marriage here, here, and here. But your best best for a report is to check out

Ask Me Anything: Caitlin

Caitlin reached out to me with the  “Ask Me Anything” submission form to ask the following:

 Oh my goodness I devoured the Persephone books in one sitting I loved them! Do you plan to write more? I would love to see the relationship between Persephone and hades grow along with how she is growing into her new powers and dealing with the loss of her mom. Also in the end zuse mentioned something worse coming was on the edge of my seat wondering what it could be!

Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed the books :). Persephone’s story continues in the Aphrodite trilogy. Aphrodite is the only point of view character in the first book, but she sees a lot of Persephone, and in the third book, Persephone is back as a point of view character. I hope you enjoy Aphrodite’s trilogy as much as you enjoyed Persephone’s.