Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 300 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 2,700 readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog, which receives 63,000 monthly hits. She is excited for her modern-day Daniel Blaze to come out with IlluminateYA (an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas). She enjoys all things theater, cats, and fire.
Hope, tell us when you decided to become a writer, and what made you actually sit down and write something?
Although I’ve been writing for as long as I’ve known how to put a pen to paper (I have some stories from first grade buried in my room somewhere.), I didn’t know I could professionally write until I was in high school. My AP Literature teacher met with me to discuss an upcoming class project and in passing said, “Well, Hope, obviously you’re a good writer.”
I didn’t hear the rest about ways to fix my paper on Kite Runner, and henceforth got a B on that paper. But that didn’t matter. In that meeting, I heard, “Well, Hope, maybe you can do something with this funny thing called writing.” So, I wrote.
Every writer is eventually asked this question, but where do your ideas come from?
I like to say they come from “what if” scenarios. What if Daniel was set in modern times? What if your school burned down on the first day? Or, often, I ask myself, “What situation would you never want to end up in?” And then I make that situation the plot of a book.
Why do you write what you do?
I love clean teen fiction that has an edge and is honest. I write characters who have divorced parents, who have suicidal thoughts, and who deal with anxiety. I think teen fiction tends to swing one way or the other: clean but with a cleaned-up sort of story or edgy and dark with no redemption. I want to come alongside teens and say, “I’ve been there. It’s awful, but there’s still hope.”
What is the hardest thing about the creative process of writing?
Honestly, editing. I can write books relatively fast. Blaze came out in about 45 days while I worked three jobs and attended school part-time. But I often have difficulty taking blinders off and killing darlings.
If you’re a Christian, what are the challenges you believe Christian writers face now and will face in the future?
As a literary agent, the biggest thing I see is that most Christian publishers have moved away from Christian fiction, at least in the sense that we know it. They want to publish stories with good morals, but not necessarily overt Christian themes. And I totally get it. I’ve even had frustrations as a Christian with past Christian fiction that seems to beat readers over the head with the Bible.
How long does it typically take you to finish your books?
It takes me an average of 20-45 days to write a book (about 80,000 words). Blaze took me the longest because I worked so many part-time jobs. There was one time I co-authored a novel with someone that took nine days, but man, oh man, that was a wild ride.
Tell us about the hardest thing in writing your book.
The hardest thing about writing the sequel to Blaze (Den) was a lot of insecurity surrounding the work. Blaze and Den tackle insanely dark topics ranging from suicide to racism. Although YA fiction encourages writers to dive headlong into these, Christian YA publishers are still warming up to it. I think a lot of my anxiety was over whether or not people would put the book down because it didn’t shy away from the nitty-gritty. I still deal with a lot of that worry for Blaze.
As for Blaze, dealing with depression threw the largest hindrance into the writing process. My parents split around the time I wrote it, so a lot of raw emotions got poured into the first draft. Some remnants still lurk behind in the final.
Name your three biggest frustrations about the writing business.
First, it requires patience, and I’m not a patient person. Second, it requires thick skin. I’ve gotten literally hundreds of rejection slips and I’m 22. If I want to keep up with this my whole life (and I do), I can’t imagine how many I’ll collect. Finally, it means competing with more and more people every year for fewer and fewer publication spots.
Everyone wants to write a book. Which is great, except, now that means publishers not only get inundated with thousands of manuscripts, but they also tend to publish fewer books per year. That means a person has to have incredible writing, incredible platform, and incredible timing.
On the flip side, what excites you the most about the creative process?
Just about everything. You feel light explode in your chest when you get an idea, when a character’s backstory finally clicks, or when you write a mic-drop piece of dialogue. Even though you literally spend hundreds of hours marketing, editing, and crying over a book, the ecstasy that comes from the creative process makes it all worth it.
What are you reading at the moment, and who are a few of your favorite authors and why?
I’m actually making my way through Beckett’s plays at the moment (I’m a playwright and theater nerd.). But I would boil some of my favorite authors down to C.S. Lewis, Francine Rivers, Markus Zusak, F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.K. Rowling, and Oscar Wilde.
Give us the buy links for your book.
What are your social media links?
Thanks, Hope, for spending time with us today. We wish you the best as you continue your writing career.