Author of YA and MG series. Let's workshop your own novels, series, stories and use this AMA to discuss the craft of storytelling.

Gary Ghislain
Apr 16, 2018

Lets use this AMA as a creative workshop for your own stories.  AMA about the art and craft of developing and creating a successful series.

My own work include:

The Goolz Next Door series (Boyds Mills Press 2018)

How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend (Chronible Books 2011)

Bite This! series (F2G Novels, 2013)

The Love Game (F2G Novels, 2015)

Review for The Goolz Next Door, A Bad Night for Bullies

“(A) fast-paced supernatural jaunt…Younger middle grade readers looking for something spooky without too much gore will snatch this up.” –School Library Journal

“An easy, quick read for horror fans who want to be scared but not terrified.” Kirkus Reviews

“Ghislain's creative imagination allows (the) first-person account of the paranormal activities to shine, as unpredictable neighbors enrich the plot…As this first book ends, readers know the trio is set for another gross, spine-tingling adventure.” -Booklist


Born in Paris to an international family (one part French, two parts Spanish, one part Strange), Gary Ghislain grew up between Paris and the French Riviera. He is the author of How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend and The Love Game. He now lives in Antibes on the French Riviera, with his two daughters, Ilo and Sisko, enjoying the sun and the sea while working on his spooky middle-grade series, The Goolz Next Door.

AMAfeed Goolz Next Door.jpg

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Can you share some tips on how to come up with a unique and interesting title?
Apr 17, 3:19AM EDT0

The best way to come up with a nice title is to workshop it, share it, discuss it with others before making it final. 

Some of my favorite titles for my own novels came from discussions with my publisher's team. How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend was suggested by Lara Morris Starr, the marketing manager at Chronicle Books (my original title was Zelda from the Stars, not nearly as awesome) and we all loved it so much, it instantly won the cake. 

Don't be too protective and defensive of your original title. Discuss it with other readers and writers. Listen to their reactions and suggestions and choose the one that scores high with everybody. 

Last edited @ Apr 23, 4:04AM EDT.
Apr 23, 3:21AM EDT0
Have you ever attempted to “review” or “critic” a book you never really read?
Apr 16, 11:20PM EDT0

No, I never did that. I don't review books all that much. During my creative writing workshops, I only mention books or screenplays that I really enjoy.

On social media,, etc. I only comment on the books I truly love and that I want to recommend.

I never write a bad review.

Last edited @ Apr 21, 11:42AM EDT.
Apr 21, 9:06AM EDT0
Is a book’s cover just as important as the book’s content?
Apr 16, 5:19PM EDT0

The book cover is an important marketing tool. But it's not nearly as important as the book content by an order of magnitude. A really bad book cover will harm a project for a time - a really bad book content will kill it forever.  

Last edited @ Apr 23, 8:42AM EDT.
Apr 21, 11:45PM EDT0
What are your thoughts about paid book reviews?
Apr 16, 4:59PM EDT0

It's a marketing tool that publishers use to get nice blurbs early on, before the release of a book - they're so common and easily identifiable, they're nearly invisible.   They're not nearly as important as spontaneous costumers/readers/bloggers reviews.

Apr 21, 11:56PM EDT0
What are some common mistakes of writers when promoting a book?
Apr 16, 10:34AM EDT0

Don't do things you dislike for the sole purpose of promoting your book. You will suck at it, it won't work and it will deflate you. Find ways to promote your work that you genuinely enjoy. In my case, I love organizing creative writing workshops or running talks like this one (talking about characters, storytelling, and the business of writing fiction is one of my favorite sport). Don't blog if you hate it. Don't spend too much time on twitter if it's not your thing. Find a way to promote your book that you enjoy and be excellent at it. 

Last edited @ Apr 23, 4:12AM EDT.
Apr 23, 3:57AM EDT0
Has anyone ever done fanfiction based on one of your books?
Apr 16, 7:03AM EDT0

I don't think so. I'd love that though. Some people created some awsome drawings and art concepts based on my 2011 novel How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend

Last edited @ Apr 21, 11:43AM EDT.
Apr 21, 9:08AM EDT0
What is some of the crazy fan series that you have rid?
Apr 15, 6:24PM EDT0

I don't think I ever read a fan series (if it's the same as fan fiction) - can you recommend one?

Last edited @ Apr 22, 3:52AM EDT.
Apr 22, 12:24AM EDT0
Are there sub-genres withinthe YA genre? What are they?
Apr 15, 4:43PM EDT0

The most common/successful YA sub-genres are:

  • Fantasy
  • Dystopian
  • Contemporary
  • Sci Fi
  • Horror
  • Romance
  • Steampunk
  • Cyberpunk
  • Urban Fantasy

And let's not forget: Vampire! (sure, it has lost most of its steam - but it used to be a huge exciting sub-genre)

Last edited @ Apr 23, 4:15AM EDT.
Apr 22, 12:09AM EDT0
Are book critics originally writers? How does one get to be a critic?
Apr 10, 6:55PM EDT0

Book critics are mostly book lovers who want to share their passion for reading. A love for reading would be a good start to become a book critic.  Reviewing the books you love on your personal blog, or on platforms like,, etc - I guess that would be a good start to turning a passion for books into a career. 

Last edited @ Apr 23, 4:18AM EDT.
Apr 23, 3:06AM EDT0
What book genre is your second favorite after YA? Would you like to write a book in that genre?
Apr 10, 2:46AM EDT0

I have a few paranormal/psychological horror stories stored in my mind, begging to come out.

Apr 22, 12:12AM EDT0
What do you think the YA book industry need right now?
Apr 9, 12:20PM EDT0

I wish I knew. Everybody in the industry wish they knew. It will come spontaneously, when a writer will send in something totally new that will connect and resonate with a vast number of readers. It was vampires, it was fantasy, now it's on dystopian. The next big thing is in the inbox of an literary agent somewhere, waiting to explode on everybody's face. And nobody knows what it is yet.

Last edited @ Apr 23, 4:22AM EDT.
Apr 23, 3:27AM EDT0
Do you sometimes struggle with coming up with creative ideas? What do you do to get over your block?
Apr 6, 1:47AM EDT0

I use a technic that's really working well for me. I have a set routine that I stick to absolutely, and it has always prevented me from writer block or struggling with creative ideas: I wake up every morning at 2:50 am, I write from 3:30 am to 7:30. I stop at 7:30 no matter what. The rest of the day belongs to me. This way, I don't need any specific conditions, or a particular place or a particular mood to be able to write. The routine slowly becomes more important than anything else. It doesn't matter if I'm at home or traveling. It doesn't matter if it's followed by a busy day or a quiet day. This way, I don't have to wait to be inspired. It's 3.30 am, I sit, drink coffee and write.

Last edited @ Apr 23, 4:25AM EDT.
Apr 22, 12:37AM EDT0
Do you think YA novels are for everyone or as the name indicates just for a certain age group?
Apr 5, 11:46PM EDT0

Half of the people buying YA novels are adults. I think writers and publishers of YA titles are very well aware of that - publishers do their best to create book covers and marketing campaign that can be attractive for both groups - and as a writer, you have to make your novel meaningful for both teens and adults.

Last edited @ Apr 23, 4:25AM EDT.
Apr 22, 12:21AM EDT0
Which protagonist did you identify with most? Which one was the most difficult to write among all your books?
Apr 5, 9:52AM EDT0

Frank Goolz (a horror writer), Ilona and Suzie (his two daughters) - the main characters in The Goolz Next Door series - are based on my daughters and myself. I totally identify with Frank Goolz. I exaggerate my own quirks and idiosyncrasies and, poof, you got Frank. 

The most difficult characters to write are those who I need to create entirely - those who are not based on real people in real life. There are always a few of them in my novels and I spend so much time rewriting their dialogues - because I need to fine-tune their voice artificially, without using an existing model. I really prefer to sketch my characters from reality. When I do that, I intuitively know how they would talk, act and react. As I said in an earlier reply in this AMAfeed, the best way to create interesting characters is to let them decide for themselves what to say and what to do. If you have an intuitive knowledge of their personality, you just set them free in the theater of your imagination. The ones that I create entirely need me to intervene until they find their own voice - until I intuitively know who they are. Then, they start acting and reacting all by themselves.

Last edited @ Apr 22, 3:56AM EDT.
Apr 21, 8:56AM EDT0
Do you prefer your writings to be narrative in nature or like a suspense plot where reader find himself/herself engaged into the scene?
Apr 4, 11:52PM EDT0

I focus on the characters and let them push the plot forward rather than set the plot and let it confine their actions and reactions. I establish the basic elements of my story in a synopsis and I develop an intuitive knowledge of my characters. Then, I set them free and let them lead. Sometimes (rarely), I have a predefined idea for where the story should go, but my characters would refuse to take the direction I dictate. Instead, they make radical U-turns and go on totally different and unexpected pathways toward the resolution of the story. They're always right and I'm always wrong. It's actually very satisfying to move out of their way and just observe them. It keeps the writing fresh, exciting and surprising. The characters become more dimensional when you let them go free in the theater of your imagination. They will bring the story into unchartered territories you never could have created consciously.  And it feels very rewarding when they do so. 

Last edited @ Apr 23, 4:31AM EDT.
Apr 23, 3:00AM EDT0
How do you define career success? Would you say you're successful now?
Apr 3, 9:58PM EDT0

If you find a literary agent who will help you to sell your projects, that's already a great career success (stage 1). If you get a book deal and can write and promote writing for a living, that's absolutely awesome (stage 2) - but if you can forget stage 1 and 2 and just write everyday no matter what -and have this amazing feeling that you're expanding your imaginary world while moving toward more completed novels - that is the most significant form of success you will ever enjoy as a writer. 

Last edited @ Apr 22, 3:57AM EDT.
Apr 21, 8:28AM EDT0
What is the one thing that you want your readers to know about you that they don't already?
Apr 3, 3:43PM EDT0

All my novels are based on my real life. With the exception of monsters, zombies, ghosts, or warrior space girls from outer space, all my characters are extracted from my real environment.  

Apr 21, 5:47AM EDT0
What are your top three tips to write modern YA romance novel?
Apr 3, 11:31AM EDT0

1. Remember the first time you fell in love? Tell that story.

2. Every interesting story is "Someone wants something and it's really hard to get". Emphasis on "hard to get" (ask Romeo and Juliet)

3.  Make sure your audience will identify with your characters. Your audience has to fall in love too. Not just sympathize with the protagonists.

Last edited @ Apr 21, 11:52AM EDT.
Apr 21, 5:40AM EDT0
What message do you want to send through your writings?
Apr 3, 7:12AM EDT0

It's always the same two messages in all my published novels:

"I love my characters!"

"Their adventure is really amazing!"

Apr 21, 5:33AM EDT0
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