Andrea Contos is a writer of young adult mysteries and thrillers. After a childhood spent hiding beneath the covers to read books by flashlight, she obtained a degree in business. She went on to a very successful career in Human Resources, where the only writing involved legal responses and termination letters. She happily traded those for works of fiction, and she still loses far too much sleep creating and enjoying a good book.
Her sophomore book, OUT OF THE FIRE, will be published with Scholastic in fall of 2021, as well as an untitled second book in 2022.
Her debut, THROWAWAY GIRLS, debuted September 1st, 2020.
Andrea grew up in Detroit, and thanks to the tours given by her policeman father, she can tell you exactly where the morgue is.
Jennifer Moffett: Plotter or pantser?
Andrea Contos: I am a capri-pantser, and I’ve never met anyone with a process as ridiculous as mine. I start off with a beginning and an ending, and maybe a few major plot points along the way, and then I just let the story happen!
Until about the hallway point, in which I start outlining a scene-by-scene breakdown, getting more detailed as I get closer to the end.
JM: How do you approach writing suspenseful scenes?
AC: Suspenseful scenes are hard, because there’s so much you need to be cognizant of while writing them! You absolutely need to make sure the scene stays connected to your character, otherwise it’s just a series of actions, and that easily becomes tedious to read. So you need to make sure character thoughts and emotions come through, but too much can slow down the pacing and suck out any suspense you’ve created.
My approach is always to tread a careful line that balances character thoughts and reactions with clear action and a bit of sensory description built in!
JM: Do you prefer drafting or editing?
AC: Both and neither. Drafting is so incredibly fun for me, because it’s just a whirlwind of exploration where I get to let my subconscious guide me. I love the thrill of discovering exactly why I put that clue in the first act, even if I had no idea why at the time. It very much feels like base jumping off a cliff without really knowing whether your parachute will open—or if you’ll discover it’s full of (plot) holes and you’re destined to crash in a ravine.
Editing is a much calmer process. I’ve been through edits with my agent and editors for two books now, and I’ve never had to do massive rewrites, so editing for me always feel more like surgery—a series of exacting cuts that have to be made just so. It’s stressful, because there isn’t much room for error, but it’s an easier sort of stress: base jumping with a backup parachute and a big trampoline at the bottom of the ravine.
JM: What is your favorite thing about your debut year so far?
AC: Without a doubt, it’s hearing from readers who connected with my book and saw themselves reflected on the pages.
JM: Why did you choose to write for this particular age group? What draws you to them as characters and readers?
AC: I actually started writing in the adult age group, and Throwaway Girls was my first YA novel! From the first word, the character was undeniably YA, and the story could never have been told through any other age. And I have two more YA mystery/thrillers that will publish through Scholastic in 2021 and 2022!
I love writing YA because it gives me a chance to write book that I—or my friends—needed as a teenager. It’s such a crucial time, and a point where you’re forced to start figuring out who you are as a person and gaining so much more independence (and far too often, being forced to deal with issues you shouldn’t have to and being required to act well beyond your age) while also having very little in the way of control or power in your own life. That can be such an incredibly frustrating contradiction to live through, so I love telling stories that show teens what kind of difference they can make and just how much power they truly have.
JM: Music while you work? Yay or Nay?
AC: Back when the world was different and I wrote in public, I needed music to drown out all the distractions around me, but I also get caught up in listening to music and then I get no writing done. So, I prefer silence, but when I need to block other things out, I play one song, on repeat, at just enough volume, so it almost becomes a sort of white noise.
JM: Describe your most memorable pet, past or present?
AC: Well I have to go with my current pet, because he’d be very offended if I didn’t pick him. His name is Winston. He’s very fluffy and has a very round head. He is also the friendliest, most lovable little dude whose favorite thing to do is splash in his Disney princess baby pool.
Congrats on the release of your debut novel, Andrea! You can visit Andrea’s website to learn more and follow her on Twitter and Instagram, as well as order THROWAWAY GIRLS on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound. And don’t forget to add it on Goodreads!