Today is the day! OUT OF REACH, the debut young adult novel by National Book Award finalist Carrie Arcos hits the shelves. That’s right, I said National Book Award Finalist.

On Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, when the 20 finalists were announced, Carrie Arcos was among the five named in the Young People’s Literature category for OUT OR REACH.

We had already planned on doing a short Q&A to celebrate her novel’s release, but upon hearing the news, a few important questions were added. Read on!

When did you find out you’re a National Book Award finalist and how does that feel?

I found out the day before they announced the winners. I totally didn’t believe when Harold Augenbraum, the Executive Director told me. I thought someone was playing some joke. He had me go to the website and click on the board members so I could see who I was speaking to.

It’s totally wild. I never would have dreamed this for my first novel. I’m excited and nervous and just plain thankful. Wow. It’s surreal.

How did you celebrate?

We had a spontaneous dinner with who ever could come the night the finalists were announced.

What’s the process for being nominated?

The publisher submits a book to the National Book Foundation as long as the writer is an American citizen and it has been published between December 1 and November 30 of the previous year. The judges spend all summer reading through them and coming up with the finalists. No one knows the winner until the day of National Book Awards Ceremony.

 Tell us a little bit about the OUT OF REACH. Where did the idea come from? Did it begin with a character or a concept?

It kind of began with both. It’s a story about Rachel, 16-year-old girl, whose older brother, Micah, takes off one night. He’s been struggling with meth addiction, and she carries quite a bit of guilt and pain. After receiving an anonymous email that Micah is in trouble and on the streets of San Diego, she decides to go and find him. The story takes place in a 24 hour period with flash backs to Micah and Rachel’s relationship.

The story is inspired by true events. Addiction is something that has been in my family for generations, and I found myself having to look for a family member at one point a few years ago. It’s a very painful and hidden struggle for families, and that truth is something I tried to convey in the story.

But Rachel’s voice, she came pretty clear to me from the beginning. I knew right away that at its heart it would kind of be a love story between a sister and a brother and the complexity of that relationship, especially when addiction is involved.

Tell us about yourself. When did you begin writing and what drew you to young adult fiction?

I have written since I was a kid, but I don’t think I really took it seriously until the past couple of years. I tried to do the proper writer thing: write short stories, submit them to literary magazines, etc… And then I realized, I don’t even read short stories or really like them. I read novels, and I love YA.

I wanted to write young adult fiction because those are the books I remember loving as a teen. They had such an impact on me. I also love teenagers. I was a high school teacher for years, and I’d read voraciously, constantly looking for books I could hand pick for certain students.

I love your book trailer! What made you decide to do one and how involved was the process?

Thank you! I love it too.

Well, I live in LA, so I do have quite a few friends who are in some aspect of the film industry. I had one such friend approach me when he heard about the book deal and tell me that he’d do my trailer for me. About a year later I hit him up on it, and another good friend produced it.

The process is so interesting, so detailed. I had no idea the amount of work that goes in to 1 ½ min of film. We basically met initially to talk concept. I wrote the dialogue. And from there the pieces came together. I love the different angle we decided on. I think that’s pretty unique. We also wanted it to be more of a teaser and capture the tone of the novel, rather than tell the whole story.

What’s a typical day of writing look like for you? Are you a coffee shop person, do you write at home?

Since I have three kids, I like to get out. I have a local coffee shop I frequent, usually in the mornings. It’s hard to carve out big chunks of time with kids, so I do solid three-hour sessions when I write.

How do you get your first draft down on paper? Are you an outliner?

I process a great deal in my head before getting it on paper. I’m not an outliner, but I do know the direction before I start writing. I usually begin with character and try to get him/her down before moving to plotting.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

“Sit butt in chair.” Ann Lamott. I can’t remember where. Maybe Bird by Bird.

And the second is to learn the discipline of finishing. Many people have said that, so I don’t think it’s a direct quote.

What are you working on now? What’s next?

I have some ideas and one in its rough stage. I’m exploring grief at the moment with a teenage boy

How can readers find you?

I have a website That’s probably the best way to find and/or contact me.

Look for OUT OF REACH at: