2009 Debutante Author Interview Series: Carrie Ryan

 

In Mary’s world, there are simple truths.
The Sisterhood always knows best.
The Guardians will protect and serve.
The Unconsecrated will never relent.
And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village….


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I have been oh-so-excited about this interview. Carrie Ryan is the author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which will be published by Delacorte and will hit shelves March 10th. Everyone is talking about this book. I know that I’ll be buying a copy the day it launches. For personal reasons, I’ve been dying to know how Carrie handled law school, working at a firm, and writing books. I’m so thankful Carrie put so much thought into these answers. Hope y’all enjoy.

 

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is your debut novel, so a big congrats on that. But can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?

 

The short answer: Three completed novels (The Forest of Hands and Teeth was the third); seven years (only three years of actually writing); 19 rejections.

 

Longer answer:  I started writing my first novel just before graduating from college and I finished it that next year.  It was a western historical romance (long story behind that choice) and I queried about six agents — a few requests but all ended up as rejections.  And I realized I was okay with the rejections because I never wanted to write another western historical romance again!  After that I wrote a romantic comedy that I never polished or queried.

 

Then I had this grand long term plan that I’d write chick lit and I somehow convinced myself that the best way to do that was to go to law school (another long story behind that choice!).  So basically I stopped writing for four years while I applied and attended law school. 

 

After starting work as a lawyer for a few months I decided I needed an exit strategy and I started writing seriously again.  I had many false starts (I wrote about 172k words that year but finished nothing).  I started writing The Forest of Hands and Teeth on November 2, 2006 (I still have the email where I sent myself the first line).  I finished the rough draft in April 2007, revised it until the end of August when I started querying agents and sold in October!

 

Oh boy. An exit strategy from practicing law? I need to cover my ears!

 

Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? Can you describe to us what it felt like?

 

Wow, I don’t think I can compare the two!  My agent, Jim McCarthy, called me on a Monday and it was totally out of the blue.  I was standing in the kitchen when I heard his voice on the answering machine asking me to call him back.  I just stared at my fiancé, JP, and he stared at me and he started jumping and dancing but I just kept saying “it could just be that he wants to talk.  It might not be an offer.”  It was well after business hours and for about twenty minutes I walked around the house in a daze unable to really utter anything coherent.  Then I checked my email and Jim had sent an email letting me know that he wanted to offer representation.  That’s when I started dancing too and we went out to celebrate!

 

The call for the book deal was also way unexpected!  We were going to send FHT out on submission on a Monday but Jim called Friday afternoon and asked what I thought about sending out a sneak peek to a few editors who’d showed early interest.  I was all for it!  So when he called on Monday morning I figured it was just to check in and talk about sending out the rest of the submissions.  But he was calling to tell me there was a pre-empt!  When he gave me the details I just remember staring out the window completely floored. 

 

Actually, now that I think about it, I think the call for the book deal thrilled me more.  Getting that offer of representation was an amazing feeling but knowing the book had sold – wow.  I floated all day (I’m still floating!)

 

Now THAT is a fast sale.

 

You’re lucky enough to have quit the day job now, but how did you balance the demanding task of being a lawyer as well as being a writer?

 

I had no life – haha!  Seriously, I decided that if I was really going to do this — write and try to sell a book — that I had to figure out how to make it work.  I didn’t want five years to pass and look back and lament not really striving for my goals.  I cut out most TV (and honestly, that’s how I found a lot of time), I ate frozen dinners, the house teeters on being a wreck (our Christmas tree was almost always up through my birthday in mid-January).  I’d wake up, go to work, come home and write.  On the weekends, I’d write.  Some months (when I was working on a big trial) the only time I had to write was the 8 minutes while the pasta was boiling for mac ‘n’ cheese!  I’m not really sure I would call that balance – haha!

 

That’s a really honest answer. Thanks for sharing.

 

I believe when I talked to you last you were rushing to meet a deadline. Are you working on the sequel to Forest? What fresh challenges are there in writing a sequel and in trying to avoid the infamous sophomore slump?

 

I made that deadline – yay!  I’m working on a sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth that will come out in Spring 2010.  It’s kind of a loose sequel, though, set quite a while after the end of the first book and with a different POV character.

 

Fresh challenges — there were plenty (and old challenges too!).  One challenge for me was that I’d never planned to write a sequel so I hadn’t created a character arc and plot arc that I felt like could span another book.  I had a few other issues but can’t get into them without spoilers But I think that’s one reason I ultimately decided to use a different POV character for the second book and set it later.  So I’m using the same world, but it’s not really a direct sequel.

 

I also think it’s often nice that the lead times with YA are so long that you have plenty of time to write the next book in a vacuum without hearing public feedback about the first book.  I think sometimes hearing the responses to the first book can really influence the way you think about the second!

 

Interesting. I had no idea different genres/categories of books had different lead times.

 

This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?

 

Oh yes!  The first one that comes to mind is when I ended up querying an agent before the project was remotely ready.  In my defense, it was a pitch workshop with an agent and I didn’t expect her to actually be requesting material, but I didn’t even have the partial ready!!  I scrambled to edit that and sent it before the book was finished (never did finish the book) and got a rejection (rightfully so!).

 

However, I’m also a big fan of believing that things tend to work out and happen for a reason.  I definitely learned not to query until the manuscript is as polished as possible and I also met my critique partner, Diana Peterfreund, without whose support I’m not sure I’d have sold FHT.

 

I think your fiancé is also a writer and an attorney. That’s two writers/lawyers under one roof! Good, bad, or ugly?

 

Lol, I asked him this question and he was like “all three.”  For me it’s wonderful.  He understands that writing can be hard, he supports me unequivocally, and he’s an amazing editor.  He’s not afraid to tell me when something’s not as good as it can be nor is he afraid to heap on the praise   The hardest part for me is that he is truly an amazing writer and I strive to write as well as he does!

 

You’re now at the beginning of your writing career. Can you believe it? Where would you like that sure-to-be illustrious career to take you?

 

No, I still can’t believe it!  Honestly, there are days when I just clap my hands and dance around with glee!  For me and career goals… I’d just love to be able to keep writing (and to keep writing full time).

 

Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?

 

My first editorial letter came on the Wednesday after I sold that Monday!  So I was utterly surprised because I thought I’d be waiting weeks or months!  The first letter focused on broader issues and then we worked on smaller and smaller issues with subsequent letters.  I was really energized when I first got it because it made everything feel so real!  I think for me the key with revisions has been understanding the “why” of it — if I know WHY my editor wants a certain change it’s easier for me to figure out how to make that change.

 

Your editor must have been really psyched to start your book. That’s great!  Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?

 

I’m sure it will seem quite strange to most people, but I wish I’d written Lolita by Nabokov.  I remember when I first opened that book, standing in the college bookstore loading up for my semester classes, and I had to sit down on the floor because the beginning is so stunningly written.  I love the wordplay, the fun with language and I learned a lot from that book about how to write descriptions and choose words. 

 

 

           (Be sure to check out the coolest book trailer ever!)

 

                 

 

 

 

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2009 Debutante Author Interview Series: Megan Crewe

Cass McKenna much prefers the company of ghosts to that of the living. Who needs lying, backstabbing, breathing friends when ghosts are uncomplicated and completely dependable? Plus, the dead know the dirt on just about everybody . . . and Cass loves dirt.

 

She’s on a mission to expose the dirty little secrets of all of the poseurs in her school (everyone, in her mind). But when the vice president of the student council finds out her secret, Cass’s whole scheme hangs in the balance. Tim wants her help contacting his recently deceased mother, and Cass is less than enthusiastic. But Tim’s pleas seem genuine, and Cass reluctantly agrees to try.

 

As Tim’s desperation to talk to his mother’s spirit grows, Cass, kicking and screaming, finds herself becoming more and more entwined in his life. And she’s more surprised than anyone when she realizes that maybe, just maybe, some living people aren’t so bad if she’d only give them a chance. . . .

 

 

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Today’s deb is an author whose blog I love, love, love and read almost daily. Her debut novel, Give Up The Ghost, is coming out from Henry Holt this Fall and I, personally, can’t wait!

 

Give Up The Ghost is your debut novel, so a big congrats on that. But can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?

 

It depends on where you want to measure from.  I was 14 when I finished my first novel (which was very, very bad–but hey, I finished it!), so I’ve been writing books for 14 years now.  But I didn’t feel I was writing at a publishable level, and start querying agents, until many years after that.  I was pretty critical of my own work, and I didn’t want to send something out there until I was confident.

 

I wrote the first draft of GIVE UP THE GHOST about four years and a half years ago.   I got a couple dozen rejections from agents before getting the offer of representation, and more than a dozen rejections from editors before selling it.  But as they say, it only takes one “Yes!”

 

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Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? Can you describe to us what it felt like?

I’d have to say the call when my agent offered representation.  It was a complete surprise (I’d never gotten a call from an agent before; I had no forewarning that this agent would call) and I was so excited afterward that I was literally bouncing around my apartment.

Landing the book deal was incredibly exciting, of course, but it was more drawn out–knowing the book was going to acquisitions, knowing an editor intended to offer but hadn’t yet, knowing the offer was on the table but waiting for the details to be negotiated…  So there wasn’t one call that settled everything (and actually a lot of it was through e-mail).  It was a much more extended thrill, but less intense because of that.

 

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Well, I know that you are in the enviable position of being repped by Kristin Nelson, so I’m sure that was thrilling!

I believe your book took about a year to sell. What did you do during that time/How did you feel? What kind of talks did you have with your agent?

My book was on submission for exactly one year (to the day!) before we got the first offer.  Which I find kind of neat now, but at the time it was incredibly stressful.  We had a few close calls, which in many ways are more frustrating than an outright rejection–knowing an editor connected with the book but that someone further along in the process vetoed it.

 

I used the time to do a bunch more writing–I wrote drafts of two new projects.  Which has ended up being useful in many ways, particularly because I haven’t had to stress about what my next book will be.  It was ready and waiting!

 

My agent and I discussed revision ideas we got from a few editors, and submission possibilities–she was always terribly supportive, and sure that eventually we’d find the right editor, which helped me keep the hope.

 

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That’s great and really supports the “keep writing” no matter what credo. Still, did you feel your relationship with your agent changed after your sale?

Not that I’ve noticed.  She’s always been about the writer and their career rather than selling one particular book, so a sale doesn’t change that (though it certainly made both of us quite happy!).

 

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I think that’s a fantastic reminder to writers who are in the stage of talking to agents and discussing representation. Always want to check to see if the agent is looking to rep this one book or your career.

This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?

My biggest “Oops!” was posting in my blog about doing revisions while the book was on submission.  I was careful not to give names or details, but an editor who was considering the book saw that I was revising for another editor and, well, wasn’t happy about it.  So these days I keep any news related to submissions out of the public eye.

 

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Thank you for sharing that. I think that’s hugely important for writers to remember as we reach this new age of candid blogging!

You’re now at the beginning of your writing career. Can you believe it? Where would you like that sure-to-be illustrious career to take you?

It’s still a little hard to believe, actually…  I’m not sure it’ll seem quite real until the first time I walk into a bookstore and see my book on the shelf.  And even then I’ll probably half-believe I’m in some sort of dream!

 

Mostly I’d just like to keep writing and selling books, and for those books to find lots of readers who enjoy them.  I’m looking forward to branching out into different genres–I’ve got a couple of fantasy books waiting in the wings, and I hope to tackle science fiction at some point.  And I’d love to be able to make this my full-time career.  But really, as long as I’m writing, I’ll be happy.

 

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Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?

I got a letter–I think it was eight pages–and a marked-up copy of the manuscript.  I think for most writers the first read-through is a little intimidating.  But I found myself nodding at most of the comments even on that first read (there were a few that were no surprise at all, problems I’d suspected might be there but had hoped I was just imagining them), which was a relief.

 

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Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?

That’s hard!  Do you have any idea how many books I love?  I guess if I have to pick one, I’d say THE CHANGELING by Zilpha Keatley Snyder.  That book meant so much to me as a kid, and it made me feel good about being shy, and quiet, and so often “lost in my own world.”  If I manage to write a book that does something like that for someone else, I’ve done my job as well as I could imagine.

 

2009 Debutante Author Interview Series: C. Lee McKenzie

It’s not a heart-grabbing noise like when somebody jiggles the doorknob to see if it’s locked. It’s not a bitter smell like the electrical short we had last month, when all the breakers popped. No. It’s something in the air, something like a ghost making its way through the room. And it can’t be Monster, not after last night.

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C. Lee McKenzie’s here! She has her debut novel, Sliding on the Edge, coming out from WestSide Books in April and she was kind enough to answer all the questions I had about her road to publication. Thanks, C. Lee!

Sliding on the Edge is your debut novel, so a big congrats on that. But can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, years?
I had to dig into my archives to answer this one. I’ve written two Middle Grade stories that are gathering moss on my C drive. Sliding is my first YA and I think I sent queries and sample chapters to about six publishers who either didn’t think it suited their mix or didn’t respond. As to how long this book has been in the pre-birthing phase: I started thinking about it in 2006. I wrote some of the ideas down in my notebook (something I consider an additional appendage) through the first part of 2007; then I started actually putting those ideas into scenes and chapters. I hauled what I now refer to as the first draft to a conference and was asked, “What made you write about something like this?” It wasn’t a nice question, BTW, and I was thoroughly discouraged for about half an hour. I finally sold the book in January of 2008. So . . . three books, seven rejections, two years to sale, three years and three months to publication.
Seven rejections! That’s it? Pretty amazing! Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal?
Wish I had a comparison to offer, but I don’t have an agent. I’m flying solo without any pre-flight instruction. But talking to my editor is an all-time high, so as life moments go, I’d rank our discussions right up there at the top. The first time we spoke the conversation was pretty one-sided with her doing most of the talking. I was working on breathing while I searched for the part of my brain that knew words. I guess you’d describe the moment as “exciting,” but that’s such an inadequate word.

I’m so impressed by authors who can go it alone. Congrats on making that sale. I know you also write Middle Grade fiction. How do you switch gears when writing between two different age groups? Are there certain things you need to keep in mind for each?
I guess my head just goes into another place when I’m writing and if I’m into MG, I sort of nestle into my pre-teen self. It’s still in there, waiting to be noticed and enjoyed again. My angsty YA is pretty demanding. It has a lot to say, so when I’m there things kind of pour out, like sweat after a run. I’m not really “in” my usual mind when I write. I can’t explain it very well, except to say that I kind of slip into my character(s) and they tell me stuff. So I guess my answer is I don’t have any problems about keeping the two genres separate.

This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?
Only one? I hope I’m allowed more than that because I’m way over my quota if I’m not. My biggest oops is probably sending a query addressed to one publisher to another. That was super embarrassing, but the publisher was kind and returned the letter to me with something like “oops!” (and not dodo bird) written across the top. She also included a short note saying she liked my idea, but it wouldn’t work for her house. Sigh.
Hey, we’ve all been there. Or at least I have! You’re now at the beginning of your writing career. Can you believe it? Where would you like that sure-to-be illustrious career to take you?
I’d be very happy to see another book of mine on the shelves and in the hands of readers. I’ve completed (loosely speaking) another YA novel and am working on a third, so I guess I’m thinking continued publication would please me greatly.

Tell us a little about receiving your first rejection. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?

My first one? Oh not that! It was horrible. They actually rejected my book (one of my Middle Grades). How could they? That book was positively brilliant. It was the next Harry Potter of the publishing world. Of course, after a few years I came to recognize that the brilliance was more in my head than on the page.

Well, hopefully your upcoming book will be the next Harry Potter, right? Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?
This is not only the last, but also the most difficult question, Chandler. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. Only one? I seem to be asking that question a lot in this interview. Well, I’ve been re-reading S.E. Hinton lately, and I really love the way she captures the young male adults in her books. So I guess I’d choose my favorite among her publications and say I wish I could have written Rumble Fish.

2009 Debutante Author Interview Series: L.K. Madigan

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Fifteen-year-old Blake has a girlfriend and a friend who’s a girl. One of them loves him, the other one needs him.
When he snapped a picture of a street person for his photography homework, Blake never dreamed that the woman in the photo was his friend Marissa’s long-lost meth addicted mom. Blake’s participation in the ensuing drama opens up a world of trouble, both for him and for Marissa. He spends the next few months trying to reconcile the conflicting roles of Boyfriend and Friend. His experiences range from the comic (surviving his dad’s birth control talk) to the tragic (a harrowing after-hours visit to the morgue).
In a tangle of life and death, love and loyalty, Blake will emerge with a more sharply defined snapshot of himself.

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New Week, New Deb. This week we’ve got the incredibly funny L.K. Madigan, author of the forthcoming Flash Burnout, which will be released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt this fall! L.K. is an author living in Portland, Oregon. Visit her at: http://www.lkmadigan.com.

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Flash Burnout is your debut novel, so a big congrats on that. But can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?

 

The short answer is that I got serious about writing for young adults in 2001. Eight years later, my book is coming out.

 

The longer answer is that I wrote some picture books and two novels during the first four years, submitted them to probably 25 agents, got discouraged, and shelved them. I started working on a third novel, completed it in December 2005, and spent the next two years querying about 20 agents/editors. I was thisclose to giving up the idea of writing for publication when I got the YES from my agent, Jennifer Laughran. I look at those two years of rejection now as fate. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was waiting for my Dream Agent to decide she wanted to be an agent.

 

 

 

That’s so sweet. It’s like y’all were meant to be! Which”Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? Can you describe to us what it felt like?

 

One was thrilling in an OMG-I’ve-Been-Going-on-Blind-Dates-for-Two-Years-Have-I-Finally-Met-Mr-Right?! kind of way.

The other was more of a You’ve-Just-Won-a-Million-Dollars-AND-Fulfilled-a-Lifelong-Dream kind of thrill. (Er, not that I got paid a million dollars … just that I felt like I did.)

So they were both massively thrilling in very distinct ways.

 

Million dollars or Mr. Right? Glad you didn’t have to choose. Tell me a little bit about writing from a teen boy’s perspective. Easier? Harder?

 

I don’t know what this says about me as a person with lady parts, but I do find it easier to write from the teen boy’s perspective. I’m a big fan of the male animal, and have spent my life in close study and ardent admiration of them.

 

 

 

Throughout your journey as a writer, what resources have you found most valuable to your success? Websites? Books? Conferences?

 

Voices in my head.

 

Coffee.

 

Critique groups.

 

A laptop.

 

And more recently, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. (The better to hear the imaginary voices with, my dear!)

 

I marvel at the intimacy of the Internet, too. I’ve made many friends over the four years that I’ve been blogging, some of whom I’ve even gotten to meet in person. My writing life would be much lonelier without them.

 

 

 

You mentioned voices in your head. Does that, um, worry you? Should you maybe see a doctor?

 

(What does she mean, asking us such an impertinent question?!) (Shh, let me handle this.) No, Chandler, haha. Awkward! I was being metaphorical. They’re not ACTUAL voices. (We’re not? We’re not real?) (Shh! I said be quiet!) (She’s pretty.) (Let’s name a character Chandler.) (I’m hungry.)

 

 

Yes! Listen to them. Name a character Chandler!

Did you feel your relationship with your agent changed after your sale?

 

No, she abuses me with undiminished enthusiasm.

 

 

 

This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?

 

Errgghh, I am never going to stop cringing over it: I confused an agent’s last name with a new client at work. (They both started with Sch, if you’re really curious.) She was completely kind about it, but like I said … still cringing here.

 

 

Hey, if that’s the worst thing that happens, I think you can consider yourself ahead. You’re now at the beginning of your writing career. Can you believe it? Where would you like that sure-to-be illustrious career to take you?

 

 

To Disneyland!

 

And then back to my comfy red chair, where I do a lot of my writing.

 

Truly: I want it all. I want the goofy hats and the teacups and the rollercoasters of publishing, then I want peace and quiet to focus on the craft.

 

That would be awesome.

 

 

I was unaware that publishing came with goofy hats and teacups. See! THIS is why I need to interview you guys. Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?

 

Authors who have received 12-page editorial letters are going to curse me, but my first editorial letter was one page long. It accompanied a marked-up manuscript, too, of course, but it was a pleasant surprise to read it and feel like, “I can do this,” instead of curling up into a frightened ball. I did gasp audibly, however, at one line: “I’d like you to start thinking of other possible titles.” In the end, my editor decided to keep FLASH BURNOUT, much to my joy and relief.

 

 

One page! Wow. Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?

FINGERSMITH, by Sarah Waters. I just read it this year, and I can’t stop raving about it.

It’s set in the Victorian era, and it’s brilliant. It’s fast-paced and tense, full of all the elements you want in a Victorian mystery: orphans and thieves, a creepy country estate and a handsome scoundrel, burning desires and cruel greed. Sigh. I would love to be able to write like that.

Thanks for the interview, Chandler!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2009 Debutante Author Interview Series: Sarah MacLean

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Seventeen-year-old Lady Alexandra Stafford doesn’t fit into the world of Regency London — she’s strong-willed, sharp-tongued, and she absolutely loathes dress fittings. Unfortunately, her mother has been waiting for years for Alex to be old enough to take part in the social whirlwind of a London Season so she can be married off to someone safe, respectable, wealthy, and almost certainly boring. But Alex is much more interested in adventure than romance.

Between sumptuous balls, lavish dinner parties and country weekends, Alex, along with her two best friends, Ella and Vivi, manages to get entangled in her biggest scrape yet. When the Earl of Blackmoor is killed in a puzzling accident, Alex decides to help his son, the brooding and devilishly handsome Gavin, uncover the truth. It’s a mystery brimming with espionage, murder, and suspicion. As she and Gavin grow closer, will Alex’s heart be stolen in the process?

Romance and danger fill the air, as this year’s Season begins!

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Ok, so by now, most of you have probably seen the blurb and cover for The Season and can’t wait to get your greedy, little hands on it, right? I know I can’t. Lucky for us, Sarah MacLean has been gracious enough to stop by to answer a few questions. And, although, I doubt that will tide us over ’til March, it sure does help!

Thanks so much for your time, Sarah.

The Season is your debut novel, so a big congrats on that. But can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?

Well, I had a bit of an unconventional route to publication.  I’ve dabbled in writing for years, kicked around a few adult romance novels, but never finished anything…and then an editor at Scholastic who knew I was really into historical romance suggested I try my hand at a ya historical.  The Season was born…  So I guess technically it was one book.  But that seems off, considering how much paper there is in boxes at the back of my closet. 

Wow! That is unconventional. Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? Can you describe to us what it felt like?

hmmm… that’s hard.  The call during which I sold The Season was pretty fantastic.  I got that one straight from the editor…and it was super exciting.  After I sold The Season, I got an agent–the fabulous Alyssa Eisner Henkin–who has been with me every step of the way since.  It was Alyssa who delivered the most recent call…announcing my three-book adult historical romance sale to Avon…and that was probably the best moment of my life.

There’s a huge difference between selling a book on your own and doing it with an agent…When you’re on your own, you’re acutely aware of everything that’s going on…so it takes some of the mystery out of the experience.  But when you have an agent, the call is such a surprise…such an out of the blue, oh my god, kind of experience…and she’s so excited with you and for you…it’s pretty awesome. 

I’ve heard great things about Alyssa! She went to my alma mater and was so sweet when I queried her. But a new three-book deal! Congrats again!

Throughout your journey as a writer, what resources have you found most valuable to your success? Websites? Books? Conferences?

Definitely other writers.  Some of my closest friends are writers who are old pros with the process, and they were kind enough to let me call them with hysterical questions and concerns.  I’m also a member of the 2009 Debutantes, and the experience of interacting with a group of such incredibly talented similarly green writers has completely changed the way I look at the art and craft of writing.  My first piece of advice to anyone looking to write a book is to find a group of writers to commune with.  It’s the best part of the job.

Great advice and fun to follow. Thanks!

I know you work in publishing. How has that helped you become and be an author?

For years I was a literary publicist (no longer, though)…so that has been both a good and bad thing during this whole process.

There have certainly been things that I had to learn, though.  PR doesn’t come into play until the end of the publishing process…so I knew nothing about the editorial process…the sales process…the design process…so, I was just as green as everyone else in that sense. 

It’s a nice feeling when your editor tells you something about sales or marketing and you don’t have to ask them to explain, I know how much concern and confusion that can bring for authors, and I haven’t had much of that. On the other hand, knowing all this stuff sometimes backfires. It’s hard not to think about the best and worst case scenarios for your book when you’ve seen successes and failures up close and personal.

Add to that the fact that it’s impossible to remain aloof and impartial when it’s YOUR book, and…well let’s just say there’s plenty of crazy in me despite my industry experience. Luckily, I have an editor, an agent and a publicist who are patient with me…and wield iron hands when need be.

This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?

Uhm…yeah.  I’ve had too many of those to count.  🙂  Writing historical adds a whole layer of accuracy to novels. 

If I were writing fantasy about, say, hobgoblins, I’d have a certain amount of freedom to make things up…you’ve never (I assume) met a hobgoblin, and so I can tell you exactly what they look like, what they wear, the words they use, etc.  As long as I stick to my own hobgoblin world rules, you can’t tell me they’re not accurate.

Not so with Regency England.  EVERYTHING has to be historically accurate, checked and double checked, there are dresses and foods and titles and words that didn’t come into the lexicon until a century later…and if it weren’t for my very dilligent editors, friends, and copyeditors, I would be exposed as a fraud.  And, I promise you, there have been some MAJOR oops! moments.

Stupid history.  Next book, hobgoblins.  Hot ones. You heard it here first. 

I’m sure your agent and editor will be so pleased to learn your next book idea. You’re now at the beginning of your writing career. Can you believe it? Where would you like that sure-to-be illustrious career to take you?

No.  I can’t believe it. And, for the most part I go back and forth between thinking that people are totally crazy for buying my books and that I am totally crazy for doing this for a living.  🙂  But it’s pretty awesome.  And I would be a big fat liar if I didn’t say I loved every minute of this wild ride and sometimes daydream about a life of champagne wishes and caviar dreams.  And, now, I’ve dated myself.

Your March release date is quickly approaching! Where in the process are you right now?

Where in the process am I?  I’m in the freaking out part of the process.  My book is, as I type, being shipped to kids via Scholastic Book Clubs…and pretty soon I’ll be able to walk into a bookstore and see it on the shelf.  I have absolutely no control over people buying and/or liking my little book…and that scares the bejeezus out of me! 

Understandable, but from the buzz you’ve been getting, I doubt you have anything to fear. Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?

It’s a super exciting moment, receiving your first editorial letter.  If you’re lucky (as I was) your editor is kind and gentle and appreciates that you are a first-time author with all the complete and utter neuroses that come with that label.  My letter was 6 pages long, which scared me half to death, before I started reading it, and realized that my editor had included sweet little passages about the things she liked as well as the things she was curious about. 
It should be said that my editor is a full-on genius.  She has brilliant ideas that make me feel like my brain is small.  Truly.  She can ask a question delicately…or gently suggest an addition or a deletion…and it’s like the text sings.  I love editorial letters from her…because they make me see my book as way more than the sum of its parts.

That must be an awesome feeling to have someone so involved in your book with you. Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?
Emma.  Because then I’d be Jane Austen.  And Mr. Knightley would live in my head.  🙂  

I should have guessed! Thank you again, Sarah, for answering all my questions. I can’t wait to pick up The Season in March and I’m sure we’ll be seeing great things from you in the future!

Y’all can reach Sarah at her blog: http://macleanspace.blogspot.com

2009 Debutante Author Interview Series: Jackson Pearce

Seven months ago, Viola’s boyfriend told her he was gay—moments before she was going to lose her virginity to him. Heartbroken, Viola has resigned herself to near invisibility, until she inadvertently summons a young jinn out of his world, Caliban, and into her own. Here he will remain until she makes three wishes.

Jinn is anxious to get back to Caliban, but Viola is terrified of wishing, afraid her wishes will be manipulated into curses. Jinn knows that should she wait too long, the Ifrit, guardians of earthbound jinn, will press her to wish by hurting those around her.As they spend time together, Jinn can’t deny that he’s slowly falling in love with Viola, blurring the lines between master and servant. It’s only after Viola makes her first wish—for a popular boy to love her—that she realizes the feelings are mutual.

With every wish Jinn’s time with her diminishes, but the longer she waits to wish the greater danger she’s in from the Ifrit. Together, Viola, Jinn, and Viola’s ex-boyfriend try to outwit the Ifrit while dealing with their own romantic complexities and the alcohol-laced high school social scene.

 

It’s that time. The first Deb of the New Year! Today I’m sharing my interview with Jackson Pearce, author of the forthcoming AS YOU WISH, which will be published by HarperCollins and hit shelves in the fall of this year. Her second  book, SISTERS RED will be released by Little, Brown in the Fall of 2010.

Before we get into the interview, I think you’ll appreciate Jackson better if you watch this youtube video she created titled, “The Imaginary Writing Process.” It’s hilarious, trust me.

 

Hi, Jackson! As You Wish is your debut novel, so a big congrats on that. But can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?

Let’s see…
Books: 2– AS YOU WISH is my second completed novel. The first one is eternally shelved, and there were several bits and pieces of novels that never became full-fledged books.
Rejections: A zillion. I sent my very first book, KEYBEARER, to EVERY agent in the business– I was so desperate that I actually sent it to a few agents who had terrible reputations! AS YOU WISH fared a little better, but I still had to do two major revisions while querying. By the time it got to my current agent, it was all revised up, and she offered to represent me.
Days/Months/Years: This is a tough one; being a writer is all I’ve ever really wanted to do, so in a way I’ve been working toward it for ages. I didn’t start seriously looking into the business side of writing until my junior year of college– mainly because I started to worry about having to get a “real job” when I graduated, an idea that I wasn’t a fan of (but, for the record, ended up having to do anyway). I sent my first query out in early 2005. I sold AS YOU WISH in mid-2007.
 
 

Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? Can you describe to us what it felt like?

Believe it or not, I think the call when I landed my agent was a bigger deal to me. It was totally out of the blue– I was spying on my neighbors (they were talking about me right outside my front door, I swear) and suddenly a call from a 212 area code appeared. I answered and tried to speak coherently but mostly just babbled. When the call about the book deal came in, I was already anticipating it; we’d had enough interest that I’d already accepted and gotten excited about the fact that the book would likely sell, so it was a little more relaxed. I still had to pull off to the side of the interstate though.

 
Throughout your journey as a writer, what resources have you found most valuable to your success? Websites? Books? Conferences?

I didn’t go to any conferences and only read a handful of books– most of which I wasn’t a big fan of. There are, however, some REALLY helpful websites that I adore: The Blue Boards (http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php), Agentquery.com, and the livejournal community. I think that personal interaction with other writers is the key to success. On the more tangible side– a laser printer. Oh man, I would wither away to nothing without my laser printer. I bought my first one off Craigslist– met the guy in a parking lot and paid cash in a very shady deal– and it saved my life. Other tangible valuable writer resources include caffeine, candy, and a DVR so you stop missing Deadliest Catch because you’re revising.

 
A laser printer? Never heard that one before, but I have to say, I’ve had my eye on one for awhile. Craigslist is a great idea to start out.

You’re a young author! Did you write As You Wish in college? Do you think your age has affected your journey to publication at all?

I wrote AS YOU WISH my junior and senior years of college, and found my agent just after I graduated. I think my age has had a profound affect on my journey to publication. On the purely business side, I realized about midway through college that I didn’t really WANT to work (shocking, isn’t it?). I wanted to write, all the time. I began seriously looking at getting my work published because I wanted it to be my career. I think that if I were a little older and had a more established career path, I wouldn’t have been quite as eager to get published.
The downside to being a young author is a lot of older authors– even those still “young” by most standards– give you a bit of a brush off. There are times where I would be incredibly frustrated about queries or rejections and someone would say “oh, you’re so young! Don’t worry about it! You have time!” It always felt a bit like a cold shoulder; yes, I’m young, but I still know what I want and aim to succeed. That said, those people were the minority of the writing community, and the support I found in other venues was priceless.
Thanks for sharing. I’m always interested in the subject of young authors–I’d love to follow a similar path! (I signed with my agent a few months after graduating college, too.)  During the time that you’ve been a client, your agent started her own literary agency, I believe. Was that a difficult transition? Is it normal to stay with the agent or the agency?

Soon after AS YOU WISH sold, my agent formed Bliss Literary, her own agency. To be honest, it wasn’t a difficult transition at all– nothing much changed, and staying with her was an easy decision since I hadn’t had too much contact with the rest of her previous agency. Bliss has been very successful, and I have no regrets at all about moving with my agent.
Agents tend to move around, it seems; I think that’s why it’s so important to find an agent you really click with, one you’ll stick with wherever she goes.
 

Always nice to hear about solid agent-author relationships.

This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?

 I’ve done a few careless things– misspelling agents names, using the wrong form of “there” by mistake, but I’ve actually been lucky so far and had no major disasters.
 

Lucky you! You’re now at the beginning of your writing career. Can you believe it? Where would you like that sure-to-be illustrious career to take you?

No, I can’t believe it! I actually remember thinking while in college how great it would be to just write books and coach colorguard (something I’ve done for a while). Now that I’m actually doing it, I’m in a bit of shock. I’m not sure where I want to go from here though; I’ve spent so long focusing on getting to this point that thinking beyond it just seems crazy.

 
It’s nice that you are appreciating it as you go through it, though.

Now that you are a soon-to-be-published author, seeing the view from the other side, what has been your favorite moment in the publishing process so far? What part of the process has most surprised you?

My favorite part was finishing up the last round of revisions, actually. I think I was so interested in the industry from the start that I didn’t have any serious OMG surprise moments.
Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?

I actually loved my first editorial letter because it was very, very clear. XYZ are the problem, here are some examples, go to it! I wasn’t left overwhelmed by vague advice, so it was easy to know exactly where to start. I also have grown to somewhat enjoy the revising process, because it’s fun seeing the book improve as you go along. I think the key is not allowing yourself to stress over it– to remember that it’s JUST WORDS, and it’s okay to move/rearrange/delete them. You aren’t murdering the story 🙂

 
Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?

I would love to have written any of John Green’s books for the quality, J.K. Rowling’s for the way they revolutionized the industry, or Little Women because….well, it’s Little Women. It’s awesome.

It’s Their Year And They’re Coming Here

 

It’s almost 2009 and I’ve been busy setting up some awesome interviews to share with you this coming year! We’re continuing the 2009 Debutante series with soon-to-be-published YA/MG authors and can I just pat myself on the back for a second? Because I lined up a stellar list for January. I’ll be adding a couple for this month, too! So there *should* be two interviews per week now. Yay! Anyway, thank you so much to these authors for agreeing to share their experiences.  Here is the list of authors to look forward to next month:

 

Monday, 1/5               Jackson Pearce, As You Wish, HarperCollins Fall 2009

Monday, 1/12            Sarah MacLean, The Season, Scholastic, March 2009

Monday, 1/19            L.K. Madigan, Flash Burnout, Houghton Mifflin, Fall 2009

Wednesday, 1/21      Deva Fagan, Fortune’s Folly, Henry Holt, Spring 2009

Monday, 1/26            Megan Crewe, Give Up the Ghost, Henry Holt, Fall 2009

Rejection’s Not the End of Your World Unless You Let It Be

Warning! Warning! Second post of the week in which I get all mushy!

 

Awhile back I interviewed Mandy Hubbard (debut author of Prada and Prejudice) as part of the 2009 Debutante Author Interview series. I already frequented her blog, but several commenters mentioned reading her “Road to Publication” posts. Well, if y’all don’t know, Mandy had a pretty long road to publication, so I was really curious to read how her experience was. I mean, how often does a writer really outline the rejections as she gets them? Answer: not often.

So anyway, I decided to wait until I went on submission as sort of a treat, food for the “on submission soul,” I guess. Of course, with all sorts of other things swishing around in my head, I forgot it until I’d been on submission for a couple weeks. As soon as I remembered, I opened up the Road to Publication posts in a new window. First thing I read was this:

“So, THE JETTSETTERS SOCIAL CLUB has now been out on submission for 8 days. Those dreams of an overnight sale are dashed. Ha. Just kidding. I’m way more reasonable than that. My dream was 2 days….still kidding.”

I loved this! We can say we understand that it takes time to sell a book, blah, blah, blah, but any writer that claims they do not secretly hope (and maybe even more than hope), just a little, that that their book is going to land on an editor’s desk Friday afternoon only for a 212 number to pop up on the caller ID Monday morning—well, let’s just say any writer who claims they don’t hope for that is going to have a nose longer than Heidi Klum’s left leg.

As I continued to read through Mandy’s posts, I was constantly amazed by her honesty. But with her honesty, came a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

“I was burnt out…the idea of reading and writing wasn’t so exciting. I didn’t think of it every single night as I fell asleep. I didn’t conjure up a thousand different versions of what it would be like to get THE CALL.”

That statement hurt my heart. I do fall asleep every single night thinking about what it will feel like to get The Call. What I will do to celebrate? Who will I tell first?—Extremely important considerations, of course. It’s incredibly comforting to know that other writers on submission (or even not yet on submission!) feel this, too. Because, I’ve got to admit, sometimes I feel a liiiiiittle silly with so much thought devoted to the dream of publication and of sharing my book with others.

This, however, reminded me that these thoughts are actually a blessing. It’s when these dreams disappear that your dream is in danger or dying. Every second I spend hoping to realize that goal pushes me to materialize it. But sustaining that level of hope and that level of desire requires energy. It can really take it out of you! So, I can certainly see how I could get burnt out. And THAT is one of the saddest writing thoughts I’ve ever had. Fortunately Mandy pulled out of her slump and proved that secret to success is persistence.

Yes, Mandy’s story is incredibly inspiring for sure. But seriously, somebody ought to canonize her and her agent because they both truly stuck with it. And the very thought of waiting that long makes me want to jam the voteß(Please see SNL for reference)

Then again, she reminds us that “there is ONE SINGLE PERSON who could change everything.” She’s right. It only takes one editor. Or one agent. Whatever it is you are hoping for. But you can’t snag one if you don’t put anything out there.

“No one thinks, ‘okay, this is going to take a year.’”

How true is that? No one thinks that at all. I certainly don’t. But Mandy’s experience is probably MUCH more common than we realize. Sobering, but I’ve also learned from her that it’s not the end of the world unless you let it be.

Anyway, I just wanted to share and to publicly voice my appreciation for these posts. Y’all should definitely head over to her blog and read through these. I’m so thankful that she was willing to voice her feelings as she felt them during the submission process.

 

NOTE: I provided the link to her posts above. Skip to the beginning. You really can’t appreciate unless you read through the process as she goes through it.

2009 Debutante Author Interview Series: Erin Dionne

Thirteen-year-old Celeste Harris is no string bean, but comfy sweatpants and a daily chocolate cookie suit her just fine. Her under-the-radar lifestyle could have continued too, if her aunt hadn’t entered her in the HuskyPeach Modeling Challenge. To get out of it, she’s forced to launch Operation Skinny Celeste—because, after all, a thin girl can’t be a fat model! What Celeste never imagined was that losing weight would help her gain a backbone . . . or that all she needed to shine was a spotlight.

modelsdonteatcookies

 

Our next 2009 Debutante was inspired by events that occurred in seventh grade, when she wore a scary peach bridesmaid dress in her cousin’s wedding and threw up on her gym teacher’s shoes (not at the same event).  Although humiliating at the time, these experiences are working for her now–he manuscript Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies was awarded the 2006 PEN/New England Children’s Book Caucus Susan P. Bloom Discovery Night Award, and the book will be as a 2009 Featured Title for Scholastic Book Fairs.

This week’s interview is with author Erin Dionne. I’m excited to share it with you partly because I’m so tickled by her blurb (HuskyPeach modeling!), but also because she has some great insights to share! So, without further delay…

 

Congrats on your debut novel, Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies. Can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?

Thank you! And thanks for hosting me.

MODELS is my second middle grade novel, but I worked on my first one for seven years…and hopefully it’ll never see the light of day! It took me about a year and a half to write and revise MODELS multiple times. After it was complete, I queried 37 agents, received 35 rejections, and was also rejected by two publishers before signing with my agent.

 

Good for you and so glad you made it! Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? Can you describe to us what it felt like?

The call where my agent told me she’d sold the book, hands down. I was thrilled to sign with my agent, don’t get me wrong, but when I found out that my book was going to find an audience–become REAL–that was amazing. I went into total shock after I hung up from my agent (after giggling through the whole call and struggling to sound as professional as possible), and when I called my husband to tell him the news I couldn’t speak! All I could whisper was “aw-FUR! We got an aw-FUR!” It took him a minute or two to figure out what I was saying.  : )

 

Haha! “aw-FUR”–Love it! Well, This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?

Oh, so many! How about not finishing a manuscript before sending a query letter? That happened with MODELS. Of course, the agent requested the first 50 pages, then asked for the rest of the manuscript 24 hours after that. I’d only written about 100 pages! I scrambled to write some more, then did a chapter-by-chapter synopsis for the rest of the book. Needless to say, I wasn’t offered representation. *hangs head in shame*  But I like to think of that as a “teachable moment”–so learn from my mistake: FINISH YOUR BOOK BEFORE YOU QUERY!

Now that you are a soon-to-be-published author, seeing the view from the other side, what has been your favorite moment in the publishing process so far? What part of the process has most surprised you?

Working with my editor has been the best experience. I was very lucky in that I had a choice in where MODELS went, and what convinced me were the quality of revision suggestions that my now-editor, Alisha Niehaus, had asked me to do on the first chapter before she took it to Acquisitions. She really *got* my book and characters, and her suggestions make me a better writer.  I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work with her.

As for the most surprising…I would have to say that my level of involvement with things like catalog copy, back cover and flap copy has been more than what I expected. My editor has run everything by me and encourages me to make tweaks and changes to follow the voice of the book. I thought I’d have zero input on anything outside of the text. So it’s been fun to be part of all aspects of the process.

Wow! So cool. I had no idea that authors got to do that much in the process. Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?

It was good, actually! It was about 6 pages long, and focused mainly on expanding scenes and developing themes. I didn’t have to change any plot points in MODELS, so most of the editorial process was focused on augmenting things that were already there. I love revision (I revised MODELS 7 times on my own before it was sold), and was very excited to see what my editor thought and what areas she felt could be improved. Her insights were spot-on, and I agreed with 99.9% of what she said–so it made doing the work fun. I could see the book becoming stronger thanks to her guidance.

I understand your husband is a writer, too. What’s it like living with another writer? Helpful or does it drive you crazy?

He is! He’s a freelance copywriter and writes nonfiction articles. He used to write fiction, and I’m hoping he’ll go back to it someday.

It’s wonderful being married to another writer. Not only does he understand my weird neuroses or obsessions when it comes to revision, but he’s incredibly supportive. I wrote the majority of the first draft of MODELS at our dining room table, in 4 marathon writing sessions, and he never once complained about the number of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pizza we ate during that time! He’s always encouraged me to put other things aside to write, and now that we have a baby he is really good about taking her and shooing me out the door to my critique group or to write in the library or a cafe. He told me that MODELS would sell…I dedicated the book to him for that reason.

Aww, that’s so sweet! But, 4 writing session!? Those MUST have been marathons.

Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?

THE GIVER, by Lois Lowry. It’s one of my favorite books of all time. She confronts some major life and family issues in a direct, head-on way, and does so beautifully. Plus the setting is just horrifying to me (in a good way!). There’s so much in that book that I use it in my college English classes quite often!

Thanks so much, Chandler! This was fun!

 

Congratulations again, Erin. And best of luck on your big debut!!

2009 Debutante Author Interview Series: R.J. Anderson

Forget everything you think you know about faeries…
Creatures full of magic and whimsy?
Not in the Oakenwyld. Not anymore.

Deep inside the great Oak lies a dying faery realm, bursting with secrets. Long ago the faeries mysteriously lost their magic. Robbed of their powers, they have become selfish and dull-witted. Now their numbers are dwindling and their very survival is at stake.

Only one young faery–Knife–is determined to find out where her people’s magic has gone and try to get it back. Unlike her sisters, Knife is fierce and independent. She’s not afraid of anything –not the vicious crows, the strict Faery Queen, or the fascinating humans living nearby. But when Knife disobeys the Faery Queen and befriends a human named Paul, her quest becomes more dangerous than she ever anticipated. Can Knife trust Paul to help, or has she brought the faeries even closer to the brink of destruction?

knife-small1         spellhunter-small1

You guessed it! Our next author interview is R.J. Anderson. I’ve already heard buzz about her upcoming book Knife (in the UK) and Faery Rebels (in the US)–How lucky is she to have two gorgeous covers!? After reading the blurb, I know I can’t wait to get a hold of the novel! Thanks so much for joining us, R.J.!

Congrats on your debut novel, Knife. Can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?

KNIFE / SPELL HUNTER (I’ll just call it KNIFE from now on, for brevity’s sake!) was my second completed manuscript, and I finished it in the spring of 1994 — though it took me thirteen more years to sell it. You’d think I’d have written other novels during that time, but I didn’t: I was busy writing fan fiction and posting it on the Internet. Which was good writing practice, taught me to value criticism and earned me a small but loyal audience, so I don’t consider that time wasted.

Anyway, I’d had enough encouragement from friends who had read KNIFE, as well as from the first editor I ever sent it to, that I felt sure the book had potential. So whenever I got a rejection I’d snivel and moan and put the ms. away for months or years before mustering the will to revise and send it out again, but I never gave up on it entirely.

It wasn’t until 2002, however, when an online acquaintance told me that she was an editor with a major publishing house and would be interested in reading my original manuscript, that I really woke up and got serious about doing whatever it might take to get KNIFE published. I did two rounds of revisions for that editor, and although circumstances beyond either one of our control meant that she didn’t end up being the one to buy the book in the end, her criticisms and suggestions really helped me take the book to a whole new level.

Wow. That goes to show you that you never know what great contacts you could be making online! Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? Can you describe to us what it felt like?

I think it had to be getting my agent, because it was so quick and dramatic. I’d just been turned down by another agent who “liked but didn’t love” my manuscript, but was willing to recommend me to another agent she thought might feel differently. Once she made that referral, I had my first e-mail from Josh Adams in two days and an offer of representation less than a week later. Josh had e-mailed a couple of days before to tell me he was loving KNIFE and ask when would be a good time to talk with me about it, so our conversation didn’t come as a complete surprise, but you can bet I spent the weekend in a tizzy trying to find out everything I could about Adams Literary, and think of all the questions I should ask before accepting an offer of representation!

With my editor I had even more advance notice, because a week before the book went to auction she asked my agent if she could call me and see how willing I’d be to do the kind of revisions she had in mind for Knife’s story, and get a feel for what I might be like to work with. So my first call with her wasn’t really The Call, but more of a get-to-know-you experience. It was very exciting, though! Especially because we really did click well right off the bat, and when I put down the phone I found myself hoping that HarperCollins would win the auction so I’d get to work with her. And fortunately, that’s just how it turned out!

How exciting both must have been!

This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?

I think my biggest oops is over my own stupidity and (let’s be frank) laziness in not continuing to turn KNIFE around and send it back out after it had been rejected a couple of times in a row. I allowed myself to waste years just sitting around moping over how slow publishing was, when it probably would have gone a lot faster if I’d been more persistent and proactive in approaching more and different publishers.

It also took me a ridiculously long time to realize that my book was YA (MG really, though it’s sort of on the borderline between the two) instead of an “adult” fantasy. I feel kind of silly about that, too! It seems so obvious to me now.

 

An important message for writers not to be paralyzed by rejection. Thanks for sharing! Now that you are a soon-to-be-published author, seeing the view from the other side, what has been your favorite moment in the publishing process so far? What part of the process has most surprised you?

I have to say it’s been really exciting doing contracted revisions with my editor, knowing she loves my writing and my story but also wants to help me make it the best it can be. She’s been great at pointing out the places where my book is weak or confusing, but also leaving it up to me to figure out how best to solve those problems — trusting my judgment, rather than imposing her own vision on the book. And I think most professional editors are that way, really. I just never realized it before I had the chance to work with one.

The part that’s surprised me is how little the author often knows about what’s really going on with her book. I have a great agent and editors who try to keep me in the loop and are generally very willing to answer questions, but sometimes it’s hard to even know what questions I should be asking. I guess I imagined that the author would hear about every meeting related to her book and get copies of every little bit of promotional material, and that’s just not the case. Agents and editors have a lot of clients and a lot of projects on the go at any given time, and sometimes the author has to politely beg for information before they even realize she doesn’t already know!

It looks like your book is coming out in the US and UK at the same time. Is this typical? How did that happen?

Actually, it’s coming out in the UK on January 8th, which puts it four months ahead of the US release date (which is April 28th). The rights to the UK sold six months later than my US rights, but the book is coming out earlier in the UK because publishing moves much faster over there than it does here.

As for being typical — it’s not that typical from what I understand, but my book has an English setting and feel to it, so it was a natural fit for the UK market in that respect. Also, my agent has a partnership with an agency in the UK, and he worked hard to retain UK rights to the book when working out the details of my contract with HarperCollins. That enabled him to send the manuscript out to a number of publishers over there, and it was eventually bought by Orchard Books last December. Which was very exciting because it was like selling the book all over again! 

So cool to have had TWO deals that quickly! Could you explain to us why your book has a different title in the US and UK?

KNIFE was my original title for the book, and my UK editor thought it was a perfect fit — short and memorable and dynamic. I think that the slight darkness and edginess (if you’ll pardon the pun) to that title was appealing for the UK market, where the dividing line between middle grade and teen literature is less strongly marked. But my US publisher felt that to call it just KNIFE would be confusing and perhaps give people a wrong impression of what the book was about, and they wanted to emphasize the faery content. So after much back-and-forthing, we came up with FAERY REBELS for the series  (since in the US I had a two-book deal for KNIFE and its sequel) and SPELL HUNTER for the book title.

 

Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?

My first contracted editorial letter was seven pages long. She started out by telling me all the things she loved about the book, and then moving on to the places where she felt the plot and characters needed work. Many of the things she mentioned we’d discussed on the phone previously, so they didn’t come as a big shock or anything.

Still, it took me a few days to really process all the information in the letter and decide how I wanted to tackle the revisions. No matter how gracious and thoughtful an editor’s criticisms may be, it’s easy to succumb to feelings of “O woe is me! I suck! They only bought this manuscript because they felt sorry for me!” It’s also easy to resent or resist certain criticisms and tell yourself that the editor just doesn’t understand your Sublime Artistic Vision.

But once I’d finished wallowing in self-pity for a day or two, I got excited and started thinking of ways to solve the problems my editor had pointed out. And I also realized that my editor was right in her criticisms — not just about a few things, but about everything. The book is a LOT better now than it was — tighter, more focused, and also deeper.

I love hearing about author-editor relationships that work well! Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?

Oh, goodness. This is hard, because there are so many books I love. But I think I’m going to have to say I wish I’d written C.S. Lewis’s THE SILVER CHAIR. That is my favorite of all the Narnia books, and I adore Puddleglum.

Thanks so much for telling us all about your journey to publication! Can’t wait to check out FAERY REBELS here in the US and I’m sure we’ll be hearing great things in the future from you. Again, Congratulations on your success!