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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips from a Marketing Maven

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Today, I’ve got something a little different planned: Shelli Johannes-Wells is here to share a bit about her experience managing the Children’s Department at a Barnes and Noble and her take on marketing. She’s worked for clients like Spanx, SCBWI, and Boys and Girls Club in addition to helping to promote books. She’s got a world of expertise to let us in on. Not to mention, she had a dream the other night that my book sold, so I’m going to–with an obvious err on the side of optimism–add psychic to her list of accomplishments, k?

Thanks for agreeing to answer my questions, Shelli!

First, I want to talk a little about your experience managing the Children’s Department at Barnes and Noble. 
 
After I left Auburn with my MBA in Marketing, Accenture (which used to be called Anderson Consulting) hired me right out of school but didn’t have a start date available for months.  I moved back home and got a job at Barnes and Noble. I didn’t realize then that I wanted to be a writer – I just loved books and was an avid reader of children’s books as well as adult mystery. I got a supervisor role in the Children’s department at Barnes and Noble. This was a great because I got to handle/schedule author signings, shelved books which gave me an idea of the market, got previews/galleys of new books, and did story time a couple times a week. I loved everything about it except when I got the dreaded monthly assignment for “bathroom duty”. To this day, in bookstores, I still get flashbacks and will forever have a phobia of bookstore bathrooms. 🙂
 
Too funny! Slash-I don’t blame you. How about specific titles? Did you push certain titles? Were the titles you advocated dictated by the bookstore chain or your own personal preferences?  And did kids tend to pick the books out or did parents?
 
No one ever asked me to push certain titles. I was never even told what displays or books to put on display. I was only told what topics to do a display on. I created my own displays and put books out that I loved. I read a lot of books but customers always had different needs so I stayed up on the market so I knew what I could recommend. I knew what was new, what was good based on reviews, and what other customers were telling me. I loved talking to kids and recommending books. I never got parents asking me much for younger kids. But the kids 8 & up would talk to me a lot about different books. Maybe that is why I write for MG and YA.
 

On to marketing– What made you leave your corporate job and go into marketing and writing?
 
I left Accenture in 2000 and started my own marketing business. I’d been traveling for years and wanted to be home more and have control over my career. I just up and quit my corporate job and started cold calling clients. I was also helping a friend do their book marketing promotions which I loved!
 
I’ve always loved to write, which is probably why I started doing copywriting for businesses. When I was young, I wrote poems and short stories. I even won a state contest for a Nutrition essay named “Be a Smart Cookie.” I still have that story. In 2004, when I had my daughter and was on paid leave for 5 months, for some reason, I got an idea and just started writing. 6 months later I finished my first novel . I’ve been writing ever since.
 
Good for you! How can an author get started marketing their book?   
 
1) first of all you MUST know your target audience. How they speak, where they go, everything. You also need to know what segments of the target audience your book appeals to. You can’t just focus on ages 13-18 for YA. It is too broad. You need to dive deeper into the market and break your readers into segments. Think about each segment and the best way to reach them and come up with an intricate plan to reach segment individually.
 
2) Second, authors need to learn about marketing like they learn about writing. I come across so many authors with great books that know nothing about their audiences or how to market. It’s really a shame. Publishing the book is only 1/2 of it. We get so focused on that as an end goal – we forget there is life beyond the contract. Most publishers EXPECT you to do most if not all of your own marketing. If you do not take ownership for creating a buzz around your book, no one will. And if you don’t market, you may not get another print run or even another deal.  I would say if you are not spending 20% of your time on marketing, you are missing key opportunities for your book.
 
3) Use creative methods. Today, emarketing, social networking, and using technology are critical to any author’s success. Signings, school visits, business cards with your photo on it, and book markers are a step but are not enough anymore. You must learn your way around the net and you must build a network of relationships. I personally think that is important to doing when you are trying to be a published author as well.
emarketing – use the internet for interviews, ezines, blogs. Learn how to put together a professional, simple web site. I would say 80% of the sites I go to are confusing and appear amateurish. There is so much out there to help you.
social networking – you need to get out there where you audience is. You would be surprised how many authors tell me – “I just don’t like the computer”. That is where the kids are! Twitter, Facebook or MySpace. That’s like me saying I don’t like the publishing world, but I want an agent and  book deal. You need to hang out where your audience hangs out. Blogging is also important in getting your name out as well as meeting people. When I started my blog, within 3 months I had over 1,000 visitors. That’s 1,000 people I’ve touched that I may not have. Not to mention, I ‘ve met some great blogger friends, like you Chandler! 🙂
technology – I mentioned a few in the social networking. You can also create book trailers, podcasts, vlogs, and doing virtual signings. Be creative.

Aww, thanks Shelli! Has your background in marketing caused you to approach your own writing career differently? If so, how?
 
I think my marketing experience will help a lot once I get and agent and get published. My marketing doesn’t affect the way I write but if affects other aspects. Like how I query. Or how I network and meet people. Even how I come up with ideas that I feel will appeal to kids. Just hanging out with my best friend’s 12 year old opens my eyes.
 
I am also very aware of how I can market my book once I get published. I have to help people sell complex projects in a simple, succinct way. So it is easy for me to get to the root of what the book is about and describe that in a few sentences.  I have marketing plans for my books already drafted. It just comes natural for me to think through those things so it’s easy for me to do.
 
Marketing is also something I can offer authors and writers. It is my way of giving back. There are so many people that have helped me learn about the publishing business, learn about writing and who have just given me hope and encouragement. It is something I can offer them ad I feel good knowing I can have a small part in helping them be successful. Because of that, I am the PR/Marketing person for the Southern Breeze Region. I do all their PR to drive up membership, I redesigned their logo, and speak at their conferences. All for free. It’s important to give back.
 
Are there currently published authors that readers could look to that you think are getting their marketing and publicity right?
This is a tough question. No one asks authors what they do so you never know. I think its a great question for people to ask authors at their meetings or signings. We can learn a lot from each other.
 
Actually, this year I am adding a new feature to my blog. I will be interviewing authors and getting them to discuss how they market their books. I plan to start that in the next few weeks.
 
Looking forward to that. For authors that want to think or talk about marketing their books before its time for the book to hit shelves or to plan a school visit a school visit, how can they learn more?

On my blog, Market My Words (www.faeriality.blogspot.com) – I give daily tips to authors and offer “Marketing Mondays” where I go into depth on a marketing topics for authors as well as discuss marketing books/resources that are valuable to authors. I try to focus on helping published authors as well as “pre-published” authors because I believe you can start your marketing efforts now. By the time you get published, you turn in your edits, and your books hits the shelf, it is too late. The sooner you have your foundation built, the easier it is to launch your plan when it is time. You should start 6-9 months BEFORE your book comes out. Not during or after.

 

Thanks, Shelli. Good to hear that effort spent blogging etc., is time well spent because we’re building foundations now so we won’t have to cram it all into the last 6 months before publication, right? I appreciate you coming by to share your hard-won wisdom. Keep us updated!

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.

Check it Out

 

Hey! Just wanted to share a link to an awesome interview with Chuck Adams, editor of Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants (in addition to a whole heap of other great books). He lists my agent, Daniel Lazar, as one of two “go-to” agents.

Mr. Adams says, “There are two agents in particular, right now, who I send people to when I’m asked for help in finding an agent. I think of them first and I go to them first: Doug Stewart at Sterling Lord and Daniel Lazar at Writers House…I’ve bought a couple of things from Daniel, who has consistently amazed me with the stuff he sends. It’s off the wall sometimes, but I just love it. ”

Go Dan!

I’ve linked to the page on which Dan is mentioned, but you can skip back to the beginning via the page select buttons on the bottom. Continue reading  here.

And thanks to Poets & Writers for putting out the interview.

Interview with Mike Boyd

 

Today I have the opportunity to sit down and chat with one of my AW buddies. As a man writing women’s fiction, he has an interesting perspective, but also he’ll be able to shed some light on the whole Self-Publishing question to which this week is dedicated.

Thanks for joining us, Mike!

Can you please tell me a little about your book, Medusa’s Daughter?
 
Medusa’s Daughter is the story of two people caught up in what turns out to be a spiritual journey.  Holly MacLaren is an ex-Navy fighter pilot (call sign: Medusa) who flies as a captain for a Honolulu-based airline.  Divorced from a country music star, she’s also a single mom to their psychic six-year-old daughter, Skye.
 
Holly is a consummate professional used to plenty of responsibility.  So when she starts having panic attacks, she’s at a loss to know why—or how to make them stop.  To search for their cause, she undergoes regressive hypnotherapy and learns that over 60 years ago in a past life as Ensign Robert Strawn, a crewman on the U.S.S. Arizona, she was the victim of an unsolved murder.  Before she can grasp this revelation, she finds herself stalked, her home secretly invaded by a man with ties to both the victim and his killer.
 
Skye MacLaren sees things that other first-graders don’t, though she can’t decipher much of it.  The gift gives her a hazy awareness of her mother’s problems.  Medusa’s Daughter follows the pair as they deal with the stalker’s threat.  Along the way, they discover new truths about a revered hero’s deeds at Pearl Harbor.
 
Sounds great! How did you get the idea for this project?
 
Call it extended synchronicity.  About ten years ago, I read Dr. Brian Weiss’s nonfiction bestseller, Many Lives, Many Masters.  It tells of a psychiatric patient’s bouts with panic attacks and a long list of phobias, and of their use of hypnotic regression to combat them.  The sessions uncovered numerous past lives, each ending in drowning or suffocation.  A year later, I came across Hornet’s Nest, by Lt. Missy Cummings, one of the Navy’s first female F/A-18 pilots. It’s an account of her struggles against what was then vast male resentment of women in the strike-fighter community.  And a year after that, I spent the turn of the millennium visiting my daughter and her family in Honolulu, where I had the good fortune to see Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial.  As soon as this third experience was under my belt, I knew the story I had to write. But I didn’t yet know the role that my then five-year-old granddaughter would play in it. (The title, in fact, came only after the first draft was half finished.)
 
It’s great that those experiences resonated with you so much so that you just had to create a story. Would you care to elaborate on your granddaughter’s role?
 
Let’s just say she turned out to see some things her classmates couldn’t.  Skye’s second sight became an important element of the story—enough so that I felt justified in making her the title character.
 
Not to state the obvious, but you’re a man. And you write women’s fiction. What made you decide to do that?
 
I didn’t consciously set out to write women’s fiction.  What I wanted to write was dark-humored suspense.  (Think Carl Hiaasen with a tad more edge.)  But my first two novels have strong female protagonists.  And empowerment, especially as it involves workplace equality, killing off stereotypes, and coping with sexual harassment, is a theme that runs through both of them.
 
The fact that I’m the father of two grown daughters and no sons probably has a lot to do with this.  I was aware of the gender issues they faced as they grew up and headed out on their own.  Now that I think about it, my mother also worked as far back as the mid-1950s, long before two-income families were the norm.  She was a secretary because that’s one of the few things women did.  And her mother was a secretary and single parent a decade before that.  So a respect for working women has been there throughout my life.
 
Another influencing factor was my education:  I was a college professor for 30 years, and though I taught mostly corporate finance, my graduate degrees are in the broader field of economics.  In grad school in the 1970s, a big area of research interest among my professors was gender discrimination.  The idea that it’s not just morally wrong but economically stupid caught my attention and stayed with me.
 
Once I realized my books had this dual nature, I decided to pitch them as suspense novels to suspense oriented agents and as women’s fiction to WF agents.  Although I query more of the latter, I want to make clear that there are plenty of plot features that appeal to men as well as women.  Things like exotic places, paranormal events, blackmail, kidnapping, and murder.  And flying—lots of slipping the surly bonds of earth.
 
I’ve got to applaud you for surviving among all those women! But, how do you get into the head of a woman? What are some of the challenges that come with being a man writing for women’s fiction?
 
As far as writing is concerned, getting into a woman’s head isn’t a problem, for reasons I’ve mentioned.  For me the big challenge is that because so few men write it (Nicholas Sparks and Robert James Waller come to mind, but they’re a rare breed), I feel at a disadvantage when approaching the big WF agents, who are invariably women.  I guess I think they’ll see me as trying to crash their party.  This could be a sympathetic feeling to the one I know women used to have when they’d try to enter The Boys’ Club. Nowadays it’s irrational, I’m sure, but there it is.
 
For many writers the question of whether or not to self-publish is a source of stress and uncertainty. You’ve done it with success. What should a writer consider when deciding whether or not to self-publish? What has your experience been like?
 
My experience with self-publishing is limited to print-on-demand (POD) and to only one such service, Lulu.com.  Also, within that framework, I’ve done only one style of book, a dust-jacketed hardcover.  The vast majority of POD-published books are paperbacks, which probably reflects a decision by their authors to keep costs down and profit margins up, in order to make it feasible to sell them on Amazon or through bookstores.
 
Every set of hands through which a book passes in the distribution process means someone else who demands a share of the revenue.  If a 400-page hardcover costs you, say, $23 to print and ship a copy, you’d have to price it in the mid-to-high $40s to have a chance at selling it on Amazon, albeit at a price between its cover and wholesale prices.  The general rule is that there’s a 100 percent markup between wholesale and retail (cover price), because most books will end up being sold at a discount to retail.  And no reader is going to pay $40 or more for a hardcover by an unknown author when they can get the latest Nelson DeMille or Amy Tan for $27 or less.
 
It’s little wonder, then, that the POD lists tend to be filled with $20-$25 paperbacks—which are still not easy to sell, when you consider that their competition is $12-$13 paperbacks by established writers.
 
What I’m saying is that POD books are much pricier at wholesale than traditionally published ones.  Realistic margins are therefore small. And POD books aren’t returnable.  For these reasons bookstores won’t stock them—especially if they have to shell out the money.  Even if the POD author pays for the inventory, (s)he’s still competing with the big names for shelf space.  So the best you can hope for at your local Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million is probably a book signing or two, where you run the risk of ordering too few (a bad situation) or too many (a worse one).
 
Faced with these realities, I decided that my foray into POD publishing would be very narrow in scope, and with a particular purpose in mind.
 
What purpose is that? And will you try to pursue the traditional publishing route still?
 
To answer your second question first, absolutely.
 
Regarding the first:  As my agent search for Medusa’s Daughter wound through its third year (oh, yeah, count ‘em!), I continued to polish and tighten the manuscript.  Based on the feedback of a dozen or so readers (including a hypnotherapist and two airline pilots, one of them female), I became convinced that it was too good a story to let it die in a drawer.  And I was tired of not having a way to let friends and relatives see it.  So to make it available to them, I decided to do a limited POD version.  It’s limited in that it’s a strictly personal edition, available only at the Lulu.com website.  This, I found, is also a way to archive the work in a nice, polished format that is absolutely free unless and until I want to buy a few copies.  Every now and then a stranger will come along and snag one, and that’s always nice to see, though not the real purpose of the listing.  The book has deliberately not been assigned an ISBN and has no national distribution.  So for all practical purposes it hasn’t been published in the industry’s sense of the term.  I’m free to keep pitching the manuscript and can quickly close down the POD venture if Old Man Fortune decides to find me.
 
If he does, people who have the Lulu version can schlock it on eBay with my blessing. And if he never does, their great-grandkids and mine can someday pick it up, blow the dust off of it, and know that I was here.
 
By the way, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Lulu’s dust jacket hardcovers are clothbound, not just slick cardboard.  I didn’t know they made those anymore.
 
Anyone who’d like to see a fuller description of Medusa’s Daughter or to read the first several chapters may do so at http://www.lulu.com/content/690706
 
Thanks! We’ll be sure to check it out. What are you working on now?
 
I’m trying something different this time, a YA suspense novel.  Or maybe horror—I really need to decide which.  I’ve drafted four chapters, so it’s time to fish or cut bait.  The working title is Diary of a Demonical Freak.  It’s about a 15-year-old Army brat and aspiring rock musician named Frankie MacLeod (for which demonical freak is an anagram) and his 12-year-old sister, Lily.  They live on a fictional Army post somewhere in the Great Plains.  At the outset, Lily has vanished from her school.  The story is narrated by Frankie in the form of—you guessed it—a diary.  I wish I could tell you where Lily is, how she got there, and how she’ll get back home.  Was she snatched by terrorists? Gypsies? Aliens? The tormented ghost of a dead rocker who inhabits her brother’s guitar?  At the moment I don’t have a clue.  That’s the scariest thing about the way I write.  I’m one of the last to know what’s going to happen.  All I’m sure of at this point is that Frankie will be the hero and that he’ll step in some serious poo before the story ends.
 
As writers we know that perseverance is the key to success in the business. What are some of the ways you deal with rejection and what keeps you motivated to keep writing?
 
Rejection stinks, doesn’t it? If I liked it, there’d be a psycholgical disorder listed for me in the DSM-IV.  I’d love to sound all professional and say I just shrug it off and send out another query, remember that publishing is a subjective business, no reflection on my work, and yadda-yadda-yak-yak-yak . . . (quoting from the rejection slips).  But I’m not there yet.  I’ll hold out through a half-dozen or so, then go into a minor funk—or sometimes a major one.  And then someone will pick up a copy or download one and read it and say something good about it, and I’ll be off and running again.
 
As for my motivation to keep writing (as opposed to pitching):  Quitting my day job helped—though I had to wait a lot of years to be able to afford that.  (Thank you, God, for early Social Security!)  I tried to stop writing novels when the first one didn’t find an agent.  It was fairly easy to give up then, because I still had a college teaching career that required my “serious” attention.  That hiatus lasted six years. By the time Medusa’s Daughter was finished, I was on the verge of retirement, which meant I didn’t have to spend any more energy writing high-toned journal articles with colons in their titles.  I’m sure I’ll get Diary of a Demonical Freak finished in a year or two and then see if I can find a legitimate home for it.
 
But I won’t obsess.  If it hasn’t happened by the end of a couple of years, I’ll archive it on Lulu so my dozens of screaming fans can read it, and by that time I’ll have found something else to write.
 
Great attitude and perspective on your writing career. It’s that kind of persistence that will pay off. I wonder: Do you write what you love or what you think will sell? Why?
 
I write what I love—and more pointedly, what I love to read.  That usually means a suspenseful adventure with a lot of laughs to cut the tension.  I don’t think it’s practical to try to predict now what the hot genres and settings will be three or four or five years out.  So I’ll write what entertains me in the meantime and hope that it has some legs, to use the Tina Turner-esque publishing metaphor.
 
One last question: If you could have written any book that is already published by another author, which book would it have been?
 
May I be piggy and name two? First is The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver.  It has the most richly drawn characters I’ve ever seen.  Their voices are so distinct and true.  It’s neat to see the different sisters’ assessments of their missionary family’s life in the Congo—and their views about each other!  I especially like little sister Adah, who doesn’t speak, but who thinks and writes in palindromes.  (She likes palindromes so much that she even insists on misspelling her name Ada.)
 
The second book I wish I’d written is Carl Hiaasen’s Native Tongue.  As you know, humor—especially dark humor—is a big part of what floats my literary boat.  And I love it when the bad guy gets his come-uppance in an amusingly icky fashion.  Hiaasen is masterful at this, but nowhere more so than in Native Tongue, where the villain—spoiler alert!—gets boinked to death by a horny theme-park dolphin.  Priceless!

 

Great Info, Mike. Thanks for spending time with us and I hope you’ll come back often. I’ll have to check out Medusa’s Daughter and I wish you the absolute best of luck!!

Stay Tuned…

I’m pleased to announce that author Chelle Cordero will be guest blogging on Wednesday, June 11! She is the author of BARTLETT’S RULE and the forthcoming FORGOTTEN, which will be available in July.

Come up with some great questions for her as she will be available to answer them in the days following her guest post.