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

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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

Book Review: Ink Exchange

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I read Wicked Lovely this past summer and loved it. I hadn’t been dying to read Ink Exchange, though. No particular reason except that there were other books on my “To Be Read” List calling my name. So I put off reading Melissa Marr’s second book. That is, until I started reading her blog.

Melissa has a fascinating section on her website called “Writing Chatter,” which gives a lot of insight into her writing process, what she thinks about while writing, etc. I checked it out along with some of her blog archives.

No doubt most of y’all have heard of the “sophomore slump.” Authors have years to write their first published book and then they are forced to meet a deadline and, well, sometimes it’s difficult to reproduce the magic of the first book.

Melissa says about writing Ink Exchange, “I spent a lot of time looking at Ink Exchange & being pretty certain that it would fail, that Wicked Lovely was a fluke…”

It wasn’t a fluke. I finished Ink Exchange last night. Mainly because I read on Melissa’s site that it was more the book of her heart than Wicked Lovely and that it was the darker book she had wanted to write. And I loved it.

I thought the actual writing was much better. It’s the same voice and style–very straight forward, no nonsense–but that’s the only style I can picture the subject matter in. What impressed me most were a few of the action/fight sequences. Her imagery is beautiful and pacing spot on. If you’ve read the book or are planning on reading it, look for the scene where Bananach meets Niall in an alley to see what I mean. I’m planning on re-reading this scene several more times before I get into some of the fight scenes for my own book proposal.

Coming in a close second–or maybe tied?–for the element that most impressed me in Ink Exchange is Melissa Marr’s appeal to all five senses. Ink Exchange is a sensual experience in every sense of the word. I rarely see an author focus on taste, smell, and touch to the same degree that he or she draws the reader’s attention to sight and sound.

One thing I did wonder as I read was: Is the author trying to be dark for darkness’s sake?

At times, I found myself trying to decide whether the violence, sex, and drugs were a bit gratuitous. In the end, I decided No. I did my test: Will the story work without that element? Here, the answer was no. I will say, though, that this is not a book for young teens. It’s definitely pushing the envelope for even upper YA. But something came to mind as I worried about the appropriateness of the content for teens. Maybe y’all remember the scandal surrounding Dakota Fanning’s “rape scene” in the recent movie Hound Dog. I am constantly impressed by that girl’s apparent maturity. But when people criticized her mother for allowing her to be in the movie, she responded head on, saying “You have to prepare your children for things that happen in the world. Everything isn’t rosy.”  For me, that seems to sum up Ink Exchange nicely. To those recent critics of YA who seem to think that the category talks down to its readers, hinders them from learning, and is an utter waste of a tree, I might suggest picking up Ink Exchange and then getting back to us.

 

To read my review of Melissa Marr’s first book, Wicked Lovely, set in the same world, click here.

I’m Back.

With finals over for the semester, I’m back to my regularly scheduled blogging. Hooray!

Looking forward to posting about all sorts of topics and I also have some great books to review.

I went to the Austin Public Library yesterday and picked up Melissa Marr’s Ink Exchange, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Twisted, and Scott Westerfield’s Uglies. I’m certain I’ll get through more than just these books this winter break, so any other suggestions would be much appreciated. Ten points to anyone that can suggest a non-YA book that I’d love.

You may be wondering why I didn’t start writing yesterday, the first second I got.  After all, I was so excited last week to begin. Still am. Well, I don’t know about how y’all work, but I need creative nourishment. I hadn’t read something for pleasure all semester! That’s a long time for me.

So now I’m gorging myself on work that I respect in the genres I write, not because I want to mimick another author’s voice or get plot ideas from another book, but because I need to feed my creative energy and inspire myself to write better. To remind myself what an amazing book looks and feels like. And to remember why it is I write in the first place.

Status: Thankful I no longer have to query agents, but still struggling to write a pretend query letter to myself. More on that tomorrow.

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!

Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Sooooo tempting to write thirteen reasons why I loved Thirteen Reasons Why, but I’ve seen that everywhere, so I’ll resist…I promise.

First of all, SPOILER ALERT. Not a big one. I’m not going to reveal the “reasons why” or anything but if, like my boyfriend Nate, you freak out when anyone discusses the smallest detail of a book prior to your reading it…well then, go get yourself a copy, read it tonight, and get back to me.

For those that don’t know, here’s the jacket flap blurb:

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a package with no return address lying on his porch. Inside he discovers seven cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

With Hannah’s voice as his guide, Clay spends the rest of the night wandering through town, visiting places mentioned on the tapes, unearthing the thirteen reasons why Hannah chose to end her life.

And one reason belongs to him.

 

Onward…

After reading so much buzz about this book I could hardly wait to use my spankin’ new Austin library card to check out Thirteen Reasons Why.

Immediately, I thought the format was awesome. Each chapter is a side of the cassette tape and, within the chapter, there are symbols for when Clay pushes stop and play. I also knew right away that I would finish the book within 24 hours–which I did. It’s not as if the book is action-packed. In fact, it’s a pretty slow build. But, I had to keep going. I had to know who the next reason would be and how each person would come into the story. Fantastic…really.

However, I have to be honest. There were points when the book annoyed the heck out of me. I had a hard time finding Hannah Baker to be a sympathetic character. I mean her last act was to send people tapes telling them that their actions made her kill herself? Who would want to be remembered that way?

But, thankfully, by the end, I felt that Asher wanted me to question Hannah. Certainly one of the messages was that we need to consider how our actions can affect others because, after all, it’s impossible to know what is going on in someone else’s life. Certainly Asher wanted us to be more proactive, to reach out and rescue a person we think may be at risk. However, it became equally clear that Hannah bore the ultimate responsibility. She made up her mind. She refused to let those willing rescue her.

I won’t lie, when I closed the book, I felt unsettled. Why was Clay so hard on himself? Why did he keep apologizing to Hannah? I mean, Hannah’s final act hurt people. That was unfair. There was little mention of her parents and how their daughter’s suicide had affected them. And did Hannah’s “reasons” really warrant killing herself?

Then I realized the magic of Asher’s book–I was still thinking about it. And, though on the surface, Hannah’s reasons might have seemed to pile up, creating what she called  a “domino effect,” in reality, they did not justify suicide. She was in high school. With a few more years of experience, she might have had more perspective.

Am I saying the things that she went through weren’t awful in their own way? Of course not. But I think that the bubble that is high school can magnify problems for teens and, hopefully, in reading this book, teens facing similar issues might be able to gain the perspective that Hannah lacked.

Whatever you think about the book, its ability to get folks to discuss the issue of teen suicide is invaluable.

For me, it’s a must read. I continue to be amazed by the current YA market. Asher’s novel serves as further evidence of the rich literature that finds its way into the teen section these days.

 

What did y’all think of Thirteen Reasons Why?

 

Status: Article finished. I have a few edits to do on it, but otherwise taken care of. School work next.

2009 Debutante Author Interview Series: Lauren Bjorkman

Roz and Eva are sisters, close friends, and fierce rivals. Roz fantasizes about snagging the lead in the school play and landing sexy skate god Bryan as her boyfriend. Sadly, a few obstacles stand between her and her dreams. For one, Eva is the more talented actress. And Bryan happens to be Eva’s boyfriend. But is Eva having a secret love affair with a girl? Enquiring minds need to know.

Roz prides herself on random acts of insanity. In one such act, she invents a girlfriend of her own to encourage Eva to open up. The plan backfires, and Roz finds herself neck deep in her invented life. When Roz meets a mercurial boy with a big problem, she begins to understand the complex feelings beneath the labels. And she gets a second chance to earn Eva’s trust.

MY INVENTED LIFE is set in small California high school during the rehearsals for a Shakespeare comedy.

 

Lauren Bjorkman grew up on a sailboat, sharing the tiny forecastle with her sister and the sail bags. They are still friends, and she still likes to travel to exotic corners of the world. She now live in Taos, New Mexico with her husband, two sons, a cat that thinks he’s a dog, and another cat that thinks he’s a rabbit. Thankfully, she’s settled down long enough to answer a few questions about her debut novel, My Invented Life, coming out in 2009.

Hi, Lauren. Congrats on your debut novel, My Invented Life. I can’t wait to see it on shelves! 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?

Too long. When I had my first kid, I quit my job and started writing novels. Now he’s in the fifth grade! Thankfully I had no idea how long it would take me, nor how many rejection letters would accumulate in my file (40, maybe?) I began as a novice with a crazy belief in myself and a passion for reading, minus a degree in English. Now I’ve written three and a third novels. MY INVENTED LIFE is my second. It’s been a long, long road. But worth every mile.

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?

Speaking of which…congrats on YOUR call!!! What a thrill when I read about it in your blog.

For me, the first call excited and disoriented me the most. I’d queried a few agents and received matching rejections. Then my instructor at a novel writing workshop recommended me to his agent. After two months passed, my hopes deflated. One day, though, he emailed me to say his agent had tried to reach me. I emailed her immediately, and less than 30 seconds after hitting the send button, my phone rang! And it was her!! And she offered to represent me!!!

As you know, you’re supposed to interview an agent before accepting. But I was too busy hyperventilating, pacing the house, and babbling like an idiot. I had finally stepped into a parallel universe, one that respects writers. Besides, I’d already Googled the heck out of her, and knew she’d be perfect for me. So I accepted on the spot. Luckily, she didn’t change her mind after my lame conversation over the phone.

Awww, thanks, Lauren!!

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

Excellent critique from other writers has helped me the most. A few of my critique partners are published, but most are not. When it comes to critique, I’ve learned to listen to my head and my heart to separate the gems from the rot.

Books on writing such as The Writer’s Journey, Bird by Bird, and Writing Down the Bones have helped, too. So have writing workshops. Conferences are a good way to meet other writers.

I’ve always envied writers with fabulous critique groups. That’s a real gift to have and I know they must be so proud of you! We all know that writers go through hard times on their way to success. How have you handled rejection in the past?

You mean what do I do after I’ve finished crying, fuming, and stewing? I eat a lot of chocolate. If it’s really bad, I read over one of my “love letters.” Yes, I keep a file of letters and emails from people who rave about my writing. After that, I pick myself up and keep going. More writing is always the best antidote.

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

*blushes and cringes simultaneously*  I’ve had a few. When I sent a rewrite of MY INVENTED LIFE to an interested agent, he took forever to look at it. After waiting longer than I could stand, I wrote him an email with “patience is a…” in the subject line. I got the mss back in two days with a terse rejection letter.

One time at an SCBWI conference, I had a consultation with an editor from a small local press. She LOVED my book, but didn’t publish YA. Afterwards, I told a friend (rather loudly) what an “ego boost” that had been. The editor was sitting right behind me!

Oh dear. Well, at least you’re the wiser for it! 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?

For pure bliss–my agent saying, “You’re book is very funny. I forced myself to slow down when I was reading it to savor the humor.” That pretty much balanced out the editor at an SCBWI conference who told me I had NO VOICE.

What an awesome compliment from your agent! She must have been a fantastic advocate for your work! Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?

My editor told me, “This is your book. You get to decide which changes to make.” Still, I obsessed about it. So when it came in at three paragraphs, I was hugely relieved.

I have a funny story about my editorial letter. I desperately wanted to get it before I left on a backpack-style trip to Malaysia with my family. But my editor didn’t finish writing it in time. She ended up mailing it with my marked-up mss to an airport hotel in LA where we spent the first night of our trip. After I read her comments, I couldn’t mail the mss home from the airport hotel nor the airport. So I lugged the thing on my back for five weeks. It’s a very well traveled manuscript.

Maybe that bodes well for foreign rights sales!!??? Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?

The current crop of YA books blow my mind. I wish I’d written ALL of them. Since I have to choose one book, I’ll say Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It’s funny, romantic, serious, and political all rolled into one.

Thanks so much for interviewing me, Chandler. And good luck with YOUR book!

Thank you, Lauren! And readers, just to leave you hangin’, I’ll send you off with a tantalizing snippet of My Invented Life

The first thing I see is Eva’s journal. I’m not tempted. It rests seductively at the center of her night table, and the latch appears to be broken. Still I won’t touch it. Even though I know she’ll never find out. And even if it might reveal why she deleted me from her life.
OK then, one little peek.

Topical Tuesday: NaNoWriMo–You in or out?

A few announcements:

SourceBooks has partnered with LibraryThing to provide free downloads of a fantastic story that is currently outselling both Infidel and Reading Lolita In Tehran.

From October 27th – 31st, Dr. Qanta Ahmed’s memoir, In the Land of Invisible Women, will be available for download to any LibraryThing member (membership is free) and it will be followed up a week later (Nov. 10th) with two weeks of author chat—meaning that every week-night for two weeks, readers can post questions for Qanta on the LibraryThing website which she will then attempt to answer.

 

Here at Fumbling with Fiction, I’ll be giving away copies to a couple lucky commenters this week. As usual, each comment this week is an entry. Comment as much as you like in order for a chance to win!

*******************************************************************

It’s that time of year again. The leaves change. The smell of chimney smoke begins to fill the air. The air is crisp and the weather perfect for a brisk walk around the neighborhood.

So, naturally, you’re going to want to lock yourself indoors. Because, I mean, why enjoy the season when you could write a novel in a month instead?

Yep, Saturday heralds this year’s NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month.

Two years ago, I took the challenge and wrote my first novel during the month of November. That was my first “real” effort at becoming a writer. I never went back and edited that disastrous first draft, but I did print it out and placed it a binder on my shelf.

Exactly two years from that month, I have a fabulous agent and am preparing for my first book to go on submission.

Nano, if nothing else, showed me that, “Hey, I can string 50,000 words together” and, yanno what? That’s actually a pretty good lesson.

This year, I’ll be taking a more relaxed approach. Creative A and I will be co-authoring a YA sci-fi novel during the month of November. I’m pumped to refresh my creative juices and to start work on a new project.

More on why I’m excited to be collaborating tomorrow, but for now…Just in case you needed to justify your relative insanity…here are a few reasons to glue your butt to your swivel chair and get your Nano on this year.

Five Reasons You Need to Nano:

1. Your Jenny Craig diet forbids you from eating your weight in turkey and mashed potatoes. Why not release that aggression on your keyboard?

2. You’ve called yourself a writer for the past ten years, but have yet to write more than the occasional haiku and/or dirty limerick.

3. You type five words per minute. Yeah…unless you’re 7, it might be time to work on that.

4. The economy’s tanked and you’ve been left unemployed.  Good news! Writing requires virtually no overhead.

5. You have very little respect for the editing process.

 

 

Status: Waiting…waiting…waiting…waiting…Did I mention I finished my script? Oh yeah! I finished. Up ’til 5 am on Sunday finishing the edits on SCOUT. Yeah….I’m not a night owl.

A Question from The Peanut Gallery

I had a young person leave a question in the comments section on my post about the House of Night series. I think it’s a great one to consider for young readers forming opinions about how and what to read. But I also think it’s a great question for authors of young adult fiction to keep in mind.

Nicole said:

“Although Twilight is my fav book of all times!!! I’m getting sick of obsessing over it… but im not ready to give up my love for vampires so I think im going to read this series [House of Night]. I have a question though does the book talk alot about gods and godesses and make fun of other religions (when I say other i mostly mean Christanity)? Because im a strong Christian and I don’t want to be reading a book that makes fun of my beliefs…”

Nicole, that’s a great question. As a strong Christian myself, I can see where someone might feel that House of Night makes fun of religion. However, I believe what PC and Kristin Cast are looking down on is intolerance. As Christians, we know that it’s wrong to judge others or to think ourselves holier or better than the people around us. We know that we should love our neighbor as ourselves and that to cast someone out and deem them evil would be hypocritcal to our faith. And yet, it’s undeniable that people in all different religions have at times misconstrued their faith in order to assert power over another group of people.

Also, remember that this is fiction. And in The House of Night world, a mysterious vampire goddess truly does exist. Now, do we know that to be false in our world? Yes. But when we dive into a novel, we suspend our disbelief.

Since, another goddess who, in fact, is good exists in House of Night, it is wrong in the book, for another sect of people to satanize the vampires’ goddess.

So while the group that is satirized in the series is Christian, it is their intolerance, not their belief system that is “made fun of.”

It’s great that you are protective of your beliefs. I think we all are and developing the skill of being a critical reader, I think, will take you a long way. When you read a book, fiction or non, it’s always valuable to think: What is the exact message the author is trying to send? Do I agree or disagree?

I think you’re trying to do just that.

 

 

(**The House of Night series is written by P.C. and Kristin Cast and includes the books Marked, Betrayed, Chosen, and the newly released, Untamed.**)

 

 

Status: Gluing my butt to chair in hopes of writing lots starting…now!