Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's A Baltimore Thing: Interview with Author Holly Nicole Hoxter

Most of the Tenners I’ve interviewed have had these fairy tale stories of six-figure deals sold through auctions and pre-empts and frankly, they’ve been giving me an inferiority complex. So when I started reading Holly’s interview responses I was feeling a bit better because her road to publication seemed closer to mine—that is until I saw that she wrote her book in sixteen days! Sixteen days, people! It takes me nearly that long just to format my manuscript! So much for finding people like me. My inferiority complex is back in full bloom.

Here’s Holly’s deal report from Publishers Marketplace:

Holly Nicole Hoxter's debut, ON THE VERGE, in which a seventeen-year-old girl's world is turned upside down when her mother's suicide brings the older sister she never knew back into her life, and they have to work together to raise their 5-year-old autistic brother, to Jill Santopolo at Laura Geringer Books, by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger (world).

[Note: The title has changed to THE SNOWBALL EFFECT, and it will be published under the HarperTeen imprint due to Laura Geringer's departure.]

Welcome Holly! Can you please tell us how you met your agent?
After toiling away on my first novel for over five years, I resolved to find an agent in 2007. I spent a lot of time on Absolute Write, Verla Kay's message board, and Query Tracker researching agents. My strategy involved reading everything I could about a potential agent online to determine if we would be a good match, and then heading to the library to find one or two of their clients' books. If I didn't like the books or thought they were very different from mine, I skipped over that agent.

I sent Sara Crowe a query for my first novel in May 2007 and she requested a full. Unfortunately, she passed about a month later, but said to keep her in mind for my next project. So when I finished revising the new novel that fall, I contacted her again. She offered representation a few days before Christmas. You can actually read my second query letter on Sara's blog, Crowe's Nest.

Can you tell us how your book deal happened?
After a round of revisions with Sara, she started sending the novel out to editors in March 2008. Jill Santopolo at HarperCollins made an offer three months later. It sounds so dull when I sum it up, but it was very exciting at the time!

What was the inspiration for THE SNOWBALL EFFECT and how long did it take you to write?
After a few months of querying my first novel, I was getting plenty of partial and full requests but no agent. It had taken me five years to get from initial idea to the querying stage, and that scared me. If no one wanted my first novel, would it take me five more years to write another one? I felt a lot of pressure to start a new novel, but I had no idea where to start.

One day in April, I had an odd dream about a dead old man in a bubble. He was on display in the center of town, as some sort of mourning ritual. Then the old man's widow pushed her way through the crowd and climbed inside the bubble with her dead husband. She cut open his chest and massaged his heart until it started beating again. The old man sat up and they hugged. Then they lay down again, in each others arms, and died together.

The dream stayed with me after I woke up. The old woman reminded me of my mother, who has always said that she hopes she dies before my father does, because she doesn't think she could live without him. As I sat in bed I wondered what my life would be like if that actually happened--if my father died, and my mother couldn't live without him. My sisters were only 8 and 9 at the time. If both our parents died, I would be their guardian.

And then, suddenly, I knew Lainey and her family, as if they'd been hiding in the back of my mind waiting to appear. I outlined for the next few weeks and then wrote the first draft in sixteen days. I spent the next few months revising and soliciting critiques from my friends and revising some more, then I began querying in the fall, starting with the agents who'd read my first novel and invited me to contact them again. So from initial idea to book deal was a little over a year. Pretty amazing!

What's your publication date and where in the process are you now?

The novel will be coming out winter 2010. I'm not sure about the specific date. I finished copy edits a few weeks ago and recently saw a draft of my cover. So basically, I'm not doing much of anything right now.

You love snowballs. What exactly is a snowball?
I never realized that snowballs were a "Baltimore thing" until a few years ago when I became friends with a girl from New York and she had no idea what they were. A snowball is basically shaved iced with flavored syrup. Maybe they call it a snowcone where you come from, but in Baltimore, they're snowballs and they're ubiquitous in the summertime. There are snowball stands all over the place. When I was a kid, we even had a snowball truck that came around every night like the ice cream man. They are awesome and delicious. My ultimate goal in life is to own a snowball stand. My teen sister actually works at one now, which makes me insanely jealous, but at least she hooks me up with free snowballs.

HarperCollins hated my original title and I did too, but it took us forever to settle on a new one. Finally Jill threw "The Snowball Effect" out there in a brainstorming email, and it was perfect. I love that it can refer to the general snowballing of events that are happening in Lainey's life, or it can refer to a specific scene where Lainey and her love interest visit a snowball stand.

What are you working on now?
I'm working on a novel about a girl who falls for the hot young drummer in her Dad's band. I don't know if it's any good—no one has read it yet! Hopefully I'll get it polished soon and send it off to my agent.

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers trying to get published?
First, figure out what your book is about. When I wrote my first query for my first novel, I realized I had no idea what it was even about. I'd been working on it for five years, but I couldn't even tell you the genre. Writing the "pitch" really helped me focus and rewrite the novel (again). So now whenever I begin a new project or get a new idea, I write a practice query letter right away to help me nail down what I want the story to be about.

Second, don't waste time getting discouraged. If one agent says no, query another. If no one wants your first novel, write another one. Don't become stagnant or start to feel sorry for yourself. If this is your dream, you'll make it happen or you'll die trying. Right??? That's the attitude you need to have.

Thanks for the interview, Holly! (And congratulations on your engagement and your book deal!)

Stop by and check out Holly’s LiveJournal, where she blogs about writing, her cats, and things that annoy her.


Jennie Englund said...

Holly has a great name, and a great (new) title, and seems like a grounded girl.

Love/need the encouragement!

Anonymous said...

What an interesting book that will be, and all derived from a dream! You writers are amazing people. I can't wait to read this book.

Anonymous said...

I love the photo with the contract!

Also love the honest advice about figuring out what your book is really about. Seems weird that you could spend so much time on a book and not know what it's about, but I fully understand.

Nice interview!


Denise Jaden said...

Great interview, Christy!

And Holly, not only does your 2010 book sound awesome, I really like the premise of your WIP! All the best with it!

Hardygirl said...

Yes! Make it happen or die trying.

Love this girl--sf

Crystal said...

Thanks for another great interview, Christy! I love these things! They are so informative and inspiring!

And Holly's book sounds really good, btw. Can't wait to see this on the shelves! Congratulations, Holly!