Thursday, April 30, 2009

No Stranger To Fiction: Interview With Author Steve Brezenoff

Today we have author Steve Brezenoff, a New Yorker living in exile in Minnesota. He’s a member of the Tenners because his first Young Adult book debuts in 2010, but he’s no stranger to publishing. In fact, if you look him up on Amazon you’ll find a whole page of books he’s written and co-written. In addition, Steve used to work as a production editor at Simon & Schuster and he has an agent with a name that I precede with “Count” in my mind every time I read it, because Edward Necarsulmer IV just begs for a title of continental nobility. Oh, and his book deal was inked in Italy! So yeah, Steve is fancy in every possible way.

Here’s Steve’s deal report from Publisher’s Marketplace:
Steve Brezenoff's untitled book, about four Long Island teens whose lives unravel suddenly and dramatically (and with a fair amount of pot), to Andrew Karre at Carolrhoda, for publication Fall 2010, by Edward Necarsulmer IV at McIntosh & Otis (NA).
(Note: The working title is SPLINTERS, but that will probably change.)

Hi Steve! Welcome. So, can you tell us how you met your agent?
I haven't actually met my agent yet, Edward Necarsulmer IV at McIntosh & Otis, though I did see him on a panel at SCBWI NYC conference earlier this year. I liked the cut of his jib; he was the only one up there in a suit, which for some reason struck me as awesome.
So I submitted it to him and he was mind-blowingly enthusiastic about the partial, and just as enthusiastic with the full. I was flattered and there was much stammering on both our parts, and some disagreement on JD Salinger's best work, and the Grateful Dead's best work, and we agreed we ought to work together.

Can you tell us how your book deal happened?
I joined SCBWI in 2007, I think, and went to the local (Minnesota) chapter's conference in the fall of 2008. There, I went to Andrew Karre's presentation on YA--he contrasted Kurt Cobain and John Cougar Mellancamp to great effect. Riveting, naturally. Afterward, I approached him with this wacky resume thing I made (at my wife's suggestion!): it was on one side my work-for-hire writing experience, of which there is a fair amount, and on the other my WIPs, summarized in snappy little blurbs. I don't know how much value that resume had; it may have been enough that my name and email address left with him. Either way, Andrew emailed me pretty much right away, asking for fulls on all the WIPs on that resume. Little did he know, that was essentially impossible, since none of my WIPs were actually finished. Rookie mistake FTW!

I banged through my YA WIP, realizing it was the stronger MS (I'd been working on it, on and off, since around 1999), sent it along (though it was WAY too short) and he liked it. If I can pat my own back a little, he read the whole thing in one night! Granted, it was much shorter then, but still. I was over the moon.

Six months later, after I'd nearly doubled the length of the thing, Andrew was ready to make an offer. That's when I decided to get an agent (see above). What was the inspiration for your 2010 debut book and how long did it take you to write? The initial inspiration for the novel was a short story I wrote in a college creative writing class in 1995 (yikes). The protagonist was a few years younger than the one in Splinters, but his obsession with death and his closeness with and admiration for his older sister were already evident. After my own father passed away, it became very obvious that the protagonist's father would die as well. From there, the bulk of the novel wrote itself. What's your publication date and where in the process are you now?I'm on the schedule for fall 2010 at Carolrhoda. Right now, I'm waiting for my editor's first official round of notes so I can get started revising. He assures me it will be a fairly light series of revisions. I hope he is right.

If you could choose any writer or writers to blurb for your debut, who would you choose?
Since we're strictly fantasizing here, I am free to choose JD Salinger. However, more realistically, I'll say Blake Nelson (author of Girl, years ago, and Destroy All Cars, this year) and Sara Zarr (author of Story of a Girl and Sweethearts). Both of those writers are masters of YA voice, in my opinion, and I would be beyond thrilled to have even a drop of respect from either or both of them.

What are you working on now?
I always have a few work-for-hire jobs going on, about which I usually can't say much. They're almost always hella fun to write, and I think of them as my day job. (That and being a stay-at-home dad, both of which are pretty awesome!) In my spare time, I'm working on another YA novel; this one has one foot slightly in urban fantasy, but is still mostly about a foul-mouthed teen. I like writing foul-mouthed teens.

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers trying to get published?
Go to conferences! Meet editors and agents and writers at those conferences. Practice your elevator lines, and if you're just not that good in person, write them down, so you just have to introduce yourself and put a piece of paper into editors' and agents' hands.
Oh, and, ummm, don't do that until your WIPs are no longer IP. Have something finished.

Where can we find out more about you on the web?
I blog at, and my twitter is @sbrezenoff.

Thanks, Steve! Great interview. As a seasoned professional, we’ll be looking to you for advice when 2010 rolls around...


Tess said...

Great interview! Will you post the title of his book once it is determined so we can keep an eye out for it? :)

jberk said...

Great interview as always, CR! Steve, I also really like Blake Nelson. And I'm sure I'm going to love your book.

What are the deets on this Salinger debate? I'm curious.

Anonymous said...

Interesting! I assumed the "tenners" were first time published writers. He sounds like a very amazing person, can't wait to read his book(s).

Christy Raedeke said...

CAM - As long as it's your debut in the Young Adult market, you can be a Tenner!

Thanks for your comments, everyone.

Steve Brezenoff said...

Tess: Keep an eye on my blog; I'm sure I'll post the final title in huge flashing letters as soon as I know it.

Berk: The gist was the Glass family vs. the Caulfield boy, essentially. I prefer Holden's story to those the Glasses. EV4 does not.

Steve Brezenoff said...

EN4, that is. Obviously.

Anne Spollen said...

J D Salinger -- he's like the godfather of YA now - sort of like James Brown to soul? Maybe. But yeah.

Another great interview, Christy!

Suzanne Young said...

Steve, foul mouthed teens are my favorite!!! And Andrew Karre rocks!


Jennie Englund said...


If you weren't such a talented writer, with your finger right on the pulse of YA, I'd encourage you to be the next Oprah!

SB, your success sounds totally deserved. Another huge reason I'm counting the days to 2010.