Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Babies! Books! Author Sara Bennet Wealer is the Ultimate Creative Machine!

Author Sara Bennett Wealer is having a banner year. Not only did she sell her book to HarperTeen, but she just HAD A BABY! Yep, just two days ago she gave birth to a little girl, her second child.

The bio Sara wrote for the Tenners site is very amusing, and I recommend going straight there, if only to see how elegantly she can segue from “I love ballet” to “I write a lot about poop” with only two sentences in between. I simply cannot do it justice here! Go, go! (Then please come back....)

Here’s Sara’s deal report from Publisher’s Marketplace:

Sara Bennett Wealer's debut RIVAL, in which two high school seniors compete for a prestigious singing scholarship, set against a backdrop of the events that turned them from best friends to rivals, to Erica Sussman at Harper Teen, by Holly Root at Waxman Literary Agency (world).

Hi Sara! Can you please tell us how you met your agent?
The traditional way. I queried, then sent a partial, then a full. Holly loved my book (which actually *wasn't* RIVAL - I'd sent her a newer manuscript that came thisclose to selling, and that I'm planning to revise). I loved how enthusiastic and professional she was, and she's been a dream to work with.

Can you tell us how your book deal happened? It happened within hours and was heralded by an airplane flying over my house, tugging a banner that said, "Please let us publish your novel!" :-)

Actually, unlike some of my agency mates whom you've already interviewed (*cough* Rachel Hawkins *cough*) it took awhile. Erica Sussman, who now is my editor at Harper, told us that she loved RIVAL but felt it needed some tweaks before she could take it through the various approval committees. She shared her suggestions, and I agreed that they would make the book stronger, so I agreed to a revision. When I was finished, Erica took the book to acquisitions. They loved it, too, but felt there were a couple more things that needed to be done in order to get a final sign-off from those farther up the food chain. So I revised once more, and it paid off. Harper made an offer in October. I feel so fortunate to have had a champion in Erica. Her thoughts on the story really helped me take it to that all-important next level!

What was the inspiration for RIVAL and how long did it take you to write?
I worked on RIVAL off and on over a period of about six years. During that time, I wrote two other novels as well, one that will never see the light of day and the one I mentioned earlier, which I currently am revising.

RIVAL was inspired by my experience as a singer in a competitive high school music program. There was only one high school in my hometown, which also had a major university, and that meant you had a high concentration of very talented, very driven people. Being in the top choruses meant lots of rehearsals and lots of traveling, which created quite a pressure cooker when it came to relationships. There were rivalries galore and I had my fair share, though "grown up" me wishes I'd focused more on being friends than on who sang better or who got the lead in the musical. The memory of what that atmosphere was like inspired me to write RIVAL (though, of course, nothing that happens in the book actually happened in real life).

I also wanted to write a book that kids who are interested and/or active in the arts could identify with and enjoy, though RIVAL isn't just about music! There's a romance, Homecoming drama, scheming BFFs--and if you aren't into singing, just substitute cheerleading or your favorite competitive sport. In high school, rivals pretty much can be found around every corner.

What's your publication date and where in the process are you now?
I'm waiting on a concrete publication date. I just turned in my formal revisions and am awaiting feedback from my editor. I imagine copyedits will be coming next and then... well, I'm dying to see a cover!!

So will you be singing opera on YouTube to promote your book?
Probably not! My voice isn't what it used to be, though I still like to sing when I can find time. I do plan to create a spot on my website where visitors can explore the various singers, musicals, etc. that I mention in the book. And I've got some marketing ideas that could include real teen singers showing off their skills. They would be MUCH more fun to watch than I ever would.

What are you working on now?
I'm working on two projects. The first is a re-write of the novel I mentioned earlier. The second is a totally new project that I'm super-excited about, though I always feel funky giving out details of a work in progress. Let's just say it deals with a whole 'nother kind of rivalry, and it may or may not have an element of the paranormal.

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers trying to get published?
Be obsessive, but objective. By obsessive, I mean that you have to be willing to sit your butt down every day and write, whether you feel inspired or not. You have to be willing to keep submitting and working, no matter how many times you get told "no," until finally you get a "yes." I tell my friends it's like beating your head against a wall. You get to a point where the next blow could be the one that breaks it all down, and you sort of have to say, "I either get brain damage, or I bust this sucker, but either way I am not quitting!"

At the same time, you have to be objective about your work. Find good critique partners and listen to what they say. Be willing to rip your stuff apart and start over. Educate yourself about how the publishing business works and behave professionally as you look for an agent and publisher. Don't fall into the trap of blaming others for the fact that you haven't made it yet. It's not that nobody appreciates your talent or that the market only wants the next Twilight or that agents are evil, etc. Many, many times, the problem is that your work is not ready for prime time, which can be difficult for people to hear. When it is ready, then things will start to happen. They still won't be easy (I don't think anything in this business is ever easy), but when you see that wall start to come down, you'll know it was due to your own hard work, and that is an incredible feeling!

Where can we find you on the web?
You can find my website at http://www.sarabennettwealer.com/ (There's a lovely "coming soon" message there now, but I plan to go totally live within the next month or so--even planning on doing a cool giveaway. Yay!) I'm also on Facebook and on Twitter and I blog at LiveJournal.

Thanks Sara! Hearty congratulations on your amazing creations, both literary and human!


Shelli said...

great interview christy - did y ou sign up for LA today?

Irene Latham said...

Big congrats to Sara on baby and book!!! Fun as always, Christy... thanks!

Jennie Englund said...

Congratulations on your new baby, Sara! The only things you have to do now are run a marathon and win the Nobel, which you've probably done in the fifteen hours since Christy interviewed you.

Keep it going, girl!

Anonymous said...

Okay, #5 (about #2!) in Sara's bio section on the Tenner's site is a hoot. I can tell I'll like her book already...