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 http://stevebrezenoff.blogspot.com/, 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...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eyes Up Here, Please

Some nice things have been happening over at the home of my forthcoming books. Publisher’s Weekly just ran a story on how well Flux is doing, with sales up 30% over last year and publicists are “fielding calls recently from Hollywood agents and producers looking to tap into popular teen reading trends by adapting Flux titles for television shows.” In this sh**y economy, I’d call that more than a ray of sunshine. That’s full-on sunspot action.


When you look at their list, it’s hard to believe that Flux is just three years old. The much respected Andrew Karre is responsible for those first great years and now Brian Farrey, the new acquisitions editor (and former senior publicist at Flux), is adding his own flavah. I’ve really enjoyed working with him so far—he’s the perfect blend of smart and irreverent. One of the things he’s changing up is the blog, which is moving in the direction of podcasting. Check out the newly redesigned Flux blog for details. Brian is a big fan of musicals and I’m hoping he brings that love to a few of his podcasts. Can you see it? The stage is dark, the audience is hushed, Brian sits alone in a chair framed only by the gilded proscenium. Then a small, soft light floods his face as he delivers the latest news, a cappella, about Flux books and authors. Quiet at first, then…wait for it…wait for it—there it is! He hits the money note!


(To be clear, there was no mention of these podcasts becoming musicals, but one can hope.)


And lastly, the bitchin’ Flux covers are not going unnoticed— Publisher’s Weekly Shelftalker columnist Alison Morris even went so far as to award a gold star in this article. Can't wait to see what they do with my covers.


Yay Flux! You make me proud to be in your stable.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Three Book Deal: Interview with Author Julie Kagawa

Today’s featured author is Julie Kagawa, whose 2010 debut novel is THE IRON KING (Harlequin Teen). If you visit her website you can read her amusing bio, which includes the following, “To pay the rent, Julie worked in different bookstores over the years, but discovered the managers frowned upon her reading the books she was supposed to be shelving. So she turned to her other passion: training animals. She worked as a professional dog trainer for several years, dodging Chihuahua bites and overly enthusiastic Labradors, until her first book sold and she stopped training to write full-time. Julie now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where the frequency of shark attacks are at an all time low. She lives with her husband, two obnoxious cats, and one Australian Shepherd who is too smart for his own good.

I love her already.

Welcome, Julie, Can you tell us how you met your agent?
I met Laurie McClean, my fabulous agent from Larson-Pomada Literary agency, at a writer's workshop in Louisville, KY. The workshop was held at Spaulding University, and after a week of classes and instruction, we would get the chance to pitch our novels to a panel of agents and editors on Saturday. The end of the week was very exciting and nerve wracking; you'd think we were preparing for the arrival of the royalty, the way everyone was talking about it. But to an unpublished writer, an editor is nearly that.

Early Friday morning, before anyone else was up, I walked into the lounge to see a woman I'd never seen before standing in the middle of the room drinking a Coke. I knew it wasn't one of the students, and all the agents and editors flying in later were staying at a hotel. So I had no idea who this person was. Maybe security let someone slip in unnoticed.

"Uh ... hello?" I said intelligently.

"Oh, good morning!" said the strange person, much more cheerful than I would be at seven in the morning. "I'm Laurie McClean."

And at that moment, all the pieces clicked in my brain. "Laurie McClean" sounded awfully familiar, as if I read it somewhere before, like on the schedule. The agents and editors were supposed to be flying in today. The director said something about an agent who was not staying in the hotel, but in the dorms with the students.

Oh crap. This was an agent! I just "Uh helloed" an agent!

And to top it off, I was taking her to lunch that afternoon.

Fortunately, Laurie is one of the nicest persons on the planet. We sat in the lounge and talked for several minutes before the rest of the students got wind that an agent was in the building and mobbed the room. I talked to her a bit more at lunch, she asked for a few pages of my novel, and a few weeks later I nearly fell out of my chair when she asked to represent me.

Can you tell us how your book deal happened?
Laurie sent my novel to Natashya Wilson at Harlequin Teen (then MIRA), who loved it enough to offer a three book contract.

What was the inspiration for your 2010 debut book and how long did it take you to write?
I always loved old, creepy faery tales, the ones that showed faeries as primal and dangerous, instead of glittery winged sprites. But when I decided to write a book about faeries, I got to thinking: what are the fey afraid of? The obvious answer, in ancient myth and in more modern stories, was iron. They can't stand the touch of iron and steel, something we are completely surrounded by now. We even have monsters that inhabit machines: gremlins, worms, viruses, ect. So, what if there were a new type of faery, born from technology and progress? How would they affect the more traditional fey? And, from that thought, the Iron Fey were born.

THE IRON KING took me a little under two months to write, thanks to Chris Baty's book, No Plot, No Problem. Chris is the founder of a little known writing workshop you may have heard of: National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNo WriMo. I was already 40k into the story, but I was super-eager to finish, so I set my own 30 day, 50,000 word deadline, and typed like a madwoman until the story was done.

What's your publication date and where in the process are you now?
THE IRON KING will come out in February of 2010. I'm waiting on copyedits now, but last week my editor e-mailed me cover concepts; you could hear me squee-ing a mile away.

Who is your favorite character in your book?
I would have to say Ash, Queen Mab's son, just because I love dark, stoic bad boys who can wield pointy objects. But of course, a smart-ass talking cat named Grimalkin runs a very close second.

What are you working on now?
I'm working on the second book in the series, THE IRON DAUGHTER. And when that is done, onto the third and final book, THE IRON QUEEN, right now just a wee twinkle in my eye.

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers trying to get published?
Persevere. Don't let anyone tell you you're too young, or too old, or too inexperienced, or too whatever. Learn everything you can about your craft. Go to conferences, workshops, and critique groups. Read books on writing. Strive to make yourself a better writer. Accept criticism graciously; don't think your story is too special and unique for people to understand--if they don't understand it, it's usually the fault of the writer. But don't let anyone discourage you. Above all, keep trying. As someone once told me: "If you want something bad enough, you'll get it. If you didn't get it, you didn't want it bad enough."

Where can we find out more about you on the web?
My website is at juliekagawa.com
Thanks so much for the interview!

Thank you, Julie! Looking forward to THE IRON KING and its sequels!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

All The Gym's A Stage...

The town I live in is quirky, mainly because our economy is driven by theater. Each year more than 300,000 people come to our little college town of 20,000 to see some eleven plays in three theaters. Because the Oregon Shakespeare Festival employs 500 people, you run into a lot of theater folks while doing your everyday business. The one place it’s becoming a bit much, however, is the gym.

I understand multitasking, but must one practice one’s monologue while other people are trying to catch up on their trash TV? I mean the whole reason I joined this gym was because every single machine had a TV attached to it running expanded cable – I was going to multitask by loading up on makeover shows on the Style Network while simultaneously burning my daily 500 calories. But now, as theater season swings into full gear, I’m being sabotaged by actors. Sure, I like comedia dell'arte as much as the next person on a treadmill, but even with headphones crammed as far down my ear as they’d go, I couldn’t hear a word of Dress My Nest over Truffaldino next to me running all his lines from The Servant of Two Masters while logging miles on the recumbent bike, the prefect piece of exercise equipment, it seems, for wild gesticulation.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Writer in Bloom: Interview with Author Amy Brecount White

I’m incredibly excited about fellow 2010 author Amy Brecount White’s book, FORGET-HER-NOTS because I love love love flowers. The idea of using a flower's secret power to change behavior is fascinating to me—cannot wait to read this one!

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

Virginia Duncan of Greenwillow Books has acquired FLOWERSPEAK by Amy Brecount White, in a pre-emptive offer. In the novel, a girl discovers that she can use flowers and their magical potency to make people change their behavior – even fall in love. The novel is tentatively scheduled for a spring 2009 release. Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency did the deal.
[We didn’t make the spring 2009 release, and Greenwillow really wanted a spring release. The title was also changed to the more fun and catchy FORGET-HER-NOTS.]

Hi Amy, can you tell us how you met your agent?
I had heard good things about Steven Chudney from several people and checked out his website. Our taste in books seemed very similar. At that point, his website asked for the first three chapters. He loved them so much he said he was tempted to offer representation just based on those! He did read the whole novel, though, before I signed.

Can you tell us how your book deal happened?
Over the years, I had lots of agents and editors express interest in my novel mostly at SCBWI conferences, because I have such a great premise, imho. It took a few years, though, for me to get the story exactly right and to find the perfect house—Greenwillow. Once we did, Virginia Duncan made an offer within two weeks and right before Christmas. It was the best present ever!

What was the inspiration for FORGET-HER-NOTS and how long did it take you to write?
I used to write a lot of articles for newspapers and magazine—mostly lifestyle and travel pieces—so I was always on the lookout for new ideas. I found out about the language of flowers from a book called, TUSSIE-MUSSIES, which is the Victorian name for symbolic flower bouquets. Once I knew about it, I started seeing the language everywhere. I also gave several friends symbolic bouquets, and I definitely wished that the messages I was sending to them came true. So it was an easy jump from wishing to imagining real magic in the blooms. And I do believe there is a special magic any time anyone gives flowers.

How long did it take you to write it?
Hmm, how long was it? From conception to an offer, about 8 years. I was working on lots of other projects, too, and taking care of my three kids. (I like to say it had the longest gestation period of all my children.) But, I must admit, my learning curve on the craft of novel writing was a little steeper than I expected. It’s a lot different from writing an article, but I think–I’m hopin’—I’ve got it now.

What's your publication date and where in the process are you now?
Right now they’re saying February 2010, and I’m on copy edits.

If you could have any magical power, what would it be?
Flower magic, of course! I’d love to be able to awaken emotions and transform lives with a few lovely blooms. Actually, there are several scientific/psychological studies showing how receiving flowers elevates your mood and feelings of happiness for several days. And patients who have flowers in their room generally have shorter stays and respond better to medications, according to another study.

Soooo… what are you waiting for? Go give someone some flowers!

What are you working on now?
I’m writing a YA novel tentatively called, STRING THEORY. It’s about relationships, growing up fast, and taking care of the earth. I’ve described it as HOOT meets STORY OF A GIRL. No magic, but a few flowers sprinkled in.

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers trying to get published?
Read everything you admire in your genre and then read it again. I was a very good prose writer, but it took me awhile to get a novel right. Even if you can string words together, it’s a real craft and skill to be able to tell a story well, so people want to keep reading. I still go back and read some of my favorite novels – GRACELING, WICKED LOVELY, and THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND – to see exactly how they’re sewn together. It takes also practice and dedication to learn to read like a writer.

Where can we find out more about you and your book?
If you want to learn more about me, FORGET-HER-NOTS and the language of flowers, or read my blog, check out my website.

(There’s a really cool list of flowers and their meanings on Amy’s website – just found out that my favorite flower means fantastic extravagance! Love it.)

Thanks for the interview, Amy! What flowers should we send for congratulations?

Mad Scientist, Secret Lab, Clones! Creepy Creeperson, M.D. is Back.

Did you guys read the latest from Dr. Zavos, the mad scientist hell bent on making cloned children? Yesterday he claimed he’s already cloned 14 human embryos and put 11 of them into the wombs of four women who wanted to give birth to cloned babies! The cells? Yeah, culled from dead children. Apparently grieving parents are desperate enough to do almost anything. This is total movie material, including the fact that he’s operating out of a secret lab, suspected to be in the Middle East where there’s no ban on cloning.

Why would a parent want a developmentally challenged version of a previous child to the tune of more than $45,000? Why not just have another child naturally? It seems the easiest way for Dr. Zavos to get test-cases is to prey upon parents who cannot get beyond their grief. Is this ethical?

One of my favorite freelance clients is the Women’s Bioethics Project, a think tank in Seattle that focuses on making sure women don’t get hosed in the policy making process. Let’s face it; almost all biotechnology issues have to do with women yet the majority of the people making laws about biotechnology are olde white guys but. Having hair sprouting from your ears does not necessarily make you wise, sometimes it just make you crotchety, shortsighted, and misogynistic. (Color me jaded.) Anyway, if you are interested in women’s rights with regard to medicine and biotechnology, check out the Women’s Bioethics Project. Interesting stuff.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Dangerous Allure of Freelance Work

The past week or so I’ve had a deluge of freelance work for which I am most grateful, and not just because I love the ad agency that sends the work. See, I am secretly grateful that I have been too busy with “real work” to get back to Book Two. Maybe it’s the feeling actors get when they’re allowed to leave their happy homes and spouses to go make out with another actor in a movie. It almost feels like cheating on my book, but since it falls in the “work” category, all guilt is assuaged. I’ve been on a paid vacation.


But today, all three freelance jobs I was working on are with their respective clients, so alas, paid vacation is over. Even though it totally throws me off to write out of order, today I’ve decided to treat myself to a particularly enticing scene that I’ve been looking forward to writing. You know, just to get things rolling again. It seems with me and writing, inertia = everything. Well, that and my dog-training-based reward system—if I hit 2,000 words I get to Mix Sweet Shop for a lemon tart and the best cappuccino on the planet.


Off I go!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Storming LA - who's in?

Anyone planning on going to the SCBWI Annual Summer Conference in LA, August 7-10?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Life As Fabulous As Fiction: Interview With Author Alexandra Bracken

If I pitched a novel about a funny and beautiful girl at college who writes a couple of novels, gets the call that she’s landed a top literary agent while out celebrating her 21st birthday, then gets a book deal with Egmont and subsequent foreign deals all before graduating from The College of William and Mary with a double major in English and History, the response would be, “Right, like that would ever happen!” Well, it has. It's the true story of Alexandra Bracken. This is all so baffling to me; as previously noted in this blog, my college career could be measured in acts of stupidity performed not works of literary merit produced. Ah, Alexandra, how do you do it? (BTW, this photo of Alexandra was taken on her 21st birthday right after she accepted representation by Writers House.)

Here's her deal report from Publisher's Marketplace:

Alexandra Bracken's BRIGHTLY WOVEN, about a girl with a dark curse who is taken from her village by a mysterious young wizard in the midst of an apocalyptic war, to Regina Griffin at Egmont, for publication in Spring 2010, by Lindsay Davis at Writers House.

Welcome, Alexandra! Can you tell us how you met your agent?

I finished Brightly Woven in the October of my junior year (2007) and worked on polishing it for submissions all through December. It took a lot of willpower to wait until AFTER finals were over to begin submitting to agents, but I just had this picture in my head of me sneaking a glance at my Blackberry in the middle of a test, trying to see if I had any new emails.

I submitted to my agent on the night of February 25th and she got back to me right away, asking for a full. At the time, I was trying to memorize the titles, authors, and content of a ridiculous amount of early American primary documents, because I had a midterm on the 27th. The 27th rolls around and I’m being a total Bitter Betty about the fact I have a monster midterm on my 21st birthday, so when my cellphone started buzzing with an area code I didn’t recognize, I ignored it, thinking it was a wrong number. I think you can see where this is going!

I took my midterm and promptly went back to my room for a nap. In the meantime, the same phone number calls again, only this time I get a message—and it’s from Lindsay Davis at Writers House, asking me to call her back. I flipped out and tried calling her back right away, but I got her voicemail. (There’s a side story here about my mom walking around Target, trying to visual Lindsay calling me back right away, but I’ll spare you the details!) Eventually, my friends brought me to Carabba’s for a quick birthday dinner, and that’s when Lindsay called me back and offered representation. It was lucky it was my birthday, because my friend had a camera on hand and took that picture of me a second after hanging up. The waitress brought me a martini to celebrate, too! Best birthday ever!

Can you tell us how your book deal happened?
I revised with my agent for a number of months, until we both felt that it was ready to go out and visit with editors. She submitted it to an awesome group at the end of October, and we started hearing back right away. The timing of it actually made it very exciting (but also stressful!), because editors were trying to finish things up before leaving for Thanksgiving and we weren’t sure who would be able to put an offer together in time. In the end, I was very, VERY happy to go with Egmont USA, who had gotten back to us very quickly with an offer and a neat marketing plan. I got to tell all my friends and family on Thanksgiving Day that we had officially accepted.

What was the inspiration for your 2010 debut book and how long did it take you to write?
There are two ways to answer this question, but I promise I’ll keep it brief! Brightly Woven wasn’t the first novel that I wrote while I was in college. My freshman year, I had finished this 150,000 word beast that began as a NaNoWriMo novel. I went through many, many agent rejections for it before finally shelving it. It was devastating to me at the time, and it really ate away at my creativity and confidence. When I finally had another idea for a novel, I was completely intimidated by the thought of going through it all again, so instead of writing it with the aim of trying to get it published, it was only ever going to be a birthday present for my friend Carlin, who had edited the aforementioned 150,000 word beast and had been an amazing support system. I was only done with half of the story by the time her birthday rolled around in July 2007, but writing it for a friend—and really, only for a friend—made the story something special, I think. So I have her to thank for restoring my writing mojo. (She’s wearing the green sweater in that picture, by the way!)

The actual story itself was inspired by the insane weather we had in 2006/2007, both at home in Arizona and in Virginia, where I was attending school. Coming from a city in Arizona that averages about 7 inches of rain each year (if we’re lucky!) to a place that got 45+ was a hard adjustment, even before we had Tropical Storm Ernesto AND a series of about five Nor’easters. I had literally never seen so much rain in my life!

But the idea for Brightly Woven didn’t come until I returned to Virginia from Winter Break. I had literally just walked back into my dorm room when my mom called to tell me that it was snowing. In central Arizona. I was so mad that I missed it by a day, but my mom only laughed and said, “You jinxed us, the minute you left it started snowing!” She wasn’t too happy when I hung up on her and immediately started brainstorming, but the idea of a girl unwillingly at fault for a series of weather disasters was way too interesting to pass up!

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

I don’t have an exact date yet, but I’m hanging out as a “Spring 2010” author. Right now I’m in the process of revising with my editor, so it’s still a little up in the air for me! I’ve heard that there’s a draft of my cover floating around somewhere, but I won’t get to see it until all the right people approve it.

How do you handle being both a writer and a college student at the same time?

There’s no easy way to do it, to be honest. I’ve been asked this by a number of students, both here at my school and some who have emailed me or left a comment on my blog. If writing is something that you love, then you should write! But if you’re going to try to be a novelist in college, you’re going to be confronted with a lot of problems and issues you wouldn’t have as a graduate. Midterms, finals, papers, social events, roommate situations, extracurricular activities, looking for jobs and internships, trying to figure out who you are and what you want to do with your life—and so on and so forth. I’m sure any writer will tell you that writing is a very lonely occupation and it’s difficult to juggle all areas of your life with writing, and it’s no different in college. I “sacrificed” (is it a sacrifice if you love it?) many opportunities to go out with my friends on weekends because I knew Friday or Saturday night was the only time I was going to have time to write that week, to say the least.

The advice I usually give is to just be disciplined and manage your time well. Don’t let your schoolwork fall by the wayside, because you’d much rather be writing. Well, of course you’d rather be writing than reading a textbook or studying, but don’t forget your parents (or you) are paying for you to get an education, not for you to skip class and have unlimited writing time. ;) That said, write when you can and where you can, even if that means plotting in the margins of your notebook where you might have doodled...

I hope that doesn’t sound scary! There are a ton of benefits, too—I can’t even tell you how much both my History and English classes have informed my writing. I like that I can go through the story and think, “I wrote this while I was taking 18th century British Lit!” or “I wrote this scene studying abroad in England!”

What are you working on now?
I have two projects that I’m working on right now! I’m about two-thirds of the way through a story about a reluctant immortal looking for a way out of his predicament, but I’m taking a break because the story needs to simmer for a while, until I work all of its kinks out. My other “secret” project is the story of a boy willing to do anything to save his childhood sweetheart, even if it means making a pact with a demon with terrible consequences.

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers trying to get published?
Write what you want to read and don’t even THINK about trying to be published until after you’ve produced something you love and believe in. Easier said than done, but when you genuinely love something it comes through in your writing.

Where can we find out more about you on the web?

I’m all over the place - Blog, Website, Twitter - so stop by and say hello!!
(I highly recommend checking out this little video from Alexandra's blog - I loved it!)

Thanks for the interview! And congratulations on creating such a fabulously fictional real life. Can't wait to read Brightly Woven!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Pile Of Stinking Maws

Today I spent eight hours sitting four feet from this pile of gaping maws - faceless CPR dummies frozen mid-scream. (Just now getting around to that pesky Red Cross certification requirement for the Brownie Troop I've led for the past three years. Ooops.)

So I've been seriously dreading today. There is absolutely nothing I hate more than being trapped in a classroom with some pedantic gasbag. But I was kind of delighted when I walked in and was met with this pile of astonishingly horrific faceless dummies. And then I got a booklet with lots of really grotesque photos in it! But the highlight was when we got to pick our guy from the stack; we each hauled over our chosen and made a circle on the floor while the instructor produced a giant metal bowl and said, "Take one each from the face and lung bowl," with the casual indifference only one who uses the phrase "face and lung bowl" daily could have.

Things I learned:
* If you drink one box of pectin dissolved in water or juice each day for six days you will not get poison oak for six months.
* A person will always throw up while having CPR performed on them, even if they don't become conscious. This is not "sometimes" or "often" but always. They don't show that on TV.
* I have an aversion to avulsions.
* Always put a severed part in milk, not on ice.
* Give a hypothermia victim a thermos of hot chocolate with a stick of butter in it.
* Some people need to let everyone in class know about the most intimate details of their medical history.
* I could not work with the public at large.

BONUS - While I was with a pile of the unconsecrated, my son learned to ride a bike! Check out this link for his victory over physics.

Double Bonus - More maws.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Honest Answers To Freaky Questions

You guys outdid yourselves! We need to publish one of those question books you whip out at parties - I got some great questions. Purple Clover, you're en fuego! Here are your random questions and my answers:

Did you really write your own query letter and how much help did you get if you did?
I hate query letters. I went the conference route instead so that I could just write an email saying, “Here’s the manuscript you requested.” I spent a lot of time and money to avoid the dreaded query! Seriously, though, I do believe it’s far easier to toss a query in the trash from someone you’ve never met than reject someone you’ve met and liked.

Who's writing style is your book most like? That’s really difficult to answer. Honestly, I’m stumped. I don’t feel my book is good enough to even compare to any published works. I’d LIKE to write like a combination of Anne Spollen and Jennifer Egan and Heman Hesse and John Steinbeck. I’d write a helluva book if I could stuff all those brains into mine. BTW, full disclosure here: I have been playing it cool but secretly freaking out that Anne Spollen reads my blog! If you haven’t read The Shape of Water you are seriously depriving yourself. I'm sorry I can't better answer that question.

Do you snore? Yes. But daintily.

When I say "Most embarrassing moment" what comes to mind? *Gross Alert* I was on my university ski racing team, which was a mix of the coolest kids on campus—we had the badass downhill racers on the Alpine team and the beautiful Norwegian exchange students on the Nordic team. We were in a big van, driving up to Mt. Hood for a race the next day. After dinner, someone bought chewing tobacco and passed it around and I thought I’d try a pinch. As the van started, I felt instantly sick. Projectile sick. So I opened the window and hurled. Because it was so cold, my dinner froze onto the van window behind me, much to the disgust of the skiers in the back. I think I got my best time ever that next day in an effort to vindicate myself, but I could have made the Olympic Team and there would have been no vindication for that.

What do you think of Stephanie Meyer's work really? Well, first off I’m not into vampires or angsty romance, so even without discussing her writing style I can say I don’t like the series based on content. She’s obviously a genius storyteller, and sometimes story trumps writing style.

Refer your new readers to the post about how you use psychics instead of psychologists.
Yes, I highly recommend this—it’s much faster, easier and more enjoyable than therapy!

Thanks to a few major scientific breakthroughs and a contest, you have won a trip to any planet or astronomical object of your choice to spend up to two weeks. Where would you go beyond Earth? Time and distance will be no object in this fantasy trip of a lifetime. Oh, and why do you wish to go there? Oh, how I wish this was true! I would go right to the galactic center to see what’s really there…though it’s 26,000 light years away, so I may need some sort of time travel device or wormhole. From there I’d hit the Pleiades and Jupiter. I may never come back…

Who is your therapist and why are you seeing them? Are you crazy :) Well, since I sort of turned the tables in therapy and know way more about him than he knows about me, I’m going to have to plead patient-doctor confidentiality and not reveal his name. He was in Seattle, I went to see him about 13 years ago when I was going crazy from squandering my youth by working round the clock at Microsoft. And yes, I am still crazy.

If I stopped by unannounced, how would I find your house and what is the most extensive meal you could offer me at the drop of a hat? (pending you opened the door and let me in..buwahahaha) You would find my counters clean but my floor not vacuumed (impossible with the state of my carpal tunnel). The living room is trashed because my son doesn’t have school on Friday and the dining room table is covered with the 34 books we brought home from the library this week, ready to be parsed into Me/Juliet/Hank piles. As far as food, I could make you a Mediterranean sampler plate (kalamata olives, roasted peppers, hummus, babaganoush, good crackers), or offer you a variety of cereals, or make you an ice cream sundae. That is all. Oh, and I could make pretty much any cocktail you could dream up.

As a detective, you want to put away a vicious rapist, but a crucial piece of evidence is lacking. You can plant it. Do you? Excellent/Scary question! I would not plant it, mainly because I believe in karmic law. Plus I’d forever be afraid of the scumbag coming after me.

Due to some freaky coincidence two very dear friends are in need of a kidney and you are a match for both. How do you choose? I guess I’d go with who is sicker. If they are both equally ill, I’d do a 2 out of 3 coin flip so each of us would have to toss the coin.

Got any favorite brands of deodorant? Why, do I smell? Actually I’m the catch-all for men’s deodorant. My husband has sensitive pits so he’s always looking for the perfect deodorant. Most of the time he nixes ‘em and I end up with it, so I use man deodorant. TMI?

Would you ever have plastic surgery? If so, what would you choose first if it was free? Oh, man. I have so much I’d fix/nip/tuck if I were not such a baby about pain. But it’s not worth it to me, pain wise, to do any modifications. Even Botox freaks me out too much to take care of the “11” wrinkle above my nose. The farthest I’d go is microdermabrasion and laser to remove dark spots on my face, and even with that I’d probably have to be mildly sedated.

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? I’m a cruncher so I’ll never know. I can’t even suck on a cough drop, have to crunch it up right away.

If you dropped the tootsie pop in the gutter and it was the last one and your child was screaming for it, would you let them eat it (all you have is a napkin to wipe it off...no water)? Um, yes. To bolster the immune system and all. Unless the gutter smelled like hobo pee.

You find a deceased author's unpub'd manuscript - the wife will stand to inherit half or all of the advance/royalties if you publish - do you publish giving her all the moolah or take it for yourself and give it a big rewrite thanking him in the credits for contributions to the idea? I’d be totally delighted to publish it and give the wife the money. I could never, ever take credit for work I didn’t do.

Your hubby receives a prestigious award (lets just say the Nobel) that is a once in a lifetime opportunity for him iand he wants you and the fam to go. You find out the publishing house wants to meet with you with a potential multi-million dollar negotiation for future works and movie options, in NYC at the same time. No reschedules - take it or leave it. Which do you choose? Hmm. I guess I’d go with the Nobel trip, figuring that if one publisher is offering that much another might offer something later…

What was the biggest lie you ever told? [Answer removed at the request of legal counsel.]

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ask Me Anything...Anything!

I'm secretive by nature. Maybe it's more reserved than secretive, I mean I don't intend to be mysterious or anything, I just don't enjoy talking about myself. I tried therapy once and it was torture! A whole hour of talking about me? I ended up turning the tables and learning WAY more about the psychiatrist than about myself. For instance, he liked to sketch in the style of Miro and preferred Haake Beck to O'Douls in the non-alcoholic beer department. A Vietnam vet, he was a reformed alcoholic who was estranged from his children for awhile and was on his third marriage, though he felt that was crumbling as well. I could go on. There's a reason this conversation is usually one-way; once you find out how screwed up the psychiatrist is how can you trust them to straighten you out? So my therapy was short lived. This may be obvious to many.

In some ways this blog feels like a one-way conversation. I blather on and the kindest of you make comments about my blathering. But is there anything you want to know about me? As you may have noticed, I don't proffer a lot of personal information because 1) that's my nature 2) my life seems utterly boring to talk about. But today I am an open book! Any questions I receive in the next 24 hours I will answer...completely and with however much honesty I can muster.

So friends, anything you want to know?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Boomerang!

Well, after all this interviewing I finally landed one myself! Check out Suzanne Young's blog for a quicky interview!

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.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Mystery of Advances

This is a really interesting article on advances. Coming from a marketing and PR background, I think the newer model of less money upfront but a 50-50 split of profits makes so much more sense. I really wonder how long the broken advance system will keep chugging along. After decades of only 30% success in recouping advances through sales, you'd think they'd move quickly to a new model yet every day I see massive advances announced in Publisher's Lunch. It's really puzzling!

Would you take a small advance and 50% of profits (instead of a minor percentage as royalty) or do you prefer the big advance up front?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Impermanence

The Helix Nebula - one of brightest and closest planetary nebulae. Isn't it beautiful? I'm a sucker for a bright ball of gas.
It boggles the mind to think that our sun will one day run out of fuel and look like this before going on to become a white dwarf.
Note to self: We are all just exchanges of energy;
truly nothing is permanent.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sticky Name, Sticky Title: Interview With Author Anna Jarzab

As soon as I saw Anna Jarzab’s name on the Tenner’s site I knew it would get stuck. Do certain names stick with you? And once they're stuck must you say them over and over—silently, of course, using your brainvoice—until you've worn it out? Or is that just me and my mild OCD?

Anyway, the point of all this is that Anna's name got stuck in my head but I've been saying it like Ah-nah Yar-zahb, which is apparently all wrong. I just learned on her shiny new website that it’s Anna with a short A and Jarzab with a solid J. Just wanted to clear that up before it get stuck for any of my fellow compulsive-brainvoice-name-chanters.

Now that we have that out of the way, let me tell you about the person behind the catchy name. Anna is actually a publishing insider. She’s a graduate of the Denver Publishing Institute, has a Master’s degree in literature and creative writing from the University of Chicago, and works in book marketing in New York City. On the side she happens to write the occasional novel and get preemptive offers and two-book deals. Yeah, so what have you done today?

I'm dying to read Anna’s book, All Unquiet Things, because it was pitched as The Secret History meets Looking for Alaska—two of my very favorite books. Class struggle in an elite school with a murder mystery? That's my sweet spot! Count me in Ahnah Yarzahb, I am all over it.

Here's the Publisher's Marketplace deal report for Anna's sale:

Anna Jarzab's ALL UNQUIET THINGS, pitched as The Secret History meets Looking for Alaska, about two unlikely allies from different ends of the social spectrum at a NorCal prep school who band together to solve a friend's murder, to Francoise Bui at Delacorte, in a pre-empt, in a good deal, in a two-book deal, by Joanna MacKenzie at Browne and Miller Literary Associates.

And here is her beautiful-in-a-creepy-way cover:


Welcome, Anna! Can you please tell us how you met your agent?
That's a bit of a long story, but I'll try to condense it here. The summer after graduate school I got an internship at Browne & Miller, a literary agency in Chicago. It was such a great experience, I loved it and learned a ton. Joanna (MacKenzie, my now agent) was just starting to take on her own clients and really wanted to work on YA projects, but for a long time I was afraid to send my manuscript (which I started querying in fall 2007, right about the time I moved to New York) to her because I was afraid if she didn't like it she'd think less of me or something. Writers are neurotic, you heard it here last. Eventually I just sucked it up and sent her an email with a short synopsis of the book, and she offered to represent me about a month later. She's the most awesome agent, I couldn't be luckier.

Can you tell us how your book deal happened?
Joanna and Danielle (Egan-Miller, the president of Browne & Miller) and I worked on ALL UNQUIET THINGS for about six months before Joanna started submitting to editors. She sent the book to six editors the second week of September, and by the end of that week one of them (my now-editor) called to tell us she'd get back to us on Monday with a pre-empt offer. Over the next two days Joanna did a little bit of negotiating on the offer and we accepted it. It went INCREDIBLY fast. I was at work when the deal was done and I remember my friend Doug had to literally drag me up off my chair to give me a hug because I couldn't move.

What was the inspiration for ALL UNQUIET THINGS and how long did it take you to write?
I started writing ALL UNQUIET THINGS my sophomore year in college, which would be 2002, so about seven years at this point, which seems like an awfully long time to be working on one book but it has actually gone through two vastly different versions. The version I wrote in college was a huge melodrama with mysterious elements, and I abandoned it after it was finished for about six months. I went back to it because I actually really love the characters, realizing that to make it work I had to turn it into a full-out mystery, so I started making notes for that. When I went to graduate school the next year I opted to write a creative thesis, and ALL UNQUIET THINGS was it. As for what inspired it, I don't have a great answer for that. It's definitely a conglomeration of influences so thick it's hard to separate them out individually.

What's your publication date and where in the process are you now?
I just found out my pub date (or, I guess I should say "tentative pub date" since it hasn't been confirmed by my editor) through GoodReads, believe it or not. It's January 12, 2010, which is the day before I turn 26. Happy birthday to me! Right now I'm waiting for my manuscript to come back from copy edits. I suspect I will weep bitterly and then get over it. Then come ARCs!

What's the biggest change having a book published has made in your life?
It's funny, but at every stage in the writing process, the book feels a little less like mine, especially the stages that have nothing to do with writing: getting the cover, for instance. Having a face for Carly was truly jarring, because I was like, "That girl is a stranger to me." The cover is so beautiful and I love it, but it was odd for a while to see her come to life (or death, I guess). Recently we've been going back and forth about flap copy, and I started to feel a similar sense of alienation from the book, because someone else was talking about it, not ME. That feeling is only going to increase as time goes on because soon the book won't just belong to me and to my agent and my editor, it'll belong to lots (I hope) of readers. It's not a bad feeling, it's necessary and good because it means other people are investing in something that matters so much to me, but it always catches me off guard.

What are you working on now?
Well, Delacorte bought two books from me. By the time the deal happened, I had finished a second book, and we sent the three-page prologue along with the manuscript when it was submitted to editors, so instead of having "Book 2" on my contract, it actually says the title of my second book: MURDER BURGER. It's another YA mystery, but it's much more humorous and less dark (although I would not say "light"), a little more romantic. My editor has the manuscript now, but I'm not sure how long it'll take her to get to it, since it's coming out in January 2011 (although according to my contract it's due June 1, 2009, which is not that far away, so...) and, you know, priorities. Right now I'm working on a book I'm calling GEORGIA'S RESCUE, which is a quasi-post-apocalyptic pseudo-mystery set in semi-rural California. It's different than anything I've written before, so I'm working really hard on the synopsis and trying to not to talk myself out of it. I'm also working on another YA mystery, off and on, an Agatha Christie homage set in Pebble Beach, CA.

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers trying to get published?
The thing about writing is that the more you do it, the better you get. I've wanted to be a writer since I was in junior high and started writing really seriously in high school, so I've had many years of practice, but I learn something new every day. It's important not to get discouraged in the face of worthwhile critique, and to realize that it's not just going to happen with the flip of a switch: most people don't decide to write and then become instantly good at it. It's a process, so you've got to be in it for the long haul. Always write for writing's sake--not just to be published. If you write to be published, disappointment becomes more bitter than if you're more focused on the work itself. That's kind of my life mantra: "It's about the work, think of the work, focus on the work." My writing is the touchstone of my life. It's really cheesy, but whenever I get frustrated with things, in my personal life or in my writing life, I think of that scene in CENTER STAGE when the instructor tells Zoe Saldana "The smart ones know where to look when things get rough. It isn't there, it's here." And then she touches the barre, continuing, "No matter what happened in class, performance, last week, five minutes ago, if you come back here you'll be home." That's how I feel about my work.

Anna has a freshly hatched website, a blog, and she can be found in the realms of Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

Thanks for the interview, Anna! I hope I haven't totally freaked you out by admitting that I used to chant your name, albeit incorrectly.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Just Finished Reading...

The upside of being in treatment for carpal tunnel, flexor tendonitis, and ulnar neuropathy (do I sound like I'm 87 or what?) is that there is less writing and more reading going on around here. I just devoured How I Live Now by Meg Rosof and my review is this: It's incredible. One of my new favorite books. There's a reason this book won a Printz and now I’m going to go to the library and check out everything she’s ever written all at once and gorge myself on her words!


It’s a slim book that can be read almost in one sitting, and is simple yet incredibly powerful. As a writer, what I marveled at the most was how she used virtually no quotation marks. Usually this means that scenes read more as “telling” than “showing” but Rosof writes so masterfully that I stopped noticing.


I’d recommend How I Live Now to everyone; it’s one of those books you cannot imagine anyone disliking. Any contrarians out there who did not enjoy it? I’d love to know why. To me this book seem flawless.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Warning - May Induce Envy: Interview With Author Rachel Hawkins

I must put a warning label on this interview: If you are an aspiring author and you seethe at stories of writers querying before a manuscript is finished and then getting a request for full from a top agent, or writing 120 pages in 24 hours and getting signed based on that work two days later, or having an agent submission accidentally turn into a big auction, then avert your eyes! Avoid this post! Either Rachel Hawkins is sprinkled with lucky dust or she’s a really, really good writer. Or both. We’ll soon see as her book is now officially less than a year away from debut!

Here is Rachel’s deal report from Publishers Marketplace (note working title was DEMONGLASS, but new title is HEX HALL.)

Debut author Rachel Hawkins' paranormal YA trilogy starting with DEMONGLASS, about a sixteen-year-old witch shipped off to a boarding school for witches, shapeshifters, and faeries, where the traumas of mortal high school are nothing compared to the goings on at "Freak High," for publication in winter 2010, to Jennifer Besser at Hyperion, at auction, in a three-book deal, by Holly Root at Waxman Literary Agency (NA).

Hi Rachel, can you tell us how did you meet your agent?
Well, first off, I have to make a confession: I broke one of the most important rules of querying, and started sending out queries before the book was finished. However, at the time I A) was naïve and stupid, B) thought the book only had 50 more pages or so to be written, and C) thought it would take WEEKS for agents to start getting back to me.

Ahem.

So cut to about a week after I sent out my first query, and Dan Lazar at Writer’s House wanted a full. After I finished jumping up and down, I realized I did not actually HAVE a full to send him. So I threw up in my mouth a little, and then promptly got to work. Turned out the book DID NOT have 50 more pages- it was more like 120. I pounded those out in 24 hours. There was much consumption of chocolate and coffee. Also, there may have been some crying. Okay, there was A LOT of crying. Kids, don’t try this at home.

In the end, Dan passed on HEX HALL, but he DID give me several other agents to try, for which I’ll always be insanely grateful. One of those agents was Jenny Bent, who was then at Trident. Jenny sent me an email saying that it wasn’t quite her thing, but she’d shown my query to her friend/colleague, Holly Root at Waxman, and Holly really wanted me to get in touch with her. I emailed Holly, she asked for the full, and two days later, she offered representation! It was definitely a twisty road to getting an agent, but so worth it! Holly is Made of Win and Covered in Awesome Sauce.

Will you share with us how your book deal came together?
Holly and I worked for a couple of weeks on tweaking the MS and getting it ready to go out into the world. It went on submission the first week of April, 2008. If memory serves, we subbed to around a dozen houses. For the first week, things were pretty quiet. Then we got our first rejection. But that same day, we got our first offer! Quite the emotional rollercoaster! And the day after that, we had another offer on the table. Things started moving pretty quickly then, and before I knew it, we had several houses who said they were working on an offer.

That’s when Holly called me and said those magic words: “We have an auction on our hands.” And lo, there was much squeeing and dancing at Chez Hawkins.

The actual auction was supposed to start at noon on April 22 (I will never forget that day!) It was exciting, but also ridiculously nerve-wracking. It got so bad that I sent my husband to the store because we were both jumping every time my cell phone rang. So the hubs was MIA when Holly called around 10 and said even more magic words: “Are you sitting down?” Disney-Hyperion had come in with a pre-empt. I made Holly repeat the details of the deal about three times before it actually sunk in. And then I screamed. And cried. And babbled incoherently at Holly. Also, I may have used profanity. It was quite the moment.

What was the inspiration for HEX HALL and how long did it take you to write?
There were lots things that inspired HEX HALL! For one, I’ve always loved spooky stuff, especially stuff set in big, creepy houses, like The Haunting of Hill House, or The Turn of the Screw. Around the time I started writing the book, I’d just read Anne Rice’s THE WITCHING HOUR, and I really responded to the whole Southern Gothic/twisty family legacy aspect of that book. Also, I was teaching high school English, and I’d really fallen back in love with YA because of that. So I had all those things—creepy house, Southern Gothic, teenagers- percolating in my head when I sat down to start HEX HALL. I wrote the first chapter and a couple of “snippets” in January 2006. The story was very different then—my main character, Sophie, wasn’t a witch, just a regular girl, and the school wasn’t a reform school for monsters, but a regular boarding school. The original idea was that Sophie would get caught up in a supernatural mystery there (and there are still times when I wish I had written that book! Hey, maybe one day I will!)

Then I got caught up in work, and grad school, and family, and those 15 or so pages languished on my computer until October 2007, when I decided to quit my job and see if I could write a book. (I always have to give props to my husband when I get to this point in the story. We both quit our jobs at the same time because the high school where we were both working, um, was awful and soul-sucking. The hubs cashed out his retirement fund and worked a crappy retail job so that I could stay home and write. Books can get written without that level of support, but I’m not sure how!)

I had several half-finished projects that I thought about pursuing, but I kept getting pulled back to “that messed-up boarding school story” as I called it. Over October and November, I reshaped the story, but those key elements I really enjoyed—Gothic, spooky house, teen angst- remained. I finished it in late February, 2008, and I’d taken December off, so I guess it took me around four months to write. Or two years, if you want to count from the time the idea first occurred to me! ;)

What’s your publication date and where in the process are you now?
My pub date is March 2, 2010! So less than a year away now, hurray! Right now, I just turned in my copy edits, and the book is going to the presses in a few weeks, which fills me with ridiculous levels of glee. We’re also talking covers right now, so I’m waiting to hear something on that front pretty soon. I think it’s important for aspiring authors to know that even when you sell your book, there’s still EVER SO MUCH WAITING. I sold nearly a year ago, and I still have eleven months to go before I can go take embarrassing pictures of myself pointing to my book in stores.

Who is your favorite character in HEX HALL, and why?
I think I’m supposed to say Sophie, since she’s my main character and all, but I have to say, it’s actually her love interest, Archer. Shhh…don’t tell the others! ;) Now, as Sophie would be sure to tell you, Archer is The Hawtness, but that’s not why he’s my fave. I love him because he pretty much saved the whole book. I had this idea of creating a “decoy” love interest for Sophie, a guy who you would think would be her One True Love, only to have her fall for her REAL OTL in Book 2. The problem was, since I wasn’t interested in Fakey McBoyfriend, he was a completely blah character. Totally two-dimensional, and boring…ugh. And having this charisma-less, Ken doll of a guy for Sophie-who is feisty and funny and smart-to play off of, well, sucked. A lot. So when I was about halfway done with the book, I completely scrapped that character. I started to think about the fictional characters I’ve always crushed on, and bam! Archer showed up, all snarky and dreamy and carrying a boatload of back story. What’s more, he stopped being a fake love interest, and became a real one. And, best of all, he gave me a huge plot point for Books 2 and 3. So I lurve him and want to smoosh him and call him George.

What are you working on now?
I’m about halfway done with the sequel to HEX HALL. It doesn’t have a title yet, but personally, I have my fingers crossed for HEX HALL 2: HEXUAL HEALING. Sadly, I feel this might not fly with Disney. ;) I’m also in the prep stage (which means staring out my window and thinking, “Ooh, wouldn’t it be AWESOME if I wrote a book where, like, THIS STUFF happened?”) with a new series that will be sort of an offshoot of the HEX HALL trilogy. It deals with a relative of Sophie’s, and it’s set in the same “world,” but with different characters. And last but not least, I’m wrestling with a standalone tentatively called REBEL BELLE about a Southern Belle/homecoming queen turned supernatural assassin. You know, that old story.

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers trying to get published?
Don’t worry about the businessy side of things-agents, editors, query letters-until you have a product to sell (and yes, I realize I totally violated my own rule on that one! But in my defense, I’d spent a lot of time working on my writing before I jumped the gun with querying. Besides, grading a bazillion essays every year had definitely sharpened my inner editor, haha!)

I think a lot of aspiring writers get really caught up in that side of things-which is totally understandable!-and they neglect the whole craft part. Also, while critique groups and writing conferences are awesome and really useful, don’t let those things suck up the time you should be using to write.

And, the biggest thing of all, KNOW WHEN TO LET GO. Of your manuscript, that is. Obviously, you want it as shiny and special and pretty as you can get it, but if you keep putting off querying until your book is “perfect,” you’ll NEVER get it out there. And I know it’s hard! On this last round of copy edits, I was fighting the urge to call my editor and say, “How about I just rewrite the whole book? Can I do that, huh? PLEASE?!” You’ll always want to make it better, but you can’t hold on to it forever!

Rachel, where can we stalk you on the web?
As for where you can find me on the internet, I am everywhere, because I am that particular brand of obnoxious. I’m on Facebook, and Twitter and I blog on Blogspot and LiveJournal.

Thanks so much for the interview, Rachel! I love that you and your husband had the guts to quit your jobs, cash out retirement, and believe in the book that you were writing. A three-book deal from Hyperion is definitely the happily ever after in that story! Well done.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Project Buenos Aires!

Envy has been dripping from my pores ever since I heard about the gaggle of YA authors who planned a writing retreat in a castle in Ireland. In my head I've been planning my own writer's getaway. We can dream, no? While castles in the British Isles do have a certain allure, I'd also like a place that has really really great food and wine. And nice weather. And an excellent bookstore. So when I saw this site that shows photos of the most interesting bookstores in the world, I knew it would be Argentina. Just look at this photo!

Isn't it the most exquisite site in the world? Acres of books! Acres!

Plus, Buenos Aires (known as the Paris of South America) figures prominently in Book Two of my series, so I figure it's meant to be. We can rent Jardin Escondito, Francis Ford Coppola's villa in Bueno Aires.
We'll write like fiends all day (with breaks for dips in the pool and tapas, natch) and then talk books and writing over scrumptious food and great local wines into the wee hours of the warm, Argentinian nights.

Who's in? Say 2011-ish when we're all wildly successful? Vaminos!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I dare you not to laugh

Footage in the wild of a pole dancing bear! 30 seconds of anthropomorphic hilarity.



Thanks Peggy!