Friday, August 19, 2011

8 Questions For YA Author, Amanda Ashby

Young Adult author, Amanda Ashby, is yet another example of a writer who did not give up. It took six years for Amanda to get published, her first book being You Had Me at Halo. Here’s a closer look at Amanda’s journey from inspiration to publication.

Hi Amanda! Thank you so much taking the time to do this interview.

You’re welcome. Interviews are always a lovely distraction from work and as you will discover, I’m a girl who likes distractions!

We can all be guilty of getting distracted! As a writer who pushed through six years before getting her debut novel, You Had Me At Halo published, what kept you motivated and focused?

Honestly, the main thing that kept me motivated was the feeling deep in my gut that one day it would happen to me. I can’t explain where it came from (certainly not from my early drafts, which were hideous!) but it was there right from the beginning. Then over the years I used to take great hope in every small break through I had, like winning a competition or moving from form rejections to personal rejections or from getting partial requests, through to full requests.

What is your writing routine like?

It’s pretty shoddy! Like most writers, I’m easily distracted by the Internet (not to mention snack food, glittery objects, and the sudden need to clean the house). However, because I know what I’m like, when I’m working on a book I always set myself a word count to hit—normally about 2k—and then if I choose to spend the entire day being naughty, I’m forced to sit at the computer all night until I hit the words. Which, by the way makes me delightful to be around the following day!

Are you an outliner? How do you prepare before writing a novel?

I’m a pantser who longs to be a plotter so I spend a lot of time making notes and outlines that I’m doomed to never follow. I find the whole thing quite frustrating and get very jealous of writers who can do lovely outlines. However, I’ve sorted of accepted that my process is messy and so I just try and write my way through it.

What’s your latest book, Fairy Bad Day about? What was it like writing it?

Argh. For a light-hearted comedy, Fairy Bad Day was ridiculously hard to write. I wrote about two or three drafts for my agent and then it had about three rounds of revisions from my editor. In fact, the only easy part was the title!

What are you currently working on?

I’m revising the second book in my upcoming Middle Grade series, Sophie’s Mixed-Up Magic, about a girl who gets turned into a genie the day before she starts sixth grade.

What inspires you the most?

Books! I was a reader long before I was ever a writer and it’s still the same. I really love reading great books and every time I do, as well as getting wildly jealous that I didn’t write them, I’m also inspired to do a better job with my own books.

If you could have dinner with any writer, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer, because I love humor in books and they were both the masters of it! Plus, they both seem like they would be very well mannered, which means they probably wouldn’t complain if I had a second helping of pudding.

Considering your journey from your first novel to getting published for the first time, can you share some advice with aspiring novelists?

Take time to find your voice! Voice is one of those strange things that we often ignore when really it is what will help make your books stand out in a crowded market. So don’t be afraid to write the story the way you ‘really’ want to write it as opposed to how you think you should write it.

I say this because for six years I kept coming up with all these weird paranormal romance ideas, but because I was trying to write regular romance novels at the time, I would carefully cut the paranormal elements out of each book (I really wish I was kidding about this but I’m not). However, when I finally had the idea of a dead girl who gets kicked out of heaven and sent back to earth in a guy’s body, I realized that there was no way I could cut it all out, so instead I finally embraced the voice that I had been trying to stifle for so long and I wrote the book in all of its glorious weirdness.

Oh, and it goes without saying but eat lots of chocolate. It might not make you write a better book, but I’m sure it will make you feel better!

To learn more about Amanda and her books, visit her website!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

6 Ways To Deal With Rejection

A few weeks ago, I read a Writer’s Digest article called, “How To Turn Rejection Letters Into A Positive” written by children’s author, Sue Fliess. It was such an uplifting piece that I decided to contact Sue and ask her to share some motivational tips for anyone in the midst of pitching their manuscripts.

Here are some of Sue’s great tips to use rejection as a way to improve as a writer:

1. Save your rejection letters! Not only is it a great way to show the IRS you've been working (if you should ever have the misfortune of an audit), but it provides you with an 'editors-at-a-glance' reference to which editors sent you what. You should go through your letters of decline to see which editors sent you form letters, which showed interest or paid compliments, and which asked to see more from you. It's also a great way to open up in your next submission letter: "I know XYZ story wasn't a fit for you, but you had mentioned I could send you more of my work..." Persistence is effective.

2. How else are you going to improve your craft, but to know what you are doing wrong? Even if you think you cannot possibly improve on your impeccable manuscript, ask yourself these questions: Did I try everything I could to make it the best manuscript it could be? Did I try the suggestion from that one editor who, at the time, I didn't think knew what she was talking about? Revisit your critique group's comments. Maybe there is something in there of value that will change your manuscript for the better.

3. Rejection or redirection? Rejection is so subjective, that I prefer to hear the word rejection as redirection. Redirection letters sound less harsh. My story was not right for that editor, so she has redirected me. Now I will try another editor for whom I think it will be a good fit. I can't think of anything worse than selling your manuscript to an editor who is only half in love with it (though that doesn't happen often).

4. Rejection is tough. It's hard not to take it personally. But it is just business. It doesn't mean the editor doesn't like YOU, or even that she/he didn't like your story (unless you pitched it to her in the bathroom). Publishers reject for so many reasons and they simply don't have time to go into detail about why (some do, though). As long as you are confident you are putting your best work forward, just be patient until you find the right editor for your work. I once received advice from an author when I told her, "It just seems no one likes my story." She rebutted with: "No, you just haven't found the right editor yet."

5. Submit and write. Then submit some more and write some more. It's a game of odds. If you have one manuscript out there and you are biting your nails waiting for that “yes”, you're going to be disappointed. If you have six manuscripts floating, and are writing at the same time, you: 1) don't obsess with the one that's out there and the rejection letters that are coming in, and 2) you better your chances of someone saying yes.

6. I've found that living through the rejection part of my writing career has helped me in my regular life. I used to never be able to take no for an answer. I'm a marketer and a former publicist, so I was always of the mindset that I could convince anyone of anything. I remember convincing (though, looking back, it was more like badgering) a co-worker to go out to lunch with me. She was very busy, but we ate at this little dive in midtown Manhattan every Monday. She was too busy for lunch. But I needed my routine. I needed her to say yes. Finally, she stood up and said, “No. I'm not going. People don't say no to you very often do they?" And she was right. I was used to getting my way.

So receiving rejections without the chance to persuade or defend seemed so one-sided, so unfair. I thought I should get the chance to say, "But really, you just need to read it again and then you'll get it" or, "How can you say no when my character is so likable? Surely you need to rethink and pass it around your editorial table once more." But we don't get that chance, and we have to trust that the editor is not taking it for a valid reason, which is pretty much always the case. But rejection leaves us with a feeling of helplessness. We want to know WHY it didn't make the cut and if not, HOW can we get it right next time. And that's what your critique group is for.

Rejection is just part of the writing process. Accept it as such. Stop fearing it and use it to your advantage. I've come to realize that "no" doesn't mean I'm no good or I'll never sell anything ever again. It just means "not right now." And another way of hearing that is: "maybe later."

Sue Fliess is the author of children’s book, Shoes for Me!, with Marshall Cavendish Children's Books. A Dress for Me! and Tons of Trucks are both in development and due out next spring. Visit Sue’s website or follow her @SueFliess.