I'm lucky (or cunning) enough to have lured yet another successful writer over to my blog for an SAT - Successful Author Talk. SAT authors have conquered the query, slain the synopsis and attained the pinnacle of published. How'd they do it? Let's ask 'em! Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Frankie Brown, author of UNTIL WE END, available now from Bloomsbury Spark.
Frankie writes, sells and hoards books in Athens, GA, a funky little town famous for its music scene. But, as anyone who’s ever heard the fruits of Frankie’s musical endeavors can attest, her talents lie elsewhere. She’s turned her creative energy to crafting stories and can typically be found hunched over a keyboard in her neighborhood coffee shops.
Are you a Planner or Pantster?
A little bit of both. I can’t write a scene without knowing exactly how it’ll end, but making lengthy outlines puts me to sleep. I usually have a few big scenes in mind to use as benchmarks and that’s as much planning as I do.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
Well, UNTIL WE END was my first book! It took me a little less than a year to finish, edits included. Now that I know more about my process, I’m hoping it’ll be quicker. Six months is my goal.
Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
I always get great ideas for new projects when I’m writing. Typically what I’ll do is bang out the first chapter of my Shiny New Idea while it’s still fresh in my head; that way I won’t lose the voice or concept of it. Then I’ll continue the project I was working on before, this time with incentive that once I finish, Shiny New Idea will be waiting for me...
Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
Every time. My day usually goes: Stare at blank screen -> panic -> browse Twitter -> stare at blank screen -> browse Tumblr -> panic -> turn internet off -> write.
I wish I was kidding! Writing anxiety is a very real problem for me, so my writing process sometimes resembles a slow-burn panic attack. But when I have a plan (when I know exactly what I’m doing with a certain scene), nothing’s better than writing. Preparation beats anxiety every time.
Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
I almost quit on UNTIL WE END! Before I even finished the book, people were telling me that it wouldn’t sell because dystopian was over -- and these were people who hadn’t even read it. But I did finish, and I tightened it, and I wrote what I hoped was a strong query letter (which you helped with, Mindy!) and here I am.
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?
My agent is JL Stermer of N.S. Bienstock. I cold-queried her the “traditional” way.
I was actually in the somewhat bewildering and stressful position of having to choose between agents and manuscripts. A few agents were looking at my WIP for various complicated reasons, and I was talking to a few about UNTIL WE END, but I was so impressed with JL and her assistant Sammy that I had to say yes to them.
How long did you query before landing your agent?
I began querying in May and signed with JL in August.
Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
Make your book as good as it can possibly be, and then make it better. Write a query that represents it (and your writing!) well. Don’t press send on anything less than perfect -- but at the same time, don’t get so caught up in editing that you never actually send a query. (Get on Twitter if you’re not already, and follow the agents you’re querying.) And don’t beat yourself up over rejection.
How did it feel the first time you saw your book for sale?
Exciting! And SCARY! But mostly exciting. Everything with my book happened very, very quickly, so it still hadn’t sunk in that I was a Published Author.
How much input do you have on cover art?
A lot. My editor, Meredith, is incredible. She included me in every step of the way, sending me very early drafts of cover proofs, asking what I thought about all of them, and making sure I was involved in the decision-making process. I couldn’t be happier with UNTIL WE END’s cover.
What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
The supportive online community of YA writers and bloggers. I can’t imagine writing in a vacuum or going through this process by myself. The writer-friends I’ve made have helped keep me sane.
How much of your own marketing do you?
I do a lot of my own marketing, as most writers do. I blog and Twitter handle is @frankiebrown25. Follow me those places and you’ll know what I’ve got going on.
When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
I started Tweeting around the same time I started querying (May of last year), and I started blogging shortly before that. But I don’t like to think of my presence on social media as part of a planned platform. My Twitter and my blog are just places where I go to talk, like a water cooler.
Do you think social media helps build your readership?