Interview with Jessica Corra

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 SAT (Successful Author Talk) guest is a fellow Lucky13'er. Jessica Corra's debut, AFTER YOU is about seventeen-year-old Camilla Jay who has the power of second chances. She can rewind to any day and relive it, and she remembers everything. A tragedy like the death of her twin sister Madelyn shouldn’t be possible. Camilla rewinds to the same day over and over, but Madelyn dies each time – by her own hand. Madelyn doesn’t want saving. Madelyn’s death allows Cam to finally connect with her long-time crush Wall. As they grow closer, Camilla uncovers a series of writings Madelyn did about her own ability to forward in time. Madelyn believed killing herself was the only way to save Camilla from a horrible fate. Cam’s not convinced.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

A plantster. I do prework on paper before I type anything, in which I explore character and guess at plots and stuff, and I draw a little plot arc and make sure I know my key scenes. The first thing I do for any story is write a blurb, though, I can’t work on it until I’m happy with my blurb. But once I have those key scenes I just intuitively write between them, and I actually pants my revisions, go figure.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish? 

From idea to the end of the first draft, about 6-8 weeks. Each revision pass is another 2-4 weeks. I type really fast.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker? 

One project at a time, although if I get really stuck, I’ll try switching gears just a little, but I only ever have one primary project.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

Dismay at my overall incompetence and the stench of my previous failure? Seriously, the same fears all writers have: that I don’t know what I’m doing and any minute now they’ll figure it out. That’s more a later stage fear, though, so I’ll add there’s always the fear of not being able to make it happen.

How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?

Eight? Let me think. AM, CoaAG, P, TDT, TFC, TDB, CT – wait, no, I guess that’s only seven. ☺

Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time? 

See the previous question. Those all have completed first drafts. TFC and CT also went through revisions and were queried, but seeing the feedback I knew they weren’t ready for primetime after all and moved on. The ones I didn’t bother revising were either genres I didn’t want to pursue or just plain practice novels. I don’t “know” when it’s time; I just have a feeling.

Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them? 

The Ay-May-ZING Suzie Townsend of Nancy Coffey Literary. I went the traditional query process, but another agent offered before Suzie so there was a bit of a race.

How long did you query before landing your agent?

That depends: I queried one of the trunked books in 2008 and then didn’t send anything out again until 2010, so technically 2 years? Actively, though, maybe six months across three manuscripts. Around 100 queries across three manuscripts, all told.

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

I will point you to this post on my blog. You have to believe in yourself before you can ask anyone else to.

How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?

I’ll let you know. But seeing my contract was numbing.

How much input do you have on cover art?

I don’t. I get consultation like most authors, which means I say, “I’m just the writer; make it pretty,” and then I’ll coo over it when it’s done.

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

I am not as impatient as I thought. Things go as fast as they go and you can’t make them go any faster, so sit down and shut up. And I get really giddy over the idea of interior layout. Fonts! :squee:

How much of your own marketing do you?

I assume I’ll do a lot of my own marketing, blog tours, guest posts, etc. I’m very out-going and I love meeting people, though, so “marketing” to me just means doing what I already do: connecting with people. I expect to set up a lot of local signings and I hope to go to more cons and things. I’m a people person. I enjoy my blog. I don’t blog about writing. I blog about Deep Things and pretend I am a life coach and sometimes there are photos of food. I tweet up a storm.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

Platform. Sigh. The thing I talk about most on my blog is being yourself. Platform doesn’t really mesh with that. I think you should jump into social media when you’re comfortable and just connect. Don’t think about it as platform-building. Certainly, in terms of marketing, though, you want to be out there as early as possible so you have a built-in following, but it’s all in your motivation. You’re selling something, but you’re not there to sell anything, if that makes any sense.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Absolutely. I have discovered some of my favorite authors through social media and made some of my dearest friends the same way, incidentally, so I’m a big fan of social media. No one is going to dispute that word of mouth sells books. Social media is just another form of potential word of mouth. The more enthusiastic your fan base, the more the readership will grow. It feeds itself, really.