Interview with K.A. Barson

It's back to life as usual for yours truly, which means you guys get an interview today! Today's SAT guest is a fellow Lucky 13, author K.A. Barson. She graduated from Vermont College of Fine Arts with an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She can usually be found in her messy office sporting no make-up, bed head, and sweats. Her YA debut, 45 POUNDS, is about Ann, a sixteen-year-old girl who doesn’t fit—not in her blended family and certainly not in Snapz! clothes—is convinced that if she could only lose 45 pounds, her life would be perfectly normal. She soon learns that is nothing perfect about normal. 45 POUNDS will be available from Viking Children's Books, Summer 2013.


Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I’m both. I start with a plan, but it inevitably goes awry while writing. After I write a draft, I re-plan—with better understanding of my characters and story—and write again.

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

My first novel, which is really bad and hidden away, took about a month. Lately, it’s taken a lot longer: between six months to a year for a draft. Revisions are another story. I haven’t finished those yet, so as of now, they take forever.

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

I have several projects in various stages of completion, but in general, I focus on one at a time.

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

No, when I first sat down, I thought I could write anything. I was fearless and stupid. The fear didn’t come until I realized how much I didn’t know. Now I have to conquer it daily. What I wouldn’t give for a few more fearless, stupid writing sessions!

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

About three. One will never come out of from the trunk. One will need to be dismantled, re-visioned, and started fresh—someday. One is being revised right now. Another is newly revised and out on submission now.

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

Yes, once, but only because there was nowhere else to take it. It was a weird combo of fiction and non-fiction based on a family hobby. The potential audience was too small, the plot was weak, and the writing wasn’t very good. Not much to work with, so I let go and focused on other things. I have other books that I’ll come back to revise later with fresh eyes and better skills though.

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

Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger, Inc. It’s a pretty traditional story. I queried. She asked to read the full. A couple weeks later, she offered to represent me.

How long did you query before landing your agent? 

I queried two other agents and got rejected almost immediately. After six months of research and talking to people, I put Sara Crowe at the top of the list. When I revisited my query, I realized that I hadn’t mentioned two really important things—the title and what made it different from other books. I revamped and queried Sara exclusively because I really wanted to work with her.

However, I queried a few agents years ago—way before I should have—with that now-and-forever-trunked piece. (I don’t count those.)

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

Yes. Finding an agent or editor is like finding the perfect mate. You want someone who wants you as much as you want him/her. (Think Cheap Trick.) Don’t just look for any agent. Look for the one who enthusiastically wants to rep you. If you get a rejection, don’t take it personally; it only means that agent is not your match.

If you constantly get rejected at the query, the problem might be the query. If you get a lot of rejections on the work, take another look at it, and never submit until you’ve had other readers—the more brutal the better—vet it first.

Finally, don’t give up. You might be one query away from a yes.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

Since my book won’t be out for over a year, I haven’t done much yet. I joined a couple groups of other debut authors for support and group promotion and have participated in some blogs (like this one, for instance). I have a website, I’m also on Twitter (@kabarson), Facebook, and Goodreads.

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

I built my initial website before the agent/book deal and am adding to it as I go.

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

I hope so. It definitely helps get the word out.