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 Kate Jarvik Birch, author of DELIVER ME, available April 15th from Bloomsbury Spark.
Are you a Planner or Pantster?
Very much a planner! In fact, one of my favorite parts of writing a novel is the initial plotting stage. Maaybe it’s because I’m still totally smitten with my idea (SNIS: shiny new idea syndrome) and everything is chock-full of possibility! At this stage the idea is still perfect. Of course, once I start writing it’s exciting to see the story morph and change into something alive, but it never stays exactly the same as that initial seed of an idea.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
It varies, but I’m usually pretty speedy with the first draft. It can take anywhere from a month and a half to three months. It’s the subsequent drafts that end up taking MUCH longer.
Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
I’m not the greatest multi tasker because I tend to get pretty obsessed with whatever idea I’m currently working on. Maybe it’s because for the book to really come alive it has to percolate inside my head 24/7. Who knows when a great idea is going to hit. It usually seems to happen in the shower or while I’m driving. But if the story hasn’t been given room to just sit quietly inside my skull, those epiphanies don’t tend to happen. I’ve had to learn how to divide my energies while working on revisions with editors, but it’s still difficult for me.
Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
Always! Every time! What if the words don’t come? What if I can’t make this scene work? What if I don’t have any original thoughts? Those first few minutes sitting down to write are always difficult, but I’ve noticed that it’s like warming up a muscle and after a few minutes those cold, hard feelings soften and melt away and the real writing can begin.
How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?
Completed novels… 2. But there were many, many attempts before that. Let’s just say it took about 16 years of real writing to get there.
Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
I’m not sure I’ve ever REALLY quit on one. I’ve put them aside, but always with the promise that I’ll come back and try again some time.
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?
My super-agent is Kerry Sparks from Levine Greenberg. I’ll forever be grateful that she picked my query out of the slush and saw some promise in me.
How long did you query before landing your agent?
I actually queried a middle grade novel that I ended up shelving before I wrote the book that landed me my agent. But once I had the right book, it only took a couple of months.
Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
If this project doesn’t find you an agent, don’t give up. It isn’t the end of the world. The most important thing is to keep writing. Keep growing. Keep putting in the hours. You’ll get there.
What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
It isn’t necessarily a surprise, but I’m still so grateful for the amount of work that goes into making a book. It doesn’t really seem fair that only one name makes it onto the cover.
How much of your own marketing do you?
I’m lucky to have marketing teams with both of my publishers that have great outreach, but I’m still involved with marketing. I’ve got a website and a blog and spend WAY too much time on Twitter and Facebook. Just recently I started a street team and I’m excited to see it grow.
Do you think social media helps build your readership?
I’d have to say a resounding YES!!! There’s a wide array of authors that I’ve only discovered through social networks whose work I wouldn’t have found on my own. I can only hope that the same thing will happen once my own books are out in the world.