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 is Kathleen Peacock. Her debut, HEMLOCK, takes place in a small town where Lupine syndrome—also known as the werewolf virus—is on the rise. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but bloodlust is not easy to control. When Mackenzie decides to investigate her best friend Amy’s murder herself, she discovers secrets lurking in the shadows of Hemlock. Secrets about Amy’s boyfriend, Jason, her good pal Kyle, and especially her late best friend. Mac is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her life at risk.
Are you a Planner or Pantster?
I used to be what I called a “Three Point Pantser.” I would have an idea for the opening, the ending, and one big event in the middle. These days, I’ve become much more of a planner and typically outline before I start.
Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
Usually I’m a one manuscript at a time kind of girl, though that will probably have to change as projects will eventually overlap (copy edits on one, outlining another, etc).
Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
Definitely! There was a long gap after high school when I didn’t write anything other than blog posts, press releases, and user manuals. Plus—and I know, now, that this is silly—I worried about the fact that I’d gone to art school instead of university.
How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
I had one trunked collection of short stories. Also, I started two YA books while/after I queried Hemlock that were trunked (one at fifty pages and one at one-hundred-forty pages).
Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
With the fifty page manuscript, I loved the initial concept (I still do) but I had trouble striking the right tone. It was meant to be a black comedy, but somewhere around page thirty, it ended up being just plain black. I decided to take a break from it to work on a dystopian idea. That one was trunked when Hemlock sold but I’d love to revisit it.
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?
My agent is the awesome Emmanuelle Morgen of Stonesong. I sent her a traditional query (with the first few pages) via email after reading her bio on Miss Snark’s First Victim.
Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
I’m a big fan of sending out queries in small batches. If you query ten agents and five come back with the same concerns, you have the ability to evaluate and (possibly) address their concerns before querying more agents. Keep track of your queries. You can do this through an online service or by setting up a simple spreadsheet. Have a separate email folder for rejections so that you don’t have to see them every time you open your inbox (I’m actually a fan of having a separate email address just for querying). Be patient. Some days you will feel like a ROCKSTAR, and some days you’ll feel like the first woman eliminated on the season premiere of The Bachelor. Be equally suspicious of either feeling.
How much input do you have on cover art?
The designers at HarperCollins are just AMAZING. I had one or two small request but the final cover is extremely close to the original concept work they showed me. Same goes for Simon & Schuster UK. I’m just in awe of their creative teams.
What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
How supportive the YA writing community is.
How much of your own marketing do you?
When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
Well with non-fiction, you probably should start building it before (based on my very limited understanding of that market). With fiction, honestly, I think it’s good to explore social networking early, but I see it less (at that stage) as being about platforms and branding and more about making connections and engaging in conversations. If your goal is publication, you should register the name you hope to publish under on social networking sites as soon as possible. Also, it doesn’t hurt to register your name as a domain (if you can get it).
Do you think social media helps build your readership?
I think so. I’ve met so many incredible book bloggers through Twitter.