Interview with Sophie Crockett

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!

I have a fantastic addition to the SAT (Successful Author Talk) here with us today. Born in 1969, SD Crockett was brought up on a yacht as her parents circumnavigated the globe. After graduating from London University’s Royal Holloway and Bedford New College with a degree in Drama and Theatre Studies, she spent time living in Russia, Turkey, Eastern Europe - and in Armenia as a timber buyer. Yeah, that's right. And she's one hell of a writer too.

Her debut novel AFTER THE SNOW is set in 2059, the new Ice Age. Born after the snows, fifteen-year-old straggler kid, Willo Blake, has never known a life outside hunting and trapping in the hills.  When his family mysteriously disappears, leaving him alone on a freezing mountain, Willo sets off into the unknown to find them. AFTER THE SNOW will be available March 27th, 2012 from Feiwel & Friends


Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I wouldn’t say I’m a planner, no. I have tried it, plotting out 3-6 chapters at a time, but in every case it has meant the future culling of thousands and thousands of words. I like the story to unravel in a fictional version of ‘real-time.' Each to their own. But I do think a lot about where the grand story arc is going, getting inspiration from so many things outside of the work I’m doing. That’s the real planning for me.

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

About a year. I’ve got a two-year-old child around, so that probably influences the time it takes.

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

See above!  One project at a time for me. The other projects I might think of are shelved fairly brutally for a future date.

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

Yes. Fear of having no direction in life. Fear of running out of money. Fear of wasting my time with this writing lark. I carried a proverbial bucket of sand around and stuck my head in it regularly.

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

Two. One was a learning curve of editing, and the other not ‘big’ enough for me to really try punting it around.

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

Yes. The first book. I finished it, but quit on it after 14 rejections. But I had two requests for a full, and that gave me the confidence to carry on. I was pragmatic.

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

My agent is Julia Churchill of The Greenhouse Literary Agency, which has a base in the UK and the US. I sent my query to Julia, and she responded in three weeks asking for a full submission; she took me on after reading it. It was a traditional query: letter, synopsis and first chapter.

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

I think you have to be pragmatic. Work on those first few chapters until your fingers bleed. If you think they’re good, do the same for every block of three chapters in the book. Treat each block like you’re sending only that out, because if someone does request a full, it will be very disappointing if they don’t take you on because you haven’t carried on the spark that interested them in the first place.

Most agents have a massive workload, they don’t have time to hold your hand. And I also think that having angry vitriol for agents and the publishing industry if/when you get rejected, is a very negative and unattractive thing. They have a business to run, and your part of that business is writing well and solidly and crossing your fingers that what you’ve done is what is needed. Don’t chase a dollar, chase a dream of perfection in your work and don’t be lazy. There are a lot of writers out there who aren’t.

But remember. Agents and publishers need great books. If no one likes your baby after a number of queries (your call on what that number is) then accept the inevitable and write something new. And then send that out, learning from your mistakes.

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

Pretty humbling and emotional but the beginning of a new mountain to climb.

How much input do you have on cover art?

Zero. But if you have a good suggestion - make it but don’t push it.

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

That I was more patient than I thought, and that I was capable of writing a book.

How much of your own marketing do you?

I’m a bit of a luddite (google it!) I didn’t have a website until very recently. And now I have a blog too. Which has been more fun than I thought. I’m very lucky that my publisher has arranged a lot of the marketing for my book and I try to do everything I can to help them and make myself available.

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

I think you should write and think about that after someone likes your work. But as I said I’m a luddite, and you have writers like Amanda Hocking who give that sentiment a good kick up the …!

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

Probably.  Undoubtedly.