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 Stasia Kehoe, author of AUDITION which was released by Viking on October 12, 2011.
Are you a Planner or Pantster?
Both! I don’t write formal outlines but I do tend to keep a lot of notes. I jot character descriptions, snippets of dialogue, ideas for backstory or plot twists in notebooks or on scraps of paper. Then, I write very much pantster-style, constantly asking “and then what happens?” Still, I am very informed by my notes and all the thinking I’ve been doing.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
Oh gosh. It depends on how you look at it. The idea-marinating, note-keeping phase can last for ages. The first-draft probably takes several months. Revision is unpredictable. Sometimes it’s quick; other times I pretty much rewrite the whole novel.
Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
As much as I feel drawn to the “slutty new idea” when in the throes of revision or the mushy middle of a manuscript, I have learned that working through one project at a time yields the best results!
Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
I started writing in eighth grade and I was so concerned about getting my angsty problems onto paper that I didn’t really think of it as writing—so no fears. The fears come later—thinking about whether your next book should be similar and totally different and, honestly (even though you try not to look too much), there are moments when you feel yourself kind of influenced by how readers respond to your work.
How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
Oooh. Not telling. Let’s just say, a lot.
Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
I think the more you write, the more you have a sense of your style and if you’re on the right track. I recently heard author Blake Nelson say that one of the joys of being a full-time writer was having the luxury of scrapping things you’ve started. Plenty of time to say “this doesn’t work, I’ll go another way.”
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?
My agent is the lovely Catherine Drayton who requested my full manuscript from a query letter I sent her. I should mention that, before querying agents, I had gotten some interest from a fabulous editor. Another agent I met at a conference advised that I note this in my queries, which I did.
How long did you query before landing your agent?
Okay, you’re going to hate me. I sent eight queries and landed an agent in a week, selecting from multiple offers of representation. THEN AGAIN, I am 44 years old and this is my first published novel. So, I guess you could say the whole agent-landing process took me thirty years plus seven days.
Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
Go to conferences. Take writing classes. Study the art of query-writing but remember that the most important thing is the manuscript. Some agents don’t even look at queries because they feel that the work should sell itself. So, if you’re a lousy query-writer, seek out agents who don’t really care that much (you’ll probably connect with them better anyway) and then write a quick, clean query and get going!
How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?
The book is on sale in two days but people have been Tweeting me pix of it on shelves at Books-a-Million or emailing to tell me that Amazon has said it’s on the way. It feels surreal.
How much input do you have on cover art?
Probably about as much as most debut authors ☺
What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
About the publishing process? Well, I’ve worked in publishing for a long time—for Random House, Simon & Schuster, and others—so I had a pretty clear picture of the game before we started. I guess the thing that has surprised me the most is that I’m not as tough as I thought I was, personally.
How much of your own marketing do you?
I do a TON of my own marketing. I have a blog www.swardkehoe.blogspot.com; a website www.stasiawardkehoe.com; a book tour website www.stagesonpages.com; a Facebook page Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe; and I’m on Twitter @swkehoe. I’m doing a month-long blog tour and organizing a live book tour for a group of 12 authors who write about the performing arts.
When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
Ahhh, that inimitable word: platform. Not sure what it even means. I mean, technically, I do but how to translate that into what writers should do…? I started my blog years before my book deal and I’m grateful that I had some time to kind of find my blogging stride. I think that before you are published the best thing to do is to develop a virtual presence that feels comfortable, natural. If you love Dr. Who, or eating out, or writing silly haikus, blog about that and some book stuff, too. Be yourself because when the journey from deal to publication gets rolling, you’ll have to answer so many questions, write so much content, that it’s really nice if you’ve already found an identity comfort zone for your virtual life.
Do you think social media helps build your readership?
Yes, I definitely think that social media has helped build awareness about AUDITION. It’s also connected me to lots of amazing writers and bloggers with such passion for YA literature. Both great things!