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 Victoria Aveyard, a member of the Freshmen Fifteens and author of THE RED QUEEN, coming from HarperTeen in 2015.
Are you a Planner or Pantster?
Full disclosure, I had to look this up. I guess I’m sort of in between – I started TRQ with about a ten page outline and a few more pages of background world info, then I dived into the story. I despise outlining, but love worldbuilding, and made a conscious effort to rein myself in from worldbuilding too much and killing my drive outright. I’m a big believer in letting the story and the characters take you where they want to go, and the second act reflected this the most. I like to know my first and third act down cold, and then let the characters knit the two together with their own actions and growth.
With other projects, I’m definitely a Pantster. Last night I wrote about 2k words of a story and I had no idea where it came from or where it was going, I just know it wanted to come out.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
I had never finished a novel before TRQ, so I can only go by that particular project. The first draft was 160,000 words, and took six to seven months to write. Another two months to revise with my agent Suzie, who took a very well-wielded machete to my mammoth of a manuscript. Basically, I wrote the first sentence of TRQ in late June 2012, and we sold to HarperTeen in April 2013.
Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasked?
I generally like to multitask, but when I’m down and deep in a project, I work on that and that alone. During TRQ, that was the only idea I worked on, and I’m currently trying to get back into machine writing mode.
Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
I started the book about a month after I graduated college, where I spent four years in writing workshop styled classes for my screenwriting BFA. I’d basically been writing every day for years at that point, and sitting down to write wasn’t an issue. It was creating something I was proud of, that I actually liked reading, and that surprised even me when the characters developed minds of their own.
How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
Never finished a manuscript before, but I have five feature screenplays that will probably never see the light of day. I’m proud of all of them, but they are definitely staying locked away on my computer.
Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
I guess the first manuscript I quit on was a picture book about an escaped princess I started when I was six and promptly forgot about ten sentences in. Since then, I tried my hand at Tolkien-esque high fantasy too many times to count, and always got bogged down. They were derivative, clichéd and eternally flawed, and I knew it. But the experience was nice!
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?
My warrior princess agent is Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media. I came to her untraditionally, and, judging by what I’ve heard about querying, I’m so glad I never had to face down that firing squad. Long story short: I pitched the idea of writing a kickass YA novel to the talent management company Benderspink in Los Angeles. They brought me in to pitch pilots and screenplays, and the little voice in my head told me to do this instead. They liked the idea, I wrote TRQ, and in January, the company passed on my manuscript to Pouya Shahbazian at New Leaf. He had sold the movie option to The Planet Thieves by Dan Krokos in conjunction with Benderspink, so they had a working relationship. Pouya thought TRQ was up Suzie’s alley and, against all odds, she read it the weekend she got it. After a revision, she offered representation.
I never spoke to any other agents and I’m so glad I landed where I did. I honestly had no idea how publishing worked or what good agencies were – and somehow I ended up at one of the best! I honestly think I must have been crucified and/or killed by Mongol invasions in a past life to earn this one.
Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
Everyone comes in differently. Weird things happen. What works for someone else might not work for you and vice versa. And above all things, do what suits you best, not someone else. Just because so-and-so blasted 80 queries out in a week and got repped off it doesn’t mean you will. It could just take one, or 100, or 1000, or none at all. There’s no set path for this – you can only make your own.
How do you think it will feel the first time you see your book for sale?
I’m expecting to faint and/or set up camp in my local Barnes & Noble to pet my book when it comes out.
How much input do you have on cover art?
My wonderful editor Kari Sutherland at HarperTeen has just gotten the ball rolling on the cover process. We’ve started discussing, and my ideas were definitely welcome, if not encouraged. I’m so excited to see where we end up!
What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
How nice everyone in publishing is. From the agents to the Twitter followers, people are absolutely grand. I spent four years learning how to break into the film agency and it was full of horror stories of awful, shark-like, Ari Gold people who I would probably punch in the face. Instead, I’m now working with people I consider real friends both in publishing and in film. They’re so genuine, and they let me ramble about Game of Thrones. They even join in!
How much of your own marketing do you?
I’m most active on Twitter, mostly because it gives me an outlet to vent my sports/Game of Thrones/boring feelings and complaints. I also blog occasionally (I’m terrible at keeping up with it), and more so at Tumblr because it allows me to reblog funny Game of Thrones gifs. I’m very much a fangirl. As for true marketing, this is my first ever interview, and I expect things to intensify when we get closer to my publishing date in 2015.
When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
I didn’t have a platform/probably still don’t properly have one. I don’t do much more than tweet my feelings about odd things I find in Target (VELVET SUNGLASSES), but I do finally have a Goodreads author account, and TRQ is on there as well! It magically appeared overnight, probably because of a fairy.
Do you think social media helps build your readership?
I hope so, but I assume it won’t be the end all to be all. Hopefully after people read my book, they go hmm, I wonder what that Victoria lady is like, and find my Twitter full of Game of Thrones theories and derogatory things about the New York Jets (PATRIOTS 4 LIFE). Then they’ll shrug and be happy I found a job that keeps me away from real people.