Successful Author Talk with Kelly Loy Gilbert

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 (Succesful Author Talk) is Kelly Loy Gilbert, author of CONVICTION coming in 2015 from Disney-Hyperion. Kelly has an overly-active Twitter feed. She serves on the NaNoWriMo Associate Board, is a fan of diverse books, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Are you a Planner or Pantster?

I am an aspiring Planner. I always set out to write a story a certain way, and sometimes I even write outlines for it—and then inevitably it ends up somewhere wildly different than I originally planned.

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

For a solid, submittable draft, I’d say anywhere from nine months to three years. Hopefully I’m getting faster!

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

I used to be a die-hard one-project-at-a-time writer. But with the way publishing works, there’s a lot of down time when you’re waiting for revisions, etc., so it’s not totally practical to put a project completely to rest before embarking on another. At heart, though, I love working on thing at a time––I like to inhabit that world as fully as possible.

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

This will sound silly, but––running out of notebook space! It was before computers were really a thing, and I had this one totally pristine notebook I would write in really cramped small writing to try to fit as much as possible before running out.

How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?

Six or seven.  I was an overly-ambitious teenager. One, my sophomore year, was about a boy band.  (Weird it didn’t sell….)  

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

When a project isn’t working and I lose all sight of where it might be going I shelve things, locking them away in drawers where they can’t see the light of day, but I often come back to things even years later. Once you bring a character to life, it’s hard to erase him from existence completely––I always find them hovering somewhere in the periphery of my consciousness, waiting to be invited back in.

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

My agent is the utterly fabulous Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary, whom I snagged through the traditional query process.  

How long did you query before landing your agent?  

Actually, it took me nearly a decade; I queried two previous books, once in college and once in high school (when you still sent everything via hard copy directly to publishers). Thank goodness those books never went anywhere, though of course it was totally crushing at the time.  

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

Querying’s awful (although it’s sort of exciting knowing at any moment you could get an email or call that changes everything), so you should probably keep lots of ice cream and gummy candies on hand to soothe you.

Also, if you get a ton of rejections and you hate life, go on Goodreads and read one-star reviews of some of your very favorite books, and remind yourself that reading is subjective as all get-out. A no from any one particular agent just means they weren’t right for your project.

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

I was surprised by the strength and vibrancy of the YA community. I’m lucky to live in an area (what up SF Bay Area!!) where there’s a great group of women debuting in 2015 along with me, and we meet up regularly and serve as a support network of sorts for one another. And I’ve met amazing people through Twitter and email and some writer forums, and it’s hard to remember what it was like when it was just me and my computer alone! I wouldn’t have guessed that other writers would be so open and accessible and eager to connect.

How much of your own marketing do you?  Do you have a blog / site / Twitter? 

I blog (sporadically) and tweet (compulsively).

Do you think social media helps build your readership?

I guess the jury’s out on that one, although I would strongly, strongly encourage any aspiring authors to get on social media just because the writing community is so totally terrific––people volunteering to CP for others, discussing the need for diverse books, pointing out interesting industry news.