It’s time for a new interview series… like NOW. No really, actually it’s called NOW (Newly Omniscient Authors). This blog has been publishing since 2011, and some of the earlier posts feel too hopeful dated. To honor the relaunch of the site, I thought I’d invite some of my past guests to read and ruminate on their answers to questions from oh-so-long-ago to see what’s changed between then and now.
Today’s guest is Elsie Chapman author of the YA novels Dualed, Divided, Along the Indigo, and Caster as well as the MG novel All the Ways Home, and co-editor of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings and Hungry Hearts. She currently lives in Tokyo, Japan, with her family.
Has how you think (and talk) about writing and publishing changed, further into your career?
Funnily enough, reading those old interviews of mine, I still stand by most of the things I said! I think the main difference is I’m just a bit less starry-eyed and a bit more realistic when it comes to the publishing side of things. I’ve also learned the importance of maintaining a healthy perspective in this business, meaning definitely keep hoping for good things to happen (and to celebrate them!), rather than playing the comparison game so that you come to expect them. That just leads to disappointment and it’s hard to keep coming back from that.
Let’s about the balance between the creative versus the business side of the industry. Do you think of yourself as an artiste or are you analyzing every aspect of your story for marketability? Has that changed from your early perspective?
I used to feel so ridiculously adamant about sticking to your artistic vision regardless of trends and what publishers wanted. I figured it was just a matter of timing and finding the right editor. And while some of that is still true (timing’s never not going to be a factor, and it really does take just one editor to want your book), I don’t feel so strongly about the artistic side of things anymore, particularly because I want to stay traditionally published. There’s a happy medium, I think, between writing what you want and writing what might realistically sell, and if you’re lucky, those will be the same thing.
The bloom is off the rose… what’s faded for you, this far out from debut?
There’s no guarantee an editor will buy another book from you unless sales and numbers back it up. I think this is one of the toughest aspects of the business, how an author can do all they’ve been asked to do but still have so much about publishing be out of their hands. But remembering there’s a huge difference between wishes and goals can help a lot. That’s really just being smart about the business, not negative.
I also don’t worry as much anymore about always being “on” when it comes social media. Having an online presence has become a part of the publishing landscape, but I’m better now about being more careful with my time and saving my creative energy for writing.
Likewise, is there anything you’ve grown to love (or at least accept) that you never thought you would?
This ties back to what I just said about social media which is, yes, I’m now perfectly happy being selfish when it comes to saving time and energy for myself. The word selfish has negative connotations, but sometimes it’s exactly what we need to be in order to keep going in this business, and for me, I’m more than okay giving up certain aspects of being a published author if it means getting to stay creative and having more time for things that matter (family, working on my own projects, etc).
And lastly, what did getting published mean for you and how was it changed (or not changed!) your life?
It’s really taught me to love writing for the sake of writing, and how to see worth in my own work versus looking for worth in what others think about it. Easier said than done for sure, but I do think it’s important to keep checking yourself so that you’re still loving the creative process and to remind yourself that a lot of publishing—both good news and bad news—outside of that process is out of your control anyway. Getting to be in this business will always feel a bit like a dream, and key for me is just figuring out the reality of staying grounded and maintaining a good headspace so I can keep doing what I love.