Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Something Awesome and Awesome: An Interview with author Susan Dennard

We all focus on THE QUERY and THE AGENT, but what happens next?   

As a part of our ARC tour for Susan Dennard’s debut Something Strange and Deadly (sign up to win a spot below!), Susan answered some questions for me about what happens after you’ve sold a book.  

1. What’s the most challenging part about working on/editing a book that has sold?

The self-imposed pressure! At least initially.

When you're first faced with a deadline...well, you know how you think you can write really fast? Um, you can't. At least not nearly as fast as you think. Mostly because on top of the deadline pressure, you've got this huge MUST-BE-GOOD-pressure. That was by far the hardest thing for me (and I know for many other debut authors as well) to handle. Will my editor hate my changes? Will she regret buying my book? Will she like book 2 as much as book 1? AM I A TOTAL FAILURE?

But eventually, you have no choice but to deal with that stress and power through. Now that I've seen I can revise to my editor's standards and I can write a good second book (on a deadline, no less!), I realize just how much that pressure was self-imposed and utterly self-defeating. Hopefully my new-found confidence will carry over into book 2 revisions and book 3. ;)
2. What’s the most satisfying thing about writing for you now?

Having written. ;)

Honestly, though, all the satisfaction comes in seeing a finished story and knowing I can now share the story in my heart with someone else. The actual writing is a constant uphill battle (in the rain, with high-heels on, and with fire-breathing dragons attacking from above), but it's ALL worth it when I hear someone has enjoyed my book--when I hear that, for a few hours, I transported them to another world.

3. What has working with a real editor taught you?

Tighten, tighten, TIGHTEN! You don't need all that internal dialogue, and you certainly don't need to reiterate things. Readers are NOT dumb, so a few key thoughts said ONCE will get the point across.

In my older drafts of Something Strange and Deadly, Eleanor was (as my editor put it) "too thinky". For my editorial revisions, I spent a very long time simply tightening her thoughts, cutting redundancy, and removing excessive action tags (like, a character doesn't need to arch his eyebrows AND smirk when just the smirk will express his emotion). I wound up shortening the book by almost 9K words!! And now, all of my new writing is much cleaner and much tighter from the get-go.

4. Does sending things out on submission get easier?

 Absolutely! My second book went on submission, and I was antsy about it for a few days...and then I forgot about it. It's SUCH a slow process, so even though the book has been out several months, I'm not worried about it at all. In fact, most of the time, I forget I even have a book on subs!

5. Was there anything you thought you knew about publishing, but now understand in a different way?

The author has no control! :) Honestly, I thought that the author had all sorts of power over things like cover, marketing, flap copy, etc., but in reality, ALL of that is up to the publisher. Their marketing team knows best, so at the end of the day, it's their decision--not the author's. So while publishers DO want their authors to be happy, they also know that the author's won't always be...and then it's time for some "tough love"--i.e. "Here's your book and that's just the way it is."
Like I said, they ultimately do know better, so it's up to me to trust them to their job while I focus on writing the best darn book I can!

6. Any advice for those of us on the other side?

Dream big and NEVER give up. I spout these words a lot, but only because I truly believe them! If you set your sights high, work hard, and don't let the tough times get you down, you'll get there eventually! I PROMISE!

Thank you SUSAN! You rock, as always, and I CAN'T wait to read your book (insert huge squee)!!!

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  1. The cover looks amazing, I can't wait to read it. Congratulations Susan!

  2. I like the phrase "too thinky"--I have a hunch it applies to my MC in spades. That might have to go on a post-it on my computer...

  3. @Christine--thanks! :D

    @Mrs. Silverstein--Yes! Even now, when I read the ARC, I think that Eleanor might be too thinky in the first 100 pages...but alas! Too late to make changes now. At least I can make sure book 2 is as tight as it can be. ;)

    @Kat--THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR DOING THIS!! I really appreciate it. <3 <3 <3

  4. Thanks Christine and mrs Silverstein for dropping by! So glad you enjoy the interview.

    And thanks sooz for answering these questions-- I appreciate it!

  5. It's interesting how Susan said she forgot her book was on submission. I guess after one is sold, it does get a little easier. I can't wait for that feeling.

    Awesome interview, Kat! You asked great questions :D

  6. KAT! <3<3 Great questions, and great answers from Sooz. :)

  7. Thanks Quita and Connie-- it was fun to get Susan's perceptions of "the other side". :0)

  8. The title of this post is made of win. Awesome interview, Katharine! I especially liked the bit on working with editors. Finding a true editorial voice within yourself is so important but also so difficult. Great tips, Sooz!

  9. You know, that's interesting. Sometimes, lengthy prose is not always the best. I wish you luck, Susan, with Something Strange and Deadly. It looks awesome.

  10. That cover looks lovely- and this interview was wonderful, too. I can't wait until I get to read this one!

  11. Thanks for dropping by Meredith- I had SO much fun interviewing Susan.

    @Cassie- thanks for the visit! Glad you liked the interview.

    Hey Rida- isn't that cover divine? I just noticed the bits of clockwork fading in the background. GORGEOUS.

  12. I love Susan's "keep calm and carry on" attitude. Her blog posts always find a way to soothe my usually frenetic nerves haha. Great pieces of insight from the inside, thank you so much!

  13. I agree, sometimes when the prose is too long, I space out. Try and break it up a little. I can't wait to read this one.

  14. Wow the book has an awesome cover. :-)

    Thanks for the glimpse of life after the sale.

  15. Adeeti- I know, she's a real role model to me.

    Vivien- So true-- i read a critically acclaimed (non YA) book recently, and I had to skip a few paragraphs here and there of overly long description.

    Misha-- I know, I'm really digging it!

  16. Great interview! I love her tip on tightening. That's something I'm working on in my revision. Looking forward to reading this book!

  17. Great interview! I loved hearing about the after, a whole new perspective :) Thanks!

  18. I might bookmark this interview for later reference. I'm liking what I see on your blog. Bookmarking time.

    By the way, I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award here:

    I'm hoping you haven't received one of these already, because that'd be a little awkward...

  19. Congratulations, Susan. The cover's an eye-popper. And liked the reminder to tighten.

  20. GORGEOUS cover! 100% agree with what Susan says about tightening. I should have the word tattooed across my forehead to remind me :D


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