So excited to have my friend and fellow Book Country member Andrea Dunlop back on the blog this morning! I just read Andrea’s book, THE SOJOURN, and I was blown away by how good it was. Just as I was finishing the book, Andrea wrote to tell me that she’s signed with literary agent Carly Watters. If you haven’t yet checked out the excerpt of THE SOJOURN that is available to read on Book Country, I highly recommend that you do so ASAP!
Lucy Silag: Tell us what compelled you to write THE SOJOURN.
Andrea Dunlop: It was inspired by the time I spent in France as a student. Traveling abroad for the first time is an incredibly heady experience, it has a way of blowing open your perspective on life.
LS: How long have you been working on it? What is your writing and revising process like?
AD: I’ve actually been working on the novel off and on for twelve years now, if you can believe it. There have been many, many versions of the story but it always came back to the friendship between [main characters] Brooke and Sophie. I’ve gotten lots of feedback from different sources over the years that have helped me shape the book: fellow writers, agents, professors, I ended up hiring a developmental editor and I can’t overstate the difference that made. After you’ve been working on something for a certain amount of time, you lose perspective on it. It really helped me to just let go and be willing to do whatever it took to make the story better.
AD: You’re definitely not the first person to say that my work is a mix of those two, and I think increasingly publishing is thinking of genres along less binary terms. As far as similar authors, I think Jennifer Close writes fantastic incisive portraits of modern female friendship, I love Helen Walsh for her sexy, contemporary work that has a thriller edge, and Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley has some similar themes of haves vs. have-nots, the stranger in a strange land, jealously, revenge, etc.
LS: You and I go way back to our days in Doubleday Publicity. How has working in publicity—particularly working in publicity at a big imprint like Doubleday—affected your writing?
AD: We do! I can’t imagine a better place to get an education in publishing than Doubleday. I think when I was younger, it was daunting to work for such a venerable house because you wondered how you could ever live up to the authors that you and your colleagues were working with every day: people like Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Valerie Martin, and scores of others. On the other hand as a publicist, you often have that experience of working on some beautiful, worthy book that the media for some reason just isn’t interested in, which always felt devastatingly unfair—so you knew how hard things could be for an author even in the best possible circumstance. The fact that social media has evolved so much has really been a win for authors because they can reach readers so much more directly, there are more options.
LS: Now you are the Social Media and Marketing Director at Girl Friday Productions. Tell us more about how you got involved in Girl Friday and what you do for authors that you work with.
AD: When I first came back to Seattle, I worked for late, great local book maven Kim Ricketts. She introduced me to my now colleagues Ingrid Emerick, Leslie Miller, and Jenna Free, the three original Girls Friday. I’ve been with the company for several years now and I can’t imagine a better place to work. We work with authors on all levels of the process and all along the spectrum of publishing, from authors working with big New York publishers to those who are self-publishing their work. Girl Friday began its life as a boutique editorial firm and has evolved to a full-service operation that offers everything from editorial to design to marketing; you name it, we do it. It’s great being on the west coast because there’s an innovative spirit here, and with the way Girl Friday works, we can be really fleet-footed which is helpful considering that publishing seems to change by the day. With clients, I’ve really moved away from traditional media outreach as those opportunities have decreased so much, and am hugely focused on helping authors build a social media and marketing strategy that they can maintain throughout their careers.
LS: So, this job must also be teaching you a lot of things that you are applying to your own writing career. What’s a good example of something you do now that you didn’t do before you started this work with your clients?
AD: Oh, absolutely. To be honest, I wasn’t very into social media before I worked at Girl Friday. As I learned more about it, it really appealed to me. I think that most of us hate the idea of being “self-promotional” but making yourself known on social media is a different animal, it’s more about making connections and participating in a community. I’ve gotten clients, helped Girl Friday find resources partners, and made real-life friends through social media. It helps me tremendously in my work with clients that I really believe what I’m telling them about how powerful these tools can be.
LS: Tell us more about the literary life in Seattle—you’ve been a part of it for a long time now.
AD: I’ll always be glad that I began my career in New York. The publishing tradition there is so deep and it’s an excellent place to learn. That said, when I lived there I was kind of in the New York bubble and didn’t realize how many other options were out there for writers. Seattle really maintains its frontier spirit and that affects the way we look at publishing. Here we’re always looking for the new ways to do things, whereas New York tends to be more traditional. The fact that Amazon is based here has definitely made us more of a player in the overall publishing landscape, but Seattle is just a wonderful place to be a reader and writer in general. There are many fabulous local authors—David Guterson, Maria Semple, and Laurie Frankel to name just a few—we have fantastic local resources like the University of Washington’s Extension Program, Hugo House, and Hedgebrook on Whidbey Island, and numerous excellent local independent bookstores like Elliott Bay Books, Third Place Books, Queen Anne Book Co., and about a dozen others. Because Seattle is smaller, I think people are not as competitive as they are in New York and are more open to connecting with each other. Seattle is just a more laid back place so most people are pretty approachable.
LS: What are your goals for THE SOJOURN? How is Book Country helping you to reach those goals?
AD: My hope for THE SOJOURN is that it finds its way to as many readers as possible. The exciting thing about today’s publishing landscape is that there are lots of ways for that to happen. Right now I’m working with a wonderful agent, Carly Watters (who has great blog with excellent advice for writers). I’ve been very impressed with the quality of work on Book Country, I’m always looking for new ways to find good writing and meet other writers at the beginnings of their careers, and Book Country is a great way to do that.
About Andrea Dunlop
Andrea Dunlop began her career at Random House in New York, where she worked as a publicist for Doubleday. As Girl Friday’s Publicity and Social Media Director, Andrea works with books and authors across a broad swath of subjects including literary and commercial fiction, memoir, and non-fiction, helping her clients to establish clear brands and build platforms through social media. Her fiction is represented by literary agent Carly Watters of P.S. Literary Agency.
Last fall Andrea put together a list of the Top Five Golden Rules of Social Media for Authors for the Book Country blog–be sure and read her tips!