Lucy Silag: Tell us about your first “spark” of the idea for SPARK. How did that idea grow and change over time and drafts?
Atthys Gage: It’s hard for me to pinpoint, but there is a persistent image that I associate with SPARK: someone is walking past a vacant lot; there are a couple of homeless types standing around a big metal drum, warming themselves on the scrap-wood fire lit within; sparks fly upward. The only thing is, that scene doesn’t appear in the book and never did in any version. It is, apparently, a sort of catalyst scene. Like an enzyme, it allowed the process of writing the book to take place but wasn’t consumed in the process.
LS: What has surprised you most about the experience of taking your book from an idea to a finished product?
AG: I was struck by how my own feelings changed as we neared the end. At first I was willing to fight for every little thing. Or, if not fight, then endlessly agonize over how to fix something that wasn’t quite right. By the end, I was more likely to just eliminate the problematic passage with a sweep of the blue pencil. It’s almost as though the book itself was so ready to be done and out in the world that it began resisting my efforts to fix it anymore. I’d reach out to straighten a clause or rub out a questionable comma, and it would slap my hand away like a moody teenager. Just leave it alone! Go away! I honestly think the poor thing was tired of all the attention.
LS: At what stage was the manuscript when you first started posting on Book Country? How many drafts did you post, and how did feedback influence your drafts?
AG: SPARK was initially in third person. A potential publisher questioned whether I was really getting close enough to Francy, the main character, for readers to relate (a constant question for me). I tried rewriting it as a first person, mostly just an exercise to see what I could find out about Francy’s point of view, then discovered that it worked better that way (most of it anyway.) I put the first few chapters on Book Country at that point. The response was encouraging. Carl Reed (who else?) in particular helped me get rid of a couple of things that weren’t working, but mostly it was just helpful for me to realize I was on the right track.
LS: Did you always know that the book would be for Young Adult readers?
AG: Yes. Though to be honest, I always have a hard time guessing the potential audience for a book, and I don’t think about it at all during the process of writing.
LS: How did the book change once you started working with your publisher?
AG: Fortunately, they liked the story just as it was right out of the box, so it was only small things. Tons of small things, actually. It took us three rounds before sending it to the line editor. We had our share of disagreements, but we got along pretty well. She was pretty good at curbing some of my quirkier tendencies, but if there was anything I really went to bat for, she was more than willing to concede.
LS: Tell us more about your publisher and how you’re working together to connect readers to your writing.
AG: Lycaon Press is like the little sister of Breathless Press, which is primarily a romance house. Lycaon has only been around a couple of years but they have a number of paperbacks out in addition to a catalogue of eBooks, all YA with a paranormal slant. SPARK is only an eBook for now, but it’s on the schedule for a paperback release way off in October 2015. That’s too far away for me to start counting any chickens, but they seem pretty committed to it. Still, I’m sure making some eBook sales wouldn’t hurt. I just spent the last week guest blogging at a number of sites, all coordinated by the folks at Lycaon, so I’ve been impressed with the support they’ve provided, including the cover by Victoria Miller.
LS: What are your goals now that the book is out?
AG: Well, there’s plenty more books in the hopper. I wish I could say this changes everything, but unless SPARK sells a helluva a lot of books, I’m pretty much back where I started. I’ll still have to send out queries and what not. Despite the current trend toward series, I have a hard time picturing a SPARK sequel, but, hey, if the public demands it…
In all seriousness, I’m going to do my best not to obsess over how well the book does or what kind of reviews it gets. Of course I want it to do well. I want everyone on the planet to think it’s swell and buy it for all their nieces and neighbor children, but that’s not very likely. I intend to do whatever I can to promote it, and I have high hopes. I think it’s a very likable book. But it’s better to look to the future. The book I’m writing now is the most important thing I have ever written, as will be the one after that.
AG: Hang in there. Take chances. Try not to be afraid of rejection. No matter how great the book, you need luck too, so the more opportunities you make for yourself, the better your odds become.