Tag Archives: Book deal

How Book Country Helped Me Land a Book Deal

Posted by August 25th, 2015

Please welcome Book Country member Audrey Greathouse to the blog! I met Audrey at the San Francisco Writers Conference on a panel designed to let conference participants practice their agent pitch before going to the formal pitch session the following day. Audrey’s pitch for her young adult novel THE NEVERLAND WARS was one of the best in the room: a modern retelling of Peter Pan featuring fourteen-year-old girl Gwendolyn, in denial about growing up. I knew that Audrey would be a terrific addition to our community because at the conference I saw that she is curious, kind, enthusiastic about meeting other writers, and, of course, very hardworking! Her great news this week is that all that hard work paid off: THE NEVERLAND WARS has been picked up for publication by Clean Teen Publishing. Read on to hear how Book Country was a big part of helping her land a book deal.

Audrey Greathouse's blog

From Audrey Greathouse’s blog, audreygreathouse.wordpress.com

So I got my contract signed, my forms filled out, and everything else tidied away and put in the mail last week. The good folks at Clean Teen have them now, and I just get to look forward to scheduling a video chat with the ladies in charge. I think it’s pretty neat that my publisher’s chief officers are all Texan women. That’s just neat. Who would have even conceived of such a thing fifty years back? The internet and twenty-first century are ushering in a lot of interesting change and putting a lot of power in strange geographical places now that anybody can be anywhere.

Which brings me to Book Country.

I am so lucky I found this website and had a chance to discover the possibilities of it while I was at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference six months ago (I can’t believe it’s already been half a year!) I hop around the west coast too much to regularly attend any writers group, but with Book Country I can be anywhere. It’s easy to log on and review manuscripts, and it’s so nice to know that mine is up and open to members for review too. I could not have made the revisions I did without the feedback of the Book Country community, and I feel so grateful to the people on that site who have made it what is it. Continue reading

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Member Spotlight: Meet Horror Writer Nikki Hopeman

Posted by November 18th, 2013

Today we’re joined by Book Country member Nikki Hopeman, who has wonderful news to share with the community: her debut horror novel HABEAS CORPSE was just released from Blood Bound Books.

Nikki has a Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hall University, and has worked as a “mad scientist” at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Immunologic Monitoring and Cellular Products laboratory–two talents that have undoubtedly helped her with her first zombie novel!

Here we’re talking about her the publication process and her fascination with dark fiction and zombies. ~NG

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Your debut novel HABEAS CORPSE just came out–congratulations! Will you tell us more about your book’s journey: from the muse descending upon you to the book capturing the attention of Blood Bound Books?

The roots of HABEAS CORPSE formed during a graduate school class when I read Richard Matheson’s short story, “The Funeral.” In Matheson’s story, we meet a vampire who is disappointed he’ll never have a funeral, so he throws his own and invites an interesting mix of supernatural friends. Chaos quickly ensues. I’d just finished reading Jeff Lindsay’s DEXTER series, and the two worlds collided. I initially wrote a short story about an entirely supernatural forensics squad, but a friend told me I had the makings of a novel. After a few false starts, I realized the best character from the story was the evidence-eating zombie, so I kept him and made everyone else human. I finished the first full draft and approached RJ Cavender and the editorial department to help me polish the manuscript. When we finished, he acquired the novel for Blood Bound Books. It was really fast, and my head might still be spinning. Continue reading

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The Author-Agent Relationship: When Fandom Plays a Part

Posted by October 11th, 2013

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“In terms of author-agent relationship, I think it’s really just me being a gigantic fangirl and him [Michael] being a brilliant, motivated and creative author.” -Sara Megibow

A few weeks ago we had a nice, long conversion with Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency about the publishing industry and agenting. In the first part of our interview, Sara had great advice to share with budding writers looking to query her. Here, we’re focusing on the magic behind the author-agent relationship. When an agent and a writer are a good fit, the results reflect that. But how does that partnership begin, exactly? Sara told us about how she started working with Book Country member Michael R. Underwood, who just inked a deal for a new book he previously workshopped on Book Country with David Pomerico at 47North. 

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I remember when Michael’s query letter came in.

He said, “I have an offer on the table from Simon & Schuster for a novel that was posted on Book Country.” I usually pass on anything that says “I have an offer on the table” as I don’t want to be known as an agent who swoops in to collect an agent fee for an offer I didn’t work for. So, I requested GEEKOMANCY with the full intention of passing on it.

Here’s what happened instead:

Continue reading

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Meet Writer Mari Adkins

Posted by April 29th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

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“I write because I can’t not write. It’s in my head going around and must come out on paper.” –Mari Adkins

Mari Adkins is a southern gothic fiction writer from southeastern Kentucky. Mari is now on her way to becoming a published author: her novel Midnighthas been acquired by Apex Publications, and will come out in early 2014!

Nevena: Congratulations on selling your book, Midnight, to Apex. Tell us more about the novel!

Mari: Thank you! This is really exciting! (And scary! LOL.)

Midnight is the first book in an adult southern gothic series. It started as a poem and a short paragraph in 1996. Somewhere around 2000/2001, I decided I had a story and started filling in the blanks just to see what I could do with it. Before long, I had 120,000 words! I decided a couple of years ago I wanted to see the story from the main character’s daughter’s POV, and it just took off.

The book is about an abused, chronically depressed young woman, searching for herself, some stability, an anchor. The people she comes to love and cherish as her friends are vampires. As psychologically ill and damaged as Sami is, those three men—all vampires—continue the abuse in the way they treat her. Though her world is in chaos, once she is able to find what she’s looking for, she has no choice but to face herself and deal with what she finds there. She discovers which of her friends and family she can trust as she battles the transformations that will enable her to find the inner strength to embrace her true nature and the will to awaken the vampire within.

(Let the groaning begin. Yes, I write vampires! I’m “that Hillbilly Vampire lady”.)

Nevena: Haha. On your website, you say that the characters in your stories are “not your usual bloodthirsty Bram Stoker-type vampires.” How so?

Mari: My vampires are more human than vampire; they need only a little blood to maintain their health and to keep them from going insane. The stories revolve around the real-life problems the characters face more than their “vampireness.”

Nevena
: So it’s more about the vampiric consciousness. Fascinating. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Mari: It sounds cheesy, but I wrote my first “book” when I was six. Complete with illustrations. In crayon. It’s about a princess and her dog and their adventures in their undersea kingdom.

I write because I can’t not write. It’s in my head going around and must come out on paper. And yes, I write longhand; I’ve always found it difficult to get my thoughts straight at the keyboard as I’m dyslexic and have ADHD. This means I’m prone to leaving important things out—like words, sentences and explanations—when I try to compose or edit at the keyboard.
I didn’t get serious about publication until about ten years ago.

Nevena: So how do you balance writing with “life”?

Mari: I’m fortunate to stay home and work at my kitchen table. Since I learned a few years ago that I’m blessed with ADHD, I’ve started keeping a dayplanner so I can keep up with what I’m supposed to be doing on a given day. As well as writing and homemaking, I also do editing for hire. It helps break up the monotony.

When I have to go somewhere, I always take a backpack. We don’t have a car, so I travel by foot or by bus for the most part. I always carry my e-reader, my mp3 player, a journal, notebooks, and a case with pens, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue, and tape. Writing on the bus isn’t the prettiest or best thing in the world, but if I have a scene gnawing at me, I can at least scribble notes so I don’t lose certain thoughts or descriptions.

Nevena: So what is your favorite genre to write, and why?

Mari: I write paranormal fantasy because that’s where my interests lie. I’ve been a Pagan practitioner since 1988. The metaphysical elements and deities I incorporate into my writing are those that I’m most familiar with. The “gothic” element comes in from the setting, especially in Midnight, where Harlan County is very much its own character within that story.

Nevena: Now that Midnight’s with your editor, what have you been working on most recently?

Mari: I’ve been plugging away on my YA project. I started it out as a series of journal entries. But then I realized the format is stifling the story. Writing a journal is fun and what fifteen-year-old girls do. Not so conducive to storytelling. So for the last month or so I’ve been writing. Whatever comes into my head. It’s been more cohesive than what I had before.

Nevena: I’ll look out for it. Now I have to ask: What’s your Book Country story?

Mari: I was invited to Book Country at the beginning and have stayed because I like the professional atmosphere. The members here are all so polite with each other, yet never hesitate to tell each other straight up when they’re wrong. I like that everyone here—admins and members alike—are so free about sharing information with each other. Other places, you have to pry information out of people or go through the whole, “If you spend $20 and buy my e-book,” routine. In all, Book Country is one of my Internet bright spots.

Nevena: You’re one of our bright spots, too. You link to really great writing resources on the Book Country discussion forums. How do you improve your craft?

Mari: Thank you. Google is my friend. I read a lot of blogs. When you read someone else’s links, you get sucked down the rabbit hole and find all sorts of treasures. I also follow a lot of writers on Facebook. Michael Knost, for example, hosts online writing courses now and then, and they are, in my opinion, worth more than what he charges; he’s high on my recommendation list.

Also, I belong to a wonderful writing group. We’re scattered across the US and Canada and meet online once a week. We all have different talents and skills, and read in different areas. In fact, they get the kudos for helping makeMidnight (and its sequel) the story it is today.

Nevena: What should the Book Country community know about you that they don’t already?

Mari: I got so excited about journaling last year that I created a group about it on Facebook, Journaling Journey. We collect prompts, notebook ideas and layouts, shopping hints and tips (where to and how to), pictures of cool things in art journals, scrapbooks, diaries, etc. One of our members started giving us “challenges” once every two weeks. We have a lot of fun, and the people in the group are loaded with some amazing creativity.

Nevena: We’ll check it out. Thanks for chatting with me, Mari! Good luck with the book!

Connect to Mari on Book Country, like her fan page on Facebook, and visit her at mariadkins.com. Look out for her debut novel, Midnight, in early 2014.

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One Year Since Michael R. Underwood’s GEEKOMANCY

Posted by April 8th, 2013

Meet author & Book Country member Michael R. Underwood

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“Don’t always settle for the established trope.” –Mike Underwood

Michael R. Underwood is the author of Geekomancy, an urban fantasy novel in which geek knowledge is a superpower. A year ago Pocket/Gallery editor Adam Wilson came across a sample of the manuscript on Book Country, loved it, and offered Mike a book deal.

We got in touch with Mike to commemorate the acquisition, talk about his writing, and find out how becoming a published author changed his life.

Nevena: Thank you for joining us, Mike. Let’s start with Geekomancy. When did you start writing it? And how did you come up with the idea of Geekomancers, or “humans that derive their supernatural powers from pop culture”?

Mike
Geekomancy started as a distraction. I gave myself a break from writing another novel so I could noodle with this idea I had about geek magic. I set aside the novel I’d been working on and let myself explore this new idea over Thanksgiving weekend. The genesis of the magic of Geekomancycame from a confluence of many influences and inspirations, but largely from asking myself the question, “What would geek magic be?”—and then trying to figure out the answer.

Nevena: Geek magic is a unique concept. Do you see yourself reinventing genre conventions?

Mike: When I started Geekomancy, I set out to write the kind of urban fantasy that I’d want to read. I feel like there is a thread in urban fantasy that takes the same creature types (e.g., Vampires, Wereshifters, Demons, Witches, Fae, etc.) and just re-cycles them with minimal changes. I wanted to do something different. The world of Geekomancy has vampires, werewolves and demons, but I filtered each creature type through the whacky lens of the world. So I ended up with vampires nearly extinct because they’d been lashed to the popular consciousness dominated by Twilight, werewolves that are actually humans in rubber werewolf suits, and a demon called the Thrice-Retconned Duke of Pwn.

It may not count as breaking a convention, but Geekomancy was always intended to be a comedy as much as an urban fantasy. There are other great comedic urban fantasy series (e.g.,The Dresden Files, InCryptid, The Iron Druid Chronicles), but I don’t see it as the dominant thread in urban fantasy. Many have comedy in them, but far fewer are as much comedy as they are urban fantasy.

Nevena: Are there any clichés or genre conventions in fantasy you’d like to see disappear?

Mike: No, because I keep seeing writers take something familiar and make it fresh again. I would like to challenge fantasy writers (myself included!): don’t always settle for the established trope as is. It can be tricky to find that balance—in drawing enough on what’s come before to invite audiences in through the familiar, but then delivering something that’s distinct and new enough to be worth the reader’s time. I used familiar cultural properties inGeekomancy, but I tried to put them together in a different way.

Nevena: I can see that, especially with how you’ve woven your unique sense of humor throughout the book. What’s your secret to crafting a great voice?

Mike: Thanks! I access voice through the same way I step into a character when I’m playing RPGs or acting. I learn enough about the character that I can build a worldview filter that lets me see and analyze the world through that character’s perspective. When I’ve got a clear sense of a character’s voice, it’s much easier for me to tear through the word count. For me, a well-realized voice makes for a well-realized character, and then the character can drive the story.

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Nevena: Now walk us through the book’s path to publication. What was the most challenging part about writing and publishing it?

Mike: I started writing Geekomancy in November 2010, and continued through the summer of 2011. I took a break in the summer to do a revise-and-resubmit for an agent on a previous project, then went back toGeekomancy and wrote until I finished the rough draft in late 2011. I submitted the barely-revised rough draft to a novel contest in an online writers’ group I’m in (Codex Writers), and decided to throw a sample up on Book Country as well, as a way to share my revision process online and get some extra feedback.

In January 2012, I got an email from Adam Wilson at Pocket/Gallery, who had read the partial on Book Country and asked for the full manuscript. After a good bout of Kermit flailing, I wrote back and sent the manuscript, and about a week later, I had an offer.

The most challenging part was the first draft itself. I was having a huge amount of fun writing the novel, but along the way, I had doubts—what if I was writing too obscure, too insular? Was I writing a novel only I and fifty of my friends would enjoy? I made some edits to make the book more accessible, but I think it remains a book that will best connect with particular types of readers.

I think all books have “ideal readers” who are positioned to best connect with a work. Books can connect with many other people, but the ideal readers are probably the people who will most love the work. I inadvertently gave myself the advantage of knowing quite specifically who the ideal readers for Geekomancy were—they were the people who had grown up loving many of the same things I did, who could see themselves in Ree Reyes and her friends. What started as a fear has turned out to be the work’s great strength for the ideal readers.

Nevena: I bet the concept of an ideal reader helps a lot during the writing process. What was the process of working with your editor?

MikeGeekomancy is largely the same novel it was as of the first draft. Adam helped me take the things I was trying to do and do them better, more evocatively. He also helped me foreground the magic so that it could connect with readers better and invoke the fannish joy that is intrinsic (for me) to geekdom.

I love having an editor. I’ve been a collaborative storyteller for most of my life, playing tabletop and live-action role-playing games. It’s great to have a partner who is both a skilled reader who helps me focus and clarify my work as well as a champion for the book in the industry. Adam coordinated the publishing machine that took Geekomancy from a word document on my hard drive to a completed commercial novel ready to connect with readers.

Nevena: Sounds like Adam is awesome! 🙂 How has your life changed since Geekomancy?

Mike: Life since selling the novel has been a whirlwind. Mostly, the difference has been one of intensity. Before, I was working hard on writing, but knowing that there are readers waiting for more did a great job of helping me put that extra bit of effort in every day.

Another huge change is that I now have novels out in the world, and with that come readers, reviews, and life in the public eye. Every time I see a tweet or a review, it reminds me that the writing career that I’ve wanted for so long is happening, right now. The dream has come true, but it’s a work in progress. The first deal isn’t happily ever after, not by a long shot. But I’m in the game.

Nevena: I’m really happy for you, Mike.

Geekomancy is now an audio book. Listen to a sample here. Follow Michael R. Underwood on Twitter at @MikeRUnderwood and visit his blog. He’s represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency.

Tune in tomorrow for Part Two of our interview with Mike, in which he talks about his new book, Celebromancy, coming out on July 15th, and being part of Book Country.

* Cover art by Trish Cramblet, Design by Min Choi

 

 

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Meet Writer Jamie Wyman

Posted by February 25th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

jamie_wyman_author_sm1“I love that moment when lightning strikes and an idea just gels into perfection.” –Jamie Wyman

Jamie Wyman is a fantasy and horror writer from Phoenix who’s been with Book Country since the very beginning. Two weeks ago, she broke the news that her debut urban fantasy Technical Difficulties, which she workshopped on the site, was picked up by Entangled Publishing. We got in touch with Jamie to congratulate her and find out how she’s been doing since the announcement. (I highly recommend Jamie’s post about the book deal to all aspiring authors; it’s both heart-warming and informative.)

Jamie is known by many names. Here, she asked we call her “The Omnipotent Despot to All Things Peachy.”

Nevena: Congratulations on the acquisition, Jamie! What has your life been like since the big news became public?

Jamie: Thanks! Life has been mostly normal but with a lot more squeeing. There have been a few surreal moments, including my first piece of “fan mail.” Another editor who read the book on submission didn’t get it to her acquisitions board in time, but she emailed me to let me know how much she enjoyed the book. That made my morning! And I’ve been talking with publicists. Seriously? I have publicists. Totally surreal.

Nevena: It does sound surreal. Congrats again. Now, tell us more aboutTechnical Difficulties. What transformations has it gone through since the first draft? Did you have to kill any “darlings”?

JamieTechnical Difficulties is an urban fantasy following Catherine Sharp, an IT professional with a personal debt to the Greek Goddess of Discord, Eris. When Cat discovers that her soul is a chip in Eris’s poker game, she has to turn the tables on four trickster gods who are vying for her soul.

There have been more than ten revision passes on it at this point, eight of which I did before querying agents. The opening scene and the structure at the end are the only major changes from the rough draft, and those were based on feedback from my agent—the stellar Jennie Goloboy at Red Sofa Literary agency. She and my beta readers gave me spectacular critiques.

And yes, I had to kill darlings, but the book is better this way.

Nevena: What do you wish you’d been told about getting acquired and working with an editor?

Jamie: “No, seriously, Jamie. When I say you need patience, I’m talking epic amounts.” Patience does not come naturally to me. The past four years of working toward publication have helped with that, but sometimes it’s still not enough.

Nevena: Well, your efforts have paid off! What draws you to the urban fantasy genre? What cliché would you most like to see erased from it?

Jamie: If fantasy is all about escapism, urban fantasy is a staycation. It takes these old fairy tales and plunks them down into the middle of reality. This leads to all sorts of questions. How do wizards interact with technology? What happens when a satyr lands in Las Vegas with a trickster god? It’s such a fertile playground!

As to clichés, I think the one that bothers me the most is the “rape as initiation” trope. Male leads jump through all sorts of hoops to earn their stripes in the supernatural world, but it seems that women are—more often than not—tested with rape.  It’s ubiquitous and most times not integral to the plot.

Nevena: This is one cliché I’d like to see banished from the genre as well! Tell me, when did you start writing?

Jamie: I’ve been telling stories since I was in single digits. My grandma used to record me telling them. Later I filled notebooks with short stories, scripts, poetry…a lot of them terrible. I didn’t write my first novel, though, until 2008. It was crap. I got better, though.

Nevena: What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

Jamie: I love that moment when lightning strikes and an idea just gels into perfection. Sometimes this comes in the brainstorming/plotting/pre-visualization part. Sometimes during drafting. Other times editing. Usually it’s in the shower.

Nevena: Why did you join Book Country? How has it helped you grow as a writer?

Jamie: I needed someone to look at my work with a craft perspective. When Colleen put out the call for betas when Book Country launched, I couldn’t volunteer fast enough.

Book Country helped me learn to trust my voice and my instincts. Many times the comments on the site would confirm what I thought was wrong (or right) with a piece. While it helped me develop a thicker skin, it also taught me how to take a compliment. Seriously, you don’t think about that, but I’m a very self-deprecating person. That’s what my whole sense of humor is based on. So when I started getting positive feedback, I had to learn to accept it rather than bat it away with the negative.

Nevena: Sounds awesome. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Jamie: What writer Neil Gaiman said once on an episode of Arthur: “Don’t judge your story; you’ve just started writing it. Trust your story. Tell it because you’re the only one who can.”

Nevena: What’s next? When will your novel “hit the shelves”?

JamieTechnical Difficulties will hit a digital device near you. (It’s early stages, so the release date hasn’t been set yet.) I’ve also just learned that one of my short stories will be appearing in an anthology later this year. But I can’t give details about that project yet. Stay tuned!

Nevena: So secretive! Get us the details when you are at liberty to say more. Is there anything else you want the community to know about you?

Jamie: I’m still not sure what the hell I’m doing. I make this up as I go along.

Connect with Jamie on Book Country, and catch up with news about her upcoming novel at her blog. Follow her on Twitter @beegirlblue

Image © Eric Fiallos

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Countdown to Kerry Schafer’s BETWEEN

Posted by January 18th, 2013

Join us to celebrate Book Country betafish and Penguin author Kerry Schafer and the release of her first book!

kerry_and_betweenBack in January of 2012, we announced the spectacular news that Book Country member and original beta user Kerry Schafer had been offered a two-book deal with Penguin’s science fiction and fantasy imprint Ace. Kerry’s debut novel, the urban fantasy BETWEEN, was workshopped on Book Country, where it captured the attention of Berkley editorial director Susan Allison. To get the full scoop about Kerry’s path to publication, click here for the USA Today story.

Now, finally, the book hits the shelves in only 11 days—on January 29th!

My colleague Colleen and I got our own copies of BETWEEN in the mail yesterday (and yes, we did do a happy dance), and today we wanted to take a moment to celebrate Kerry’s success and her book’s release.

CONGRATULATIONS, KERRY!

We’ll be hosting a Twitter chat with Kerry soon to talk about her book and her unusual pathway to publication, and we’ll be giving away copies to five lucky readers!  Follow our announcements on Twitter @BookCountry for more details.

UPDATE: The Twitter chat will be on Tuesday, February 5 at 9 PM EST. Join us!

BETWEEN tells the story of the intrepid ER doctor-turned-dreamshifter Vivian Maylor. Shuttled into a world between dream and reality, she has to guard the doorways separating the two. If she fails, all hell will break loose and magical creatures–deadly dragons–will spill into the physical world. (And I think it’s only fitting that there is a random penguin following Vivian from one reality to the other.)

If haunting, well-written prose and a smart, strong female lead are your cup of tea, then you’ll love BETWEEN.

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Vivian Maylor can’t sleep. Maybe it’s because she just broke up with her boyfriend and moved to a new town, or it could be the stress of her new job at the hospital. But perhaps it’s because her dreams have started to bleed through into her waking hours.

All of her life Vivian has rejected her mother’s insane ramblings about Dreamworlds for concrete science and fact, until an emergency room patient ranting about dragons spontaneously combusts before her eyes—forcing Viv to consider the idea that her visions of mythical beasts might be real.

And when a chance encounter leads her to a man she knows only from her dreams, Vivian finds herself falling into a world that seems strange and familiar all at once—a world where the line between dream and reality is hard to determine, and hard to control…

You can keep up with Kerry and her progress with the second in the Books of the Between, WAKEWORLD, at her website: http://www.kerryschafer.com. Kerry Schafer is represented by Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency.

Photo courtesy of the author

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Meet Writer Kerry Schafer

Posted by January 24th, 2012

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

kerry_schafer_for_webWho exactly is Kerry Schafer? The new Penguin author and “old” Book Country member let’s us get to know the real Kerry.

There’s been a lot of buzz in the industrythe past couple of weeks about our very own Book Country member Kerry Schaferbeing offered (and accepting!) a two-book deal from Ace Books. But while it’s a wonderful, amazing success (both for Kerry and for Book Country, where she was discovered!), I want to know more about KERRY!

There are articles swimming around the internet about the book deal, how it happened, what the book’s about, etc. but no one has taken the time just yet to really talk to the woman behind the words about life, writing, reading–the fun non-businessy stuff!

Naturally, that means I’m going to.

That said, please welcome Kerry Schafer, an original Book Country “betafish” from northeastern Washington State, to our Book Country Member Spotlight!

DP: Let’s start from the beginning: How and why did you start writing?

KS: I grew up loving books. My mom read to me from the time I was a toddler, and I had my favorite books memorized and would insist on “reading” them to people long before I could read. I’m sure it all started there, although when I started writing it wasn’t stories – mostly poetry for years.

DP: The two books you have posted on the site, DEAD BEFORE DYING(paranormal mystery) and BETWEEN(urban fantasy) are very different in tone and genre. What appeals to you about each of these projects? What similarities do you see in the two, if any?

KS: Both books started with a concept that captured my interest. For BETWEEN, the whole idea of alternate realities was the trigger that led to developing the worlds in the book. And DEAD BEFORE DYING started with a Twitter joke about a geriatric vampire. Somebody dared me to write it, and I wrote the original first chapter just for fun and then got hooked.

Both books share an element of the strange and bizarre showing up in the real world, and this is my favorite place to write. Maybe because things are regularly happening in my job that make me and my co-workers look at each other and say, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

DP: Working in the field of mental health, you must get a great deal of insight into the human condition and motivation. How do you use your professional experience when crafting your characters?

KS: One of my favorite ways to get a grip on a new character is to find a defining life event for them. We all have these moments, the things that change everything – a death, a tragedy, a humiliation. That one event tends to color everything else about how your see your own life story. So how the character reacts to that event goes a long way to defining who they are as a human being. It’s also very helpful to have talked with folks who are dealing with things like PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. – if I want to write something like that into a story I can make it accurate and real.

DP: Every writer struggles with at least one aspect of his or her work. What has been the hardest obstacle for you personally? How did you (or are you trying to) overcome it?

KS: For me, the biggest thing is plot. I like to pants novels. There is a certain wildness and thrill of discovery in that. In fact, most of the rough drafts of novels I’ve done – including BETWEEN and DEAD BEFORE DYING – were written during Nanowrimo.  My plotting consisted of pulling an old vinyl album off the shelf, closing my eyes, pointing to a song, and using that as a chapter title. Not the best way to construct a tight and coherent plot, although it was a lot of fun. So I’ve revised repeatedly and adopted some methods of plotting that work for me. Last year I went to a James Scott Bell seminar, which was amazing and really helped me. I also use his book REVISION AND SELF EDITING, which includes some great advice on plot and structure.

DP: Now that you have an agent and a book deal (ok, I’m going to ask ONE book deal related question), you’ve begun interacting on a deeper level with such publishing professionals. What has surprised you the most about the experience? Or is it pretty much what you expected?

KS: Well, as an “aspiring writer” I always felt a little bit like I was standing outside the locked door to the inner sanctum. Inside, all of the agents and editors and other publishing people were having a party from which I was excluded. And then overnight I suddenly had email addresses and phone numbers for a number of these people, who were actually just working very hard at their jobs and not partying at all. I always knew they were just human beings like the rest of us, but it’s nice to have this confirmed. It’s been really fun to see what goes on behind the scenes before an announcement of a deal, or a publicity release.

DP: You don’t have any favorite books or writers listed in your profile–*gasp!*–why not? Have there been any particular works that have impacted you as a writer, or that you read again and again?

KS: Um, yeah. I’ve never been much for “favorites.” I read and love books widely across a lot of genres. I suppose if I was listing the books that have impacted me the most deeply, I’d have to say The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, C.S. Lewis’ “Narnia” books, Madeleine L’Engle’s “Wrinkle in Time” trilogy. These are all well-worn books I have on my shelf. Also LITTLE WOMEN, which I half memorized as a teenager, and the “Anne of Green Gables” and “Emily of New Moon” books by Lucy Maude Montgomery. Guy Gavriel Kay’s “Fionovar Tapestry” trilogy,  and Stephen R. R. Donaldson’s MIRROR OF HER DREAMS and A MAN RIDES THROUGH probably also have influenced my own writing a lot. And then there’s Robertson Davies, Martha Grimes, Jonathan Kellerman, Elizabeth Peters… you see my problem with the favorites thing.

DP: You have teenage kids, a busy, often on-call career, two blogs, and you write regularly. How do you make time for it all? Do you have a specific writing schedule you stick to, etc.?

KS: That is the million dollar question, and one I’m always finding new answers for. Since the book deal came through I’m looking at all of my commitments and shuffling everything around, trying to figure out how to make even more time for writing. I’ve been working on a self study RN refresher course and haven’t had time to look at it in the last couple of weeks. Basically, I just don’t have much of a life outside of the things mentioned. I watch very little TV, I don’t go out much. I spend time on Twitter, but I never see it as time wasted – I’ve learned so much there and met so many amazing and wonderful people. Making a schedule is hard because my work schedule is so erratic – I seldom have the same days off two weeks in a row, and I may or may not have writing time when I’m working call shifts. I try to make schedules when I’m feeling overwhelmed but I’m not so good at following them. Mostly I just slog away at writing whenever I have time. Lately I’ve been trying to get 500 words in before I go to work in the morning. If I can get away for lunch, I might manage another 500 then. More at night if I can stay awake. And on my days off I try to make up the difference.

DP: I hear that you’re from Canada (and share my love of hockey, naturally!). Are there any Canadian authors you love that us U.S.-born (or other-born!) folk might not know? Expand our horizons!

KS: Hmmm. I think everybody knows Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje and Charles DeLint. Guy Gavriel Kay seems to be lesser known here than in Canada – he’s an amazing fantasy writer. Margaret Laurence wrote some pretty cool literary type stuff. Oh, I know – Robertson Davies. I love his books and most people here don’t seem to know about him. Also, one of my favorite poets was a Canadian – Earl Birney.

DP: You call yourself a “denizen of alternate realities.” What do you mean by that exactly?

KS: You had to ask. I really do often feel that I’ve wandered into strange little bubbles of reality. Once you start watching for the absurd, you find it everywhere. Things like a Craigslist.org item from somebody in the Midwest looking for a “friendly female giraffe” to live in their barn. You meet three people in the same week with a name like Aberforth when you’ve never met a person with that name in your life before. Something you KNOW was true yesterday suddenly isn’t and nobody else seems to know what you’re talking about when you question this. I’m fascinated by these things, and it seems entirely natural to take it one step further in my writing and create intersections between worlds.

DP: As always, for our final question, let’s talk about something other than writing. We’d love to hear a random fun fact about you!

KS: I used to play the tuba in band. It’s a wonderful instrument, often slighted. Also difficult to manage when walking up stairs onto a stage while wearing a floor-length skirt.

Photo courtesy of Kerry Schafer

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