Pay It Forward Interview : Chelsea Campbell

For my last two days of Paying it Forward, I’ll be interviewing authors who have books coming out this spring. While I feel like this week is going so fast, I’m sure Chelsea and Heidi are counting down the interminable minutes until their release days! Hopefully you’ve taken some time this week to visit some of the other writers’ blogs (links below), and let yourself be inspired and encouraged by their publication journeys. There are more than 70(!) writers participating, so clear some time for blog-reading.

Chelsea Campbell’s book, The Rise of Renegade X, releases on May 11th. While I haven’t been lucky enough to read it yet, I’ve been assured by multiple, taunting ARC-readers that I will adore it. (meanies!) After reading about Chelsea’s determined and bumpy publication journey, I’m sure you’ll be joining me in line on 5/11 to pick up your own copy.

1. Tell us about your book.

The Rise of Renegade X is about a teen supervillain whose plans to go to a prestigious supervillain school are ruined when he discovers his long lost dad is a superhero, of the good-deed doing, rescuing kittens out of trees type. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, then he has to go live with him for a while and meet his superhero half siblings and prove that, despite his genes, he’s 100% villain, or else he’ll have to stay with his superhero fam for the rest of his life (or until he turns 18, whichever comes first).

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication?

I wrote Renegade X in a month, but getting it published was a long, dark road that took about a year and a half. (Well, to find a publisher. When the book actually comes out in May, it’ll have been nearly three years since I wrote it.) It was clearly the best book I’d ever written, and one of my writing friends was convinced it would get snapped up right away. I SO wanted that to happen, but I’d sent out so many books over the years and always been disappointed that, even though this felt like The One (for reals this time), I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

Well, I sent it out to agents, including one who still had the last book I’d written and hadn’t rejected me yet (even if it had been 6 months -__-). My query letter got over twice as many requests for material than any of my others had, but still everyone said no. Then finally one day, I status queried the agent who now had two of my books and hadn’t responded, and she liked it! She liked it better than the first book I’d sent her, which she’d actually read! (And yes, you read that right, I’m not exaggerating, she *liked* it. Not loved.)

So anyway, I signed with her and waited on submissions. We got some responses right away, all rejections. Months went by, and we got a few more rejections. I sent her another book, and after a few more months, she sent that out. When I tried to find out which editors still had Renegade X, she just said “it’s still out there.” O__o By this point, I was starting to have misgivings, but put them aside because I wanted this so badly. Then several more months went by, no word from her at all, and then I queried her on where she’d sent my books, who had the old one, who had the new one. No response. A week later, I tried again. No response. The next week, I tried calling. Twice. But no answer, and no response to the message I left. No matter how much I wanted and agent, and no matter how many long years it had taken me to get this one, I knew that if she wasn’t sending out my books, then she was just getting in my way, because it meant I couldn’t send them out either. So I did something that wasn’t easy and fired her. (She was relieved.)

It turned out she’d only sent the new book to one publisher, and she sent me a slightly inaccurate list of pubs who had rejected Renegade X or who had just never responded after having it for months. (???) Well, at least I had a list, but Renegade X was used goods. It had been shopped around by an agent who hadn’t sold it, and that’s the kiss of death for hopeful manuscripts. At this point, everything in my life was going wrong and especially this. I’d wanted to be published so bad I could taste it for a decade and a half. (I started young, but I was serious about it, if not naive and delusional.) I wasn’t writing anything new, and my energy for the struggle was running out. Things were at their darkest, and I was ready to give up.

But there were two books that really influenced me. One was Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss, where he says not to be in the Waiting Place (I was definitely there) and the other was It’s Not Easy Being Green, a collection of quotes and anecdotes about Jim Henson. One of the anecdotes was about how he wanted to work at a TV station, but they turned him down. He saw an ad on the wall saying they were looking for puppeteers, though, so he went home, made some puppets, and came back. They hired him, and, well, you can see how puppets worked out for him. The moral of the story was, don’t take no for an answer. So that’s what I decided to do.

But I felt like a failure, and I was ready to give up. I’d come so far, worked so hard over the years, and I’d gotten so close to my goal–only to completely miss it. The uphill climb was too steep, and I wasn’t going to make it. But before I threw in the towel, I made one last effort. I sent The Rise of Renegade X to a small publisher, not really expecting anything to happen.

And then, a month later, they wanted to talk to me. About my book. The editor was interested, but he wanted revisions. I took his notes and added another 20k to the book in about a week, sent it back, and waited. A few weeks later, I had an offer. Someone actually wanted to publish my book!

My writing friends told me I needed an agent. I’d had an agent, and that hadn’t worked out so well, so I wasn’t eager to get another one. Plus, getting an agent was hard. I’d struggled for years, and all I could get was an agent who only *liked* my books and didn’t talk to me. Why go through all that again? But my friends insisted I both needed an agent–a good one–and that, with a pub offer in hand, I could actually get one.

I got some recommendations and ended up contacting Holly Root at the Waxman Agency. She loved my concept. (Loved!) And she wanted to read the book. Well, a few days later, we talked on the phone for longer than I’d ever spoken to the old agent. (Not kidding.) She got my books. She loved Renegade X. We laughed, we talked, and overall just clicked. It was a dream-come-true moment, and I signed with her, and she’s been awesome ever since.

Anyhow, I gave her a list of the editors who had rejected Renegade X, and she felt it hadn’t been properly shopped, and before accepting the offer I had on the table, we sent the book out to a few more pubs. That’s when I got the offer from Egmont. They loved the book and wanted to publish it! I accepted their offer almost exactly 18 months after finishing the book. It was a long journey, and there were a lot of dark moments, but it all worked out in the end.

3. Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn’t you?

Yes! Lots of times. I think every aspiring writer goes through cycles of “I’m just going to quit writing,” but then you don’t really. You just want to test what it would feel like, to see if you could quit and still live with yourself, but of course you can’t. I had a lot of moments like that. But then there was the time close to the end of my journey where I really did want to quit. I was out of hope and couldn’t make myself care about writing anymore. But as you can see from my above answer, everything suddenly turned around at the last minute and all worked out, just when I thought it was never going to be.

4. I wouldn’t have survived querying/revisions/submissions without _________________.

My crit group/writing friends. They always believed in me, even when I didn’t.

Now that you’ve enjoyed Chelsea’s interview, click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Kim Harrington, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, and Elana Johnson.

Pay it Forward Interview: Trish Doller

At noon today, we’ll be half way through Pay it Forward interview week — it’s going so fast! Hopefully you’ve taken some time to visit some of the other writers’ blogs (links below), and let yourself be inspired and encouraged by their publication journeys. There are more than 70(!) writers participating, so clear some time for blog-reading.

Today I’m lucky enough to be interviewing the lovely Trish Doller. I found her story of perseverance and pot holes to be courageous and motivational, and I’m sure you will, too.

1. Tell us about your book.

My first book is called MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY, a YA romantic comedy about a spoiled, rich girl who gets sent on a cross-country teen bus tour after failing her U.S. History final. She misses the bus in New York City, sending her on an even bigger adventure. It’s been on submission to publishers since July 2009, but has yet to find a home. In the meantime, I’ve been working on my next book, which couldn’t be further from MY WAY. It’s a boy-centric, military-themed YA about a young Marine returning from a deployment to Afghanistan. The tentative title is THE NEW NORMAL.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication (finding an agent)?

My road to publication has been filled with potholes–and orange construction barrels. I finished MY WAY in September 2007 and started querying agents in early October. I was fortunate in that I found my agent, Kate Schafer Testerman, by Thanksgiving 2007. She was in the process of starting KT Literary, so we waited to go out on submission until February 2008. Within a few weeks we sold the book, but my editor lost her job in budget cuts and my deal died in the pipeline. I made some revisions and we went back out on submission in July 2009, but we haven’t seen the same success we did the first time around.

3. Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn’t you?

I feel like giving up all. the. time. But we came close enough with MY WAY that I believe my time is coming. As much as I love my first book, my second just might be the book of my heart. So I can’t give up.

4. I wouldn’t have survived querying/revisions/submissions without _________________.

I wouldn’t have survived querying/revisions/submissions without my agent, who talks me down whenever I’m feeling frustrated, and Suzanne Young, who is my biggest cheerleader. Oh, and Godiva raspberry-filled chocolate.

Now that you’ve enjoyed Trish’s interview, click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Kim Harrington, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, and Elana Johnson.

Pay It Forward Interview: Susan Adrian

Hello on day 2 of Pay it Forward interview week! Hopefully you’ve taken some time to visit some of the other writers’ blogs (links below), and let yourself be inspired and encouraged by their publication journeys. There are more than 70(!) writers participating, so clear some time for blog-reading.

And *cough* MY *cough* interview is going up today at: http://leahclifford.livejournal.com/ . Go check it out. There’s a Mia- haiku involved…

Susan Adrian aka the inspiration behind all those Twitter “tiara days” is a champion cheerleader and beacon of positivity. With all the good karma she’s spread, she’s due for heaps in return. Watch out for her name in the upcoming years, you’ll be seeing it.

1. Tell us about your book.

SALVAGED is the book I’m working on now, and I’m SO excited about it. Here’s the basic blurb (I always do one of these while I’m writing the first draft):

Sixteen-year-old Annika (Annie) has never used a computer or a cell phone. She’s never watched TV, slept in a real bed, or kissed anyone but Xander. Until now.

Annie’s always lived in The Community, an ultra-environmental commune tucked in the canyons of San Diego, led by her idealistic, maybe-crackpot dad. What they can’t grow or raise they salvage from the wasteful people of “the wild”. You’d be amazed what you can find back of a restaurant. But Xander runs away with Annie’s sister Zilla, and Dad sends her to drag them back.

To find them Annie has to venture into the wild by herself, into an alien culture of excess. When she crashes a company picnic she meets Bryan, a cute, rich boy who thinks she’s homeless. She lets him think it, lets him help. All she needs is a couple days to get Zilla and Xander.

But once she finds them, Annie’s not so sure she wants to return, much less force her happy-go-lucky, impulsive sister back under the strict Community rules. The wild is much more complex and captivating than she imagined. And there’s Bryan, who’s also just a tiny bit captivating. But if she doesn’t bring them home soon, Dad will come after them himself. And the last time he brought a runaway home…that’s the one thing Annie won’t let herself think about.

Can Annie be salvaged? Does she want to be?

It’s a real challenge to get the point-of-view right–a girl who has none of the cultural knowledge most teenagers are drenched in. Of course that challenge is what makes it fun.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication (finding an agent)?

Like most other writers, my road has been–and continues to be–decidedly unsmooth. My first book was a historical, set in Chaucer’s England, with a 16-year-old protagonist (always the YA!). I got some strong agent interest, but no takers. So I wrote a straight-up contemporary YA, a juicy mix of all my favorite stuff, all my passions. I could tell the difference, between writing what I thought I should write and what I *loved*. Fortunately my agent, the fabulous and sharkly Janet Reid, loved it too. Even though that book didn’t sell right out of the box the way we wanted it to, I’m SO glad I wrote it, and that it led me to Janet.

3. Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn’t you?

Of course! I think every writer has those crippling moments where the possibility enters your mind–where the rejections and the doubt monsters get so loud and hurtful you consider just Not Doing It Anymore. You can’t face the battery of rejection that is this business without that feeling. The trick is to let yourself feel that way…for about 10 minutes. Then go talk to some of your writer friends and get support. Let their encouragement soak in. And then realize, if you’re meant to be doing this–if you’ve got writing in you–you’ll keep doing it anyway. It’ll pop out somewhere. You don’t HAVE to keep trying to get published, but I have a feeling you probably will. Just like I will. I want others, especially teens, to read and enjoy the stories I have to tell.

4. I wouldn’t have survived querying/revisions/submissions without ___?

My writer friends. They are there for me every single day. I don’t see how I could do any of this without them.

Now that you’ve enjoyed Suze’s interview, click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Kim Harrington, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, and Elana Johnson.

Pay it Forward Interviews: Linda Grimes

Welcome to Pay it Forward interview week! Here and all over the writer blogs (links below), you’ll be drenched in inspiration and encouragement from others’ stories about their publication journeys. There are more than 70(!) writers participating, so clear some time for blog-reading.

Linda Grimes is like my literary, wise, big sister – she signed with her agent about a month before I signed with mine, so before I do anything I stop and ask myself “What would Linda do?” And then I double-check by asking her, too. She’s brilliant, lovely and has wicked wit. Enjoy!

1. Tell us about your book.

IN A FIX is a comically sexy…no, sexily comical…no, wait — oh, all right, it’s a bawdy paranormal mystery centered around Ciel Halligan, a do-gooder who just wants to help people, and maybe make a small profit doing it. (A girl’s gotta eat.) From a family of “aura adaptors” — human chameleons who can project the appearance of anyone they touch — Ciel is perfectly suited to step into her clients’ lives and fix their problems for them. As them. Too bad she’s not quite as adept at fixing her own.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication (finding an agent)?

I’m at the agented-but-still-unsold phase. If you’re reading this, you’re doing exactly what I did–engaging in the online writing community. The information available at the click of a mouse is amazing. Sites like agentquery.com, as well as the blogs of individual authors, agents, and editors, are incredible resources. Read them!

IN A FIX is actually the book I wrote to keep myself busy while giving my first novel–the one I cut my teeth on–a little distance. The plan was to play around with something light and funny as a kind of writer-ly palate cleanser before I dove into revisions on the first book. Turned out I liked my diversion better, so I decided what the heck, did my online research, and sent out a few queries.

Initially, I got some positive feedback, but mostly of the “I like this, but it’s not quite for me” sort. Kept sending out more queries, a few at a time, trying to gauge the response and tinker accordingly. I didn’t want to use the scatter-shot method of mass querying, because frankly I thought it would confuse me. So I researched every agent I approached, via both the internet and by peppering my writing buddies — the ones a little farther down the road to publication — with annoying questions. I got to know the agents as well as I could without stalking them, just to reassure myself ahead of time I would be happy to have them if they decided to offer.

Waiting for replies from only a few agents at a time can take a while, but I was determined not to find myself in the position of hearing back from someone and wondering, “Huh? Who’s that?”

In the end, it was Twitter that came through for me. I started following Michelle Wolfson, Agent Extraordinaire (@WolfsonLiterary). She was so funny I knew I had to try for her. Sent her a query and got a response back right away (apparently Michelle appreciates “bawdy”). After reading my partial, she asked for an exclusive while she read my full. Since some other agents were already reading the full too, I couldn’t give it to her. But Michelle was the one who blazed through it — that made me feel wonderful, I have to tell you — and DM-ed me on Twitter that she’d like to call me. (And to think, I almost didn’t start a Twitter account because I thought it would take too much time away from my writing.)

I was over the moon. Deep down, I’d already decided, after exchanging emails with Michelle as she read my full, that she was the one. She “got” my story, and asked intelligent questions about it. When she called, I was even more certain–she was every bit as funny on the phone as she is on Twitter. But what I really appreciated was, she didn’t blow sunshine up my…um, nether region. She didn’t make extravagant promises of instant publication. She just explained how we would work together to get my story out there, and I liked the sound of what she told me.

Right now, we’re in the revision process, trying to apply enough spit and polish to the manuscript to convince editors it’s worth publishing. We’ll start submitting soon, and then the waiting will begin again. (Has anyone mentioned how much waiting is involved with writing? This is why it’s good to have more than one project going at a time. Writing something new beats the heck out of twiddling your thumbs.)

3. Was there ever a time you felt like giving up?

Honestly? Not really. Oh, there’ve been low moments, like the time I got a rejection from an agent I hadn’t even queried. The agent I had queried liked my book, but it wasn’t… quite … for her. Still, she thought it had enough commercial appeal to show to the head of her agency, who apparently also saw the commercial appeal, but sadly wasn’t taking any more clients at that time. (At least, that’s what the original agent told me. Maybe she thought it sounded better than “The other agent thought it sucked, too.”)

I call that one my “bonus rejection.”

Well, I figured if I could survive a two-for-one bonus rejection, no piddly little single rejection was ever going to deter me. And … well, I’m stubborn. Sure, rejections sting. But ultimately you realize they aren’t personal. You take whatever is helpful from them, ignore the rest, and keep on moving. The only way you can really lose is to stop trying.

4. I wouldn’t have survived querying/revisions/submissions without:

My fantastic group of fellow writers and crit partners, who’ve given me support at every step along the way. Thanks, guys! And, of course, chocolate. Oh, and the two-cherry Manhattans made for me by my wonderful husband, Bob, aka the theater god. They help too.

Now that you’ve enjoyed Linda’s interview, click here for more inspiration: Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Kim Harrington, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Suzette Saxton and Bethany Wiggins, and Elana Johnson.

Pay it Forward Interview Week

We’ve all had those Little Engine That Could moments, where we’re telling ourselves, “I think I can. I think I can,” even though the Doubt Monster is desperately trying to add an “n’t” to the end of that mantra.

This week, YA writer blogs across the net are being sprayed with Doubt Monster repellant in the form of the Pay It Forward Interviews. The brain child of Elana Johnson and Lisa and Laura Roecker this blog interview chain/web focuses on stories of writers at different places on the publication path: from the newly agented to those anxiously counting down the days till their first novel releases.

On my blog, you’ll be able to hear stories of five wonderful writers:

3/29 Monday: Linda Grimes

3/30 Tuesday: Susan Adrian

3/31 Wednesday: Trish Doller

4/1 Thursday: Chelsea Campbell

4/2 Friday: Heidi Kling

I hope you stop by each day to see what these talented women had to say. I’m sure you’ll find their journeys as inspirational as I do.

And you can find my interview on the fabulous Leah Clifford’s blog on Tuesday – she made me write a synopsis in haiku form. I’m not sure I’ve forgiven her yet.

Wherever you are on your path to publication, I hope you find encouragement in all the interviews this week and apply the collective wisdom to your courageous journey.

Next time that Doubt Monster attacks, remember: patience and perseverance.

I think you can. I think you can.

Revisionland

Confession: I love revising. Love it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love drafting too – the suspense of becoming acquainted with new characters and the surprise of figuring out what they’ll say and how they’ll react. ª

I get the whole Girl Scouts’ song “Make new friends…” but I’ve never had a problem with “but keep the old.”

Revisions *contented sigh* are like going home to my friends-since-elementary-school, sitting on a porch and drinking apple cider while we chat and chat.

It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. And it’s engaging. Uncovering new layers, ambitions, motivation. Tightening and interweaving. Discovering threads of nuance I’d already included that need to be enhanced.

Give me colored pens, a large bag of Revision Skittles, and a quiet place to work and I’ll stay happily sequestered until St. Matt or the puggles demand some attention or life intervenes. Emerging for bathroom breaks and refills of my mug and Revision Skittles, pausing for Inspiration Walks, Inspiration Workouts and Inspiration Bubble-baths, my mind is full of beloved characters and trouble spots in the manuscript.

And even when I’m away – 26 sixth graders demand a lot of my attention and energy for much of the week – there are scenes and scenarios bubbling away on the back burner of my brain.

So when I’m lacking on Twitter, slacking on my blog and being a delinquent about returning phone calls, don’t worry. I haven’t been kidnapped by pirates, gotten lost in the woods or come down with an incurable strain of porcine flu.

I’m just ensconced in my revision-cave, sugar-fortified, ink-stained fingers, scribbled-across pages and a smile.

Be back soon.

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