On the Trail with Author Gennifer Albin

YA author Gennifer Albin’s debut novel CREWEL comes out in October. It’s the first in a trilogy, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Incapable. Awkward. Artless.

That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: she wants to fail.

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to embroider the very fabric of life. But if controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and wove a moment at testing, and they’re coming for her—tonight.

Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her Dad’s stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back.

Beth: That gives me chills! Genn, before we discuss your book, tell us about this photo and our cyber hike.

Genn: It’s in Rocky Mountain National Park, on the East Inlet trail. It’s been a while though! I was just about to get married. By far my favorite trail is one that leads to a waterfall or lake, so most of the trails in RMNP fit the bill.  I was married in nearby Estes Park and my husband and I spent the next day taking in the park.  My parents are Coloradoans at heart and I spent every family vacation on trails in the Rocky Mountains. Looking at this picture, I realize I need to get back!

Beth: What a beautiful place to get married. Some of my best hikes have been in RMNP, too, including the time I almost ran smack into a bull elk.

With Crewel, you had agents knocking down your door. Then you landed a six-figure, three-book deal with publishing giants FSG/Macmillan. What the heck was that process like? How did you keep from leaping out of your skin?

Genn: First of all, I give total credit to my husband for keeping me sane.  I guess you could say he’s my muse and my therapist.

It was very much like a dream. It all started at the tail end of April and we were wrapping up the auction at the beginning of June.  I didn’t sleep a whole lot that month, but when I did there was a moment when I was waking up each morning in which I remembered what was going on.  Then there was a second of panic mingled with excitement.  It was very much like the waking moments of my wedding day or the day after I gave birth to my children.  My whole life was changing and it took a while to adjust.

Beth: I can’t even imagine internalizing those changes. Crewel hits the shelves this October, and it’s going to be a big, freaking deal. Besides working on the other books in the trilogy, how has your daily routine changed now that you’re on this major path to publication? How has it not?

Genn: I will be the first person to admit that life has changed and not changed in all the ways I did NOT expect.  Because I am writing a three book series, we opted to place our children in a wonderful Montessori school, where they actually do something besides paint the bathroom with nail polish while I try to get in a quick writing session.  I expected that I would write more – as in quantity – once I became a fulltime writer, but as life will have it, there are always edits or sick kids or emails or twitter conversations.  I’m learning to be better about scheduling my time, but I definitely find there are more demands on my time.  And the thing about publishing is that things often come up at the last minute.  But really it’s a mixed bag.  One day I will drink five or six cups of coffee and try to beat out a respectable word count at the desk and the next I’ll get an email about a blurb or a new foreign deal and then I bounce around the house, too excited to work.  Most days I just drink a lot of coffee and try to say no to the lure of twitter.

Beth: Oooh! Talk about the foreign deals. I don’t even know what I don’t know about that.

Genn: I’m very fortunate that Foundry, my agency, has excellent reach when it comes to foreign deals, so we only sold North American rights at auction. Foundry has co-agents in a lot of agencies around the world and works with some amazing scouts.  We also recently got an in-house foreign agent who is handling Foundry’s extensive children’s and YA list.

In terms of Crewel and foreign sales, some of the territories sold quickly and others were at auction for much longer.  In my personal experience, the foreign auctions just take a bit longer. It’s really a learning experience. Some territories prefer to buy one book at a time.  Others will offer for the whole series.  I’ve received some amazing marketing plans from some of my foreign publishers when they made offers.  I think the coolest thing of all is that I get copies of all the various foreign editions.  But on the flip side, there are all sorts of tax issues and forms, too.  Thank goodness Foundry guides me through it all.

Beth: Can you tell us which countries, or is it still under wraps? Speaking of under wraps, can you talk about the cover process? Are the authors involved? I love that you have a fan art contest on your blog for a mock cover design. When the official reveal will be?

Genn: We’ve sold Brazil, Great Britain, Germany, Poland, Russia, Spain and Turkey. As far as the cover goes, I’m fairly active with the Apocalypsies, and it seems like everyone has different experiences.  Personally, a few concepts were shown to me in October and I got to voice my thoughts.  In the end the decision was made by the big-wigs, and I think it’s a beautiful cover – and very different.  We should be revealing it any day, but I’m still waiting for the details.

Beth: How amazing will it be to see your book in different languages?! Especially Cyrillic. I hope you post those covers on your blog. Crewel was born during Nanowrimo — the nation-wide “write a novel in one month” program. How was that experience? Had you written a novel before? Tell us what kept you going during what must have been a crazy, intense month. Besides copious amounts of coffee…

Genn: I can’t wait to see them.  I’ve seen the UK cover, and I love it.  It’s interesting that it emphasizes similar elements as the U.S. but is completely different.

Nanowrimo was really about finishing for me.  I’d put pen to paper before and written a few chapters, but I’d never stuck with a book.  Nanowrimo taught me that I needed to just let myself write with abandon for the few hours I could scrape together during the week.  In the past, I’d tried to outline books and gotten bored.  With Nano I knew where I was going to start and where I hoped to wind up.  It taught me a lot, especially to shut up and write.  After Nano I knew I had a mess, but something about rewriting that 50k seemed much less daunting than starting at the beginning.  Basically I gave myself permission to write crap.  I wrote crap.  And then I revised.

Beth: What are some un-put-downable books you’ve read lately?

Genn: I’m really behind on my reading list, but two that I read straight through were The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, and Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer had this amazing creep factor.  It played on stories we’ve seen before but it was so original.  I was glad my husband was asleep next to me, but then I realized it was dark and I needed to pee when I finished it.  That’s a good book – one that makes you scared to tiptoe to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Cinder was just so fresh.  I sort of had it figured out in the first few chapters, but it didn’t matter. I liked the characters and the world. I can’t wait for the sequel Scarlet.

Beth: Lastly, what advice do you have for those of us in the trenches?

Genn: I hear a lot of people saying “don’t give up,” and you shouldn’t.  But I think learning to listen to your instincts is key too.  Perseverance is an admirable trait, but if you are not happy or fulfilled, who cares?  Take a chance. Put yourself first. Allow yourself to dream. And at the end of the day, listen to what your gut tells you. I was working on a manuscript before Crewel. I’d spent a month or two on it, but I was lost. When the inspiration for Crewel sparked, I knew I could persevere with the first idea or I could let it go.  In grad school, I told a friend I was finishing my PhD because I felt it was important to finish, and, bless her, she told me I was crazy.  She was right.  My heart wasn’t there.  It wasn’t what I wanted to do.  Letting go and listening to myself, allowed me to do what I really wanted. Don’t ignore that inner voice.  At the very least, write down what it says and make it a character in your next book.

Beth: I love it! It’s been such a blast getting a glimpse inside your writing life. I’m counting the days until I can feast my eyes on Crewel. Congratulations and thanks again!

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Happy Valentine’s Day to my Husband

Darrick and I have been married for ten years, and this year, Valentine’s Day consists of a romantic dinner with our wild children. After we wrestle the kids to sleep, we’ll probably throw on our flannel PJ’s and settle in for a rousing episode of Downton Abbey. Brew up some mint tea, and you’ve got yourself a party. You may think I’m cuckoo, but I swear, this is my idea of perfection.

Inspiration Martha Stewart...Ice Cream Sandwiches

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It’s not that we’re anti-Valentine’s Day. We exchange cards and make a big fuss over the kids. This morning, Sophie donned pink and red, and said, “I can’t wait to CELEBRATE!” We both get a kick out of experiencing days like these through their eyes, and even better, rifling through their candy when they get home from school.

I think we’ve gone out for Valentine’s Day only once or twice in our marriage, and we both broke out in commercial-induced hives. Don’t get me wrong . . . I’m all about the romance. I just don’t want my romance dictated by Hallmark. It’s like there’s too much pressure or something.

Romance is at its best when its organic and unexpected.

Like when Darrick brings me Starbucks, just because. Or the time, early in our marriage, when he signed me up for a writing course at CU. I’d always loved to write, but thought I needed more “life experience” before getting serious. That class was the gentle push I needed, and somehow, he knew that.

Hands down, his most romantic gesture happened just before we were engaged. While I was on a business trip, he flew from Denver to Montana, rented a car, and drove straight into the middle of nowhere to ask my parents for my hand in marriage. I still wish I could’ve seen the looks on my Mom and Dad’s faces when he showed up out of the blue that night. It was crazy and expensive and unnecessary, but sweet and old-fashioned and wildly romantic.

Darrick will be mortified I’m posting this, but tough berries. I figure that if he has to put up with my spastic moods, my murderous need for caffeine, and my weird mini-crushes on Marcus Mumford and Buster Keaton, the least I can do is profess my love for him from the cyber rooftops. And Valentine’s Day seems like the perfect time to do it. In an organic, non-commercial way, of course.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! How will you spend the day?

Ode to Mumford and Sons

Recaps of last night’s Grammy Awards are as plentiful as crumbs and dog hair under my couch. Sorry for the disgusting visual. As usual, inspiration for a blog post strikes at the very moment I’ve decided to clean the house. Anyway, this post isn’t a recap of last night’s performances. It’s about Mumford and Sons, the amazing folk-rock band from the UK. I kid you not, I’m still reeling from their performance at last year’s Grammy Awards. In 2011.

But back to 2012. Since Mumford and Sons’ “The Cave” was nominated for best song of the year and best record of the year, we tuned in last night, hoping to see my boys take the stage. But alas, Adele cleaned up. I’m not bitter. She deserves those awards . . . killer voice, dramatic surgery on her vocal cords, but that’s another post.

In between getting some wild children to bed and unpacking from a ski trip, I only caught snippets of the performances. Unfortunately, I missed the Whitney Houston tribute, but what I particularly missed was that feeling of being kicked in the teeth by a knockout performance. Like when Mumford and Sons performed “The Cave” at the 2011 Grammys. If you haven’t seen this clip, be prepared for awesomeness.

As if that performance wasn’t swoon-worthy enough, Mumford and Sons went on to perform with the Avett Brothers and Bob Dylan. For crying in the mashed potatoes. It was almost more than my poor heart could bear.

Mumford & Sons, seen during a liver performanc...

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Lead singer Marcus Mumford isn’t just a purveyor of folk-rock excellence; he has literary leanings, too. In an interview with the London Evening Standard, Mumford said that nearly half of the songs on their Grammy-nominated album “Sigh No More” were inspired by authors. Steinbeck, Shakespeare, and Homer, for starters. Are you feeling twitterpated yet?

But wait. There’s more.

In their early days, Mumford and Sons took part in a campaign to save London’s struggling indie bookstores. AND Marcus Mumford runs a book club on the band’s blog. AND one of his top recommendations is one of my all-time favorite books, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Le sigh.

Sadly, I missed their concert in Denver last year. It sold out in the blink of an eye, but I got smart and “liked” them on Facebook, so hopefully that won’t happen again. While Denver isn’t on their docket for the foreseeable future, they are performing at Loch Ness in Scotland in June. What could be better than Marcus Mumford and a chance at spotting Nessie? I’m off to pack my bagpipes.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

I’m a squeak away from finishing Ransom Riggs’ debut novel, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It’s my favorite kind of read. Richly drawn characters and setting, with a hefty dose of quirk and mystery. I can’t put the blasted thing down at night, and as a result, I’ve have had some whacked-out dreams.

Check out the book trailer. Brace yourself for goose bumps.

 

Tim Burton is slated to direct the movie version, and Riggs is working on a sequel. Exciting things to come for fans of Miss Peregrine!

On the Trail with Author Lydia Kang

Today we’re on the trail with YA author Lydia Kang. Her debut novel, The Fountain hits the shelves in 2013. Here’s the official blurb from Goodreads:

17 year-old Zelia has a fatal flaw, and it’s not being a lab geek or dressing like a small troll. If she forgets to breathe, she’ll die.

 Zelia has suffered from Ondine’s Curse since birth, a malady that makes every breath a conscious effort. Yet after she and her younger sister Dyl are orphaned, it’s not Zelia’s misfit status that causes trouble. It’s her sister. Dyl isn’t just pretty and sweet—she’s illegal.

 In the year 2150, DNA must be pure by law, and anyone with enhanced genes face death. Before an underground foster family can offer the sisters sanctuary, Dyl is abducted by people determined to profit from her trait, whether she’s alive, dismembered, or dead.

 Zelia’s only allies are the freak-show inhabitants of her new foster home. Along with the unexpected love of a very strange boy, she will need her flaws, their illicit traits, and every single breath to save the only family she has left.

BC: We just got two feet of snow, so it’s a good thing we’re hitting the trail in your neck of the woods. Tell us about one of your favorite trails.

LK: This a raised trail at the Fontanelle Forest Nature Center in Nebraska. It’s one of my favorite places to go with my family. So long as the mosquitoes aren’t too bloodthirsty, it’s pretty amazing. They also put up these gigantic sculptures as outdoor exhibits too. We’ve encountered dinosaurs in the trees and a twenty-foot tall praying mantis sculpture!

BC: It looks dreamy. I love the multiple paths – kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure trail. Lydia, HUGE congratulations on your book deal and upcoming release. Is The Fountain your first novel? Tell us about your journey to publication. We’d love to know the juicy details, like how you found your agent, what the submission process was like, and how long it took.

LK: The Fountain is technically my third book. I did write a forty-page outline for a book in between #2 and The Fountain, which was a huge lesson in plotting for me. I started querying in May of 2011 and had a great request rate on my query. A few agents were on the fence, and passed for one reason or another. So I kind of knew I was close. In August I got an offer from a lovely agent, informed the others who had my full, and that’s when I got an offer from Eric Myers. I ended up signing with him in September. Luckily, the manuscript didn’t need any revisions, so we had it copyedited and got a pre-empt offer from Dial Books (Penguin) in October. Wow. Did that really happen to me? Sometimes I’m still in shock about it!

BC: A rock star publisher + a pre-empt a month after signing an agent = amazing! Since The Fountain is on its merry way to bookstores next year, what’s happening right now? How does the cover creation happen? Does your publisher help with a marketing plan?

LK: Thank you! As for the cover and marketing and stuff, it’s still very early in the game, so…I wish I could tell you! I’m still in the process of getting the manuscript ready for the final version. When that happens, the rest of that stuff will hopefully fall into place. In the meantime, I’m also working on a sequel.

BC: You’re not only a writer, poet, and illustrator, but also a doctor. One of those rare people who fully utilizes both sides of their brain. I love your blog The Word is my Oyster, and your Medical Mondays series, where writers can get advice about heaps of medical maladies. What has surprised you about the blogging community? How much time per week do you spend on blogging?

LK: That made me laugh. Illustrator? I doodle! Actually, the doodling started because I could never find the right illustration online for my posts. Plus the copyright thing always got in the way. Blogging has been amazing. I started to build a platform. I kept blogging because the community was awesome. They taught me so much about writing. Growing up, I was the girl that didn’t have a lot of friends. A small circle, at most. It’s crazy how many people I call friends now. It’s been wonderful.

I probably spend 3-4 hours writing posts on Sunday (much of that is spent researching the Medical Mondays posts), and probably 1-3 hours every day M-F. It is a huge time commitment.

BC: Wow, that is a big commitment, but on behalf of your readers, thank you for taking the time, as your blog brings a lot of joy, knowledge, and inspiration. What have you read lately that’s blown your doors off?

LK: Let’s see. I just read The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Steifvater. I loved the prose, so direct yet still so lyrical. Great world building. And I also loved Graceling, by Kristen Cashore. That one I started, stopped, and picked up again a year later. So glad I did!

BC: Both are on my TBR list, which is spiraling out of control. In closing, what advice do you have for aspiring authors?

LK. As hard as it seems, try not to compare your own journey to publication with others. There are thousands of ways to get there, and what’s most important is working on your own craft and skills. It won’t happen overnight, and there will be a lot of disappointments along the way. Most importantly–keep writing!

BC: Lydia, thanks so much. It’s been such a treat hearing about your journey. Best wishes to you and I’ll try to wait patiently for The Fountain.

LK: Thank you for having me, Beth!