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!