Debut Author Interview: N. Griffin, Author of the Young Adult Novel THE WHOLE STUPID WAY WE ARE

I love sharing interviews with first-time authors here on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog. I think they’re a great resource for others trying to get published, as each interview serves as a mini-roadmap of what a writer did correct on their journey as well as what they wish they did different. Today I’d like you to meet N. Griffin, author of the young adult debut THE WHOLE STUPID WAY WE ARE (Feb. 2013, Atheneum Books).

(Look over our growing list of young adult literary agents.)

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly said of the novel, “Griffin’s portrayal of [the main characters’ friendship and their] sense of injustice, frustration, and rage is wrenching and difficult to forget.” Kirkus Reviews said, “Readers who invest in this quirky set of characters and circumstances will be rewarded.”

In addition to her recent YA release, N. Griffin is the author of an as-yet-untitled middle-grade mystery to be released in the fall of 2013 (Candlewick).  She received her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives outside of Boston with her beau and their dogs.

GIVEAWAY: N. Griffin is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: DanielJayBerg won.)


the-whole-stupid-way-we-are     N-Griffin-author-writer


What is the book’s genre/category?

I think of the book as a character-driven, contemporary YA novel.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

I am just the worst at this kind of thing so I have to poach how a friend of mine described it: “The Whole Stupid Way We Are is the story of Skint, a quirky, compassionate outcast caving under the weight of a family secret, and his best friend Dinah who tries to save him.” This is so much better than my usual response, which is always something like, “It’s about this boy and this girl who, um, do stuff….” My friend’s sentence is zingier and way more accurate.

(Read some great advice for first-time novelists.)

Where do you write from?

I live outside of Boston with my million dogs and my beau.

Briefly, what led up to this book?

This is my first published novel! But writing has been central to me always, since I was a tiny girl, and, like so many writers, I’ve always had a lot of novels floating around in my mind. The best thing I ever did for my writing, though, was to go through the Vermont College of Fine Arts Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA program. It forced to me to commit to my writing, and in the most supportive, smart community I could imagine. I did write a book back then, too, but it will never see the light of day because it is awful and I am going to redo the whole thing in a new form. Someday.

What was the time frame for writing this book?

I wrote the first draft in about six months, but it took over a year to revise it. I am one of those awful, slow writers.

How did you find your agent?

My agent is the wonderful Linda Pratt of Wernick and Pratt Agency. I found her through my editor, actually, who thought she would be a good match for me. I agree completely—Linda is fantastic!

(Hear from others on how to find a literary agent.)

What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?

Oh, my lord, it really does take forever! My novel sold in August of 2010 and is just coming out now in February of 2013. My editor is the best and she told me the time would fly by, what with revisions and copyedits and all of that, and that is partly true. The other part is that I felt every minute that two and a half years as they inched forth. J But in the best way, of course! And beyond worth the wait.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?

I think I worked incredibly hard on the book to make it the very best I could make it. I didn’t submit it until I felt like I couldn’t do any better. And I think that’s critical—our best work is what deserves to be in the world, not just our best fervent hope.

On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?

I would have plotzed less, mostly. It’s hard to think of what I would do differently because I knew so little at the time about agents and all of that. Maybe I would have been less shy about asking people about how all that worked.


My website is, and it’s very new. I love it mostly for the wonderful painting of the griffin that artist Joe Keinberger did for the header. I love his work, and man, I love that griffin.

Best piece(s) of writing advice we haven’t discussed?

Don’t worry and just plough through. You can always fix it later.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

Hmm! I am a terrible cook. And I am kind of good at impressions but I never do them because I don’t want anyone to feel made fun of.

(Read more author interviews to see how debut authors/novelists got published.)

What’s next?

I have an as-yet-untitled middle grade mystery coming out from Candlewick in the fall, and I’m working on a new YA. I can’t wait until it’s done.

GIVEAWAY: N. Griffin is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: DanielJayBerg won.)


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13 thoughts on “Debut Author Interview: N. Griffin, Author of the Young Adult Novel THE WHOLE STUPID WAY WE ARE

  1. michellemurillo

    This book looks amazing. I’m always on the lookout for smart, YA books to review on my blog: christiemurillo dot blogspot dot com. And her advice about not sending your work out until you’re sure it’s the best it can be is great advice. I think I am almost at that place!

    christie dot murillo at gmail dot com

  2. jdmstudios

    Congratulations on being published! Sounds like an intriguing story. Thanks so much for sharing your experience here. I love hearing stories about author’s experiences in the publishing world.

  3. DanielJayBerg

    The order of finding an editor to finding an agent seems backwards compared to many authors’ pathways to publication. Each path is different, though.

    The cover design is beautiful and timeless! I’d love to hear the story behind its creation.

  4. DanielJayBerg

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. The order of finding an editor first and then an agent seems unique compared to many other authors’ pathway to publishing.

    The book cover design is beautiful and timeless. I’d love to hear the story behind its creation.

  5. guyallen

    I agree the manuscript should be the best you can produce. Revise and rewrite until you have surgically remove the lesser quality material. When you are happy with it, find the agents that represent other writer with a similar style to yours.

  6. dawniedawn67

    Congratulations on your first published book! I understand completely what you mean about having tons of stories in your head. I look forward to reading your book and hope you write many more.


    dawniedawn67 at yahoo dot com

  7. Amy

    I love reading interviews from new authors that have just recently gone through this whole crazy process of being published for the first time. It’s nice to climb into their heads a little bit while it is fresh in their minds! It reassures those of us still trying and reaffirms that there is, in fact, hope. Thanks for the insight and I can’t wait to check out the book!

    aglamos at gmail dot com

  8. Lina Moder

    I absolutely LOVE character-driven contemporary YA. I think it’s so emotional and raw and real – and both Dinah and Skint seem like character that will linger with readers after their on-page story ends, so that we think about what happens to them after.

    I love that cover – very indicative of the story in that short sentence the author uses to tell us about it:)

    Awesome advice, to spend time on the manuscript and craft before sending our story out in the world. She’s right – both the world and our story deserves the best from us.

    LOVE the griffin illustration on her website:))

    Thank you so very much:)

    linamoder at gmail dot com


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