I don’t post many author interviews on my blog, but when I recently had a chance to talk with Ivy Pochoda about her novel, The Art of Disappearing, I could not resist. Read some Q&A with Amy below to learn about her journey to publication (and see if you want to add her cool novel to your Christmas list!).
Ivy Pochoda is the author of the novel,
The Art of Disappearing (St. Martin’s, 2009), a
title Booklist called “a seductive debut.” Ivy is
a Harvard grad and spent several years in The
Netherlands. She is a freelance writer and is
hard at work on her second novel. See her
author website here.
Your book is mainstream fiction, correct? Can you explain to readers what the book is about?
Here’s the one-sentence book summary: “Las Vegas magicians are a dime a dozen, but Mel’s new husband, Toby, is different; his magic is real.”
Where do you write from?
I wrote the first draft of this book while I was living in Amsterdam. I revised it when I moved back to Brooklyn, my hometown. I now live in Los Angeles, which is strange since I’m currently writing about Brooklyn.
What led up this book?
In all honesty, this is my first stab at fiction, so I’m thrilled to have made it this far! Previously, I’d done some minor journalism, but nothing remarkable. One day while I was living in Amsterdam I got it in my head to write. I thought it would be so easy.
What was the timeframe for writing this book?
Man, it took a while. Of course, since this was the first thing I’d ever written, I thought I had it perfectly done right off the bat. Subsequently, I must have believed I’d “finished” the book at least ten times. I wrote the first draft in two years. Revised it for my agent once. Then revised it one more time after an unsuccessful round of submissions. Then revised it again for my publisher.
How did you find your agent?
I asked several people I know in publishing to recommend agents that they thought might be suitable for my work. It’s important to target the right agents and not waste your time. I sent a host of query letters briefly summarizing my novel and asking if the suggested agents would be interested in reading it. I think this is better than sending an except and a synopsis right off the bat. I was lucky enough to receive many positive replies to my queries. I went with Kim Witherspoon [of Inkwell Management] and I could not be happier with her. Without her, I’m not sure I’d have been published.
What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
I’m surprised how many books are actually published yet how few newspapers leave room to review them. There’s a serious disconnect there. I thought that getting reviewed would be a given. Untrue. (Oh, and you can’t choose your own book covers. Take note.)
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
Well, foolhardy belief and misguided self-confidence got me where I am today. I’m not sure why I was certain that things were going to work out. My book is wonderful and strange and I stuck to all my bizarre character and plot choices and refused to tone things down or make them more conventional. When my book didn’t get accepted by the first round of publishers, I did not give up and revised it once more.
On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?
Hmmm … I knew that when my agent sent out the book that the ending needed work. I think she knew this, too. Maybe it would have been a good idea to have fixed it so as not to have had to endure a mailbox full of letters telling me that the original ending was opaque.
Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing to build a platform and gain readership?
Slowly, slowly. I think that I need to embrace Facebook more as a way to spread the good word. I’m starting to write essays and reviews for places like The Rumpus and The Huffington Post. These days books are sold, literally, one at a time. So I’m happy to go to colleges and high school to talk and read if I think one book will sell. And I’ll never turn down a book fair.
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