Hanna C. Howard: Keep Submitting, Writing, Working, Trying

Hanna C. Howard shares that her path to success involved starting a new project (her YA fantasy novel, Ignite the Sun), how long it took to get a book contract after acceptance, her best advice for other writers, and more!
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Hanna C. Howard spent most of her childhood wondering how she might avoid growing up, and eventually solved the conundrum by becoming an artist and a writer. She considers tea an essential food group, has more books than shelf space, and thinks the ultimate geek triumvirate is Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Doctor Who.

Hanna C. Howard

Hanna C. Howard

(11 J.R.R. Tolkien Quotes for Writers.)

She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with her husband, their two Disreputable Dogs, and one cat skilled in Martial Arts. Learn more at HannaCHoward.com.

In this post, Howard shares that her path to success involved starting a new project (her YA fantasy novel, Ignite the Sun), how long it took to get a book contract after acceptance, her best advice for other writers, and more!


writing the young adult novel

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Name: Hanna C. Howard
Literary agent: Jenny Bent
Title: Ignite the Sun
Publisher: Blink/HarperCollins
Release date: August 18, 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Elevator pitch for the book: Once upon a time, there was something called the sun … In a kingdom ruled by an evil witch, the sun is just part of a legend about light-filled days of old. Luckily for everybody in the kingdom, Siria Nightingale is headed to the heart of the darkness to try and restore the light—or she will lose everything trying.

Ignite the Sun cover

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What prompted you to write this book?

I was ready for a new project (my last novel having had moderate success in the agent search, but not securing representation), and I was really intrigued to explore what a magical power fueled by the sun in a land of darkness would be like. Quite by accident, my drafting coincided with my first experience of Seasonal Affective Disorder and anxiety, so I channeled a lot of my own longing for warmth and sun and mental health into the story as I wrote.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication?

This book had an excessively long timeline, due to my own life events in conjunction with the sluggish pace of publishing, but in total it was nearly a decade. Amazingly, the core idea and storyline of the book stayed the same the entire time, but a lot changed around it, honing and trimming and sharpening to make the book what it eventually became.


Were there any surprises in the publishing process for this title?

My publisher's imprint underwent some dramatic staffing changes after I signed my contract, and my editor ended up leaving, which was very sad and surprising. I was also surprised to learn that contract negotiation can take months (almost six in my case!). By the time I was able to announce the book, it was less than a year out from publication, even though I had accepted my publisher's offer many months before.

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

I find that no matter how well you plot and outline ahead of the actual writing, your characters and your plot always take turns you don’t expect them to. I have a distinct memory from the very first draft, of arriving at a scene I had been building toward the entire book, only to discover that the characters awaiting me there had entirely different plans than me. And they steered the story off in a direction I hadn’t anticipated.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I hope they'll take away some hope! We are living in very challenging times right now, and I would love it if my book is able to remind people that, no matter how dark life gets, the sun is always there beyond the clouds, even if you can't see it. There is always hope.

(How to write disaster stories infused with hope.)

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

I always tell people to persevere. Writing for publication is a fearsome occupation—fickle, unkind, and often unrewarded—and it'll beat you down if you let it. The only way to make progress, in your storytelling or in your journey of publication, is to get up over and over again, and keep submitting, keep writing, keep working, keep trying. And in so doing, you will get places.


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