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Madeline Kay Sneed: On Being Open to Constructive Feedback

Author Madeline Kay Sneed discusses the various iterations that came from writing her new literary fiction novel, The Golden Season.

Madeline Kay Sneed was born and raised in Houston, Texas, a city she dearly loves, despite its sports franchises so frequently breaking her heart. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Baylor University and her Master of Fine Arts degree in Fiction from Emerson College.

She frequently writes about the intersection of queerness and faith, which is the obsession of most of her writing. When she's not doing that, Madeline loves spending time outside with her friends and family in Texas. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Madeline Kay Sneed: On Being Open to Constructive Feedback

Madeline Kay Sneed

In this post, Madeline discusses the various iterations that came from writing her new literary fiction novel, The Golden Season, writing about the intersection of queerness and faith, and more!

Name: Madeline Kay Sneed
Literary agent: Amy Bishop / Dystel
Book title: The Golden Season
Publisher: Graydon House
Release date: May 31, 2022
Genre/category: Literary Fiction
Elevator pitch for the book: After a daughter and a father have a tumultuous falling out, they must learn to navigate their lives without the other in the football obsessed Bible Belt of West Texas, which dictates both the standards of the community’s morality and the limitations of its love.

Madeline Kay Sneed: On Being Open to Constructive Feedback

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What prompted you to write this book?

I wrote this book to make sense of the world in which I had been raised. When I moved to Boston for graduate school, I started writing about Texas compulsively. Like any deep, intimate relationship, the distance between us allowed me the chance to really reflect on the culture I had been steeped in for 24 years. The white Southern Baptist communities were not kind to queer kids. So, as a closeted lesbian, I spent a lot of time being afraid: of not being enough, of not deserving love. In Boston, finally freed from the constraints of the community I’d always known, I started to explore myself, my love and my fear and my hope for the future. I found this necessitated a deep reflection and investigation of the past—of where I’d come from and how it had shaped me as a person.

There’s a specific phrase from my time in Texas that I turned over many times in my mind: “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” This is, of course, impossible. If you hate a part of a person, you hate their whole selves, and there is no room for love, which is supposed to be the whole point of Christianity, though it often gets lost in favor of correctness, of the unyielding desire to be “right.” So, I wanted to write something that investigated what it means to love someone—not what it means to convert someone, to save someone, to correct someone. But love them. Fully, without conditions. This exploration of love led to The Golden Season.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

I started ideating on this novel in Spring 2018, and it will be published on May 31, 2022. So much has changed about the novel from my first conception of it, mainly the tense and the point of view. For the first year of drafting, I was writing in the first person, present tense. After two workshops at Emerson, both of my professors (the brilliant writers Rick Reiken and Kim McLarin) gently questioned my use of the present tense. Eventually, I finally broke down and switched to the past tense. It made a huge difference and opened up the world of the novel and its characters in unexpected ways.

Then, after I started working with my agent, Amy, she suggested a point of view shift from first person to third. I did have a full manuscript at this point, so the task seemed daunting, but after trying out the third person on the first 10 pages, I realized it was the right move. Once again, my novel, no longer limited by my stubborn commitment to choices I’d made years ago, opened up and started to flow more organically.

The novel has a big heart, and that has always remained the same, but the structure has shifted quite a bit during this process.

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

What I learned: Revise, revise, revise. Keep pushing the story and the characters. There’s always room for revision. At every phase of the process, there was more rewriting to be done. This made the story better, and I’m thankful for all the notes and thoughtful suggestions presented to me by my agent and my editor.

Madeline Kay Sneed: On Being Open to Constructive Feedback

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

I think one of the joys of writing a novel is that it is conducive to surprises. It’s such a long journey, writing a novel, and the deeper you delve into the world, the more it guides you through its passageways. There’s a loss of control, a little bit, when you’re deep into the minds of your characters. They say unexpected things. They go down roads you didn’t expect them to go near. As a person who likes control and order (yes, I am a Virgo), I was particularly surprised by the pleasure I took in the surrender this book demanded of me.

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

I hope they get a sense of what I love about Texas and what makes it a complicated place to come from. I hope they get a better understanding of what it means to love other people and themselves. I hope that, even if there’s a touch of heartbreak, they feel a sense of hope and possibility after finishing the story.

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

Show your work to people who you trust and respect and be open and willing to accept feedback from them. You never know what will make your story start to click, so try different revisions, see what works and doesn’t work, and be patient with yourself.

Nothing happens all at once, but if you chip away at it, you’ll start to see the form of the story take shape, feel the heat of its heart. That’s when the magic begins.

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