T.M. Blanchet is a producer at A Mighty Blaze, an initiative started in 2020 to help connect readers and writers during the Covid pandemic, and the producer and host of A Mighty Blaze Podcast, which features weekly interviews with bestselling authors.
T.M. is also a former reporter, editor, and award-winning humor columnist, as well as the founder of the nonprofit organization Operation Delta Dog: Service Dogs for Veterans. She is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
In this post, T.M. discusses the unforeseen element of surprise in publishing her debut YA fantasy, Herrick’s End, and more!
Name: T.M. Blanchet
Literary agent: Julie Gwinn, Seymour Agency
Book title: Herrick’s End (Book One of The Neath Trilogy)
Publisher: Tiny Fox Press
Release date: May 10, 2022
Genre/category: YA Fantasy
Elevator pitch for the book: A shy Boston kid finds himself sucked into a magical, dangerous world below the city when he goes in search of a missing friend.
What prompted you to write this book?
Herrick’s End was inspired by my time spent working at a domestic-violence shelter, where we sometimes ferried victims to safety via a secret, “underground” network. Often, the victims had to give up everything, while the perpetrators suffered few consequences at all. It seemed so unfair, and it made me wonder: What if there was a literal “underground,” where victims could regain some control? What if revenge was not only possible, but easy? Should you take it?
In Herrick’s End, our hero Ollie stumbles upon just such a reality when he goes in search of a missing friend and learns that Boston’s famous Freedom Trail is not quite what it seems. Before long, he finds himself trapped in a dangerous, magical world: Escape seems all but impossible, until a fearless, purple-haired girl teaches Ollie to believe in second chances—and in himself.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
It took about four to five years for the story to transform from its conception to the version we see today. Many of the details changed along the way, thanks to input from beta readers, but the overall wacky and heartfelt tone stayed the same.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
The biggest surprise was the timing. After so many years of writing and submitting, it was shocking when all the pieces finally came together during the height of a worldwide pandemic!
In 2020, I met my wonderful agent, Julie Gwinn, by submitting a “pitch video” at a virtual writing conference. Not long after, I was able to meet the editors at Tiny Fox Press via a video call. Despite the strange circumstances, I could instantly see that the Tiny Fox team “got” the book, and that Herrick’s End would fit in well with their other quirky, funny, SFF titles. It really did feel like serendipity.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
I didn’t initially set out to write a YA book. But as the themes gradually emerged (coming-of-age, first love, hero’s journey), it became clear that that was where the story wanted to go. Many thanks to my writing-workshop colleagues for helping me see the light!
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
Whatever you think is holding you back, it’s just an illusion. Nothing is holding you back but yourself! Ollie struggles with self-acceptance in so many ways, and it takes a terrifying journey to a magical underworld to finally show him that he is capable, he is clever, and he is worthy of love. And that he was all along.
If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?
The first draft is like walking down stairs: You’ve taken the reader from one point to the next, but each step takes too much deliberate effort. Keep revising, draft after draft, until every sentence, paragraph, and page flows seamlessly into the next. By the end of your revisions, the story should feel more like falling down a slide, easy and smooth. When I’ve reached that stage, I know the book is ready to submit.