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Breaking In: Fantasy author Sarah J. Sover on Finding Home at a Small Press

Debut author Sarah J. Sover talks about finding the perfect home for her comedic fantasy novel Double-Crossing the Bridge with the indie publisher The Parliament House.

In the Breaking In column of our September 2019 issue, debut author Sarah J. Sover talked about finding the perfect home for her comedic fantasy novel Double-Crossing the Bridge with the indie publisher The Parliament House. Here is her unabridged Breaking In interview. Hear more about Sover's publishing journey during the debut authors panel at the Writer's Digest Annual Conference Aug. 22-25.

Sarah Sover Double-Crossing the Bridge

Read Sover's essay about how she learned to embrace her weird side in her writing.

Tell us about Double-Crossing the Bridge.

When a grog-chugging, baby-eating troll finds herself facing eviction, she only sees one way to get the landlord off her back: Lead a misfit crew on the heist of the century.

Where do you write from?

John’s Creek, Ga.

Briefly, what led up to this book? What were you writing and getting published before breaking out with this book?

I had a short story included in the 2019 JordanCon Anthology back in April, and this is my second novel. The first, an epic fantasy, will remain with my journals of bad poetry until the day I die and my kids try to make a buck on it! Joke’s on them, it’s terrible! Like every determined writer, the years leading up were filled with rejection broken up by glimmers of hope until it happened.

What was the time frame for writing this book?

Double-Crossing the Bridge took two years since I have two young children. Some people write to music; I write to the sounds of chaos, despite my husband’s best efforts. I also work in bursts of hyper-focus, with months passing between. This book held my attention mostly because I wrote it purely for my own amusement. That’s why you’ll find over 20 heist flick Easter eggs throughout!

Tell us how your book deal came about without an agent.

I was in the midst of querying agents when I began to realize how niche my book is. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a market for it as is evidenced by the success of Deadpool, Hitchiker’s Guide, etc., but humor is frequently a hard sell. A good small press makes the perfect home for oddball manuscripts. The day I decided to look into them, someone on Twitter shared an acquisitions announcement from The Parliament House, and it included four weird, dark fantasies. It was fate! After researching, I submitted, had a full request within the week, and the offer came shortly after.

What were your 1-2 biggest surprises throughout the publishing process?

I’ve always been the type to take control of projects and work alone, reluctant to reach out. The idea of workshopping my writing still makes me cringe and fidget. But the writing community, particularly my amazing critique group and the Debut Authors 2019 group, gave me a legion of writers that I would kill and die for. Their collective knowledge and support keep me sane through this rollercoaster, and I never saw that coming.

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

My first novel was the sacrifice to learning, and jumping in like that, opening myself up to screwing it all up, devouring any and all resources, participating in pitch events and competitions—it all led to where I am now.

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

I joke that I’m the Juggernaut, basically inertia in the flesh. I have two modes: stop and go. Any mistakes I made were because I hit everything I do at a full run, but so are the successes. I could have opened myself up to other writers sooner or queried longer, but ultimately, I’m thrilled to be where I am. Changing any of those things would put me somewhere else. The only thing that I still kick myself over is clicking send on that awful first query letter!

Did you have a platform in place? 

I have a community in place where others support me and I support them. While I have a website, Facebook page, and Instagram, I’m more active on Twitter because that’s where I interact with people the most. I rely mostly on organic growth and creating connections.

I’m also having a ridiculous little game created. Readers like throwing exploding unicorn poo at goats, right?

What's the best piece of writing advice you have that we haven’t yet discussed?

Only listen to the advice that supports your process. There’s so much noise out there, but the only right way to write a book is the way that gets the book written. That means something different to every individual. So, block out the well-intentioned advice that feeds your imposter syndrome monster (we all have them), grab onto the advice that fuels you, and get your story out there. On the publishing side, whether you go with an agent or a small press, research!

What’s next?

I’m working on a fantasy noir called Fairy GodMurder in which a fairy godmother goes rogue to hunt down the serial killer who slaughtered her first charge. When I finish revisions, it’ll be back to the query trenches for me. I’ll be making it to some conventions over the next year, so when you see me around the convention circuit, ask for a #BewareTheGoats badge ribbon!

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