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Author Interview: Alex Myers, Author of the Historical Novel REVOLUTIONARY

I love interviewing debut success stories here on the GLA Blog because I believe that aspiring writers can learn from their journeys. Today's debut author interview is with Alex Myers, whose novel, REVOLUTIONARY, came out in Jan. 2014 from Simon & Schuster. The novel has been praised by the New York Times, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Elle, and many other outlets. GIVEAWAY: Alex is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: kjavic won.)

I love interviewing debut success stories here on the GLA Blog because I believe that aspiring writers can learn from their journeys. Today's debut author interview is with Alex Myers, whose novel, REVOLUTIONARY, came out in Jan. 2014 from Simon & Schuster. The novel has been praised by the New York Times, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Elle, and many other outlets.

Author Alex Myers is a writer, teacher, speaker, and activist. Since high school, Alex has campaigned for transgender rights. As a female-to-male transgender person, Alex began his transition at Phillips Exeter Academy (returning his senior year as a man after attending for three years as a woman) and was the first transgender student in that Academy’s history. Alex was also the first openly transgender student at Harvard and worked to change the University’s nondiscrimination clause to include gender identity. For the past decade, he has taught English at private high schools and currently lives in the Washington, DC area with his wife and two cats.

GIVEAWAY: Alex is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: kjavic won.)

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hat is the book’s genre/category?

Literary historical fiction ... with a gender identity theme, I suppose.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

In 1782, a woman runs away from home, disguises herself as a man, and fights for a year and a half in the American Revolution.

Where do you write from?

I live in Washington, DC (recent move).

(Is it best to query all your target agents at once? -- or just a few to start?)

What led up to this book?

I was in an MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and writing short fiction and short nonfiction, which was published in online and print journals of the small and delightful variety. Revolutionary is the first novel I ever tried to write.

What was the time frame for writing this book?

I wrote a rough draft in 6 months, then rewrote it in another six months. And then rewrote parts with my agent's advice. .. sold it ... and then in 2.5 years rewrote it some more. Funny anecdote about writing it in the very first draft: I was teaching at a boarding school (teaching, coaching, and being a dorm parent) and had exactly 45 minutes of free time per day to write. So I was scrabbling away at it and then we had a Norovirus (Cruise Ship virus) outbreak on campus. We were all quarantined and then they had to shut the school to clean it. I got a week of unexpected free time to write -- a huge gift, so I could really immerse myself in the draft (and I didn't get sick!).

How did you find your agent?

My agent is the amazing and wonderful Alison Fargis of Stonesong. A friend of my brother had worked with Alison on Cookbooks (Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen fame) and said that I should send my MS to Alison. So I did, and she loved it, and I've been feeling lucky ever since.

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What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?

Learning how to accept that other people had good ideas about the novel that weren't my ideas, but were very much worth taking into consideration. In short, learning that fiction can be collaborative, and I was okay with that.

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

Mostly, I think I was lucky. I also think I was persistent, patient, and flexible. That might have helped.

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

I would have waited longer and spent more time on the very first set of revisions from my editor. See #7 above. I hadn't absorbed that truth yet. I still thought I had all the right ideas.

Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing the build a platform and gain readership?

No, I had to build up Facebook, Twitter, and a blog... I had to go to my friends and ask for contacts and help... and I am not very good at asking for favors. But my friends are terrific people and they have really assisted me a ton in doing all sorts of outreach.

(The term "platform" defined -- learn how to sell more books.)

Website(s)?

alexmyerswriting.com

Best piece(s) of writing advice we haven’t discussed?

Get the pen in your hand and write. Every day. Even if it is crap. Writing is a muscle and it needs to be exercised to get stronger.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I like to keep my personal life delightfully boring. I'm a vegetarian. That's not very interesting.

What’s next?

At the immediate moment, it is my bedtime. At the intermediate moment, I have a presentation on Richard II tomorrow. In the longer term, I have a second novel written that I would love to sell. Know anyone who wants to buy?

GIVEAWAY: Alex is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: kjavic won.)

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

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