It's time to introduce readers to another awesome debut novelist. I love interviewing writers about their first books, because their advice and path to publication is a good tale and roadmap for others who also seek to get published. Today we meet Corey Haydu, author of the July 2013 young adult debut, OCD LOVE STORY, which has the taglone, "In this raw and relatable romance, Bea learns that some things just can’t be controlled."
Corey Ann Haydu grew up in the Boston area but now lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she drinks mochas and uses a lot of Post-it notes, habits she picked up while earning her MFA at the New School. OCD Love Story is her first novel. Find out more at CoreyAnnHaydu.com.
What is the book’s genre/category?
OCD LOVE STORY is a contemporary YA novel.
Please describe what the story/book is about.
When Bea and Beck meet, they find common ground, and even a romantic connection, through their obsessions and compulsions, but Bea is hiding infatuations and behaviors from Beck, from her therapist, and from herself.
Where do you write from?
I live in Brooklyn, NY and spend most of my time writing at a neighborhood cafe, since I've never been able to write from home.
Briefly, what led up to this book?
Before writing OCD LOVE STORY, I published a few short stories (for adults, not teens!) in some small literary journals, and I was working on an ill-fated adult literary novel. I started working in children's publishing, randomly happening upon a job with a literary agent who focused on YA literature, and I fell in love with it. I decided to pursue my MFA in Writing for Children when I realized what an exciting, diverse, and inspiring genre YA literature is.
What was the time frame for writing this book?
I'm not sure how, but I wrote OCD LOVE STORY really quickly. I haven't been able to replicate the process with any of my other projects, but I wrote the first draft in about five months. My boyfriend at the time was out of town for work, and I was in graduate school and not working, so I had both literal and mental space to really focus on the book. That intense focus has been really difficult to replicate.
How did you find your agent?
I'm represented my Victoria Marini. (See a profile of agent Victoria Marini here.) I queried Victoria in March of 2011 with another project, a different YA novel. She wasn't ready to sign me, but gave me a lot of helpful notes to consider, and said she'd love to see a revision, or to hear about what other projects I might be working on. I sent her 100 very, very messy pages of OCD LOVE STORY and she loved it. I felt incredibly lucky, because I already knew from her notes on my first project that she really understood me as a writer, and that we would work together really well. She signed me before I finished my full draft of OCD LOVE STORY. I think we both knew we had similar tastes, interests, and a really easy communication.
What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
I'm still learning a lot, about publishing and the creative process in general. I think my process finding my agent and in finding the right publisher taught me a lot about patience. The first book I queried with, the one that Victoria liked but wanted me to do a lot of revisions on, wasn't the right book for me to debut with. At the time I was focused on getting that particular book published. But I learned that if you're trying to have a long career, those short term disappointments or setbacks often lead to later, future victories.
I've been surprised by how different each book is. Each book requires a different process for me. OCD LOVE STORY cam out fast, and my new projects are taking time. My revision process for each book is wildly different, my first drafts come out at very different levels of readiness, and require different levels of revision, rewriting, re-reading. Writers aren't machines, and I have to remain flexible and open to each project's needs.
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Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
That one's easy. I kept writing. While I was querying my first, unpublished novel, I wrote OCD LOVE STORY. Querying can be a long process, and I didn't simply sit around waiting to hear back from agents (even though I did refresh my email quite a bit!) While I was waiting for OCD LOVE STORY to sell, I started working on another book. There's a lot of hurry up and wait in publishing, and I've found that during the "waiting" part it's really important to push forward and work on new projects. I'm never just waiting for Victoria or an editor to get back to me on a manuscript. If I send a manuscript to Victoria on a Tuesday, I start working on another project on Wednesday.
On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?
I don't think I would change anything but the level of anxiety and stress I let myself reach. Publishing is stressful, rejection is plentiful, and I wish I'd enjoyed the process a little more, rather than giving in to the anxiety it caused.
Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing the build a platform and gain readership?
I'm certainly active on Twitter, which I greatly prefer to Facebook. I blog at teenwritersbloc.com and am involved with The Lucky 13s and The Class of 2k13, two groups of YA and Children's writers who have novels debuting in 2013. I also have my own blog, where I share and dissect my personal diaries from my own teen years, www.formerselfproject.blogspot.com.
Best piece(s) of advice for writers trying to break in?
Do your research. Knowing what kinds of books specific agents and editors like is incredibly helpful. Stay informed. Know what books everyone is talking about. Know what books you yourself love. And, just like any industry, being kind and pleasant to work with, and respectful takes you far. And in publishing, it's not hard to be kind. Speaking as a former actress who truly struggled with how mean the entertainment industry can be, I can say with a lot of confidence that the people in publishing are especially lovely to work with-- encouraging, enthusiastic, respectful, intelligent, and downright fun.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
I guess I let it slip in my last answer, but I was an actress before I became a writer. As a kid, I modeled for math textbooks, perhaps the lamest modeling gig imaginable. I may have also made an appearance kissing a hipster boy in a Samsung commercial back in the day!
I have to pick two since they are so different -- When Harry Met Sally and Fight Club. What does that tell you about me?
I'm currently working on a new young adult novel, and am trying my hand at writing a middle-grade novel as well!
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- How to Create Great Characters in Your Young Adult Novel.
- Literary Agent Interview: Kelly Sonnack of Andrea Brown Literary.
- A Children's Book Query That Worked: "The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic."
- How to Write Middle Grade Fiction.
- "How I Got My Agent," by Young Adult Writer Robin Mellom.
- 6 Tips on Writing Plays For Kids.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.
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