Author Interview: Marisa Reichardt, author of Contemporary YA Novel UNDERWATER

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It's time for another debut author interview on the blog! These interviews are a great resource, because they allow writers to see a real-life example of things that work well or that didn't work well for a successful author.

Marisa Reichardt is a SoCal native who has paid the bills by shucking oysters, waiting tables, peddling swimwear, tutoring, and writing. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her family and can usually be found huddled over her laptop in coffeehouses or swimming in the ocean. She has a Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Southern California and dual undergraduate degrees in literature and creative writing from UC San Diego. Her debut novel, UNDERWATER (January 2016, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), was an Indies Introduce New Voices pick for winter/spring 2016 and an Indie Next Top 10 pick for winter 2016.

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What is the book’s genre/category? 

YA contemporary

Month/year of release?

January 2016

Publisher?

Macmillan/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

(How can writers compose an exciting Chapter 1?)

Please describe what the story/book is about in one sentence.

A tragic high school shooting leaves 17-year-old Morgan Grant a homebound agoraphobic—a shut-in; when surfer boy Evan moves in next door, she has to face the life she's been missing.

Where do you write from?

Huddled over a laptop in various coffeehouses in Los Angeles, California.

Briefly, what led up to this book?

UNDERWATER was the third YA novel I wrote but the first that led me to my agent, Kate Testerman, and a book deal with FSG. Before then, I'd been freelancing, writing content for websites, and not giving up on novel writing.

What was the time frame for writing this book? Tell us an interesting detail or two, if applicable.

I wrote the first draft of Underwater in 2013 and it came fast and furious onto the page within ten months. Since the first book I wrote took five years and the second book took two years, getting through a draft in ten months was fast enough to make me think I might be onto something.

How did you find your agent (and who is your agent)?

My agent is Kate Testerman of KT Literary. She was and is my dream agent. I had queried her with a previous novel and she requested to read a partial but ultimately passed. I didn't let that deter me. It fueled me, actually. And I couldn't wait to query her again with UNDERWATER, hoping this one would be the one. I wanted nothing more than to work with her.

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

I think the biggest (and best) surprise was how much I enjoyed the editing process. It was inspiring and I attribute most of that to my phenomenal editor, Joy Peskin. Each round of editing was exciting and made me a better writer. I am so thankful for that time.

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

Research. The easiest thing you can do is find out what agents are looking for. It's all out there for you. I was a big fan of many of Kate's clients and I followed her on Twitter so I was confident that she was a good fit for UNDERWATER when I queried her.

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

I would've tried to enjoy the process more. It's such an exciting time when you're querying, and agents are requesting to read your manuscript, but I spent a lot of that time feeling anxious and panicked. I wish I'd focused more on appreciating how amazing it all was.

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

I used to blog regularly and I have a loyal readership that encouraged me to get active on Twitter. I am still on Twitter and have also joined two debut author groups—The Sweet Sixteens and Sixteen to Read. These are made up of MG and YA authors publishing their debut novels in 2016. These groups have not only been a great support system throughout the debut author experience but they have also done a lot to help promote UNDERWATER.

Website(s)?

marisareichardt.com

Favorite movie?

Welcome to the Dollhouse.

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

I'm a big believer in writing what scares you. There were many elements of UNDERWATER that scared me but I think those fears pushed me to write a better book.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I had some pretty buff forearms in college that came courtesy of endlessly shucking oysters at the restaurant where I worked.

(Learn how to start your novel strong.)

What’s next?

I'm currently working on a second standalone YA contemporary novel and looking forward to upcoming foreign publications of UNDERWATER.

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