Below find a Q&A with author William Richter, who is celebrating the release of his YA crime novel, DARK EYES (Razorbill, March 2012). Richter describes the book as a "gateway thriller -- meaning it's an adult-style crime story but told from the point of view of young central characters." (Sounds very cool!) It's his debut YA book, and I always enjoy spotlight up-and-coming authors on my GLA Blog. Read on to learn more
What's the book about?
Wally Stoneman, 16, a privileged Upper West Side girl now living a rebellious life on the streets of New York City, sets out on a thrilling and dangerous quest to find Yalena Mayakova, her Russian biological mother who--it turns out--has been living nearby all the years of Wally's childhood, watching over her.
Where do you write from?
I live and write in Santa Monica, California, which is pretty close to being a writer's paradise. I generally work at home, but libraries and fee-based writer's offices are options that I use occasionally, when I need a change of setting.
What led up to this book?
I've been a working screenwriter for many years, but had taken some time out recently to write a comedic crime novel, COOLER HEADS, a book that I'm proud of and enjoyed working on. I really like the book writing process--it's sort of a consciousness-shifting exercise for me, to go from screen form to prose and back, and I think the experience made me a stronger writer in both categories. When the story idea for DARK EYES came to me, I thought it was something I'd really have fun doing in prose form, so I just dove in!
Time frame for writing the book?
I had been working on a spec screenplay called QUIVER (which is now currently in pre-production, scheduled to shoot next fall). There was a lot of interest in the script when my screenwriting agent--Robert Lazar at ICM in Los Angeles--started shopping it, but the process took a while, as it often does. To maintain my sanity during that stressful time, I began working hard on DARK EYES, and I think my first draft was probably 6-8 months in gestation. I suppose writing the novel was almost a therapeutic thing--I was self-medicating through literature.
How did you find your agent?
I met my publishing agent--the lovely, gracious and whip-smart Kari Stuart--through my screenwriting agent. They are both with ICM, but on different coasts.
What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
Until now (my first novel was self-published) I was never really aware of all the behind-the-scenes steps that go into the successful release of a book. It's a long process, with so many phases, and it's been a great feeling to know that while I'm doing my job--the writing--there are a bunch of folks who are taking care of everything else, expertly and quietly (maybe only quiet because I'm three thousand miles away!) The folks at Razorbill--starting of course with my publisher, Ben Schrank, and my editor, Anne Heltzel--have worked hard to pull everything together while I've been doing my own thing.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
This is easy: I kept an open mind. When I first wrote DARK EYES, I hadn't really thought about who my target audience was... it was just a story I was excited about, featuring Wally Stoneman--a sixteen year old girl--as its central character. My agent, Kari Stuart, came back to me and basically said I had written a YA novel, whether I knew it or not. Instead of resisting her input, I took a step back and realized she was right. I got excited about the book all over again, in a new context. Within 24 hours, I dove in and worked hard for a couple months on revisions, re-focusing the story as a young adult thriller. I turned the new manuscript in to Kari, and within a month, I think, we had our deal at Razorbill/Penguin.
Did you have a platform in place?
I had nothing in place, but with the help of Kari Stuart and Razorbill/Penguin I'm starting to get that stuff going, building up a presence online and so forth. This is a particular struggle for me, because I was born without a self-promotion gene. I mean, saying nice things about myself or my work is a kind of torture, and I used to just get all embarrassed and self-deprecating. It's still a struggle, but I'm making a conscious effort to change that, and the online side of the promotional process is a good place to start--no one can see me blush or squirm (turn off that webcam!)
Plus Twitter, of course (@Will_H_Richter) and an author page on Facebook (William Richter)
My next book is TIGER--the sequel to DARK EYES. I'm finishing up the first draft right now, and I'm really having fun with it. Plus, I already can't wait to see what sort of cover the folks at Razorbill/Penguin come up with.
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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Why Your Work May Be Getting Rejected by Agents.
- NEW Literary Agent Seeking Writers: Linda Glaz of Hartline Literary.
- What Are Beta Readers? (And Do You Need Them?)
- Sell More Books by Building Your Author Platform.
- Write Now, Edit Later.
- 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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