I love introducing my blog readers to the debut authors of today. I believe that showing them the paths of those writers who have found success recently is an excellent way to provide roadmaps to those looking to follow in their footsteps. Examine what people did right -- and learn from them! Today's debut author interview is with Laurie Boyle Crompton about her young adult novel, BLAZE.
BLAZE (OR LOVE IN THE TIME OF SUPERVILLAINS) (Feb. 2013, Sourcebooks Fire) is a young adult debut. RT Book Reviews said, "Blaze (or Love in the Time of Supervillains) is at turns funny, cringe•worthy and heartbreaking . . . Don't miss out." Publishers Weekly said, ""First-time novelist Crompton handily establishes Blaze as a diehard comics fan who's not entirely comfortable in her own skin; her funny-crass interactions with her friends and her younger brother make for entertaining reading . . .the novel forces readers to reconsider the way they treat their peers, especially girls, over their sexual behavior, real or imagined."
When Laurie Boyle Crompton was 17, she painted her first car hot pink using 40 cans of spray paint. It dried really drippy but looked great when she was flying down the back roads of Butler, PA where she grew up. She now lives near NYC in Queens, but maintains a secret identity in New Paltz, NY where she and her family can often be found tromping through the forest. Visit lboylecrompton.com.
What is the book’s genre/category?
Please describe what the story/book is about.
When 17-year-old Blaze creates a comic about her evil ex, he retaliates by posting a ‘sext’ of her online and an epic battle begins.
Where do you write from?
I live with my family on Long Island just outside NYC but we also have a rustic (read: old and rundown) trailer upstate in New Paltz where we spend weekends and summers and where I love to write.
Briefly, what led up to this book?
I had a freelance article published in ALLURE while I was still in college and then got my start writing for a beauty care trade magazine after graduation. From there I worked as an editor for a toy publication which I really enjoyed (best part: Toy Fair!). But once I tried my hand at fiction there was really no turning back for me. Before Blaze I wrote three ‘practice’ YA novels. Of course, I didn't know they were practice at the time! Fortunately, I always got just enough encouragement along the way to keep moving forward.
What was the time frame for writing this book?
I wrote Blaze in-between revising other work and so it took me over a year to get it submission-ready. We had early interest from an editor who wanted me to change a certain story element. By ‘change’ I mean they wanted me to cut the story element and by ‘story element’ I mean the entire plot of the book! I remember drafting a long email to my agent listing all the reasons why I couldn't make the change work. It was impossible. It would ruin the book. I couldn't do it. And then I got a tiny seed of an idea for a way that I could. Instead of sending the email I wrote a pivotal scene for the new storyline and I immediately knew I was on the right path. The book is much better for the change and the experience convinced me there’s no such thing as an impossible revision. Also, it can be good to wait before hitting ‘send’ on important emails.
How did you find your agent (and who is your agent)?
Caution: agent gush ahead! I’m extremely lucky to be represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. We connected in the traditional query/request/offer/celebration fashion and I cannot say enough wonderful things about her. The way she has helped shape my career is just beyond my dreams and EMLA truly deserves its great reputation. /end gush
Before Joan I had a different agent for a number of years who was not such a good fit. In fact, during that time I’d cringe at reading gushes like the one above because I knew things weren't working, but I dreaded that black hole of suck known as the ‘query stage.’ Thankfully, Joan and I connected within a few weeks of that (very amicable) split and it has made all the difference. When I signed with that first agent I thought all that mattered was getting my manuscript into editor’s hands, but a good agent fit is crucial and having no agent is really better than having the wrong one.
What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
I was surprised to find that the doubt monster still shows up tapping at my front door to tell me my writing is uniquely terrible. I guess I figured a book contract (or three!) would act like a special force field of self confidence whenever I needed it. Not quite so. No matter who else believes in you and your writing, you need to find a way to believe in yourself. It’s the only way you can have the confidence to take risks and continue to grow and to shake your fist at that doubt monster and yell, “Get off my porch!”
Also, realizing that if I’d had the sort of ‘instant success’ I wanted years ago I would've been completely unprepared. It was a difficult road getting here, but I have such a clear vision of the career I want and the next books I plan to write. I don’t think I would have had this certainty if the first book I ever wrote had been published. In fact, looking back, I was a bit like a six-year-old who has steered her little Barbie Jeep around the yard and figures she’s ready drive the family car. Being forced to wait allowed my feet to grow to reach the pedals and gave me the time I needed to work on my craft. Of course I’m still learning and growing, but at least I feel like I can peek over the dashboard and see a career through the windshield ahead!
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Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
I have always been pathetically optimistic about my chances of getting published. Every rejection I faced was just a step closer to my dream (although a few of those steps did make me cry). I worked hard on my craft and educated myself about the business end of publishing and of course subscribed to Writer’s Digest Magazine for many years (non-paid endorsement) (unless, of course, you’d like to pay me?). I also met some great writing friends along the way, found the best critique partners on the planet and have gotten amazing support over at Verla Kay’s blueboards (http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php). But really, I think choosing to stay in denial of just how impossible it is to get a book deal was probably the most helpful for me.
On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?
I had a hard time giving up on my first book that didn't sell. Of course now I can see it rightfully belongs triple-locked in a very dark drawer, but at the time the rejections sounded so heart-breakingly positive that I got sort of stuck rewriting that same book over and over. It was literally years before I was able to move on to something new. When that new book didn't sell either I was much quicker to move on and now I’m constantly looking towards the next project. That first book really broke my heart, but (just like with my first boyfriend) I do wish I’d gotten over it and moved on a little sooner than I did.
Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing the build a platform and gain readership?
Blaze has been fortunate enough to gain some early book blogger love and their word of mouth has been amazing. Book bloggers can truly be an author’s best friend!
The incredible interior artwork done by Anne Cain makes the book really special, I think, and the book is finding a natural audience among comic book fans. I was careful to make Blaze accessible to non comic book geeks, too, but there are definitely some insider nods.
Blaze can also be seen as an ‘issues book’ with the main character getting bullied both in school and online. Plus she’s forced to endure ‘slut shaming’ after a sexy photo of her goes viral. Bullying is an issue that’s currently getting a lot of attention and with the help of a professional counselor (who happens to be my awesome mom J) I've written a discussion guide to be used with high school groups and classrooms.
Best piece(s) of advice for writers trying to break in?
If you want to be a writer you need to do one thing above all else: you need to write. Work towards getting those 10,000 hours and master your craft. When I’m really dragging I’ll actually use henna to write the words ‘Writers Write’ on my inner wrist as a reminder (because I’m much too wimpy to have it tattooed there). An important part of the writer’s life is finding ways to pull focus back to the blank page. I think statistically we get about 89% of the way there just by turning off the internet.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
People are often surprised to find out that I’m an extreme introvert. I think this is because in our society the term ‘introvert’ is mistaken to mean ‘a troll-like person who lacks the social skills necessary to participate in an enjoyable conversation.’ In fact, I seem so normal in public that some people don’t believe me until they find out I write books since, ‘That does sound like the type of thing an introvert might do.’
I’m a total movie buff so this question has many answers for me. But I will say that I love The Jerk so much I once ran around the office where I worked calling out, “The new phonebook's here! The new phonebook's here!”
It is surprising how few people get that reference.
My next book with Sourcebooks is scheduled for Feb 2014 titled The Real Prom Queens of Westfield High. It’s a reality show farce that’s lots of fun. Also, I have a book coming out with FSG/Macmillan in 2014 (tentative title: Adrenaline) about an adrenaline junkie who gets injured while rock climbing and must learn to take risks again; including one with her heart.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Why You Should Query 6-8 Agents at a Time.
- Agent Interview: Shawna Morey of Folio Literary Seeks Nonfiction Clients.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- How to Deal With Writing Critiques.
- 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.
Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
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