Editor Cassandra Brown Critique through June 18th
Debut Author Giveaway Hop through June 19th
THE DISTANCE TO HOME through June 25th
STICKS & STONES through July 2nd
Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book.
Today I’m excited to talk with Scott Tracey about his debut book WITCH EYES. I met Scott at Maggie Stiefvater’s book signing in Novi this summer.
I found the whole idea of witch eyes as the magical system very unique. And Scott did a really good job developing all of Braden’s relationships, not only between Trey and him, but also with the other characters.
Here’s a description from Goodreads:
Braden was born with witch eyes: the ability to see the world as it truly is: a blinding explosion of memories, darkness, and magic. The power enables Braden to see through spells and lies, but at the cost of horrible pain.
After a terrifying vision reveals imminent danger for the uncle who raised and instructed him, Braden retreats to Belle Dam, an old city divided by two feuding witch dynasties. As rival family heads Catherine Lansing and Jason Thorpe desperately try to use Braden's powers to unlock Belle Dam's secrets, Braden vows never to become their sacrificial pawn. But everything changes when Braden learns that Jason is his father--and Trey, the enigmatic guy he's falling for, is Catherine's son.
To stop an insidious dark magic from consuming the town, Braden must master his gift—and risk losing the one he love
Here’s Scott’s bio on his website which I found interesting.
Scott Tracey lived on a Greyhound for a month, wrote his illustrated autobiography at the age of six, and barely survived Catholic school.
His career highlights include nearly being shot by the police after accidentally setting off a panic button, and sending the health department after his place of business. His gifts can be used for good or evil, but rather than picking a side, he strives for BOTH (in alternating capacity) for his own amusement.
Welcome Scott. Thanks so much for joining us.
Thank you for having me!
1. Okay, even though I want to know about your whole bio, please tell us about your experiences on the greyhound bus and nearly getting shot by the police. Also, how did you become a writer?
The Greyhound thing is a fun story. Greyhound had (or maybe they still do, I'm not sure) these month long bus packages. You can travel anywhere you want for a month, on any Greyhound line, as many times as you want. Some stuff happened, and I ended up traveling all over the place at random one summer. I went from Ohio to Colorado to Washington to Texas to New York, and basically just saw a bunch of sights and did my thing.
Getting shot. Twice a year at the job I was working at, we had a big inspection. So the night before, we were always there until 4 or 5 in the morning making the place sparkle. Someone scrubbed down the alarm system on the wall, accidentally setting off the panic button. The police showed up, asked the manager to lead us all outside. Only the manager went out last, instead of first, and since we didn't follow the police's directions, one of the officers snapped at me (who was the first out the door), that he'd almost shot me through the window.
I've always wanted to be a writer. When I was four or five, I thought you had to be a reporter, because I didn't understand that you COULD write books. I thought all the books had already been written. But I always hesitated at writing a novel in the past, because I felt like I wasn't ready yet. So I waited, and I waited, and one day about 4 or 5 years ago I finally challenged myself to see if I could write an entire novel. And that's how I got my start. ;)
2. Wow! You’ve definitely had some interesting experiences. The witch eyes and the ideas that the magic comes from Braden’s eyes and that he has to wear sunglasses are very unique. Tell us how you developed that.
I was working a lot of night shifts, at the time I was set to start the book that became WITCH EYES, and every day when I left my apartment building, I'd get blinded by the setting sun. That led me to start thinking about people who were allergic to sunlight, and what their lives were like, and from there, I started wondering: if you were allergic to sunlight, and there was a supernatural cause, what would it be? How would that work? From that, I came to the idea of the witch eyes, and just how powerful and devastating they were in equal measure.
The idea of balance was really important to me, right from the start. I wanted the power of the witch eyes to be as damaging as it was helpful. So it makes Braden more powerful in his magic (which has its own negative side), but it's also killing him. Every time he uses his power, he knows his body's going to suffer.
And then there's the visions themselves. What the witch eyes do is show Braden how the world actually looks, rather than the way most people see it. Everything leaves a record, an impression, or a vibe, and Braden sees all of those things at once. The prose for the visions, which is a kind of stream of consciousness, was something that came naturally. I wanted the visions to stand out, to be something different and not totally understandable and it just kind of struck me that it would almost just be this mashup of words, images and descriptions.
3. That’s so interesting how one experience from your own life resulted in a book and a unique magical power. I loved Braden’s relationship with Trey. But I’ve read that you felt it was important not to have that love story be the primary focus of the story. Tell us a bit about their relationship and why you decided not to focus on that?
I always wanted there to be a romantic element in WITCH EYES, but for me, the real story was always Braden's journey and the intrigue of Belle Dam. Braden and Trey are just one element in a very complicated world. Between Braden's gifts, the feud, the history and secrets of Belle Dam, hellhounds, the fact that there's this connection between the two characters is one of the most normal things about the story. At least, that was my goal.
There's two main things I had to keep in mind. The first was the timeframe. The entire book covers a period of about a week or so. There's not a lot of time for things to develop, and not a lot of time for people to grow significantly. The second was that there's obviously a romantic element to the story, but as it stands in the first book, Braden and Trey don't have this perfect, love will triumph over all relationship. I mean, there's a reason why the book ends the way it does. Both of them have their faults, and just because they have a connection doesn't mean that their relationship will go smoothly.
It was important for me that Braden not be defined by his sexuality, and if the book was all about how important it was for him to find (or keep) a boyfriend, it would lessen the kind of story that I was trying to tell (which was: he's gay, but who cares about that, because there's this feud...)
4. You did a really good job balancing that and focusing on what was important to your story. I really was drawn into Braden’s friendships with Jade and Riley and the whole triangle there with Braden in the middle. Tell us about those dynamics.
I always knew that Braden was going to find a confidante in Trey's sister. Jade was the first character, outside of Braden and the adults, that I really had a solid plan for. But Riley was a surprise to me. I started writing one of the scenes where Braden first comes to school, and suddenly I'm writing about this super excitable, nosy girl who has no tact and wears too much plastic jewelry. It came out of nowhere, and suddenly Riley was a part of the book.
It just came around naturally that Jade and Riley were polar opposites. It made a lot of sense, with this feud that's defining the town, that Braden would continually find himself trapped between both sides. So Riley leaning towards Team Thorpe was kind of perfect.
One of the things that I tried to be really conscious of was how the characters had all related pre-Braden. There's a natural bit of tug-of-war when Braden first gets to town, and a familiarity between Riley and Jade that implies that their history is complicated.
5. You gave some awesome advice on not using stereotypes in LGBT stories that is so useful and that I think applies to a lot of writing, like about minorities for example. Guys, you can listen to the whole vlog here. Can you share some of your tips?
I think all of my advice really boils down to one specific point: treat all your characters like they're three dimensional people. Gay characters are more than just the sum of their sexuality - there are a hundred different types of gay people. Everyone has some complexity to them, just because it isn't apparent at first doesn't mean it's not there. Adding a stereotype character into your manuscript doesn't make it edgy, or make it stand out. The characters who stand out are the ones who are dynamic, and fascinating in some manner.
6. I so agree. And your advice applies to writing about any minority or kids whose families are not formed from traditional avenues, like adopted kids. I read that it took a year and a half to sell WITCH EYES. What was the process like and what decisions did you have to make along the way?
Being on sub off and on for 18 months was hard, but it wasn't the worst thing in the world. I tried really hard NOT to think about it as much as I could. But you always worry - especially when a rejection comes in. 18 months sounds like a lot, but half of that was broken up into different stages.
We did a few tiny rounds at first, testing the waters as it were, and then a round of revisions before the submissions went wide after 9 months. So there were a lot of stops and starts in the beginning. It's like waiting in line at the grocery store, and then someone cuts in front of you, or the cashier goes on break. Every adjustment to the process stresses you out, even if you don't want it to. ;)
There were a few times where editors came back with suggestions of things to change or adjust. One of those being if I would consider changing Braden into a girl. Or if I'd add a female co-narrator and make it a buddy comedy with a gay guy/straight girl and cut the romance angle. But the book, to me, was always about telling the story that I wanted to tell, the way I wanted to tell it. It wouldn't have been as special to me if I straightwashed the characters and made it into something it wasn't.
7. You have such a good attitude toward the long wait. I love how you describe it like the line at the grocery story. How did Ginger Clark become your agent?
One of my good friends is Gretchen McNeil, who wrote POSSESS and is one of the YA Rebels. Ginger is her agent and Gretchen has ALWAYS sung her praises. So last year when I found myself needing to find a new agent, she was at the top of my list. I think she might even have been the first query I sent out, now that I think about it.
Anyway, Gretchen referred me, I queried like normal, Ginger requested the full of my new project, and a few months later we signed together.
8. I’ve seen tons of interviews that you’ve done around the debut of your book. What marketing did you do and how did you decide what marketing to focus on?
I'm a big advocate for only doing things that you're comfortable with. I like to blog, so I didn't mind doing a lot of guest posts and interviews (a LOT of guest posts and interviews). I'm not AS comfortable with vlogging, so I only did a couple of those (but it's still a nice change of pace). And then there were a few guest chats I ended up doing that turned out to be a lot of fun.
I tried to have fun with it. I did little things like made up a quiz for Facebook that people could take, to see if they were Team Lansing or Team Thorpe. I made a fan page for the Witch Eyes series on Facebook (and later an author page), and updated the book trailer that had been done originally back in 2009. I'm usually pretty talkative on Twitter, so I did some outreach there, too, but I tried to make it fun more than anything. It's hard, because you never want to be that person who ONLY talks about "my book is coming out, my book is coming out, hey have you heard? My book is coming out."
I really just tried to stick to the kinds of things that I was comfortable with. I also tried not to be too overwhelming with anything, so that six months from release I wasn't annoying people daily to buy my book.
9. That’s good advice to do what you’re comfortable with. I have to admit I’ve never done a vlog and would be nervous doing one. Glad I’m not alone. What are you working on now?
Right now, I'm working on the edits for book 2 in the series, DEMON EYES, which comes out next fall. And after that, I have a fun project I've been playing around with that I'd like to finish. It's a bit of new territory for me - writing in present tense for the first time, a female protagonist, a new setting.
Thanks Scott for all your great advice. Good luck with your book.
You can visit Scott at his blog, WITCH EYES Facebook page, and his author Facebook page.
Scott’s publisher generously offered a copy of WITCH EYES for a giveaway. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on December 10th. I’ll announce the winner on December 12th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.
If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.
Here’s what’s coming up the next few weeks. On Friday, I’m super excited to be participating in an awesome book lovers holiday giveaway blog hop. I have some fantastic offerings for you to say thanks for all the support you've given me this year. And hop around for other giveaways. Please stop by and enter the contest.
Then next Monday, I'll be interviewing debut author Karsten Knight and giving away a copy of WILDFIRE. On Wednesday next week, I'll be doing a special blog post so I can interview Shelli Johannes-Wells as part of her blog tour for UNTRACEABLE. I'll be giving away a copy of her book. Then the following Monday I'm interviewing Louise Caiola and giving away a copy of her debut book WISHLESS.
Hope to see you Friday!
I have a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which is YOU, my readers and friends, this wonderful community, and Natalie, who gives precious time to this blog and makes it an even more giving place for writers.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, and have a beautiful day!
Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book.
Today I’m excited to interview Hikari, a follower and a ninth grader who is Kris’ blog partner at Imaginary Reads. They have a fantastic blog where they review books and do some book giveaways. I recommend it.
Hi Hikari. Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live, your school, and what you like to read.
I’m a ninth grader (we call it year ten over here) in Hong Kong. I go to an international school and I’m bilingual in Chinese (Cantonese, though I’m fluent in Mandarin) and English. I love writing, blogging, and of course, reading. I’ll read practically anything that has words in it, YA, adult fiction, literature, inch-thick computing books (don’t ask—tech geek here), manga—you name it, I’ll probably read it. I do love YA best though, especially contemporaries and dystopias.
2. Wow! That's awesome that you live in Hong Kong and can speak in Cantonese and Mandarin. My daughter is Chinese and we've tried to learn. It's not easy. Before you started blogging, how did you find out about the books you read? What about new books coming out?
Before I came to know about the book blogging community, all I had was one bookshop, really. It’s pretty far from where I live, about half an hour by public transport (which is far HK-wise). Page One is one of the few book retailers specializing in English books in HK. So every time I went there, I’d buy loads of books. I generally spent over $500 (~US$80) every trip—I didn’t get that many books either, English books are really expensive here. It ate up all my pocket money, this book addiction of mine.
3. That's true dedication to spend so much on books. What made you decide to start blogging? How did your blog partnership with Kris come about and how did you find each other living in two different countries?
Well, I’ve always thought that blogs were really cool. I started stalking publishers at some point, and then somehow, discovered the world of book bloggers. Kris had her exams back then, and she had her own writing blog. She started a reading blog but didn’t have the time too keep it up, what with her exams. The idea of blogging together came up, and bam—that was it.
It’s funny how we met, considering that we’re running a reading blog together, because I met Kris through writing. We were both writing novels at the time, and our friendship started off as critique buddies. Somehow, we evolved into blogging partners, and I’m glad. As Kris said, we’ve gotten a lot closer.
4. That's awesome how you connected. Though Casey and I aren't critique partners, I followed her blog for a long time. When she needed a blog partner, I took the plunge and e-mailed her and am so glad I did. You and Kris seem like a good match too. How has blogging changed what you read, if at all? What books are you waiting to be released?
Blogging has given me the opportunity to find out about new books a lot quicker. Now, I know about books with incredible hype around them and which books are coming out soon. The ratings and heartfelt reviews from fellow bloggers make me want to read books I never dreamed I’d read. Before, I’d have to wait until my once-in-a-while bookstore trip to hunt for books with interesting blurbs and pretty covers. I’m waiting for Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler, Insurgent by Veronica Roth, Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver, Isla and the Happily Ever After and a lot more… I’m sure I’d bore everybody to tears if I kept going.
5. We're looking forward to a lot of the same books. Do you buy most of your book, receive ARCS, or get them at the library? How often do you go to a bookstore?
I don’t get a lot of ARCs compared to Kris and other book bloggers. Nobody likes international shipping, especially to some part of China that isn’t really China that you can’t even see on a map—and I don’t either. HK libraries are seriously lacking in the English department and our school library is really slow updating new releases. So I guess, in the end, I’m still buying most of my books. But I’ve been using The Book Depository and buying Kindle ebooks more.
6. That's too bad you can't get ARCs mailed to you. But you gave me some advice on getting ARCS online from book publishers so at least that's a way you can get get them. Thanks for the advice BTW. Do you read any teen book blogs, book blogger review blogs, author blogs, or author or publisher websites? Become a fan of an author on Facebook? Why?
Yups! I do all of the above. After you’ve read some of the reviews of a certain blogger, you get a feel for their tastes. If they’re similar to mine, I’d be more inclined to try out some of the books they’ve liked. I read author blogs because most of the time, they’re really interesting. I love how they’ll dish out writing tips sometimes, complain about the weather some other time, and release snippets of information about their books that always leaves me drooling. Publisher websites are just for me to stalk to-be released books though.
As for Facebook… If I like an author, why not show some appreciation? Facebook’s a major meter for everything nowadays, and it’s only one click on my part. As a bonus, I get news about their new books, possible competitions, giveaways, etc. It’s win-win.
7. Do you have any teen or book blogger review blogs you’d recommend we follow and why?
The Story Siren has brief reviews that leave you wanting to read the book anyway. Mundie Moms are looking better in black since 1234 (no, really, they host a lot of interviews and live author chats). Alison Can Read’s reviews are compulsively readable and I love that she’s reviews manga too. There are a lot-lot-lot of others and I could probably go on forever—but I won’t.
8. I love The Story Siren and Mundie Moms too. I find out about a lot of books from them. Have any of your teachers recommended any blogs or websites to your class or to you?
My current English teacher is a huge fan of classics. Just a few lessons ago, he recommended works by Zola, Lermontov, Emily Bronte, Tolstoy, Maupassant, Hardy, Eliot and Balzac to me. I’m currently reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which was recommended by him too. By recommended, I mean “threw at me in the library and went ‘You should read this.’” None of my teachers have recommended blogs or websites though.
9. Are there things your favorite authors could do that would make you more likely to visit their website, their blog, or become a fan on Facebook?
There are only two things, really. One, write a mind-blowingly amazing book. Two, have a sense of humour. Because if the book is that amazing, I’ll probably stalk the author in hopes of hearing about a sequel or other books by the same author, which will lead me to their site/blog/fb page. And if they have a sense of humour, it’ll probably keep me there.
10. That's great advice. Have any authors visited your school? Who? Is there anything you’d recommend that an author do to make their presentation more interesting to you and other kids at your school?
Not a single author has ever tried to cross the Pacific Ocean to reach this little school of mine at the tip of South-East Asia—to my dismay. Thomas Friedman (The World is Flat) visited the university my mom works at, but it was during my school time, so I didn’t get to listen to him. The only thing I’d like to say to authors doing presentations is to ask themselves, “What would Steve Jobs do?” Steve Jobs doesn’t have anything to do with books, but he made his presentations magical.
…Okay, maybe that was a bit too geeky of me.
That's a great tribute to Steve Jobs. Thanks Hikari for all your advice.
Today I'm giving away an ARC of ENTICE by Carrie Jones. I won this ARC and quickly read the first two books in the series so I could read it, especially since CAPTIVATE (Book #2) ended with a bang. Talk about a cliffhanger. SPOILER ALERT: DON'T READ THE GOODREADS BLURB IF YOU DON'T WANT ANY SPOILERS! I loved that this is an urban fantasy with pixies as the magical creatures, something you don't read about too much.
Here's a blurb from Goodreads:
Zara and Nick are soul mates, meant to be together forever.
But that's not quite how things have worked out.
For starters, well, Nick is dead.
Supposedly, he's been taken to a mythic place for warriors known as Valhalla, so Zara and her friends might be able to get him back. But it's taking time, and meanwhile a group of evil pixies is devastating Bedford, with more teens going missing every day. An all-out war seems imminent, and the good guys need all the warriors they can find. But how to get to Valhalla?
And even if Zara and her friends discover the way, there's that other small problem: Zara's been pixie kissed. When she finds Nick, will he even want to go with her? Especially since she hasn't just turned...she's Astley's queen.
I'm giving away my ARC of ENTICE. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment on Hikari's interview by midnight on December 3rd. I'll announce the winner on December 5th.
If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry.
Here's what's coming up. Next Monday, I'm interviewing debut author Scott Tracey and giving away a copy of WITCH EYES.
Then on Friday December 2nd, I'll be participating in an awesome book lovers holiday giveaway blog hop. I have some fantastic offerings for you to say thanks for all the support you've given me this year. And hop around for other giveaways.
Then on December 5th, I'll be interviewing debut author Karsten Knight and giving away a copy of WILDFIRE.
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all enjoy the holiday. And hope to see you next Monday!
Brandy Rivers is currently a literary manager/producer working in both film and television at Magnet Management. In that capacity, she is responsible for representing authors, screenwriters, and directors as well as developing underlying material including novels, articles, blogs, video games and life rights for production. Among her many clients, she currently represents Dave Lease (THE LEFT TURN set up at Lionsgate Films), Chris McKenna (Co-Executive Producer on COMMUNITY), Craig Titley (CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, PERCY JACKSON AND THE LIGHTNING THIEF), Robyn Harding (CHRONICLES OF A MIDLIFE CRISIS in TV development with Gary Fleder/ABC Studios), Angela Nissel (SCRUBS, TIL DEATH, BROKE DIARIES in development at Lionsgate, MIXED previously in development with Halle Barry/HBO), and Myra McEntire (HOURGLASS set to debut in May ‘11 by Egmont). Brandy is also a producer on the upcoming Lifetime pilot DEAR HAILEY based on the book SHATTERED SILENCE. Prior to becoming a manager, Brandy worked in development, most recently at Underground Films, a production/management company whose credits include REMEMBER ME, a film she helped oversee from development through post production. Previously, she worked at Summit Entertainment where she helped develop such projects as the TWILIGHT FRANCHISE, SEX DRIVE, and KNOWING. She began her career at Jerry Bruckheimer Television where she worked on over 430 hours of primetime network television including the CSI FRANCHISE, WITHOUT A TRACE, COLD CASE, E RING, and CLOSE TO HOME among many others. Brandy is a proud graduate of the University of North Carolina where she received a BA in Psychology and played Division 1 Soccer.
Hi Brandy! I'm incredibly excited for this interview. Thank you so much for your time. Please, start us off with a little about yourself and Magnet Management.
Thank you so much for having me! I grew up in a small town and was an avid fan of books, film and television. After graduating from college, I headed straight to Los Angeles to pursue my lifelong dream of getting coffee. I’m just kidding, to a degree. It is true that you have to get a lot of coffee before you can do what I like to call “grown up” work and to this day I can still make a mean latte.
My first job in the business was at Jerry Bruckheimer Television. It was there that I had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented writers in Hollywood on shows such as COLD CASE, WITHOUT A TRACE, and the CSI franchise. After JBTV, I transitioned to Summit Entertainment where I learned the film business. It was during my time at Summit while I really missed working in television, and went in search of a job where I could do both film and television and found: artist representation. Working as a manager has given me the ability to combine my experience in film and television with my desire to find and nurture new talent. In my current capacity, I work with writers across all mediums including film, television and books. It’s important to clarify, though, that I only work with authors to sell their material to film and television and do not sale books to publishing. My passion is giving writers a home where they are heard, and an outlet to accomplish their dreams; whether that dream is to see one of their books on the big screen or move from being an accomplished author to writing original movies or television series.
My company Magnet Management began as one of the first Literary Management Companies, Zide/Perry Entertainment. Zide/Perry was behind such movies as AMERICAN PIE, FINAL DESTINATION, and the CATS AND DOGS series. The principles of that company Warren Zide and Craig Perry decided to shift their focus to producing and dissolved their partnership. The remaining managers formed a new entity called Magnet that focused specifically on client representation and development.
Artist representation seems like a perfect meld of what you love in books, television and film. Was it projects like TWILIGHT at Summit that led you to books to film?
At Bruckheimer we tracked books for television and were constantly on the lookout for great source material. In fact, pouring through books and articles was one of my favorite parts of the job. It was at Summit, however, when I realized for the first time how passionate book fans are about authors and about material. This experience made me much more excited about book to film. Sometimes in the film business, you can put your blood sweat and tears into something and then, when your movie premieres, it’s basically over. In a typical film release pattern, box office drops approximately 50% each weekend. When you work on something with a passionate fan base like TWILIGHT, however, fans talk about and promote the movies online well after the opening weekend and the week to week fall off is much lower.
I love how adaptations create book sales as well. Totally win-win! What's an average day in the office like for you (if such a thing exists)?
Wow, that’s an interesting question. My days are mainly filled with reading books and scripts and talking on the phone about what I read. Sounds crazy right? But it’s the truth. I have to leave a little bit of time for socializing with studio & network executives, as well as producers. So my breakfast, lunch, and evening calendars are pretty full. Hollywood is about who you know so it’s important to see old friends and meet new people.
I see you not only manage talent but produce for major studios. Are you usually involved this way in the projects you sell?
I produce for the major studios occasionally, but most of my job is to sale books to them and let other companies produce. Sometimes it just makes sense to have me produce and sometimes the writers want me to. When your client really trusts that you have their best interest at heart they feel more comfortable knowing that you are going to be in every meeting and fighting for their vision every day. Some writers don’t feel like they need that. So I would say that it’s determined on a case-by-case basis, but my primary business is sales.
You co-agent for a number of literary agencies too, correct? How do you decide which projects to pitch, and what are you looking for when you read a client's work?
Yep, I work with many literary agents as a co-agent. I feel very fortunate because I get to work with some of the best agents in publishing and am meeting wonderful new agents everyday. As to how I decide what projects to pitch, it’s all based on passion. Sometimes it takes a long time to find the right home for a property, and many times, a book is optioned several times before it is produced. I have to wake up in the morning excited about a project and keep fighting for it, sometimes for years. But it’s also important to know that I have material on my list that I can sell. Some is harder than others, and the list of what is hard changes every day.
That passion comes through. Your clients are lucky to have you! Do you also scout? Or accept submission directly from writers?
Yes, I do both. I really enjoy discovering new writers. Earlier this year I was pitched a book idea at a wedding that I thought was interesting. I decided to help the author develop the proposal and then teamed him up with a publishing agent who took it out and sold it. The book is currently on submission to several television production companies for development. Just today, in fact, an exec I submitted it to told me that it was one of the best pieces of material that she had read this year!
It’s fun to discover new writers and even more fun to call them with good news. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job!
How does a book-to-film/tv deal come about? Walk us through a deal.
Book to film/tv deals can come about in a million different ways. Sometimes a studio head, network exec, or big star will fall in love with a piece of material they come across in their day to day lives and make a preemptive offer. Other times, an intern will be combing through the slush pile and find something amazing that works its way up the development chain until it turns into a deal. The traditional way for film is to take the book out to production companies. The goal is to have several producers vying for the property as this raises the profile of the material and generates “heat” around town. The next step is to split up the town, which means that you assign different studios to the producers. The producers then take the property in and fight for the studios to buy it for them. It sounds counterintuitive, but for the most part, production companies do not spend their own money on material. The reason many of them have studio deals is to get the studios to purchase material on behalf of the company.
I find that, generally, this method does not have a high success rate anymore. Today, most studios want to buy something that feels more like a full movie, rather than a piece of development. This means that studios want packages, which is a piece of material with a writer attached and maybe a director and actor as well.
That's so interesting! What's the difference between selling to film versus television?
Film is a director’s medium and television is more the writer’s medium. So, when I’m packaging a book for film, generally I like to approach a director first while in television my first step is to attach a writer or showrunner. Don’t get me wrong, I have sold to television without a writer attached, but it’s certainly not easy. The first question a television executive asks is: “Who is going to write it?” This is particularly important because the exec wants to know that they have someone in place who can helm the series through multiple seasons and potentially hundreds of episodes.
Another big difference between film and television is in the time commitment. When you sell something to television, you generally know pretty quickly (usually within 12 months) whether you are going to series or not. In film, the development process can take years. One famous book, A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, has been in continual development for three decades. While that’s certainly not typical, it’s illustrative of how the filmmaking process can sometimes get off track.
Overall, I would say that most books lend themselves either to film or television. So it’s mostly based on which your project would be best for.
So, how does your role evolve through the process of a book becoming a film?
As a co-agent, my role starts with the sale! Sales can come from heat (meaning a bunch of studios want to option the property) or from putting together a package that generates interest (adding a director or a piece of talent). It’s the most exciting part of the process until the movie premieres. After a sale, my job turns into making a lot of phone calls. I frequently check in and monitor the process to ensure that the ball is still rolling and all parties remain excited! I also have to make sure that my client continues working towards future goals. It’s easy to get distracted by a big feature or tv sale, but I want my clients to keep working on new material.
When I produce a project, I am much more involved in the day-to-day process. I’m in every meeting and am privy to much more information. That process also starts with the sale, but then moves on to putting a writer on it, developing the script, putting a director on, and then casting.
How involved (or not-involved) are authors throughout that same process?
This is a very tough question to answer, because it varies widely. When I work with authors I give them the latitude to determine how involved they want to be. Some authors are highly involved while others want me to just call them when we have a deal! My primary goal is to make sure that what my client wants comes first and foremost.
Once a studio comes on board, it’s hard to say exactly how involved the author will be. In television particularly, it is much more difficult to stay involved because of the tight schedule that the project is on. Once a show goes to series, it’s typical for the author to be a consultant on the project at least for the first year or two. After that, they sometimes stay on the staff and other times don’t.
We've all of heard of books that get optioned but never go into production. What factors are at work here?
Yes, it does happen that way sometimes. I tell authors not to believe that it will be a movie until it’s actually in production. That being said, studios are not purchasing rights to books anymore without making a serious commitment. They have learned that, if they don’t want to make the movie or send the pilot to series, then it is just a waste of money.
The factors at work in the decision making process here are usually auspices. Who is the writer? Did the writer deliver a draft that will draw further talent (actors or a director)? The movie making process is all about getting your project to a place where the studio feels comfortable spending 30 million dollars (sometimes more, sometimes less) on the product. The book and its success in publishing help, but don’t always make the decision a no brainer. Take a film like WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. The book was a huge NY Times best seller but no one saw the movie. But then you have projects like THE HELP that would have never been made without the success of the book that was a smashing success.
Great to hear studios are committing seriously. How is writing books different from writing for film/tv? Do writers ever make that transition, or even write their own adaptations?
The biggest difference is that writing for movies and television is a lot more dialog driven and you have fewer pages to tell your story in. This can be a struggle for novelists initially as most of them enjoy evoking rich detail in their prose and have to learn to be more economical in their use of language.
To answer your second questions, yes, writers do make the transition all the time! And I love it when they do… it’s fun to work with authors on learning the ins and outs of writing for film and television. The process of writing a movie or novel is much the same. You do it at home, by yourself, and can do it in your PJs! Writing for television is more like a job. You go to work and sit in a writer’s room breaking stories as a group. Then, writers on staff are assigned individual episodes which are written over a week or several days, often at home.
With writers who want to make the transition to features, I suggest adapting one of their novels on spec to take out with the book. This proves to the studios and production companies that you can write in screenplay form. With television, breaking in is a bit different. Unless you are a huge bestselling author, most of the time the networks will not buy for an unknown writer. In that case, I usually recommend for a writer to start by writing screenplays. After a sale or two on the feature side, it becomes much easier to sell a pilot.
Great advice, Brandy. What's selling right now?
In television, intricate and interesting characters always are a draw. Anything with the typical lawyer, cop, or doctor such as BONES and RIZZOLI AND ISLES usually works. You can also sell soapy material like GOOD CHRISTIAN BELLES. Most of the premium cable networks like to explore worlds that have never been seen before like WALKING DEAD or GAME OF THRONES. The most important thing to look for in underlying material for television is storylines that can run for 100 episodes.
In features, I feel like it changes every day. YA is tough if the material doesn’t stand apart from the other YA books that are already shooting as movies. For instance, vampires, werewolves, and dystopian futures are really hard to sell right now. That being said, there are situations in which they will sell. Big worlds, contained thrillers, and family adventures are always big hits. But again, anything is possible in features.
The one thing to always remember choosing material is that movies are meant to be seen in group settings on the big screen and are therefore world driven. Television is meant to be watched in your home either alone or with your loved ones, so it’s about bringing the characters into your home for an hour each week.
That's a great way to look at it! Before you get back to your busy day, I'd love to hear about your recent deals and clients. Fire away!
Sure, I work with a lot of great clients every day. I represent Angela Nissel who wrote the books THE BROKE DIARIES which is in development at Lionsgate, and MIXED which she developed at HBO with Halle Barry. She was also a Co-EP on SCRUBS, and Consulted for TIL DEATH. I also work with Craig Titley who adapted PERCY JACKSON AND THE LIGHTNING THEIF for Fox, 20,000 LEAGUES for Sam Raimi and Sony. This season, I set up Robyn Harding’s CHRONICLES OF A MIDLIFE CRISIS to ABC Studios for Gary Fleder to produce.
As a producer, two of my recent deals are Myra McEntire’s HOURGLASS which is set up at 20th Century Fox, with John Davis producing and myself executive producing and SHATTERED SILENCE which is set up at Lifetime and now called DEAR HAILEY. On that project, I am executive producing with Ashton Kutcher.
I'll be watching for these! Thank you, again, for your time, Brandy. It's been such a pleasure, and I've learned so much!
Thank you!! I have really enjoyed our chat and hope that I didn’t talk your ear off!
Not at all! We could discuss this stuff all day, and I'm sure I'd still have more questions.
Isn't she great, everyone? As you read above, Brandy is open to submissions. Just remember, she does NOT represent authors to publishers! She's looking for screenplays and books for adaptation to TV/film. Here are her guidelines:
I am looking for anything except horror, romance, dystopian YA, and any vampires. Otherwise, I am wide open to anything!
Send a query and the first five pages of your material to me via email at brandy(at)magnetmanagement(dot)com. We are a green company, so please no snail mail queries.
Tip: when writing your query letters, please make them fun! The more personality I see in your query letter, the more excited it will make me about you as a writer. Remember that while it is mostly about your material, YOU are still the client.
Hope you enjoyed the interview. Please leave a comment if you have time, and good luck if you query!
What About Apps? Five Reasons for Picture Book Authors to Stay the Course.
A few weeks ago I wrote post for this blog about the state of picture books. There is some belief that the world of apps is somehow to blame for this downward turn. It’s tempting to blame things on technology, sometimes. But the picture book market started to dip long before the onset of apps—mostly due to a glut of picture books that came earlier and a lack of space for them at the big chains. The rise of apps for kids, despite the impression we may be getting from the media, has really yet to happen. Sure, some kids have early access to Ipads, but most don’t. As of the middle of this year, just 8% of adults in the US owned tablet computers. And if you’ve tried out kids’ apps, you know they’re really much more difficult to enjoy on a smart phone. This may change, but if you’re a picture book author, what you’re doing should not change. Here’s why:
1. Picture Books are shareable; Ipads make car rides bearable. While Ipads and tablets may help keep kids busy, most parents still enjoy cuddling up with their kid and turning pages. Many want to relive the experience of their childhood via their kids and this means sharing favorite books.
2. You can’t submit a picture book app—or at least not through the traditional means. Agents aren’t acquiring apps writers yet. They’ve told me—and Rick Richter of Ruckus Media has confirmed—that the majority of apps are being created from pre-existing content and most of the remainder of them have been made to order by a writer who was hired specifically for that purpose. In other words, there isn’t really a broad and consistent submission policy yet for apps creators.
3. One man’s app is another man’s picture book: The distinction between a picture book and an app happens in development. It may be that what you had envisioned as a picture book may eventually make a good app, but your focus should be the same regardless—good writing.
4. Picture book lovers are still out there! If you’ve been paying attention over the past month, you’ve noticed that picture book lovers everywhere are renewing their commitment to the format--see here, here and here. People who love picture books want more picture books to read. Don’t you?
5. Writing picture books is fun! If you dig deep enough you can always find a reason NOT to keep writing picture books. But if you like it, why would you want to do that? Just write, for Pete’s sake.
Thanks to Mary Kole, Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Emily Van Beek at Folio, Tracey Adams from Adams Literary, Erin Murphy at Erin Murphy Literary, Rick Richter from Ruckus Media for your insight.
Tamson Weston is a published children's book author and editor with over 15 years experience at several prestigious publishing houses including HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Disney Hyperion. She has edited many acclaimed and award-winning books for children of all ages. Tamson loves to collaborate with people and help authors, illustrators, agents and publishers bring projects to their full potential.
Among the authors Tamson has worked with with are Adam Rex, Mac Barnett, Robert Weinstock, Adam Gopnik, Jane Leslie Conly, Anne Rockwell, Deborah Hopkinson, Jen Violi, Alexander Stadler, Dan Santat, Florence Parry Heide, Dandi Daley Mackall, Brian Biggs, Marilyn Singer, Megan Cash and Mark Newgarden.
Tamson has an MFA in Writing and Literature. You can visit her website at Tamson Weston Books.
Tomorrow, children's book author and editor Tamson Weston is back with a new guest post called, "What About Apps? Five Reasons for Picture Book Authors to Stay the Course." Please stop by! If you missed her first post full of great tips, check it out here.
Friday, I'll be posting an interview with Brandy Rivers, a book-to-film agent with Magnet Management. It's super informative and you really don't want to miss it. You can find Brandy on Twitter @BrandyRivers8 in the meantime.
Monday, make sure you stop by for Natalie's new Ask the Expert interview with a teen book blogger. If you haven't been reading the series, you're missing out on some great teen perspective.
Finally, don't forget to enter for a chance to win THE SECRETS OF THE CROWN by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson (ends Nov 19th) and HUNTER by DJ DeSmyter (ends Nov 26th).
What are YOU up to this week?
The winner is:
Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book.
Today I’m excited to interview DJ DeSmyter about his debut novel HUNTED, which was released on August 9, 2011. I met DJ at Maggie Stiefvater’s book signing in July and learned he’s a debut author. I found HUNTED to be a fast read and I loved that the focus was on Lily’s and Alex’s developing relationship more than the paranormal aspects of the story. That’s what really sucked me into the story.
Here’s a description from Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Lily Atwater has always kept to herself, living a lonely life with her workaholic dad. Not the most thrilling life, but it’s quiet and ordinary, two things she’s come to expect from living in Victor Hills, Michigan.
When kind and mysterious Alex takes refuge in her home, she is suddenly thrown into his world of werewolves, a world he wants to keep her safe from. But while the two of them grow closer, a relentless hunter continues his search, stalking the woods with hopes of catching the wolf that got away…
Hi DJ. Thanks so much for joining us.
Thank you so much for having me!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer.
Well, let’s see... I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember and writing was always something I enjoyed, but never took seriously. Actually, when I was a toddler, I had a speech impairment and my parents were told I would never speak or write. So, my parents have always encouraged my passion for reading and when I told them I wanted to be a writer, they gave me their full support.
It wasn’t until after I read Twilight a couple of years ago that I realized writing was something I wanted to pursue. I wanted to create characters and worlds that readers would fall in love with—that I would fall in love with. I just never expected my dream of being published to come true so soon!
2. Wow! You’ve come completely around circle from a toddler who might never write. It’s interesting how many authors get inspired to write after reading a book. Me too. I loved how Alex’s family is a family rather than part of a pack of wolves. How did you decide on this and what else did you do in plotting HUNTED to make it different than the other werewolf stories out there?
Since family has always been important to me, I always knew Alex’s family would be a real family. I also knew I didn’t want my main werewolves to act like wolves. I wanted them to be as human as possible. A lot of other werewolf stories focus on the animal side, so I decided to do the opposite.
3. That was so smart to take a different focus than all the other werewolf stories out there. It makes your story stand out. Lily starts out as a shy, lonely teenager not even very close to her dad, the only member of her family. But she really blossoms through her relationship with Alex. Tell us a bit about her character development. Did you have any challenges writing from her POV?
I actually have a lot of friends who are girls, so writing from her POV was rather easy. The book was originally supposed to be told solely from her view, so I had a firm grasp of who she was early on, so that also helped make the writing process smoother.
4. You did a good job in developing the romance between Lily and Alex. It was one of my favorite parts of the story. Do you have any tips on writing romance in YA novels?
Thank you very much! I’m a romantic at heart, so I’m happy to hear people are enjoying Lily and Alex’s relationship.
My one tip for writing romance would be this: Think about what you would want in a relationship, or the things you love/hate about the relationship you’re in. Take those positives and negatives and use them to help shape your characters’ relationship. (Does that make sense? Haha)
5. Ha! Some of us wouldn’t want to admit the negatives of our relationships in public. But that’s good advice. You wrote HUNTED while in high school and also blog. (DJ, correct this if I’m wrong). How did you juggle the demands of high school, homework, blogging, and writing? What was your writing process?
Hunted was written my senior year and it was completed thanks to a lot of late nights. But, don’t worry, I always completed my homework! I usually worked ahead and finished my assignments early, which gave me more time to read and write during the week.
I started with the prologue and from there I wrote the rest, beginning to end. Compared to my previous efforts, the writing process for Hunted was rather smooth. I usually run into roadblocks with projects because I don’t work from an outline, but I encountered very few issues with the story.
6. Now that my daughter’s in 9th grade, I’m even more amazed you could keep up with homework and write. Let’s move onto the business side of writing. Tell us about your road to publication.
My journey to publication was surprisingly quick. I found out Pendrell Publishing was open to unagented submissions, so I submitted to them on a sort of whim. I almost didn’t end up sending a submission, but my critique partner had done a lot of work on Hunted and I didn’t want their work (nor mine for that matter) to go to waste.
The rest is, as they say, history, but I couldn’t have asked for a better home for Hunted. I have loved every part of the process and the team at Pendrell is amazing.
7. You’re making the rest of us jealous. Just kidding. We’re happy for you. How have you been marketing HUNTED? Do you have any advice for us aspiring authors?
ARCs were sent out to bloggers and other reviewers, and the online community has been instrumental in getting the word out. Our society is practically centered around social networking and we’ve been trying to use that to our advantage. I’ll also be attending BEA and the Romantic Times Convention next year, as well as Epic ConFusion, which is a sci-fi/fantasy convention in Troy, MI.
My advice would be to write, read, and live. Write because you love it, read because you love to, and live because the world has so much to offer.
8. The conferences sound like they’ll be fun. I’ll have to check out the convention in Troy one of these days since it’s in Michigan. What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a new project, but it’s not a sequel to Hunted. I’m really excited about this new story, though, and I’m trying my hand at writing in present tense. That’s all I’m going to tell you, though.
Thank you very much for having me!
Thanks DJ for all your advice. Good luck with your book.
You can visit DJ at his blog.
I'm giving away a copy of HUNTED. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on November 26th. I’ll announce the winner on November 28th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.
If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.Next week I'll be interviewing a teenager who’s also a book blogger for my Ask The Expert series and giving away another book. Then on November 28th, I’m interviewing another debut author Scott Tracey and giving away a copy of WITCH EYES. I have a bunch of awesome interviews and giveaways set for early December too.
Hope to see you next Monday!
Just a quick note that Regal Literary is having an awesome Winter Book Giveaway, including:
- Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry – signed!
- Martin Clark’s The Legal Limit – signed!
- Alex Heard’s The Eyes of Willie McGee – signed!
- Keith Scribner’s The Oregon Experiment – signed!
- Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies
- Thomas Pletzinger’s Funeral For a Dog
- Matt Blackstone’s A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie
- Scott Cohen’s Don’t You Just Hate That? 738 Annoying Things
- Nancey Flowers and Courtney Park’s He Was My Man First
They're giving away multiples of each, and you can enter through the month of November. The entry form can be found HERE. Good luck!
This week's Agent Spotlight features Liza Pulitzer-Voges of Eden Street LLC
Status: Open to submissions.
About: “Liza Pulitzer Voges has been a literary agent for childrens' book authors and illustrators for almost 30 years working with over 40 clients. Highlights of the years include Lois Ehlert's Caldecott Honor for COLOR ZOO; Gloria Whelan's National Book Award for HOMELESS BIRD; and Sucie Stevenson's E.B. White award for HENRY AND MUDGE AND THE GREAT GRANDPAS. The growth of authors such as Dan Gutman, Joan Holub, Suzanne Williams, Shutta Crum, and many others is what makes the job irresistible.
“Picture books are still of interest but I'm also interested in young adult, particularly for boys. A middle grade fantasy would also be fun to see. Check out the Eden Street website for more information.” (Link)
About the Agency:
“Eden Street is proud to represent over 40 authors and author-illustrators of books for young readers from pre-school through young adult. Their books have won numerous awards over the past twenty-five years. At Eden Street, we pride ourselves on tailoring our services to each client's goals, working in tandem with them to achieve literary, critical and commercial success.” (Link)
What She's Looking For:
“Representing authors and author-illustrators of books for young readers from pre-school through young adult.” (Link)
From an Interview (07/2011):
“Picture books are still of interest but I'm also interested in young adult, particularly for boys. A middle grade fantasy would also be fun to see.”
“Unique historical fiction such as REVOLUTION or NORTHERN LIGHT or PRISONER IN THE PALACE and a wonderful middle grade fantasy.” (Link)
From an Interview (08/2010):
“I represent all genres! Well, I haven't done any paranormal, so I guess I'm odd that way, but I don't find the need to jump on any bandwagon.”
“I love mysteries as an adult reader... I'd love a really good mystery series, hope that it will have some fun humor too! And naturally, great writing, strong voice, and setting.” (Link)
What She Isn't Looking For:
“I post my requirements on my website, so I get truly annoyed when I get e-mail submissions! I just delete them! And I don't represent adult, so that too is a pet peeve.” (Link)
There is a list of agency clients on the Eden Street website.
As of this posting, Ms. Pulitzer-Voges does not appear to report her deals to Publisher’s Marketplace. She is a veteran agent with many confirmed sales.
Snail-Mail: Yes (only).
Submission Guidelines (always verify):
“Kindly send via mail (no electronic or fax please), including a SASE, a picture book manuscript or dummy; a synopsis and three chapters of a middle-grade or YA novel; for non-fiction, a proposal and three sample chapters is recommended. We give priority to members of the Society of Children's Writers and Illustrators.”
See the Eden Street website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines.
Ms. Pulitzer-Voges strives to respond to all queries, and her response time ranges from days to several months. There are some instances of no-response. Stats are limited on requested material but suggest a one- two-month wait.
What's the Buzz?
Liza Pulitzer-Voges opened Eden Street Literary in April of 2009 after 25 years with Kirchoff/Wohlberg. She has a successful list of clients who seem very happy with her representation. She remains open to submissions but accepts snail-mail only.
Worth Your Time:
7 Questions For: Literary Agent Liza Voges at Middle Grade Ninja (07/2011).
Interview with an Agent: Liza Pulitzer-Voges at Mother. Write. (Repeat.) (08/2010).
Around the Web:
Liza Pulitzer-Voges on P&E ($, AAR).
Please see the Eden Street website for contact and query information.
Last updated: 11/10/11.
Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.
Last Reviewed By Agent? 11/10/11.
Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com
Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.
I don't have a tip this week, so I thought I would answer a request I received a few days ago. Misty Provencher over at Nothing Cannot Happen Today asked if I would post some pictures of my dachshunds for her. I'm all too happy to oblige.
Before I get into the pictures, however, I wanted to mention that Misty lost her agent and is posting her novel on her blog two chapters a week. I've been reading along and am really loving the story. If you'd like to read more about Misty's decision to do this go here. If you'd like to read CORNERSTONE the chapters are all available in tabs at the top of her blog.
Now, about the doxies. They've always been my favorite breed, but it was never in the cards for me to have one. Finally, this year, I finished school and felt my kids might be old enough to handle a puppy. Or two. And I knew exactly what I wanted - dapples. Sprocket is a black and tan mini dapple and Oslo is a chocolate and tan mini dapple.
Enjoy the adorableness, Misty.
And so they don't feel too left out, here's Trever our 7-year-old coon hound...
And Jasper, a.k.a. Mister Cat, who adopted us shortly after we got the pups.
(Can you guess what that is in the background?)
Hope you're all having a great Tuesday!
ETA: If you want to send in a tip for the upcoming weeks, e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com
Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book.
Today I’m excited to interview Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson about their second book in THE FAMILIARS series SECRETS OF THE CROWN. Remember how I confessed about a month ago that I don’t really like stories with animals as main characters? Well, SECRETS OF THE CROWN proved me wrong again. I loved Aldwyn (a favorite name of mine), the telekinetic cat, Skylar, a blue jay who can create illusions, and Gilbert, an insecure tree frog that can see visions in water.
Here’s a description from Goodreads:
A curse befalls Vastia, eliminating human magic. Only animals are able to cast spells, and it is up to Aldwyn, Skylar, and Gilbert to save the queendom from the evil threatening it. In addition, Aldwyn discovers the truth about his past, embarking on a journey that brings him closer to the father he never knew.
Hi Adam & Andrew. Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became friends. I’m dying to know how you became friends from reading how you met on the book jacket.
Everyone knows how we met... it's written on the back flap of our book... we were both living in the same apartment building and started chatting in the parking lot. What people don't know is that we didn't really become friends until the next year, when we lived in temporary housing up in the Hollywood Hills. We spent our days writing and our nights hanging out at the pool with Hillary Duff, Frankie Muniz, and Megan Fox.
2. I just knew that you met in the parking lot. That is amazing how you connected again and then became friends and writing partners. How did you decide on Aldwyn’s, Skylar’s, and Gilbert’s magical powers and the whole mythology about the creation of Vastia and change of who governed it?
Aldwyn's power of telekinesis was chosen because we needed a power that Aldwyn could fake while he was pretending to be magical...Skyar's power was something incredible that wouldn't be too powerful and make them too easy to succeed. (We always wanted to maintain the idea that our familiars were the underdogs.) As for Gilbert, we needed a character who could tell the future so that the Grey Hair Witch storyline could come to pass.
The world itself was created with a secret history that would later empower the animal heroes of our story. It is revealed that animals first ruled this land before humans took control. This conflict plays out through the whole series.
3. So interesting how the plot dictated their magical abilities. Tell us a bit about Aldwyn and Skylar’s secret longing about their families that drives some of their character development throughout SECRETS OF THE CROWN. How did you plot this out?
We're always striving to have strong emotional arcs in our books and there's no better way to conjure that than with family. We really made sure that Aldwyn, Skylar, and Gilbert had familial journeys that played out in the first two books. It continues through book three and will through every Familiars book that we write.
4. I could never figure out which one of you wrote what parts of the story. Tell us about your writing process and how you make the story seem like it is told by only one author.
(Andrew's) mom wonders the same thing. She always wants to know which lines (Andrew) writes. And he tells her the same thing we're going to tell you. We don't know. That's because we sit in a room from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm across from each other and write every paragraph, sentence, and word together. Because of our process, the singularity of voice remains constant.
5. Ha! That's so mom-like to want to know. You must be incredibly good friends to be able to sit in a room with each other everyday. I hadn’t read the first book in your series but I could totally understand what was going on by the bits of backstory you fed us throughout the book. What are your tips for creating a series and figuring out how much backstory to share in the second book of the series?
We were really figuring this out ourselves, and continue to figure it out in subsequent books. It's a very fine balance. The bits of backstory we put in are more like reminders for people who read the first book than trying to acclimate a reader to the series mid-stream.
6. I’ve read that you also write for television and film together. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how that’s helped in your writing a novel?
Writing for film has definitely helped us be visual storytellers... using language to show action. There are very few scenes of characters just sitting around talking without something else going on to keep the scene exciting and a reader engaged. Pacing is another tool from our screenwriting kit that we're able to bring to our novels.
7. Yes, it's so easy to make the mistake of having characters just sit around and talk in a book. But you're right, it's better to weave it in with action. Tell us about how you got your agent at Regal Literary and your road to publication.
Our road was not a typical one for most authors. For eight years prior to writing our book, we had a literary agent for film and television. When we decided to write a book, we contacted an agent at our agency in Los Angeles who specialized in selling books to film companies. He helped guide us through writing our initial proposal for The Familiars. Then he passed it along to Joe Regal and Markus Hoffman at Regal Literary in New York, and we were fortunate enough for them to sign us off that proposal. From that point we worked with Markus for nine months before completing a revised proposal. It was then sent out to the major publishing houses and we were lucky enough to have Barbara Lalicki at HarperChildrens read the material and get very excited about it. A book deal was made for a trilogy and then a few weeks later we sold the film rights to Sony Animation!
8. Awesome. We all wish we had those type of connections. I read that THE FAMILIARS is going to be produced for film and that Sam Raimi is the producer. I love his work. How exciting! Tell us how that came about and what your role is in the movie. When is it coming out?
We sold the film rights to Sony Animation and Sam Raimi came aboard as producer. We adapted the book into a screenplay and worked on about a half dozen drafts. We received incredible input from Sam and it was certainly a career highlight for us to collaborate with. Because the film is going to be a 3D animated movie, it is not slated for release until 2014.
9. Can't wait to see it. Most authors don't have the experience like you do to write the screenplay. What are you working on now?
We are finishing up book three of The Familiars, Circle of Heroes. We are working on a screenplay at Paramount with the producer of The Transformers called Lions, Tigers, and Bears. And we are excited to begin a brand new book series (STARBOUNDERS) for the spring of 2013. It is a middle grade sci fi fantasy about regular kids who go to space camp and find out that it is not an ordinary space camp, but one that trains them to save the galaxy.
Good luck with your book and movie. Thanks Adam and Andrew for sharing your advice with us.
You can find Adam and Andrew at their website. Like them on Facebook too.
Adam and Andrew's agent generously offered a copy of SECRETS OF THE CROWN for a giveaway. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on November 19th. I’ll announce the winner on November 21st. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.
If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.
Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Whitney Messenger to spotlight middle grade authors. Check it out here.
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Hope to see you next Monday!