First, here's the winner of SHATTER ME:
Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book.
Today I’m excited to interview Anne Nesbet about her debut book THE CABINET OF EARTHS, which was released January 3, 2012. I really loved THE CABINET OF EARTHS. It was such a unique magical implement that drove a lot of the story.
Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:
With the help of a friendly boy named Valko, Maya discovers surprises hidden in her family trees brother. And now the shimmering glass Cabinet of Earths, at the heart of all these secrets, has chosen Maya to be its new Keeper.
As she untangles the ties between the Salamander House, the purple-eyed man, and the Cabinet of Earths, Maya realizes that her own brother may be in terrible danger. To save him, Maya must take on the magical underworld of Paris . . . before it is too late.
Hi Anne. Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you came to become a writer.
When I was very little, I would sometimes get so frightened of the dark (not just of the "dark," but of the strange sounds our house would make in the dark) that I would pull the covers right over my head to hide--and the problem with that approach is, as you'll know if you've been a fearful kid at some point, that the air soon gets very stuffy under all those blankets, and the scary noises don't go away. It was okay during the daytime, because I could distract myself by reading a book, but at night, when the lights were out . . . shudder. THEN one evening I discovered that if I told myself a story, it was almost as good as reading a real book: I could make myself forget about the dark corners, the shadows, the creaking walls. And I've been living half in stories ever since!
When we moved to France for a year, we ended up living in an apartment that had a beautiful glass cabinet in the corner, and in that cabinet were all of these mysterious jars and bottles full of sand. I found out later that our landlady had always had a particular love for deserts, and brought back desert sand as a souvenir from every trip she went on, but of course before I heard that explanation, I had spent many hours staring at those glinting bottles and wondering, wondering, wondering....
3. I love hearing about how story ideas can come from a writer's everyday life like yours did. I’ve read that you’ve lived in France both as a child and have been there as an adult. How did those experiences and your knowledge of French history shape your story?
Well, as I said above, I did encounter an inspiring cabinet in Paris! There were also some strikingly odd and beautiful buildings in our neighborhood, and some of those buildings had bronze salamanders for door handles. And every time I walked under the Eiffel Tower and felt the whole shape of the world shift somehow around me, I knew I wanted to write a story about Paris. When I was a child, I always found Paris a magical place to live. It's a place that's filled with nooks and crannies! There are little, tiny, hidden parks everywhere, and secret courtyards, and bits of Roman walls in the middles of squares, and statues everywhere, and candles in churches, and ancient bridges over the Seine's green water . . . and excellent chocolate croissants to munch on while you explore, of course. Mustn't forget the croissants!
4. Okay you've got me wanting to see it all too. Maya has to figure out her connection to the Cabinet of Earths while worrying about her sick mother and saving her brother. And you’ve done a brilliant job of tying the subplot with her mother into the main plot and using her brother to up the stakes. Tell us how you plotted this out and share any tips you have on weaving in subplots into your story.
What an interesting question! Let's see what I can remember about the plotting process for this one. When I started plotting, I had the character of Cousin Louise (she had come to mind even before Paris), I had the setting of Paris, I had the Cabinet of Earths (and a good idea of what the "earths" came from), and I had a building with a salamander as a door handle. Then I found Maya, and with her came her family's story, her mother's illness, her brother. The plot evolved as I worked this American family into the Parisian setting: I filled a whole pale-blue school notebook with notes and outlines and family trees. Very, very complicated family trees! And at the same time I bought a little box of index cards from the stationery store around the corner and began putting plot points on those cards. I carried them with me wherever I went, and whenever I had an idea, I pulled out a card and wrote it down. Cards are great for plotting, because they're so portable and so easy to shuffle! When I had my deck of plot-cards ready, I wrote. And wrote and wrote! That makes it sound easy, but of course there would be something like 24 revisions involved, eventually.
The story is told from a perspective very close to Maya's, but the narrator's voice is not identical to Maya's. That structure is perhaps more common in middle-grade novels than in YA fiction, which is more frequently written in first person (so that the voice of the character really is the one voice we hear). I do think it's important to step back and ask characters what they'd REALLY do or REALLY say in any particular situation. Usually they'll let you know if you've been messing them up!
6. Andrea Brown is your agent. Tell us about your road to finding an agent and to publication.
I met my editor (the wonderful & eagle-eyed Rosemary Brosnan) before I started looking for an agent, so my story's a little atypical, I think. Rosemary saw the first few chapters of The Cabinet of Earths in Paris and asked me to send it to her when I was finished. So that summer I did send it to her and figured I should look for an agent, too. I'm afraid this part gets a little atypical, too: I signed with an agent who left the business two weeks later. Poor Andrea inherited me! She has been a very good sport about it, though.
7. That must have been so rough having your agent leave after you had her for only two weeks. Awesome that Andrea inherited you. You’re a member of The Apocalyspsies How did you become a member of this group of debut authors and why did you choose this group rather than some of the other ones for debut authors? When should a debut author connect up with a group of other authors debuting and how do you recommend we find out about these groups when they’re forming?
I love the Apocalypsies! Listen, there's only so much angstifying and book-business-fretting that any loved one should be expected to tolerate. The other people going through the crazy process of having a book come out for the first time are the best ones to bond with and plan with and laugh with--I feel very lucky to be mixed up with such a talented crowd! I was an Elevensie before my publication date was shifted to 2012, and I loved the Elevensies, too. I really think joining a debut group for your year is the best way to preserve (shreds of) your sanity. It's easy to find them, I think: just hang out a little on Verla Kay's Blueboards or ask a writer in the current year's group!
8. Great advice. I know I'll need one because my daughter and husband don't talk about my writing woes with me that much. What are the other ways you’ve marketed your book? What worked and what do you wish you’d done differently?
I had lovely launch parties in Berkeley (at the Books Inc. on 4th Street) and in New York City (at The Corner Bookstore), and in April I'll be heading up and down the West Coast as part of the Words of Wonder Book Tour, with my fellow Apocalypsies Marissa Burt, J. Anderson Coats, Jenny Lundquist, Jenn Reese, and Laurisa Reyes! (See the Facebook Events page here.) It may be too early in the year for me to have lots of useful regrets about marketing! I do think all those people who say, "write the next book" have a good point, though.
9. I wish I lived on the West Coast so I could meet you all. Because I interviewed Jenny too and will be interviewing Marissa and Laurisa. What are you working on now?
I just sent in revisions for A BOX OF GARGOYLES, in which Maya and Valko's adventures in Paris continue. I have three other works-in-progress, and one of them will soon become the official next project. Details to come!
Thanks Anne for sharing all your advice. Good luck with your book. You can find Anne at her website.
Thank you so much for these thoughtful questions, Natalie! I'm delighted to have had the chance to visit Literary Rambles!
Julie from That's Swell