Second, Darcy Pattison at Fiction Notes did a post on the top literary agent for middle grade authors based on their sales here.
Today I’m super excited to help celebrate Tracy Bilen’s debut. Her YA book WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND releases tomorrow. I’ve become friends with Tracy through our Michigan SCBWI so I’m even more excited than normal to be able to share in her debut. I LOVED this book. Once I started it, I read it at every opportunity till I finished it. I don’t usually read contemporary novels but I was riveted from page one. I loved Sara, the main character. Tracy really nailed her voice and her way of handling her family situation. I wanted to know as much as her what happened to her mom.
Here’s a description from Goodreads:
In this suspenseful thriller, Sara and her mother are going to secretly escape her abusive father—when her mother mysteriously disappears.Sara and her mom have a plan to finally escape Sara’s abusive father. But when her mom doesn’t show up as expected, Sara’s terrified. Her father says that she’s on a business trip, but Sara knows he’s lying. Her mom is missing—and her dad had something to do with it. With each day that passes, Sara’s more on edge. Her friends know that something’s wrong, but she won’t endanger anyone else with her secret. And with her dad growing increasingly violent, Sara must figure out what happened to her mom before it’s too late…for them both.
Hi Tracy. Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer.
2. Your advice to write another book is such great advice and something I’ve heard other published authors recommend. And look how well it worked for you. Your book is not only a thriller, but takes on an intense issue—abusive families. That’s why I’m dying to read it. How did you come up with the idea for your story and what research, if any, did you do to on the issue of domestic and family abuse?
The idea for the book came from an image I saw in my mind – of a girl, a suitcase, and a gun…and it just took off from there. The hardest part in doing research for this book was going to the library – I felt so uncomfortable checking out books about abusive relationships that I felt compelled to tell the librarian that it was for research….I remember her being so relieved!
3. Oh yeah, I can see feeling weird at the library since it’s such a sensitive topic. Sara is a strong character determined to find out what happened to her mom and dealing with her father’s increasingly violent behavior. And like most people in this situation, she tries to hide it from her friends. Tell us a bit about how you developed Sara as a character.
Character development was a gradual process for me. As I wrote, I felt I learned more and more about Sara and was then able to go back into the earlier sections and add details. Some details I would mention just once, but others (such as the way she twirls her ponytail when she’s nervous) I tried to weave in throughout the book. When faced with a tough emotional scene, I tapped into times in my life when I dealt with similar emotions.
I’m such a sucker for romance. I just loved writing the scenes with Alex! My tip would be to go for the sigh factor…scenes that make you sigh (in a good way!) or smile when you re-read them. I also like the tips in this blog post at Dear Editor .
5. Lucky you that you loved writing the scenes. I’m still scared of writing that first kiss scene. You won a mentorship through the Michigan SCBWI chapter a few years ago. How did that help you take your novel to the next level of getting published?
Shutta Crum was my mentor for this fantastic experience. Shutta worked with me much like an editor…she helped me tackle over-arching big picture issues as well as the tiny details. Shutta read my entire manuscript at least four times over the course of the year (which was going beyond her duties!) and gave fresh insights each time. I am especially grateful to her for helping me better understand character arc. I really believe that it was this intensive mentoring experience that made What She Left Behind agent-ready!
6. Shutta’s an amazing person so I can imagine what a great mentor she was. And it’s so great to have a mentor or critique partner who can really help take your manuscript to its best level. Your agent is Kevan Lyon. Tell us how she became your agent and your road to publication.
I met Kevan at a meeting of our local chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America). From there I queried her, which led to this whole incredible journey. Kevan was instrumental in helping me make those pre-submission revisions and she’s always so on-top of things – whether it’s reading a new proposal or brainstorming about marketing – I couldn’t ask for a more perfect agent! Throughout the whole querying process I used www.querytracker.net to keep track of the queries I sent and the responses I received.
7. I know you’re doing a two week blog tour to celebrate your debut. How did you set that up and chose the blogs, especially the book review blogs, to use for your tour?
Actually most of the work was done by Teen Book Scene, which does a fabulous job setting up blog tours…I just told them how many stops I wanted to make and what types, and they took it from there. Of course, as I got other requests from bloggers, I added them into the schedule where they fit best.
8. I always wondered how author blog tours get set up. That’s great to know about Teen Book Scene setting up the blog tour for you. What are you working on now?
I’m working on another YA thriller and hope to be able to share more details soon!
Can’t wait to hear about your new project. Thanks Tracy for sharing your advice. And Happy Debut! You can find Tracy at her website , twitter: @tracybilen, or Facebook, her blog, and YA Fusion, a group blog where she participates and is doing another giveaway of her book this week.
And here's Tracy's trailer:
Tracy's publisher generously donated a signed copy of WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND for a giveaway, To enter, 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 May 12th. I’ll announce the winner on May 14th. 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.
And don't forget to enter my contests for two ELLIE MCDOODLE books and my giveaway last week of CINDER, A MILLION SUNS, and THE DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. The links are at the top of the blog.
Here's what's coming up. Next Monday I'm participating in the Children's Week Holiday Hop. I can't wait to share all the awesome YA books I've chosen for the giveaway. On Wednesday next week I'm interviewing Kim Harrington and giving away a copy of her YA mystery PERCEPTION and two books in her new middle grade series PARTNERS IN CRIME. Then the following Monday I'm interviewing Christina, a 6th grader who blogs with Kristi at the awesome THE STORY SIREN and giving away a few newly released YA books.
And don't forget our Tuesday Tips tomorrow and Casey's Agent Spotlights on Thursdays.
Hope to see you on Monday!