Also, Happy Chinese New Year to any of you who celebrate this. We had our annual Families with Children from China adoption support group (I founded it before I adopted Anna Li) Chinese New Year Party on Saturday. It was a fantastic time. Over 100 people and kids attended. Anna Li and her best friend did an awesome job running the prize table. We didn't have that many volunteers but we got it all done and everyone had a great time.
Before I get to our interview, I've got a few things to share. First, there's two free online conferences coming up.
WriteOnCon has announced the agents and genres for their Mid-Winter Pitch-Fest. And the forums will be open from February 18-March 10. There will be posts, advice, and tips from top industry professionals too. I can't wait! Go to the WriteOnCon website HERE for details. (FYI, it's not up as of Sunday am on the website, but should be up there soon. I found out from their newsletter, which you can sign up for on their website.)
IndieReCon,, the indie online conference, is happening February 19-21. I'm not planning to self-publish right now, but I'm thinking that I can learn a lot from the conference, including about marketing. So I'll go when I can as I'll also be at work. You can register and find out more info about the conference at the IndieReCon website HERE.
Finally, Ellen Oh, the debut author of PROPHECY, wrote a fantastic post about the need for diversity in kid's literature and has some great book recommendations. Having a daughter adopted from China, I totally agree with her that there aren't enough books that minority kids can see themselves in. Read her post HERE.
Today I’m excited to interview debut author Elsie Chapman about DUALED, her dystopian book that releases on February 26, 2013. I really enjoyed the dystopian world Elsie created where everyone has a genetic alternate and sometime in their youth, they are forced to battle the alternate to see who is stronger and will survive. It’s a fascinating concept. I enjoyed watching West once she gets her assignment and only has one month to kill her mirror self.
Here’s a description from Goodreads:
The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.
Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.
Elsie Chapman's suspenseful YA debut weaves unexpected romance into a novel full of fast-paced action and thought-provoking philosophy. When the story ends, discussions will begin about this future society where every adult is a murderer and every child knows there is another out there who just might be better.
Hi Elsie. Thanks so much for joining us.
Hi Natalie, and thank you so much for having me!
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
I remember as a kid wanting to grow up to be an author. But it seemed very unattainable, nearly impossible, and authors never seemed entirely real to me, so over time I stopped writing creatively. It wasn’t until my kids were older and I had more time to myself that I started thinking about writing again.
2. It's awesome that you've gotten to do what you wanted as a kid. How did you come up with the idea for your story?
My son asked me one day how could we be sure we all didn’t have twins out there who we just didn’t know about? It came out of the blue, and even as I answered him as well as I could, it got the wheels turning.
3. That's a funny way to get an idea for a story. And it's one I'm sure your son will cherish too. One of the things I found interesting about DUALED was that West’s journey was very much one of being alone much of the time. There was much more narration and less dialogue than some stories. Share why you decided to tell the story in this fashion and the challenges of writing your story this way.
4. Well, you did it very masterfully. I read that you were a panster with this story but with book 2 in the series you plotted it out. What have you learned from using both techniques and what advice do you have for the rest of us?
I love the fluidity of pansting, where you can just write and write and simply focus on getting everything from your head onto paper, so to speak. It’s only afterward during revisions and edits that plot holes and inconsistencies will pop out. The biggest problem in having to fix all that is that whatever you change will most likely also alter anything that happens afterward, as well. It’s very much a domino effect. So with DUALED, while the first draft went very quickly, revisions took me longer. With DIVIDED, I decided to try a heavily detailed outline first. It made drafting a much more structured, controlled process that took longer, but hopefully it also means lighter revisions. Both methods have their strengths and weaknesses, and I think each writer needs to find what works best for them. A lot of the time it ends up being something in between.
5. Yes, I think we learn what makes the revision process take too long and try to correct it in our next book. Share a bit about your world building and why you developed the story as an internal struggle for West versus a struggle against the world as many dystopian stories go?
I did know I wanted something a bit different. A lot of dystopians involve a large-scale rebellion of some kind, and I still really love stories that do this. So with DUALED, while I wanted to keep that sense of struggle and having to fight, I just put a bit of a twist on it by having West’s main conflict be with herself.
6. Yes, that definitely made your story unique. Your agent is Steven Chudney. How did he become your agent and what was your road to publication like?
I was very fortunate to have multiple offers of representation, all from incredibly fantastic agents. But Steven was the first to get back to me, and his enthusiasm for DUALED really left an impression. After I signed with him, I worked on some minor edits before we went on submission. Random House came forward with an offer a few months later, and I have to tell you, getting that phone call from Steven was one of the best moments of my life. Because it’s really hard, that waiting period in between—on some days you feel absolutely delusional about your own abilities, and you’re so low you can’t even think about trying to work on something else; on others you realize how very lucky you are to be on submission, that it wasn’t just luck that got you that far, and it’s actually motivating.
7. Wow! That's awesome you had multiple offers from agents. What’s your advice on steps to take in marketing during the year leading up to the release of your book?
The funny thing is, with editing and revising and drafting, I have less time than ever before. And there’s so much information and advice out there about what you’re supposed to do, or should be doing. It can be overwhelming. So to be honest, I believe that in the end, it’s going to come down to simple word of mouth and your book just finding readers that way. I think teens, especially, talk to each other about what they’re actually reading, and make recommendations and suggestions. My advice in terms of marketing is to do what interests you, or what you find enjoyable, but to not let it frustrate you or get in the way of what’s really important—writing your next book!
8. Great, non-stressful advice. Thanks. What are you working on now?
Edits for DIVIDED and also drafting up something new.
Thanks Elsie for sharing all your advice. You can find Elsie on her author Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Website. Also you can find her book at:
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. International entries are welcome.
On Wednesday I have a fascinating interview with Chuck Sambuchino of Guide to Literary Agents about his new book, CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM: THE KEYS TO BUILDING AN AUDIENCE, SELLING MORE BOOKS, AND FINDING SUCCESS AS AN AUTHOR, with a giveaway of his book. His book really got me thinking about how I can improve my platform and social networking. I'm really excited to share Chuck's advice and his book with you. Chuck's interview is filled with awesome advice whether you're an author or book review blogger. I can't encourage you enough to read his interview.
On Thursday I'll be doing a cover reveal for my friend Terry Johnson. I hope you'll stop by and congratulate her on her awesome cover.
Next Monday, I have an interview with a high school teen for my ASK THE EXPERT series and will be sharing and giving away THE CADET OF TILDOR, a fantastic debut fantasy and OBSIDIAN MIRROR, an urban fantasy by Catherine Fisher, one of my favorite authors. Even if you don't love the fantasy genre, I think you'll really enjoy these books because they don't have much magic and just great stories.
And Wednesday next week, Casey and I have a super awesome 3000 follower mega giveaway. You won't want to miss it.
And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's Thursday agent spotlights.
Hope to see you on Wednesday!