I've got a great year planned for you here. I'll be having more agent/debut author guest posts and some of them will include query critiques by the agent to help you polish yours. The winners will be picked by random.org so you all have an equal shot at winning one. I'm hoping some of you will find these helpful. The few I did last year were very popular.
C. Lee McKenzie's new middle grade novel SUDDEN SECRETS recently was released. Here's a blurb:
Something’s strange about the abandoned house across the street—flashes of light late at night and small flickers of movement that only someone looking for them would see. Everyone says the house is deserted, but Cleo is sure it isn’t, and she’s sure whoever is inside is watching her. And a few links:
Amazon Kindle Link: http://www.amazon.com/
Sudden-Secrets-C-Lee-McKenzie- ebook/dp/B00R75MVFS/ref=sr_1_ 1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid= 1419813965&sr=1-1&keywords= Sudden+Secrets
CreateSpacePrint Link: https://www.createspace.
And I have a few winners to announce.
The winner of CREED is Gwen Gardner!
The winner of VITAMINS AND DEATH is Mary Preston!
And the winner of The Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop is Medeia Shariff who chose OF METAL AND WISHES!
Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book. Please e-mail me by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.
Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:
It’s been nearly two decades since the Red Allies first attacked New York, and Manhattan is now a prisoner-of-war camp, ruled by Warden Rolladin and her brutal, impulsive warlords. For 17-year-old Skyler Miller, Manhattan is a cage that keeps her from the world beyond the city’s borders. But for Sky’s 16-year-old sister, Phee, the P.O.W. camp is a dangerous playground of possibility, and the only home she’d ever want.
When Sky and Phee discover their mom’s hidden journal from the outbreak of the war, they both realize there’s more to Manhattan—and their mother—than either of them had ever imagined. And after a group of strangers arrives at the annual P.O.W. census, the girls begin to uncover the island’s long-kept secrets. The strangers hail from England, a country supposedly destroyed by the Red Allies, and Rolladin’s lies about Manhattan’s captivity begin to unravel.
Hungry for the truth, the sisters set a series of events in motion that ends in the death of one of Rolladin’s guards. Now they’re outlaws, forced to join the strange Englishmen on an escape mission through Manhattan. Their flight takes them into subways haunted by cannibals, into the arms of a sadistic cult in the city’s Meatpacking District, and, through the pages of their mom’s old journal, into the island’s dark and shocking past. Sky and Phee are dependent on each other, and their ragged posse, for survival, but as their feelings grow toward the handsome English boy Ryder, love and jealousy threaten to break them apart.
While primarily a thriller, City of Savages is also a story about the many meanings of sisterhood, told across two generations of New York women—those who survived a terrible tragedy, and those who were raised to live in its aftermath.
Hi Lee! Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
Thanks so much for having me!
Honestly, I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember, but I was one of those “Chapter One” addicts all through high school, college, and for years afterwards (i.e., the kind of writer that falls in love with a new shiny idea, writes a few pages with a burst of creativity, and then realizes that they don’t have enough love to keep going. So cue NEW shiny idea…). It wasn’t until after I went to law school that I had the creative and intellectual stamina (not to mention the patience!) to sit down and flesh out an idea into an outline, start writing, and push through those initial road blocks that tempt you into spinning your wheels forever with new ideas.
I completed my first manuscript a couple of years after graduating law school, just by applying what I learned in school to writing (put in the time, work every day, work even when you don’t feel like working), and while I was thrilled that I had actually completed something, I knew it was awful. So I put that manuscript in a drawer, and started CITY OF SAVAGES after that.
[By the way, I am absolutely not suggesting law school for aspiring writers haha – but I do believe it taught me self-discipline, and showed me just how much work is required to get the results you want – in law, writing or in any other field!]
2. Ha! Ha! Being a lawyer I wouldn't suggest going to law school to become a writer either. But I totally agree that it and working as a lawyer helps teach the discipline needed to keep writing. Where did you get the idea for CITY OF SAVAGES?
I always say that the idea for the novel was birthed out of a very stressful time in my life. I was in New York, working a job that demanded long hours, had tight deadlines, lots of pressure -- and I had the distinct sensation of being trapped somewhere that I couldn't get out of. That sort of hopeless, uncomfortable feeling eventually released itself through day-dreaming, and I started thinking about midtown Manhattan as a type of prison, subway rides that were life-and-death, a version of the city that actually was cutthroat and savage (instead of just sometimes feeling that way :)
Many of the characters -- Sky, Phee, their mother Sarah, and their warden Rolladin -- showed up in my head pretty well formed after that. I plotted the first half of the novel pretty intensely, and then I put my outline aside for the last half, and let the story unfold on its own.
3. I started writing as a release from the stress of being an attorney so can totally relate to how that worked for you. What made you decide to pick Manhattan as the setting for your story and did you have to do any research in creating a futurist Manhattan?
New York, in some ways, was the first character of CITY OF SAVAGES: as I mentioned above, just given
And the city really is, in many ways, a character in this novel. The Manhattan in CITY OF SAVAGES is the ruins of the Manhattan we know now – so current places and well-known locations feature prominently. Landmarks like Belvedere Castle and Sheep Meadow in Central Park are major settings, as are apartments on Wall Street and the Meatpacking District. Even certain hotels like The Carlyle and The Standard are, let’s just say, “re-purposed.”
4. So awesome how you really used current Manhattan places as almost a character in developing your story. CITY OF SAVAGES is the story of two sisters, Sky and Phee. I’ve read that character development plays a big part of your writing. What’s your character development process like and who was the harder character to come to you? Why?
Oh man, this is a tough question, I think because it’s so different with every project, but there’s always a seed that I start from: whether it’s someone I’m “stealing” from real life, or a scene or a phrase of dialogue that I can see or hear in my head from the character, or something I know fundamentally about this character that isn’t up for debate. Then I will spend a lot of time trying to grow that seed into a three-dimensional person: what are their hobbies? What are their likes/dislikes/dreams? What would they never be caught dead doing? What are their fears? Lots of times (especially when there aren’t the pressures of deadlines) I also try and do writing exercises in their voice – pieces of work that aren’t going to find their way into the novel but that help me really get inside the skin of the character and understand what motivates them just by “journaling” as that character.
For Sky and Phee, the “seeds” of these characters were my real-life sisters, with a dash of me I guess in each of them, and so the seeds came easily – but as the story grew and changed, Sky and Phee became their own people with their own voices. Neither sister was necessarily harder to write than the other, but certain types of scenes I found more challenging to write as a certain sister, if that makes sense. For example, it was easy to write as Phee (the brasher and self-proclaimed braver one) for action scenes, but reflective scenes were much more challenging. For Sky, the reflective scenes came naturally, but the faster paced ones were more of a struggle. In short, it was hard to write both characters out of their comfort zones
5. Glad I got you thinking. And that does make sense that Sky's and Phee's weaknesses as characters were hardest to develop. What advice do you have for other authors thinking of writing a futurist story?
I guess my advice is to focus on your hook: what differentiates your story from the mass of dystopia stories already out there. As I’m sure most near-future writers have heard before, agents and editors are extremely wary of “near-future” and “futurist” and “dystopia” right now (in fact, when I started shopping my novel, one agent at a SCBWI conference heard the word “near-future,” stopped my pitch, and told me to put it in a drawer and write something else haha). I know that trends affect editorial preferences and sales, but I still believe that a good story with real and relatable characters can be told across any genre, at any time -- so find the heart of your story, why your story needs to be told in a near-future setting or a dystopia, and what about the tale differentiates it from the pack.
6. Smart thinking not to give up when you heard that from the agent. Because I still really like futurist and dystopian stories and would hate to see them go away entirely. And so happy you found our agent spotlights so helpful. Your agent is Adriann Ranta. Share how she became your agent and your road to publication.
Yes! Adriann is a dream agent – and I actually found her through your amazing site, Literary Rambles! I recommend your site to everyone. I love how you provide details and information on so many YA and MG agents, and how it’s all available in one place. Your site basically did my homework for me – I was able to target agents that I knew were looking for dark, grittier YA stories, set in the real world but with a twist.
7. You’re also an attorney practicing entertainment law. Did that help you at all in obtaining representation and a publishing contract? What advice do you have for aspiring authors for what to look for in their publishing contract?
I know this might sound counter-intuitive, but my legal background helped me avoid sweating the small stuff. Both my agency and publishing contracts had a ton of boilerplate language in them, and some of the provisions were beyond intimidating… but I’ve read so many form contracts that I know that every Indemnity provision reads like you’re signing your life away in the event there’s a lawsuit related to the deal, so I wasn’t as fazed as I could have been. I also know how hard a representative like a lawyer or agent works on your behalf, and so I trusted Adriann to get the best deal she could, and I stepped in and reviewed the contract at the end, instead of trying to insert myself into every step in the process.
My advice for aspiring authors with new contracts? Have a lawyer-friend or family member or an agent friend of a friend read your contract as a gut-check.
8. I can so relate to what you're saying after reading so many contracts too. There's always those scary boilerplate clauses that you have to accept you can't change. How are you marketing your book? Anything you wish you’d done differently?
Not yet, haha! But I’m sure there will be some things I regret or wish I had done differently along the way. CITY OF SAVAGES is the first book in Simon & Schuster’s new speculative fiction imprint, Saga Press, so the book has gotten some great press just by being part of the new venture (like I was able to go to Comic Con this year, and we did the launch book covers reveal on io9.com). I’ve also teamed up with several debut groups that have been as cathartic and fun as they have been advantageous in terms of cross-promotion and marketing. I’m a member of the Freshman Fifteens (www.freshmanfifteens.com), a group that primarily focuses on reaching out to teen writers and readers, the Class of 2K15 (www.classof2k15.com), a group that targets libraries, booksellers and teachers, and the Fearless Fifteeners (https://fearlessfifteeners.wordpress.com/), a community of 2015 YA and MG debuts committed to supporting and helping each other through this debut process.
9. So cool how you connected with so many debut 2015 groups. It really seems so helpful to do that for your debut year so you can learn from each other and support each other like you're doing. What are you working on now?
I actually JUST finished up revisions on my second novel with Saga Press, currently entitled CRIMINAL MAGIC, a magical realism YA/crossover novel that follows two sorcerers through an alternative Prohibition-era America, where magic has been prohibited.
I’m also in the midst of putting together a proposal for another YA/crossover book – and on the backburner for a while has been a middle grade story called MYTHIC that is very near and dear to my heart (I hope I get to finish it soon)!
Ooh, your next book sounds really good too. Thanks for sharing all your advice, Lee. You can find Lee at her website www.newwritecity.com, on twitter @leeykelly and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lee.y.kelly.
Lee has generously offered an ARC of CITY OF SAVAGES 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 through January 17th. I’ll announce the winner on January 19th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry.This is for US and Canada.
Here's what's coming up:
On Wednesday I have a guest post by debut author Maggie Hall and a giveaway of THE CONSPIRACY OF US, her YA thriller.
Next Monday I have a guest post by debut author Susan Adrian and her agent Kate Schafer Testerman and a giveaway of TUNNEL VISION, her YA thriller. And there's going to be a query critique by Kate too!
Next Wednesday I have a guest post by Robert Kent and a giveaway of his new middle grade book, BANNIKER BONES.
The following Monday I have a fantastic guest post by Dianne Salerni on writing a trilogy and an ARC giveaway of INQUISITOR'S MARK, the second book in her middle grade fantasy.
Hope to see you on Wednesday!