CURRENT GIVEAWAY CONTESTS
Here are my current Giveaway Contests
Blood Rose Rebellion through March 25th
Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop through March 28th
Agent Kate McKean Query Critique and BRACED giveaway through April 1st
Kristy Hunter Query Critique Giveaway through April 8th
THE SOMEDAY BIRDS through April 8th
Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Query Critique Giveaways
Tracy Marchini on 4/17/2017
Loren Oberweger on 5/10/2017
Alyssa Jennette on 5/24/2017
Bibi Lewis on 6/12/2017
Kelly Van Sant on 6/21/2017
KEVIN SANDS INTERVIEW AND THE BLACKTHORN KEY GIVEAWAY
Today I’m excited to have debut author Kevin Sands here to share about his MG historical THE BLACKTHORN KEY that was recently released. I’m looking forward to reading it because it also has all the elements of fantasy I love.
Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:
“Tell no one what I’ve given you.”
Until he got that cryptic warning, Christopher Rowe was happy, learning how to solve complex codes and puzzles and creating powerful medicines, potions, and weapons as an apprentice to Master Benedict Blackthorn—with maybe an explosion or two along the way.
But when a mysterious cult begins to prey on London’s apothecaries, the trail of murders grows closer and closer to Blackthorn’s shop. With time running out, Christopher must use every skill he’s learned to discover the key to a terrible secret with the power to tear the world apart.
Hi Kevin! Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
It’s been a long, strange path. Though I’ve been an avid reader since before I can remember, I never had any interest in writing when I was younger. In fact, if you’d have told me that I’d end up a novelist, I’d have thought you’d lost your mind! Instead, I studied math and physics in university. It wasn’t until later in life that a friend of mine that first got me interested in telling stories of my own. I started with screenplays, but I didn’t take it seriously enough at the time, so nothing ever came of that. It wasn’t until later, after I really buckled down and got to work, that I started writing novels and finally realized that this was what I wanted to do.
2. I'm like you. I never thought I'd like to write. Where did you get the idea for THE BLACKTHORN KEY?
At the time, I was close to finishing a different manuscript, and it occurred to me that I didn’t really have a good idea for what to work on next, so I sat down and tried to come up with possible stories. Among others, I had this thought: Apothecaries are pretty cool. They work with potions, poisons, secret codes, and so on; it’s kind of a rich world that offers a lot of opportunity. So I thought I’d write about an apothecary’s apprentice, and maybe have some secret that people were willing to kill for.
Beyond that, I didn’t really know what elements were going to go in the story. I just sort of sat on that idea while working on other manuscripts until a couple years later when I was looking for something new to do and dusted it off. Most of the plot elements then came while doing the research for the book.
3. I love that your story is about potions and medicines, some of my favorites things in fantasy. Did you do any research into them or other parts of your world building? Share a bit about the world you created in your story.
Many weeks of research went into developing the book. Before I started, I wasn’t sure what I wanted the story to be: historical, fantasy, or a blend? So I started by researching different time periods, while simultaneously learning about apothecaries. I narrowed the time down to London in the 1660s pretty quickly. Largely, this was because Restoration London was such a rich time for storytelling: the return of Charles II to the throne after the fall of Cromwell’s Commonwealth, the conflicts, plots, and conspiracies, the level of technology, the liveliness of the city, and so on basically made it too good a time to pass up. As an added bonus, we have lots of detail of that time from primary sources like Samuel Pepys’ diary, so I felt I could draw on that research to help bring the time period to life.
4. Sounds like it was fun research. People always talk about the importance of a character’s middle grade voice and getting it right as a writer. Did Christopher’s voice come easy or hard to you?
I knew who Christopher was going to be while I was plotting the story, so the seed of his voice was there
5. That's what I like to do too when I get stuck. Did you plot out THE BLACKTHORN KEY or did you create the storyline as you went? Having you made any changes to your plotting process from writing this book?
I plot everything—and I mean everything—in as much detail as possible. Before I even think about writing a single word, I figure out not just the scenes themselves, but how they’re put together. Literally every event, clue, character attribute, etc. gets noted in a giant list of bullet points several pages long before I start. That then becomes the document I work off of while writing the first draft. I do alter things when I realize they’re necessary, and of course later drafts may require changes, but by and large the story I plotted remains the same. I’d say about 95% of the final draft of The Blackthorn Key was the same, structurally, as my original notes.
I barely plotted at all back when I started trying to write, because I was impatient to simply get into the story. That was a mistake; I’d end up about two-thirds of the way through with an absolute mess. It wasn’t until I changed into a detailed plotter that my stories actually started coming together. Now I wouldn’t work any other way.
6. Share something you learned from working with your editor. What tips do you have for the rest of us on working with editors?
I think my editor has given me a better sense of recognizing that elements that don’t currently work in the manuscript can be made to work. Like many authors, I tend to be a harsh critic of my own writing, so there have been a number of times where I’ve just discarded ideas—or entire manuscripts—because I felt they weren’t up to snuff. My editor’s much more measured, and like all the best editors, has a great sense of what a manuscript could be, and how best to get it there.
As for tips for working with editors, the biggest one I can give is to make sure you sign with an editor who shares your sensibilities as a creator, while still having the skill and drive to make you better as a writer. Anyone who gets an offer should make sure they have a conversation with that editor and ask point blank what changes that editor believes the manuscript needs. From there, you really want to make sure you’re on board with whatever changes the editor wants. It’s true that you don’t necessarily have to make those changes, but if you’re having disagreements from the start, that doesn’t bode well. It might be the hardest thing in the world to leave an offer on the table and try your luck somewhere else, but an editor you’re going to clash with all the time is not likely to help you produce your best work—and remember that it’s neither of you, but the reader, who will be the ultimate judge.
On your end, of course, it’s always worth your while to really listen to what any editor has to say, and consider their suggestions seriously before disagreeing. As authors, we’re typically the worst judges of our own work, so it’s best to take advantage of the valuable advice editors have to offer.
7. Yes, it is important to start out thinking your editor and you can work together. What was your road to publication like?
Pretty typical, I think. I might be a bit unusual in that I didn’t have any interest at all in writing when I was younger; I came to it later in life. Otherwise, like most people, I started out by writing terrible manuscripts and learning how to improve them.
I tried to get one manuscript published before I wrote The Blackthorn Key, but it didn’t have any takers. I sent small batches of queries to agents (6-10 at a time) and waited for responses before moving on to the next batch. That manuscript was rejected by well over a hundred agents over the next two years before I finally gave up on it. In the meantime, I worked on other books.
The Blackthorn Key was the next manuscript I wrote that I thought might have a shot. This time, I wasn’t willing to wait; I sent it out to more than seventy agents at once. I got a much better response with this one; it took three weeks to get the first offer of representation. After five weeks, I had four offers, and chose my agent from among them.
He suggested a few minor changes, mostly adding some backstory, then submitted the manuscript to publishers a couple months later. From there we had a lot of interest, and I ended up signing with Aladdin, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, for North American rights. Puffin UK got the UK rights, and there are twelve translations in the works so far.
8. Most people would say it isn't good to send so many queries at once. Glad it worked so well for you the second time. You live in Toronto. Are you facing any challenges in getting the word out about your book in the United States?
None at all. My North American publisher is American, so they’re promoting the book in all markets. In fact, they’ve already brought me down twice to the U.S. for promotional events, and I have a U.S. tour and several more appearances planned for after the book’s released.
Even if that wasn’t the case, I don’t think where you live matters all that much anymore when it comes to marketing and publicity. For the traditionally published, it’s mostly about who your publisher is, and what kind of reach they have (plus the size of their budget). Most of this stuff is done from afar anyway, and with the internet, it’s easier than ever to connect with potential readers.
9. Awesome how supportive your editor is. What are you working on now?
The sequel to The Blackthorn Key! The first book ends right before the summer of 1665, which is when the Great Plague of London decimates the city. We’ll rejoin Christopher during the worst part of this epidemic, where he finds himself embroiled in a new mystery. There’ll be more codes to decipher, more potions to make, and more traps to set—and avoid! Plus, we’ll see some old friends, and meet a new enemy. As for who those are, you’ll have to wait and see!
Thanks for all your advice, Kevin. You can find Kevin on Twitter at @kevinsandsbooks, on Facebook at facebook.com/kevinsandsbooks, or at his website, kevinsandsbooks.com.
Kevin's publisher, Aladdin, generously offered a copy of THE BLACKTHORN KEY for a giveaway. To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through September 26th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.
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 U.S.
Here's what's coming up:
Next Monday I have an interview with debut author Heather Petty and a giveaway of her YA mystery LOCK & MORI .
Wednesday next week I have an interview with agent Moe Ferrara and a query critique giveaway.
The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author Lee Mackenzi and a giveaway of her YA steampunk THIS MONSTROUS THING.
Hope to see you on Monday!
Posted by Natalie Aguirre on Wednesday, September 09, 2015