Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut Lindsay Eagar here to share about her magical realism MG HOUR OF THE BEES. It has just the right combination of magic and contemporary that makes it sound really good.
Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:
While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.
Hi Lindsay! Thanks so much for joining us!
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
I am a twenty-something (for one more year!) born and raised in Utah, and I’ve always been a writer and a storyteller. I wrote picture books as a young kid, I wrote plays and ballets (and directed my poor siblings in them) when I was an older kid, I wrote short stories as a preteen, and in junior high and high school I carried a notebook everywhere, which I filled with fairy tale retellings and outlines for gigantic, Tolkien-scaled fantasy series.
When I became a mother at 22, it was a huge wake-up call. Never had I felt so empowered. If I can give birth and keep a newborn alive, I reasoned, there was nothing I couldn’t do—including finishing a book and getting published. Within six months I had finally written a novel all the way through to the end. It was terrible, but I had done it!
2. That was an empowering realization. Where did you get the idea for HOUR OF THE BEES?
BEES came in a flash—ten days, to be exact, from the time I wrote down the title (which I had no context for) to the time when I wrote the final paragraph. It was June 4, 2013. I had just trunked another middle grade manuscript after rewriting it seven or eight times. I was desperate to start something new, and desperate to work on something utterly different—so I wrote about a girl and her grandfather, about the southwestern desert, about the relationship between life and death, and about heritage and family and stories.
Before I really had time to consider its influences, or even where the kernel of the idea came from, I was finished with the first draft. It was a very magical genesis, one I have not been able to replicate since.
3. Sounds like it was a story that was meant to be told. Carol’s relationship with Grandpa Serge sounds so cool and transformative for Carol. Share how that developed as you wrote the story.
I always knew theirs would be the central relationship. My own grandfather and I were very
Of course Carol and Grandpa Serge’s relationship was nothing like my own relationship with my grandfather—my characters are just meeting for the first time, and they are both very unsure of each other. Carol is unsure of how to deal with Serge’s prickliness and his dementia; Serge isn’t certain this granddaughter of his will understand the legacy she carries in her blood. After all, her father, Carol’s dad, never did—and that right there is what strengthened the central relationship in edits. I fleshed out the other characters and relationships, and the final product is a spider’s web of anger and resentment and history and introductions that bind an entire family together.
4. What can you share about the magical realism aspects of your story? What tips do you have about writing in this genre?
The magical realism aspects were the easiest and most rewarding to write. Since I was drafting so quickly (ten days!) I didn’t really allow myself to stop and wonder, “Is this too weird?” I just went for it, and the result is this magnificent, strange book that really came straight from my subconscious without judgment or constraint.
I think that might be my first tip for writing magical realism—go with the weird. If your initial idea seems too weird to work, that might be an indication that it is perfect and exactly what the genre needs on its shelf. Magical realism is such a wonderful opportunity to release expectations and be as strange as you want to be.
Another tip is to ground your magical realism in a strong “real life” world. One of the differences between magical realism and fantasy is this idea that the magic takes place in a feasible setting. The stronger I made my contemporary New Mexico setting, the stronger the magical realism aspects became in contrast. They counterbalance each other. That’s important.
5. Those are great tips. I read that you write much of your work longhand. Is that still true? Share a bit about your writing process and how you squeeze it in being a single mom.
I do write longhand! I dread staring at computer screens, and my eyes easily strain so I do as much of the work with pen and paper as possible. I love longhand for many reasons—it’s battery-less, for one. It’s much less fragile than a laptop—my pages are often coffee-stained, chocolate-smudged, and water-warped, and still usable. Most importantly, longhand forces my brain to slow down and be thoughtful with my words. I’m a fast writer, so I can still go into word-vomit mode and successfully unhinge for that raw material that is so important for my first drafts. But when I type up the word-vomit and print it out, and begin scouring the material for the story underneath the muck and pretention… That’s when my writing magic happens. Me and my blue Cristal Bic pens. (Always blue.)
I also love my paper and pen because they remind me about flexibility and patience. I was a single mother for the first five years of my daughter’s life, including the days when I worked on BEES. During those days, I walked my daughter to a park, sat under a tree with my notebook, and just worked—no Internet access, no electric outlet, just me and blank pages waiting to be filled. I still work this way, even though I’m married and much of my daily life has changed—my daughter is in kindergarten now, which allows me three blissful hours a day to devote to writing in solitude. Writing a few sentences here and there, even on days that seem far too busy for writing… They add up. This is how books are written, my hard copies remind me. One page, one sentence, one word at a time.
The other important part of my process is layering through revision. My editor recently told me she loved looking back at all my drafts on our projects, because she can see how well I can add details, expand emotionally, and find new connective tissue between characters with every new round of edits I do. If only there were an easier way for me to revise!
6. Glad you like writing like that. I can't imagine not doing everything on the computer. Sarah Davies is your agent. How did she became your agent and what was your road to publication like?
The story of how Sarah became my agent goes like this.
Once upon a time, when I had first finished a book and was researching how this whole publishing thing worked, anyway, I googled children’s literary agents. Sarah Davies’ blog was one of the first things that popped up, and I stayed up all night reading her entire archive. Sarah is a special agent. She’s highly editorial, and her guidance helped me not only polish BEES for submission to publishers, but also ponder my own connection with the book and my writing process. She knows what makes a good story. She works hard to ensure her titles are the kind of timeless, quality work that will still be on shelves for years to come. Plus, she’s killer at the business side of agenting—one of the top sellers in both YA and MG fiction.
Suffice it to say, when I was ready to query BEES, she was the dream agent at the top of the list. I became her client the old-fashioned way—the query trenches. We edited BEES for a good six months before submitting it to publishers, and in a real Pinch Me! moment of my life, several editors were interested in buying my book. Kaylan Adair at Candlewick Press won BEES in auction, and I am so grateful, because my editor is my better half. She and I work so well together. I am very lucky.
7. How awesome you went to auction! What was something that has surprised you about the time from signing your contract with your publisher to your book being published?
The emotional whiplash of debuting was a huge surprise. I feel like I entered the publishing arena with gratitude and low expectations, and yet the ups and downs of debuting still got to me. I don’t think anyone is immune, and I don’t think there’s any way around it. There will be highlights, and great news, and terrible news, and stretches of radio silence where you wonder if you made this whole I-sold-a-book thing up in your head. There will be jealousies and friendships and lists you make and lists you don’t make, and tweets about you and lukewarm reviews. No emotion is off-limits and none of them make you a black-hearted ingrate—but some of them can really wrench you inside-out. Above all this noise, a debut author has to find her center, tune out the world, and get back to writing. This is the answer, no matter the question—if your debut book soars and succeeds, you still have to get back to writing. If your debut book tanks, you still have to get back to writing.
BEES has been out for a month, and some days it is still a struggle to remember why I wanted to do any of this: because I am a storyteller, and I have still so many stories to tell.
8. Yes, I think all authors experience similar highs and lows. How are you promoting your book? Are you networking with other authors?
I joined the Sweet Sixteeners right after I sold my book, and it was honestly one of the best things for my book’s promotion and also for my mental health! As much as I liked to scour the Internet for advice from well-seasoned authors, it was so beneficial to learn with a group of other newbies—we share together, we soar together, we fall together, we comfort one another, we rant to one another, and we cheer each other on.
9. What are you working on now?
Right now I am wrapping up developmental edits on my second middle grade with Candlewick Press. I’ve spoken about it many times online already, so I won’t rehash old material, but it is the book I trunked the night before I started BEES. It’s called RACE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, and it is the culmination of all things ten-year-old Lindsay would have wanted to read. It has sharks, pirates, marine biology, death, star-crossed love, and candy. If HOUR OF THE BEES was the book of my soul, RACE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA is the book of my heart. Working on this book has been the exact opposite experience as BEES was—I have rewritten this book so many times, I could wallpaper Vatican City with all the drafts. But I am so excited to finally get it right and see this book on shelves. It is also weird, but in an entirely different way.
After that, I begin edits on my third middle grade with Candlewick Press. It is currently untitled, but it is a mother/daughter story and it is also about Bigfoot. That’s all I can say about it right now!
I’m also due to have a baby in the summer, so I’ll be fast-drafting a YA project that has been plaguing me for years, gearing up for another boost of empowerment after I squeeze a human being out of my body! It’s amazing how motherhood can put so many things into perspective, isn’t it?
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Lindsay. Enjoy your new baby this summer! You can find Lindsay at: Twitter: @lindsaymccall
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on her blog.
Lindsay has generously offered an ARC of HOUR OF THE BEES 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 April 23rd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the 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 giveaway is for U.S.
Here's what's coming up:
On Friday I'll be participating in the Showers of Books Giveaway Hop!
Next Monday I have a guest post by debut author Dee Romito and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE BFF BUCKET LIST.
Next Monday I have a guest post by debut author Dee Romito and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE BFF BUCKET LIST.
Wednesday next week I'm participating in NY Times bestseller author Lauren Oliver's blog tour and interviewing her (Pinch me! I'm so excited!) for her new MG THE SCREAMING STATUE with a giveaway of the first book in this series.
The following Monday I have a guest post with debut author Tobie Easton and her agent Jennifer Unter and a critique giveaway by Jennifer and a giveaway of EMERGE, Tobie's YA contemporary fantasy.
Monday the next week I have a guest post by debut author Janet Taylor and a giveaway of her YA magical realism WANDERING WILD
Wednesday that week editor L. Diane Wolfe from Lemur Press and Freedom Fox Press will be doing a guest post with a five page critique
Hope to see you on Friday!