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Happy Monday Everyone! Today I'm thrilled to have Kayla Olson here to tell about her amazing road to publication where she sold movie rights and world rights to her book before even signing her book deal. Her debut YA THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE sounds like a fast-paced dystopian story that will keep you up at night reading.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

When all hope is gone, how do you survive?

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected.

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

Now here's Kayla! Hope you enjoy her post as much as I have.

Hi, everyone! Happy to be here on Literary Rambles today—thank you for having me, Natalie! When Natalie and I were bouncing thoughts about this post, she mentioned she thought it would be interesting to hear about how my film rights were optioned (to Paramount, with Leonardo DiCaprio and his excellent team at Appian Way to produce) before the book was even announced, and about how a string of foreign rights deals followed soon after that.

Before I talk about all the shiny, tip-of-the-iceberg aspects of what’s transpired with The Sandcastle Empire, though, I wanted to touch a bit on the things under the surface that aren’t so easily seen: all the mornings of getting up before the sun, and the season of cramming a day’s worth of writing into 27-minute-long baby naptimes, and the hope-then-heartbreak that comes with finishing a project—and snagging agents with it—only to hear no and we love it, but not enough and a good bit of dead silence.

The Sandcastle Empire was born from all of those things. I started writing it the day after I sent my first query for the project that landed my most excellent agents (Holly Root and Taylor Haggerty of Root Literary), and continued writing it the entire year that other project was on submission. I wrote in dark-early mornings, I wrote until my favorite Starbucks needed to lock their doors at night, I found cracks of time where there were none. All of this, with that other project in the back of my mind: how much heart, and love, and effort I’d poured into it, only for it to end up in this guest post as one of the bumpier parts along my path. It became a season of learning to write because I love to write, and not just because someone else wanted it.

All of this time, I made a serious effort to focus on the only thing within my control: the manuscript itself. I knew I couldn’t make lightning strike, as far as if it landed in just the right editor’s hands at just the perfect time—so I focused on making something I loved.

The part of the story I don’t often talk about is that I was working on another project during that time, The Sandcastle Empire. I was polishing that manuscript when, out of the blue, Holly emailed me to say she’d heard from a film agent who’d recently left scouting to become an agent at United Talent Agency—and that this agent wanted to send my manuscript out to producers. Well, that settled the Which project should we prioritize? question pretty easily—Holly and Taylor had a submission list ready to go within a week, and then we were out.
too—something that would probably put me on panels with Stephanie Perkins and Jennifer E. Smith if we ever ended up at festivals together, a project I still adore—and we very nearly prioritzed that one over

After my first experience with being on sub, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect—and I for sure did not want to get my hopes up. I was completely shocked when I heard, only a couple of weeks later, that Harper was interested; my official offers came soon after that. The very next day, I got another phone call from Holly and Taylor: I can remember, clearly, sitting on my bed and hearing Holly say, This isn’t about the book deal, before telling me the news that my film agent had heard from Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way, and that they wanted to be involved with the project. I also remember, clearly, walking around sort of stunned for the rest of that day.

One excruciatingly anxious month later, we got the offer from Paramount. Three even more excruciatingly anxious months later, I finally got to tell people about it. When the news broke through The Hollywood Reporter, it was the most surreal day of my life; going from sitting on such a huge secret to having the entire world know about it was very strange. The incredible foreign rights team Holly and Taylor work with scrambled to send the book all over the world in the wake of that THR article, to a good bit of success; fourteen translated editions are currently in the works.

Like I said before, I knew I couldn’t make lightning strike—all I could do was put all my heart and energy into writing something I loved, and pray that people connected with it at just the right time. I knew that it wasn’t a guarantee that anyone would ever connect. That was a hard truth to swallow, and I made as much peace with it as I could. It’s not an easy thing to hold your dream with an open hand, especially not after working toward it so diligently for so many years. I kept working, though, and eventually the timing fell into place like it did for all of these things. So much of what has happened comes down to having agents with killer instincts who’ve further connected me with others who’ve fiercely championed my work—Holly and Taylor connected me with my film agent, with my editor, with my foreign rights agent. From there, it was all mysterious timing, things lining up in just the right way.

If you’re in the query trenches, or experiencing an extended time on sub, my hope is that you’ll find this story incredibly encouraging. The tip of everyone’s iceberg is all flash and shine, especially when in a sunny spotlight, but beneath it all is a giant hunk of perseverance, patience, and determination. Write the book you love, the book you’re proud of. Write it for you. Then put it in hands you trust, and go get to work on the next one.

Kayla has generously offered an e-book of THE SANDCASTLE EMPIRE for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower anyway you want and leave a comment through July 1st. 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. You must be 13 or older to enter. This giveaway is international.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, June 21st I have an agent spotlight interview with Kelly Van Sant and a query critique giveaway--my last until the fall

Monday, June 26th I have a guest post with debut author Emily Bain Murphy and her agent Peter Knapp with a giveaway of Erin's YA fantasy THE DISAPPEARANCES and a query critique giveaway by Peter--my last joint agent/author post until the fall

Saturday, July 1st I'll be participating in the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, July 5th I have an interview with debut authors and sisters Heidi Lang and  Kati Bartkowski and a giveaway of their MG fantasy A DASH OF DRAGONS

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


S.P. Bowers said...

Sounds like a great book! And yes, your story is encouraging. It's nice to see there is hope.

Bish Denham said...

wow! What an experience and I suspect your journey has only begun. Congratulations.

I've tweeted about the giveaway.

Patricia T. said...

What a fascinating interview. I'm thrilled for Kayla! Her book sounds like a wonderful book with exceptional wold building and interesting characters. I never heard of a book being optioned before a book deal announced. Wishing you the best of luck, Kayla. Great interview!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Congratulations, Kayla! A movie deal is the biggest thing ever. I hope the film does your book justice.

Sue said...

Fascinating story behind the story. Congratulations!

Maria Malaveci said...

Congratulations Kayla!! I am looking forward to reading the book! ♥♥ mmalavec(at)med(dot)umich(dot)edu

cleemckenzie said...

The book sounds delicious! Congratulations, Kayla.

Greg Pattridge said...

Great story—both the book and Kayla's trip into publishing. Congrats!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Wow, what a roller coaster of a ride you went through!! The book sounds wonderful. I do love fast-paced dystopians.

Stephanie Faris said...

There's so little of this that we can control, so it's SO nice to hear when someone has such a big success story. Congrats to Kayla!

Tammy Theriault said...

Kayla is a gem and inspiring beyond words.

Kirsti Call said...

I love this story and can't wait to read Kayla's book! Shared on twitter :)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

What an amazing path to success! And what an amazing book. How exciting that Di Caprio is involved! Congratulations to Kayla, so happy for her!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Wow, it sounds like an amazing book. I love how much Kayla loved her story. It made me want to buy a copy. :)

Diane Martin said...

I can't wait to read the book! Congratulations on your success. It gives me hope...!

Danielle H. said...

I can't even imagine what it must feel like to go through this (but I'd love to). Congrats on your success and I can't wait to read it. I shared on twitter.

Chrys Fey said...

Having a film agent want to shop your manuscript around certainly would solve a lot. lol

MunirGhiasuddin said...

Congratulations to Kayla Olson . It seems like a lot of hard work was put in the book.

Denise Covey said...

Wow, stupendous news for Kayla, but you've worked hard for your success. Good for you!

Raimey Gallant said...

Love me a good eco-fic story. What an incredible author journey! Thanks for sharing!

Emma Charlotte said...

Who can take part in the giveaway contest and does all people will be able to get something or winners will be announced through lucky draw?
Emma Charlotte
The Academic Papers

Natalie Aguirre said...

Anyone who leaves a comment and includes their e-mail address if not in their Google profile can enter. Please do not include links to The Academic Papers in your comment again. I pick the winner by random org and notify the winner only.

Valerie Bodden said...

I'm a huge cheerleader of perseverance when I talk to others ... but sometimes it doesn't hurt to be reminded of it for myself, too. :) Thanks for sharing your amazing story, and congratulations! valbodden(at)gmail(dot)com

Taffy said...

This sounds like a great book!


Anonymous said...

I'd love to give this a try!

Megan said...

This book sounds so wonderful, I'd love to enter to win it! BTW, I follow via GFC as Megan S.
I also tweeted about the giveaway :D Here: https://twitter.com/WordsThatStay1/status/878998122743169024

My email is megan(dot)clarsach(at)gmail(dot)com, if I was lucky enough to win <3

BunnyClem said...

Thanks for the giveaway! :)