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Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you're having a good fall. Mine is TOO BUSY! But I did get to the Kerrytown Bookfest in Ann Arbor and got to see one of my favorite authors, Cinda Williams Chima on a YA panel and have coffee with her husband and her afterwards. She is a fantastic fantasy writer. Her latest book is STORMCASTER in her Shattered Realms series. She's created a fantastic world in this and her prior series and I really recommend it to any fantasy lovers. Here's a picture of Cinda and me.

Today I’m excited to have debut author Amanda Rawson Hill here to share about her contemporary MG THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC. It sounds like a great read that tackles issues of friendship, depression, and dementia.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

Kate doesn’t believe in magic, not really. But she could use some these days.

Kate and her best friend Sofia have been inseparable for nearly as long as Kate can remember. Now, though, Sofia is drifting away, drawn to a new friend. Kate’s grandmother is drifting away too, but in a different way. She keeps getting confused and can’t remember things. 

One thing Grammy remembers, however, is the three rules of Everyday Magic: Believe. Give. Trust.

Kate is willing to try anything, including Everyday Magic, to draw the people she loves back to her—Sofia, Grammy, and even her father, who left months ago and hasn’t been seen since. 

Hi Amanda! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Hi! Thanks for having me here. I’ve always loved books and reading, but growing up I never wanted to be a writer. I dreamed about being a librarian, a neurologist, a geneticist, a teacher…but never a writer. I actually got my degree in Chemistry, got married, and had a couple kids before the thought ever occurred to me. I was in bed one night and couldn’t fall asleep because the entire text of a picture book kept running through my head. Finally, after about 2 hours, I got up and wrote it down. The next morning I looked at it and thought, “That’s pretty good!” So then I googled “how to get a picture book published” and proceeded to send it to some agents (who quickly rejected it. Ha!) So my first foray into writing was a big, huge blunder. But after that, I had the bug and I haven’t looked back.

2. Funny! Sounds a bit like my start. Where did you get the idea for your story?

When my two oldest children were younger, they had imaginary friends, like many children. But they shared imaginary friends. Saw them together, played with them together. They called them their “old ladies.” My kids imaginary friends were two old ladies! Kind of creepy right? Well, I was talking to my mom about it one day after my son wouldn’t let anyone play foosball with him because his “old lady” was playing against him, and she said, “Maybe it’s their great grandma Bev and Pat.” Those were my husband’s two grandma’s who had both recently passed. After that, the idea of this book where a girl’s two grandmothers come back as her guardian angels started taking shape in my head.
Now, obviously, THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC has undergone A LOT of rewrites because there are no more guardian angels. But that’s where it started.

3. Such an interesting way that you got your idea. You tackle some difficult issues in your story, like Kate’s father’s absence and her Granny’s dementia. Share how you weaved these themes into your story without being preachy.

Gosh, this is hard. Kate’s father’s absence was just an integral part of Kate. When I started writing,
her voice came really strongly to me. And she kept speaking in the second person. She kept addressing everything to this mysterious “you.” But at first, I didn’t know who “you” was. Until I hit the third chapter, when Kate said, “I dialed your number.” And then she says, “Hi dad.” That was when I realized her dad was out of the picture and it was such an important part of who Kate was at that moment that she was addressing the story to him. Those moments are now only presence in her letters to her dad sprinkled throughout the book. But I think because it was such an organic thing to Kate, it wasn’t preachy.

Now, some of the things that Kate realizes about her dad and his depression started getting preachy towards the end of the book, and that’s where my wonderful editor came in. Line edits are really important for pointing out every time you are getting a bit didactic. So I toned down the “preachy” parts through a lot of revising with my editor.

As far as weaving in the dementia, my grandpa died of Alzheimer’s. and while I was young and wasn’t up close for most of it, I remember a lot about it. And so much of Grammy comes straight from memories of my grandpa. And because of that, I think a lot of it is very real. Dementia and Alzheimer’s sometimes makes people say really funny things, sometimes very sad and heartwrenching things. I know that weird, inbetween feeling in the beginning stages when they’re sometimes there and sometimes not and you get glimpses of both sides and it’s painful and yet…they’re still there sometimes so you hold on to that. All of those feelings are part of losing someone to Dementia. And it’s very hard to be preachy about anything when you’re able to show it in a multi-faceted way like that.

4. I know what you mean going through my mom's decline from who she used to be. It sounds like you did a great job creating memorable characters, which is not all easy to do. Did they develop as the story progressed or did you have a clear vision of them before you started?

Characters are actually really hard for me. Like I mentioned earlier, Kate’s voice showed up with a lot of her character already a part of it. But I definitely had to “discover” her over the course of several revisions. Grammy and Jane (Kate’s new friend) were both very easy to write and know from the moment they showed up on the page. Kate’s other friend, Sofia, was a complete mystery to me. I kept fumbling around her, not ever able to get her character and motivation just right…until I brought in two sensitivity readers. (Imagine that, right?) They were able to give me the missing puzzle pieces of what I didn’t understand about Sofia as a white writer. Much of that doesn’t show up outright in the text, but it allowed me to better write her reactions and motivations for things.

5. I have a hard time with characters too. Share about a challenge you faced in writing THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC and how you overcame it.

So, as you can tell, THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC has gone through a lot of changes from its original form. One of those changes is that it used to be written completely in letters. A true epistolary novel. It was mentored in Pitch Wars by three different mentors and two of them actually ended up disagreeing on whether I should keep it in full epistolary or make it partial-epistolary. Both mentors had very good reasons and loved the book and are both really amazing authors. So, I was flummoxed. What should I do? One person says it’s not working. Another says it makes it really special. And I’d been receiving similar reactions from other readers. Some LOVED it in the epistolary format. Others found it unrealistic.

So I decided to just experiment. I rewrote the first three chapters in partial epistolary (prose with a letter at the beginning or end of each chapter.) And then I got a very large pool of readers. Like 10 or something. And I sent them both versions and asked which worked better. And the partial epistolary came back as the definite winner. So I made the very hard decision at the time, to make it a mix of prose and letters instead of all letters. Even though I loved it as an epistolary novel. Because it appeared that wasn’t working as well as it could and, frankly, I really felt like this book had a good chance with agents. So I was trying to make it as marketable as possible.

Not everyone would have made the same choice. And I maybe could have kept it that way and been able to make it work and still get it published. But I decided to go with the preference of the majority. And in the end, it solved a lot of tension problems I was having too. So it was a good move.

6. Your agent is Elizabeth Harding. How did she become your agent and what was your road for publication like?

Yes! Elizabeth is wonderful. My path to publication actually started with Pitch Wars. After revising with my mentors, I did the agent round, got 12 requests and then started querying. Elizabeth was the first agent who requested off a query and I was floored. I’d always considered her such a long shot. About six weeks later, I got my first offer from a fabulous agent who I would have been 100% happy with. Then another and then Elizabeth sent her offer email and I started crying as she listed off the authors she represents. Gordan Korman, Nikki Grimes, Gennifer Choldenko, Suzanne LaFleur and several others. She was a dream come true and I accepted her offer the next day.

But then the hard part started. Trying to get the book published. Sub was long and grueling. Full of rejections and revisions. I gave up on the book and wrote a new one. Then, the night before Thanksgiving, Elizabeth forwarded me an email from an editor. When I saw it pop up on my phone, I was like, “Elizabeth, I love you, but don’t send me rejections on holidays!” haha But it wasn’t a rejection! The editor went on and on about how much she loved the book! That turned into an R&R after it went to second reads. I did the R&R. They bought it. The rest is history.

7. What an awesome holiday present. Once you signed your book contract, when did you start planning for its release and what were some of the essential steps you’ve taken since then to start promoting yourself as an author and your book?

I signed the contract in April of 2017. In June, I talked to my dear friend and CP, Cindy Baldwin,
about doing a joint newsletter together, but making it a book club and resource for teachers and librarians. We brought on a few other authors to lighten the workload of it, and that was the birth of MG@Heart. MG@Heart has really grown over the last year and put us in contact with so many wonderful authors, teachers, and librarians. And those connections morphed into connections with book sharing groups and chats with teachers and librarians. Those are the really important connections in MG. It’s less about reaching out to your audience and more about reaching gatekeepers, which changes the strategy and effectiveness of many marketing things common in YA.

Now, I’m about to embark on my “Kindness Campaign.” Rather than a pre-order giveaway that doesn’t really move the needle, especially in MG, I wanted to do something that would provide an opportunity for students and teachers to connect to the book and its themes. To see why it might be a good addition to their classroom. I don’t know if it will catch on or anything. But might as well try.

8. What are your favorite ways of connecting on social media with other writers and readers? Why?

I’m a Twitter girl. It’s short and sweet and you can use gifs when words aren’t enough. It just feels very open and organic. Like there are less walls there. And I love being tagged in things on Instagram. Like, Bookstagrams of your book are probably the best thing ever. But I’m not very good at posting on there myself. I’ve found both venues are good for connecting with teachers and librarians. And there is some chance of connecting with actual kid readers on IG, unlike Twitter for the most part.

9. What are you working on now?

I’ve got a few things cooking. I’m revising a MG about wishes and community. And I’m currently drafting an upper-MG retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac in free verse which I am LOVING so far. I’ve got a few PB’s up my sleeve too. So, hopefully something else sticks with an editor soon!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Amanda. You can find Amanda at:

Amanda has generously offered a signed book giveaway of THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC. 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 September 29th. 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 years old or older to enter. The giveaway is U.S. and Canada.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, September 24th I have a guest post by debut author Laura Weymouth with her agent Lauren Spieller and a query critique giveaway by Lauren and a giveaway of Laura's YA fantasy THE VANISHING KINGDOM

Wednesday, October 3rd I have an interview with debut author Miranda Asebedo and giveaway of her YA magical realism THE DEEPEST ROOTS and my IWSG post

Monday, October 8th I have a guest post with debut author Miranda Cruz and her agent Paula Munier with a query critique giveaway by Paula and a giveaway of MG contemporary EVERLASTING NORA by Miranda

Sunday, October 14th I'm participating in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

Monday, October 15th I have an interview with debut author Katya de Becerra and a giveaway of her  YA mystery/fantasy WHAT THE WOODS KEEP

Monday, October 22nd I have an interview with author Sherry Ellis and a giveaway of her MG BUBBA AND SQUIRT'S BIG DIG TO CHINA

Hope to see you on Monday!


nashvillecats2 said...

Loved the interview today, made excellent reading and was most informative.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Took a chance to remove a lot of the letters but it paid off.
Glad you got to that book festival, Natalie.

Karen Lange said...

Amanda, it's great to meet you. Thanks for sharing your journey. Congrats on your success!

Natalie, thanks for the intro, and for sharing the interview. Hope you are doing well. I'll pass on the giveaway. Have a great week!

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Natalie, how cool that you got to meet Cinda Williams Chima! And Amanda's journey is inspiring. That's so important about reaching the gatekeepers for MG.

Greg Pattridge said...

Such a great story of how this book came to be. I'm sure it will be a success but with most MG books the journey is along one. Word of mouth will make it known so thanks for the first look.

Danielle H. said...

I love meeting authors--thank you for sharing the photo of yourself and Cinda! I can't wait to read this book and the cover is frame-able! I shared on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/178182724282/amanda-rawson-hill-interview-and-the-three-rules

Brenda said...

Sounds like a really interesting premise and wish Amanda much success with release of her book. Hope you have a lovely week Natalie.

Unknown said...

I love the parts about her kids' imaginary friends! Intriguing!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Getting an agent doesn't mean a book will find a home but I'm glad yours did, Amanda.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Great picture!!

Love the cover and the blurb. Amanda's book has me intrigued.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

What a lovely idea for a story, Amanda. Congratulations. Best of luck to you.

Patricia T. said...

This is really a fun story! The themes of depression and dementia interest me as so many kids are dealing with both! I also like magic. And I especially enjoyed learning what inspired your to write this story -- may you channeled it!

June McCrary Jacobs said...

I always enjoy your author features, Natalie! Thanks for sharing another interesting book and author for MMGM.

Melanie Meehan said...

It's relieving and inspiring to hear of the trials and tribulations, revisions and rewrites, that other people go through on a pathway toward publication. Thank you for sharing!

Rosi said...

I always enjoy your interviews and learn a lot. Thanks for another great post. This book sounds great.

Tonja Drecker said...

This does sound like a lovely story, and what an interesting path it took! I had to laugh at the first submission...that bomb sounds so familiar.

Chrys Fey said...

I love the story of how the idea came about. I had an imaginary friend when I was little. :)

I never tried Pitch Wars. It sounds as though it would raise my anxiety and even impact my depression if things go bad, but Amanda's story has me wondering more about it.

Angie Quantrell said...

This sounds like a great book! Love your writing journey story. Congratulations! Angelecolline at yahoo dot com

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Natalie!

Thanks for featuring Amanda today... Hi, Amanda! Congrats on your new book. Sounds like a very good premise for kids, especially with the everyday trials that kids go through like losing their best friend or having a grandmother or grandfather with dementia ... All the best!

Stephen Tremp said...

Hello it's great to meet Amanda Rawson Hill and best wishes for a smashing success. The “Kindness Campaign” sounds promising good luck with that I really like the concept. Run with it.

DMS said...

Wow! What a path to publication- so many offers from agents. I am glad Amanda found the right fit for her. Sounds like a wonderful and touching book. Thanks for sharing. :)