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Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Megan England here to share about her YA space opera THE DISASTERS. It sounds like a fun, action-packed story.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours.

But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy. Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.

On the run and framed for atrocities they didn’t commit, Nax and his fellow failures execute a dangerous heist to spread the truth about what happened at the Academy.

They may not be “Academy material,” and they may not get along, ut they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.

Hi Megan! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became an author.

I attempted writing for a long time, but severe anxiety and fear kept me from getting very far. I’m a person who has to be slammed busy at all times, though, so once I graduated library school and found myself with just a full time job as a YA librarian and nothing else, I finally had no choice but to figure out how to work with my anxiety. I mean, I guess I could have taken up recreational clock repair or something, but it was always going to be writing, eventually. I finished my first book in February 2014 and proved to myself that I COULD actually write a whole book that wasn’t completely terrible.

For me, it was one of those things where you have to hear the same piece of advice 999 times, and on the thousandth time, it finally sinks in. I was plowing through Maggie Stiefvater’s blog posts about writing and came across the following: “I wrote Lament on Wednesdays only, from 4-6 p.m. [...]. It took me four months. It can be done, I PROMISE.”

Oh. You mean… you just sit down and DO IT? Four months seems like… not that long. A finite amount of time. That’s a doable thing.


That became my mantra, and it helped me finish despite my brain constantly berating me.

Other than that, I’m just your typical run-of-the-mill nerd. I play games of all kinds (video, tabletop, D&D, etc.), read and write fanfic, love sci-fi TV shows, all the usual. I also love to garden and hike!

2. Love what Maggie said. I had no idea she wrote that book by setting aside one day a week. Where did you get the idea for THE DISASTERS?

All my books start out as a vague little idea seed that appears out of nowhere and sits around in an
Idea Dump google doc for months or years until it meets a catalyst of some kind. In this case, the seed was “a hotshot pilot fails out of a space academy on his first day” and the catalyst was seeing Guardians of the Galaxy in the theater in summer 2014. It wasn’t a perfect movie by any means, but it was so much fun, and it solidified for me what I wanted THE DISASTERS to feel like. I wrote it during NaNoWriMo later that year!

3. Most YA stories have teen girls as the main character. Was it hard writing from Nax’s point of view? Do you have any tips for others wanting to write from a male POV?

I identify as non-binary and generally have a much more difficult time writing from a feminine point of view, so I’m probably not the best person to give advice on this topic! Nax’s voice came pretty naturally to me, and he’s very much part of a lineage of wise-cracking, trouble-magnet space pilots a la Han Solo, Malcolm Reynolds, and Peter Quill, so there was a lot to channel from. For anyone trying to internalize a particular voice, I think the best thing is to immerse yourself in media that does it well. Watch TV shows and movies, read books, read articles and social media from authentic sources, all that.

4. Those are great tips. What was your world building like? What are some of the challenges of creating worlds in space?

It was a lot of asking “What If.” I started with the seed, a hotshot pilot failing out of an academy on his first day, then extrapolated. Okay, if space piloting is a thing, there has to be a place to fly to. He can’t just go back to Earth because that’s boring, so what kind of plot does that suggest? What set pieces do I need to make the plot happen? If Place A exists, what else would logically follow from there? If we’ve settled the planets, who settled them and when? And so on. Eventually, the whole thing came to hinge on one fictional historical moment: the discovery of A-drive technology, a sort of instantaneous interplanetary travel, around 2050. From there, settling the stars would happen as fast as governments and organizations could manage!

For challenges, I think it’s tough to create a world that feels like a whole world, the way Earth is, not just a single-characteristic planet like Tatooine (desert) or Dagobah (swamp) in Star Wars. I don’t know if I managed to capture it in THE DISASTERS because they’re on each planet for such a short time and only visit one city on each, but each one definitely has a whole history of how it was founded and what else is there in my head.

5. That would be challenging to create worlds when your character is on different worlds. Your story has been described as fun and filled with action. How did you weave these elements into your story?

They were a priority for me right from the start. I had a very clear goal going into this book: a fast, fun, funny romp in space, the kind of story I love. There are definitely serious elements and some intense character moments, but if the book ever stopped being fun and action-y at its heart, I knew it was time to pause and regroup. I also spent some time for each action scene with my eyes closed, trying to really put myself in the pilot’s seat and feel the adrenaline so I could convey it in a really visceral way. Fun!

6. Your agent is Barbara Poelle. Share how she became your agent and what your road to publication was like.

Even though I participated in Pitch Wars and had a wonderful experience, I ended up connecting with Barbara via a plain old cold query. It was a whirlwind November day where she emailed and requested the full, then wanted to set up a call a few hours later. We jumped on the phone right after I got home from work and she packed SO MUCH into that first call, everything she loved about the book and how she envisioned its future, but also everything that was majorly wrong with it. It ended up being an R&R, which I happily took on.

She hooked me up with two of her other clients, Sarah Nicole Lemon (Valley Girls) and Kerri Maniscalco (Stalking Jack the Ripper series), who gave the book a solid Poellean ass kicking. I turned in the revision after the holidays, we signed a few days later, and went on submission two days after that! I’m very fortunate that I didn’t have to float in submission limbo for too long. We ended up selling to HarperTeen in a pre-empt within maybe 4-6 weeks. That was in spring of 2016, and we signed for a Fall 2018 release. The final release date ended up being almost the last possible day of the Fall 2018 season, so it’s been a 2.5 year journey post-book deal!

7. Great to know querying works. You are also a YA librarian. How has that helped you reach other YA librarians about your book? How do you recommend other authors connect with librarians?

It’s been wonderful to have the support of both current and former colleagues throughout this (glacial, eternal) publishing process. Ultimately, though, I’m always reaaaaally reluctant to lean on any connections I have. I never want to make people feel awkward or obligated. What I have done is use what I’ve learned as a librarian to help time my marketing and outreach.

I don’t bother sending postcards to advertise the book more than about 8-10 weeks from pub, because many libraries can’t order things until 2 months out. For event scheduling, I know many libraries do programming by the season and book as much as six months in advance, so I know to provide as much notice as possible for potential events. I also try to stay as flexible as possible on pricing, because my own budget for teen programming at my library is about $90/month and I really have to shift things around and crunch numbers to hire out for programs or pay for author visits, and can only do a very few.

8. Thanks for the great tips on this. Share some of your plans for marketing your book and what you’ve already done to spread the word about it? Why did you choose what you’re doing?

Common wisdom is that there’s not a whole lot an author can do individually to move the needle on their book sales, so it’s best to stick with that you want to do, whatever you find fun. Whether true or not, sticking to fun is never bad advice in a business as stressful as this, so I decided to go with it.

I enjoy graphic design so I did lots of it for THE DISASTERS. I designed and sent handwritten postcards to indie bookstores and libraries I thought might be a good fit for THE DISASTERS, designed bookmarks and stickers (was able to barter for the sticker printing), put together a preorder campaign that’s going on right now, and best of all, designed some rocketship enamel pins to say thanks to folks who preorder! I adore them. I 99% had them made so I could have one, tbh. I’ll also be doing a short tour in NY, NJ, and PA immediately after the book release because it’s a great excuse to visit friends in other states!

9. What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up final revisions on my second book with HarperTeen, which will be out in January 2020. I can’t say much about it right now, but it’s a very genre-mashy futuristic world with magic and a cast of characters I adore. I’m also starting the first three chapters and synopsis of what I hope will be my third book, which I’ll be pitching soon! Fingers crossed.

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

Twitter  | Instagram  | Monthly Newsletter  | Website  |  Preorder campaign

Megan has generously offered an ARC of THE DISASTERS and two swag packages 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 December 1st. 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. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S for the ARC and international for the swag packages.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, November 26th I have an agent spotlight interview with Weronika Janczuk and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, December 5th I have an interview with debut author Elizabeth Tammi and a giveaway of her YA fantasy OUTRUN THE WIND and my IWSG Post

Monday, December 10th I have an interview with debut author Rebecca Caprara and a giveaway of THE MAGIC OF MELWICK ORCHARD

Friday, December 14th I'm participating in the Midwinter Eve Giveaway Hop--my last post of the year

Hope to see you on Monday!


nashvillecats2 said...

A most enlighening interview Natalie, thanks for sharing. I'm sure Megan is a most talented writer.

Enjoy this new week.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I've only done one library visit where they actually paid me. LOL

Congrats on the new release, Megan. And I'm also the type of person who has to be doing something all the time.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Glacial is a good way of describing the publishing process! Congratulations to you, Megan. I love that you attacked your anxiety head-on by writing!

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Impressive interview, Natalie. I especially love the Maggie Stiefvater advice, which I'd never heard before. Congrats to Megan on her successful writing journey.

Greg Pattridge said...

Great advice from this interview. The book will have appeal for teens and adults. I'll step back from the drawing and let someone else win as my TBR pile is already at astronomical heights.

Megan said...

I'd love to enter to win this awesome book!
GFC: Megan S.
I tweeted here: https://twitter.com/WordsThatStay1/status/1064614052725428224

Angela Saver said...

I follow via email. Thanks for the chance!


jean602 said...

Good interview book sounds good.

Mary Preston said...

Thank you for the great interview and highlight.


Kimberly Gabriel said...

Recreational clock repair cracked me up. ;) Nax sounds like a fun protagonist to follow. Great interview ladies!

Michelle Mason said...

I love hearing about journeys to publication, and it's also interesting to hear the librarian take on marketing. Thanks for the interview!

Danielle H. said...

I enjoyed the interview today, especially the discussion on world building and character development. I shared this on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/180316340962/mk-england-interview-and-the-disasters-giveaway

Chelly Writes said...

I'm so excited to read this!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I love YA books that are in a boy's POV. I raised 5 boys and most books for them were sports books. Congrats, Megan

Angie Quantrell said...

Wow! What a great road to publishing story! Excellent tips, especially since you are working in the field (library) and know the seasons of library life. Thanks! Congratulations! Angelecolline at yahoo dot com

Rosi said...

I always enjoy reading your interviews. Thanks for the post. I will step aside for the giveaway. I'm buried in books right now.

Tonja Drecker said...

Glacial describes the process so well. Glad you got over your 'fear' and hit the writing world.

DMS said...

What an interesting interview. I enjoyed learning about how Megan began writing and worked past anxiety. Thanks for sharing :)

tatertot374 said...

Great interview! I follow. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I've had an eye on this book; it sounds fun! Thanks for the giveaway.

Kait Plus Books said...

I'm so excited for The Disasters! Thank you for the giveaway!
email: kaitplusbooks @ gmail dot com

saturdaynightfever said...

I am a follower. edgenemmers@gmail.com

Leela said...

I am a follower.

yellowlabs said...

I enjoyed reading the interview and am a follower.

Antoinette M said...

Always interesting to read the interview with the author! (follower)

Debra Branigan said...

I enjoyed reading the interview and I am a follower.

AEKZ2 said...

I love underdog stories! They're so inspiring. I'm a follower.