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  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "H" as of 5/11/2023 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Author Interview: Mary Averling and The Curse of Eelgrass Bog Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy New Year and Happy Wednesday! Today I’m excited to start out 2024 with an interview with debut author Mary Averling about her MG fantasy The Curse of Eelgrass Bog. It sounds like it has great world building and memorable characters. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Dark secrets and unnatural magic abound when a twelve-year-old girl ventures into a bog full of monsters to break a mysterious curse.

Nothing about Kess Pedrock’s life is normal. Not her home (she lives in her family’s Unnatural History Museum), not her interests (hunting for megafauna fossils and skeletons), and not her best friend (a talking demon’s head in a jar named Shrunken Jim).

But things get even stranger than usual when Kess meets Lilou Starling, the new girl in town. Lilou comes to Kess for help breaking a mysterious curse—and the only clue she has leads straight into the center of Eelgrass Bog.

Everyone knows the bog is full of witches, demons, and possibly worse, but Kess and Lilou are determined not to let that stop them. As they investigate the mystery and uncover long-buried secrets, Kess begins to realize that the curse might hit closer to home than she’d ever expected, and she’ll have to summon all her courage to find a way to break it before it’s too late..

 


Before I get to Mary's interview, I have my IWSG post.

Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts this month are: Joylene Nowell Butler, Olga Godim, Diedre Knight, and me!

Optional Question: Do you follow back your readers on BookBub or do you only follow back other authors?

I’m not published and not on BookBub so I can’t answer this question. Sorry.

I don’t have much else to talk about this month. I haven’t been on a good writing schedule for months because of other commitments and some lack of discipline. I hope I get into a better writing groove this year. I just started writing regularly last week. So far, I'm doing good.

Interview With Mary Averling

Hi Mary! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Thank you for having me! I currently daylight as a PhD student in Ontario, though I’ve lived across Canada and England. It might sound clichéd, but writing isn’t something I chose—it’s something I’ve always loved, and I couldn’t tell you exactly where it started. I wrote my first middle grade novel during my undergrad at the University of Victoria, and was fortunate enough to be chosen as an Author Mentor Match (AMM) mentee by the fantabulous Heather Kassner. Even though that book never sold, it connected me to me wonderful agent, Kelly Sonnack. And the rest is history!

2. That’s awesome that you were chosen for the author mentor match program. Where did you get the idea for The Curse of Eelgrass Bog?

I was always a “look at this!” kind of kid, and was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by wild places: forests, muddy fields, sluggish old rivers. I remember pretending I’d found unicorn horns and unnatural creatures in the field behind our house. I knew I wanted to write a story about a “look at this!” girl, but in this case, I wanted the strange things she discovered to be real. The rest was stitched together from some of my other favourite things—museums, secret societies, mysteries, hidden worlds—then I added a talking head sidekick (for good measure), and the book unspooled from there!

About Your Writing Process

3. You’re also working towards your PhD, which I’ve heard is a very time-consuming process. What is your writing schedule like? How do you stay productive, especially now that you most likely have to write a manuscript on contract?

It does often feel like juggling eggs! My schedule tends to shift depending on uni deadlines—often, I’ll do school work during mornings and early afternoons, then write as much as I can in the evenings. Perhaps counterintuitively, I think the best thing for my productivity has been giving myself permission to be more flexible. My second contracted book was written on deadline, and as a chronic snail writer, I was petrified by the prospect of having a ticking clock behind me. Luckily I have a very understanding editor! But I realized that some weeks I’d have a “school brain” where I didn’t want to write, and other weeks I’d be head-over-heels for my creative projects—so instead of trying to squash myself into a strict schedule, I listened to those feelings and let myself work wherever the passion was! Of course, I still need to be aware of deadlines and expectations, but trusting the process helps keep my love of writing alive instead of turning it into a chore.

4. It’s reassuring to know you were able to juggle it all, especially since I’m a slow writer too. Share about your world-building process. What tips do you have for other writers creating a new world or new town as the setting of their story?

Always, above all, have fun with it! My worlds are inevitably stitched together from things that make me excited or curious—bogs, museums, wild places, in-between spaces. Readers are remarkably attuned to an author’s passion for certain settings, no matter how familiar or strange. If you write what you find fascinating, readers will latch onto that excitement too! Especially when writing for children, I think it’s also important to consider how your character might view their surroundings. What might draw their attention? And what would they likely not pay attention to at all? My protagonist, Kess, is forever keeping any eye out for unnatural objects like bones or magical fossils—she loves worms and crawly things, but she probably wouldn’t notice more mundane details like car models or out-of-date kitchen appliances. Keeping this perspective in mind definitely helped me ensure my world-building felt cohesive!

5. What was a challenge you faced in writing The Curse of Eelgrass Bog when you were working on it with your agent or editor? What did you learn from it?

Endings are the bane of my existence. Even when the rest of the book was in submission-ready shape, I had to work through several extra rounds with my agent to stick the landing. One day, I’ll know how to end something without wanting to throw my laptop out the window! Another challenge was ironing out the magic system—both my agent and editor encouraged me to really think about how the eponymous curse functioned. It made me realize that “just because” is never the most interesting answer when thinking about why magic and supernatural elements work the way they do. There’s so much possibility for thematic tie-ins! When all the pieces click into place, it really does feel like magic.

Your Road to Publication

6. Kelly Sonnack is your agent. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Kelly! My superstar! I first started querying in 2018 after working through AMM; the landscape was very different back then, but I was lucky enough that after six months, I found myself with four offers of representation. I’d initially queried a different agent at Andrea Brown Literary after a referral from one of my professors, who was also represented by ABLA. That agent wasn’t looking to sign more novelists at the time, so she graciously passed my materials to Kelly—and I’m so glad she did! All four agents were brilliant and it was a difficult decision, but ultimately, Kelly’s enthusiasm, business acumen, and vision made me certain that she was the perfect partner.

Unfortunately, that first book never sold. We made it to acquisitions and received an R&R that fell through after the editor left the industry, but after a year, we decided to pull it from submission and focus on EELGRASS BOG. That book was a whole other story! We received a pre-empt after six weeks, which ended up turning into an auction. I’m still pinching myself that multiple editors wanted my weird little bog book!! In July 2023 we officially sold to Gretchen Durning at Razorbill, and I haven’t stopped smiling since.

7. What an awesome road to publication story. Share a few tips on how to get through going on submission from your own experience getting a publishing contract.

I think this is the default advice, but seriously—keep working on something else. Drafting EELGRASS BOG while on sub with my first book was a lifesaver, and it meant we could immediately switch focus after it became clear that my first book wouldn’t be my debut. It’s also important to surround yourself with people you trust, so you can share commiserations and celebrations throughout the trenches. It’s a lonely process—and it can be hard to remember to keep your eyes on your own paper sometimes—but community is so, so precious and important. We’re all in this together!

Promoting Your Book

8. What are doing to celebrate the release of your book and to promote it in general?

Since release day is happening over the holidays, I’m lucky enough to be at home with my family. My lifelong dream is to walk into a bookstore and see my story on a shelf—and that’s the plan for release day! I’m hoping to visit a few of my favourite local indies (followed by a ridiculously decadent dessert somewhere, of course). My university department is also planning a launch party later in the month—should be exciting!! Apart from that, I’ve been reaching out to schools, libraries, and festivals in my area, and doing the usual social media trumpeting. Oof, and I’ve got a couple of podcast interviews scheduled in a few weeks … we shall see how they turn out!

9. What’s your advice to aspiring authors and those who have their first publishing contract on building their social media platform and getting ready for the release of their first book?

Do whatever makes you happy. Seriously. Except in very select cases, social media won’t “move the needle” and it isn’t worth burning yourself out for those extra clicks and views—unless you enjoy it, of course. It’s also so, so important to support your fellow authors. If you want boosts, boost your colleagues! Shout about the books that make you excited! Social media is a much more joyful place when we uplift each other, and ultimately, it’s the best way to get people excited for your story, too.

10. What are you working on now?

I was fortunate enough to have a two-book deal with Penguin Kids, so I’ve been working with my editor on my next middle grade (slated for release Spring 2025)! I can’t share much yet, except that it’s a dreamy, surreal, spooky ghost story about doorways and endless summertimes and unspoken things. I can’t wait to share more soon!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Mary. You can find Mary at: @maryaverling on Twitter, Threads, and Instagram, or at maryaverling.com.

Giveaway Details

Mary is generously offering a hardback of The Curse of Eelgrass Bog or a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by January 13th. If your email is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter or Mary on her social media sites, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This book giveaway is U.S. ad Canada

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

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Monday, January 8th I have an agent spotlight interview with Leah Moss and a query critique giveaway

Tuesday, January 16th I’m participating in the Winter Wishes Giveaway Hop

Monday, January 22nd I have an interview with debut author Anthony Nerada and a giveaway of his YA contemporary Skater Boy

Monday, January 29th I have a guest post by author Shutta Crum

Wednesday, January 31st I have an agent spotlight interview with Laura Gruszka and a query critique giveaway

I hope to see you on Monday!

 

54 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

New year, which means a new opportunity to get back to the writing groove.
Bog monsters - fun. Congratulations, Mary.
Thanks for co-hosting, Natalie!

Cathrina Constantine said...

Happy New Year, Natalie!

Congrats to Mary, I love the cover and saw her book elsewhere just recently.

I've been waylaid in my writing too. Hope we can both get back to it.

Thanks for co-hosting.

C.D. Gallant-King said...

Happy New Year!

Congrats to Mary, and that blurb sounds amazing!

nashvillecats2 said...

Happy New Year Natalie, enjoyed the interview very much. Congrats to Mary.
Yvonne.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

I like posting my reviews on BookBub (just in case Goodreads does get destroyed as rumour has had it for years).
I've just added this great-sounding book to my TBR :-)

Ronel visiting for IWSG day An Author’s Goals for 2024

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Happy IWSG New Year, Natalie. I don't use BookBub either. Thank you for the Great interview. It never gets old hearing the success stories of other authors. Thanks for co-hosting.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Congratulations, Mary. Best of luck with your PhD. My Stetson's off to you for accomplishing so much. Natalie, may this New Year be the best for you!

Liza said...

This book sounds absolutely charming! It already feels like a hit to me! Congratulations Mary, and Natalie, thank you always for an intriguing interview. Happy New Year.

Pat Garcia said...

Hi,
Happy New Year!
I wish you the best in finding your writing rhythm so that you can maintain a writing rhythm.

Shalom shalom

Diane Burton said...

I don't think you have to be published to be on BookBub. Posting reviews there gets your name out. Congrats, Mary, on your debut book. Hope 2024 is a great year for you, Natalie. Thanks for cohosting this month.

Donna K. Weaver said...

But you're a reader, aren't you? I post reviews of books I read there.

Computer Tutor said...

But you did answer the question in a way, Natalie. You're a reader and have never heard of BookBub. That's what I'd expect--that BookBub is for authors.

Loni Townsend said...

I hope your writing groove continues! Here's to hoping 2024 leads to a lot of productivity.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Good luck with the writing regularly! Happy 2024!

Meka James said...

Happy new year! Hope you are able to find a writing schedule that works for you and keeps you in the groove.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Writing and working on a PhD - that's a lot.

Happy to hear you are back in the writing groove, Natalie.

Gwen Gardner said...

Natalie, disciplined writing is hard! But you'll get there bit by bit.

Mary, your books sounds right up my alley. Congrats on your new release!

Sandra Cox said...

Great interview. Wishing you much success, Mary.
All the best to you both in 2024.

Jean Davis said...

I wish you the best of luck with maintaining a consistent writing schedule. It's a challenge for sure. :)

Arlee Bird said...

All the best to Mary. At least she's doing something.

Your description of yourself sounds like me and me of late. There is so much to do in life and I stay busy. Too bad that I've started my 2024 off with a bout of COVID, but that should be a minor setback for me. Still, it's probably not a great way to start the year off with other than having an excuse to be lazy and stay in bed.

Have a great 2024! All of us!

Lee

Olga Godim said...

That book sounds like an amazing read for kids. And I love the cover.

Diana Stout said...

I love your interviews, Natalie! You're on my to-do list!

Great post, Mary. Congratulations on your successes!

Lisa said...

Happy New Year and thanks for co-hosting this month!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Natalie - one week is a good place to begin again! Way to go!
Mary - thank you for sharing your journey. Your book is going on my TBR pile.

Lidy said...

Thanks for co-hosting this month! And Happy New Year! Congrats on the debut Mary!

It took a fun idea for NaNoWriMo to get my writing groove back. Taking inspiration from the story cubes games, I created a story random wheel. With a spin, whichever WIP my arrow landed on, would get my sole focus for a certain amount of days. Which shows, you never know what works until you try it.

Good luck in keeping up with your writing.

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Happy New Year, Natalie. Thanks for co-hosting. I'm following you and just followed Mary on Instagram and twitterX. Thanks for this opportunity to win such an intriguing book. Bravo, Mary! I'm a slow writer too, ladies.

Fundy Blue said...

Thanks for co-hosting today, Natalie! I haven't found out much about BookBub today ~ lol! I really enjoyed your interview with Mary Averling. I can't imagine writing a PhD thesis and MG books at the same time. I was Kess when I was a kid, at least the running around in fields, swamps, and beaches looking for fossils, especially dinosaurs. I dragged home more than one skeleton. I didn't have a shrunken head in a bottle, but I had my brother who was almost as bad. Good luck with your book and PhD, Mary. I've lived in several places around Ontario ~ love the province. I'd like to be in the drawing. Thanks!

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Good luck with the writing groove! Sometimes it's hard to stay in it, but you can do this.

Mary boggles my mind, writing novels while working on a PhD. Not only did grad school leave me little time to do creative writing (I did start a book during a gap in my studies; I think it took over 10 years to get around to finishing it), but when I finished my dissertation it took me several years to relearn how to write prose anyone would want to read!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I love some brave little girls. Where was this book when I was growing up? Congrats to Mary and good luck with your writing, Natalie.

traveler said...

Congratulations! This wonderful book sounds captivating and would be fabulous for my grandchildren to enjoy as they are all avid readers. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Jemi Fraser said...

Natalie - yay for getting in the groove!

Mary - congrats on the book - sounds like a fun. adventure!

Samantha Bryant said...

Thanks for co-hosting today, and may you find a good writing rhythm again soon! @samanthabwriter from
Balancing Act

Aziza E said...

Would love to read this book
azizaevans@ymail.com

Kamilla said...

What an engaging interview! I loved hearing about your process and advice, and can't wait to read this book.

Andrea Mack said...

Happy New Year to all! Thanks for an interesting interview. I’m curious about this novel. It’s great to read some of the process behind it.

Toi Thomas said...

Happy New Year! Thanks for stopping by my blog.
I wish you the best with your writing groove.
I enjoyed your interview with Mary. The Curse of Eelgrass Bog sounds like a fun book. I really like the book cover.

Danielle H. said...

I enjoyed this fun interview and getting to know this author. I'm impressed that she is a grad student and has time to write. I especially liked the discussion of world building. I'm a follower of the author and Natalie on Instagram and Twitter. I shared this post on tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.

Miffie Seideman said...

Looks like you're off to a good start in getting your writing groove back! I'm not on BookBub either, but with my launch just 2 weeks away, I may need to sort it out! Happy New Writing Year!

Kate Larkindale said...

Hope you find that writing groove this year, Natalie! I know you can do it.

Sherry Ellis said...

Happy New Year!

I love middle-grade books with magical elements. This sounds like a fun one!

E.T. Charles said...

Thank you Mary and Natalie for interesting content.

Mary Rudzinski said...

Anytime I read a blog and my mind starts churning out ideas about something I'm working on, I have to bless the inspiration! Thank you Mary and Natalie- you had my mind churning! Congratulations on The Curse of Eelgrass Bog!

diedre Knight said...

Happy New Year, Natalie!

Sorry I'm so slow to get around this month. I enjoyed your interview with Mary. The Curse of Eelgrass Bog sounds delightful! Best wishes to Mary.

Speaking of curses (kidding), I received an email indicating that you commented on my blog, yet it hasn't appeared on my page. Not in spam or pending either. Sigh. If it isn't one thing... ;-)

I found that by setting aside an hour a day for ONLY writing, it easily stretches into two, sometimes three hours, and that's always a good thing ;-) Sounds like you're getting into an agreeable groove as well. Good! That's when we write our best.

Have a wonderful year!


diedre Knight said...

Oh! And thanks for co-hosting with me! Good grief, it's a good thing my head's attached ;-)

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Mary's story does sound like a good one!

I've got a problem with discipline myself. Let's hope we both do better in 2024.

Yvonne Ventresca said...

Happy New Year! I hope you get settled back into a writing routine soon. Thanks for the info about Mary's book!

Tonja Drecker said...

Happy New Year (even if late)! Here's hoping for a few writing hours for you. I'm going to keep my eye on this read. Sounds amazing!

Greg Pattridge said...

Wonderful interview and the book sounds like a perfect addition to the MG shelves. I can also vouch for the juggling act in getting a Ph.D. Took me 4 years and many sacrifices, but it was worth it.

Rosi said...

Another wonderful interview, Natalie. Thanks. I just can't imagine working on a PhD while writing a book. Good for her. I love the title of this book and it sounds like a fun read.

Valinora Troy said...

I saw this book mentioned on social media and immediately wanted to read it. I want to read it even more now after reading such a great interview. Best of luck to Mary, I hope the book does really well. Good luck with your writing this year, Natalie!

Linda Browne said...

Congrats on getting back into the writing groove, Natalie! Also, for the great review of a book from a fellow Ontario writer! I definitely want to be entered into the giveaway (lindabkai@gmail.com). I love what Mary said about the importance of embracing flexibility in a writing schedule. After many years, I’ve finally found that it’s the best and happiest way of writing for me.

Carol Baldwin said...

Great cover. No need to enter me since this isn't my favorite genre--but best wishes!

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

DMS said...

This sounds like a book I will love. Thank you so much for sharing. :)