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  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

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  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Debut Author Interview: Marc J Gregson and Sky’s End Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have instant New York Times bestseller Marc J Gregson here to share about his debut YA fantasy/dystopian Sky’s End. Dystopian and fantasy stories are favorites of mine, and this one sounds like a page-turner. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Plummet into a kill-or-be-killed competition where a scrappy underdog hell-bent on revenge must claw his way to the top in this thrilling YA fantasy debut


Exiled to live as a Low, sixteen-year-old Conrad refuses to become heir to his murderous uncle. But Meritocracy is a harsh and unforgiving rule on the floating island of Holmstead, and when his ailing mother is killed by monstrous gorgantauns, Conrad cuts a deal to save the only family he has left. To rescue his sister from his uncle's clutches, Conrad must enter the Selection of the Twelve Trades.

Hunter, the deadliest of all the Trades, gains a fresh recruit with Conrad. Now he must endure vigorous training, manipulative peers, and the Gauntlet—a brutal final test that yields riches and status to whichever skyship crew kills the most gorgantauns. Forced to serve in the lowest of stations and unseen by all, Conrad overhears whispers of rebellion in the dark. Conrad had never known anything existed below the toxic black clouds of the Skylands . . . until now.

Grab your copy of Book One of the Above the Black trilogy today! This fast-paced series is reminiscent of Attack on Titan and will appeal to fans of Pierce Brown. It's a great pick for those who love action-adventure.

 


Before I get to Marc’s interview post, 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: Janet Alcorn, SE White, Victoria Marie Lees, and Cathrina Constantine!

Optional Question: What turns you off when visiting an author's website/blog? Lack of information? A drone of negativity? Little mention of author's books? Constant mention of books?

I look at a lot of author websites when trying to decide which authors to feature at Literary Rambles. The thing that annoys me the most is when the author doesn’t have any way to contact them on the website other than contacting their agent or publisher or contacting them on social media. I don’t contact those authors. I think they should include an email address or a contact form so that bloggers, podcast hosts, and readers can contact them. You’d be surprised at how many authors don’t include this essential information on their website.

Another annoying thing is how hard Google Blogger has made it to comment on blogs, including mine, that use this platform to blog. I've had to switch to the pop-up windows option to make it easier for followers to comment. At least I don't get any emails from followers unable to leave comments on my blog. 

But it's annoying when other bloggers on Blogger don't use the pop-up window option because I can't leave a comment using Chrome, which is the browser I use. I have to copy the link to the post into Mozilla to leave a comment. It makes the whole process take more time, but at least I can comment. I'm grateful to Alex for suggesting this solution.

Interview With Marc Gregson

Hi Marc! Thanks so much for joining us. And a huge congrats on becoming an instant New York Times bestselling author.

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

When I was a teenager, I was given a Halloween writing assignment. It was only supposed to be 2-3 pages long. I wrote a dozen pages about a killer squirrel. As I was writing, I felt a strange twist of excitement in my gut every time I sat down, and I realized just how much I enjoyed it.

2. That sounds like a scary story. Where did you get the idea for Sky’s End?

I’ve always wanted to write a story about a world set in the sky, and I love deadly competitions. After I read books like Hunger Games and Red Rising, I really wanted to do my own unique spin on it.

Your Writing Process

3. You’re a teacher and also have a family. What is your writing schedule, and how long did it take you to complete Sky’s End before you began querying agents? Will the process change with book 2 and 3 where you have publishing deadlines to meet?

So, I must be very regimented with my schedule, or I’ll never get it all done! I wake up early to write for an hour before work. Then, I go to work early so that when I return home in the evening, I don’t have to bring class work with me. This allows me to generally get 2-3 hours of writing in per day.

The original draft I sent to literary agents took me about seven to eight months to write. But I ended up doing massive revisions with my agent after I signed with her. My writing process for books 2 and 3 are the same as before I was published, just more condensed. This means I must be even more careful with my time and I’m often writing on the weekends.

4. It’s great that you’re so disciplined. Your book sounds like a real page-turner. How did you keep the tension and stakes rising throughout the story?

I constantly asked myself, “and then what happens?” Something had to always be happening in the story. In Sky’s End, all the characters have their own goals and motivations, and in many instances, their goals run in opposition to those of their peers. This creates a lot of friction and tension on the ship. While characters are trying to achieve their own goals and rise on the ship to become Captain, the entire crew simultaneously must deal with the threat of the giant sky serpents that they were sent to hunt. 

5. I really like that you’ve combined elements of a dystopian and fantasy world into your story. Describe your world-building process, and share tips on how to create a unique world like you did.

I sort of reverse engineer the process. I start with a goal in mind, but how it gets there is quite hazy and unclear. My only choice is to just explore it the best that I can. As I was creating the Skylands, I had this idea of a true Meritocracy where the strong would rise and the weak would fall. Furthermore, I liked the idea of developing this Meritocracy around a dueling system. If you were a great dueler, you had a chance to rise to a High status. But as I explored this idea, I ran into a problem. What about those who can’t duel? And can a society adequately run if the only people in power are also just physically impressive? What about the highly intelligent?

That’s where the Selection of the Twelve Trades came in. It fills in the gaps—and provides opportunities to some whose primary asset is their brain. That being said, there are plenty of people who are Selected by Trades who are also capable duelers.

My suggestion about worldbuilding is to constantly ask questions of your world. Why does each aspect of the world exist? Sometimes, it can simply be because, “Well, it’s cool.” But I’ve found that for deep worldbuilding, there must also be some logic behind it as well.

Your Journey to Publication

6. That’s great world building advice. Your agent is Heather Cashman. How did she become your agent, and what was your road to publication like?

Getting an agent was the biggest challenge. I queried Sky’s End on and off for several years. At one point, I had about a dozen agents that seemed really interested in Sky’s End. I thought it was going to happen. Then, one-by-one, the passes rolled in. Around this time, I became a teacher, so I wasn’t quite as active in the querying trenches—and I started on another book project.

Finally, three years after I started querying Sky’s End, Heather sent me an email at midnight asking to setup a time to chat. She was interested in Sky’s End and my other project. But she told me that Sky’s End would need some work. She told me that I needed to bring Sky’s End up to my current writing ability. So, after I signed with her, I revised Sky’s End and rewrote the beginning and ending. I changed the whole thing from past tense to present tense. We sent it out, and Sky’s End sold to Peachtree Teen in the first round of submission.

7. Share something you learned that made you a better writer from working with your agent or editor on revising your manuscript.

One thing that helped me was diversifying my sentence starters. Sky’s End is in first person, so naturally you’re going to have a lot of sentences that start with the pronoun “I.” Practicing beginning my sentences with other words constantly keeps me on my toes and forces me to be creative in how I approach my sentences.

Another thing my editor has said is to constantly lay challenge upon my characters. Never make it easy for them.

Promoting Your Book

8. Your book was released on January 2, 2024. What did you do to celebrate its release, and what are your future plans to promote your book?

I’d like to say that it was a week-long celebration! January 2nd was an amazing day, but a little bittersweet, because my winter break from teaching ended the same day my book released! Ha ha! No, I had a lot of fun. My students and I celebrated “Sky’s End’s birthday” at school. When I got home from work, my wife and I visited the Barnes & Noble stores in my area, and I was able to sign their stock. Now that was incredibly surreal.

Later that week, I had my launch event with the King’s English Bookshop. My parents flew in for the event, and my agent even showed up as a surprise. We had a great turnout despite the sudden snowstorm that began a couple hours before the event. Afterward, a bunch of my family and I went to a Mexican restaurant and celebrated.

Then I napped all weekend!

Some future plans for promotion include going to the Tucson Book Festival in March! I’m really excited for that. At some point, I’m also going to do a Instagram Live session to discuss spoilers with readers and start amping them up for book two, Among Serpents. That will likely happen in late Spring or early Summer.

9. What social media site have you connected the most with readers, teachers, and librarians? How have you connected with them?

In the beginning, TikTok was totally my social media headquarters. But after my wife posted Sky’s End’s cover reveal on Instagram and it went viral (5.9 million views), Instagram became my new place. I’ve had so much engagement on Instagram and met so many amazing people there.

As far as connection, I’m always trying to be genuine. I am incredibly proud of Sky’s End, so I hope my enthusiasm for the book is rather apparent in my posts. I also love hearing from readers.

10. I think I need to get on Instagram What are you working on now?

I recently sent back my edits for Among Serpents, the sequel to Sky’s End. Currently, I’m hard at work on the trilogy finale, Downfall. I’m so excited about this trilogy and cannot wait for readers to experience the full thing!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Marc. You can find Marc at www.marcjgregson or @mjg_write on Twitter, Instagram, Threads, and TikTok.

Giveaway Details

Marc’s publisher is generously offering a hardback of Sky’s End for 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 February 17th. 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 Marc on his 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.

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Monday, February 12th I have a guest post by author Sherry Ellis as part of her blog tour and a blog-tour giveaway

Friday, February 16th I’m participating in the Wish Big Giveaway Hop

Monday, February 26th I have an interview with debut author Megan Brennan and a giveaway of her MG graphic novel Kira and the (Maybe) Space Princess

Friday, March 1st I’m participating in the Lady Luck Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, March 6th I have an interview with author Rajani LaRocca and a giveaway of her MG fantasy Sona and The Golden Beasts and my IWSG post

Monday, March 11th I have an agent spotlight interview with Rebecca Lawrence and a query critique giveaway

I hope to see you on Monday!

 

43 comments:

Pat Garcia said...

Hi,
I so agree with visiting Google blogs. I can't tell you how many blogs I visit here on IWSG that I read, and then I can't leave a comment. And that is aggravating.
Have a lovely month.
Shalom shalom

Jennifer Lane said...

Natalie, thank you for your thoughtful comments about posting on blogs. I realized that I didn't have my contact info on my (newer) blog, and I needed to update my author bio to reflect my new home in South Carolina. So thanks for that! I also appreciate you switching to a different comment form so that I can comment on your blog now, hooray!

Congratulations to Marc. I'm curious about "Meritocracy" sounding like an evil form of government, if I understood that correctly.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Marc's book sounds great!
Glad that solution worked for you.
And sorry, I no longer list my email at my site. I started getting some serious spam and problem emails, so I switched to a new email and didn't list it.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm also so glad to see YA or middle grade books by men with male protagonists. I have 5 sons and growing up the only books for them seemed to sports books.
Yes, about the commenting.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Congratulations, Marc. Great interview. I started writing when my now-grown-sons were young. Wish I had that kind of energy now. Happy IWSG Wednesday, Natalie!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Best of luck to Marc on his release!

I'm with you on not including a way to contact the author. Also dumb for those authors to give their agent or publisher more work to do on their behalf.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Good point about the contact information. That would especially be true for you!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I never thought about not having my email as my contact information, but maybe that's because I don't have an agent/publisher or really any other social media. :)

pjmaclayne3@gmail.com said...

I've heard that even Wordpress can give some people a hard time about leaving comments, but it's hard for me to know.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

The popup comment box works so well, but FireFox makes embedded ones a challenge.

Jemi Fraser said...

Natalie - totally agree! Commenting should be easier!

Good luck to Marc - the book sounds intense and fun!

Nancy Gideon said...

Congrats, Mark!! Have fun at the Book Fest in AZ. It's overwhelming . . . and hot. Don't forget sunscreen, have someplace to stay in the shade, and hydrate! I've been several times (a long expensive haul from MI esp. if you pay to mail books!!)

Tyrean Martinson said...

Natalie - you've raised some great points for websites. Hmm. Do I have a pop-up way to message me, or a clear email? I need to check.
Congratulations to Marc on Sky's End!

emaginette said...

I've started using Chrome for commenting and only commenting. For some reason it worked when so many others failed.

Thanks for adding the pop-up. It makes like easier for the likes of me. hehehe

Anna from elements of emaginette

Olga Godim said...

You're right: the problem with comments on Blogger is very annoying. Thanks for creating the pop-up.
Very interesting interview with Mark.

Loni Townsend said...

Makes me happy I switched from Blogger to Wordpress when I first started blogging. I still have an old Blogger site where my only audience was my mother, but then one year, my husband bought me a domain for my birthday, and I've kept it ever since.

I'm glad you've found a more regular writing routine. That's awesome to hear! Woot!

Sue said...

Sounds great.

I'm a follower.

Meka James said...

I used to use Blogger, it was the first platform I started with then the comment thing happened. But before that, it had started acting up and making it harder for me to even make posts so I moved over to Wordpress.

Victoria Marie Lees said...


I have the same problem leaving comments on some of the blogs in IWSG. I thought it was my tech incompetence. Thanks for clarifying some of this, Natalie. And I'm checking to be sure visitors can contact me if they need to on my website. Thanks for the reminder.

Wonderful interview, Marc. All the luck with this new release. Thanks for sharing this with your followers, Natalie.

Carol Kilgore said...

My website needs some attention. I think I need to go over there today and see what I can do to make it a bit better.

Gwen Gardner said...

Ha! I'm off to make sure my website has contact information. Thanks Natalie!

Liz A. said...

If I ever make an author website, I'll make sure to include contact info. Good tip.

Kind of rude for school to start on the book's birthday. They couldn't have waited one more week?

Cathrina Constantine said...

Congrats to Marc Gregson. I've been seeing his book all over the place.

I forgot how some blogs can be difficult to post a comment. Like Wordpress and others where I have to continually sign in and try to remember my password. That is annoying.

Sandra Cox said...

Congrats, Marc. This sounds intriguing.
'Lo, Natalie;)

traveler said...

A captivating and fascinating novel. How creative and intriguing! saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Jean Davis said...

Contact information is a big one! Why make it hard for people to get ahold of you?

Commenting has become a pain lately. I'll have to look into that solution. Thanks!

Allison said...

I can't wait to read Marc's book. In fact, I haven't even read the first one, and am excited for the trilogy. I'd love to get it started with book one. Thanks, Natalie (and Marc)!
I follow you on Twitter, Natalie. :)
allison.prueitt@gmail.com

S.E. White Books said...

The pop up window is definitely easier, so even though it was annoying thank you for doing it!

J.Q. Rose said...

I was guilty of not having a way to contact me on my author page when I first began blogging. You may have been the one who told me I needed one! A long time ago----. Now I advise newcomers to do that.

I think your guest's account of trying to get published is inspiring. Don't give up whether going trad or indie. We need to believe we have a message that someone needs to hear in our writing.

C.D. Gallant-King said...

I didn't know the thing about the pop-out comments. I do have issues sometimes where people can't leave comments, so I'm going to have to look into that. Thanks!

Eileen said...

Great interview! As an aspiring author I'm encouraged to learn about your writing & querying process, and the book sounds super good. Can't wait to read it!
Would love to be in the drawing! Have shared it on FB & X (Twitter).
Best wishes in you work on the sequels!
Eileen Wilkin
eileen@wilkinusa.com

Jemima Pett said...

I think the comments problem will never completely go away, and every time a 'necessary' WordPress plug-in upgrades it seems to wreck the commenting system, Although this month it was okay, so maybe they've finally fixed it.
At least I know where I am with the blgger pop-up box :)

Kate Larkindale said...

Yes, that inability to comment thing is very annoying! And weirdly only happens on some blogs. There's no consistency about which ones either.

diedre Knight said...

I agree with you regarding the inability to contact the author. Then again, once in a while, I get more than I bargained for with an inundated mailbox;-)

The process and the premise add up to what I construe as an irresistible promise for more, and I can't wait - I love everything about Sky's End!

That 'twist of excitement' Marc felt as he wrote about the killer squirrel was nothing less than growing pains as the writer within emerged. How awesome!

Thank you both for sharing this interview!

Megan said...

This book sounds awesome :) (Not entering the giveaway as I'm INT)

cleemckenzie said...

I don't mind a popup window for comments. It's the ones that interrupt me with a "Sign Up Now" that blots out the post I'm trying to read. And I hear you about the issues with Blogger. I had such a time leaving comments until people caught on and switched to these popup windows. And don't get me started on WordPress and its constant maintenance requirements. I'll leave that for another day!

Sue said...

Sounds interesting.

I'm a follower.

Pat Hatt said...

Never knew Google was that annoying with comments.

Great how instagram exploded indeed. Can be a good social media choice.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I never thought about contact information. I'll have to see if I have that on my blog. I mean if someone would want to contact me, I'd like to get the message.

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

ET Charles said...

Congratulations Marc Gregson. Thanks for the tips.

Emily said...

Sounds like a great read. Congrats on your debut, Marc! I have a friend I'd love to give a copy of this to, I think she'd love it!

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Having a way to contact an author -- outside of social media -- is a must. Also an about page and a books page, just so everything you'd like to know about them is there and you don't have to do a lot of searching to find it.

Ronel visiting for IWSG day Ronel’s Top Ten Indie Publishing Tips