Writing Song of the Day: “You Make My Dreams” by Hall and Oates
Side note: Before we begin with the awesomeness, we just wanted to let you know that we will have an INCREDIBLE recap of all things SCBWI LA Conference this Wednesday and Thursday. We need time to wrap our heads around things, but we can’t wait to share all of the goodies.
With that said, we have something very cool for you today. If you don’t know Jaime Reed already, then you need to fix this. Like now. Living Violet, the first book in her paranormal YA series, The Cambion Chronicles, releases January 2012 through Dafina Books (Kensington). Now before you roll your eyes at the thought of another paranormal tale, answer this question: When’s the last time you read a paranormal with a minority protagonist AND that features a succubus?
1. Do you remember the first story you’ve ever written? What was it about?
I wrote a lot of stories, but very few I’ve completed. But my very first finished piece was a short story about two powerful families that hated each other. Imagine Romeo and Juliet with record labels and mafia ties. Enough said. I think I was about 17 when I wrote that. Good idea, BAD execution. (Side note: We think Jaime needs to revisit this idea!)
2. Who were some of your favorite authors growing up? Who are your favorite current authors?
I was a bit of a closet Goth, back when it wasn’t cool to be so. I had a real soft spot for Anne Rice and Stephen King. But I also liked the wacky teen books, R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Beverly Cleary, and I was a HUGE fan of the Vampire Diaries. Like I said, I was kind of a dark kid.
I read everything now. Strangely enough, I read mostly men authors: James Patterson, Cormac McCarthy, and Chuck Palahniuk to name a few. I just like how gritty they are– no flowery adjective and excruciating details about every single feeling. Bleh. Just get to the point! Lately I’m focusing more on YA and it’s been an amusing and reflective shift. At the moment, I’m in love with Libba Bray, and Melissa Marr, and John Green.
3. You originally majored in art. What drew you back to pursuing writing?
Sheer boredom and soul searching. I always wrote as a kid—little short stories I let my friends read. I was a good artist, so I would illustrate my stories and everything. But not much came to it, but collecting dust in the back of my closet. When I didn’t get into my major in college, I kinda went into a slump. You know the kind where you’re standing out in the rain and screaming “What does it all mean?” So I went back home, and out of nowhere, I dug up my old notebooks. Some of them were actually good and I decided to add to it. The rest is history.
4. You first started querying for a different book series before veering into a different direction. Could you tell us anything about it? Have you considered going back to this series?
Well, it’s an urban fantasy set in somewhat modern times. This guy with special abilities and his crazy quest to find his missing girlfriend. It was kinda like Heroes, where the characters stories are intertwined in a very cool way, but with a more consistent storyline. Tons of violence, melodrama, and a Lot of people die. It’s a 5- book series where each book centers on a specific character. I only finished book three before I decided to take a break. Eventually I’ll go back to my series and finish it. It’s my baby, after all. The ideas are still there in the back of my head and they’re not fading away anytime soon. Right now, I’m waiting to see where The Cambion Chronicles takes me.
5. How many rejections and/or close calls did you receive? What kept you going?
Paper rejections: about 30 and I kept them all. I lost count on the number of email rejections—maybe somewhere in the high 20 range. Some of those rejections were rough. I mean, I-need-an-ice-pack-for-my-sore-groin rough. There was one letter I got that was So rude, it broke my heart. But, I can’t let setbacks bother me for too long. I give it 24hrs to stew then move on. The best revenge is success, and I’m very vindictive. *evil grin*
6. The manuscript that nabbed your fab agent, Kathleen Ortiz (as well as your book deal), is a YA paranormal romance. Have you written in this field before? How did you know that this manuscript was THE ONE?
I didn’t. Actually, I wrote it as a type of spoof, something to take my mind off my series that was driving me up the wall. I’ve always been a fan of YA, but never thought I would venture into that genre for myself. My humor is just too sick and twisted for kids, I guess. But anyway, after finishing the manuscript and realizing it wasn’t half bad and I decided to submit it.
I know a lot of people are gonna hate this, but it was all a whim. I didn’t really grit my teeth and break a sweat trying to write or submit THIS particular piece to an agent. (The other manuscripts are another story.) In fact, I found my agent by accident, or fate, whatever you want to call it. *swoon* KOrtizzle
7. How did you go about researching agents? Did you alter your queries for each one?
Usually Internet, library, writer sites, and bookstores, anywhere I could get a hold of a reference book full of agents. I wrote a basic query, a brief summary of the story and a quick bio of myself—nothing too fancy. I didn’t need to change too much per query; although, some agents look for a specific thing, like multicultural characters, a strong female lead, etc. Most agents have a webpage that tell what they’re looking for specifically and whether they are taking on new clients so you don’t waste your time.
8. Would you be able to share a small portion of the query that hooked Kathleen?
I need to find it first. LOL. It’s been so long, I completely forgot. That’s how outstanding it was. *eye roll* I will say this, it was the most basic query letter format. I followed the guidelines to the letter; gave all the needed information: genre, target audience, word count, two-paragraph synopsis, short bio, and why I thought the specific agency would work.
The key is to be as gracious and professional as possible. And FOLLOW DIRECTIONS. Most of all, have a really good hook and a premise that very few have heard of, which honestly, is what caught Kathleen’s eye. Agents have seen and heard it all, a few dozen times, and they want something that pops.
9. So now you’re agented. Are the challenges the same, easier, or more difficult than when you were an un-agented writer? How so?
It’s a little bit of both. While un-agented, I could sort of work at my own pace and do whatever. But once the ink dries on the contract you’re breaking your neck to get to the computer. I wouldn’t call it performance anxiety; it’s just a feeling of “Oh crap, this is real! I have to try now!”
It’s like a video game: new level, different challenges. It’s exciting, the deadlines, the meetings, and submissions. It all sounds glamorous, but it’s nerve-wracking at times. One major challenge is admitting your faults and recognizing flaws in the manuscript. There is a great deal of trust and waiting involved and revisions, revisions, oh and did I mention revisions?
10. Random question alert! If you had to relate your stories to music, which genre/musical act would it be?
Pretty much anything from Placebo and a whole lot of Radiohead–The Bends album in particular. That was what I wrote and edited my manuscript to, so yeah. But my musical tastes vary from story to story.