QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pathway to Publication: An Interview

One of Querytracker.net success stories recently landed a book contract with HaperTeen. Ryan Graudin was thrilled to share with us her story on her pathway to publication.  I, for one, can’t wait to see what tattoo she decides to get. (Yes, you will have to read the interview to see what I’m talking about).

Ryan, can you tell us what happened between the time you signed with your agent to the time HarperCollins told you they just had to have your book (i.e. offered you the contract)?: I signed with my lovely and awesome agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin in May. One of the great things about her is that she’s such a fast worker (i.e. has a very short reading/turnaround time). She got me her revision letter within the same month. Printed out it was 4 pages long… detailing scenes and big picture issues that she thought needed improving. I had a minor panic attack and then dove into insane work mode for about 3 weeks. My house was a wreck. There were notecards of scenes covering the living room floor and endless mugs of half-consumed tea and coffee. But while my abode suffered, my manuscript improved. I got it back to Alyssa in mid-June. It went through another small round of edits and then (after what felt like forever at the time) my book went out on submission in mid-July. Compared to a great majority of authors, I received my first positive response within a day!! The editor really loved it, but she still needed to finish it and get reads from her bosses. Once she acquired those she had to get the approval of several boards within HarperCollins before she could put together an offer! This whole process stretched out for about three weeks. I was an absolute mess the entire time. Just ask my poor, patient husband.

Now that you’re going to be published, is there anything you wish you had done differently before you were agented? I wish I’d written more for myself in college (as opposed to writing only for class). Also, the first book I queried never got picked up, but I spent almost 4 months writing its sequel before I switched my efforts to LUMINANCE HOUR. Generally writing the sequels to books that aren’t picked up is a poor use of your time… I learned the hard way.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book? While I was writing the first draft of LUMINANCE HOUR, I was working a 45-hour a week teaching job in a foreign country. My life was busy with outside work, traveling and handling the stress of living half a world away from everyone I knew. I was amazed that, although the rest of my life was so crammed, I was still able to piece together this fully formed and functional novel! “I don’t have the time” is not an excuse to not write. If you’re determined enough, you can make the time.
Is there anything you’ve done that you feel helped you grow as a writer? I took a lot of formal writing classes all throughout middle school, high school and college. These did help my writing, but I think most importantly they showed me the value of critique partners. Another thing I’m passionate about which has really grown my writing is traveling. Last time I counted, I’ve been to more foreign countries than I have states. Seeing so many different cultures, people and places helps me broaden the stories I’m able to tell. In fact, LUMINANCE HOUR probably wouldn’t have come into being if I hadn’t had the awesome opportunity to visit London and walk through Buckingham Palace when I was younger. Much of the story takes place in that palace, and my experience of being there in person was invaluable!
What’s the wackiest thing you did in researching your novel? How much research was involved in writing your novel? I had to do a fair bit of research for this story: having words translated into Old English by one of my former English professors, acquiring a floorplan of Buckingham palace, scraping my memories from the two trips I took to London when I was 13 and 17, reading dictionaries on British spirits and folklore. I also watched a good deal of the Queen’s official YouTube channel. And I spent a lot of time talking in my fake and probably terrible British accent. Do any of those qualify as wacky?
Any quirky writing habits? I have to be listening to music. Generally it doesn’t matter what kind of music. Rap, Pop, Soundtracks, String Quartets. My iTunes is a mess of genres. Also, I cannot write unless I have some sort of hot drink at my side. Coffee, tea, cocoa, chai. This often leads to me being over-caffeinated. And I have to open my Internet browser at least once every 10 minutes. It’s amazing that I get anything done!
If you could give one piece of writing advice, what would it be? Just one? How about I give you three. Work your butt off. Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t give up.
What did you to do to celebrate signing with your agent? How about when you celebrated signing the book contract? Champagne. On both occasions. My husband and I are both “starving” artists at this point in our lives, so it was a real treat when my parents took us out for shrimp and grits (my favorite Southern dish) to celebrate the book contract! Also, I’m thinking of getting a tattoo to mark the occasion… but that’s still in the works.
If you could have one superhero power or paranormal ability, what would it be? To write a rough draft in the span of a single day! Just kidding. Seeing as I love travel, I would probably want to teleport everywhere. It would save so much time and money. Plus I could see all of my friends around the world whenever I wanted!
Bio: When she’s not writing and drifting around the globe, Ryan Graudin enjoys hunting through thrift stores and taking pictures of her native Charleston, SC. Her novel LUMINANCE HOUR, the story of a Faery Godmother who falls in love with the prince she’s forced to guard, is due out with HarperTeen in 2013. You can learn about all of these things and more at Ryan Writes. Her twitter handle is @ryangraudin.


Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks Ryan for sharing your inspiring story. It inspires me most because you were able to write your book while writing, something I have to do to. Your book sounds awesome. Good luck with it.

MTeacress said...

Nice interview, Stina. :)

Best of luck to Ryan!

ryan graudin said...

Thanks guys! I appreciate the support. I'm just grateful to have a story to share.