When I was little, and people asked me what I wanted to be, I always answered with one simple word: "Pirate". And when later, I met my lovely Hubbie and he asked me which time of the earth I would have loved to be born in, I answered, "The time that I could have been a Pirate Queen". (He wanted to be in Ancient Greece, the wuss!)
Alas, I was doomed to living vicariously through the movie versions of Pirates of the Caribbean, which we ALL know decreased in quality as they multiplied.
So when I heard about this book EVERYWHERE and my buddy over at Presenting Lenore gushed about it, simply gushed, I knew I had to read it. So I got it. I read it and re-read it - three times, one right after another. Then I got on Twitter (this is why you should never Twitter drunk on alcohol or book love) and gushed FANGIRL on A.S, who took it like a champ, (well, maybe it wasn't so bad after all!) and then somehow I got her to agree to let me interview her.
I'm in awe of her lovely, wayward nature - she really and truly reminds me of myself. Or like the cooler version of myself. She is FANTASTICALLY BRILLIANT.
Anyways. I know, I know. Still fangirl. But this is a seriously awesome book. Take a look at the blurb:
In the late 17th century, famed pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with the dust of 100 dogs. Three hundred years later, after one hundred lives as a dog, she returned to a human body—with her memories intact. Now she's a contemporary American teenager, and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica.
How awesome is this, right? Dogs, Pirates, Booty (like treasure, you naughty things!) and True Love. How oh HOW can you go wrong?
Dearest ASK! Welcome to my humble blog! Let's cut straight to the chase, shall we?
Let's talk about perverse never give up-edness. I know you put D100D aside in 2003 because no agent thought it would sell. Had you queried? What were you getting back as responses? Did you ever get the dreaded "I love this book but don't know how to sell it in this marketplace" one?
You know—I can barely remember what they said anymore, but I’m sure I got that response and many others. This is the only book I queried on both sides of the Atlantic, so I managed to query a lot of UK agents, a few Irish agents (there weren’t many at the time) in 2003/early 2004 and then, when I got to the US in late 2004, I revised it again and queried US agents in 2005. That “I love this but can’t figure where I’d sell it” is something I’ve heard a lot. From agents and editors, depending on which book we’re talking about. It’s a standard answer, I think. I didn’t let it get me down and just started writing the next book. (Which got similar responses. *insert evil laugh.*)
(LOL! No comment.) So how did D100D eventually make its brilliant, shining way out into the world?
Well, when I found my agent, he took on three books of mine. The first (my 5 th) he shopped like crazy. No luck. We went into shopping the 7th then—again, like crazy. No luck. All along, D100D was around. I’d revised it for my agent, who wanted a different ending (which is not the ending anymore.) I’m not sure how many editors he sent it to, but anyway, one Friday, he forwarded an email to me from Andrew Karre over at Flux. It said something like, “I’ll want to talk to this author next week.”
I did not think this meant much. However, I figured it was a good idea to read the book over the weekend so I knew what we would be talking about, since I hadn’t read it in maybe 18 months. When I read it, I found about 20,000 extraneous words. When I talked to him on Monday, I said something like, “This might make you think I’m crazy, but I have to cut 20,000 words out of this book before we ever do anything with it.” He did not think I was crazy. He bought the book. I cut the words before we ever started working on it together, and the rest is history.
Beautiful, beautiful history! :-D
I know you've been writing a long time, and have numerous short stories and awards to your credit. 'bout how long have you been writing now? How did you not stop when you decided to try for book publication? I mean, seven novels? Fifteen YEARS?
I’ve been writing since 1994, I guess. Sixteen years now that it’s 2010. How did I not stop? I love writing. I want to write books. I know that sounds all simplistic and maybe contrary, but seriously. Why would I give up? To put it into better perspective, though, I should tell you that at that time, I was writing by myself—in a virtual cave—concerned with writing, not publishing. I was self-sufficient for the most part (I got paid for some of my literacy work, so that was good for the few bills I did have) and I chose that life so I could write.
As in: “We’re moving to this derelict farm so we can be self-sufficient and I can write novels without having to get a full-time job.” Some people sacrifice their social lives, some sacrifice sleep to write while working day jobs. I chose this way because I could, and Mr. King and I always wanted to drop out of the whole consumerism thing, so it made tons of sense for us. But to come back to the writing vs. publishing thing, my goal was to improve, find my voice and get my style right, not to publish a book. I knew that once I nailed those things, publication would eventually happen.
I couldn't believe how refreshing it was to have TWO powerful, motivated, strong female characters in one brilliant book - and what's more, they were mystically connected! I know you've talked about how you got the idea for D100D, but who came up first in your head? Emer, or Saffron?
Oh Emer came first. No question. The idea came from learning a lot about Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland, so that story went about three chapters before Saffron appeared on the page.
And I must ask, because I could envision them so well and I ADORED the detail in these pages...were the capes for real? Because I LOVE THEM. :-) I would come back as a pirate just for the cape, I swear.
The capes were made up in my head. But pirates did wear capes at the time, so I bet you could find one if you came back as a pirate. You might have to embroider them yourself, though.
(Crap. I can't embroider. Better get on that.) How did you work with the multiple POVs that take place in the book? Lotsa revisions? Or beta readers?
I didn’t have beta readers aside from Mr. King. (See virtual cave comment above.) I revised the crud out of this book over many years. That said, multiple POVs are part of how I write novels. Most of my books have them in one way or another, so I’m used to working with them. During the writing of my last two or three novels, I’ve developed a way to keep track more accurately by making headers for each part, making a table of contents, printing it, taping it together, highlighting each POV in a different color, and then rearranging or cutting, etc. to make sure it works. Multiple POV isn’t for everyone—writers or readers. But I like it and it’s just the way my stories come out.
Do you have tons of betas?
Or in keeping with a unique outlook, do you dance in a circle five times with your completed manuscript, bury it under a full moon and sing a sea chanty over it before sending it to your agent?
I have beta readers now—a few trusted eyes and brains. But usually, only I know when a book is ready. I liken this to the question, “Does my ass look fat in these jeans?” See—you can ask as many people as you want, but if you think your ass looks fat in the jeans, then nobody else’s opinion matters. I do let books sit a lot during revisions.
After a first draft, I give it a month or two, then after that first big chop-chop revision, I give it another month, etc. repeat, rinse, until I know. Then I let it sit for another month to make sure. Revise and give to Mr. King. He’s a great first reader. Then, I revise on any points he makes, and can usually trust myself enough to send to my agent.
This is fantastic advice. So D100D came out, and was a critic's darling. EVERYONE loved this book. Did you do any marketing for yourself? Did you find anything in particular helpful?
I would not call it a critic’s darling. (JKB: I WOULD) But yes, outside of the usual snarky anonymous review venues, many people did love the book. Marketing is a funny thing. I don’t have a lot of money, so I didn’t go all out on expensive stuff. I am a complete and utter tech geek and a slight recluse, so I really wanted to use the internet as much as I could. Mike over at ktf designs made me an awesome website.
The minute we got close enough to release, I started to blog regular contests, which is great, because the other kind of blogging is really hard for me, so contests helped me a lot, and they’re fun. I think the one thing I try to do when I’m online is remember that the internet is not a billboard. Don’t spam your book. Spam looks like spam. If you join a forum/blog/loop or two, don’t just show up to toss some book spam around. Help out. Be a part of the community. Let people get to know you. Be yourself. And my #1 advice for the entire journey = be nice.
I think the most helpful thing I did was—though I did not do it for marketing purposes—I drove around and got to know my local independent booksellers. Not only were they enthusiastic, awesome people who cared a lot about the same stuff I did, but many of them went out of their way to help me. I asked my friends in other cities to tell me the names of their favorite indie booksellers and when I got my ten ARCs (I asked my publicist for these, and I was very fortunate that he let me have them because ARCs are expensive) I sent or hand-delivered every one of them to these booksellers.
To my complete surprise, one of them read an ARC of my book and it eventually became an Indie Next List pick for teens. I think that was really good for the marketing of the book, no doubt, with the added bonus of my being able to talk about something that I believe in—community based businesses. All enthusiastic booksellers are important to a book, and to authors, so if you don’t have indies nearby, make sure to introduce yourself to all of your local booksellers. Some will look at you as if you’ve got three heads. That’s fine. But a great bookseller is someone who ultimately loves books and sells them very well. Giving them a reason to like you is never a bad thing.
(That was not great advice - it is FABULOUS INFORMATION!)
What is the scariest part of being you: a published author with a fantastic book that won awards?
(Because honestly, although that's everyone's dream, what happens AFTER that happens? It's still same old same old, right?)
It is the same old same old in some ways. I think most aspiring writers think that getting published is the END. But it’s not. Criticism still happens. Rejection still happens. Just wait until you get your first editorial letter. This is hard work, and from what I can see, most of it is achieved after a sale. But it’s always worth it. You and your editor are partners who have one objective: to make the best book you can together.
Then, once you release, there are fan mail and good reviews on one side, and bad reviews and hate mail on the other side. Which is why it’s so so so so important to write because you love writing. I still love writing, so I still write books and get a total buzz out of it the way I always did back on my farm, by myself, with my chickens. If I had only been writing to publish? A lot of things about this business would have bummed me out.
Considering that, I guess the scariest part of being a published author for me is that I will one day lose the buzz, or the ideas, or the ability to write good books. On the business side, I suppose we’ve all heard enough publishing horror stories to fear that our careers could flush into the septic tank at any minute. I try to focus on the writing and keep my same values and ideals as top priorities. Recently, in fact, I’ve discovered that writing and publishing compare a lot to a past job of mine—breeding chickens. So, I try to stay Amy the chicken breeder—and make decisions based on the same logic she had when she was breeding chickens. Blog to come on that subject. With pictures.
Good. Because I'm fond of chickens.
You are one heck of a wonderfully eclectic person, and as a fellow eclectic, could-be-insane person I heart you tons. How have you managed to keep that eclecticism in the dog-eat-dog world (pun intended) of publishing?
I consider that a huge compliment, so thank you. My answer: I can’t change me, Jen. I can’t turn my blue eyes into brown ones and I can’t wear high heels or nail polish. I know who I am, and I’m happy with that person. I’ve been me for quite a while, now, and so far nothing has changed me. To relate this to writing, I know my voice and my style. It’s not for everyone. But neither am I. My mother used to say “Amy, people will either love you or they’ll hate you.” She was right. I’ve met people in my life who have done both. So, here I am. I’m a weirdo and I’m proud of it. I wave my freak flag high.
Freaks unite! :-D
I know whilst in Ireland you bred rare poultry. What was your favourite breed? (I'm partial to the Silkies, myself!)
I was very partial to bantam Modern Game because they were little, and weird and they stood up so tall and made such funny high-pitched noises. They were also really easy to keep in the muck of Ireland (you know it rains a lot, right?) because they were hard-feathered birds with long legs. I made my poultry-breeding living on Blue Orpingtons, though. We were a good match because Orpingtons are weird and really docile, and so am I.
Thanks Amy! You RAWK!
I'm offering up a Treasure Chest (ARRR!!) of chocolate goodies with a copy of D100D topping for one of my darling readers! Our Dear Interviewee has been, throughout her life, a: breeder of rare poultry; a photographer; a master printer; a pizza delivery driver; an electrician; a self-sufficient smallholder; a swimming addict; and (her favorite job ever) a literacy teacher.
To be entered in the contest to win my German Chocolate and Book Treasure Chest (ARRR - well, it's mandatory, people!) comment here and tell me what all YOU'VE been in your life.
Since I bought an extra chocolate ration for myself (mmm with caramel inside!!!) I will report here what I've done: I've been a soda-jerk, a polo player, a Kakadu hiker, a Technical Writer, a polo groom, a breeder of rare sighthound dogs, a small business owner, a devoted world traveller, and a painter.
How about you? Comment to win! We'll keep it at a decent days amount, so let's say by Friday afternoon next I'll choose the winner!
It's not just me that loves this book. Go check out these Rad Reviews!