4) How long does it take you on average to write a novel?
This really depends on whether the book is under contract or not and where I’m at with my teaching work and life things. Overall, I’d say an average timeline from really digging into an idea, to planning, to drafting, and then revising is a 2-4 month process. With that said, sometimes it’s much quicker and sometimes I linger in a story or end up writing something else along the way. Over the years, I’ve definitely gotten faster with drafting novels and so much of that comes down to the time and detail I put into the planning stages.
5) Have you done any formal or informal training, such as writer’s workshops or creative writing programs?
I have both a BA and MA in English LIterature, and I teach writing at the college level for my day job, so I have had lots of training as a writer and writing teacher. However, many of the writing workshops I took in college just crushed me. Really, they were brutal. So much of what I’ve learned about writing novels has come from reading widely, including non-fiction books and craft books, taking workshops offered by authors at conferences or online, and just writing and revising my own books.
6) What advice would you give to a teen that wants to write?
Go for it! Don’t let fear of failure stop you from writing, just get some words on the page. Then, put some more words on there, and then do it again. You’ll be surprised by how a small amount of consistency in a writing practice– even 20 minutes a day– can build to great things.
I’d also recommend reading the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, as a wonderful, encouraging guide to a creative life.
And lastly, I’d say don’t be afraid to plan, outline, write a messy draft, and then revise it extensively. The more time you put into these stages, the more time and heartache you’ll save yourself in drafting and revisions.
7) There’s been a lot of buzz recently about #booktok’s impact on the publishing industry, especially when it comes to YA. Has #booktok’s influence changed your personal experience with publishing? Have there been noticeable changes with your new works compared to when Kit was published?
I love BookTok so much! At first I was very intimidated by making videos about my books, but over the last year, it’s really grown to be one of my favorite social media platforms. It offers a fun way to talk about lots of things within my books– I’ve made videos about The Absinthe Underground’s historical inspirations, how its cover came to be, what kinds of cats are in the book, and so much more. There’s such a vibrant, active community of diverse readers on TikTok, and I love being there to not only interact with them about my books, but also to talk about some books I love too. It allows me space to be both a reader and author, which is so nice.
I’m not sure what impact of BookTok will have on my publishing journey– I’d love to have a book go viral there, but that’s such a longshot thing. I will say that I think a lot more people are hearing about my books from BookTok, as opposed to 2020 when Kit came out. At the time of writing this, more than two weeks away from the launch of The Absinthe Underground, the hashtag #theabsintheunderground has had over 200,000 views, which is incredible and so exciting!
8) Let’s talk launch parties! Kit came out in 2020 and you had an at-home launch. Vermilion you had your first in-person launch party at Boswell Books in Milwaukee. Did it feel more real having an in-person launch party? Did it feel real the first time you sold out your advance? Sold foreign language rights? Received a physical, finished copy? What made you say, “Whoa, I finally made it?”
Hooray for launch parties! I’ve always treated a book launching as an excuse for a party, and I’m so excited for the launch of The Absinthe Underground! With the help of my local indie, A Room of One’s Own in Madison, WI and the Queer Joy Book Club there, we are having quite a party. There will even be a costume contest sponsored by the head of the book club, who’s coming to the event in a green fairy costume like the one on my book cover.
To the other questions- it doesn’t necessarily feel more real to have an in-person launch, and I’m so grateful I got to celebrate Kit with my family at home in 2020 and do so many virtual events that year. With that said, I am grateful to have had an in-person launch for The Vermilion Emporium and The Absinthe Underground. Although I’m still very Covid cautious, I love meeting readers, answering questions about my books, and generally nerding out about books with like-minded people.
And I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like I really made it as an author, but I’m just delighted to be on this journey and see what each new book brings.
9) I get the impression that the writing community is very supportive of each other and I often recognize a lot of the names listed in acknowledgements. How do authors find their cohorts?
I love my author friends so much, and many of them have become dear friends in all areas of my life, which is such a gift. I met one of my best friends, historical author Noelle Salazar at a conference back in 2013, when I sat down next to her and we bonded over bagels, being new writers, and our nervousness at meeting agents and editors. Many of my other author friends came from the amazing Pitch Wars community that I was a mentee for in 2015 and then a co-mentor with my dear friend MK England in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Beyond that, I currently play D&D with a bunch of other authors, which is so fun.
To the question about how to find author cohorts: I think there are many ways to do so including online events, conferences, book events, just chatting with people online who seem bookish and share your writing/author aspirations. We’re so lucky to have online avenues for communication and I think this helps make the author journey so much less lonely.
10) What’s left on your author bucket list?
Oh gosh, it’s an ever-moving line, right? I’ve hit so many author bucket list items– some of which I still can’t talk about publicly– but others which have been wildly unexpected, like selling lots of foreign rights in many countries; seeing fan art and costumes from my books; winning awards for my writing; earning out advances; and, getting to write some of the books that I’ve had in my head for a long, long time.
With that said, these are a few things still on my author bucket list: hitting a bestseller list someday; having a few of my MG books published (fun fact– I started my publishing journey in Pitch Wars 2015 with a MG book that got me my first agent, but ultimately didn’t sell); seeing one of my books made into a TV show or film; and, getting one of my books into one of the big book boxes or Reese’s book club…
But, with all that said, I’m also very delighted by where my career has taken me and I can’t wait to see what the future holds! :-)