Saturday, August 10, 2013

Awesome Authors

I don't know where I would be or what I would be doing right now if it wasn't for awesome authors who write spellbinding books. So in honor of these authors I have decided to do a post just for them. There will be more posts to come on awesome authors so visit The Girl Bookaholic again for those!

Becca Fitzpatrick: My love for telling stories started in kindergarten. I was not a big fan of kindergarten. I'll even go so far as to say I hated it. My older sister, Heather, attended third grade at the same
elementary school in Centerville, Utah, and shared my feelings for school. It wasn't that we disliked school so much as we disliked a handful of kids who went there: Think mini Mean Girls. At night when we were supposed to be sleeping, Heather and I would make up new episodes in an ongoing tale called THE BUS ADVENTURES. The stories were usually morbid tales of us locking all the mean kids on the school bus and driving it over a cliff. (We always let the bus driver off first謡e liked him.) The summer before I entered second grade, my family moved to North Platte, Nebraska, and I warmed up to school. I also discovered Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. Heather and I kept flashlights under our beds and our nights were spent reading about the mysterious and frightening adventures of our favorite girl sleuths. Eventually Heather grew up and needed her own bedroom, and I moved in with my younger sister, Christian, who introduced me to Roald Dahl. I loved books more than ever, and found myself split between the zany imaginative world of Roald Dahl, the spine-tingling world of Nancy Drew and the historical adventure of the Little House on the Prairie books. Everything came to a crux in third grade when I watched Romancing the Stone with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. There was no turning back: I knew I wanted to be an author. Of course, I thought all authors flew to Colombia to rescue their sister from Bad Guys, hunted for treasure, and fell in love with a sexy dangerous guy in crocodile boots, a.k.a. Michael Douglas. I have a lot of vivid memories from my high school years, which probably explains why I write YA. I ran cross-country, played clarinet in the marching band and was a member of VICA and National Honor Society. I'll let you make the call as to whether I was a nerd. My sophomore year, a friend blackmailed me to try out for the basketball team, and I still remember the coach telling me (through clenched teeth) that due to the unbelievably low number of girls trying out that year...I survived the cut. Everyone did. I think he actually thought I coveted a spot on the team. The truth is, I hated every minute of those three-hour practices. And to this day, I resent
the coach telling me I looked like I was dancing when I was on the court. Coach: It's called shuffling. Thankfully, I was much better at academics than at sports, and I graduated valedictorian of my class in 1997. I always held on to my dream of writing, but went through a phase in college where I wanted to be a spy. I stalked the CIA website and filled out at least a dozen applications. I thought being a spy was dangerous and sexy. I didn't want to be the girl who got a degree, only to settle down and do house-ish answer telemarketers' calls and choose between Spanish or Ladybug Red for the kitchen walls. In December 2000, I married my Philadelphia-native husband, Justin. In April 2001, I graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Community Health and went to work as a secretary-slash-teacher-slash-accountant at an alternative high school in Provo, Utah. I loved the students at the school, but having the principal call me in on Saturdays to operate the copy machine was
a different matter. In February 2003, my husband surprised me by enrolling me in a writing class for my twenty-fourth birthday. On that day, I went from the girl who wrote stories daily in the privacy of her journal, to the girl who wrote stories and shared them with people outside of the worlds in her head. It was also in that class that I started writing HUSH, HUSH. Five years, one baby, and one move to Colorado later, I had a book, and it was just about as sexy and dangerous as the spy-life I'd always dreamed about. In June 2008 I found my agent, Catherine Drayton, and in September 2008 she sold the book to Simon & Schuster. --Becca

P.S. I recently painted my kitchen walls Spanish Red. Oh, and the telemarketers? Three calls today and counting...

Chloe Neill: Chloe Neill is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Chicagoland Vampires and Dark Elite series. She was born and raised in the South, but now makes her home in the Midwest–just close enough to Cadogan House and St. Sophia’s to keep an eye on things. When not transcribing Merit’s and Lily’s adventures, she bakes, works, and scours the Internet for good recipes and great graphic design. Chloe also maintains her sanity by spending time with her boys–her favorite landscape photographer/husband and their dogs, Baxter and Scout. (Both she and the photographer understand the dogs are in charge.)

Wendy Higgins: I wrote my first book when I was five, titled The Day the Whole Class got the Chickenpox and I even illustrated it myself with desks and stick-figure students. I made several copies and went door-to-door selling them to neighbors at $5 a pop.  That's a high price, even by
today's standards.  Needless to say, when my mom found me rockin' twenty-five bucks, as proud as she may have been, she marched me back to the neighbors to return the money.  I clearly remember my sense of happy accomplishment when one woman adamantly refused to take back the money. She said, "I want to be able to say I bought her very first book when she's a published author some day."  Isn't it funny the things that stick with us through the years? I also recall a certain mean boy in my college writing classes who said every story I wrote was a cliché piece of crap. But let’s not dwell on him, because, truthfully, I kind of agreed with him. My stories were "Lifetime for Women-esque." I never thought of myself as intelligent enough or deep enough to write a book. It was the ultimate unattainable dream. I dabbled in short stories and book ideas all throughout my school years, but stopped after college. I received a Bachelor's in Creative Writing from George Mason University, (even if it did take me seven years due to hairbrained ideas like "being a waitress for life" and "dropping out to become a flight attendant," which wasn't nearly as glamorous as you might think). Once I got my act together and met my hubby, I received my Masters in Education from Radford University and taught 9th and 12th grade English before settling down in Northern Virginia and becoming a "stay at home mom." I have a princess and a daredevil-the best of both worlds. After three years of not teaching, I was missing those big lugs and drama queens. I felt disconnected from teens, an area where I'd been passionately drawn. But I also knew that staying home was what was best for my particular family. That's when the inspiration for my story hit me.  "Hit" is probably too light a word. The idea for Sweet Evil bombarded me like a massive brain
invasion. After not writing for eight years, I ended up writing the entire first draft, over 80,000 words, by hand, during the course of seven weeks. That time is still an elated blur in my memory.  I don't know how anyone in my household had clean clothes or full bellies during September and October of 2009. 
Then came the fun part...sending out queries to agents WAY before my manuscript was ready. Ugh. Cringe. Please learn from my mistake. Get a couple of trusted critique partners and take time to get your story solidly polished before querying. Nobody is going to want to represent you based on "promise."  It's either good and ready or it's not.  There's simply too much competition out there to rush it. Somewhere around the 30th rejection (50th? Who knows! I stopped counting and deleted/threw away every one of them) I got two helpful personal notes from agents telling me the same thing: too much telling and not enough showing in the first chapter. I was having a hard time introducing Anna and her abilities. I needed help.  While browsing the internet for critique partners, I stumbled upon, the HarperCollins site devoted to teens and those who write for teens (YA). I posted my story, and inkpoppers ranging anywhere from thirteen to forty-something read and commented, helping me to whip that bad chapter into shape. I think I took almost every suggestion that was given. Their feedback was beautifully brutal, exactly what I needed. By the time I finally thought it was ready, a woman named Carolee read my entire story and fell in love with it. She was represented by Neil Salkind, a literary agent who normally took only non-fiction, but she asked if she could introduce us. So I sent him an official query and he called me with an offer of representation that same week. In the meantime, my story was doing surprisingly well on inkpop.  While I was revising like crazy, it had moved up the ranks into the twenties.  Each month the top five ranked projects are sent to the HarperCollins editors for review. I was so close at that point that I decided to gun for it. I spent the next month working hard, critiquing upwards of forty stories a week, earning myself return-reads (it's a "scratch each others' backs" kind of community). In May 2010 my story made the top
five and I received an excellent review...but no offer for publication. Boo. 
Five weeks after my review, I received an email from a woman named Alyson Day. The moment I opened it is etched into my memory, crystal clear. I read the message three times very slowly. My whole body was trembling and I could hardly breathe. She said, "I'm the editor at HarperCollins who had the pleasure of reading your story for Inkpop. I've thoroughly enjoyed the manuscript and would like to read the last four chapters - would you be able to email them to me?"  That was “the” moment for me. That was it. Because no matter what happened after that, I felt like a "real" writer. I'd been validated by a professional. My dream was truly within reach. There were a LOT of happy tears. I was buzzing all day long, and I had to order pizza because my hands were shaking too hard to cook. Six months later I had a contract from HarperCollins and I was tossed afloat onto the sea of publishing (which was a scary place to be as an unannounced inkpop author). But that’s a story of its own for a different time…

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