Interview with Ellen Booraem Part 2
Got another two chapters done today. Goal achieved! Tomorrow, chapter 23 and 24.
Also, thanks fo Layne and Jennie who posted story starters for the community story I’ll be starting in the new year. There’s still time to post one. I still haven’t even done one myself. Click here and post in the comments. After the holidays, we’ll vote on the best one and start our community story.
How did you find your agent, Kate Schafer Testerman, and could you tell us about the partnership you have with her and had with your Unnameables editor?
My query letter never did work. Fortunately, I live in a part of Maine that sees a lot of creative people from New York in the summer. After I’d written the new version of Medford and the Goatman, I showed it to Bill Henderson, founding publisher of the Pushcart Press, and his wife, novelist Genie Chipps Henderson. Bill and Genie sent the manuscript to Kate, who at that time was working alongside Bill’s agent at Janklow & Nesbitt.. And, fortunately, she liked it!
I love working with Kate and with Kathy Dawson, who’s my editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. They’re patient with my ignorance and utterly committed to making my books as good as they possibly can be. Neither has ever suggested a change “because that’s what the market wants.”
Since I’m up in the boonies of Maine, Kathy’s in New York, and Kate now has started her own agency in Colorado, both relationships are heavy on email. I’ve met Kathy, but have never been in the same room with Kate—I think I’ve heard her voice on the phone about three times in as many years. And yet we feel we know each other pretty well.
You’re a member of Class 2k8. Please tell us about this group and how you got involved with it.
The Class of 2k8 is a group of 27 debut authors of middle-grade and young-adult fiction. We banded together as a group marketing effort, which has included a group web site and blog, an email publicity push, a brochure mailing to libraries and bookstores, and a few group appearances in various parts of the country. I found out about the concept from YA author Carrie Jones, who lives here in Maine. Her first book, Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend, came out in 2007 and she was in the Class of 2k7, which inaugurated the group marketing idea for newbie kidlit writers. Now the Class of 2k9 is about to start its year, and a Class of 2k10 is forming.
2k8 has been a fantastic experience. We have a Yahoo email loop, which was set up for group planning and notices. But half the time we use it just to crow or commiserate, and to share experiences and expertise. I would have been lost this year without my 2k8 classmates.
What did you do to promote The Unnameables and did you find anything that surprised you in that process? What were the easiest and most difficult parts?
I joined the Class of 2k8 because I knew publishers weren’t able to give books as much promotion as they used to. Frankly, the surprise to me was the amount of promotion I did get from Harcourt. I worked with publicists Sarah Shealy and Barbara Fisch (who, sadly, were victims of the early December “Black Wednesday” layoffs that swept the publishing industry). They were an endless font of wisdom, and got my book “out there” far more than I expected.
My own efforts consist of a web site and a blog. I contacted some bookstores and newspapers in Maine, did some local signings and talks, and joined fellow 2k8ers on a panel discussion in several Barnes & Noble stores in Massachusetts. Also I visited Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota to talk about writing and related stuff. The blog continues to be difficult for me, because I’ve never kept a journal, don’t enjoy writing personal essays, and can’t persuade myself that anyone out there wants to know what my life is like.
I’ve read that you’re now revising your second novel. Could you tell us anything about it?
My editor has the first revision, and is about to send me her comments. I’m sure I have at least one more revision in my future. The working title is The Filioli. It’s about a relentlessly practical 13-year-old whose family inherits an inn that becomes infested by fairies. The fairies are addicted to luxurious illusions and are debating a change of magic that will eliminate such illusions. The family gets swept into the politics.
That sounds so much fun. I look forward to reading it. Is there something you’ve learned that you wish someone had told you when you started writing?
Get to know your characters as well as you possibly can before you get too far into the plot.
Any other tips you’d like to tell aspiring writers?
Develop as many contacts as you can, and use them at every stage of your process. Whether you use a real-life or on-line critique group while writing and revising will depend on your personality. But once you’re shopping and marketing the book you need every contact you’ve got.
Thanks so much for your time. Good luck for the continued success for The Unnameables and your future books. We look forward to reading them.