Cass McKenna much prefers the company of ghosts to that of the living. Who needs lying, backstabbing, breathing friends when ghosts are uncomplicated and completely dependable? Plus, the dead know the dirt on just about everybody . . . and Cass loves dirt.
She’s on a mission to expose the dirty little secrets of all of the poseurs in her school (everyone, in her mind). But when the vice president of the student council finds out her secret, Cass’s whole scheme hangs in the balance. Tim wants her help contacting his recently deceased mother, and Cass is less than enthusiastic. But Tim’s pleas seem genuine, and Cass reluctantly agrees to try.
As Tim’s desperation to talk to his mother’s spirit grows, Cass, kicking and screaming, finds herself becoming more and more entwined in his life. And she’s more surprised than anyone when she realizes that maybe, just maybe, some living people aren’t so bad if she’d only give them a chance. . . .
Today’s deb is an author whose blog I love, love, love and read almost daily. Her debut novel, Give Up The Ghost, is coming out from Henry Holt this Fall and I, personally, can’t wait!
Give Up The Ghost is your debut novel, so a big congrats on that. But can you give us a little statistical rundown on how long it took you to get to this point? How many books? How many rejections? How many days, months, or years?
It depends on where you want to measure from. I was 14 when I finished my first novel (which was very, very bad–but hey, I finished it!), so I’ve been writing books for 14 years now. But I didn’t feel I was writing at a publishable level, and start querying agents, until many years after that. I was pretty critical of my own work, and I didn’t want to send something out there until I was confident.
I wrote the first draft of GIVE UP THE GHOST about four years and a half years ago. I got a couple dozen rejections from agents before getting the offer of representation, and more than a dozen rejections from editors before selling it. But as they say, it only takes one “Yes!”
Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal? Can you describe to us what it felt like?
I’d have to say the call when my agent offered representation. It was a complete surprise (I’d never gotten a call from an agent before; I had no forewarning that this agent would call) and I was so excited afterward that I was literally bouncing around my apartment.
Landing the book deal was incredibly exciting, of course, but it was more drawn out–knowing the book was going to acquisitions, knowing an editor intended to offer but hadn’t yet, knowing the offer was on the table but waiting for the details to be negotiated… So there wasn’t one call that settled everything (and actually a lot of it was through e-mail). It was a much more extended thrill, but less intense because of that.
Well, I know that you are in the enviable position of being repped by Kristin Nelson, so I’m sure that was thrilling!
I believe your book took about a year to sell. What did you do during that time/How did you feel? What kind of talks did you have with your agent?
My book was on submission for exactly one year (to the day!) before we got the first offer. Which I find kind of neat now, but at the time it was incredibly stressful. We had a few close calls, which in many ways are more frustrating than an outright rejection–knowing an editor connected with the book but that someone further along in the process vetoed it.
I used the time to do a bunch more writing–I wrote drafts of two new projects. Which has ended up being useful in many ways, particularly because I haven’t had to stress about what my next book will be. It was ready and waiting!
My agent and I discussed revision ideas we got from a few editors, and submission possibilities–she was always terribly supportive, and sure that eventually we’d find the right editor, which helped me keep the hope.
That’s great and really supports the “keep writing” no matter what credo. Still, did you feel your relationship with your agent changed after your sale?
Not that I’ve noticed. She’s always been about the writer and their career rather than selling one particular book, so a sale doesn’t change that (though it certainly made both of us quite happy!).
I think that’s a fantastic reminder to writers who are in the stage of talking to agents and discussing representation. Always want to check to see if the agent is looking to rep this one book or your career.
This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?
My biggest “Oops!” was posting in my blog about doing revisions while the book was on submission. I was careful not to give names or details, but an editor who was considering the book saw that I was revising for another editor and, well, wasn’t happy about it. So these days I keep any news related to submissions out of the public eye.
Thank you for sharing that. I think that’s hugely important for writers to remember as we reach this new age of candid blogging!
You’re now at the beginning of your writing career. Can you believe it? Where would you like that sure-to-be illustrious career to take you?
It’s still a little hard to believe, actually… I’m not sure it’ll seem quite real until the first time I walk into a bookstore and see my book on the shelf. And even then I’ll probably half-believe I’m in some sort of dream!
Mostly I’d just like to keep writing and selling books, and for those books to find lots of readers who enjoy them. I’m looking forward to branching out into different genres–I’ve got a couple of fantasy books waiting in the wings, and I hope to tackle science fiction at some point. And I’d love to be able to make this my full-time career. But really, as long as I’m writing, I’ll be happy.
Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?
I got a letter–I think it was eight pages–and a marked-up copy of the manuscript. I think for most writers the first read-through is a little intimidating. But I found myself nodding at most of the comments even on that first read (there were a few that were no surprise at all, problems I’d suspected might be there but had hoped I was just imagining them), which was a relief.
Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?
That’s hard! Do you have any idea how many books I love? I guess if I have to pick one, I’d say THE CHANGELING by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. That book meant so much to me as a kid, and it made me feel good about being shy, and quiet, and so often “lost in my own world.” If I manage to write a book that does something like that for someone else, I’ve done my job as well as I could imagine.