Next up in our 2009 Debutante interview series is Danielle Joseph. Her debut novel Shrinking Violet will be coming out from MTV/Pocket Books in May 2009!
Danielle was a college DJ for five years on the Gyroscope, a world music show, and interned at several top Boston radio stations. She has taught Creative Writing and English to Middle school students. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Danielle now lives in Miami with her husband and two young sons. These days you can find her cruising around with the tunes blaring and her internal DJ hard at work.
To whet your appetite, here’s a blurb:
High school senior, Tere Adams, has one dream—to be a dj. By day she is paralyzed when she has to talk to people, but at night, she rocks, doing mock broadcasts in her bedroom. Her confidence is further eroded by her mom, who still sees Tere as the chubby, pale kid, the other children called Snowball. Mom thinks that Tere’s dreams are just silly fantasies, but her new husband, Rob, offers Tere an internship at his top-forty radio station. Her best friend, Audrey, the only person truly aware of Tere’s vast music knowledge, encourages her to take the job. From there Tere must learn to come out from behind her mask. In doing so she confronts the bullies in her life, stands up for herself and falls in love.
Isn’t that ridiculously original??? Goodness! Anyway, if you’d like to hear Danielle’s playlist for Shrinking Violet, you can visit her website at daniellejoseph.com. (By the way, she has a really neat site.)
Danielle, Shrinking Violet 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?
I’ve always known that I wanted to be a writer and even majored in Creative Writing in college, but I did not get serious about writing until six years ago after my first son was born and I joined a local SCBWI critique group. Before Shrinking Violet, I had completed four other books. And I could definitely paste at least one wall in my office with rejection letters.
Sounds like you made the right career decision! 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?
Well, in both cases I received, the “Email.” My agent first emailed me to say that she liked my novel and had some suggestions for change. I then called her and knew right away that I wanted to work with her. Then when I got the “Offer” for Shrinking Violet, I was in Cape Town, South Africa visiting family. US cell phones don’t work there, so my agent emailed me the news. I was so excited but had been waiting for the “Call” for so long, that I decided to call her myself! So I guess, in both instances, I made the “Call”! And I would say calling from Africa to hear about my book offer, while I was surrounded by family, was the most thrilling!
Such a cool story and incredible to have everyone you loved around you! Throughout your journey as a writer, what resources have you found most valuable to your success? Websites? Books? Conferences?
A good support group of writer and non-writer friends is the most important to me. My in-person critique groups have been invaluable and just hearing encouragement along the way from family and friends has been great. I also feel revived every time after I go to a conference and love checking in with my online friends on a daily basis. And of course, every time I read a book, I feel like I’m learning something new, whether it’s being introduced to a new genre, style, culture etc
It’s easy to forget how valuable reading someone else’s work can be. Thanks for the reminder! We all know that writers go through hard times on their way to success. How have you handled rejection in the past?
… Rejection is not easy but really I just don’t take it personally. I shrug it off and move on. There’s not enough time in the day to sulk and there’s nothing a little chocolate can’t fix:)!
I’m with you on the chocolate. This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?
One of the most embarrassing moments for me is an email flub. I met an agent at a conference and queried her soon after we met. Several months later, I had signed with my agent, then six months later, on New Year’s Day I got an email from the conference agent. She loved the samples I had sent her and was requesting fulls of two of my manuscripts. I then quickly emailed my friend and said can you believe this agent took one year to get back to me! Ah, except I sent the email back to the agent and realized a second after hitting send. I felt so awful, but she was very nice and actually wrote back apologizing for taking so long and wished me best of luck with my agent. So the moral of the story is, always check the address before hitting send.
Ok, that’s the best “Oops!” story I’ve heard so far. But you’ve moved on and are 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?
I can hardly believe it and am very excited! I want to be a lifelong writer and be able to grow from every book that I write. I hope my books reach out to teens and provide them with some refuge and enjoyment.
Great! And now that you are a soon-to-be-published author, seeing the view from the other side, what has been your favorite moment in the publishing process so far? What part of the process has most surprised you?
My favorite part is just being in the company of such a warm group of people, writers, editors and agents, alike. I’m especially happy to be working with my editor because I feel that she really gets my book and is able to relate to the main character so well. I’m surprised by the warmth of so many writers and how helpful, giving and loving most everyone has been. And I’m loving every moment of it!
That’s wonderful. I’m amazed every day at how supportive writer-folks are. Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?
I just received my editoral letter on Tuesday, so it’s definitely fresh in my mind. I’m very pleased with it and think that my editor has made some wonderful suggestions. Of course, it’s a bit overwhelming at first because you don’t know where to start. I’m armed with highlighters and excited to dive back into the novel.
Tuesday! Wow. So you’re starting a whole new round of “fun.” Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?
Definitely the toughest question because there are so many awesome books that fill my bookshelf, which is overflowing, by the way. The one book that helped fuel me to write Shrinking Violet is White Oleander by Janet Fitch. Before I start a new manuscript, I try to read a motivating book. The writing, characterization and plotting was so rich in White Oleander, I would love to write a book with such depth and so much originality!
Chandler, thanks so much for this interview. It’s been great talking with you! Love your blog!
Thanks for joining us and we’ll be snatching up Shrinking Violet the second we see it!