Today’s 2009 Debutante is Mandy Hubbard! She’s one of the nicest, most helpful Blue Boarders ever and she’s been incredibly open to answering questions. I can’t wait to get my hands on her forthcoming book from Razorbill, Prada and Prejudice. A gigantic thank you to her for providing such wonderful answers to the interview questions.
Callie falls head over heels—literally…
and wakes up in Austen-Era England !
Fifteen-year-old Callie buys a pair of real Prada pumps to impress the cool crowd on a school trip to London . Goodbye, Callie the clumsy geek-girl, hello popularity! But before she knows what’s hit her, Callie wobbles, trips, conks her head… and wakes up in the year 1815!
Thanks for joining us, Mandy. Prada and Prejudice 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?
The log-line on my blog says “A published writer is an amateur who didn’t quit,” and sometimes that’s all that got me through the rejections. The first novel my agent sent out on submissions, In October 2006, was THE JETSETTERS SOCIAL CLUB and we racked up about 12 rejections. They were so short and vague; it was obvious JETSETTERS wasn’t doing it. But a few editors asked if I had anything else, and PRADA AND PREJUDICE started to go out on subs in January 2007. Over that Summer, I came so heart-breakingly-close to selling that it was devastating when it didn’t happen. That editor even said she loved it and apologized for not being able to buy it.
By the end of the year I had revised it a few times for various editors and racked up 16 rejections.
2008 started up right where 2007 left off—three rejections within the first weeks. However, the third came in the form of a revision request. Even though I was already in my seventh draft, I decided to do it, and I opened up a shiny new (blank!) word document and started over. I never even opened up the old version. I spent a month writing 100 pages plus a new synopsis, and my agent sent it back.
And I was rejected in about three sentences. But thanks to the shiny-new version of the book, my agent felt it deserved another round of submissions. (We were up to 22 rejections at that point). So she sent it to six new editors, and two weeks later, we had two offers. In total, I spent 20 months on submissions, racking up 40 rejections from almost every editor in New York for two different projects, and PRADA AND PREJUDICE went through nine drafts.
You and your agent deserve a medal or something. That is incredibly inspiring. Thank you. Which “Call” thrilled you more? The call in which you landed an agent or the call in which you landed your book deal?
I never got a call out of the blue in either case—there were always emails to tip me off. So for me, the typical reaction to ‘the call’ was actually a reaction to an email, and it was definitely the sale that stands out. I was opening the email while a co-worker was talking to me, and he managed to tell a very long and animated story, and I heard exactly none of it. The e-mail was titled good news and the first line said, we are expecting multiple offers. I started shaking, and it got hard to breathe. I actually did a video blog and recreated THE CALL, and you can see it here:
Love your vlogs. Too fun! Throughout your journey as a writer, what resources have you found most valuable to your success? Websites? Books? Conferences?
Livejournal has been the biggest resource for me-I’ve met so many writers and authors, its been amazing. I met my critique partner, Cyn Balog (Fairy Lust, Delacorte 2009) and we’re like writing BFF’s now, and I can still find the post where we are commenting back and forth like, “do you need a critique partner?” Without her I’d go insane. I think we cried for each other’s book deals as much as our own, we were so excited.
I have to say, you and Cyn are the cutest writing duo ever. I love how supportive y’all are and how much you’ve grown. Y’all are a shining example to the rest of the writing community.
We all know that writers go through hard times on their way to success. How have you handled rejection in the past?
By ignoring them. HA. Sometimes a random rejection would hit me really hard, especially when it was an editor I had revised for, but for the most part, I read it, thought about it for a little bit, whined for a day, and moved on. My agent was really good at focusing my attention elsewhere. Every time she emailed a rejection, she’d end the email by saying something like, “But I just heard about this editor at X house, and I’m going to pitch it to her tomorrow…” so somehow she always refocused my attention to the next opportunity.
This is Fumbling with Fiction, so I have to ask, in your writing career have you ever had a big “Oops!” moment?
When I got the rejections, especially on PRADA, they never seemed to have the same reason. But somewhere around #15, I put them together in an excel spreadsheet, and BINGO, I started seeing a few patterns. Each editor expresses things differently, so it’s not like they would say the exact same thing—but if I read them all in a row, I could see tiny similarities that pointed to the same issue. I wish I would have thought of doing that as they came in—I might have been able to revise and strengthen the manuscript.
Great tip for the rest of us. Thanks! 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?
To the NYT list, of course. Hitting the New York Times Bestseller list would be so amazing, I’d probably have to quit right then just so I’d go out on top. Kidding. More realistically, though, I am hoping to get a rhythm going, to have at least one book coming out every year with another on the horizon, to develop a fan base, to be a professional. I don’t want to just “be” published, I want it to be my career.
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?
Confetti didn’t rain down when I accepted my deal, so that was surprising. I think my favorite part of this process has been people telling me that I inspire them. When you first sign an agent, you think of all these overnight deals and pre-empts and auctions, because I swear that’s what it seems like happens for everyone else, so that’s what you expect. But I soon discovered that all too often, that’s not how it works. I think a lot of writers are afraid to be honest and blog openly about their trials, for fear of looking whiny, or something. But I decided to be honest from the get go, and yeah, sometimes I whined and reflected. But now I have all those journal entries, and I can read one and know exactly how it felt to get that 20th rejection. And somehow people have been finding my journal and reading those entries, and it’s been really great to know that other people are in that spot, and they’ve seen that sometimes, you just have to claw your way to the top.
I recently went through and tagged all the “publishing journey” entries, so that people can start at the beginning and see the key steps for me—and see the actual rejections. You can see them here: http://mandywriter.livejournal.com/tag/the+road+to+publication
There are about forty related entries, so if you want to read them, I recommend rewinding and starting at the beginning and reading forward, rather than backwards. It starts with me getting my agent, and goes through to the sale.
Wait, confetti didn’t rain down? Shoot.
Tell us a little about receiving your first editorial letter. What was yours like? How did you feel when you received it?
It was 11 pages. I nearly fainted. But my editor is quite possibly the most amazing person on the planet, and she explained right off on page 1 that I shouldn’t freak out, that she just liked to really explain things and offer solutions instead of just pointing out problems—and true to her word, as I read through everything, I saw that she not only pinpointed the problems, but she offered ideas and things that pushed me in the right direction. She’s really amazing. Did I mention she rejected Prada TWICE before buying it? Even then, in her rejection letters, her thoughts were well articulated and made me really think about what worked and what didn’t work. I’m so glad that the third try (with a completely rewritten manuscript) resulted in her offering on it, because there’s no where else I’d rather be.
Everyone has a different relationship with his or her agent. How would you characterize yours and has it changed since your book deal?
This is an interesting question, because I’ve been thinking about this lately. I think even though it was never obvious, there was a little tension before the sale—not in a bad way, just in a we both want the sale so badly we can taste it way. We were both unbelievably frustrated that it hadn’t happened yet. Not with each other, just with the circumstances. So since the sale, I think that’s disappeared.
Finally, if you could have written one book previously published by another author, which book would it be?
For recent books, I’d have a hard time choosing between THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher, about a girl who sends audio tapes to the thirteen people responsible for her suicide, and THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH (Coming in 2009) by Carrie Ryan, about a zombie apocolypse. For all time favorites, it would be between Z FOR ZACHARIAH, about a girl who thinks she might be the only person left on earth after a nuclear fall-out, and THE TRUE CONFESSIONS OF CHARLOTTE DOYLE, a historical about a prim and proper girl who unwittingly ends up in the midst of a mutiny onboard a ship.
Strangely enough, though, I don’t think I could write any of those books even if I had the idea before they did—their execution of the ideas is what’s amazing. Instead I will happily read them over and over.
Thank you again for joining us and we look forward to reading Prada and Prejudice the minute it comes out!