As a couple of first-timers, we sat down to discuss our books: the initial spark of inspiration, how we found Flux, and where we're headed next...
Raedeke: Hi Holly, do you remember the very day the idea for A BLUE SO DARK came to you?
Schindler: I remember it coming to me in pieces over a few weeks, actually. When I was young, I imagined that authors would get this fantastic "ah-ha" moment in which their characters, (and their characters' struggles and growths) came to them all at once. Maybe some do...But what happens for me is that I get a sliver of an idea--a kind of what-if. From there, I'll write this really general, broad-strokes outline. And I'll start adding to it...
When I got the biggie pieces jotted down for A BLUE SO DARK (creativity and madness, Aura's mentally ill mother, Aura's fear of allowing art to bring "madness" out in herself), the first draft came super-fast...I'd get twenty-plus pages written in a day. And the next morning, I couldn't wait to get up and get back to it. I had to go through about four manuscript overhauls, and honestly, each one wrote just as quickly.
I love a book that's layered--and I think the way books GET layered is that an author kind of stacks dimensions on top of each other with successive rewrites...every time an author goes back, she (or he) adds a new element to the plot, or maybe a new secondary character who interacts with the protagonist in such a way that it illuminates new dimensions of that protagonist...
How about you? Did you get one of those "ah-ha" moments for PROPHECY OF DAYS? Did everything come to you all at once?
Raedeke: The idea for my book came not long after leaving my child for the first time. My husband and I were meeting friends at a University of Oregon football game (Go Ducks!) and had just dropped off our daughter at my Mom's. I know I should have cried or felt guilty or something, but as we drove away the sense of freedom was overwhelming—close to when I bought my first car and drove it home with the top down and Soft Cell blaring. Disclaimer: it was the eighties.
Anyway, something about knowing I was free for the next 30 hours opened up my imagination. On the three-hour drive to Eugene I told Scott the story and we talked it through. The seed was planted. Because I eventually had to go back and claim that child, it took awhile to write. And agent. And sell. And publish. (That child is now 9!) I'm still convinced that good ideas come when you make space for them.
Schindler: Now I'm going to have "Tainted Love" in my head the rest of the day! So true, though, about how long the entire process takes. A BLUE SO DARK was drafted in late 2006, and the offer from Flux came in 2009...But this was NOT the first manuscript I attempted to sell! (I'd been attempting to publish my novels since I got my master's in '01!) Looking back, what kept you motivated to keep working on PROPHECY OF DAYS? What was the initial submission process like? Did you ever hit a wall, feel like publication was never going to happen?
Raedeke: To be honest, curiosity kept me going. This book took a lot of research, which is one of my favorite pastimes. I love following a random thought for an hour or two on the internet; it’s amazing where one fact can lead you. I was also used to working in marketing and business development, so when my kids were little and I was trapped at home during naptime, it felt good to have something to work on. I felt a sense of accomplishment as the page count grew.
My wall came after I got my agent. Fortunately, I only had to endure one query rejection before signing with Laura Rennert of Andrea Brown Literary. I received an email from her late at night saying she had not yet finished the manuscript but she loved it so far and wanted to offer representation. I was ecstatic, of course. The bad news came when she had actually finished reading and thought the ending was week. She was right, of course, so I went through a huge revision process before it even went out. That was Wall One.
Wall Two came at submission time. PROPHECY OF DAYS went out on submission to several big NYC editors, but this was back in late 2007/early 2008 before the whole 2012 thing was really in the mainstream zeitgeist (especially on the East Coast) and they just didn’t get it. The funny thing is, last year one of the editors who rejected the submission announced at an SCBWI conference that she was actively looking for any books on 2012. What a difference a couple of years can make!
Meanwhile, I had read some great Flux books and had followed and respected Editor Andrew Karre’s blog. I just sensed he’d “get” the book so I suggested to Laura that we send it to him. She'd recently signed Maggie Stiefvater as a client and had just negotiated Maggie's second book at Flux, so she knew Andrew was awesome. As I suspected, he got it. I was fortunate to get one great revision letter from him before he left for Lerner, and then the fabulous Brian Farrey took the reins.
How about you—what kept you going between when you first started writing novels on 2001 and when you sold A BLUE SO DARK in 2009? Did you hit many walls? Did they come pre- or post-agent?
Schindler: Writing was this absolute have-to thing with me. I was ALWAYS writing—even when I was a little girl. I remember, I was in, oh, junior high, I think—I was over at a friend’s house when ROMANCING THE STONE came on TV…You know how it starts, right? With Kathleen Turner bawling as she wraps up her latest novel? My friend started laughing, elbowed me and said, “That’s going to be YOU!”
Writing was just all-encompassing. And it got WORSE as I got older. Seriously. My family offered some incredible financial support so that I could devote full-time effort to writing after I got out of grad school. (They probably thought I was going to explode if I didn’t write…)
Can’t lie—I got pretty frustrated at times, but never to the point of wanting to quit. It CONSTANTLY seemed like I was getting closer to an acceptance. I stopped getting form rejections and started getting “good” rejections—you know, where editors will actually give you feedback, encourage you to keep at it.
I actually sold A BLUE SO DARK myself, without the help of an agent, soon after Brian Farrey got the acquisitions gig at Flux…And talk about an editor “getting” it—I remember hanging up the phone after talking to him the first time and going, “Him. I want to work with HIM.” I could hardly eat that Thanksgiving, because I was sort of tied up in knots, hoping that Flux would acquire the book.
Raedeke: I love that you did it on your own! Flux is amazing about finding great new voices, and I agree Brian is great to work with. He’s been very, uh, patient with me and deadlines. Your family sounds amazing—I have always wanted to live at the time when there were “Art Patrons” who would support artists. Looks like I’ll have to time travel back to Renaissance Europe or feudal Japan; the current economy will definitely not support this trend. Sigh.
Have you always written YA or have you written in other genres?
Schindler: Yeah, I’m incredibly lucky…it’s been very ROOM OF ONE’S OWN around here! I didn’t go 100% completely jobless, though—to help with the bills, I taught piano and guitar lessons out of the house in the afternoons. Up until that time, I’d been writing adult work. My students inspired me to try my hand at YA!
My reading is kind of all over the place…the classics, literary fiction, thrillers, romance, clever cereal boxes, catchy billboards…so my WRITING tends to be a little all over the place, too, in terms of genre. Already, I’ve sold a literary novel and a romance to Flux and an adult romantic comedy to Blooming Tree Press. And what I’m working on now is night-and-day different from what I’ve already sold.
How did you come to YA? Did you write PROPHECY OF DAYS thinking it was YA, or (as it seems like it often happens with first-time authors) did your agent tell you it was YA?
Raedeke: I was journalism major and had taken lots of writing classes though the years, but had always focused on general fiction and narrative nonfiction. This was my first try at a Young Adult book, and basically I was writing the perfect book for myself at that age. I’ve always been intrigued by esoteric, ancient mysteries, and the idea of a collective consciousness, so it was a natural fit for both research and writing. I finished another manuscript while PROPHECY was on sub, and hopefully someday I’ll go back and polish that one up.
You have so many manuscripts in the pipeline! It must be incredibly exciting to finally realize the dream of having several books out, of being a “real” author. However, you’ll only be a Debut Author once. What are you most looking forward to as we head into May, our release month?
Schindler: Wow…I think just the feeling of knowing that A BLUE SO DARK is on actual SHELVES in actual BOOKSTORES. I got these all-over tingly moments when I saw the novel on Amazon…and again when I found it on the Borders and Barnes and Noble websites. (I think it must be kind of the same feeling musicians get when they hear their songs on the radio for the first time…)
But I’m always looking ahead. I’ve honestly, seriously got a stack of manuscripts that stretches from the floor to the ceiling in the corner of my office. And I have piles of notebooks that are filled with ideas and outlines for novels that I haven’t yet drafted. If I lived to be 150, I’d never have enough time to put every idea on paper…Sometimes, I think the coolest part of selling A BLUE SO DARK is that it kind of opened doors so that I can start selling the REST of my work, too.
How ‘bout you? Are you going to celebrate on May 1st? Have you ALREADY celebrated? (Could you really take the moment in when you signed the contract? Did it seem real? I think for me, in all honesty, things started to get REAL when I held an ARC in my hands.)
Raedeke: The ARC definitely made it real! Seeing my name on the spine was kind of a wow moment! Honestly, I have been so busy trying to finish book two that I haven’t taken the time to really soak in what’s going on. I’m finishing this weekend and sending the full manuscript off to Brian, so I’ll be able to breath and enjoy this week—which is perfect timing since I’ll be signing ARCs in the Flux booth at PLA convention on Thursday!
Holly, it’s been an absolute delight to have this back-and-forth with you. I wish you a lifetime of success with your pillar of manuscripts—if I could be one tenth as productive as you I could die happy! We’re in a unique position, both of us with our debut books releasing from the same house the same week. I’m thrilled to be there with you and I can’t wait to get my hands on A BLUE SO DARK.
Schindler: Same to you, Christy! PROPHECY OF DAYS is on my must-have list…Have an absolutely fantastic time at the PLA convention…Take a deep breath during the signing and let it all soak in. Congratulations on PROPHECY, and on finishing book #2!
...You can find Christy Raedeke on the web at christyraedeke.com and raedeke.blogspot.com.