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Teen Blog

Helping everyone who loves young adult fiction find their next favourite book

3 for 3 Debut Author Interview with Michelle Hodkin, Lena Coakley, and Elizabeth Miles

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a debut author? With the help of Simon & Schuster Canada, we spoke to three new YA authors and asked them to share a little bit about their experiences.

Michelle Hodkin, author of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (9/27)

Indigo Teen Blog: Has publishing your first novel been anything like you expected it to be?
Michelle Hodkin: To be honest, I didn’t have any expectations when I began writing because I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be published. I've always loved books and reading, and I’m lucky enough to have been raised by a mother that always let me read any book I wanted to read. But even though my mother taught me when I was little that I could grow up to be anything I wanted, I had too practical and cautious of a personality to even attempt writing a book. Becoming a lawyer seemed like a safer bet— I could go to school, do well, pass tests, go to more school, pass more tests, and graduate with fancy pieces of paper saying I was qualified to do it. Now I have five or six fancy framed pieces of paper…and I'm doing something else that doesn't require them. Had I thought too much about how hard writing a book would be or how much stamina and dedication it would take, I probably wouldn't have done it. But the story just kind of took over, and I wrote it, and only realized all that stuff after it was too late to back out. So here I am.

ITB: Was YA fiction your first love, or did you try writing other genres?
MH: The first words of fiction I ever wrote were the first words of THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER. So YA chose me, and I couldn’t be happier.

ITB: Can you share what has been the coolest part of your publishing process?
MH: I think I have to say BEA (Book Expo America) 2011. It's interesting because BEA holds sort of a magical place in MARA DYER's history—in 2009, immediately after I started writing the book (which I began on May 15), I emailed a friend who was querying her novel and asked her for advice. She told me to "get it all down," and then told me to read industry blogs to learn more about the publishing process. So I started to read them, and during those weeks the blogs were all about BEA 2009 madness. So I found myself early in the process thinking: "Someday, I really want to be there."
          Little did I know that the following year, Simon & Schuster would win the auction for MARA DYER during the first night of BEA. I was able to announce the deal in person during BEA 2010 madness at BEA, in the company of my agent, my editor, my publisher, and so many new blogger and writer friends. And that was truly special—an experience I'll never forget. And then in 2011, my book, the one I began a little over two years ago, was chosen as one of the YA BEA Buzz titles, and I had the incredible chance to listen to my editor speak so eloquently about it to a packed room filled with hundreds of people, including my brothers and my best friend, who came to support me.
           So while I am so grateful to be able to say that there have been many exceptional moments during my path to publication, BEA 2011 was very, very cool.

Lena Coakley, the author of Witchlanders (now available)

Indigo Teen Blog: Has publishing your first novel been anything like you expected it to be?
Lena Coakley: Well, people told me it would be a roller coaster, and it’s certainly that!  I published two children’s picture books with a small publisher eight years ago (now out-of-print) and I’m amazed by the changes in the publishing industry since then.  There is so much more an author can do in terms of promotion.  I know many older authors who complain that they are now expected to blog, tweet, be on Facebook, etc., but I see it as an opportunity to have some control over what happens to my book.  As a shy and somewhat introverted person, I didn’t expect to love social media as much as I do, but it’s a great way to connect with readers and writers.

ITB: Was YA fiction your first love, or did you try writing other genres?
LC: I’ve never loved reading quite so much as I did when I was fourteen years old curled up with The Lord of the Rings or an Ursula Le Guin novel so, yes, YA fiction is most definitely my first love.  But I’ve also written poetry and short stories for adults, and, as I mentioned, I’ve written children’s picture books as well.  For the foreseeable future I’ll be continuing to write YA fantasy novels both because I love them and to build on the fan base I’ve developed for Witchlanders.

ITB: Can you share what has been the coolest part of your publishing process?
LC: Getting to know other authors, both published and aspiring.  There is such a wonderful community out there!  My philosophy is to be pretty much a member of everything: CANSCAIP, SCBWI, SFWA, etc.  I also love to chat on message boards and Twitter.  I’m sure I wouldn’t be published if it weren’t for the support I’ve gotten from other writers.  Writing is such a solitary business that it seems strange to say that it’s forced me to be more social, but I think it definitely has.

Elizabeth Miles, the author of Fury (available now)

Indigo Teen Blog: Has publishing your first novel been anything like you expected it to be?
Elizabeth Miles: Honestly, no! The world of newspaper publishing (in which I've worked since graduating from Boston University in 2004) is quite different from the world of YA fiction publishing. Among the things I didn't expect: All the early interest/support from the blogosphere; all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the publicity/marketing side of things; how many tiny decisions need to be made about the cover, website, etc.; how much I would love doing promotional stuff and meeting bloggers/readers.

ITB: Was YA fiction your first love, or did you try writing other genres?
EM: Well, like I said, my first professional career was (and is) as a newspaper writer. I work for an alternative newspaper in Portland, Maine, writing about politics, policy, culture, and society. As an alt-weekly, we get to take the kind of "long view" — offering commentary and analysis (some is serious, some is edgy/funny). I love it. However, my first love as a READER was certainly young adult lit — it was through Judy Blume books and Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie that I discovered the true magic of the written word. So I guess the answer to both your questions is yes!

ITB: Can you share what has been the coolest part of your publishing process?
EM: The coolest part for me has been getting to share this so closely with Lauren Oliver (author of Before I Fall and Delirium, among others), one of my closest and oldest friends (we've known each other since second grade and we've been besties since eighth). I feel lucky to be able to call on her for advice, support, and encouragement — and to be able to plan (even if it's just in a dream-world stage right now) a joint, giggling, food-obsessed book tour!

Thank you, ladies, for sharing your stories with us! May you have many more books published for us to read.

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