What better way to bid a bloggy farewell to Sharon than to address a few of her favorite things -- hot publishing deals, hot young New Yorkers, and YA fiction? To those ends, we contacted our (best) friend and author Lauren Oliver (indeed, she's hot), who recently got a "significant deal" (that's publishing lingo, not my own) for two young adult books. The first, tentatively titled If I Should Fall (Bowen Press/Harper), is due out in 2010. Here's an excerpt from our email Q&A:
1) What kind of
process did you go through to get this deal?
This wasn’t the first book
I’ve tried to publish, actually. I’d written two adult novels
previously. The first got me literary representation but no deal; the
second didn’t even get sent out because it was a big mess (I’m still planning
on returning to it at some point, though).
It was weird; the idea for
this young adult novel just came to me and I couldn’t stop thinking about
it. I spoke about it a little with my mom and dad, since I still need
their advice/approval for pretty much every decision I make. Everything
seemed to crystallize easily in this case (though I still feel as though I paid
my dues; I’ve been writing every day since I was about five). I wrote
sixty pages and a detailed outline. I had a pretty clear sense of where I
wanted to go with the story.
Then I approached one agent
and one agent only—Stephen Barbara of the Donald Maas Agency, who’s absolutely
amazing. He went to the University
of Chicago and he’s just
so good at his job, really committed, goes to bat 100 % for his authors,
etc. I’d reconnected with him at a publishing event (I work in publishing
as well) and so I gave him my sixty pages and outline and crossed my fingers he
would like it. He did; he got back to me in record time, we went out to
breakfast, I felt super fancy, and we formalized it. He’s the one who
came up with the pitch letter (that’s why having a good agent is so
important—an agent really can represent your work better than you, and
agents aren’t shy about bragging on behalf of their clients!). The
partial manuscript went out to about fifteen publishing houses and was
pre-empted by Brenda Bowen at HarperCollins. She’s starting up her own
imprint there and I am so, so thrilled that my book will be on her list. She’s the kind of person who just inspires trust and confidence—which is good,
because I tend to freak out a lot.
2) What's the book about? I
know it's a two-book deal -- will the second one be a sequel, or something
I don’t want to give too
much away, but. . .the protagonist, Samantha, dies in the first chapter.
However, she continues to wake up, again and again, on the day of her
death. She ultimately figures out that the life she must save is not her
own, but beyond that the book is really about discovering what is important and
valuable about life. At first she feels cursed by the situation she finds
herself in, but ultimately she’s being given an opportunity that rarely
presents itself in real life: a second chance.
The second book will not be
a sequel. I didn’t think I could get away with killing Sam off and then
resurrecting her more than seven times, to be honest.
3) What's it like knowing
that you're going to be a published author?
It’s like the moment right
before a storm when everything gets still. . .just kidding! Wouldn’t it
be annoying if from this point on I started answering every question like a
“writer”? Seriously, it’s an amazing feeling, although it still seems
very surreal. I feel incredibly validated and very blessed; it’s just a
wonderful thing to know that there are people out there, smart people, who believe
that I have a talent for this thing I love so abidingly.
4) You're currently in
NYU's creative writing program. Why did you decide to go to graduate school for
writing? Do you ever think that now that you've got this deal, it's a waste of
Oh, it’s totally a waste of
money and time. JUST KIDDING, NYU! I think it’s been a really
valuable experience, actually. I mean, look, many writers don’t go and
get their MFAs--most don’t. The only thing that makes you a writer is
writing. But attending an MFA program allows you to focus very heavily on
doing just that for a few years; it forces you to generate large quantities of
material, it forces a kind of discipline, it forces you to read, read,
read. In other words, it helps you hone and develop the habits of
a writer. I think that’s invaluable. And it’s amazing to benefit
from the critical eyes of so many intelligent people, and you become a more
analytical reader, as well. That can only help.
Plus, I think people in the
publishing world take MFA programs seriously. I think to them, again, it
indicates a certain amount of discipline. I really have no proof of that;
it’s just my general impression but I’m going to go ahead and claim it. Claiming things without proof: something I did not learn in my MFA
program. That technique was honed in college.
I eat ketchup on
everything. Even on tomatoes. People think it’s really gross.