1. When did you come up with your original idea for your novel?
I originally came up with the idea for The Island of Lote when I was fourteen. Up until then, I had spent my life starting novels, but never getting past the first couple of chapters. During the seventh grade, I got a lot of positive reinforcement about my writing from my teacher, and it made me want to write a whole book. I didn't want to use a previously fabricated story. Instead, I wanted to start from scratch and create as I went. I was playing with this idea of a sassy, go-against-the-grain sort of heroine, who was my own age. From there, Milo Hestler was born.
2. How long did it take you to finish the actual writing of the book?
Well, the first draft only took me five and a half months. From Thanksgiving vacation of 2004, to the fifteenth of April, 2005. It was the fastest first draft I've ever done. So far, anyway. But, I suppose completing the whole thing took years. Years of proofreading, losing data, rewriting, and the final, splendid revision in 2011. There were years in between where the manuscript lay dormant, awaiting publication. During that time, I was honing my writing skills, advancing my abilities. The 2011 revision of the book allowed me to bring it up to my current caliber, which is excellent, since it's what's representing me as an author right now.
3. How did your book ultimately find its way to publication, and what is your advice to other authors based on your own experience in publishing your first book?
Ultimately? It was God's grace that led this book to be published. After high school, I was adamant that I was going to get the manuscript out into the world one way or another, and that it would be the start of my career as an author. But I ran into trials that prevented me from sending it out to a publisher, and when I finally did, in 2010, I had to wait six months to hear back. That was some of the hardest six months of my life. When I found out the publisher did not accept unsolicited manuscripts, which is a common theme right now, I broke down. But then I got angry, and when I get angry, I get active. I went on an internet rampage, submitting information to every link that asked for it (most of them turned out to be self-publishing offers, but I didn't know that at the time), including a site for an agency. After two days of feeling hollow and hopeless inside, I woke up in the morning and prayed. I told God that I didn't know what to do, and that I would do whatever He wanted, even if it meant not being an author, as long as He took away the empty, cold feeling inside me. I asked Him to take over the reins. Then, I rolled over, got on my laptop, and discovered an email from someone I'd never heard of before. They had the information I had sent to the agency, and they wanted to see my manuscript. They asked for it. Overjoyed, I sent it to them, and they got back to me within seven days, saying they wanted to work with me. I went from six months to seven days in the hands of God. So, me getting published was half accident, half miracle. I prefer miracle, though.
To other authors, first off let me say I know how you feel. It sucks right now, but if you want it, you have to stick with it. Don't give up. Kate DiCamillo once said, "You don't have to be talented. You just have to be persistent." Super-talented writers never go anywhere because they are scared of rejection. I know because I was almost one of those. Don't give up or get discouraged. There are now multiple options for authors out there, from traditional publishing, to independent, to self. Do lots of research and figure out which one sounds best for you.
4. As an author who regularly interacts with her readers, how do you utilize tools like Pinterest and Goodreads, in addition to Facebook?
I interact with my fans primarily through Facebook. I have both a page for the book and a page for me as an author. But I also have several Pinterest boards, a Goodreads account, and other accounts all over the place. I recently put together a website, where people can find everything I've been doing in one place. There are book sites galore on the internet for connecting with readers. I particularly like Young Adult Book Central. I've had conversations with people on there. I have a YouTube channel, where readers can watch trailers for my book and leave comments and stuff. Goodreads is cool because it's connected to my blog, Fueled By Whimsy, and so whenever I post an entry, it also appears on Goodreads. Pinterest is great because it allows people to share on their own. It gives them a sense of contribution.
5. What are you currently working on?
I'm working on a ton of things right now. I have a book in revision on my computer, a first draft I've been trying to finish for years, and bins of notebooks that have accumulated over the years. They are filled with stories I've been planning for a long time, waiting patiently for when I can give them my full attention. I've got lists and notes and charts on a multitude of stories. But, everything in its own time. First, I want the world to know about The Island of Lote. I consider this book to be the spade that breaks the ground, if you know what I mean.