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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Inside the Author’s Studio: Answering Some FAQs

I’ve been doing a lot of school events recently—both at high schools and colleges. And at a recent one, the organizer of the event said he was impressed that I had an answer for every question thrown at me. Nothing stumped me. Well, there’s a good reason for this.

After a year of speaking engagements, I’ve been asked many of the same questions multiple times. This isn’t a complaint. Every audience is new, so the answers are new to them. But to me, I’m worried my canned responses are starting to sound like Barack Obama at a town hall meeting the month before the election.



That said, I’ve decided to take some of my most frequently asked questions (those whose answers cannot be found on my website) and respond here.

I call it a:

Q&A Roundout

1. How did you get published?

I wrote my first novel just to see if I could write a whole book. I had no intention of trying to publish it. But once I got to the end, I thought, “Hey, this is pretty good. Maybe I could get it published.”

Since I knew nothing about the industry, I Googled, “How to get a book published.” That’s where I started.

2. Okay, so I’ve Googled and found out you need a literary agent. How do you get one of those?

Simple, you query them. It’s a very drawn out process, not much different from sending out a resume and cover letter. It’s hard, it’s painful, and there’s no magic formula for getting an agent’s attention. I started out with no more knowledge or connections than the average Joe at a coffeehouse with a laptop.

However, having said that, I seriously lucked out. I only queried for two weeks. And my agent, Jenoyne Adams, responded to my e-query within ten minutes. She requested a full manuscript via email, read it and offered me representation within 24 hours. This is not normal, folks. But I’m relaying the story here, so those of you out there in query hell know that it can happen.

3. How do you structure your day? Like, when do you find time to write?


I wrote my first novel while I had a full-time job. Don’t we all? But to get kick-started on the novel, I used to call in sick occasionally to spend a whole day writing (uh, sorry, former employer). I also got the week off between Christmas and New Year’s, which I spent writing. And I got a lot of other little holidays off (Columbus Day, President’s Day, etc.), which I spent writing.

Now that I’m a full-time writer, I can write whenever I want (I don’t have kids). But I usually write in the afternoons. And when I’m working on the first draft of a manuscript, I write 3,000 words per day. However long that takes me is how long I spend writing. Period. I squeeze those 3k words out if it takes me ‘til midnight, or I stop at 3k if I’m done at noon.

4. How do you write so fast? Are you going to bang out another novel by lunch?


I type very quickly. Like really, really quickly. So my first piece of advice if you want to be an author—take a typing class and pay attention.

5. How much editing did you editor do?


Not much, actually. I went through two rounds of edits for each book in the “Amor and Summer Secrets” series. But there were no big, major, sweeping changes made in any of them. I did have to learn the secret language of proofreaders though. So if you want to be an author, be prepared to use your secret decoder ring to decipher the squiggles on your manuscript.

6. How’d you come up with your titles and covers?

I didn’t. There are lovely people at publishing houses who spend their days coming up with quirky titles and clever covers. Authors don’t get much of a say. Really.

However, I did request that they make Mariana’s hair auburn on all the covers (which they changed). And when the bridesmaid dress on the cover of “Adios to All The Drama” was pictured as light blue, I went back into the manuscript and changed it (originally, the wedding had a silver theme). I wanted them to match.

7. Do you think your journalism background helped at all?

Yes! In addition to making me a faster writer, everything I learned at the College of Communication came in handy. I write my own press releases. I created my own book trailers using the editing tools I learned as a broadcast journalism major. I learned how to structure my writing, cut out purple prose, edit my own work, etc. It was all very relevant.

So that’s it for the FAQs for now. If you have any more specific questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll try to shoot some more answers out.


POP CULTURE RANT: American Idol

How many years has this show been on the air? And they seriously can’t structure their time better so they don’t run over. I know it’s live an all, but come on, Ryan Seacrest. That’s your job—to manage the show. Thankfully, I was already recording “Fringe” (the show that comes on after AI), so my DVR didn’t lose Adam’s killer end-of-show performance. But still. Get it together people.

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