Posts Tagged debut author

When a project is finally complete: some thoughts on the imminent release of my debut novel

Started knitting this sweater July 2021, completed July 2022. It fits perfectly 👌(Which never happens when you’re short, so yay! 😀)

My sweater

Sometimes it feels like everything takes me a long time to accomplish. Knitting this sweater-jacket took me a year! A story I often tell myself is that things take me longer than other people. But when I’m being more honest I know that often within this are choices that I’ve made. During the year I was knitting this sweater I also crocheted a kippa, knit a cardigan for my daughter, learned how to darn, continued to work on an ongoing not-yet-completed needlepoint project, started knitting a hat and started crocheting a toy giraffe.

 

Sure it would have gone faster if I’d just concentrated on this one thing. But it suited me to complete several smaller projects while I was working on this larger one. There are several reasons for this:

1. It’s very satisfying to finish something. It makes me feel in control and that I’ve accomplished something.

2. It’s fun to start something new! Choosing colors and patterns for a small project that I know won’t take me too long offers a break from the longer project.

3. Starting and completing a smaller project deliberately prolongs the longer one; it can be bittersweet to say goodbye to something I’ve been working on for a long time.

 

 

My book

I wish I could say this is an exact metaphor for the journey of my debut novel, Honey and Me, which I wrote the first draft of 10 summers ago! It has been a long journey with this novel. And unlike knitting a sweater, it hasn’t always been a matter of how much I worked on it or if I put it aside for a little while to work on something else, or that I worked on it alongside other writing projects. Yes, I have been working on other projects which I hope I get to share with readers at some point, but Honey and Me’s journey was mostly not a question of choices of what to focus on, and many aspects of it were far beyond my control.

Which is comforting in the sense of thinking about a writers journey: no matter how much you will it or want it, it is not under your control how long it might take an agent to read your query letter, and if they decide they want to read your whole manuscript, you don’t have control over how long that takes them. When you do get an agent you can do your best to take their suggestions to get it ready for submission to editors, but you have zero control after that in terms of if/when an editor reads your work, sends it to the editorial committee, makes an offer… And even once you get the magic offer, a whole journey begins anew, again with many aspects beyond one’s control.

What you do have control over

But what you do have is control over the quality of your work. Barring life circumstances that might get in your way—health, other jobs (in which I include running a home, raising children, caring for elderly parents…)—when it’s in your lap you have control over when and how long it takes to write, rewrite, revise, incorporate editorial notes. You have control over what you put into it. You also have control over how you try to get it out into the world. No one can see it if it stays as a file on your computer. Sure, you can’t be rejected if you never give anyone the opportunity to reject it. But then of course you can’t have the opportunity for someone to say, ‘wow I love this so much, let’s go on this journey together!’

Belief in your work

Even when I just couldn’t quite get to where I was trying to go in the journey of Honey and Me, even when there were roadblocks, stumbling blocks, dead ends, and scenic routes, I believed wholeheartedly in my story, my setting, and my characters, Milla and Honey. If I hadn’t, I don’t think I would have had the capacity for perseverance and tenacity that finally getting to see my book about to be published required.

What happens when the sweater is finished?

Now I get to wear it! I can’t wait. What happens when my book is published on October 18th and it goes out into the world—into readers hands? I don’t know!
I can’t wait for readers to read it. I can’t wait to talk about it with people. I can’t wait to go into schools and do author visits and presentations (but oh my god am I nervous about that. Excited! But nervous.)

Will they like it?

My sweater is for me. Someone might see it and compliment it. But basically if I like it and get use out of it, I’ll be happy with it. My book is a different beast altogether. Actually, it’s not a beast, and it’s not a garment either. It’s very much itself: a book.
Making art and specifically writing a book is a complicated enterprise: yes, we write for ourselves, because we have a story to tell, because we have art to make. But we write with an audience in mind. We want an audience. We write to tell readers a story. We write to give readers something.

What if they don’t like it?

What if reviewers say it sucks?* What if no one finds out about it? What if the tree falls in the forest and no one hears?

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know if seasoned published authors have the answers either. For me right now there’s this interplay going on between wanting to be seen, and wanting to hide. Wanting to talk to tons of kids and have public speaking opportunities (both of which I LOVE to do), is fighting with the feeling of wanting to pull a hoodie up over my head.

So all I can say is wish me luck and stay tuned! Honey and Me comes out with Scholastic on October 18th 2022 and is available for preorder wherever fine books can be found.

* but OMG, Kirkus has given it a starred review!!!! ⭐️

Cover Reveal – DRAGONBOY (HEROES OF HAVENSONG SERIES), by Megan Reyes

MUF cover reveal logo

Cover Reveal: DRAGONBOY

It’s cover reveal day at Mixed-Up Files, and we’re thrilled to share the cover for DRAGONBOY, by debut author Megan Reyes, illustrated by Ilse Gort and designed by Sylvia Bi.

Plus, an extra treat: Megan has shared a sneak-peek excerpt JUST for our fabulous MUF readers.

Okay …. here we go …. the cover for DRAGONBOY:

blurred image of a cover illustration with gold and blue highlights

Smile. Okay, this isn’t QUITE the cover. Not yet … but soon!! And I promise it’s AMAZING and worth the wait.  Just a minute or two longer…

When we do a cover reveal here at Mixed-Up Files,  before we show you the art, we love the chance to hear from the wonderful creators who turn an author’s themes and characters into covers that will lure readers to pick up the book. For DRAGONBOY, that illustrator is Ilse Gort.

Meet Ilse Gort

head shot of cover illustrator Ilse Gort, a white woman with long blond hair

MUF: How did you decide which story elements to focus on for this cover?
IG: I was given some suggestions and guidelines for what to put on the cover, such as the thread and the tree which I thought were sensible choices. The author (Megan) had put together a very helpful Pinterest board with example covers that she liked so that I had some idea of the styles and elements she wanted portrayed. The publisher also provided me with the book’s manuscript which I read in full to gain a better understanding of the characters, their emotions and the core of the story. Based on this I wanted to include all of the main characters in such a way that there was no clear hierarchy of importance, since they’re all integral to the story, but I did want to center Blue for the sake of the book’s title (Dragonboy) and also because I felt he is the book’s main sell as a fantasty tale. I also really wanted to try and include the fox character, who caught my eye as an interesting anchor throughout the story and, in my own interpretation, was a representation of sorts of the author herself. Lastly, I was quite set on the cover featuring a sunrise. Knowing that this is the first in a series that seemed like a fitting choice; the dawning of a new adventure.

MUF: Which elements did you enjoy working with the most?
IG:
Honestly, all of them! I very much enjoyed each element in its own right and for its own reasons and I was happy to see them come together so well.

MUF: What is your artistic process for cover art?
IG
: It depends a bit on the client of course, but typically I will start by discussing the basic needs for the cover such as the genre, core elements and layout preferences so that I know what is expected of me and I can make an estimate of the amount of work it will be. Then if all the necessary agreements are made, I begin doing my research. If I have a manuscript or audiobook sample this is typically when I will begin reading or listening. I will gather reference materials and inspiration, then begin sketching. Typically I will provide at least two and up to four sketches for the client to choose from. When they’ve made their choice and given me any necessary feedback I continue with a color mock-up, meaning I roughly paint in the colors so that I can show the client where I intend to take the final illustration. And when that is approved, I move on to actually finishing the piece and implementing any last feedback the client may have.

MUF: What do you enjoy about illustrating cover artwork in general?
IG
: One of the things I enjoy about cover illustration for books is that there is so much depth to it. It’s challenging in a very fun way to think about intruiging narratives, hints at story elements, how to spark curiosity and elicit emotional reactions in (potential) readers. There is so much you can do with a book cover and it’s so important to do it well. I love to read and have much respect for writers, fellow artists in their own trade, and I know how difficult creative work is to do professionally. I also know that the phrase “judging a book by its cover” exists for a reason; people dooften judge books by their covers and authors place a lot of trust in an illustrator’s hands (or a publisher’s) to represent the core of their story, all of that hard work, in a single image. The collaborative nature of book covers make them unique as far as marketing art goes and it’s why it’s one of my favorite things to do.

Stay in Touch:

Website

Twitter: @CaraidArt

The Cover Reveal

And now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for … drum roll …. the real cover for DRAGONBOY, by debut author Megan Reyes.

book cover for DRAGONBOY, a blue dragon is centered on a golden background with two characters on lower third - one brown-skinned girl and one Asian boy

Cover art by Ilse Gort Book design by Sylvia Bi

Isn’t it gorgeous???

About DRAGONBOY

This timeless fantasy debut follows four children–a boy turned dragon, his reluctant dragon rider, a runaway witch,
and a young soldier—bound together by the Fates themselves to save their world—and magic itself—from
being destroyed.

The world once known as Haven has been torn apart over centuries of conflict, with humans taught to fear all things magical, dragons driven to near extinction, and magic under attack. Now its future rests with four children from four different lands, destined to restore balance to their fractured world—as the song foretells.

Blue, River, Wren, and Shenli all grew up on different sides of a war they didn’t start, and each will be called forward
for what will become pivotal roles in the battle to restore the balance between humans, dragons, and magic. They
will face shocking secrets and terrifying dangers and discover surprising strengths as they begin to forge a
friendship across barriers put in place long ago.

Read on for an excerpt of DRAGONBOY just after our interview with Megan!

Meet Megan Reyes

MUF: Tell us about the characters we see in this beautiful cover art.

MR: Yay, I’m so happy to introduce you to them! My story has four main characters, each with their own POV chapters, and I’m so thrilled they all made it onto the cover.

Blue is a stable boy who is later transformed into a dragon in order to save the world.

River is a (very reluctant!) dragon rider, who happens to be super afraid of heights. River is incredibly clever, confident, and tends to take things a bit too seriously.

Wren is kind, curious, and… a little clumsy sometimes. She’s a magic human who is supposed to be bound to her Magic companion (note the little purple cloud of light on the cover), but she forgets the words to the binding spell, and her Magic runs away!

Shenli is a Mainlander (a direct enemy of Wren’s people) who is taught to hate all things magic and dragons. He’s 50% charming, 50% cranky, and his family seems to be saddled with never-ending bad luck.

MUF: This is such a lovely cover – did you get to weigh in on any of these details?

MR: I know, isn’t it stunning? Ilse did such a beautiful job and I am in love with it! And, yes, I had quite a bit of input, which was wonderful. My design team asked for ideas, and the first thing I said was that it was important to me that all 4 of my characters made it on the cover. I received 3 different cover sketches then it was whittled down to the favorite. I gave a lot of input into how the characters look and what other things might be included from the story (like the fox, tree, and golden thread). There were several rounds of revisions before the final and I got to see–and weigh in on–each one. It was such an incredible process. I’m lucky to have such a fantastic, supportive team at Random House.

MUF: Is there one element of this illustration that stands out in particular for you as the author or that resonates with favorite parts of your story?

MR: Heroes of Havensong is a series and book 1 is called Dragonboy, so I love how predominantly Blue the dragon is featured. There is a scene from the book where Blue and River are flying for the first time and River spots this strange golden thread floating through the sky. She reaches up to grab it, and… well, you’ll have to read to find out what happens! 🙂 I also love how Wren and Shenli are side by side. They are natural-born enemies who are forced to work together. I think the cover shows a bit of their “we’ll-work-together-but-we-don’t-trust-each-other” relationship. Lastly, there is a fox character who narrates things throughout the book (you meet him right away in chapter 1). He’s one of my favorite characters and I’m so thrilled he made it on the cover!

MUF: Thanks so much for sharing your cover reveal with us!

And now, MUF is thrilled to share our exclusive chance to sample just a bit of what lies behind this gorgeous cover.

Excerpt from DRAGONBOY:

Every twenty-five years, the king of Gerbera is eaten by a dragon.

It is tradition.

What’s that, young one? No, I imagine it isn’t very pleasant, but what else is the human king to do? He has his honor to uphold, after all. And a deal’s a deal. One king every quarter century, and in exchange, the dragons leave the villages of Gerbera well enough alone.

That’s the way it’s always been. For nearly a thousand years.

No, I am not that old. You mind your tongue, kit. Before I toss you to the shadow bears for breakfast.

Of course I’m joking.

Your mother would be furious with me.

Why do the dragons want kings? How should I know? Maybe they taste better than ordinary humans. Leave it to dragons to be so particular. And, no, I don’t know why they wait twenty-five years. Maybe that’s when a human is ripe? I don’t care to think about it too much, if you don’t mind. Now hold still while I get this twig untangled from your fur.

Ah, well, the humans have no choice, you see. They must keep the peace with the fire beasts. They’ve nowhere else to go. Beyond their forest is Dragon Mountain, and that’s where the world ends.

Everyone knows that.

Besides, humans are not as clever as foxes, dear. But don’t hold that against them. They do their best. Oof, stop squirming about, would you? I’ve almost got the blasted twig free.

What’s that? Where do they get the new king? Perhaps they grow kings like carrots. My whiskers, you ask so many questions. You are giving me a headache.

Fine. Fine. You may ask one more. If you must.

What would happen if a king didn’t present himself to the dragons?

Whiskers of mercy! I pale to think of it. Our forest stretches to the base of Dragon Mountain, after all. The fury of the dragonfire would surely be the end of everyone.

No, youngling. Do not fret. You have nothing to fear. Don’t you see? The human king always comes, just as he should. It has forever been thus.

He gives his life to save us all.

Now sleep, little one. If you’re quiet enough, you can hear the moon rise.

Preorder DRAGONBOY:

Preorder a SIGNED copy with fun book swag from A Seat at the Table Books: https://aseatatthetablebooks.org/item/ymASTSSKIbYnzxuyJGXC-Q

OR

Preorder wherever books are sold : https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/695558/heroes-of-havensong-dragonboy-by-megan-reyes/

⭐️ NetGalley requests: https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/261717

⭐️ Add to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60111451-dragonboy

 

head shot of author, a amiling white woman wearing brown frame glasses, with long brown hair.

Megan Reyes is the author of the Heroes of Havensong series for young readers. Megan lives in Northern California with her husband, four sons, two dogs, and an ever-growing collection of dragon and fox figurines. When she’s not writing, she’s probably drawing, painting, going on walks, or getting lost in a new book.

Stay in Touch

Twitter and Instagram: @MReyesWrites

Interview with Nancy Tandon, author of The Way I Say It

Books sometimes have a winding path to publication, and I’m always inspired when I hear those journeys. For the author, it can be such a difficult roller coaster to go through, but it reminds us that when we work hard and persevere, our stories will find homes.

Headshot of author Nancy Tandon

Nancy Tandon

My most recent favorite story like this is from Nancy Tandon. Nancy and I met in 2017 when we were both anticipating our debut books to come out the following year. Mine, THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST, came out in June 2018, but Nancy’s, THE WAY I SAY IT, came out from Charlesbridge yesterday!

And the best part is, Nancy now has a double-debut year, since her second middle-grade book, THE GHOST OF SPRUCE POINT, is coming out from Aladdin on Aug. 2.

It’s a very inspiring and a perfect example of why “never give up” is always great advice for writers, so I’m thrilled to have Nancy on From the Mixed Up Files to talk about her journey.

Here’s what her two books are about:

THE WAY I SAY IT:

Rory still can’t say his r’s, but that’s just the beginning of his troubles. First Rory’s ex-best-friend Brent started hanging out with the mean lacrosse kids. But then, a terrible accident takes Brent out of school, and Rory struggles with how to feel.

Rory and his new speech teacher put their heads together on Rory’s r’s (not to mention a serious love of hard rock and boxing legend Muhammad Ali), but nobody seems to be able to solve the problem of Rory’s complicated feelings about Brent. Brent’s accident left him with brain-damage and he’s struggling. Should Rory stand up for his old friend at school–even after Brent failed to do the same for him?

THE GHOST OF SPRUCE POINT:

Twelve-year-old Parker has grown up in his family’s Home Away Inn, nestled on a wooded peninsula in Maine called Spruce Point. His best friend, Frankie, has been staying at the inn every summer for years with her family. Together, they’ve had epic adventures based out of a nearby old treehouse that serves as their official headquarters for Kids Confidential Meetings.

But lately, business at the inn hasn’t been great, and Parker is pretty sure he knows why. It’s long been rumored that Mrs. Gruvlig, one of the few year-rounders on Spruce Point, has unique abilities of the supernatural kind. And Frankie is absolutely sure she saw a ghost on Mrs. Gruvlig’s property! As more and more spooky happenings occur around the Point, Parker and Frankie are convinced Spruce Point has been officially cursed.

Samantha: Welcome to From the Mixed Up Files, Nancy. These books sound so great! Tell us about your inspirations for the two books you’ve got coming out this year.

Nancy: Thank you for having me here on the Mixed Up Files!

Bookcover for middle-grade novel The Way I Say It by Nancy TandonMy former clinical work as a speech/language pathologist was the inspiration for THE WAY I SAY IT. In the outpatient setting, I worked with several kids with articulation disorders who specifically had trouble saying sounds in their first names. When I began to create my main character, I started with a question: What would middle school be like for a kid whose first name speech-sound difficulties persisted past early childhood?

My second novel, THE GHOST OF SPRUCE POINT, is my attempt to capture the magic and atmosphere of my children’s summer vacations on the coast of Maine. They were together with their cousins, and I watched in awe as the kids grew and changed each year as they explored the gorgeous natural playground of the peninsula where my parents retired. Another inspiration came from a news story I watched about kids with an uncommon allergy to the sun. The resilience of the kids in that interview stayed with me for years and kept coming back to my mind, almost insisting I do something with it! Finally, I did.

Samantha: We were originally in the same debut year, since your debut, THE WAY I SAY IT, was scheduled to come out in 2018 along with mine. What happened that pushed that book back?

Nancy: Ah yes, and I’ll never regret meeting you and the other wonderful 2018 debut authors!

But around that time, the small press that had bought my book was acquired as an imprint of a larger publisher. And the good news was, that new house was willing to take on my manuscript as part of the deal! I was relieved, happy, even excited about this chance to be published by a bigger house.

However, after a year of working to negotiate an addended contract, I still had not heard from my new editor. And the contract negotiations were spinning in circles. (At this point I was un-agented, and I had learned just enough from The Writer’s Legal Guide (a book I highly recommend) to know the offer on the table was not favorable to me). A while later, the second publisher decided not to move forward with my manuscript. My heart sank. I had told everyone I knew about this book deal. I had celebrated with champagne. And now, nothing.

Worse, I had to buy back the rights from the first publisher. (Which is completely on the up and up business-wise, by the way. And in truth, the editing done by that first house was worth the cost. But still, it was painful.) I was embarrassed, disheartened, and very close to giving up all together. I’d had a previous very enriching career as a speech/language pathologist. I began the process of reinstating my license.

Luckily, past me (the one who’d had a book contract and was all excited about kidlit) had signed up for two well-known New England spring conferences that year, NESCBWI and Whispering Pines. I forced myself to attend both.

After the New England conference, I earnestly studied the list of agents and editors who would be open to submissions from conference attendees and sent my work back out there. It felt like I was shouting into the wind, but at least I could still say I hadn’t given up. Not fully, not yet. Even though my heart did very much want me to.

The second conference, Whispering Pines, included a one-on-one consultation with an agent. I reached out with a plea to switch my original submission (the second novel I had been working on) to pages from my first (what I thought of now as failed) novel. The timing was early enough that the agent agreed.

That agent was Rachel Orr from Prospect Agency, who represented (among other amazing authors) a writing friend I’d met through the 2018 debut group: the one and only Samantha M Clark (The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast; Arrow)! You alerted Rachel ahead of time that she’d be meeting me and gave her the head’s up about my manuscript’s twisty past. It was absolutely an essential connection I’ll always be grateful for!

That meeting did not result in an offer of representation from Rachel. (I know! I wanted the story to go that way, too!) But, even better, it resulted in Rachel passing my work to a new agent at Prospect who responded to my work with the enthusiasm needed to take on a new client. I was agented at last!!

Samantha: Yay! I was happy to make that connection, and so glad it led to you signing with your agent. How did THE WAY I SAY IT find its new home with Charlesbridge?

Nancy: Karen Boss, an editor from Charlesbridge, was one of the editors I had submitted to as an NESCBWI attendee. After she reviewed my query and first chapters, she requested the full manuscript. Over the next several weeks, we exchanged emails as she kept me informed of where they were in the process. There were other in-house readers, and a presentation at their acquisitions meeting. Then finally it came. An email that made me shriek and cause a scene in the coffee shop where I was writing with a friend. Re: Offer…

This time, I didn’t have to negotiate the contract on my own, or spend money on a lawyer. My agent at the time, Emma Sector, made sure my interests were represented while also easing the process of getting back my rights to the work.

Everything looked great. Publication was set for 2021. I joined a third debut group. This was happening! But then, due to circumstances at the publishing house, the date of publication got pushed back to 2022. And then of course 2020 and 2021 happened, which weren’t great years to debut anyway (when you can, please show love to writers who did debut in the past two years!!). During this time, I also navigated an in-agency switch as Emma left agenting for a new adventure, and I gratefully landed in Charlotte Wenger’s web. And now: I have held my first novel in my hands. It is winging out into the world to have an adventure all its own. I’m at the copyedit stage of my second novel and am in love with the amazing cover art.

That is my very long answer to your short question! And yes, I can finally say: it was all worth it.

Bookcover for middle-grade novel The Ghost of Spruce Point by Nancy TandonSamantha: So wonderful! Unlike most debut authors, you’re now in the unique position of having two middle-grade novels coming out this year. Tell us how THE GHOST OF SPRUCE POINT found its way to Aladdin.

Nancy: In early 2019, I spent time revising GHOST with my then agent, Emma Sector, who is also a wonderful editor. She really helped me get the manuscript in top shape. She had a very targeted list of editors to submit to, and in fall 2019 THE GHOST OF SPRUCE POINT sold within a week of being on submission, confirming the old adage: publishing is weird!

Samantha: What were the biggest challenges for you over the last few years during this process?

Nancy: The number one biggest challenge for me in all of this was not giving up. I’m usually a “half-full” kind of a gal, but there were times when it just felt like it made no sense to keep going. And it was hard to explain to people outside of publishing what was going on, and at times I honestly felt embarrassed. Where was this book I’d been talking about for years?

But then I’d have a good writing morning. Or my critique group would give me another shot of encouragement. (Or just another shot, haha.) I was also watching the trajectories of my 2018 debut friends, and learning that publication isn’t “the end,” but just a stop on the journey.

Samantha: I love that. So true. Are there any things that have happened that, while difficult at the time, you feel happy about now?

Nancy: In hindsight, I am grateful for the entire string of events that THE WAY I SAY IT had to endure. The book is much stronger than it would have been – in part because I am a stronger and better writer than I was in 2016. And also because of all the talented people who had a hand in helping it and me along the way. I’m so grateful that I got to work with Karen Boss (editor at Charlesbridge) because she pushed me to elevate the work in ways I couldn’t have on my own.

Samantha: Do you have advice for other authors who are going through similar situations?

Nancy: Do. Not. Give. Up. And if you’ve read this far, you can always say to yourself, “well, what’s happening to me isn’t as bad as that one lady who was in four different debut groups. If she can keep going, so can I!”

But seriously, when you are feeling especially disheartened, dig down to the reasons you came to this endeavor in the first place. For me, it boils down to the joy of writing and the incredible people I have met. Once I placed those two things front and center, I knew I could go on forever, whether I was published or not.

Samantha: What are you doing to celebrate your double debut year?

Nancy: I am drinking all the champagne and saying YES to everything that comes my way! I’m also planning a special trip with my husband, who has been an incredible support through it all.

Samantha: Are you working on other future books that you can talk about yet?

Nancy: Nothing I can talk about yet, but I do have a manuscript for a third book that I’m revising. It’s another middle grade and I’m in love with the main character, a girl who is searching for home and finds it in an unexpected place. “Found family” is one of my favorite themes of all time!

Samantha: That sounds wonderful. And finding a home in an unexpected place is exactly what happened with your publishing career. Congratulations on your double-debut year.