Posts Tagged debut novel

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

WNDMG – Guest Post – Christina Li Why Kids Need Diverse Middle Grade

Christina Li
We Need Diverse MG

Artwork by Aixa Perez-Prado

 

Happy New Year,  from all of us at We Need Diverse MG … and WOW, are we excited it’s finally 2021!

For our first entry in 2021, we’ve got a real treat: a guest post from debut author Christina Li. We’re excited to tell you all about Christina’s debut novel, CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE (Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins) … but first, a great reflection from Christina on why kids need diverse middle-grade books.

Christina Li

Photo credit: Bryan Aldana

Guest Post: Christina Li

See it and Be it: Why Kids Need Diverse Middle-Grade books 

By Christina Li

One of the texts I read at the beginning of high school was Emily Style’s piece, “Curriculum as Window and Mirror”, in which she described literature taught in education as a series of mirrors and windows. Later on, I also read a piece in which Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop added that literature can be viewed as not only mirrors and windows, but also sliding glass doors. More often than not, literature is made of books that are “windows”—in which you can peer through and see the experiences of others, or “sliding glass doors”, in which you can walk in and experience the author’s story as a participant. Sometimes, literature ends up being a “mirror”, in which you can view experiences that reflect your own identity, culture, and upbringing.

Growing up, I never had thought of literature as mirrors or windows or sliding glass doors—books were simply just escapes for me. I grew up as a shy child–the kind who, when the teacher called on the class to share their answers or their work, would silently hope to not get picked because even the thought of reading a paragraph aloud to the class terrified me. And so, naturally, I fell into books. I read about kids going on epic quests and facing down fearsome monsters and saving the ones they loved. I read about them standing up to bullies and finding a voice.

((Like Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s sliding glass doors perspective? Read this archived MUF post here which also investigates windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors.))

Seeing Through Windows

It didn’t really register in my mind that for the most part, the books I were reading had main characters who didn’t look like me. I didn’t realize that for the most part, I was looking through windows, until I read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. It was a Chinese mythology-inspired middle grade novel about a young girl named Minli who, upon hearing magical tales from her father, sets out to change her family’s fortuneIt wasn’t just that I fell in love with the book itself, with its enchanting magic, the sweeping quest of crossing lands to find fortune for one’s family, and the talking dragon (because who doesn’t love talking dragons?). It was that Minli was the first Asian protagonist I’d ever come across, and looked like me and spoke the language that I spoke and was clever and resourceful and caring. It was that the story referenced the cultural details that I also grew up with. It was that I was, for the first time, finally looking into the mirror.

Being the Hero

I didn’t realize for so long that I was seeing myself only passively portrayed in books—if at all—until I finally saw myself actively reflected in a story. I saw myself as someone who could be the hero of the story—someone who could take charge and speak up, someone who could go on her own adventures and actively shape her destiny. And moreover, I saw myself as someone who could write those stories as well. I raced through the rest of Grace Lin’s books, and just weeks later, I began slowly brainstorming story ideas of my own. And the following year, when the teacher asked for volunteers to share their pieces during the creative writing unit, I was one of the first to speak up and volunteer.

In my experiences as a reader and a writer, seeing yourself—your identity and background and culture—reflected in books is one of the most validating things in the world. You’re no longer a passive observer; you actively relate to the narratives in the story. You see little cultural elements and details included in the book that you’re familiar with and you feel a small, comforting connection. You see characters who look like you take on struggles and challenges and epic adventures with bravery and resilience, and you think, I can be brave too.

Serving as Mirrors

Over the years it’s brought me so much happiness, as an Asian reader and writer, to see and read more and more diverse middle grade books with protagonists of Asian descent. And it’s been such a validating experience to write Asian middle grade stories of my own. In my own debut novel, Clues to the Universe, it was an absolute joy to write one of the main characters, Ro, a biracial Chinese-American girl. I loved including small details from my own Chinese-American upbringing, from pastries to jasmine tea to having Ro’s mother address her with the same endearing term that my own mother addressed me with. And moreover, I loved having Ro’s character shine on the page, with her hopes and fears and dreams. She was a fearless and inventive scientist. She had sky-high ambitions but was also struggling with grief and loss. She embraced her Chinese culture. She wasn’t afraid to speak out on behalf of her friends and her family. And most importantly, she was unquestionably and uncompromisingly the hero of her own narrative.

And that is truly what diverse books do, and what I hope to accomplish with my books: to include narratives that help serve as mirrors. That can help readers feel seen. That help kids feel like they can—and deserve to be—the heroes of their own stories.

About CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE

Clues to the Universe

On the surface, Rosalind Ling Geraghty and Benjamin Burns are completely different. Aspiring rocket scientist Ro normally has a plan for everything. Yet she’s reeling from her dad’s unexpected death, and all she has left of him is a half-built model rocket and a crater-sized grief that she doesn’t know how to cope with. Artist Benji loves superheroes and comic books. In fact, he’s convinced his long-lost dad, who walked out on his family years ago, created his favorite comic book series, Spacebound–but has no way to reach him.

Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners. But when a mix-up turns the unlikely pair into friends, Benji helps Ro build her rocket, and Ro helps Benji search through his comics—and across the country—to find out where his dad truly could be.

As the two face bullying, loss, and their own differences, Benji and Ro try to piece together clues to some of the biggest questions in the universe.

CLUES TO THE UNIVERSE publishes next week … on January 12, 2020.

Christina Li

Christina Li is a student studying Economics at Stanford University. When she is not puzzling over her stats problem set, she is daydreaming about characters and drinking too much jasmine green tea. She grew up in the Midwest but now calls California home. You can find her here:

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