Authors on the Verge: Meet Cyn Balog, young adult fantasy novelist

Cyn Balog
Cyn Balog

This week we have the sensational Cyn Balog! She’s a normal, everyday Jersey Girl who always believed magical things can happen to us when we least expect them. She’s also the Race & Event Manager for several national fitness magazines. She lives outside Allentown, Pennsylvania with her husband and young daughter. Both are 100% human, or so she thinks. FAIRY LUST is her first novel (Delacorte, Summer 2009).

Tell us a little bit about FAIRY LUST.

Fairy Lust
Fairy Lust

Morgan Sparks may be just a sophomore in high school, but she already has it all. As the school psychic, her ability to predict futures about Harvard educations or Justin Timberlake backstage passes have made her the most popular girl in town. She has her own entourage of freshmen hanging on her every word. The varsity football team has named her their lucky charm. And on top of it all, she’s attached at the hip to, and destined to forever be with, the most scrumptious hunk of man J.P. Stevens High has ever seen—her next-door neighbor and varsity quarterback Cam Browne. They are going to be together forever, her future is already set in stone… So maybe that’s why Morgan has always had one rule: Never look too far into her own future. But suddenly, a few weeks before her Sweet Sixteen party, that’s all she can think about. Why is Cam acting distant? Who is the strange “relative” that shows up on Cam’s doorstep late one night? And above all, why, in her visions of her own future, is Cam nowhere to be found? The Cam she grew up with, her best friend and the boy she thought she knew positively everything about, is slowly drifting away, though nothing in her visions can explain why. Neither Cam nor Morgan can understand, but Cam’s strange “cousin” Pip Merriweather, who showed up unannounced on his doorstep a few days before, has the answers. Pip claims that as a baby he was stolen and replaced with a sickly fairy, sixteen years before. But that sickly fairy didn’t die… Cam didn’t die. And now the fairies want him back.

Now let’s start the interview, Cyn. Tell us about your first offer. Details, details!

The book had been on submissions to a few editors for about three weeks and I was under the impression that if it were a hot item, people in NYC would be beating each other up and selling their souls to the devil in order to guarantee they had the honor of publishing it. Instead, crickets. I’d just resigned myself to the heartbreaking notion that this wasn’t “the one,” that I’d probably need to get another book ready for submissions, a better book. Then I got the call from my agent. It was Friday, and I was at work. She said that Delacorte had offered a pre-empt. I screamed and cried; people thought it was bad news, like my family had been hurt or aliens were invading my backyard or something. Then I called my dad and started crying and croaking out nonsense, so he thought I had to be on the side of the road somewhere, dying. When I was able to choke it out, he started crying, too. When I got home, since we have a toddler and a nice restaurant is out of the question on Friday, my husband got McDonald’s. Yeah, we know how to live it up.

(Snoop says, McDonald’s?! Next time, ring me up and we’ll hit a fabulous salad bar, sweets!)

So now that you have a contract, what’s it like to be on the other side–on the verge of publication? What does it feel like to be official?

During the submissions process, it was a heart attack every day. I’d mistakenly assumed that after my book sold, I’d feel more confident (Someone wants me!). But now it’s a new heart attack every day. Like, yikes, people I don’t know will read my book! People might hate it! What if I have a signing and nobody comes? What if I don’t sell out my advance? All these brand new worries. But it’s a crazy, exciting, fun kind of nervous. I’m so thankful to be in this position; every day I kind of have to pinch myself.

Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.

First of all, let me just say that I’ve been a writing fool since day one. I used to stay inside writing books about detective cats and runaway tennis balls while the other neighborhood kids were out getting fresh air. It was probably the lack of oxygen that led me to believe it when everyone told me that I couldn’t build a career on writing fiction. After high school, I gave up writing for over ten years. But the urge never fully went away. It was only a few years ago that I picked it up again, and this time, for publication. My first book ended up not selling, and my agent wasn’t crazy about my second book. At that point, when you have nothing left in your arsenal and know you need to start from scratch, it’s a really low, maybe-I-should-quit-right-now kind of feeling. I told myself, “Go ahead, try to quit.” But I’d tried that before, and I knew it wasn’t possible. I submitted a partial of FAIRY LUST to my agent and she said, “This is the one.” And she was right.

And here’s our favorite question. How many rejections did you receive IN GENERAL (not just for these books) before you landed your first major publishing contract?

  • 0-10
  • 11-25
  • 26-50
  • 51-100
  • 100+
  • I didn’t keep track because it was too depressing.
  • I didn’t keep track because I am not that organized.
  • They don’t make a number that big.
  • I plead the fifth.

Tell us about one of your most heart-breaking rejections and about one of your best.

I’m lucky in that my agent search was pretty painless; I only submitted to a few agents and only received a couple of rejections before my critique partner introduced me to her agent, Nadia Cornier. I can honestly say that I’ve never received a personal rejection in my life, so they were all the same: Bad. Is a rejection ever good? In the end, no matter how much an agent or editor sings your praises to the heavens, a rejection always means just one thing, and not a good thing: “No.”

My favorite rejection was short and simple. The editor simply wrote “Thanks, but no.” Of course, the real reason I like this one is because the manuscript wasn’t even mine. (And yes, I forwarded it to its rightful owner.)

How long did it take to sell your books, from putting the first words on the page to receiving an offer? Here are your choices.

  • 0-3 months
  • 3-6 months
  • 6 months to 1 year
  • 1 year – 2 years
  • 2 years – 3 years
  • 3 years+
  • The manuscript has been around longer than I have.

Prior to selling your books, you were …

Working a full-time job unrelated to writing.

I was working as an events manager.

Now that you’ve sold some books, you plan to …

Not change a thing.

I am still, sigh, working as an events manager. No, I love my job! Plus, being a writer is feast or famine, so it’s nice to have that steady paycheck to keep my life sane.

Tell us about a typical day in your writing life.

I’m a big believer in the saying that if you wait for the “right” time to present itself, it never will. I realized this after waiting ten years to start a family with my husband. Something always got in the way—we didn’t have the money, we didn’t have the right schedule, etc. It was never the right time! It’s not perfect, but you make it work. It’s exactly the same thing with writing. I’d love to have no obligations, just days and days stretching out ahead of me so that I could write to my heart’s content. But I have a full-time job and a toddler, and my husband works extra long hours so often, he’s not always around to help out. I strictly regiment my schedule so that I’m working out every morning at 5, and I write during my lunch hour. These are unbreakable appointments, meetings with the CEO of Balog, Inc. I’ve worked in corporate America for far too long, but everyone knows you never break an appointment with the CEO.

(Snoop says, Oh! I think I have to pass this tip on to Cynthea. But I’m the CEO, and I’m hungry!!!!)

Any advice for aspiring authors?

This business is crazy and heartless and it can rip your soul out and tear it in pieces. If you let it. Don’t let it. One minute I was a miserable wretch thinking I’d worked for a year for nothing because I’d never see my work in print, and the next minute I had a book contract. Yes, things move very slowly in publishing, but those things can also completely change your life in a second. And no matter what you have to go through, it always ends up being worth it.

What is one of the biggest myths in children’s book publishing that you wish aspiring writers would just forget about?

That agents and editors are just evil, scary people, waiting to reject you. I know I’m sitting here on the other side of the fence, so this probably isn’t what aspiring writers want to hear, but it’s not really as hard to get published as some people make it out to be. Just as it’s pretty competitive to get your book sold to a publishing house, the competition doesn’t end there because there are thousands of books coming out each month! So, getting published isn’t impossible. It’s actually pretty easy if you write a good book. Agents and editors do NOT want to reject you. They’re looking for good books. That’s what this business is all about.

Finally, Snoop wants to know: You mentioned a detective cat? Tell us more about that. (I hope he’s not a bunnivore.)

Yes. His name was Irving. And he was like Encyclopedia Brown, only feline. Enough said.

This concludes our interview with our latest author Cyn Balog. We wish Cyn much success with her first novel. Check out FAIRY LUST in a bookstore near you next summer!

To see what Cyn’s up to these days, visit her website at http://www.cynbalog.com or her blog at cyn2write.livejournal.com.

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