Authors on the Verge: Meet David Macinnis Gill, middle grade novelist

David Macinnis Gill
David Macinnis Gill

This week we have writing dynamo David Macinnis Gill. David is the author of the debut novel, SOUL ENCHILADA, due out in May 2009 from Greenwillow/HarperCollins. His stories have appeared in several literary magazines. He is the current President of ALAN (The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents) and an Associate Professor at UNC Wilmington. A former high school teacher, he lives on the North Carolina coast with his wife and children, fourteen fish, two birds, a nocturnal marsupial, and a very fat sheltie.

And here’s the scoop on SOUL ENCHILADA …

Soul Enchilada
Soul Enchilada

Eunice “Bug” Smoot is shocked to discover that her deceased grandfather financed his classic car by offering his soul to the devil; now, the repo man is back to repossess the car, her grandfather is hiding out in the afterlife, and Bug is left to settle the matter.

Now let’s start the interview, David. When you received your offer, you were …

Speechless for at least two minutes. The deal had been in the works for about a week when my agent called, so I expected the call. What it didn’t expect was the enthusiasm that the publisher had, and as my agent went through the details, I sat on the other end, barely breathing. Finally, she paused. I think I was able to squeak loudly enough to let her know I was still on the line.

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?

It feels every bit as nerve-wracking as being on the unsold side. Only the model of racks has changed. The self-doubting questions have changed from “will an editor ever buy this?” to “will a reader ever buy this?” But it’s a good kind of self-doubt because you know that the book will be on the shelves, no matter what kind of neurotic episodes you have about its publication.

Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.

SOUL ENCHILADA started out as a submission to a Halloween story contest. It didn’t win that contest, but it did come in first in the WIN Shorts contest. Last year, I pulled it out of the drawer and expanded it into a novel. At first, I wasn’t sure how the story would be received. I entered it in a couple of hook contests, and the response blew me away. This was a book I had to get right. With the invaluable help of my critique group, I finished the book and sent it out to agents. I was lucky enough to get the agent I really wanted, Rosemary Stimola. After three revisions, the last one major, I got it right, and the book was acquired in a pre-empt by Greenwillow.

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+

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

Asking girls to prom doesn’t count, right? When you reach a level of technical ability, submitting a novel is more about matching the book with the right editor, which is one of the many abilities a good agent brings to the table. My most head-scratching rejection came from a magazine editor who passed on a three page short story with a six-page letter telling me how good it was. In its final incarnation, Soul Enchilada sold to the first editor who read it. It took several rounds of revisions to reach that incarnation, though.

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.

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

Reduce the number of hours I’m working at my current occupation.

Tell us about a typical day in your writing life.

I’m not much of a creature of habit, so I don’t have a typical day. My writing day is like a Seuss book–I can write on a plane, train, or in the rain–anywhere, really, unless someone is asking questions that I have to reply to. Talking and writing seem to require the same part of my brain. My preference is solitude, a laptop, and an-ice cold case of Fresca.

(Snoop says, but what about carrot juice?”)

What are some of the new things you worry about now that you have a contract?

Selling through. Earning out. Writing the second book in the contract. Readings in public. I mean, I read in public all of the time, but for some reason, folks now want me to do it out loud. Seriously, the biggest worry for me is learning the rules on this side of the contract. I knew how to read craft books, attend workshops, query agents, and bite my fingertips. None of that carries over, except the nail biting. That seems to be universal.

If you’ve already begun or have finished the editorial process with your publishing house, let you us know what that’s been like.

What great timing! I posted a chronology of my first revision process on my site at http://davidmacinnisgill.com/wordpress/2008/03/22/a-revision-story/.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Writing is a lonely occupation, and you need other sets of eyes to read your work. Join SCBWI and visit writing forums such as Verla Kay’s blue boards or Absolute Write. Open a blog and start friending other writers. Having a community speeds up the learning curve and softens the blows of those inevitable rejections.

Any inspiring quotes you live by?

The last line of Tennyson’s “Ulysses”–“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,” is a reminder that quitting is not an option for writers, even success eludes us. Also, Chris Crutcher gave me some great advice about creating characters (and therefore, stories): “Find somebody you like, pile crap on them, and see how they react.”

(Snoop says, Hey! That’s what Cynthea does to me all the time! Bah!)

Describe an Ah-ha moment you’ve had that influenced your writing in a positive way.

That the main character needs to be someone the reader roots for. It was more a “duh” than an “ah-ha.”

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

That connections matter more than the writing. Through my day job, I know lots of editors, publishers, agents, and marketing people. None of that networking helped me until I wrote a novel that someone fell in love with.

Aside from WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS<—shameless plug, are there any other books on craft you recommend?

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass.

Finally, Snoop wants to know: What was the first record you bought with your own money? (Snoop can be kinda random sometimes.)

“Parallel Lines” by Blondie. My introduction to New Wave. P.S. I know that no one calls them records anymore, but hey, I dated myself enough with the Blondie reference.

This concludes our interview with our latest author David Macinnis Gill. We wish David much success with ebut novel SOUL ENCHILADA. And Snoop will be sending David a truckload of carrot juice for his next literary masterpiece.

To see what David is up to these days, visit his website at http://www.davidmacinnisgill.com or his blog at http://www.davidmacinnisgill.com/wordpress.

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2 thoughts on “Authors on the Verge: Meet David Macinnis Gill, middle grade novelist”

  1. hurrah! congrats, david!
    great interview!

    and nancy, i think as long
    as you are striving to be a published
    writer or get more books publishes…the
    neurosis never stops!!!

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