Authors on the Verge: Meet Deborah Lytton, young adult novelist

Deborah Lytton
Deborah Lytton

This week, we have a STAR and a debut author. Well, all of our debut authors are stars, but she’s really a star, like in movies and stuff! Deborah Lytton grew up in front of the camera as an actress and singer, beginning her career at the age of six. Her screen credits include five years on the hit daytime soap opera Days of our Lives, supporting roles in made for television movies Haywire, The Mae West Story, and The Man in the Santa Claus Suit and guest appearances on The Mod Squad, Family, The Waltons, and The Incredible Hulk. She has also sung on the soundtracks for numerous films, released a self-titled album, and performed background vocals for a number of artists, including Belinda Carlisle, Lou Rawls, and Frank Sinatra.

(Snoop says, BELINDA?!  Ooo, baby, do you know what that’s worth? Ooo, bunnies are the best on Earth.)

Deborah now works as a writer and attorney. Her articles have appeared in magazines including Fit Pregnancy, Pregnancy and Mothering online. And after a childhood in front of the camera, Deborah has become a photography buff herself, both as a hobbyist and as a freelancer.   She lives in Los Angeles, California with her daughters and their miniature poodle. JANE IN BLOOM is her first novel.

JANE IN BLOOM by Deborah Lytton
JANE IN BLOOM by Deborah Lytton

Here’s a little bit about JANE IN BLOOM, out March 19th (Dutton).

In the shadow of loss, a wallflower blossoms.

Jane’s big sister Lizzie has always been the center of attention. No one ever pays attention to boring, plain Jane. But when Jane’s twelfth birthday marks the beginning of Lizzie’s final descent into a fatal eating disorder, Jane discovers that the only thing harder than living in her big sister’s shadow, is living without her.  In the wake of tragedy, Jane learns to look through her camera lens and frame life differently, embracing her broken family and understanding that every girl has her season to blossom.

Now let’s start the interview. When you received your offer, what happened?

My agent, Stacey Glick, (Dystel & Goderich Literary Management) called and left me a message that she had good news.  When I called her back, she told me that Dutton was making an offer on my manuscript.  I think I was in shock at first.  It was one of those moments you never forget.  By the way, I still have her voicemail saved on my cell phone.

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 is so exciting and rewarding, just to know that someone liked my book enough to publish it.  I am doing my best to live in the moment and enjoy this experience.  Selling a book definitely validates your work, but the truth is that I would still be writing even if I hadn’t sold the manuscript, because (as all writers know) when you’re a writer, you have to write.

Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.

I wrote the complete manuscript for JANE IN BLOOM before my agent submitted it to editors.  I just wrote a story I wanted to write, without thinking about whether it would sell.  Lucky for me, Julie Strauss-Gabel (my editor at Dutton) connected with the story.

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

If I count every freelance submission, screenplay and novel manuscript…

  • 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.

I think my most heart-breaking rejection involved a manuscript I wrote before I wrote JANE IN BLOOM.  It was the one that landed me my agent, and I felt certain it would sell.  But it didn’t.  And Stacey told me to write something else.  Not what I wanted to hear at that moment, but I did it anyway.  I wrote JANE IN BLOOM.  So my best moment grew out of my worst rejection because she sold the manuscript right away.

How long did it take to sell your book, from putting the first words on the page to receiving an offer?

  • 0-3 months
  • 3-6 months
  • 6 months to 1 year
  • 1 year – 2 years
  • 2 years – 3 years
  • 3 years+

Prior to selling your books, you were …

  • Working a part-time job unrelated to writing
  • A stay-at-home mom.

I am a single mom, and I want to be home with my daughters like a stay-at-home mother, so I work part-time as an attorney, and I shoot photographs on the weekends.  I write at night while they’re sleeping.

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

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

My plan is to become a full time writer.  Until I sell enough books to make that plan a reality, I will just cut back as much as I can so I can write more.  And pray for more sales!

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

I worry about not selling another book!  I worry about reviews (something I never even considered before).  I worry about having enough time in the day to do all the things I need to do.  If someone has a solution for adding six more hours into each day, I’d love to hear it.

(Snoop says, That one’s easy. Time travel. Do it all the time.)

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

When I first started writing, I wrote screenplays, because I had a background as an actress.  I think my Ah-ha moment came one day when I realized that all my script ideas were for children’s films.  I started thinking about the books that meant the most to me in my life-the ones that shaped my character, and they were the ones I read between the ages of 8 and 12.  Some of those are still my favorites today.  Nancy Drew, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Harriet the Spy.  I wanted to write a book that would mean something to one girl, like those books meant something to me.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Write every day.  Even if it’s just one sentence.  I think writer’s block is just the result of trying to force yourself to write something that you aren’t connected to emotionally.  Don’t be afraid to stop writing something that’s not working for you and try something else.  Don’t give up if this is your dream.

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

A myth that I think many of us have before we are published is that no one is ever picked out of the slush pile.  And I think that is false.  I got my agent from writing a query letter.  She followed up with a request to read the manuscript.  So I believe it is possible, and I believe that even though you don’t need an agent, it is so much better to have one.

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

Aside from Writing for Children and Teens, I love Jane Yolen’s book, Take Joy, A Book for WritersWriting Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg has given me years of inspiration and comfort.  I read all kinds of books on the craft of writing because there is always so much to learn from other writers.

Finally, Snoop wants to know: What has been your biggest surprise on the way to publication?

The support I’ve gotten from other writers.  I had no idea that so many other writers would blog about my book or interview me for their web sites.  I am part of two groups that support debut authors in children’s literature, AuthorsNow! and the Class of 2k9, and through them, I have made so many friends.  It has opened up my world and I am learning so much from all of them.  It’s been a surprise gift.

This concludes our interview with our latest author, Deborah Lytton. We wish her much success with her debut novel JANE IN BLOOM.

To see what Deborah is up to these days, visit her website at http://www.deborahlytton.com or her blog at http://deborahlytton.livejournal.com.

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