This week, we have the magnificent J.E. MacLeod who lives with her husband and son near the Canadian Rockies. Before becoming a full-time writer, J.E. was a copywriter in radio and television. She was also a DJ and still thinks that might have been kind of cool. Waiting to Score (WestSide Books, February, 2009), is her first young adult novel.
Tell us about your first book.
Quirky 15-year-old Zack Chase is a smart, talented hockey player who knows how to score on the ice. Hockey’s in his blood. Trouble is he’s not so sure he wants to follow his late father’s footsteps to become a professional hockey player. But, Zack’s Mom is determined he’ll make it to the pros, no matter what.
When Zack and his Mom move to a new town, incidents on ice and off force Zack to dig deep to find out who he really is–and what he really wants. Is it Jane, the hockey hating Goth girl he’s wildly intrigued with? Or an easier, sure thing?
Soon, Zack faces sore losers, drinking problems, and his own screw-ups with girls. Zack discovers the hard way that sometimes secrets have tragic and far-reaching consequences. He ultimately learns that there are some things that can never be undone, no matter how much he may want it.
Now let’s start the interview. When you received your offer, what happened?
I managed to remain calm on the phone with my agent, but when I hung up I started screaming and singing and dancing. My son giggled and said he’d never seen me so happy. For the next few days I’d break out in spontaneous dance and song when the reality I’d sold a book hit me. Sometimes it was inappropriate.
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’s weird. My non-writer friends must think I made the book-selling thing up. They don’t understand why it takes so long for the book to come out. When the book is finally released into the real world, that’s when it will feel official. I think.
Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.
I started out writing another genre before realizing my true love was YA. Waiting to Score is the first YA I wrote, but I got an agent with a different paranormal YA. I sent my agent Waiting to Score while the other book was out on submission. (It never sold) My agent never subbed Waiting To Score, but while having lunch with my editor found out she was looking for an edgy boy book. My agent said, “Hey. I have one of those.” My editor obviously read it and liked it.
Timing. Luck. Synergy.
(Snoop adds, don’t forget you have to write a great book to begin with!)
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?
Tell us about one of your most heart-breaking rejections and about one of your best.
To me the most heart breaking rejections are the ones when you’re so close you can smell the contract and then…nada. I had a different YA book go through acquisitions…they loved it… so close and then….nope.
The best rejection I had was the first time I got affirmation I might be an okay writer. The letter had detailed explanation of what worked and what didn’t work for the editor. Being validated was so wonderful, I barely felt or saw the rejection.
How long did it take to sell your books, 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+
- The manuscript has been around longer than I have.
What are some of the new things you worry about now that you have a contract?
I worry about the book reviews. I worry about my book being ignored because it’s not a big high concept book. I worry about reaching those elusive high school boy readers and I worry whether they will like it, but I also really hope girls read it too, because I think my book has something to say to both sexes. It’s not just about sports, it addresses some real teenage issues in what I truly hope is not a patronizing way. Did I mention I’m good at worrying?
If you’ve already begun or have finished the editorial process with your publisher, let you us know what that’s been like.
It was surprisingly fun and painless. My editor sent her revisions and copyedits using Track Changes. The manuscript went back and forth a few times, but there was nothing serious we clashed on. I actually enjoyed the process.
Describe a typical day in your writing life.
It’s terribly glamorous. I do Mom stuff and then drop my son off at school. Some days I work out first, and some days I return home and head straight for the laptop. I poke around on the Internet more than I should and then get to writing. By the time school is done I realize I haven’t showered or done any housework and I’m still in my sweat pants. The other mother’s have become tolerant of my style.
After I pick up my son we usually have extracurricular activities to look after. After his bedtime, I usually get back on the laptop. My husband thinks I love it more than him. Some days I do. Just kidding. Honey.
Describe an Ah-ha moment you might have had that influenced your writing in a positive way.
I was lucky enough to attend a Donald Maass workshop when I started writing YA. There were so many ah-ha moments at his hands-on workshop. Then again, I think even finding YA, was an ah-ha for me. I love the books and the voices so much and felt like I’d found my home.
Any advice for aspiring authors?
Read, write. Repeat often. Look for books on craft that inspire you. Try to find someone to critique your work. It’s hard at first to let other people read your work, at least it was for me, but it got much easier. And necessary, if you want to be published.
Any inspiring quotes you live by?
On a recent holiday, Mickey Mouse told me that I could achieve anything if I just believed. It works for me. It can work for everyone. Believe. The mouse says so.
What is one of the biggest myths in children’s book publishing that you wish aspiring writers would just forget about?
I don’t know that I’ve heard many myths other than people believing I am automatically in the same wage bracket as J. K. Rowling if I write Young Adult fiction. Um. No.
I wish there was a secret handshake or something that I could pass along to help aspiring writers sell books, but there isn’t one. It would be nice, but it’s the old story of persistence.
Aside from WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS<—shameless plug, are there any other books on craft you recommend?
As I mentioned, I love Donald Maas’s books. I still use Writing the Breakout Novel during revisions.
I’ve also learned a lot from Stephen King’s book On Writing and Sol Stein’s book, which I believe is called Stein on Writing.
Finally, Snoop wants to know: why did you choose to write from a boy POV?
People often ask why I wrote a boy’s Point of View when obviously I’m not a boy. Weird, but it’s like Zack just came to me, exactly as my book starts. I saw him in the dressing room, dealing with being the new guy again. He’s a really confident character (unusual perhaps in YA) but still dealing with basic teen/human issues. I think he is the boy I wanted to date in high school, but I had to show his flaws too. No one is perfect, right?
This concludes our interview with our latest author, J.E. MACLEOD. We wish her much success with her debut novel WAITING TO SCORE.