This week, we have L.K. Madigan. Lisa is married with one son, and two big black dogs. She lives in Portland, Oregon, where it’s green and gray. When she’s not reading, writing or playing with her family, she pursues hobbies like photography, music, bike riding, and sweeping up dog hair.
Here’s a little bit about FLASH BURNOUT, Houghton Mifflin, Fall 2009.
FLASH BURNOUT chronicles a chaotic year for sophomore Blake, who, after taking a picture of a passed-out street person for his photography class, finds himself ditching his girlfriend, prowling skid row and tracking down his best friend’s long-lost mother.
Now let’s start the interview. When you received your offer, what happened?
Tried to keep the car on the road. Tried to unfreeze my brain enough to understand what my agent was telling me. Shook. Made three semi-coherent phone calls to my husband, my sister, and my friend. Went to my job, where I squealed, and jumped up and down, and did almost no work the rest of the day.
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?
For me, it symbolizes validation … that all those solitary hours of writing time were not in vain.
Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.
Write. Revise, revise, listen to critique partners, revise, revise, submit. Collect rejections. Start a blog on LiveJournal. Enjoy wider writing community and meet new friends. Collect rejections. Soak up sympathy and wisdom from writing friends. Accept book deal! Live happily ever after.
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.
Really? Okay, but I need to lie down on your virtual couch while I recount my worst rejection, hereafter to be known as The Incident. From initial query letter to rejection, I spent five months working exclusively with an agent who requested two rounds of revisions. She was kind and professional, and never promised that I would end up with representation … but if I could go back in time and kick my own ass, I would. Ultimately, she felt that the book wasn’t strong enough for her to sell. While the rejection was painful, I certainly did not want an agent who didn’t believe in my book! Another agent felt differently, and offered me representation. That same manuscript, deemed ‘not strong enough’ by the first agent, was so enthusiastically received by an editor at Houghton Mifflin that she offered me a two-book deal. I see that our time is up, Doctor, so we’ll have to discuss “best” (?) rejections next time. Perhaps I could journal about them in the meantime.
How long did it take to sell your books, from putting the first words on the page to receiving an offer?
2 years – 3 years
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 …
Not change a thing
What are some of the new things you worry about now that you have a contract?
That I will get run over by a bus before I live to see my book in print. No, I’m kidding. Kind of. I worry about being a one-hit wonder. Thanks for asking.
If you’ve already begun or have finished the editorial process with your publisher, let you us know what that’s been like.
I found the revision process for FLASH BURNOUT really exciting – my editor sent me a letter with big picture suggestions, and a marked-up manuscript with specific comments. I just finished the revision process for my second novel – due out in the Fall 2010 – which was a bit more intense. But still exciting!
Describe a typical day in your writing life.
First the Inspiration Fairy wakes me gently, and hands me a cup of coffee and a hot, fresh burst of genius prose. Actually, no. I don’t have typical writing days, since I work full-time at a regular job. My writing life consists of begging, stealing, and snatching time to write. You might find me staring bleary-eyed into my laptop at 5:30 a.m., scribbling notes at stoplights, or asking my family to go out for pizza while I work on a manuscript. When I’m deep in the middle of a book, the characters keep trying to talk to me throughout the day. I jot down cryptic notes until I can grab a piece of writing time.
Describe an Ah-ha moment you might have had that influenced your writing in a positive way.
Epiphanies in writing are hard to deconstruct. You may ponder a plot point for weeks, and suddenly one day the answer sneaks into your head while you’re having dinner or taking a shower. It feels like magic, but probably it’s your smart subconscious brain working away on the problem while you’re doing other things.
What is one of the biggest myths in children’s book publishing that you wish aspiring writers would just forget about?
Sadly, it is a myth that if you write a really good book, it will one day be published. As wise Jane Yolen says of the publishing process, “Know that it is out of your hands.” I’ve known several talented writers – better writers than I – who gave up. They couldn’t stand the cycle of queries, submissions, rejections, and close calls. Aside from writing a good book, elements of luck, timing, and connecting with the right people all play a part in getting published. If you believe in your book, you should never give up. But you should also keep writing, because you don’t want to pin all your hopes on one book.
Any inspiring quotes you live by?
There are so many terrific quotes! In fact, here’s a collection of them: http://www.quotegarden.com/writing.html But one that I keep handy when I’m in the middle of a novel comes from E.L. Doctorow: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
Any advice for aspiring authors?
Observation and imagination. You need both to write fiction. And don’t fear the words! Let them pour out, even if they’re stilted and trite. Until you put words on the page, you have nothing to work with. I promise you they will improve as you polish and revise.
Aside from WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS<—shameless plug, are there any other books on craft you recommend?
BIRD BY BIRD, by Anne Lamott. ON WRITING, by Stephen King.
Finally, Snoop wants to know: What do you mean, you “love to punch and kick”? I take tae kwon do with my son. I’m still a beginner, but I love it! The round kick is my favorite. My instructor says my kicks are “gorgeous.” (Preens.)
This concludes our interview with our latest author L.K. Madigan. We wish her much success with her debut novel FLASH BURNOUT.
To see what Lisa is up to these days, visit her blog at http://lkmadigan.livejournal.com.