Authors on the Verge: Meet Teri Hall, young adult novelist

This week, we have Teri Hall. Teri is a card-carrying hermit who loves to write.

Here’s a little bit about THE LINE, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 2010.

The Line
The Line

Set in the near future, THE LINE chronicles the adventures of fifteen year old Rachel Quillen.  Since her father died in a war, Rachel and her mother, Vivian, have lived in relative isolation on a place called The Property; the home of Ms. Moore, a taciturn woman who makes her living growing orchids.  She hired Rachel’s mother as a housekeeper, even though she sensed Vivian was in some sort of trouble.  Ms. Moore couldn’t be too picky, for there are reasons that good help is hard to find when you live too near the Line.   Part of the National Border Defense System, the Line is an impenetrable barrier intended to protect the Unified States from invasion.  Because of an impending attack, construction of the System had to be rushed, and the last section-called the Line-was built inside the U.S. border.  When it was hastily activated, it created a permanent division between those lucky enough to be on the U.S. side and those who were not.  Families were ripped apart, lovers separated.  The territory left unprotected became known as Away; the abandoned unfortunates who survived the enemy attack became the Others.  Over the years frightening stories circulated about the Others, stories about strange abilities and evil intentions.  The Line became a place to avoid.     For Rachel, the activation of the Line is just a history lesson; it happened long before she was born.  Life on The Property has been good, if rather dull, and the Line is just something that has always been there. But things are about to change in ways she never imagined and suddenly the world outside The Property-a world of government control and corruption, where people without power or influence have few choices-begins to intrude.

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

Smiled.  A lot.  And smiled some more.

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 still feels unofficial.  Though I know it is official in my brain somewhere, I still have revisions to get through.  I am looking forward to them, but I don’t think anything will feel official until I see my book in a book store.

Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.

Wrote book.  Submitted queries.  Got agent.  Got offer.  That’s it so far in a nut shell.    Seriously though, I did not think about trying to get published until a former teacher/friend of mine, who had had a novel published, suggested I should turn a thing I was writing into a novel.  Then, once I had the novel, I thought “Why not?”  Thanks are due to that former teacher/friend!

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?

I didn’t keep track because I am not THAT organized.

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

I really am a disappointment in this area.  I never really thought anything would come of my queries, so I never really had heart-breaking moments over rejection.  Sometimes I would get discouraged, but I have a great friend who always told me “They are the ones who are missing out!  The book is great!”  So whenever I felt blue I would listen to her.  Friends like that are gold.

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?

I worry about deadlines.  I worry that I can revise successfully.  But really, I don’t worry much about anything.  I have always written for my own enjoyment and getting published seems like a (huge, stupefying) bonus.  One should never, ever worry about bonuses.

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

Big question mark for me–still waiting on notes.  I expect it to be fun and difficult.

Describe a typical day in your writing life.

I don’t have a typical day.  Some days I don’t write.  Some days regular life is too demanding.  Some days I think about what I will write.  Some days I write a lot.  Most days that I do write I find it difficult but satisfying.

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

A big Ah-ha for me was that I can make it the way I want it to be.  What happens next?  I get to decide!  Wow!

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

That if you get published you are somehow rich and famous and “better.”  I truly think getting published is a combination of good writing, luck and perseverance. If your goal is to write, then write.  If you get lucky, don’t behave differently because of it.  Thank your lucky stars and spread the joy!

Any inspiring quotes you live by?

The composer Stravinsky had written a new piece with a difficult violin passage,” writes Thomas Powers, quoted in the book Sunbeams. “After it had been in rehearsal for several weeks, the solo violinist came to Stravinsky and said he was sorry, he had tried his best, the passage was too difficult, no violinist could play it. Stravinsky said, ‘I understand that. What I am after is the sound of someone trying to play it.'”    I love this.  You can never achieve perfection.  The attempt to create something meaningful is all that matters for most of us.

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Keep writing.  Be realistic about how writing can change your life.  The big ways it changes it are by adding meaning (for you, certainly, and hopefully for readers) and by allowing you an outlet for your thoughts and feelings.  It isn’t about status, or money, or fame.

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

I am guilty of not reading books on craft.  I try to write what I would like to read, and for me that is clean, well-paced, interesting stuff, where I care about the characters and the story, and where I get more than the sum of the parts from my reading experience.  I love the feeling I get when I have read something that leaves me thinking about larger themes.

Finally, Snoop wants to know: So, what’s up with the cats?

What?  I only have three.  It takes more than three to get categorized, doesn’t it?

This concludes our interview with our latest author Teri Hall. We wish her much success with her debut novel THE LINE.

3 thoughts on “Authors on the Verge: Meet Teri Hall, young adult novelist

  1. Thanks so much for covering The Line! The publisher is actually Dial Books for Young Readers. There was a switch when my editor changed houses.

  2. I loved reading this interview and finding out more about Teri Hall and her new book — which I’m sticking on my to-read list — mostly because I really admired and connected to many of her answers and thoughts. I especially liked this (not least b/c I’m still on the writing and persevering side of the publishing wall)

    “Be realistic about how writing can change your life. The big ways it changes it are by adding meaning (for you, certainly, and hopefully for readers) and by allowing you an outlet for your thoughts and feelings. It isn’t about status, or money, or fame.”

    This goes along with something I’ve been thinking about, that no matter how hard it is to submit and face rejection, it is so much better than giving up and surrendering to a quiet, vanilla life. Writing is about adding meaning — it is the goal, in and of itself.

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