Authors on the Verge: Meet Rhonda Stapleton, young adult novelist

This week, we have Rhonda Stapleton. Rhonda started writing a few years ago to appease the voices in her head. She has a Master’s degree in English and a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. Rhonda works as an editor for a legal publishing company and enjoys freelance editing and offering editing workshops. Because one writing group is never enough, she belongs to Romance Writers of America, several online and local writing chapters, and Romance Divas. Rhonda lives in Northeast Ohio with her two lovely, energetic children and fiancé, who are more than enough to keep her busy when she’s not writing. In the twelve minutes of free time she has each day, Rhonda enjoys reading, writing poetry, singing in the shower (and in the car, at work, or basically anywhere that provides oxygen), drinking chai tea, and playing on the internet.

Stupid Cupid by Rhonda Stapleton
Stupid Cupid by Rhonda Stapleton

Here’s a little bit about STUPID CUPID, Simon Pulse, December, 2009.

STUPID CUPID is the first book of a trilogy in which a 17-year-old girl becomes a cupid for her high school, arranging matches with a tricked-out Palm Pilot.

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

…cried like a baby–I got the email from my agent that the book passed the acquisitions meeting, turned toward my fiance, and bawled into his shirt. I was so relieved and happy that I couldn’t even think straight. haha

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 a little frightening, actually, in some ways–because I sold on proposal, the pressure’s on to make sure the rest of my book, as well as books 2 and 3, are up to snuff. However, it’s a wonderful, thrilling validation of my writing to be contracted. Someone else out there loves it and believes in me enough to invest time and money in me! What an amazing gift!!

Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.

I started writing seriously back in 2004. My first book (an adult chick lit) was sent out to over 100 agents, and no one picked it up (some because it WAS a chick lit). I honestly don’t know why, as it was a brilliant book. haha. I found an electronic publisher for it though, and moved on to my second book, which was my first young adult novel. That one got me my agent. However, it was my second young adult novel, STUPID CUPID, that got me contracted with Simon Pulse.

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 plead the fifth.

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

Oh, man. Let me tell you, I’ve had some heart-breaking rejections before, including ones from agents who said they love my writing, but didn’t know where to place my work. Those really are the worst AND the best, I think, because I KNEW I was SO close to finding that right home, but not quite there…it was like an oasis within my grasp, but it faded between my fingers. Torture!!

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

1 year – 2 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 …

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

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

I worry about making sure my writing is on par with where it should be, obviously. I also worry about being able to obtain future contracts and keep my books coming out consistently.

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

Myth–anyone can write a children’s book; they’re so much easier than writing for adults (and because I’ve been around kids, I can write them).   Truth–WRONG. Pick up a book and read it. REALLY study it. Children’s books (especially YA, which I write) have a surprising amount of sophistication, and writing them requires tapping into the core of an adolescent’s emotions and experiences and conveying them AUTHENTICALLY. It’s not an easy thing to replicate, and it takes effort. Luckily, since I seem to be a perpetual teen trapped in a woman’s body, I find it suited to my own voice. hahaha

Any inspiring quotes you live by?

For me, one of the most inspiring quotes was, “Don’t consider yourself a writer–consider yourself a rewriter.” This reminds me to not too much pressure on myself when writing that first draft. No one’s manuscript comes out perfectly; all works need anything from minor tweaking to major overhauling, and my work will likely fall somewhere in the middle. haha

Any advice for aspiring authors?

My first piece of advice–READ READ READ! This is vital–not only read novels and current books, but read agent/publisher/author blogs, keep up on the industry news, etc. Knowing what’s out there, what’s hot, etc is vital for both new and established authors, I believe!   My second piece of advice–WRITE! This is obvious, but if you don’t actually finish a manuscript, how do you know that you can write one? When I’m working on a novel, I write steadily, five days a week, until I finish it. I take this as seriously as my day job.

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

Here are some of my favs:   Strunk and White’s _The Elements of Style_ is a must-have. Having a sophisticated style is vital in writing, in my opinion.  Browne and King’s _Self-Editing for Fiction Writers_ is another great resource.  Scharton and Neuleib’s _Things Your Grammar Never Told You_ is a really fun, funny grammar source. I always recommend this book.  Stilman’s _Grammatically Correct_ (can you tell I have a lot of grammar/style books on here? Well, I think it’s important, and a writer can never have too many tools)  Lukeman’s _The First Five Pages_ is another must-read. You really don’t have much time to grab the attention of that agent or editor!  Marshall’s _The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing_ is a good one if you have problems staying organized or pacing yourself properly.  I hope some of these help!

Finally, Snoop wants to know: why do you hate blue food so much? What did the raspberry slushy ever do to you?  A–Why, that’s a fantastic question. Frankly, I think blue food is gross, and I have a total mental block against eating it. That includes M&Ms, slushies, juice, etc. You don’t find blue food in nature (and NO, I don’t think blueberries count, as they’re purple).   Actually, blue is an appetite suppressant, so if you’re dieting, eat on a blue plate, and you actually eat less food. So, there ya go. haha

This concludes our interview with our latest author Rhonda Stapleton. We wish her much success with her debut novel STUPID CUPID.

To see what Rhonda is up to these days, visit her blog at or her website at

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