It's unlikely that you haven't heard Beth Revis's name before. She's a multi-published YA author who is among our MSFV Success Story Authors, and an absolutely lovely person. I'm thrilled to be celebrating the release of her non-fiction book for writers, Paper Hearts, by offering this interview and a fun book giveaway!
AUTHORESS: So, let's go back to July 29, 2009, when your entry for A LONG WAY HOME posted on MSFV for Jodi Meadows's Query Contest. What led you up to that point? And what happened next?
BETH: Prior to that point, I'd written ten other novels. And I'd queried them and eventually trunked them. In fact, there may be some other trunked-Beth-books in the MSFV archives...
Anyway, a lot of writing! And a lot of failure. But I thought I had something with this book (and I did--it eventually became Across the Universe), but I was struggling with those first few chapters. I'd had conflicting critique partner advice on those first chapters, and the MSFV contest helped me to see that I needed to rearrange them.
AUTHORESS: Which is, of course, one of the most exciting MSFV stories ever. :)
So tell us about your success with the Across the Universe trilogy (which graces my downstairs bookshelf).
BETH: AtU was really been about dreams coming true. There's a line in the Harry Potter books about how nothing impossible if you have enough drive. Everything about AtU--it being published, it doing well, it starting my career--that all felt impossible, and now that it's happened, it feels as if nothing is impossible.
AUTHORESS: Your career certainly had a strong start, including bestseller status. So, let's help dispel the myth that, once you make that first sale, you've got it made in the shade. Can you tell us a bit about the next step in your journey?
BETH: Think of it like rolling a ball up a hill. Sure, a great sale with strong numbers on release will push your ball higher up the hill, but if you don't follow that with more--more books, more sales, more work--the ball will just roll back down to the bottom. Unless you're content just releasing a book whenever, without really caring about your audience or reach, and definitely not caring about your career, you can't just sit in an ivory tower and spin tales. You have to keep working, just like at any other career.
AUTHORESS: An excellent analogy!
So, tell us where your adventures led from there.
BETH: It always makes me smile when fans write me and ask me to "never stop writing." That's definitely something no one has to worry about! I don't know what I'd do with myself if I stopped!
As I was wrapping up the Across the Universe trilogy, I tried to think of what I should write next. The idea that really seized me was a fantasy novel. I wrote the whole book, planned a quartet, sent to readers and...the response wasn't that great. Some of my readers loved it, but at least three-quarters were lukewarm at best. I think I got bogged down in the world building. After talking long and hard to my agent about the book, we both decided the best thing was to shelve it, and maybe return to it later, and maybe not.
That was definitely a hard pill to swallow. I was supposed to have made it! I wasn't supposed to still be shelving books!
The next book I wrote was also strange--a science fiction that was loosely linked to the AtU world. I worked with my editor at Penguin on it awhile, but it ultimately wasn't a good fit for my next traditional book, so I ended up self publishing The Body Electric. It was such a wonderful experience. I was initially scared of doing it, but I think it's like getting a tattoo--after the first one, they become really addictive!
While all this was going on, I was already working on another project, one that Penguin latched onto right away--A World Without You--which will be published by Razorbill next July.
All this to say that in the two years since wrapping up the AtU trilogy, I've written one book that was shelved, one that was self published, and one that will be traditionally published. I'm like a microcosm of writing careers across the board!
AUTHORESS: Which makes you a sort of "everygirl" for those who are watching you. A reminder that there really is no such thing as One Way to success. Your author journey is inspiring in many ways!
So now you've taken your wisdom and experience and connections and have created something new, especially for writers. Will you tell us the story of how Paper Hearts came to be?
BETH: Paper Hearts is something that I've been working on for years, even before I was published. I was a teacher, and I loved being a teacher, so some of the book--such as the grammar chapters--came from that background. And some of it just comes from experience. There's this sort of untalked about awkward stage when you decide you want to be a writer where no one you know really knows the real deal. So many people who don't write assume you just type "the end" and get a book deal. That's why so many non-writers ask, "Is your book published yet?" when you tell them you're working on something.
So I started on my blog first, dispelling some of the myths, trying to be up front and honest in response to questions or common misconceptions I was seeing. And then I moved the random blog posts to Wattpad, so everything was organized into one place. But that kept growing and growing, and people kept asking for it to be in book form. Once I hit 100k reads and libraries started contacting me to teach workshops based on the Wattpad book, I decided to shift it into real publication.
AUTHORESS: Paper Hearts feels like a love story to me. That may be because I went into this knowing more of your story, but I think that any writer who reads this book will feel the love. It's so much more than a "how to" book.
Can you put into words what I am so desperately trying to? What makes PAPER HEARTS more than your average "how to be a writer" book?
BETH: Paper Hearts is very much is a love story! It's the story of my own love affair with writing, of my love for fellow readers and writers, of my love with the dream of writing.
But it is most definitely not a "how to" book. Because I make it very clear very early that there is no such thing as a "how to write" book. None exists. The best I can do is explain what I went through, and what helped me, and what didn't, and hope that it helps someone else.
That's not to say it doesn't have specifics. It's not a life story. It does go into great detail of the very specific strategies that help me write. But it doesn't say they're the only way.
AUTHORESS: Another thing I love about Paper Hearts is your transparency. It's "here's my journey, here's my heart", and not just "here's what I know" -- though there is plenty of that as well.
In short -- it's the first writing advice book that I will actually feel good about recommending to writers who want some specific guidance.
Aside from the excellent take-away of "there is no one RIGHT way to write", what else can readers expect to get out of this book? Can you distill the book's "mission", if you will?
BETH: Aw, thank you so much! <3 p="">
I think the real incentive for me to get this book into print was the fact that I a lot of the questions I kept hearing all sum down to one simple answer: calm down. Before you're published, there's a lot of unknown about what writing can be like. People worry that they have to fit a certain mold or that they'll make one tiny mistake and ruin their chances at ever being published. It's not like that. We fear the unknown, though, so I'm trying here to take away some of the unknown, and hopefully the fear.
AUTHORESS: So much wisdom here! For those of you who are dying to get this wonderful book into your hands, here's the info:
Would you like a signed copy? Contact my local indie Malaprops.
Indie Bound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBookstore |
Thanks so much for this Release Day interview, Beth, and for the honor of being mentioned as a resource in PAPER HEARTS. May your words of encouragement and common sense reach the writing masses!
BETH: And thank you for hosting me and all you do for aspiring authors!
Here comes the fun part! How would you like to win a signed paperback copy of Paper Hearts? You know you want one! So here's what you have to do:
In the comment box below, write the most hyperbolic plea you can possibly come up with, begging Beth for your copy. Enter as many times as you'd like! Beth will read all the entries and choose her favorite.
Yanno, something like:
Beth! If I don't receive a copy of Paper Hearts in the next 48 hours, my entire pulmonary system will shut down, and my lungs will implode and create an alternate universe in which only carbon dioxide-breathing organisms will survive, which means the destruction of this world as we know it!
The contest is open NOW, and will close at 11:59 pm EST on Wednesday, November 18.
On your mark, get set, go!3>
Beth Revis is the NY Times bestselling author of the Across the Universe series. The complete trilogy is now available in more than 20 languages. Beth is also the author of The Body Electric and several short stories. Her nonfiction books, the Paper Hearts series, gives writers advice on craft, publishing, and more. A native of North Carolina, Beth is currently working on a new novel for teens, tentatively scheduled for 2016. She lives in rural NC with her boys: one husband, one son, and two massive dogs.