Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Mother's Daughter

This article was originally published in my author newsletter earlier this month. I'm sharing it here because I want the world to know that this woman is my daughter. 

Almost fourteen years ago, I wrote my first novel.

I called it "YA Fantasy", but it really wasn't sure what it was, because I wrote it from two points of view: a 15-year-old boy and his 12-year-old sister. It rambled and word-vomited all over the place and included all the tropes, like magic stones and evil sorcerers and a boy who finds out he is heir to a throne. Oh, and star-crossed lovers, too.

Like all first novels, it's...embarrassing.

But, lo and behold, this one held a true magic I never could have foreseen. For it fell into the hands of a 10-year-old girl--and changed her life.

My daughter Maggie became a voracious reader as soon as she mastered phonics and started reading independently. I remember the day I first handed her The Hobbit. It felt like a rite of passage--and I was duly nervous. Would it grab her heart? Was she ready for Middle Earth?

"Let me read the first page to you," I said, "and you can decide whether or not you want to read this one."

So we sat on the landing of the steps leading into our family room, and I read her page 1--and she was hooked.

When she was 10, she read Lord of the Rings for the first time. At that point, I knew I not only had a bonafide bookworm on my hands, but also a hard core fantasy lover. Bestill my heart! So it was with great delight--and a bit of trepidation--that I handed her the pages of The Seeds of Perin Faye, fresh from my fingers and before a single word had been edited.

She loved it. She drew pictures (my first official fan art) and wrote letters to her favorite characters, asking them to please write back.

But that's not the most magical part.

This book--the first of a long series of novels destined never to be published--made my daughter want to WRITE NOVELS. And so she began.

Her first work was derivative. Of course it was, because that's how children learn to write. It embarrassed her later, but I assured her that, oh, it was absolutely what she was supposed to be doing.

As she grew, her writing matured. In her middle teens years, she was already blowing me away with her natural sense of pacing and ability to create in-depth characters. Twice, when she entered critiques on my blog, she received a request from an agent (which she had to decline, since her novels weren't even finished!). As I muscled my way through my own writing journey, I was blessed to watch Maggie growing as a writer, too.

And oh. So proud.

At 16, she founded an online community for teen writers called Write On! She was a great leader, and she met some wonderful friends along the way. But alas, the teen years don't last forever, and as Maggie prepared to start her college career, she had to leave the online community behind.

She rocked the college thing (and now holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology), but in between studying and working and commuting to school, there was no time for writing. And so she set it aside.

I understood, but I was sad. I'm a hard critic, but I'd felt from the beginning that Maggie had something special. She wasn't there yet, but I believed with all my heart that she'd get there.

So I waited.

Every once in a while I'd say something like, "So, are you writing at all?" or "Hopefully you can get some writing done this summer." But mostly I stayed quiet. I knew that, like all things, the writing would resurface when the time was ripe.

And then.

"I'm writing again." Just like that, it happened. At first, she was reading through her stuff, finding her bearings. And then, suddenly, she was revising what I thought was her strongest work--a YA contemporary I'd critiqued for her a few years earlier.

I had no idea how hard she'd been working until she told me she'd finished the revisions, and would I please critique it for her.

I pretty much dropped everything. And it was worth it.

This. Story. It made me sob (and I'm generally not the cry-at-books type). It made me keep reading past the time I'd told myself I needed to stop. It made me see that EVERYTHING I BELIEVED ABOUT MAGGIE'S WRITING WHEN SHE WAS YOUNGER HAD COME TRUE.

I gave her my notes and told her I felt that, after another revision, the novel would be ready to query.

So she got straight to work. We met at Starbucks to discuss my notes. She worked diligently every day during her lunch breaks, and whenever else she had time to write. She even entered a pitch contest on my blog last month and received a request from one of the agents.

And now? She's officially querying. I'm almost as excited about this as if it were me.

Someone's going to fall in love with this story--and sell it. And you're going to see her name on the shelves among your favorite YA authors. You'll read her book and you'll cry and cheer and sit on the edge of your seat until your bottom's numb.

And I will be standing on top of something very tall shouting, "THAT'S MY DAUGHTER!"

You know--the one who decided to be a writer because she read my very first novel. And fell in love.

This woman? She's my biggest fan, my strongest supporter, my voice of reason when I'm flailing, my source of encouragement when I need that little boost. And her journey began when mine did, all because the world and the characters I'd created stoked her imagination and inspired her to jump right in and try her own hand. What an honor to have played that role in her life!

Truly, we never know who our words will touch, or how they will be touched. Had I never written another story, the effort of having written just one novel would have reaped its reward.

Keep your eye out for books by Maggie Boehme! And Maggie--thank you for being one of the brightest stars in my universe.

Follow Maggie on Twitter HERE.

For more stories like this one (once a month directly to your inbox), subscribe HERE.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Winners of All the Books!

CONGRATULATIONS to the following randomly selected winners of our Tor Teen book giveaway!

Thanks to EVERYONE for entering, and thank you also to those of you who asked Elayne Becker such thoughtful, interesting questions. All in all, it was a great day!


Like Never and Always by Ann Aguirre (ARC) — Krista Van Dolzer

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter —Buba Petreska

Roar by Cora Carmack—Jamie Soranno

Dare You to Lie by Amber Lynn Natusch (ARC)—Cristin Bruggeman

Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway (ARC)—Tiffany Meuret

Blood and Sand by C.V.Wyk—Heather Bell Adams

The Echo Room by Parker Peevyhouse (ARC)—Sherry Smith

Metaltown by Kristen Simmons—Sandy

Windwitch by Susan Dennard—Jen Schafer

The Dark Intercept by Julia Keller—Jessica Michelle Shrock

To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough—Maggie Boehme

GRAND PRIZE: A box of NINE of the above books/ARCs!—Carolyn Chambers Clark

(WINNERS:  You will receive an email from me [Jillian Boehme] shortly.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Exclusive Interview and Q&A with Elayne Becker--and a Big Tenth Birthday Book Giveaway!

Happy Tenth Birthday, Miss Snark's First Victim! And a HUGE thank you to EACH OF YOU for being part of this community over the years.

It's no exaggeration to say that I'm thrilled beyond measure to be working with Elayne Becker at Tor Teen. Her heart for my story and her incredible insight and editorial superpowers (not sure what else to call them--this gal knows her stuff) are making this journey toward publication an incredible one.  (I mean, when your editor writes, "I punched the air with my fist!" when she reads a change you've made, what more can you want?)

Here, without further ado, is the interview I've been promising:

Elayne Becker

Jillian: So you're now an Associate Editor at Tor/Forge Books and Tor Teen (congratulations!). Can you tell us a bit about the journey that brought you to this place?

Elayne: As I'm sure is the case with most publishing professionals, my journey began with a lifelong passion for reading. With children's books in particular, I remember the impact my favorite novels had on me as I was growing up. At a certain point, I suppose it just hit me: what if I could turn that passion into a career? And if I could help put novels on the shelves that might become favorites for the next generation of readers, even better. Fast forward several years, and I'm about to enter my fourth year at Tor. (After studying Classics and History, I might add--no English degree for me!) It's been quite the ride! Working my way up from the entry assistant level required a lot of hard work and long hours, but reaching the stage wherein I get to champion new voices (like yours!) has been a blast and a privilege.

Jillian: I love that you are championing authors, which is above and beyond "editing" or "publishing". What does the process look and feel like to you, from first peek at a submission to that glorious moment when you make an offer?

Elayne: Yeah! A common misconception is that being an editor means spending your day reading and editing manuscripts, when in reality, there's a lot more to it. We're on the front-lines when it comes to working with other departments in-house and endeavoring to secure the best opportunities we can for our titles. 

 As far as the submission process goes, the best word I can use to describe it is: slow. Due to the busy nature of this job, most of my reading time has to be squeezed in after hours or during that rare quiet week. (I often feel guilty about making agents and authors wait a long time for my response, but I always prefer to give careful reads--and feedback, when I can--rather than rushing an answer out the door.) That being said, time constraints aside, reading submissions is tons of fun! Probably one of my favorite parts of the job. There's such a large breadth of talent out there, and it's a treat to be privy to so many stories in the making. I can usually tell within the first chapter if the writing is at the level I'm looking for. Then, if the foundation is solid, I look at other markers--characters, pacing, worldbuilding, etc. It's important to note that all of those things can be excellent and I might still not feel like the right editor for the project. 

Ultimately, it comes down to which story feels right for me, and which I think I can promote to the best of my ability. Not much beats that moment when you find that book that steals your heart and needs to be yours. Several factors go into whether I can make an offer, and what that offer entails. For instance, before I even buy a book, I'm already looking at comparable titles, generating bullets for sales, examining its place in the market, and figuring out how to position it in a way that would maximize its chance at success. Making the offer itself is incredibly exciting -- but also sometimes nerve-wracking! When I love a book, I love it, and there's always the possibility that my offer will not be the one accepted.

Jillian: So, clearly this is a love relationship from the start, and like any relationship, there will sometimes be rough spots. What are some of the more difficult things you encounter between acquisition and release? What can authors bring to the table that will make this process run more smoothly?

Elayne: Generally speaking, one of the hardest parts of the publication process is the fact that there will always be variables outside of our control. We buy books because we love them, we believe in them, and we believe we can sell them. But we can't always predict the outcome. Patience is truly a virtue in this industry. And so, when authors offer patience and understanding, it's enormously helpful. Kindness really does go a long way! Be aware that editors collaborate with several different departments in-house on a daily basis, and as a result may be slower to respond. Understand that editors can't control every part of the process. (Unfortunately! 🙂) Recognize that not every step will be as you envision it, and be open to making changes to the manuscript; your book is your baby, and your editor will respect that, but they'll also recommend changes that will enable you to make your story the best it can be. Be passionate, and fight for your book. But, difficult as this may be to hear, manage expectations. And always, always keep writing.

Jillian: And, of course, you're taking your own advice here, since you are also a writer (freshly agented--congratulations!). I know firsthand the passion and purpose you bring to your authors' stories. How do you balance your time and creative energy between editing and writing? In what ways does your own writing journey bring depth to your career as an editor?

Elayne: Thanks! While I'm usually pretty good at switching between my editor and writer hats, the two do inevitably bleed together a bit, which I feel is a good thing. I like to think that being an editor who's also a writer means I have more empathy for my authors. I know what this journey means to them, and because of that I take my role as their in-house representative incredibly seriously. Also, I know that things on my side of the desk can feel rather "behind the curtains" for many writers, so I try to be transparent about the process, to the extent that I'm able. Essentially, it's just another form of treat others the way you hope to be treated! 

And, for the record, the reverse is true as well; being an editor has absolutely been beneficial to my writing. Industry knowledge aside, editing the manuscripts on my list, and listening to colleagues describe the changes they're recommending for their own projects, has enabled me to approach my own writing with a more solid foundation than I'd previously experienced. 

Components I tell authors to watch out for -- character development, pacing, worldbuilding, etc. -- are things I tell myself as well. In terms of balancing time and creative energy, I won't lie -- it can be difficult! Working a rather intense day job means I have to squeeze in writing time whenever I can; namely, early mornings before work (bless Bath & Body Works for their forest-scented candles), and throughout the weekends. Sometimes I joke that I've forgotten how to be a person, because I'm not exactly sure what it's like to *not* always be working! It can also be a little challenging to not have that mental divide, since I wake up and think about books, go to work and think about books, and come home and think about books. But, I'm not complaining. I feel incredibly fortunate to have a foot in both doors, and as I said, each informs the other!

Jillian: Well, I'm thankful to be on the receiving end of your boundless insight and experience! In closing, I'd be remiss not to ask you the quintessential interview question: What do you read for pleasure? What are your favorite Books of All Time?

Elayne: Ooh! I don't have as much time to read for pleasure nowadays as I would like, but my queue is a mixed bag! I typically alternate between adult and YA, and recently I've been introducing more nonfiction into the mix as well; Gillian Gill's We Two, a biography of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and Robert Moor's On Trails, are two books I've been enjoying immensely. 

In terms of all-time favorites, how do I choose?! J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is definitely my favorite series of all time, for so many reasons--the timeless quest, the characters, the land, the insane worldbuilding... I could go on and on, so let's just say, I adore it. Juliet Marillier's Daughter of the Forest has some of the most beautiful prose I've ever encountered; it's a gorgeous story about a girl persevering in the face of adversity in order to save those she loves. Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice are certainly on the list--partly because I admire the authors, and partly because I see myself in their protagonists. Anything Ruta Sepetys writes, and especially Between Shades of Gray. Harry Potter, of course, and my favorite in the series is Order of the Phoenix. If we're stretching back to childhood, I have to mention Anna Sewell's Black Beauty and Erin Hunter's Warriors series (the original) -- I've always been an animal person, so novels about horses and cats were definitely my jam. And finally, Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl, which I've probably read eleven or twelve times by now. It's a fairy tale that never ceases being magical.

Jillian: A wonderful glimpse into the world of books you love--thank you, Elayne! And thanks so much for this interview.


Leave your questions for Elayne in the comment box below. Ask her anything you'd like to know! Note: I will accept questions for 24 hours; after this time, I will delete any questions that show up, in the interest of respecting Elayne's time. She will answer as many questions as she can today, and she will return on Monday to answer any remaining questions.

On behalf of everyone--thank you, Elayne!


Enter below for a chance (or many chances!) to win ALL THE BOOKS! Eleven people will win 1 book each, and 1 lucky winner will win a box of NINE BOOKS. Titles and authors are listed in the rafflecopter box. The raffle closes at midnight, and winners will be announced tomorrow.

(Note: If you've already subscribed to my newsletter, you can still check off that option for your mandatory entry. I'll be double checking all winning entries, so as long as your email is on my list, you're good to go!)

Good luck, everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 2, 2018

Our Tenth Birthday Giveaway!!

It's happening--Miss Snark's First Victim is celebrating TEN WHOLE YEARS this Wednesday, April 4!

To celebrate, there will be an exclusive interview and Q&A session with Elayne Becker, my lovely editor at Tor Teen.  As in, SHE WILL ANSWER ALL YOUR QUESTIONS!  So be sure to stop by and ask them.  (And remember--some questions are universal, so don't feel like you can't ask a question if you don't write what Tor Teen publishes.  ASK ANYWAY! This session is for everyone.)

In addition to the Q&A, we are having a HUGE BOOK GIVEAWAY FROM TOR TEEN! I'm super excited to offer these books, and a few ARCs, to you.


So, how do you win?  Easy! On Wednesday, I'll post a Rafflecopter entry form, which will give you a few different options for entering (you may choose as many as you'd like for extra entries!).  Winners will be announced on Thursday.

IMPORTANT: This contest is US-only. I HATE THAT, but there's really no way around it.  It's true that the majority of my readers are in North America, but I know that some of you hail from elsewhere on the globe. I'm sorry!

Several people will win a single title, and then there will be one grand prize winner who will receive A WHOLE BOX OF BOOKS.

Here are the titles:

Like Never and Always by Ann Aguirre
When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter
Roar by Cora Carmack
Dare You to Lie by Amber Lynn Natusch
Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway
Blood and Sand by C.V.Wyk
The Echo Room by Parker Peevyhouse
Metaltown by Kristen Simmons
Windwitch by Susan Dennard
The Dark Intercept by Julia Keller
To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS THIS! Mark your calendars for Wednesday and get your questions ready for Elayne.

T minus 2 days to Birthday Hoopla!