Your first time can be magical… It can also be anxiety-ridden, awkward and filled with tears, and the life of a published author or illustrator is filled with them. This series will give us a look at some of the first times of our favorite creators.
This time: Susan Dennard is an author based in the Midwestern United States. Her first novel, Something Strange & Deadly was published by HarperCollins in 2012, followed by A Darkness Strange and Deadly in 2013 and Strange and Ever After in 2014. Her next novel, Truthwitch (the first in the Witchlands series), will be published in January by Tor Teen.
1. WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER?
I was 12 years old. I’d just finished reading Lloyd Alexander’s Book of Three, and I vividly remembering thinking, “I want to do this! I want to write stories just like this and create living/breathing worlds just like Prydain!” I went home that day and started clacking away on my family’s monstrous IBM.
2. TELL US ABOUT FINDING OUT YOU WERE GOING TO BE PUBLISHED FOR THE FIRST TIME.
Oh wow, I remember that moment perfectly. I was walking through my living room on a rainy October day in 2010 (on my way to the kitchen for a coffee-top-off). My phone rang; it was my agent; HarperCollins had offered on Something Strange & Deadly.
I screamed. I jumped and flailed and screamed some more. Then, the instant I was off the phone, I called my mom. She wasn’t there, so I left this unintelligible, painfully high-pitched message on the answering machine involving more jumping, more flailing, and more screaming.
Five years later, and my Mom still has that message saved.
3. WHAT WAS THE PROCESS OF PUTTING YOUR FIRST BOOK TOGETHER LIKE?
My very first book when I was a kid? Because that was just me writing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and then forcing my poor sister to read it every night.
As for for my first book that I got published, well…I wrote a rough draft during NaNoWriMo of 2009. It was a TERRIBLE first draft, but I still loved the story enough to try to fix it. I might not have tried to “fix it” had I known it would take me nine months and 12+ rewrites. But in the end, all the hard work paid off!
4. WHEN DID YOU FIRST SEE ONE OF YOUR BOOKS IN A STORE? HOW DID YOU FEEL?
I saw my book in a store for the first time about week before its release. I actually got to do an early signing at San Diego Comic-Con. It was my first signing EVER, the first time I ever saw my book for sale (from Mysterious Galaxy!), and the first time I ever interacted with readers. I was shaking and laughing, excited and terrified. It was really an incredible, incredible experience.
(Editor – I believe the image to the left, from author Sarah J. Maas’ Live Journal blog, is an actual picture of Susan seeing her book in the Mysterious Galaxy booth at San Diego Comic-Con for the first time… Look how cool she’s being!)
5. WHAT LESSONS DID YOU LEARN FROM THE PROCESS OF PUBLISHING YOUR FIRST BOOK THAT YOU’VE APPLIED TO SUBSEQUENT BOOKS?
Oh boy, I took away a lot! And I’m still constantly learning more.
I think the most important lesson I learned is that it takes a village to turn a book into a book. With my debut, I didn’t realize how many people were working on the project behind-the-scenes — or how grateful I ought to be that so many people put time and effort into something I wrote.
I think it’s easy to assume (as a debut) that Of course everyone will be invested in my book! Why wouldn’t they love it as much as I do? HA! The reality is that this is just a job for them — one of many books they’re assembling — so why should they care at all? There are people behind those computers, and finding out who they all are as well as making a human connection… Well, it makes the long process so much more enjoyable in the end!