Welcome Bestselling Fantasy/Paranormal Author Skyler White!
Posted by Sharon Lynn Fisher Nov 3 2010, 12:04 am in 2010 RWA conference, author interview, bestseller, handling criticism, In Dreams Begin, inspiration, new releases, Skyler White, writer's advice, writer's journey, writer's life, writing contests
At RWA 2010 in Orlando, I was headed for the powder room when I almost bumped into a woman with red dreadlocks. Tired from the trip, and from staying up too late with my critique partner the night before, it took a moment for my brain to kick into gear. When it did, I realized I knew this person (how many gals with ruby dreadlocks are wandering around RWA nationals, I ask you?), though we’d never actually met.
Author Skyler White had judged my 2009 Golden Heart finalist manuscript in another contest. Her comments were so kind and enthusiastic, I looked her up to thank her, and we’d been in touch via email since then. Just coincidentally I had started reading her debut novel — and Falling, Fly — on the flight to Orlando, and I was mesmerized.
Skyler and I both write romantic speculative fiction that explores scientific and philosophical themes. That, plus the fact I loved her voice, made me keen to pick her brain — about her books as well as her experience as a debut author. She kindly agreed to let me do it! So without further preamble, welcome, Skye…
Skyler White is the nationally bestselling author of dark fantasy novels and Falling, Fly (Berkley, March 2010) and In Dreams Begin (Berkley, November 2010). She lives in Austin, TX. Visit her on the web at http://www.skylerwhite.com.
Can you tell us the story of your first sale? Had you entered contests? Did you have an agent?
Absolutely, it’s not a story I get tired of telling! And it’s particularly appropriate to tell it here, since my local RWA chapter plays such an important role.
I learned about contests from one of my chapter-mates, and had started entering contests with my first, now-under-the-bed book. Contests were both education and proving ground for me. At my first RWA National Conference, I had an editor appointment with the final judge who’d ranked me first in a contest and had requested a full. This editor ended up being The Call 1.0.
Of course, I missed it. I was out of town with an uncharged cell phone. So after several messages left and not pickup up, The Call became The Email. This, I got. And flipped out. And called back. And left a message. I was pretty much useless for the rest of the afternoon. All I knew, really, was that an editor had called me twice and emailed me to say I should return the calls. There was no offer. And I had manuscripts out with agents, but no agent. One emailed, just coincidently, in the time I was waiting for my now fully charged – in fact, still plugged in—cell phone to ring. She, just as friendly advice, suggested I not agree to anything straight away. But when the phone rang, I was panting. And there it was. The Offer. And I didn’t just scream “Okay!” Although I jumped up and down the entire conversation until questioned about the “strange noise” my skirt was making as I bounced. I promised to call back soon with an answer. I picked my husband up at the airport, told him the good news before he was in the car, drove him home yabbering the whole way, and left him at the house. Straight to the RWA meeting I went with my good news and my noisy skirt.
I still feel like the book belongs to every woman at the meeting that night. They were wonderful. The published writers gave me rational advice. The unpublished ones squealed with me. It took signing with an agent and The Call 2.0 when she sold not only that book, but a second, as-yet unwritten one to Berkley for the whole thing to finally land, but our local loop was humming with requests for updates and promises of crossed fingers for the whole additional two weeks it took. The whole process felt very shared.
What publicity/marketing did you do leading up to and after your sale of AND FALLING, FLY? Any tips for the newly contracted?
My publicity and marketing have been pretty scattershot. I had a website, and I modified it as I got cover art to match. I started a Twitter account (but I’m terrible at it, so I’ve let it mostly drop), along with accounts at Facebook/Goodreads/MySpace/etc., and I started going to cons. As far as tips…. Expect to make mistakes. Or not even mistakes. Expect to be a newbie. Being a published writer is no different than being an unpublished writer in terms of the writing. You still have to agonize and polish and read and hone. What changes is the non-writing work. And you simply won’t know much about it unless you already know marketing for some other thing. And even if you do, marketing yourself is different. And individual. And I can’t really give any advice except to be as patient with yourself and your learning process as you can be.
You will waste money. And time. And you’ll stress about it all because you only get one debut book and although you may have taken years to write it, you only have a year or so to learn everything you need to know about promoting it. I ended up doing a lot of guest posts and blog interviews because I love book bloggers. I love how passionate they are and that they’re out there, talking to each other and to readers about books. I want to support that, and I believe it can support me. But what I’ve found is I simply can’t fake it. I can’t tweet simply because tweeting is good strategy. I can’t blog just because blogging is great marketing. I can do what feels authentic because I enjoy it, but honestly, they don’t pay me enough to do stuff I hate, and every hour I spend with my attention fragmented by the tweetstream is an hour I’m not writing the next book.
What was your strategy for RWA 2010 in Orlando? I know you did a signing with your publisher. (How did that go?) Any other promotion while you were there?
You know, I had no idea about that signing until I saw it in the program. I strolled by to see who was there and spotted my name on the poster. I would have worn something nicer if I’d known. But no, no promotion really at RWA. I went to learn.
Have you had to deal with any painful reviews? Any tips for others facing this?
Yes, I have and no, I don’t. Bad reviews hurt. Sometimes a lot. And they can take the steam out of you for a couple of hours. I’ve had whole work sessions derailed by a negative review. And it feels exactly like every other rejection, contest loss, or other humiliation. It sucks. And sometimes it gets in your head. I remind myself that I’m not trying to write vanilla good-for-everyone stories. I tell myself that no writer appeals to everyone. I insist that I don’t *want* to be an easy read or good for teens. Still. Yeah. No.
I understand you did some traveling to research your new release, IN DREAMS BEGIN. Can you talk about that a little?
I’d love to! “In Dreams Begin” is a time-travel in which the mind of a modern woman wakes up in the body of a Victorian one. The Victorian body she inhabits belongs to Maud Gonne, who was real. Because Maud was real, and because, through her, the modern woman ends up meeting and falling in love with W. B. Yeats, I felt like I had to be meticulous in my research. Writing about real people in fiction is a tricky proposition! I traveled to Ireland, England and France and visited every location, or the closest extant approximation, where I had a scene set. I also read a ridiculous amount, and have tried to make the history portions as accurate as possible. I blogged about the trip here.
Do you have a blurb you can share? Did you write it, or your editor, or did you work on it together?
It was written by the marketing folks, but my editor and I tweaked and altered it some. Here’s what the back cover says:
“Close your eyes tightly–tightly–and keep them closed . . .”
From a Victorian Ireland of magic, poetry and rebellion, Ida Jameson, an amateur occultist, reaches out for power, but captures Laura Armstrong, a modern-day graphic artist instead. Now, for the man or demon she loves, each woman must span a bridge through Hell and across history . . . or destroy it.
“Every passionate man is linked with another age, historical or imaginary,
where alone he finds images that rouse his energy.” W. B. Yeats
Anchored in fact on both sides of history, Laura and Ida, modern rationalist and fin de sicle occultist, are linked from the moment Ida channels Laura into the body of celebrated beauty and Irish freedom-fighter Maud Gonne. When Laura falls–from an ocean and a hundred years away–passionately, Victorianly in love with the young poet W. B. Yeats, their love affair entwines with Irish history and weaves through Yeats’s poetry until Ida discovers something she wants more than magic in the subterranean spaces in between.
With her Irish past threatening her orderly present and the man she loves in it, Laura and Yeats–the practical materialist and the poet magus–must find a way to make love last over time, in changing bodies, through modern damnation, and into the mythic past to link their pilgrim souls . . . or lose them forever.
How involved have you been in your cover art? (They’re beautiful!)
Thank you! I honestly don’t know how involved I’ve been. For each book, I’ve put together a little PowerPoint presentation of images and ideas for the cover conference, but after that, it’s a black hole. I don’t know what (if any) part my stuff plays in the conversation, or whether I’m just lucky.
Sharon says: Check out the presentation (it’s a PDF). Totally cool.
How has your marketing approach differed for this new book?
I’m doing less so I can write more. And it’s not my first book, so it feels a little less like all my birthdays rolled into one. I’m still doing guest posts and interviews (like this one!) because I enjoy them. I like talking about the books, and it’s always interesting to see what people ask, but I’m not doing temporary tattoos for “Dreams” like I did for “Falling” and I’m not planning on doing as many cons in 2011.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned since your debut release?
To keep writing. It’s so easy to get pulled off task by other things, but I’m a writer, not a marketer or a blogger or a speaker. I need to write. Selling your first book is like finding a shiny magic ring. You’d be stupid not to spend some time playing with it and admiring it and rubbing it to see what it can do. And it can do some really cool stuff. It can get you edited, and on shelves. It can introduce you to interesting new people and give you groovy cover art. But ultimately, you’re a writer. And if you forget to eat or sleep because you’re polishing your ring, its magic powers won’t be able to help you because you’re dead.
Er… sorry. That got dark. Selling your first book is like having a fluffy bunny….
Oh, never mind.
It’s cool. And it changes how you do what you do. It doesn’t change who you are.
Love it! Thanks for the fabulous insights, Skye, and congratulations on this week’s release of IN DREAMS BEGIN.
Questions for Skye? Please ask in the comments!