Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Author's Day Thursday: J. Anderson Coats

Good morning. Or After noon, or evening. What ever time it is when you read this!
Today right here on our blog we have an interview by J. Anderson Coats. I spotlighted her upcoming book last week.

And now on with the interview!


When did you start writing?

I wrote my first book before I lost my first tooth. My second-grade teacher shepherded twenty-nine seven-year-olds through the publication process, from idea to editing to cover design. The result was twelve pages, handwritten, meticulously illustrated, complete with a copyright date and a colophon. I was hooked!

When did you know you wanted to be an author?

It’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t! I learned young that
authors were people who were paid to write books, and I couldn’t
imagine many jobs better than that.

How much did you write before you were published?

A lot. Ray Bradbury famously said that your first million words don’t count. I think it was more like two million for me. I wrote a total of twelve novels before I wrote and sold The Wicked and the Just, and I learned something new with each one.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I love having a place to think out loud, to explore ideas and comment on issues in a concrete and useful way. My stories are often set in the past because it provides the environment that’s most conducive to the ideas I want to explore. Another part I love is the community. Authors in general and YA authors in particular have been the most welcoming, supportive group of people I’ve had the good fortune to fall into.

What's you least favorite part?

Definitely the waiting. You pour your effort and energy into something, then you send it into the ether and wait. You wait whether you’re querying agents or your book is out on submission or your revision letter is due or your ARCs are on the way. You’re always waiting. The only way to make it bearable is to immerse yourself in writing the next thing.

Can you describe your first book?

I wrote my first novel at age thirteen about a girl who was shipped off to summer camp and made trouble for the counselors by trying to escape. It was about a hundred pages long, typed, single-spaced, and it was really bad. Fortunately, no one told me that so I kept
writing. By age eighteen I’d written five more books, each slightly less bad than the last.

Are you planning on writing more in the years to come?

Absolutely! I’m working on several projects right now. One is a companion novel to The Wicked and the Just which follows Maredydd and Madog, whose father is the ringleader of the rebellion of 1294, as he negotiates the future his father wants for him and the future he wants for himself. Then there’s a standalone book that’s set in twelfth-century Wales about a warband, an abduction, a badly-timed war, a charismatic but mercurial king’s son and a girl who would do about anything for a chance at a normal life.

What does your writing process look like?

I write every morning from 5:30 till 6:30, and my goal is to hammer out as many words as possible before it’s time to jumpstart a surly teenager and ensure he doesn't eat frosting out of the can for breakfast. I’m happy if I can get two or three pages and absolutely thrilled if I get to five. During my coffee and lunch breaks at the Day Job I do social media, and on the weekends I hole up in the library to write and do research. But if I could write my own ticket, I’d write all morning and research all afternoon.

How did you get published?

I queried four different books over ten years. This means I sent letters to literary agents asking if they’d like to represent me and my work to editors. I kept hearing iterations of “thanks,
but it’s not for me.” I kept writing new books and querying and hearing “thanks, but it’s not for me.” For ten years. Then, in November 2010, I went from being unagented to having a contract for W/J in less than a month. It was a whirlwind!

Do you have any advice for writers looking to get published?

Give yourself permission to write crap. Everyone’s first drafts suck. Your favorite writer? Her
first drafts suck. Your other favorite writer? His first drafts suck. It’s more important to just write. Get it on the page and repeat after me: “It’s a first draft. It’s supposed to suck.” You can fix things in a badly-written first draft, but it’s impossible to fix what doesn't exist.

Anything else you want to say?

Thanks for having me on your blog, Sarah!

Thank you for being here!

J. Anderson Coats
The Wicked and the Just
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 17 April 2012

1 comment:

  1. You're right that everyone's first draft sucks. I wonder at some writers who boast that they don't ever revise, a work is simply "finished" when they come to the end.


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