My favorite reason for using Twitter is that it has allowed me to connect with so many wonderful writers. One of these women (I’ve followed her since the very beginning) is the lovely Angela Cook. She blogs at Angela V. Cook and I’ve cheered her on as she’s found a home for her debut novel INTO A MILLION PIECES.
Even though women’s fiction and historical fiction are my favorite genres, I stayed up past midnight reading INTO A MILLION PIECES, Angela’s YA Paranormal about a teenage succubus, who must deal with the repercussions of the curse she’s inherited, and the painful ways it affects her family. The mystery at the heart of this book kept me riveted, the romance was beautiful (and hot!) and the plot had me guessing until the very end…I was practically hiding under my sheets with nerves!
So without further ado, I bring you Angela’s publication story, because I love a good “How I Got There” post, and like me, Angela has taken the LONG road!
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always had a very active imagination, and I’d dabbled with writing my entire life, but I never thought I was good enough to pull off writing a novel. It wasn’t until my early thirties that I decided I was just going to sit down and do it or die trying (see the next question).
When did you start writing seriously? (with the intent of publication).
During the summer of 2009, I went through—what I would consider—an early midlife crisis. I was a stay-at-home mom, living the same day over and over, day in, day out (Groundhog’s Day anyone?). Don’t get me wrong; I don’t regret my decision to stay home with my children when they were little, but at the time, the monotony was killing me, and I was plagued with the thought, Is this as good as it gets? I wanted more from life. I didn’t want to turn seventy some day and have a long list of regrets. So, I decided to tackle one of the things on my bucket list: write a book. After I finished it, I thought I might as well try to get it published (no harm, no foul, right?), and even though nothing happened with that first book (rightfully so), I’d fallen in love with writing and the writing community. Suddenly, there was this feeling that I was right where I belonged, and even though I get [INCREDIBLY] discouraged at times, I know being a writer is what I was meant to do with my life.
What were your favorite books growing up? What are your favorite books now?
I was a huge fan of the BABYSITTERS CLUB and the SWEET VALLEY TWINS books when I was younger. As I got older, I fell in love with authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Toni Morrison. Now, I read mostly young adult books, since it’s what I write. I love contemporary YA, especially anything by Stephanie Perkins and Rainbow Rowell. However, I’m also a fan of historical fiction (chomping at the bit to read your upcoming release, Meredith!), and I adore Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series.
What authors have influenced your writing style?
I think all writers have their own unique style and voice, but reading Stephanie Perkins’ (see above) books really inspired me to embrace my own style/voice. She’s easily one of my favorite young adult writers (if you enjoy young adult contemporary, you HAVE to check out her books!). When you read her stuff, you really get the feeling that you’re reading a narrative written by a seventeen-year-old girl falling in love for the first time, not something written by a thirty something year old trying to write like a teenager. She’s amazing.
What do you love about writing YA?
The innocence. People always knock young adult authors for portraying “insta-love” (which might be one of my biggest pet peeves EVER) in their books, but really, that’s how teenagers fall in love! I can remember developing obsessive, all-consuming crushes on guys I barely knew in high school. I would write “I love such-and-such” on my folders, stalk them (thank God the internet wasn’t big when I was in HS), and talk about them like they were the greatest thing on God’s green earth. So, yeah. “Insta-love” is real and very normal for teens. Most of them haven’t experienced getting their heart broken (or at least, not to the extent of someone in their 20’s/30’s), so they’re not jaded, bitter, and afraid to fall in love. That first love affair is sweet and beautiful and full of all kinds of amazing “firsts.” I love writing about them! Also, the young adult genre just seems to fit who I am. When I write, I’m not trying to sound like a teenager, that’s just my voice coming though (which may or may not be a good thing). Writing anything other than YA just feels unnatural.
Is INTO A MILLION PIECES your first novel?
Nope (see above). It’s actually my second. I consider my first manuscript my “practice novel.” I learned a TON from it, but it shall never see the light of day (except when I’m feeling really down, and I need to see just how far I’ve come as writer! Ha!).
What gave you the idea for INTO A MILLION PIECES?
During the summer of 2010, there was a short-lived TV show called The Gates. It was about a gated community where the residents were of the supernatural persuasion (werewolves, vampires, witches, etc.). One of the residents was a teenage succubus. Every time this girl kissed her boyfriend, she absorbed some of his life energy, which in turn weakened him. I had never heard of a succubus, but I loved the idea of a teenage girl who was in love, but couldn’t so much as kiss her boyfriend without harming him. It was then the wheels of creativity started turning.
What (or who) has helped you improve your craft over the years?
Harsh critiques from other writers, reading good books in the genre I write, and just being involved in the online writing community (querytracker.net, twitter, writing blogs, etc.). There’s so much valuable information out there!
How did you choose your publisher?
INTO A MILLION PIECES and I went through a lot together. I queried it to an inch of its life, got an agent, went on two rounds of submissions with it, left my agent for it, and started submitting it to [carefully selected] small presses. Small presses are a dime a dozen, so I did a lot of research. My goal was always just to find a good home for my book. I wanted a reputable small publisher. One with beautiful covers, great editing, fair contracts, and—for lack of a better term—good people. I definitely found that with Red Adept Publishing. I’ve been very happy working with them.
What does it feel like to see your book in print?
It feels great. When I got my proof in the mail. I took it out of the box, fanned the pages, and said to myself, “I wrote all that.” The realization hit me, and I actually started crying. It finally felt real.
Did you do anything special to celebrate your book release day?
Release day was kind of crazy (note: if you work, take release day off—trust me). I woke up super early to get all the online promo going, and then I had to go to work. I came home, did more promo work, and then I went to my mom’s for a celebratory dinner. As crazy as it was, it was a fantastic day, and one I’ll never forget.
What has been the hardest part of this journey?
Maintaining my confidence. Lack of confidence is something every writer suffers from and it can be incredibly debilitating. I still compare myself to other writers. I still deal with not-good-enough feelings. And I still get paranoid and assume everyone thinks my writing is crap, but they just don’t want to hurt my feelings. The life of a writer is not for the faint of heart. It is a tough, tough, tough career that you absolutely have to love or you won’t survive in it. Obviously, I love what I do (well, either that or I’m a bit of a masochist).
What has been the best part of this journey?
Hearing that people enjoyed my story and couldn’t put it down. That never, ever, ever gets old! It’s especially rewarding when a stranger—with no ties to me whatsoever—says they loved it.
If you could be friends with one book character in real life, who would it be?
Oh, goodness… Hmm… I’d have to say Jay Gatsby from THE GREAT GATSBY. I LOVE that era of flapper dresses, sharp-dressed men, and reckless abandon! Plus, how awesome would it be to attend those lavish parties he threw?
Who’s your biggest literary crush? (Hopefully the hubs won’t be jealous, since this person is imaginary!) ;)
Morpheus from A.G. Howard’s “Splintered” series—without a doubt. He’s a dark, sexy, and twisted bad boy! Love him!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors out there?
Get to know other writers. Share your work with them. Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism. It can be difficult to take at first, but if you want to grow as a writer, you have to be willing to not only take criticism, but also be willing to utilize it through the revision process.
Thanks so much for having me, Meredith! Great questions!
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