Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Interview Week, Saundra Mitchell, author of THE SPRINGSWEET

Welcome to Interview Week!
All this week, I'm interviewing awesome authors--and giving away a copy of their book! Come back each day this week for another author and another chance to win an awesome book.

Quick Stats on Today's Author:

We can read all about your life from your bio in the jacket flap of your book. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?

I absolutely don't recommend this, but I hitchhiked from Helena, MT to Los Angeles, CA with a guy who would, several years later, become my husband. We learned several things during that trip.

1) If kids could drive, we would have been to LA in 8 hours. 2) Mormons are incredibly nice even if they can't give you a ride. 3) Los Angeles will (used to?) pay for bus tickets to send you anywhere in the US, if that meant you wouldn't be homeless in their city.

As a kid, what was your favorite book? Have your tastes changed since growing up?

My favorite books in order of development were BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, THE OUTSIDERS, IT and THE SILVER KISS. You'll note that the first two books are about poor kids who escape into their imagination and into books. The second two books are about people who escape the darkness in their lives through magic...

And every single one of them has a body count. Which is my motto—it's not a book without a body count. I still read books like these (and I try to write books like these, they all inspired me so much.) I re-read these particular books every so often and even though I see them differently each time because I've grown up a little more, they still move me.

In your books THE VESPERTINE and THE SPRINGSWEET, the main characters live in a historical world close to our own America in the turn of the century—but with a touch of magic. If you could, would you live in this world and time period?
Nooooooo. Not in a million years. I'm fascinated by the past. I love history and archaeology. It gives me genuine pleasure to the past, and to try to bring it to life. But I really like living in a world with plumbing and antibiotics.

But the universe? I'm not entirely sure I don't live in this universe; you probably live there, too! People may well have strange, unaccountable abilities, and magic quite possibly moves the earth. I've seen some remarkable, inexplicable things in my time. I'm not prepared to say there's no magic in the world.


It's the inevitable question: what inspired THE SPRINGSWEET? 

My best friend. I sold THE VESPERTINE as a standalone, so going into THE SPRINGSWEET, I only knew two things: it would be about Zora, and it had to have water and earth in it. Other than that, it was all open. 

I originally wanted to set it in 1893 in Chicago, because of the World's Fair. Chicago just didn't mesh with earth and water, though—it's more of a fire and air kind of town.

So I decided since I was writing a novel about my best friend's favorite character, that I would write a novel that catered to her tastes. As many things she loved, as I could reasonably fit into the framework—and that meant writing a western.

As soon as I started my research, I came across a book called HEARTS WEST, about mail order brides during the western expansion. And I knew then exactly where the book would go.

From the dedication to the acks, this book is a love letter to my best friend. ILU WENDI!

Can you tell us a little bit about the process--particularly the timeline--of writing & publishing THE SPRINGSWEET? 
As mentioned, I had no idea that I would get to write a sequel for THE VESPERTINE. I sold that one in December of 2009, about seven months after we started submitting it to editors. It was a one book deal, and I went through the entire revision process with my editor before turning in a proposal for THE SPRINGSWEET.

So it went something like, THE VESPERTINE went out in March 2009 for submission. It was acquired in December 2009. I got my revision letter, I think, in February of 2010. All revisions on THE VESPERTINE were complete and I submitted my proposal for THE SPRINGSWEET in April 2010.

So I actually wrote the first three chapters of THE SPRINGSWEET in spring of 2010. I didn't get an answer until July of 2010. As soon as Houghton picked it up, I started writing again. I finished the first draft and the round of beta critiques by mid-October, 2010 and turned it in to my editor.

I got my revision letter for THE SPRINGSWEET in March 2011, and I think I finished my revisions by June 2011. I saw parts of the phtotoshoot for the cover in September, and the final cover came in October, I believe.

It comes out April 17, 2012, so it's been a three-year process total to get the book to the shelves, but about two years total for THE SPRINGSWEET alone. So for anybody out there fantasizing about the fast track, I apologize. Even the fast track in publishing is pretty slow!

If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from THE SPRINGSWEET, what would you want it to be?
No matter what happens, or how your plans change, you can begin again. You can always begin again.


What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?

What revision really is. Before my first novel was published, I thought revising was polishing, maybe moving some words around or adding a bit here or there to perfect a finished piece. Now I know those are line edits, which come much later.

Revision—real revision—often means deleting some, most or all of the original draft to get to the real blood and bones. Revision has more in common with cleaning fish than it does polishing the silver.

Beyond the typical--never give up, believe in yourself--what would be the single best advice you'd like to give another writer?
Writing and publishing are two different things. Writing is art; publishing is business. They intersect, sometimes in amazing and terrible ways, but they're not the same thing.

So my best advice to aspiring authors is to remember that once you sell your words, you're not doing art anymore. Think long and hard about whether you want to go into business,.Writing will always be there, whether you publish or not.

What do you think are your strongest and weakest points in writing? 
I think I'm particularly good at atmosphere and dialogue. I love creating places and voices.

My books aren't as plot-oriented as they could be, though. And my endings come fast [screenwriting style!] which bugs a lot of people.

I've done a lot of thinking lately how I can shift the beats in my books a little. It can be tricky, though. I don't want to bore anyone by adding the wrong things!

An important note about the prize for today's post: you'll be receiving an ARC of THE SPRINGSWEET. ARCs are Advanced Reader Copies, and they're not final. Saundra has written  an open letter about this edition of the book: neither line 3 nor 4 on page 249 appear in the final book. 

And now for a giveaway! Leave a comment with your email address below to be entered to win a copy of THE SPRINGSWEET! Note: I had previously thought this was signed, but just realized it isn't; I'll let the winner know when it's announced. One winner will be picked next Monday; sorry, but this needs to be North America only. 
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