I absolutely love asking the question about a writer’s “call” with their agent. I’ve heard some pretty good stories, but I think at this point, Ashley Elston’s story may just be the best I’ve heard so far. If you love Laffy Taffy and Coke Icees (my favorite!) you’ll understand what I mean.
Ashley, like many other authors I’ve interviewed, went through the critical process of writing and then shelving something to move on to a new project. Undaunted, she went on to write her debut novel that will be available in 2013.
Here is Ashley’s writing journey – I hope her odyssey will inspire you to stick to your writing dream!
Amy: What drew you to write a YA Thriller?
Ashley: I love a story that takes you for a ride – the more twists and turns the better. And I love a story that has an element of crime – so many possibilities open up when you deal in that world.
Amy: How many manuscripts have you completed to date?
Ashley: 3! I just finished the first draft of the sequel to RULES.
Amy: Was THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING your first completed manuscript?
Ashley: No. The first manuscript I ever wrote is on a permanent siesta in my bottom desk drawer. It was a wonderful learning experience writing it but that’s really all it will ever be – practice.
Amy: How long did it take to complete?
Ashley: The first draft of RULES came together rather quickly – 3 months! But it went through round after round of edits – my own revisions, my agent’s revisions and finally my editor’s revisions.
Amy: Did you use critique partners for THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING? If so, how did that affect your writing process?
Ashley: The best thing I came away with from my first SCBWI conference was finding a wonderful critique partner. It really changed how I wrote. We began swapping chapters shortly after the conference and two things happened – my writing moved to a higher level since I didn’t want to share anything that wasn’t as perfect as it could be and it kept me on a schedule since we were trading pages every couple of weeks. I think you learn as much from critiquing others work as you do having your own work critiqued.
Amy: When you first wrote your query for THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING did it come easily or did it go through many drafts?
Ashley: Since this wasn’t the first book I queried, I felt like it didn’t take as long to get my query where it needed to be. It went through a few changes along the way but it stayed very close to the original draft. And it broke a lot of the “rules” – it was written from the character’s perspective. The entire query was backstory, ending just where my book opened. I didn’t even tell my main character’s name. But it worked.
Amy: How many queries did you send for THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING?
Ashley: I sent out queries in groups – 5-7 at a time. If I didn’t get great results, I tweaked it a bit. I probably sent out four or five batches.
Amy: Did you receive immediate response or did you have to twist your hands and wait a while?
Ashley: Both. Some query responses were rather quick – from a couple of minutes to the next day. Others not so much. I even got a full request from an agent after my book sold to Disney Hyperion. I had written that agent off as a non-responder.
Amy: As many writers know, the publishing world is very hard to break into. What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention?
Ashley: I tried to submit the best possible work I could. It’s seems simple but that’s the best way to get their attention. The first manuscript I wrote, the one hiding in the drawer, wasn’t it. And sometimes the hardest thing to accept is when to move past one story and start something new.
Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Sarah Davies?
Ashley: I got a heads-up when the subject line of her email read: “A chat?” Holy moly – all I ever heard was if an agent wants to talk to you on the phone – they will probably offer representation. We planned a time to chat later that afternoon. Since I had three kids at home and it sounded like I was in the middle of an amusement park, I got a sitter, drove to a convenience store and bought a Coke Icee and banana Laffy Taffy and waited for the call. Yes, I took the call in the parking lot of a gas station while eating junk food. It was a great call. We clicked and every idea she had to make RULES stronger sounded perfect.
Amy: You currently juggle a lot being a mom and helping run your family business. Were there times when you just couldn’t get to the writing and wanted to give up on the dream? What kept you motivated?
Ashley: I don’t think I ever wanted to give up writing – I just had to figure out how to make it all work. I wrote most of RULES in the middle of the night when everyone else was sleeping because that was the most uninterrupted time I could find. It helps now that all three of my boys are in school full-time. As far as my motivation – I’m not sure. I just can’t imagine NOT writing.
Ashley Elston lives in northwest Louisiana with her husband and three sons. Her debut, THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING, will be published by Disney Hyperion in May 2013. She can be found on Twitter or Facebook.