The writing team of sisters Lisa and Laura Roecker are truly a force to be reckoned with. Besides being accomplished authors, with an amazing novel, THE LIAR SOCIETY, under their belts, they are also wives, mothers, and founders of the online writing conference phenomenon know as WRITEONCON.
When do these amazing women have the time to write? I do not know, but continue to write they do. Their forthcoming release, THE LIES THAT BIND, the follow-up to THE LIAR SOCIETY, will be released on November 1.
When I began this series, I really wanted to hear about writers‘ struggles prior to success. I framed my questions based on what I wanted to know. Over time, some of the W.O.W. questions have changed, but one that continues to remain important to me is whether authors contemplated giving up on their writing dream after rejection.
Lisa and Laura responded to this question with a blog post of their own. Not only did this blow me away, but it made me realize one thing. No matter how much you think authors have “made it” when they publish a book, they are still struggling like you and I to get the work right. Not only for themselves, but for the readers. And we all know what a daunting task that can be.
So here are Lisa and Laura’s answers to this week’s W.O.W. I hope you will be inspired by them.
Amy: Did you both write separately before becoming a team?
L&L: If you consider angsty poetry and random story ideas writing, then yes. But no, never a true book. We both dreamed of becoming writers one day and would tell anyone who would listen, but like most dreams, never did anything with it. Until one, late-night, random phone conversation. We wanted to DO something. And we landed on writing a book TOGETHER. That was the ticket for us. We had to write together. And it had to be YA, because YA is the best. Ha! We thought it’d be easy. Famous last words.
Amy: Have you always written YA fiction?
L&L: Yes. YA was what we most enjoyed reading. Laura taught 6th grade Language Arts in a past life and would pass the best books onto Lisa, who didn’t take long to hook. Our first book was extremely original–an updated PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (I hope you caught that sarcasm.). After hundreds of rejections, with a few “you can writes” sprinkled in, we quit the book and started fresh. GMAIL/FINDING GRACE/THE HAUNTING OF PEMBERLY BROWN/THE LIAR SOCIETY was the result.
Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered interest?
L&L: We queried two. THE NORTH SHORE (the failed PRIDE AND PREJUDICE update) and FINDING GRACE (which eventually became THE LIAR SOCIETY).
Amy: If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move on to a new project?
L&L: We knew it was time to move on when there were literally no more agents to query. We definitely had a few close calls, but at the end of the day, most could never get past the full manuscript. We could write a query–yay! An entire book–um, no. So we had a choice to make. We could give up and pretend like we never dreamed of being writers, we could start over with the most original idea in the world (the PRIDE AND PREJUDICE update) or we could start over with a new book. Start over we did. It felt so good to come up with a new idea and jump into a blank document. We vomited words we were so excited about the book.
Amy: Did your query for THE LIAR SOCIETY come easily or did it go through many drafts?
L&L: The query came relatively easy with the help of Elana Johnson. Lisa LOVES writing queries and is very good at them–must be her marketing background. We knew we wanted to be a bit snarky and try to insert our voice into the query. When all was said and done, it was very representative of the book itself, which is a good thing.
Amy: Did you have critique partners for THE LIAR SOCIETY? If you did, how critical were they to your writing process?
L&L: Yes. We had many critique partners. The cool thing about the writers that we work with is that they are all inadvertently looking for different things as they edit. The end result is super-valuable feedback that is both constructive and essential to working toward that final draft. It’s incredible how much goes into writing a book. It takes a whole team to make it shine and we owe a TON to our critique partners who are willing to read our dingy first drafts.
Amy: How many agents did you query for THE LIAR SOCIETY? Did you receive immediate responses or did you have to wait a while for replies?
L&L: When we prepared to query the second time around, we went about the process much differently. Instead of preparing a list of A MILLION agents, we targeted our dream team–around 10. We figured if the agents passed on the query, we could go back and adjust as necessary. We knew the query would work right away when we started getting requests for pages. Our collective hearts began drumming when those requests for pages turned into requests for fulls (that’s when you know you’re onto something). We about died when Catherine Drayton CALLED Lisa ON THE PHONE during the witching hour in her house when the kids are screaming and it sounds like utter chaos is erupting. Catherine wanted to “throw her hat in the ring” and be sure she had time to consider the full before we signed with an agent. It was all very exciting and surreal.
Amy: What can you tell me about “the call” with your agent, Catherine Drayton?
L&L: We were offered representation by three agents. It was a very exciting place to be, but also very scary. We had a choice to make and we knew it was important and would impact our entire career as writers. Catherine lives in Sydney so the call was at night for us, morning her time. We were very nervous in the beginning. Catherine shared her vision for the book (which closely resembled ours) and explained about Inkwell–selling the agency as she would a manuscript. That was important to us. We wanted not only a reputable agent, but an agency that would back and support us as well. Foreign rights, subsidiary rights, etc. Those are all very important when you’re dealing with a book deal. Catherine felt like the kind of agent who would challenge us to grow. She’s tough and semi-scary and we needed that. In fact, she felt a lot like our mom. Someone we wanted to please! The conversation continued and we asked all the questions we felt like we were supposed to ask. Catherine gave us the name of Becca Fitzpatrick as a reference. As soon as we hung up we called each other and said, “She’s the one” at the exact same time. After speaking with Becca, who sang Catherine’s praises, it was decided. We signed with Catherine and made a pact to always be ourselves around her no matter what. Yes, she was an agent, but she was OUR agent. This was the best choice we ever made. We now have a very easy relationship with Catherine and feel comfortable talking to her about anything and everything. She absolutely rocks.
Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?
L&L: Many, many times. Just last night Lisa called me and said she wanted to give up. When I asked her why, she said she felt like we could never be good enough. We commiserated for approximately 2 hours (our standard phone call length) and hung up with a renewed sense of hope. Yes, there are incredible, fantastic, award-winning, we-bow-down-to-you-genius-writer books out there. Books that make you want to hold the delete button, slam your laptop shut and GIVE UP. Will our books be amongst them? Maybe? Never? Definitely? In our dreams? Who knows! The beauty is in the trying. If you give up, you’ll never know if you could have gotten there! One of the best parts about writing is that there is no race. People will always need books to read. As a result, people count on us to get better (or something like that). None of our books will ever be as perfect as we want them to be. In fact, we also have another pact to NEVER read a final copy of the published book. There’s just no way we wouldn’t want to change something and that would kill us in a very slow and painful way. So we write. And we delete. And we re-write. And we complain. But at the end of the day we hope. Because you just never know! That big book could be right around the corner. And I don’t know about you, but I want to be a part of it.
Lisa and Laura Roecker are sisters-turned-writing-partners with a passion for good books, pop culture, and Bravo programming. Not necessarily in that order. Lisa has always been a phenomenal liar and Laura loves to write angsty poetry, so writing for young adults seemed like a natural fit. The sisters live in Cleveland, Ohio in separate residences. Their husbands wouldn’t agree to a duplex. To learn more about The Liar Society series, check out www.theliarsociety.com or follow them on Twitter.