What are you willing to risk to make your writing dream come true? Some of us give up sleep. Others take sick, or vacation days just to finish a scene. Today’s featured writer, Elle Cosimano, took a two-month sabbatical from work to write her debut novel. She risked her full-time job to write NEARLY GONE and it paid off with a stellar agent and a book deal. I admire Elle’s determination and drive. She is proof that if you believe in your dream, you can make it happen.
Here is Elle’s amazing writing journey…
Amy: When did you first know you wanted to write a young adult novel?
Elle: I didn’t know I wanted to write young adult fiction until I was knee-deep in my first adult novel. I was poking around online, researching the query and submission process, and I was blown away by the YA writing community. It was supportive, vibrant and engaging. These writers were approachable and fun! This was the kind of creative community I wanted to be part of. That same afternoon, I reimagined my story, and began telling it from the perspective of a younger narrator. I fell in love with her voice as easily as I fell in love with the YA community, and I never looked back.
Amy: When was your first manuscript completed?
Elle: I took a two-month sabbatical from work to write my first draft of NEARLY GONE. I began drafting at the beginning of June 2010, and completed my first manuscript eight weeks later.
Amy: Did you have any completed manuscripts prior to writing NEARLY GONE?
Elle: *ducks* This is usually the part where someone throws a shoe at me.
NEARLY GONE was my first manuscript. It was also the first piece of fiction I’d written in over fifteen years (since I’d graduated college). I guess I had a little pent up creativity. But in hindsight, I knew on some level that this was my one and only shot. Taking that sabbatical – gambling my full-time career – was the riskiest thing I’ve ever done.
Amy: How long did it take you to compose the query for NEARLY GONE? Did you struggle with it or did it come to you quickly?
Elle: Queries are TOUGH! I did a LOT of research. I read a lot of agent blogs, and I spent a lot of time on Query Shark, studying the ones that did and didn’t work. Once I felt confident I had the guts of a solid query, I took it to a workshop, and revised based on feedback I received there.
Amy: How many agents did you query for NEARLY GONE?
Elle: After researching agent preferences, I batched my list into groups of six. I queried my top six agents first.
Amy: Did you receive initial positive response or did it take a while to get requests?
Elle: Five of the six requested full manuscripts within 72 hrs of the initial query.
Amy: What can you tell us about your “call” with your agent, Sarah Davies? How did you know she was a good fit for you?
Elle: I knew I wanted Sarah to represent my book as soon as she began reading my manuscript. I’d get brief, encouraging emails from her, letting me know she was completely engaged in my story. In an industry that can be so silent for such painfully long stretches, those small correspondences felt like lifelines. Then I got an email in which she described my love interest as “stonkingly sexy”. I immediately googled “stonkingly”, and I was totally sold.
I was so nervous during the actual “call”, I don’t remember most of it. I probably babbled. We talked a lot about what I’d done right (my query, my hook, my characters and my romance), and what I needed to do to make my book stronger (rewrite it). By that point, I felt so confident in Sarah, I didn’t have to think about it. I just knew I was in the best possible hands.
Amy: In your bio you say you write part of the time in a tree house on the edge of the jungle on the Caribbean Sea – how is it possible to get any writing done with that kind of view?
Elle: I find it incredibly peaceful. No distractions. No ringing phones. No errands to run, or laundry to do. It’s the one place where I feel like I can breathe. Things just seem to make more sense up there.
Amy: What writing advice did you get early on in your career that you still use today?
Elle: Sarah once told me to “trust my prose” — that I don’t need a lot of words, only the right ones. I’m still learning to trust myself, but I’m getting there.
More on NEARLY GONE:
Nearly Boswell’s name is an adverb with glass-half-empty connotations. Appropriate, given she’s almost certain to win the scholarship that’s her route out of Sunny View trailer park, almost pretty under her second-hand clothes, and she almost likes her best friend as much as he likes her.
But Nearly has a secret. She’s hopelessly addicted to the personal classified ads. Her search for hidden messages in the Missed Connections seems harmless enough – until a girl turns up drugged and naked under the bleachers, and a cryptic series of ads reveal clues to increasingly terrible crimes. Girls start turning up dead, and all the evidence points back to the one person capable of solving the clues – Nearly herself.
Reformed bad boy Reece Whelan is a narc. Working for the cops as a confidential informant is the only thing keeping him out of juvie. Helping police solve the chain of crimes could be his ticket to redemption, but shadowing Nearly is a challenge. The more Reece gets to know her, the harder it is to keep his distance, and as the evidence mounts against Nearly, Reece is sure not only that she’s being set up – but that he’s falling for the girl the cops think is the perp.
Drawn into a forbidden partnership, Reece fights to protect Nearly from the cops who suspect her and a calculating predator who has her second-guessing the people she loves. Somehow Nearly must work out the meaning of the mysterious numbers blue-inked on the victims and their connection to the puzzling ads. But time is running out, and who can Nearly trust with her secrets, her heart, and her life?
Elle Cosimano is the daughter of a prison warden and an elementary school teacher who rides a Harley. As a teen, she spent summers working on a fishing boat, baiting hooks and lugging buckets of chum. She majored in Psychology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and set aside a successful real-estate career to pursue writing. She drinks too much coffee and is a professional puppy and little boy wrangler. She divides her time between her home near Washington, DC and a jungle tree house in the Mayan Riviera.
Elle’s debut YA thriller, NEARLY GONE, releases in early 2014 with Kathy Dawson Books, an imprint of Penguin Books for Young Readers.