One of the things I love most about my W.O.W. interview with Liz Fichera today is her honesty. Liz does not sugar coat anything, but is honest and forthright about how difficult it can be to navigate the world of publishing. As she shares her writing odyssey, she includes times where her book didn’t sell to editors and how rough that kind of rejection can be. But what is inspiring is her drive to “keep writing.” I also adore the fact that she admits that, “it’s just not in her personality to give up.” It’s that kind of persistence and perseverance that have made her a successful writer.
Many thanks to Liz for sharing her writing journey today…
Amy: You began your writing career penning adult fiction, but your latest book, HOOKED, is Young Adult. What drove you to make the change?
Liz: I read so much YA that I decided to try my hand at writing it. I love the emotional levels in YA. Teens live in exclamation points and I adore those highs and lows in YA stories. As it turns out, my writing voice is very much YA so it was an easy transition.
Amy: Was CAPTIVE SPIRIT your first manuscript? If not, how many novels had you written before one got agent attention?
Liz: CAPTIVE SPIRIT was initially written as a YA—the protagonists are teens. However, since it is historical fiction, Carina Press was able to market it as women’s fiction. CAPTIVE SPIRIT was the third novel that I had written. When I wrote it, I was already represented by Holly Root at Waxman Leavell Literary Agency.
Amy: Did the query come easily for CAPTIVE SPIRIT or did it go through many drafts?
Liz: When it came time to query CAPTIVE SPIRIT, the query and synopsis went straight to Carina Press. By that time, I had had enough practice with query writing. I think the best queries sound like the back of a book jacket: concise and leading with a great hook. In other words, you have to entice an agent/editor/publisher with just enough information that they’re practically begging you to read your manuscript. Despite having a decent query, however, you still need to sell an editor/publisher on the book itself, of course. Fortunately, Carina Press was interested in CAPTIVE SPIRIT after they read it and they happened to be looking for more historical fiction. Good timing helped too.
Amy: Do you have beta readers and/or critique partners? If so, how important are they to your writing process?
Liz: Yes. I have several trusted critique partners who are not afraid to give me constructive feedback. They are critical to the writing process. As the author of your manuscript, you can get so invested in your story that you can’t see the forest for the trees. A trusted critique partner can look at your work more objectively than you ever could. I’m a strong believer too in putting a completed first draft off to the side for a few weeks, even a few months, so that you can return to it with fresh eyes.
Amy: Publishing is a very competitive business. What was the one thing you think you did to garner agent interest?
Liz: CRAVING PERFECT, my second published novel, was actually the novel where I queried Holly that began our relationship. I think that I wrote a pretty decent query with a great hook, enough for Holly to request a full manuscript. Couple that with good timing, however. Holly happened to be building her client base at the time and was looking for women’s commercial fiction. Timing can sometimes be even more important than a great query.
Amy: Can you give a short summary of your call with your agent, Holly Root? How did you know she was the right agent for you?
Liz: Holly was on my Top 10 Agent list. I liked that she had a track record of sales with a solid NYC literary agency. Prior to querying, I had done my research by checking out the kind of books she liked (and sold) on places like AgentQuery.com and PublishersMarketplace.com. Of course, I was thrilled that she liked my writing and my book. When I talked to her on the phone, I could tell she was as genuine as I thought she was. Six years later, we’re still together. She’s been my first and only agent. She stuck with me, even when my first book (CRAVING PERFECT) did not sell right away. That’s the kind of agent any writer can hope to have.
Amy: What writing advice did you get early on that you still use today?
Liz: One of the best pieces of advice I got from Holly was this: keep writing. And I did. Even as my novel got rejected by editors and publishers, I continued to write several more novels, including HOOKED, which would become my YA debut with HarlequinTEEN. Continuing to write novels kept my sanity and I’m thankful that I had that time to write just for me. Prior to connecting with Holly, I had this notion that once a writer got an agent, the book would automatically sell to an editor who would, of course, love the book as much as the agent. Not! Color me naïve. While that happens to some authors, where the book and the timing for the book are borderline perfection, for many debut authors that’s just not the case. I think my experience of writing a book, getting lots of agent rejections, finding an agent, and then getting rejected all over again by editors and publishers (via the agent) is pretty typical—at least for those of us who choose a traditional publishing path.
Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?
Liz: It’s just not in my personality to give up, even though I experienced enough rejection over the years to have probably thought about seriously throwing in the writing towel many times. Persistence is key. So is being a little bit crazy. But I love to write stories so whenever the going got tough, I had to reset my expectations by reminding myself why I got into this profession. My family and critique partners were very supportive. There’s nothing like hearing: what happens next? After you shared the first few chapters of a new novel. That motivates me to finish a story and to keep going.
When Native American Fredricka ‘Fred’ Oday is invited to become the only girl on the school’s golf team, she can’t say no. This is an opportunity to shine, win a scholarship and go to university, something no one in her family has done.
But Fred’s presence on the team isn’t exactly welcome — especially not to rich golden boy Ryan Berenger, whose best friend was kicked off the team to make a spot for Fred.
But there’s no denying that things are happening between the girl with the killer swing and the boy with the killer smile…
Liz is an author living in the American Southwest by way of Chicago. Her YA debut HOOKED released in January 2013 from HarlequinTEEN. Its companion, PLAYED, releases in 2014. You can learn more by visiting www.LizFichera.com or follow her on Twitter @LizFichera.