Your gut instinct. The inner voice. Whatever you want to call it, every writer has an idea of what is right and wrong for their story. Sometimes creative feedback comes your way and you know it’s exactly what your story needs. Other times you get notes that feel off. Listening to your creative intuition is critical when you are a writer and today’s featured author, Sarah Bromley is proof of this. She knew the right direction for her manuscript, A MURDER OF MAGPIES, and that instinct turned into a debut that will hit bookshelves this October!
Many thanks to Sarah for sharing her writing journey today…
Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?
Sarah: I knew by my early teens that I wanted to be a published author, and I had my first agent when I was still a minor. I’m actually quite glad nothing came of that relationship because I wasn’t ready as a writer, but it did let me know that I could do this. I married my husband when I was still a teenager as well, and I had a few tumultuous years between losing my parents, finishing college, and having my daughter so that writing went on the back burner for some time. However, I decided six years ago that I was ready to pick up the pen again.
Amy: When did you complete your first Young Adult manuscript?
Sarah: I was thirteen when I completed a truly hideous YA book. I have always written YA since I was one, and I was writing the stories that I was looking for at that time.
Amy: You studied gothic literature in college. What draws you to write in this genre?
Sarah: The Gothic has been part of my life since I was a wee thing and my mother read Poe’s stories and poems to me. My father was a church organist, and if I was home sick from school, I often had to tag along to funerals he played. Not to mention, my great-aunt ran a funeral home, so there’s been more than a bit of the macabre in my life. I have a fascination with ghosts, hidden passageways, and family secrets. The dark atmosphere and blend of romance and horror, the idea of lost beauty and things unseen, speak to creative areas of my mind.
Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish A MURDER OF MAGPIES? If so, how critical were they to the process of completing the manuscript?
Sarah: A MURDER OF MAGPIES was the first book where I used critique partners, and it was so beneficial to have them point out strengths and weaknesses. Over time, my relationship with my crit mates has changed as our careers have grown, but that give and take process, learning from others, is something that can’t be duplicated when you’re in the reclusive writer cave.
Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?
Sarah: Querying is something I hope not to have to do again, definitely. A MURDER OF MAGPIES was one of those books agents loved but had no idea how to sell. One agent asked for an extensive revise and resubmit that left me so frustrated because I knew it wrecked my vision for the book, but it was a top agent and I wanted so badly to work with this person. Ultimately, I listened to my gut and pulled the book from all consideration, shelved it for a time, and licked my wounds while I wrote something new.
Amy: How many agents did you query for A MURDER OF MAGPIES?
Sarah: I don’t remember how many agents total I queried for A MURDER OF MAGPIES before I pulled it. I had a good request rate and a ton of frustration–I recall that much. The next manuscript led to my signing with Miriam Kriss of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. I sent out sixty queries. At the time of Miriam’s offer of representation, I was waiting on close to ten requests with twenty queries still out.
Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?
Sarah: It was pretty quick. It was three months from the time I sent my first query to Miriam’s offer. Normally, she’s a fast responder if she wants to see your work, so after two months, I was about to close out my query to her as a no response but decided to wait one more day. What could it hurt, right? She emailed me that afternoon to ask for the full and offered representation eleven days later.
Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Miriam Kriss? How did you know she was the right fit for you?
Sarah: When I was querying, Miriam was one of my dream agents. She has an outstanding client list and a stellar reputation as a devoted agent to her authors. She was super knowledgeable and still wanted my input. We clicked personality-wise, and I recall coming away from our conversation feeling as if I had a smart, solid ally. Other agents I spoke with just didn’t have the same vision that I shared with Miriam. I’ve been with Miriam for four years and endured some difficulties in my personal life, and she remains steadfast, supportive, and passionate always. When I asked her about taking A MURDER OF MAGPIES out of the trunk and rewriting it to be the book I wanted, she gave me a resounding, “Do it!”
Amy: What is one piece of writing advice you got early on that you still use today?
Sarah: Go with your gut. Most writers are their own worst critic, so if something in the story doesn’t feel write to you, it probably isn’t.
(Available October 28, 2014)
Winter in Black Orchard, Wisconsin, is long and dark, and sixteen-year-old Vayda Silver prays the snow will keep the truth and secrecy of the last two years buried. Hiding from the past with her father and twin brother, Vayda knows the rules: never return to the town of her mother’s murder, and never work a Mind Game where someone might see.
No one can know the toll emotions take on Vayda, how emotion becomes energy in her hands, or how she can’t control the destruction she causes. But it’s not long before her powers can no longer be contained. The truth is dangerously close to being exposed, placing Vayda and her family at risk.
Until someone quiets the chaos inside her.
Unwanted. That’s all Ward Ravenscroft has ever been. To cope, he numbs the pain of rejection by denying himself emotions of any kind. Yet Vayda stirs something in him. He can’t explain the hold she has on him–inspiring him with both hope and fear. He claims not to scare easily, except he doesn’t know what her powers can do. Yet.
Just as Vayda and Ward draw closer, she finds the past isn’t so easily buried. And when it follows the Silvers to Black Orchard, it has murder in mind.
Sarah Bromley lives near St. Louis with her husband, three children, and three dogs. She likes the quiet hours of morning when she can drink coffee in peace, stare into the woods behind her house, and wonder what monsters live there. When she’s not writing or wrangling small children, she can be found volunteering at a stable for disabled riders. For more on Sarah, check out her website, follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or as a contributor to YA Scream Queens and BookYArd Writers.