Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is fellow Class of 2k13 member Demitria Lunetta, author IN THE AFTER. A Chicago native, she holds a BA in Human Ecology and has spent countless hours studying the many ways in which people are capable of bringing about their own destruction. In case the end is near, she always carries a good book and a chocolate bar--the two items essential for post-apocalyptic survival.
Are you a Planner or Pantster?
I actually don't have a set writing process. Sometimes I outline, sometimes I don't. It really depends on how complicated a plot I’m working with and how many characters in the story. I have a strangely high capacity for remembering small details…awesome for writing but bad for the people who borrow books from my home library. You know who you are. I’m coming for that copy of GAME OF THRONES you borrowed last year.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
IN THE AFTER took four months to write. It was at a time I could completely focus on writing. If I have a lot going on in my life it takes anywhere from six months to a year. I also have side projects that I think about for years before even acting on them…so I guess I’m saying anywhere from a few months to a lifetime.
Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
I like to work on one project, but think about others. I have too much of a wild imagination to completely shut out other project distractions.
Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
I don’t remember having a first time. I started “writing” in kindergarten, making up elaborate stories involving characters from the movies I’d watched…one involved the characters from the Wizard of Oz meeting Ewoks. Clearly my imagination knows no fear.
How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
I tried to query a fantasy novel a few years ago that only got rejections. I loved that book and it was hard to move on, but I decided I had to keep going forward. In case all the rejections were because of a problem with my query I decided to do a ton of research on successful queries. The work paid off when I tried to query a travel book. Unfortunately, that was also when the economy was in the gutter so it was a no go for travel books. My third time was the charm though, and to be honest, even if I didn’t get an agent for IN THE AFTER I would have moved on to the next project and kept trying, always examining what I could do better. The only way to fail is to give up. Yes, it’s very THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD, but it’s the truth, and that won’t be the last POLLYANNA statement I make.
Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
I don’t know if quitting is the right word, but I’ve definitely put MS away for another day. Sometimes things need to sit for a few years and be revisited. You should definitely put aside an MS if you’re stuck or simply sick of it. You don’t want to start to hate what you’re working on.
Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?
My agent is Katherine Boyle with Veritas Literary and I sent her a traditional query letter after researching her on the AAR website.
How long did you query before landing your agent?
For IN THE AFTER I queried for about a month before I got my first offer. I then contacted the eight or so agents who had partials and fulls and let them know I was offered representation. I got three passes and five “Holy crap, I’d better hurry up and read so you can make your decision!” Then I spoke to those five agents and chose the one I thought best suited me.
Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
Time for me to channel POLLYANNA again…Don’t take rejection personally. Writing is extremely subjective and a hundred no responses can come before that one important yes. All you need is one agent who believes in your work. Keep trying! Also, chocolate helps.
On Being Published:
How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?
At the time of writing this I haven’t seen my book but I imagine it will go something like this:
SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeee! I may have to be escorted from the book store.
How much input do you have on cover art?
I knew I wanted my cover to be dark/creepy/eerie but other than that I let Harper Teen do what they do.
What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?
This may sound naïve, but I didn’t realize I would get bound advance copies. I mean, I knew they existed and that reviewers got them to read, but when I opened the box of ARCs I was beside myself.
Social Networking and Marketing:
How much of your own marketing do you?
I think it’s important to market your own book as much as you can on social media sites and connect with readers. I have a blog, a Facebook page, and I'm on Twitter.
When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
You should definitely start building your platform before you get an agent. Blog and tweet to share your experiences and follow other aspiring writers. You’ll be amazed at the sense of community.
Do you think social media helps build your readership?
Yes! Social media is an good way to connect with readers. Believe me, I was hesitant at first. I thought “Why should I be on twitter…who gives a crap about what I have to say?” But I’ve completely changed my tune. My blog, twitter, facebook, they’re all places for readers to find you and your book.