Monday, April 3, 2017

Happy Pub Day!

The query critique is postponed a week because tomorrow is the pub day for Beth Ellyn Summer's amaazing YA debut, AT FIRST BLUSH!  I absolutely love this--it's a super fun read!--and I think the cover is one of my favorites so far!  Everyone, check out the book and Beth's interview below!

For everyone who doesn't know, tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to start writing.

I've wanted to be a writer since before I knew how to write. I think I was three or four when I was "writing" stories (squiggly lines on paper). I was lucky to have amazing English teachers pretty much through every grade and each and every one of them encouraged me to write. In college I got sucked into the world of TV production and thought that was for me, but the minute I graduated I was pulled right back into writing!

What was your road to publication like?

Oh boy. Ha. Long. And slow. There were two queried MSs we will pretend never happened, and once I finished AT FIRST BLUSH (then titled The Intern Diaries) I shot off about 25 queries and had an awesome request rate. I'd only been querying a month when you chose me as a contest winner on the Love YA blog. As you know, sub was a long road for me. We changed this MS multiple times. I scrapped the original love interest and brought in Tyler Lance, cut major plot lines, and we STILL had trouble. Then YouTuber Zoe Sugg aka Zoella published Girl Online. And as you know, that was a rough day. It sounded so similar to my story, and the fact that it was written by an actual YouTuber with millions of subs...I was crushed. But thankfully it worked as a comp title, and Bloomsbury was wonderful enough to offer!

After the contract was signed, were there any unexpected aspects of the publishing process that surprised you?

I think the varying speeds. Like, for my cover, things moved FAST. They started working on it like two months after the offer, and it was completed two months later. Then revisions were a whole other ball game. It took a while to get those and I was so anxious to tackle them. Then once I got them I was daunted. It was shocking to learn how far the MS was from where it needed to be!

What was your inspiration for writing this book?  What about the main character?

I had always wanted a story that touched on my time as a Conan and Fallon intern. That was the main inspiration (Lacey's best friend, Cynth lands an internship at a late night talk show and throughout the story, everything kind of leads back to that place).

My main character, Lacey Robbins, was inspired by all the YouTube beauty gurus and their makeup tutorials. These girls are successful entrepreneurs. They've made careers out of putting makeup on themselves on the internet. Who knew that could be a thing?! They're all so determined to increase their subscriber count daily. I thought it would be fun to write about a YouTuber on the cusp of a million subscribers, and how she'd handle a growing channel.

As for Lacey's love interest, rock star Tyler Lance, I've always found sibling bands fascinating. Like Hanson or R5. There's always the one heartthrob in the group, the one all the girls go insane over. But when it's family, how do the others handle their sibling's success? I was watching an interview once with R5 and I couldn't help but wonder...what would happen if heartthrob Ross Lynch just up and left his family to go solo? How would his siblings deal with it? What would happen to the band, to their careers, their relationship? And would they do everything in their power to draw their brother back in? Tyler's story is heavily influenced from that idea!

How do you think your manuscript has changed since you started working with your editor?

AT FIRST BLUSH went from being a story about a YouTuber and her love of makeup to a story about a 17 year old girl who falls in love for the first time, and has to decide if she's ready to start living for herself instead of living to make her millions of subscribers happy. It's about two teenagers learning to find balance in their lives. It's so much more developed. I swear, I think Tyler was only in like 5 or 6 scenes before my first major round of edits. And looking back, Lacey never really grew up enough in earlier versions of the MS. I wanted to make sure she comes into her own in the final product! My editor, Meredith Rich, did an amazing job helping me draw out these really cool moments and tightening everything up! 

What part of the publication process has been the most interesting/fun? What part has been the hardest?

So far I think the most exciting/stress-free thing was watching the publishers work on my cover! That was SO COOL for me. I loved each idea they had, and every time a new version popped up in my inbox I would freak out.
The hardest has been revisions! You don't realize how not developed the story is until you read that first edit letter! Another hard thing has been learning to let go. I can easily obsess over all the ways I could pace the story differently, and kick myself for not going in other directions. At some point you HAVE to make peace with your choices and press "send!" 

What is some fun promotion you've done for the book?  Anything upcoming we should be keeping our eyes or ears out for?

My pre-order campaign! I bought a bunch of makeup and for every pre-order, the pre-orderer (? lol) got one item, plus a signed bookmark, and was entered to win a Z palette! I'm excited to have more makeup-themed giveaways in the future. 

Anything that new authors can learn from your experiences?

Read in your genre, as much as possible. Read and read and read some more! Don't get in your own head so much or let fear of writing something sucky hold you back. Try new things and have fun! Also, make awesome writer friends! The biz can be rough so you need people to cheer and commiserate with. 

What's a fun fact about yourself?

I'm Wheel of Fortune obsessed and can solve puzzles with only one or two letters. Everyone tells me to go on the show, but a) it's really hard to get chosen, and b)  I know the minute I'm surrounded by Pat and Vanna and a studio audience I'd choke hard!