Monday, October 1, 2018

Happy Pub Day!

Tomorrow is the pub day for Anne O'Brien-Carelli's MG historical debut, SKYLARK AND WALLCREEPER!!!  I love, love, love this book (partially because I'm a sucker for unusual WWII stories) and it's fantastic premise.  It is about a young girl named Lily, who uncovers secrets of her grandmother's past as a member of the French Resistance while help her evacuate to a shelter in Brooklyn during Superstorm Sandy.  It's told in alternating POVs: Lily during the storm and her grandmother Colette when she was her age in France.  

It's gotten two great reviews so far, which I am super excited about!  PW praised "the warm, complex relationships between daughter, mother, and grandmother," and Kirkus called it "wholesome contemporary survival tale combines surprisingly well with a spy thriller packed with invisible ink, an exploding cigarette case, and all kinds of secret agent gadgets."  I encourage you all to get your copy ASAP! 

First of all, tell us how you came up with the premise for this story!  Did you draw inspiration from anything specific when it came to the characters or the plot?

I was talking to a nurse in Queens, NY whose nursing home had been hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. She had to evacuate residents to a nearby armory and stayed with them for three weeks, even though her own house was under water. I was blown away by her dedication. I got off the phone and started researching and writing the book. I had no idea where the story was going to go, but my lifelong interest in the French Resistance emerged as I was typing!

What was your road to publication like? 

Luckily, I had been told by authors that the road to publication is long and bumpy. It is tempting to answer this question with words like potholes, dead end, and slow for construction. But when I hit a detour or closed road I regrouped and kept moving. Thank goodness I found Carrie and she had a map!

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

Once I finally got a book contract, I was warned that marketing would be a crucial task for an author. But I didn’t really comprehend how time-consuming it can be. I’ve discovered on social media an entire world of writers, teachers, bloggers, librarians, etc. who are passionate about children’s literature and eager to promote middle grade books. But I’ve had to establish some limits because I could become involved in book promotion all day, and I need time to write!

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

What I loved about working with my editor was that he caught little things that might throw off a reader. Sometimes it was just a word or phrase, but he was meticulous and thoughtful in his questions and comments. It’s hard to see some of those details when you’ve been knee-deep in the manuscript for several months. I did change one section at his request and it made perfect sense. Otherwise, there were no major changes.

What is your favorite aspect of the book that wasn’t present in the original draft?

When I had to change the scene mentioned above, I had to create a new character, Rosie. She cracks me up. I’ve had a number of people mention that they love her character – and she wasn’t even alive in the original draft!

What have you had to do to promote your book?  What kind of social media do you think has been the most important in publicizing SKYLARK AND WALLCREEPER?

I’m very active on Twitter (@aobc) because it’s fun to connect with people who love to read and want to get books in the hands of children. There are so many opportunities on Twitter to promote through ARC tours, and to connect with teacher/librarian groups, fellow authors, and book stores. I’m also doing some book signings to meet readers and spread the word.

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

Fun – connecting with other debut authors and promoting their books. I love going into book stores and taking pictures of their books “in the wild” and posting them. There’s a lot of support from other writers out there and I’m glad I discovered it.

Hardest – organizing details for all of the promotion. I’ve done that for years with my business and need a break!

Anything that new authors can learn from your experiences? 

Early on I established a Middle Grade Focus Group that consists of 5 kids ages 10-14 from across the country. I know them from relatives and friends. They have been incredible in giving me feedback about chapters and full manuscripts. They write comments (lots of margin notes!) and we meet in person and on-line to discuss their reactions. They take their job very seriously and can be quite honest! I highly recommend you establish beta readers who will be the actual readers of your book.

Do you have any quirks when it comes to your writing process (e.g. do you have to write at night or while wearing lucky socks)? 

If there’s lots of noise and activity going on around me, I can still concentrate on my writing. But if there’s music in the background with lyrics, it interrupts my train of thought. I start listening to the words of the song. I have been known to actually type the song lyrics instead of what I’m writing.