Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Author Guest Post: Katie Alender

Katie Alender, author of Bad Girls Don't Die and the follow up From Bad to Cursed (out today!) has been kind enough to stop by with something a little different, but definitely well worth the read. An author's writing journey, from idea to release, is often a popular question so here's Katie's with a little extra mixed in.

The Long Wait (a.k.a., Go Ahead and Live For Today)

I started working on my first book in 2002. I distinctly remember sitting in the airport, headed to my brother’s wedding in Istanbul, Turkey, reading Stephen King’s memoir On Writing. There, in the international terminal at JFK, it occurred to me: I could actually finish a book. It wasn’t just something that magic people did. If I wanted to do it, I could.

So I went home, finished my draft by the end of the year, and obeyed Stephen King’s directive to let it sit for a while before coming back to it. The problem is, by the time I came back to it, I had found a job. A very demanding job. So the book went onto the back burner as I toiled away at the office. Still, I found or made time to work on it—getting to work early or staying late, revising and rewriting again an again. As I worked, I made connections between characters and situations, I gave my characters backstories, personalities, and a true place in the book.

That took years. By the time I got an agent, it was May of 2006. By November of 2006, the book sold.

When they told me the publication date was “Spring 2008,” I was like, “What is WRONG with these people?” I had this vague sense of worry that my whole life was going to pass me by in the meantime. Hadn’t I waited long enough? Everyone else, it seemed, wished a book into existence, and then *poof!* it appeared on a shelf. But my agent and editor assured me that 18 months was a normal amount of time for the sale-to-published turnaround.

Imagine my extreme delight when, just as the book was going into copyedits, my editor left the industry! Terrified, I got a new editor—and a new pub date: Spring 2009.

Um, excuse me? Suddenly I found myself in the awkward position of having to tell people that it would be two more years before my book would be in stores. I halfheartedly started trying to market myself, wondering all the while why anyone would bother paying attention to someone whose book was two long years away. Honestly, I was embarrassed. I felt like I was second-rate, and that people would think I was kind of pathetic.

But time has a way of passing. And so, practically before I knew it, April 21, 2009 was upon me. And the funny thing about the people I’d been meeting online—they were all too friendly, kind, and grounded to worry if my book was coming out in the “normal” timeframe (which, I later learned, doesn’t really exist).

After the book came out, Hyperion approached me about doing two sequels. The first would come out… (drum roll)… two years after the first book! At this point, I groaned inwardly, but I didn’t protest. Putting a book together isn’t the easiest business, especially if you want a little time to obsess over your edits and every last bit of language and twist of plot.

But secretly, my heart sank a little. Remember those phantom meanies I’d imagined were judging me before? They popped back into my head, haunting my vision of the next few years. With YA series popping up like popcorn, who would have the time or patience to wait two years for my book?

But ah! Time, she passes. And suddenly here I am. The day my second book officially goes out into the world. And the phantom meanies have dried up, to be replaced by the usual cheer squad of friendly people, too pleasantly occupied with their own business to judge me for mine.

You can blink and twenty years are gone. When I used to walk home from school in ninth grade, when it was hot and I was sweaty but knew I had a mile and a half between myself and air conditioning, I would think, “I’m already home. I’m standing in front of the VCR, setting it to record Star Trek: The Next Generation.” (What the hey, as long as I’m being honest…) And sure enough, every day, I would suddenly find myself standing in front of the VCR.

Now I remember thinking, “I’m not here. I’m in the future already. This slow time is over,” and I want to shake myself. Little fool! Life can’t just be made of air conditioning and book launch days. Life is not just the hills but the valleys and the flatlands. And what I’ve learned is that when you crave for time to pass quickly, it does. And then you will miss the time you wished away.

So enjoy the highlights. Enjoy the milestones. But also enjoy the quiet minutes. The waiting. Find something to love every step of the way, and don’t you dare wish yourself ahead. Because time will get you whether you want it to or not.

Whether I meant to or not, getting to this day in my writing career took a while. But now I’ve learned to let the days linger and not wish “now” away for the fleeting moments. Because they’ll come—and they’ll go.

There’s a phrase: take your sweet time. And that’s my advice to you.

Thank you, Katie, for that message and glimpse into your own writing journey, and congrats on the release!

Make sure all of you pick up From Bad to Cursed, out today! And if you haven't yet read Bad Girls Don't Die, you are definitely missing out and need to get on that!

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