The Paperback Release of IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS . . . and How I Learned about Post-Publication Patience

Blackbirds_paperbacksYesterday saw the paperback release of my debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, a 1918-set tale involving a bright and logical sixteen-year-old girl who’s forced to deal with WWI, the Spanish influenza, and a ghost. The hardcover came out in April 2013, and my publisher, Amulet Books, decided to wait to release the paperback right before the publication of my second novel, The Cure for Dreaming. In fact, the paperback includes a sneak peek of The Cure for Dreaming.

Because eighteen months have passed since the book first entered the world, I’ve had time to think about the most important lesson I’ve learned as a published author: patience.

Anyone who’s ever tried to get a book published knows that patience is required from day one. First you need the patience to simply sit down and write the book. Then you need to take the time to polish and revise the manuscript, share the book with early readers, and submit the work to literary agents. At that point, you then wait and wait and wait to see if the book will get published.

If you’re fortunate and land a book contract with a publishing company, more waiting ensues. You wait for your editorial letter to arrive from your editor and then for all the other various editing stages. You wait to see the cover, and then you have to wait to share the cover. Most importantly, your patience is put to the ultimate test when you’re given a publication date that’s slated for eighteen months to two years–and sometimes even longer–after the day you first learned your book would be published.

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The April 2013 launch party at Powell’s Books, Beaverton, Oregon

Once that publication date at long last arrives, there’s cheering, there’s tweeting, there’s celebrating. In my case, my mom, whom I don’t see too often these days, flew in to Oregon from Ohio for a week. My sister flew up from California for my book launch party, and one of my best friends from college drove down from Washington state. We ate cupcakes. We went out to dinner. I signed dozens of books for readers.

Then, one week after the publication date passed, Mom flew back to Ohio, everyone else returned to their respective homes, and it became other authors’ turns to celebrate a release date. All I heard was silence. My book didn’t suddenly race to the top of the New York Times bestseller list or land me a spot on The Today Show. Life as I knew it hadn’t really changed. I was still a mom living in the suburbs of Portland, OR, driving my kids to school and cleaning up dog poop in the yard . . . still hurrying to squeeze in writing time and trying to get another book published.

Thankfully, I had a strong support team of other debut authors, who assured me postpartum book release depression is a very real thing. We hear so many stories of authors climbing to instant fame and having their books celebrated by the world, and so it’s a strange and surprising feeling to watch one’s publication date come and go with one swift rush of excitement. It’s hard to replicate that surge of sheer joy in the weeks following a publication date.

However, I learned a little secret about the way the YA book world works: buzz keeps building over time. Unlike what I’ve heard to be the norm in the world of adult fiction publishing, you do not need to have your book become a bestseller in the first weeks of publication in order for people to continue talking about it. In fact, some of my major book reviews for In the Shadow of Blackbirds didn’t even show up until after April 2013.

CatWinters_GrossmontHigh6In May 2013 I got to fly down to my book’s setting of San Diego, California, and promote the novel in high schools. While there, I learned the book had gone into its second printing. I also learned the novel was starting to receive award nominations.

Over six months after the book debuted, I found out In the Shadow of Blackbirds was a 2014 Morris Award Finalist, which suddenly gave the book even more attention. In January 2014–nearly a year after the book debuted–I got to fly to Philadelphia and celebrate with all of the other Morris Award Finalists at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting.

VestinucernychptakuSpring 2014 saw the publication of the first translated edition of the novel, a Czech edition, as well as a Scholastic Reading Club paperback edition.

Eighteen months post-publication, to my utter surprise, I’m still receiving awards and accolades for the book (I just accepted the Oregon Spirit Book Award this past weekend), and I’m still hearing from both brand-new and established fans. If I could go back to the version of me who was driving home from dropping my mom off at the airport, wondering if that was it for my book, I would say, “Just stop! Have patience. Your job was to write the strongest book you could possibly write, and now it’s time to let others spread the word about your work.”

That’s the other valuable nugget of info I learned about writing YA fiction: readers of YA novels are amazingly supportive. Thank you so much for your incredible love and enthusiasm for our books. It’s meant the world to me.

Order the paperback of In the Shadow of Blackbirds online: 
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Happy Birthday!

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Today I’m celebrating two birthdays: my own, and my book’s! Whistle in the Dark is brand new in paperback this summer, and I’m looking forward to this year’s fresh new edition of me. Or whatever.

I love my summer birthday–as a kid, I often got to unwrap a new hardcover book. Here’s the inscription my sister painted inside her gift to me one year.

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When Whistle in the Dark was published last fall, the Corsets, Cutlasses & Candlesticks team asked me all about it, and (following Katherine Longshore’s lead on the recent celebration of her new book, Courted) I’ll link to that excellent interview here.  The book enjoyed an exciting first year – appearing on Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2013, and Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books, 2014, honors I share with many of my writer-friends and idols, and for which I’m truly grateful.

I hope you enjoy a season of summer reading: now that’s always something to celebrate.

 

Susan Hill Long grew up in New England, and lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two daughters. Her books for beginning readers have been published by Macmillan and HarperCollins, and her fiction has appeared in Hunger Mountain. She is the recipient of the Katherine Paterson Prize.

 

 

 

EVERY DAY AFTER Paperback Release Celebration!

It’s here at last! EVERY DAY AFTER will officially release in paperback tomorrow. I can’t believe it has been an entire year since the hardcover debuted. It has been one heck of a journey. I’ve learned tons, met phenomenal people, and feel far more relaxed about my second book’s release (scheduled for sometime in 2015) than I did about EDA’s release. I’m grateful. That is all there is to say. So…for my official paperback release post, I’m going to give a wink to the relaxed me, let the serious go, and have a bit of fun.

I was born in 1980, and I admit to being partial to the 80’s. I love teased bangs, leg warmers, and acid-washed jeans. Oversized sweatshirts paired with tight leggings and chunky accessories. Films by John Hughes, music by New Kids on the Block, and books recommended by LeVar Burton on Reading Rainbow. Though I’d rather not dwell on it, the decade is now considered historical, so I suppose that makes an 80’s-themed post relevant to this blog. Oh, my.

So let’s dive right in and have a flashback to the 1980’s! Do you remember…

the original Nintendo?

the original Nintendo?

 

blowing into the cartridges to help them work properly?

blowing into the cartridges to get them to work properly?

 

Trapper Keepers? How about the Lisa Frank variety?

Trapper Keepers? How about the Lisa Frank variety?

 

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Care Bears? I loved Cheer Bear and Friend Bear. Who was your favorite?

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dot matrix printers and paper?

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The Charmings tv show? No one ever remembers this, but I loved it!

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Alphie educational robot? I still remember changing his front cards and the sounds he made when he was “processing” my responses.

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Pound Puppies?

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any of these cassette tapes?

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the Get-Along Gang? I kept three Get-Along Gang books that are currently sitting on my sons’ bookshelf. I kid you not.

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Teddy Ruxpin? I even had a Teddy Ruxpin VHS tape that came with a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Hey, what’s not to love about that?

Atari? I remember playing Pac-Man and Pole Position. What about you?


Thundercats? Epic.

Thundercats? Epic.

 

He-Man Master of the Universe and She-Ra Princess of Power? Also epic.

He-Man Master of the Universe and She-Ra Princess of Power? Also epic.

 

I have oodles of memories I’d love to post, but I’ll stop here. I was young during the 80’s, and if you were born before 1980, I’m sure you remember completely different things. What are they? I want to know! Let’s reminisce together. 

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Laura Golden is the author of EVERY DAY AFTER, a middle grade novel about a young girl learning to let go and find her own way amidst the trials of the Great Depression and STANDING TALL ON MULBERRY HILL, another middle grade about Klan uprisings and true friendship beyond color lines in 1949 Birmingham, AL. Find out more about Laura and her books by visiting her website or chatting with her on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Interview for Katherine Longshore to celebrate Manor of Secrets!

Manor_of_SecretsToday we’re thrilled to be celebrating the release of Katherine Longshore’s newest novel, Manor of Secrets, a novel containing all the sweep and grandeur of Edwardian England.

Synopsis:

The year is 1911. And at The Manor, nothing is as it seems . . .

Lady Charlotte Edmonds: Beautiful, wealthy, and sheltered, Charlotte feels suffocated by the strictures of upper-crust society. She longs to see the world beyond The Manor, to seek out high adventure. And most of all, romance.

Janie Seward: Fiery, hardworking, and clever, Janie knows she can be more than just a kitchen maid. But she isn’t sure she possesses the courage — or the means — to break free and follow her passions.

Both Charlotte and Janie are ready for change. As their paths overlap in the gilded hallways and dark corridors of The Manor, rules are broken and secrets are revealed. Secrets that will alter the course of their lives. . . forever.

**Swoon.** And now for the questions!

From: Elizabeth May

While researching for Manor of Secrets, were there any interesting factoids you encountered about the era that you wished you could have included in the book, but weren’t able to?

There are so many, Elizabeth!  Some of the most interesting information I came across was about people actually living at the time.  Rupert Brooke diving naked into an icy pond at midnight.  Lady Diana Manners, with her “corrupt coterie”, playing parlor games that could never in a million years be called PC (one was called “Breaking the News”, where she and her friends acted out a scene in which a mother is told of the death of a child).  Though I do manage to get in an oblique reference to Siegfried Sassoon who spent part of the summer of 1911 playing cricket very near to the fictional Manor.

 

From: Jessica Spotswood

MANOR OF SECRETS has an upstairs/downstairs element as it follows both Lady Charlotte and kitchen maid Janie. Did you find one setting more fun to explore than the other?

As much as I love the upstairs opulence, I think I enjoyed exploring downstairs more.  As a visitor to some of these historic houses, most of what we see is the upstairs.  People want to live—even for a moment, and just in their imaginations—the life of the lord of the manor.  The upstairs is where the valuables are—the carpets and art and furniture.  It’s beautiful and awe-inspiring.  It’s where the history happened—that is, the history that was written down.  But I’ve always been curious about what happens behind the scenes.  What props up that beautiful façade?  What makes it possible?  And if we’re honest, most of us would have lived downstairs.  We would have worked ten hours a day, six days a week (with a half-day off on Sunday to go to church) in conditions that today would be considered intolerable for wages that were laughable.  Perhaps the upstairs was where the history was written, but I can’t help but feel that downstairs was where the living happened.

 

From: J. Anderson Coats

Without being too spoilery, what was your favorite scene to write in MANOR OF SECRETS?

There’s a scene early on where Charlotte—the upstairs girl—ventures downstairs and ends up in the kitchen while Janie is preparing hot chilies for an Indian curry.  Charlotte immediately feels out of her depth because she doesn’t know how the kitchen operates, she has no idea what the chili is, and there are boys.  The real tension comes when one of the boys challenges the rest to try the chili—it’s a dare, and a test of Charlotte’s ability to fit in.  It was inspired in part by events and people in my own life—my dad, who could eat a whole jalapeno without blinking, and my husband, who loves Tabasco sauce, but gets the hiccups when he uses too much.

 

From: Cat Winters

Although MANOR OF SECRETS is your first Edwardian novel, it is your third published novel, which is quite an accomplishment! Congratulations! How do you plan to celebrate the release of this particular book?

Thank you, Cat!  I’m celebrating this book just a little bit differently.  I love to have treats and readings at my local indie, but for this book, I also came in a costume, custom built by my friend Kristen Held.  As I said above, I would probably have been a servant in 1911, but my fashion preference runs distinctly haute couture.  I love the beautiful lines of Edwardian gowns, and the gorgeous tailoring of them.  Part of my research led me to look into the costumes designed for Downton Abbey, and I simply gushed over the vintage beaded bodices and gauzy chiffons.  I couldn’t quite aspire to the recreations Lady Mary wears, but I enjoyed swathing myself in silk and satin and playing lady of the manor for a day.

 

From: Jenn McGowan

In your writing career so far, you have traveled from Tudor England to Edwardian England. What has been the biggest challenge or difference in writing the new time period?

For me, the biggest challenge was changing the way I write a story.  My Tudor books are all about people who actually existed, living through events that actually happened.  It’s a huge challenge to integrate a story within this framework, but at least it was something I’m used to.  In MANOR OF SECRETS I had much more freedom—I could invent and delete characters at will, make them fall in and out of love and alter their histories as it suited me.  I love that kind of freedom (sometimes, I rant and rave at history because I wish I could change it and can’t), but it was a challenge to settle on a particular story, when there were so many I could possibly write.

 

From Susan Hill Long:

Katy, can you tell us what inspired your character, Lady Charlotte? Are there ways in which you connect with her?  

Charlotte is a daydreamer, just like I am.  I pushed that even further to make her more of a Walter Mitty-type character—someone who projects herself into adventurous situations in her imagination, sometimes forgetting that the real world exists.  And I can’t think about Edwardian England without thinking of E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View, so perhaps there is a bit of Lucy Honeychurch in Charlotte, too.

 

From: Sharon Biggs Waller

I adore your cover.  Can you tell us the story behind it and a little bit about that dress! Also I heard you made the dress for yourself.  How did that go?

I honestly thought I was going to be able to make a dress, but in the end had to call upon my friend Kristen, a former costume designer, and a person who really knows her way around a French seam.  The dress is gorgeous and really added a sense of festivity to the launch party.

The cover is entirely the creation of Scholastic, and I absolutely love it.  I’ll be writing a “Behind the Scenes” post about it during the week of February 17—and divulging all manner of secrets.

 

From: Laura Golden

Katy, this is your fourth novel, right? Are there any tips you can offer for balancing writing time with social time?

I find I need to set aside time specifically to spend with friends and family.  When I write, I get incredibly focused, and I can stay that way even as I’m driving my kids’ carpool.   I have to make an effort to take a complete break and be absolutely present in the moment, but it’s always worth it.

As far as social media is concerned, I sometimes I have to unplug my Internet entirely, because I am such an eavesdropper on Twitter and use it as a distraction.  So I have to set aside time specifically to spend writing, too.

I wrote MANOR OF SECRETS and BRAZEN (my third Tudor book) at the same time, so I know that having super-tight, sometimes conflicting deadlines can be incredibly stressful.  But I also know that taking a little time off to take a twenty minute power walk or have dinner with family or coffee with a friend can be just the refreshment my tired brain needs.  What I’ve learned from writing four books is that I can take that time and still meet my deadlines and write a good book.  For me, that’s what finding the balance is all about.