Photo courtesy of Chris Hensel
Dr. April Linder teaches writing at St. Joseph’s University and has recently published her third young adult novel, Love, Lucy. A graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Sarah Lawrence College, and the University of Cincinnati, where she earned her Ph.D., she is also the author of two poetry collections, This Bed Our Bodies Shaped and Skin.
With the current popularity of young adult novels, and so many looking to make their way into its world, she was kind enough to answer the following questions on how to turn a manuscript into a published work.
How did you come to write your first young adult novel, Jane?
I’ve always enjoyed literary retellings, and I’ve long played with the idea of possibly writing one myself. In the years before I wrote Jane, there weren’t all that many retellings of my favorite novel, Jane Eyre, though now there seem to be hundreds! I’d played with the idea of writing one myself, but couldn’t come up with a way to handle the all-important barrier that stands between Jane and Mr. Rochester—the huge class difference that stands between them. Then one day it occurred to me that Mr. Rochester could be a celebrity, and Jane could be just an ordinary broke college girl. From there it was just a small step to realizing Mr. Rochester could be a rock star. At that point I knew I had to write that book—so I did.
Can you take us through the experience of getting that first young adult novel published?
For most of my career, I’ve been a poet, and getting my books of poetry into print has been an uphill battle. One very welcome thing about writing fiction is that it’s possible to get an agent to help you place your book. (There’s no money in poetry, so very few agents will represent poets.) When I’d finished polishing up my manuscript for Jane, a friend introduced me to her agent who agreed to represent my book. She submitted the manuscript to six presses and the fifth one took it. If the process sounds relatively painless, it really isn’t, considering I had to hone my craft for about twenty years to get there.
In what ways has the process of publication for each subsequent novel differed, after obtaining that original publishing deal?
My second novel, Catherine, took a lot longer to write than Jane did, and the third novel, Love, Lucy, took even longer. But by then I did already have an agent, and an editor who was willing to help me to whip those manuscripts into shape. I’ve stuck with the same press for all three of my novels and I do love having an ongoing relationship with an agent, a press, and an editor. There’s never a guarantee that a press will take the next book, but I’ve got book four in the works and I’m hoping.
Would you say young adult publishing is different from publishing other genres?
These are boom times for Young Adult books. I can’t believe the number of YA that are published every year. YA fiction has an avid readership of both teens and adults, and a really vibrant book blogging scene. Otherwise, these are tough times in the publishing world, and it seems to be a lot harder these days to get into print as a writer of adult fiction, so I’m thankful to have stumbled into the YA universe.
By the way, I didn’t set out to write YA. I thought I was writing Jane for an adult audience, but my brilliant agent recognized the book’s YA elements, so that’s the way she decided to sell it.
What is the most important thing one can do to break in to the young adult publishing world?
The most important thing any writer needs to do is read—widely and deeply—in your chosen genre/category and beyond. And the other important thing a writer needs to do is keep writing, no matter what. You have to be willing to be rejected—it happens to all writers, often repeatedly—and to keep sending your work out into the world. The more you are rejected the more likely it is that you will someday be accepted, because rejection means you are sending your work out, so you’re already ahead of people who are too afraid to take the risk. Be hard headed, keep learning and revising, and never stop trying. Or, to steal the words of Bruce Springsteen, “Keep pushing till it’s understood and these badlands start treating you good.”
John Rafferty is a Masters student in the Writing Studies program at Saint Joseph’s University. His email: email@example.com