Today, I’m pleased to be joined by a fellow 2017 Debut member, Erin Beaty, whose debut young-adult novel, The Traitor’s Kiss, is scheduled to come out May 9 of 2017 from Imprint at MacMillan
JR: Hi, Erin and thanks for joining us today.
EB: Hi! I’m all aflutter! And my imprint at Macmillan is called “Imprint.” It’s new, and the name confuses everyone, but they have been awesome to work with.
JR: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about The Traitor’s Kiss and the impetus behind writing it?
EB: The Traitor’s Kiss is about a girl who lives in a country where the vast majority of marriages are made through a third party. Sage Fowler is unsuited for marriage by her society’s standards, but she finds herself desperate enough to take a job apprenticing with the local matchmaker, who is also head of the regional guild. When they set out for the Concordium, a national marriage conference in the capital city, rich brides in tow, their military escort stumbles across some suspicious activity. What they don’t realize is this plot is way bigger than anyone could have imagined. Sage becomes the key to figuring it all out, but in the meantime she’s gotten romantically entangled with one of the soldiers, and he’s got some big secrets. My publisher says it’s “Jane Austen with an espionage twist,” which thrills the hell out of me.
Honestly, I just wrote the book the 17-year-old girl inside of me wanted to read. She’s fiercely romantic, but she likes to hit things, too.
JR: I saw on your website, www.ErinBeaty.com, that you have a Naval background. That’s close to my heart, since my dad was in the Navy. Has that aspect of your life, moving around a lot, seeped into your writing and if so, how?
EB: I’m glad to know you survived being a Navy brat, because I’m carting around five of my own every few years. I worry I’m permanently damaging them, but the symbol of the military child is the dandelion for good reason.
So being a natural introvert, I live in my head, but even more so since we move around so much. It takes time for me to make friends and join the community… and then it’s time to move again. Since my husband is still in the navy, the majority of feeding, clothing, and getting our kids to school and appointments and activities falls on me. I don’t get out much, and blogging became somewhat of release valve, though for years I never realized how much I was growing as a writer.
As for influence on my writing, from my own naval service and education, I have solid knowledge of personality types and military leadership and structure, plus some actual fighting experience, and I think it shows. Many lessons my military characters learn, I learned the hard way. Also a lot of my early readers commented that I needed to describe the dresses more and the stabbing maybe a little less.
JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point?
EB: So I mentioned a blog, but it was only for grandparents and friends so they could keep track of us and so I could remember the goofy things the kids did. I never considered it writing, but looking back I can see an evolution. Science and math were my strengths growing up, so I resisted the siren pull of writing until one day a fresh storyline popped in my head. All the kids were in school and pretty self-sufficient by then, and I had no excuse not to try putting it down. I went a little crazy and had a first draft in 6 weeks. It would be 46 more weeks before it was truly fit for human consumption, but at the time I didn’t know any better. Neither did most of the friends I shared it with, but their enthusiasm convinced me I had written something that could be published. Weirdly, almost no one was surprised that I started writing-it was like coming out of the closet. Everyone was like, “Duh.”
Research told me I needed an agent (and lots of editing- I wasn’t THAT crazy), so I revised and started querying, and the responses weren’t entirely awful (though my first queries were). After a few months of dipping my toes into the writing community, I realized I needed to do some major work on my manuscript, so I hammered at it and went back out with queries in the first week of May 2015, almost a year to the day that I had started writing the first draft. Three weeks later, I had my first offer of rep. The funny thing is that this agent, Valerie Noble, whom I ended up signing with, had requested the full six months earlier, back when I first started querying. If I hadn’t gone out way before I was should have, she never would have gotten to my manuscript (I sent her an updated version) right when it was ready. It felt like fate.
From there it was a couple rounds of revision (done in the middle of moving, because Navy) and right around Halloween, Valerie said she felt the book was ready to go out, and she listed all the big publishers she was sending it to. All I could think was, “WHUT?” I expected rejection, but hoped for advice or commentary that would help. I’d read about the submission process, and I knew it could take years and we might not even sell this book. In early January 2016, Valerie called to say I was going to acquisitions at Macmillan, and given it was the head editor pushing the book, she felt it was pretty much a shoe-in. Sure enough, they offered, and another offer came in shortly after. Again, all I could think was, “WHUT?” and that’s pretty much been my first thought every morning since.
JR: That was some new year’s gift! 🙂
JR: What’s your writing process like?
EB: I’m still figuring that out, but so far it involves Post Its on an easel page. I outline scenes and orders of events, then promptly turn my back and write the hell out of whatever story. Then I go back and futz with the Post Its-adding, subtracting, rearranging-then return to writing. So I outline, then pants it, then go back to the outline, then pants it again in a continuous cycle until it’s over. I kind of do grocery shopping the same way, so I think it just my method. In the editing process, I’ll write out a timeline of events, but when it comes to scene maps, character pages, and subplot charts, I have a very good memory, so I get lazy unless I start having problems-which I haven’t, yet. That is going to bite me in the butt someday. I don’t think I’m an example to emulate right now, especially since the actual writing part takes hold of me like pit bull and won’t let go for material/corporal needs. Remember all those kids I mentioned? Yeah, they like to eat dinner every day. What’s up with that?
JR: What’s your favorite book and who’s your favorite author?
EB: Probably Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I’m a sucker for a navy man and a love you just can’t forget. Oh, and Michael Crichton’s Timeline. How’s that for variety? I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite author, though, because there’s always that one book (or two) they wrote that I hated-Robert Heinlein being probably the best example of that.
JR: What’s your favorite movie?
EB: That’s a toss-up between The Lion in Winter and A Man for All Seasons. The latter feeds my soul while the former feeds the cold-hearted bastard within. And every line in both is classic.
JR: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?
EB: I was a flag twirler in high school, and I still have my flags and rifle. Woo Color Guard!
JR: Do you do a lot of research when you write?
EB: My non-fiction writing long ago (a few academic articles and curriculum) always required research. Fortunately, I’ve got a really good memory, so most of my searches for The Traitor’s Kiss and its hopeful sequel were checks to make sure I was accurate on things like, um, stabbing. I don’t know I learned anything really new, though. My current WIP is a fairy-tale retelling, so mostly the “research” leans toward inspirational, get-me-in-the-mood stuff. I have one project percolating in my brain that I am dying to write, but it will be historical and not fantasy, so it will require loads of research. I’ve already bought about eight books on relevant topics, so I’m committed.
JR: Here at the Tuesdays, a big part of our success and the purpose of this site, has been being involved in a critique group. Are you involved in one and if so, how has it helped you?
EB: I found some partners online who were a tremendous help, but my publishing journey has been so fast I quickly outgrew the groups I joined. That sounds horribly stuck-up, but it’s the truth. I still try to help those writers out, but my spare time is at a premium with family and writing and edits and trying to figure out how to promote myself. The Swanky 17s, the group of fellow YA/MG debut writers, will probably become my new critique group. I’ve already done some critiquing of a Swanky’s WIP, and that relationship seems to be headed in the right direction for future CPing. I also have been teaching classes at the local writing center, and I’m finally making connections that could become writers’ groups, but it’s tough because it’s mostly poets and military fiction around here. YA is almost unheard of. It’s also almost time to move again.
JR: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?
EB: I would say “Write what you know” with one caveat: Go out and learn! Don’t write about something until you understand it, or at least don’t share it until you do. You’d be amazed what you do know, however, and how many human experiences are universal. Use your passion as a springboard for exploration. As for trying to break in, again, everything for me was so fast I hate to say things like “Never give up!” and “Don’t be afraid to trunk a novel and move on!” because it sounds fake coming from me. So I’ll say surround yourself with people who believe in you, BUT learn to take criticism. Just because you don’t like what someone says doesn’t mean it’s not valid, no matter what your friends are telling you, especially if your friends aren’t writers. I lost a few test CPs because they didn’t like what I had to say about their writing. My delivery was lacking, no doubt, but I stand by my advice.
JR: What are you working on next?
EB: Fingers crossed that the sequel to The Traitor’s Kiss gets bought. Imprint is super enthused about the first book, so I’m optimistic, but it’s terrifying nonetheless. My side WIP is a Cinderella retelling from the prince’s perspective. The market may not support it by the time I’m done, but it brings me joy to write. The percolating one is a nerdy Pride and Prejudice. And I’ve got dozens of other ideas. Once I let the writing monster out of the cage, there was no going back, apparently.
JR: Is there anything that else you want to share with our readers or perhaps tell them how they can follow you on social media?
EB: Ugh, I need to work on a newsletter, but I’m still in that mindset of being bewildered that anyone would want to read what I wrote, plus I have very little news I can share at the moment. I’ve got that website, but not much on it yet, and a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ErinBeatyAuthor/. On twitter I’m @ErinBeatyWrites and I’m technically on Instagram as ErinBeatyWrites (am I original or what?), but I’m still figuring that one out.
JR: Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays?
EB: Of course it you, Jonathan! We 2017 Debut Authors have to stick together. But Cathy, Jo, Melody, Faran, and Stacie are all delightful, and I admire the work you do for others, like this interview. I’m honored to be a part of your site. Writers really are the best community out there!
JR: Awww, thank you, Erin, but it really wasn’t necessary . . . to mention the others also, but very nice of you to do.
Anyway, thank you again and the best of luck with The Traitor’s Kiss!