Today, I’m pleased to be joined by Stephanie Elliot, whose debut young-adult novel, Sad Perfect, is scheduled to come out February 28, 2017 from Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG
JR: Hi, Stephanie and thanks for joining us today.
SE: Thanks for inviting me Jonathan!
JR: Before we begin, can you tell us a little bit about Sad Perfect and the impetus behind writing it?
SE: Sad Perfect is the story about a girl with a unique eating disorder who falls in love with a boy while a crazy monster in her head tries to destroy everything around her. It is loosely based on the very real eating disorder ARFID (Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder) that my daughter had. I wrote the novel when my daughter was in a 20-week IOP. It is written in second person.
JR: Wow! I hope all is okay with her now.
JR: I saw on your website, www.Stephanieelliot.com, that you have a wide variety of interests, including gecko breeding. What is that like and do you at least let the geckos get to know each other first and go on a few dates?
SE: Haha! So my son had a couple of geckos and we didn’t know they were male and female until we started observing them doing, um, some things. Let me tell you, it is not all Barry White and roses in that gecko tank. Pretty horrific mating rituals of geckos. I wanted to pull the female out and hug her after witnessing the first episode! But then she started laying eggs (she lays two at a time—each about twice the size of a peanut M&M!) about every eight weeks for five or six months). The second summer we decided to research how to incubate the eggs and breed baby geckos. We couldn’t believe it when live babies started hatching. It was a cool nature experiment, but we’ve moved on to new things now. Meaning, my son outgrew the geckos and they are now happily living elsewhere, but it was a really fun experience to have our gecko pets Wiz and KJ!
JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point?
SE: Fairytale story: I wrote Sad Perfect in three months when my 15-year-old daughter was in her therapy program in 2014, and queried in November. Adriann Ranta requested the full right before the holidays, took me on as a client the first of the year, and we sold it to FSG in February. So, within seven months I wrote a book, got an agent who found an editor who bought the book. Sounds too good to be true, right?
Here’s what it took to get me there:
Reality: I wrote a chick-lit novel in early 2000, got an agent after 140 queries, that book went to acquisitions but never sold. I was devastated. I loved that agent and stayed with her and we worked on non-fiction proposals instead but nothing ever happened. I wrote another manuscript and my first agent teamed up with another agent so I was working with two agents. That second book was requested by editors but never sold. I kept writing. I wrote a novella and for the heck of it I self-published it on Amazon to see if I could do it. I felt like my first agent was looking to do something else and I felt it was time for me to move on so we parted ways, so I was agentless. I wrote ANOTHER book and decided to self-publish my other two books because I wanted them out there. One of the books was getting some foreign editor interest so a friend of mine who was a self-published author put me in touch with her agent and she took me on. When I wrote Sad Perfect and shared it with the new agent, she didn’t feel like my self-published sales were good enough for her to want to represent me (they weren’t but these books were a different genre), so we parted ways and I found Adriann.
Here are the stats:
Four full manuscripts; ½ manuscript (I might come back to); 1 novella
17 years to publication day
More queries than I can even recall
Time, talent, and persistence are words that I live by! (More on this below!)
JR: Wow, but at least you persevered. You’re a great lesson in showing people the payoff for sticking to it. What’s your writing process like now?
SE: I wish I had one. When I write I can write really fast, but I don’t write every day. I wish I could.
JR: What’s your favorite book and who’s your favorite author?
SE: I always say Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone, which I read in 1998. I need to go back and reread. I just remember being amazed that a guy could write such a compelling female voice. I love Emily Giffin, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Laura Dave, Julie Buxbaum, Rainbow Rowell. Mary Kubica writes amazing thrillers. A book I was stunned by was Wink, Poppy, Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke. I have found so many amazing authors through the Sweet Sixteens and the Swanky Seventeens as well.
JR: What’s your favorite movie?
SE: I’m gonna be that lame girl and say Sixteen Candles. Jake Ryan. The last scene is just a sixteen-year-old girl’s fantasy! Of course, if I were to watch it now I’d probably just roll my eyes over and over. OK, I asked my daughter for help and she said I loved Juno, which I did. Also, Perks of Being a Wallflower, which makes an appearance in Sad Perfect.
JR: Something people would be surprised to learn about you?
SE: I sleep with a woobie, but didn’t start doing so until about two years ago. It’s a blanket that I got on Amazon that I love. But I don’t put it on me, I curl it up around my face and snuggle it. Is that something people would be surprised to learn about me? Pretty weird huh? Also, I love to nap because I have really weird dreams and I like to be in that dreamy world place. But for me a quality nap is two-plus hours. None of this twenty minutes and I’m bouncing and wide awake and ready to go stuff!
JR: There is absolutely nothing that can beat a good nap!
(Not an actual Woobie)
JR: Do you do a lot of research when you write?
SE: Depends on the book. I didn’t have to do any research for Sad Perfect since I knew a lot about ARFID already because of my daughter. But for my self-published novel What She Left Us, the main character’s mother has a disease that I had to research.
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?
SE: Would it be horrible if I said no, not really? I have a few trusted writer friends, one in particular that we share our manuscripts back and forth and we offer feedback. I haven’t found ‘that’ group yet. I am not opposed to it at all and would welcome a group, but for now, it’s just been my friend and I sharing our work with each other.
JR: I think any feedback is good, even if it’s one friend giving it to you, like you have.
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?
SE: The best advice that I received and share with others is that it takes time, persistence and talent (the TPT method) if you want to get published. It took me a long time. But I was determined and I didn’t want to quit. If you quit, maybe writing’s not for you? For some others, it might not take that long, but if you have the persistence, and the talent, and the time to make it happen, it can happen for you!
JR: What are you working on next?
SE: My agent has a few chapters of something that I’m working on but I haven’t taken the deep dive yet. It’s very different from Sad Perfect though, a story about teenagers and their senior class trip.
JR: What trouble could teens possibly get into? 🙂
Is there anything else that you want to share with our readers or perhaps tell them how they can follow you on social media?
SE: I’m always on Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat. Maybe if I wasn’t I would be writing more.
JR: Before we go, I always like to ask, who’s your favorite member of The Tuesdays?
SE: I suppose I should say YOU because I know you the best since we’re both Swanky Seventeeners, but I’m going to say Stacie for these reasons: I have a sister named Stacy (although one of them misspells it); She wrote The Sister Pact; Stacie mentions Florida and Pennsylvania in her bio and I have lived in BOTH states!
JR: That’s okay, Stephanie, you can say whoever you want, since if it isn’t me, I’m just going to delete it later anyway. (Memo to self, remember to delete Stephanie’s answer.)
Thank you again for joining us, Stephanie and the best of luck with Sad Perfect!