Today we welcome debut author and new Germany & Austria SCBWI member, Amy Bearce to the blog! Her book FAIRY KEEPER (Curiosity Quills Press) was just released on March 5th.
Welcome Amy! First, tell us a little about yourself. Where you are from, how you started writing, and how long you've been writing with the goal of being published?
I’m sort of from Texas. My dad was military, so we moved a lot, but until this year, we had lived in Texas since 1992. I actually graduated from Patch High School in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1992. Now we’re at Ramstein, Germany—and I’m married to the same guy I was dating then. ;) It’s a funny world.
I loved writing even in elementary school, but didn’t start really writing outside of class assignments until I was in my late 20’s. I began writing short stories and articles for state testing companies like Harcourt and Pearson. After several years of doing that on a part-time, freelance basis, I read The Artist’s Way and decided, hey, why don’t I try writing something for ME? There are a lot of limits on what you can write for standardized tests and I have always loved fantasy and science fiction. So I began writing an urban fantasy. I joined SCBWI in 2008 when I got serious about wanting to be published one day. I began attending conferences and submitting for critiques. My book FAIRY KEEPER is the fifth manuscript I’ve completed and the first one to be published.
Five completed manuscripts! Good thing you persevered. So tell us a bit about FAIRY KEEPER. What was it about this story that drew you in and kept you writing?
I wrote a short story based on the idea of Colony Collapse Disorder. A girl was supposed to be the caretaker of the bees for their tribe, but the bees had all unexpectedly died. Then I wondered, what if she was taking care of little fairies that functioned sort of like bees, making magic the way bees make honey, and the same thing happened to them? What if the queen fairies suddenly… disappeared? I liked the idea of this broken, depleted world and how Sierra interacted with the fairies. I’m always drawn to stories in which people who want to heal the world must first heal themselves, and that’s what this story became as I kept writing.
That’s a really cool theme. And I love how it started out as an environmental issue that warped its way into fantasy. Fantasy for the win! A lot of our members, including myself, are aspiring authors and find the process of writing books interesting. Could you share some of your process for writing this book? Are you a plotter or a pantser? How long did you need to create a first draft? How long was your revision process?
I so much wanted to be a pantster. Madeline L’Engle wrote that way. Stephen King writes that way. But the first three manuscripts I completed as a pantster all had giant holes in them, the kind you could drive a truck through. It just didn’t work for me. I got tired of working for months on something that didn’t work at the end. So I started planning. I read all of Alexandra Solokoff’s blog about screenwriting tricks for writers (very helpful for plotters) and read Save the Cat and a bunch of posts on the sticky-note/notecard method. It made sense to me.
These days, I sketch out a rough idea of the whole story before I really start. I might write one scene to see if I like the character or the idea, but then I wait and try to roughly determine what the main events are going to be in the story and how it will end. Those might all change as I write, but I need a destination to keep pushing through a story. I use sticky notes to block out the three-act structure and write a short synopsis that I refer to as I write. Once I have the big picture, I can break down the story into scenes and write one scene at a time. I do a lot of revisions because I layer in details slowly.
It took me a while to finish Fairy Keeper, about a year, total. I got distracted with another story idea mid-way through, so I set it aside and worked on the other one for a year. I only finished Fairy Keeper because my critique partner kept bugging me about it. (So thank you, Carol Pavliska!) I spent another six months revising before submitting. The revision process with my publisher was long, but that’s for another question!
With my current WIP, I began drafting in April, then we moved in June and I didn’t pick that story back up until October. I finished my rough draft on December 31st. Now I’m revising. So I’ve gotten a lot faster. There’s less floundering around in the beginning, since I know which approach works best for me.
I love SAVE THE CAT! A must read for all writers. And now on to the goodies. :-) Do you have an agent? If so, please share your querying experience, any revision you did for them and the submission process. If not, then please share how you submitted to Curiosity Quills Press, how long it took and what it was like revising with an editor.
I don’t have an agent, but I’m going to be querying some soon with my next manuscript. I have a dream list of agents I’d love to sign with. I think agents are a very good idea, especially for people who write for children and teens. I have always wanted to work with an agent--this submission to Curiosity Quills just sort of came up unexpectedly. I realize that sounds strange.
Curiosity Quills and I actually connected through #PitMad, a Twitter contest organized by Brenda Drake. The thing was, I hadn’t actually entered the contest in which my tweet was found. The year before, I had entered #PitMad with another manuscript I had written. When acquiring editor Lisa Gus went looking for #MG on #PitMad, my entry from the last year was still in the list of tweets, because people were using the same hashtags. She asked to see a query if it was still available, which it was. She loved it, but couldn’t make an offer on that one because they had another title that was too similar. But she asked if I had anything else to show her. I had finally finished Fairy Keeper, so I sent that. She offered a contract and I was thrilled to sign on with them. It was not long from when she first requested my manuscript until she offered the contract—I want to say maybe a couple of weeks? I don’t remember exactly, but I know it felt like a whirlwind at the time.
Revising with an editor was great, but more work than I expected. A lot of that work was because we opted to tweak the story from a YA in first person present to an upper-MG in third person past. That meant every single line had multiple changes. These were GOOD changes and I’m so glad we did it, but, wow, it took a long time. And my husband I were preparing for our overseas move and I was finishing my internship for library school… the first round of edits were killer. But my editor, Krystal Wade, really helped refine my story and bring out the best version of it. There were three rounds of edits, in total, and then the proofreading round. Then there was the review of the galley, in which I still found a few edits to make. I signed my contract on April 7, 2014, and my book was released March 5, 2015. That’s really pretty fast for the publishing world!
Wow, what a serendipitous way to find your publisher. And Yay for #PitMad. It goes to show that taking chances and getting yourself out there really works. Maybe not when you expected, but…. You now live overseas while your book is being published in the US. Has that been a challenge in this whole process and if so how?
Yes, living overseas right now has definitely added a challenge to the whole process. Shipping overseas is expensive and time-consuming, and a lot of companies won’t ship to APO AE addresses at all, especially for promotional items like banners or bookmarks. Shipping to a German address from the states has its own complications and additional costs. So I’ve had to send a lot of things to my parents and have them send them to me. Even getting my books here has taken more time than expected.
And of course, because I’m still pretty new here, most of my support base is still in Texas. Celebrating my book with my friends and family at home would have been really lovely, but they have been a great support to me through social media. I’m so thankful for all the ways we can keep in touch online. I’ve also met lots of new friends who are excited for me, too, (like you, Patti!) and I value those new friendships.
The process of working with Curiosity Quills while living in Germany hasn’t been a problem at all. I’m not their only author working outside the United States. One of their marketing folks is in the UK, so she usually answers my emails first thing in the morning while everyone back home is still asleep. CQ has been very supportive and has worked hard to figure out the best way to deal with the overseas situation.
Those are very good points about companies not shipping to APO AE addresses. But I’m glad things have worked out. And finally, please share with us what's next. What are you working on?
I’m currently revising a companion novel to Fairy Keeper called Mer-Charmer that is focused on Sierra’s younger sister Phoebe and the merfolk. It’s been a lot of fun to write, especially since a lot of it takes place under the water. It’s set four years later, so you’ll get to see how Sierra’s doing, but the story is very much about Phoebe, who is now 14.
I also completed a draft of a YA urban fantasy that I’ve wanted to write for a long time, and it’s in very rough shape right now. It’s on the back burner until I get Mer-Charmer ready to submit. I’m hoping that will be in the next month!
Can’t wait! Thank you so much Amy for joining us today. And readers, Amy is giving away a signed copy of her debut novel FAIRY KEEPER. To enter you have to:
1. leave a comment on this post below
2. tweet or share on Facebook the following
‘I just entered the giveaway for @AmyBearce’s debut book FAIRY KEEPER over at @SCBWIGermany #blog www.germanscbwi.blogspot.de.’
One lucky winner will be chosen randomly and announced on March 20, 2015. Good luck everyone!
Amy is also hosting a Goodreads Giveaway.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Forget cute fairies in pretty dresses. In the world of Aluvia, most fairies are more like irritable, moody insects. Almost everyone in the world of Aluvia views the fairy keeper mark as a gift, but not fourteen-year-old Sierra. She hates being a fairy keeper, but the birthmark is right there on the back of her neck. It shows everyone she was born with the natural ability to communicate, attract, and even control the tiny fairies whose nectar is amazingly powerful. Fairy nectar can heal people, but it is also a key ingredient in synthesizing Flight, an illegal elixir that produces dreaminess, apathy and hallucinations. She's forced to care for a whole hive of the bee-like beasties by her Flight-dealing, dark alchemist father. Then one morning, Sierra discovers the fairies of her hatch are mysteriously dead. The fairy queen is missing. Her father's Flight operation is halted, and he plans to make up for the lost income by trading her little sister to be an elixir runner for another dark alchemist, a dangerous thug. Desperate to protect her sister, Sierra convinces her father she can retrieve the lost queen and get his operation up and running. The problem? Sierra's queen wasn't the only queen to disappear. They're all gone, every single one, and getting them back will be deadly dangerous. Sierra journeys with her best friend and her worst enemy - assigned by her father to dog her every step - to find the missing queens. Along the way, they learn that more than just her sister's life is at stake if they fail. There are secrets in the Skyclad Mountains where the last wild fairies were seen. The magic Sierra finds there has the power to transform their world, but only if she can first embrace her calling as a fairy keeper.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Amy writes stories for tweens and teens. She is a former reading teacher who now has her Masters in Library Science. As an Army kid, she moved eight times before she was eighteen, so she feels especially fortunate to be married to her high school sweetheart. Together they’re raising two daughters and are currently living in Germany. A perfect day for Amy involves rain pattering on the windows, popcorn, and every member of her family curled up in one cozy room reading a good book
posted by Patti Buff