A post from the archives. Anna Banks gave me my first-ever author interview. Because we go way back.
Following her publishing journey, aspiring authors have found a unique resource in Anna Banks, not just as a writer who has found her well-deserved golden ticket, but someone who is accessible through her blog and Twitter account, as well as community Twitter chats like #YALitChat, to lend advice on how to navigate the writing, querying and rejection process.
VC: What advice would you give for those querying? Any different advice for those just starting to query, or in the thick of querying and receiving rejections?
AB: I’m going to sicken you with a cliché: Don’t. Give. Up. With each rejection, send out another query. If you’re lucky enough to get feedback from agents as to WHY they’re rejecting, then use it. If you’re just getting form rejection letters, or none at all, then maybe you should re-examine your query. Send only what the agent asks for. Thank the agent in advance for their time. Get your query letter critiqued. Labor over each word. Make it as interesting as possible. There’s a motto I follow when writing, and it applies to queries as well: Either put fire in the writing or chuck the writing in the fire.
Now, that’s not to say my query letter was magical. It wasn’t. It got rejected. A lot. But I persisted with my un-magical query. It’s as simple as that. If you can’t handle rejection at this stage of the game, then you are not ready to be published.
Humor me for a minute, and recall Michael Jordan. Did you know he didn’t make the high school varsity basketball team the first time he tried out? But he didn’t give up. Nope. He practiced and practiced and practiced. Improved his craft. Then he tried out again. He made basketball look like an art. All because he never gave up.
The point is, you don’t write because you have to. You write because you want to. You could get up from your computer right now and walk away. Live the life of a normal person, one who doesn’t obsessively check her email, one who doesn’t stalk agents on Twitter, one who doesn’t tweak her manuscript and/or query to death. One who will never get published.
Or you could send the next query. And it could be the last one you ever have to send.
VC: Why mermaid stories? And why Young Adult? What is it about the genre that made you write the story?
AB: I hate when people ask me this question, because the answer exposes me as the complete nerd that I am. Please know that as I type this, my eye is twitching in a self-conscious sort of way: I was reading an article one day (which prompted me to watch a documentary... NERD) on the colossal squid. For centuries, they were considered legend, fishermen’s lore… until 2005, when a complete specimen washed up on shore. I got to thinking, there’s so much time and money devoted to space exploration, when really, we haven’t even covered our own planet. I mean, less than 10 percent of the earth’s oceans have been explored at this point. What ELSE could be out there?
And why Young Adult? Because anything goes. You’re not restricted by genre rules in YA. In adult fiction, you have to label things romance or sci-fi or fantasy or mystery. If you’ve got a genre straddling your work, it’ll be hard to sell to an editor. It’s difficult to place on a shelf in a bookstore. But with YA, you can have a paranormal romance mystery fantasy, and sell the snot out of it. In a bookstore, all YA goes in the same section. The YA isle is like a giant buffet where all your favorite foods are available. The fried chicken could be next to the meatballs, and everyone is okay with that.
Plus, I feel Young Adult readers are more accepting. They haven’t been jaded by life yet (for the most part), and they still look at the world as one big endless possibility. I remember what it’s like to feel that way, and I try to recapture it in my writing.
VC: Your debut book, OF POSEIDON, comes out this spring. Now that there is light at the end of the tunnel, what has been the hardest part of the publishing experience? What has been the easiest?
AB: The most difficult part has been waiting. When you’re on submission to editors, the days get longer. It’s different than when you’re waiting to hear back from agents. It feels more serious. You begin to realize that you’ve made it this far, dug out of the query trenches, tricked an agent into repping you, but you could STILL fail. Just because you have an agent, doesn’t mean your book will sell. It’s very sobering.
OF POSEIDON did sell, within two weeks of being on submission. There was a lot of chocolate eaten during those two weeks. Seriously, I don’t know why I just don’t invest in Hershey stock, since I contribute so much to its success. But in publishing time, two weeks is not a long wait. It’s actually ridiculously fast. Sometimes it can take months to hear back. And you can produce a lot of cellulite in a couple months time…
The easiest part is…spending the advance! Oh yes, I went there.
VC: What's next for Anna Banks? Any works in progress?
AB: I’m currently working on the sequel, which is titled OF TRITON for now. There’s also this top secret YA project, speculative fiction, I’m working on. It’s darker than OF POSEIDON and OF TRITON, so I don’t devote too much time to it at this point, because I don’t want to get pulled into a dark mood while writing about the first two. And that’s all I have to say about that.
VC: Last, is there anything you can tell us about, you know, special mermaid powers?
AB: The main character, Emma, has the ability to communicate with fish. Which is very unfortunate for her, as you will soon see.
Anna Banks' debut novel, OF POSEIDON, will be available from Feiwel & Friends on May 22, 2012. You can find Anna living in the Florida Panhandle with her husband and daughter, where she eats chocolate and writes stories about mermaids. She is represented by Lucy Carson of Friedrich Agency. You can visit her blog here and order OF POSEIDON there.