When I first read the premise for NIL, the upcoming debut from today’s featured author, Lynne Matson, I instantly thought of Hawaii as the setting. So imagine my surprise when I asked Lynne about the inspiration behind NIL, and she said Hawaii! I about fell over when she told me, and it made me even more enthusiastic for the release of her debut. If you can’t tell, I LOVE HAWAII! I have to say too, that while I enjoyed Lynne’s story of how she queried and found her agent, I was also thrilled to learn she and I share a favorite band (SNOW PATROL!!!). It makes me hope there are more than a few of their songs on the playlist she eventually releases for NIL.
Many thanks to Lynne for sharing her writing odyssey today…
Amy: Have you always written YA fiction?
Lynne: No. I actually used to be an attorney before I became a writer! (Writing books is MUCH more fun! :D) But, I think my days as a lawyer helped hone my writing skills, and I believe all experiences you have (jobs, travels, relationships) give depth to your writing.
As for the genre, never say never, but I can’t see myself writing anything other than YA right now. I love that time of life–the self-discovery, the excitement, and of course the swoon factor of the first kiss.:) YA rocks.
Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered interest?
Lynne: NIL was the second manuscript I queried, and the third book I wrote.
Amy: I love the premise behind NIL. It reminds me a lot of MAZE RUNNER (which I loved). Where did the inspiration for the story come from?
Lynne: Yay! Thank you! I love the story of how NIL was born, because it’s so crazy and absolutely true.
I’d gone to Hawaii (the big island) with my husband, our first getaway from our four boys, EVER. It was a work trip for him. As we left the airport, minutes after landing, we drove through miles of ancient lava fields. Old red rock, bleak and gorgeously desolate, stretched endlessly on each side; no roads, no buildings, no people–just the sound of the wind blowing over the rocks. Totally in awe, I remember thinking how creepy it would be to wake up there, all alone, with no one around to help you or tell you where you were, and I remember thinking how much it all looked like an alien planet (think DUNE). And I remember thinking how scary it would be as a teenager, to wake up alone, and what if–because isn’t this every person’s worst nightmare?!–what if you woke up naked? NIL was born in that moment. The main characters fell into my head, almost fully formed, like the story itself. I wrote 20K words on my laptop over the next 10 days.:)
Amy: Did your query for NIL come easily or did it go through many drafts?
Lynne: It went through multiple drafts but generally my query for NIL came pretty easily. But, my query for my first book went through about 100 versions (ugh!) and I think all the work I did querying my first book (writing and re-writing my query…figuring out the whole query process) paid off for NIL–even though at the time, all those rejections on book number one were VERY painful.:)
Amy: Did you have critique partners for NIL? If so, how critical were they to your writing process?
Lynne: I did! Oh, they were HUGE. I think crit partners are essential! They help see plot holes or weak character arcs that you can’t see because you’re just too close to the story. I have to give huge props to writers Jessie Harrell, Tonya Kuper, Laura Stanford, Natalie Whipple, Lindsay Currie, Becky Wallace, and Jay C. Spencer. Without them NIL wouldn’t be nearly as strong.
Amy: How many agents did you query for NIL? Did you receive immediate responses, or did you have to wait a while for replies?
Lynne: I did a blog post on my query road which you can find here: http://lynnematson.blogspot.com/2012/07/power-of-three-or-how-i-found-my-agent.html.
For me, the waiting time varied by agent. Some were fast, within a day or two, others took a few weeks. I think it depends on the agent, and where he is she is with her query pile and other projects. Agents are swamped and juggling many balls, that my guess is that the response time often has nothing to do with the query (or its relative strength) but more with the agent’s time, or lack of. But, as a writer, the waiting is HARD. I think the best thing to do is immerse yourself in another project, whether it’s your blog, another manuscript, or a short story–something writing related, and something to get your mind off of the query roller coaster.
Amy: Can you give a short summary of your call with your agent, Jennifer Unter? How did you know she was a good fit for you?
Lynne: Great question. For me, I went with my gut. Jennifer’s enthusiasm for NIL was huge, and from the questions she asked, I could tell she shared my vision for the story, which is really important. I’ve been thrilled with her and couldn’t ask for a better agent. I think if the writer and agent “click” on the phone, then it’s a good sign they’ll click working together too.
Amy: I also adore alternative music. Do you listen to it when you write? If so, how does it inspire your scenes?
I listen to music while I write, and while I’m brainstorming. I run to alternative music, and I often stop and dictate a voice memo into my iPod or jot a note in my iPhone (if I’m running with my phone) because listening to good tunes and running seem to be the perfect inspirational combo for me. When I’m writing, sometimes I listen to songs that fit the mood I’m working toward, and sometimes I listen to tunes for the lyrics. Mostly I’m going for all the feels.:)
Soon I’ll post my NIL playlists on my blog, which have different songs for the two main characters. NIL is told from a dual POV—Charley, a girl, and Thad, a boy. Thad’s POV playlist was packed with Rise Against, 30 Seconds to Mars, Linkin Park, and Pendulum, to name a few. On the other hand, Charley’s playlist has The Band Perry, Lana Del Rey, Plumb, and Paramore. Different feels, for the different POVs.:)
Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?
Lynne: Honestly, no. At times it was really hard, and I felt discouraged, but I never considered giving up. The writer’s road–especially when querying–is HARD. No one likes getting a rejection on something they worked so hard to create; it’s like someone just called your baby ugly.:) But I love my characters–in all my books–and I was convinced that if I just kept improving my craft and my query-savviness, something good would happen. And it did.:)
I can’t wait for you to meet Charley and Thad!
More about NIL…(releases March 4, 2014)
On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have exactly 365 days to escape—or you die.
Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s naked in an empty rock field.
Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that she has to find a way to beat the clock, and quickly.
Lynne is a former attorney who thinks writing books for teens is much more fun. Her debut novel, NIL, a YA thriller with a SF twist, will be published by Macmillan/Henry Holt on March 4, 2014.
When she’s not writing or reading, you’ll find her hanging out with her husband and their 4 boys, usually at the beach. Cookies are her kryptonite, especially thin mints.