Life experience. It’s one of those things as an author we draw upon for creativity, imagination, and inspiration. Today in my W.O.W. interview with Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, she shares how the things she’s tackled in her life allowed her to stay focused while in the query trenches. It’s those experiences that prepared her for rejection, inspired her to commit to her dreams and eventually write her debut which connected her with her agent, Kathleen Rushall.
Many thanks to Laurie for sharing her journey today…
Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult Fiction?
Laurie: That’s a great question, and one I think about often. For me, it’s less about “what” and more about “who.” I’m inspired by teens: their guts and courage, their boldness and shyness, their mistakes, their hopes and disappointments, their realities, the kaleidoscope of emotions they feel every single day. I’m inspired by them and want to do them justice and give them stories they can relate to.
Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to FIRSTS?
Laurie: I had completed two manuscripts prior to FIRSTS, and both were New Adult contemporaries. I queried the first one for almost a year before ultimately shelving it, and finished the second right before launching into FIRSTS.
Amy: How much did your life experience with traveling and being a model influence FIRSTS?
Laurie: It might sound strange, but modeling helped prepare me in a big way for the query trenches. With modeling, you have to get used to rejection and not take it personally. When I was overseas, I could go to eight castings a day and get chosen for none of them. Then my agency could randomly get a call and I’d have a job booked for the next day. I got used to not knowing what happened next and what was going on behind the scenes, and I became okay with that. I grew a thick skin and understood that every “no” was subjective. When I started querying, I tried not to obsess over what agents were reading my pages and what they were thinking. I found it easier to accept that a lot of things were out of my control because of my modeling experience.
I think my time spent modeling also gave me courage to try new things and be unafraid to be myself. This was a very important factor when I wrote FIRSTS, because when the self-doubt started creeping in, I wrote through it. I reminded myself that I was writing the story I wanted to write, the story I needed to write, the same way I reminded myself when I was boarding a massively long flight from Vancouver to Tokyo that I was living the life I wanted to live.
Amy: Are you one of those people who has an easy time writing a query or does it take several tries before you land on the one you want to send?
Laurie: At first, writing a query letter was almost as difficult for me as writing an entire book! For my NA contemporaries, it took many iterations before I found something I was comfortable sending out to agents, and I still ended up tweaking as I queried to see what version got the most favorable results. With FIRSTS, it was a bit easier, and I think it’s because I knew the hook—which, looking back, is what I was missing from my first two books.
Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?
Laurie: I experienced a mixture of both. Some fast replies, some longer waits, some waits that felt like forever but weren’t actually long all. I wish I could say I didn’t check my email a million times a day when I was querying, but that would be a total lie!
Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Kathleen Rushall? How did you know she was a good fit for you?
Laurie: I was incredibly nervous for the call—mostly because I wasn’t entirely sure it was “the” call, so I didn’t want to get my hopes up. But Kathleen was kind, enthusiastic, and so smart and insightful. She made me feel at ease and as soon as she started talking about FIRSTS, I knew she “got” my book. Her suggestions for making it a stronger manuscript resonated deeply with me and I also loved how interested she was in my other works-in-progress and me as an author. Right away, I really admired Kathleen’s fearlessness. We both knew FIRSTS was edgy and weren’t sure how editors would respond, but Kathleen was ready to go there with me, and that willingness to take risks still means the world to me.
Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?
Laurie: Yes, definitely. I queried my first NA contemporary for close to a year, and while I received requests and even an R&R, nobody quite connected with it enough to want to represent it. I was doubting myself and my capabilities and wondered if I should just call it quits, if I didn’t have what it takes. But what motivated me to keep writing was working on something new. I realized how damaging it was for my confidence checking my email day after day and judging my writing solely on the responses that trickled in. So I started a brand new project. And pretty soon, the sting of rejection was dulled considerably. After that, I was never not working on something else.
Amy: What advice did you get early on in your writing career that you still use today?
Laurie: Write for yourself. Don’t write something just because you think it has a better chance of selling in today’s market. Trends come and go quickly. Write for you, because your passion will radiate in your pages. That idea you have that kind of scares you? Write it. The character you’re afraid people will hate? Write her, too. If you write with conviction, readers will feel it.
Laurie Elizabeth Flynn writes contemporary fiction for young adults. Her debut, FIRSTS, will be published by Thomas Dunne Books/St Martin’s Press on January 5, 2016.
Laurie went to school for Journalism, where the most important thing she learned was that she would rather write made-up stories than report the news. She also worked as a model, a job that took her overseas to Tokyo, Athens, and Paris.
Laurie now lives in London, Ontario with her husband Steve, who is very understanding when she would rather spend time with the people in her head. Laurie can mostly be found writing happily at her desk, with the world’s most spoiled Chihuahua on her lap. Laurie drinks way too much coffee, snorts when she laughs, and times herself when she does crossword puzzles.
Laurie is represented by the amazing Kathleen Rushall of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.