Somedays writing is all about instinct and listening to your gut. In today’s W.O.W., Chandler Baker shares how she knew she’d found her voice when she started reading and writing YA. As she puts in her own words, “Any time I reached for a book that I’d heard of and was particularly excited to read, I realized it was YA. So it’s no surprise that YA is where I found my voice.”
Many thanks to Chandler for sharing her writing odyssey today…
Amy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Chandler: In my heart of hearts, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Even in elementary school, writing was a form of play. It took until my senior year of college, though, to connect the dots that being an author was a job that real people could do—including me. After that light bulb moment, I began pursuing a writing career seriously.
Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult Fiction?
Chandler: This is easy. I love reading YA. Especially at the time that I started writing toward publication, YA lit was going through what felt like to me a renaissance. Any time I reached for a book that I’d heard of and was particularly excited to read, I realized it was YA. So it’s no surprise that YA is where I found my voice. I also love writing about the teen years because I can look back and judge my own experience. In retrospect, I find that from eighth grade through college, I was at varying times closer and further away from my true self. I love writing about that process of finding identity.
Amy: I love that you’re an attorney, but write both YA and Middle Grade fiction. Do you use any of your legal education when you write your books?
Chandler: Not directly so far, but I do think there is certain training in becoming a lawyer, that has been helpful, namely focusing for long periods of time, working on deadline, working under pressure and excessive attention over the exact meaning of particular words. I do think that my career as a lawyer has made the business side of reading feel more accessible and comprehensible, though I still trust my agent to negotiate all of my contracts.
Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to ALIVE?
I completed two manuscripts of my own prior, but I’d also ghostwritten 4-5 books in between the two trunked novels and ALIVE.
Amy: If you had preliminary rejections, how did you deal with that process and continue to write?
Chandler: I don’t take (writing) rejection personally, so I’m lucky in that way. However, when ALIVE went out to editors, selling a book was something I wanted so badly that I’d built the stakes up to an immeasurable height in my heart and mind. It could be really crippling at times. I was fortunate that the time from submission to sale was relatively quick, but I still fretted. I ended up starting a “just for fun” book that ended up being a lovely place to place my energy.
Amy: How long did it take you to write the query for ALIVE? Did it go through many drafts?
Chandler: I had signed with my wonderful agent, Dan Lazar, for another manuscript, so didn’t have to query ALIVE.
Amy: How many agents did you query for ALIVE?
Chandler: I didn’t have to query ALIVE since I already had a fabulous agent that had stuck with me through my first manuscript which didn’t sell. For the manuscript that didn’t sell, though, I queried about 12 agents before getting an offer. But for the manuscript before that? Probably 100.
Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?
Chandler: Sometimes publishing feels like the land where time stands still, but when I queried Dan I heard back in minutes. For ALIVE, editor responses ranged from a couple days to a couple weeks.
Amy: Can you tell us what your “call” was like with your agent, Dan Lazar? How did you know he was a good fit for you?
It caught me off guard, that’s for sure! I’m very Type A, so as soon as I suspected that we might be moving toward an offer, I prepared questions. He was, of course, lovely and I made every effort not to sound like an idiot. I knew he was a good fit because he was unfailingly honest with me, forthright as well as responsive. I wanted someone who would advise and guide me toward a long-term career and who’d be transparent about the process. Mainly, I wanted a business partner and for six years now he’s been the best one I could ask for.
Amy: As many writers know the publishing world is very hard to break into. What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention?
Chandler: I think I wrote a snappy query that hit the right agent at the right time.
Amy: What advice did you get early on in your writing career that you still use today?
Chandler: “You are the best steward of your own career.” I forget where I heard this from but it’s really resonated with me. I think it’s great to listen to the sage of advice of people you trust, but then always go back to a gut check and making sure you are doing the things that are helping you grow in your craft and grow in the business.
(Available June 9, 2015)
Stella Cross’s heart is poisoned.
After years on the transplant waiting list, she’s running out of hope that she’ll ever see her eighteenth birthday. Then, miraculously, Stella receives the transplant she needs to survive.
Determined to embrace everything she came so close to losing, Stella throws herself into her new life. But her recovery is marred by strange side effects: Nightmares. Hallucinations. A recurring pain that flares every day at the exact same moment. Then Stella meets Levi Zin, the new boy on everyone’s radar at her Seattle prep school. Stella has never felt more drawn to anyone in her life, and soon she and Levi are inseparable.
Stella is convinced that Levi is her soulmate. Why else would she literally ache for him when they are apart?
After all, the heart never lies…does it?
Chandler Baker is a lawyer, author of young adult and middle grade fiction, and a dedicated nerdfighter (not necessarily in that order). Her debut YA novel, ALIVE is forthcoming from Disney-Hyperion in May 2015 followed by TEEN FRANKENSTEIN in the Fall of 2015, which is Book 1 in her new HIGH SCHOOL HORROR STORY series to be published by Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan. For more on Chandler, check out her website, or follow her on Twitter.