Today I’m proud to share the writing journey of Rosalyn Eves. What I love most about Rosalyn’s story is her experience with Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars and how that helped her tighten up her manuscript for querying. Writing can be a very solitary pursuit, but opportunities like Pitch Wars allows you to not only connect with the writing community, but to use other writer resources to polish your work.
Many thanks to Rosalyn for sharing her journey today…
Amy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Rosalyn: When I was in fifth grade, our teacher had us write in journals every day. Some days I would stay inside from recess (nerdy, I know!) to write very bad poetry or snippets of stories. My teacher said I ought to be a writer–it was the first time I’d thought about it, and I loved the idea. Of course, my journey to actually being a writer involved several long detours, from graduate school to parenthood.
Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult fiction?
Rosalyn: I’ve always enjoyed reading Young Adult fiction, but I think what I love about the genre (and the age) is the expansive feeling of possibility–you can be anything, do anything! That, and the intense yearning that drove so much of my adolescence. I think that need to experience things really helps drive characters in YA fiction, and I love it.
Amy: I love the premise for THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION. Can you share how the story idea came to you?
Rosalyn: Like most of my story ideas, it evolved gradually and involves a mash-up of other ideas. I was initially drawn to the idea of a character who was an anti-savior–that is, far from someone who possesses unusual power to save their world, someone who, in fact, had NO power in a world where most of her peers do. That was the start of Anna, and I think that feeling–of being outside a society or group you desperately want to belong to–is one that a lot of teens (and adults) resonate with. I also knew I wanted Anna to be a strong character–but strong in a way that was also in keeping with conventional expectations for women in her era. Much as I love reading about kick-ass heroines, I’m far from one myself, and I wanted to write about someone who could be strong without having to necessarily be physically strong.
Then, too, I’d lived in Hungary for a while and had fallen in love with the culture and the landscape and the people and it was a setting I haven’t seen much in YA fiction (or adult, for that matter). So I did a little more research and settled on a historical era when Hungary was in a lot of turmoil (1847-48) and the story itself was born. Of course, it went through a lot more revision and research to settle in the form it is today.
Amy: Did your first query for THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION come easy or did it go through many rewrites/edits?
Rosalyn: The query went through a few drafts and feedback from critique partners before I was happy with it. Then I got into Pitch Wars and my mentor also helped me revise the query before I sent it out widely. Though it took me a while to get wording I liked, the shape of the query wasn’t too arduous. I think that’s because, prior to querying, I’d been trying to review most of the books I read (particulary the ones I loved) and focused on trying to describe the plot succinctly. When it came to querying, that practice actually helped me figure out how to capture the heart of the story in a couple of paragraphs.
Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?
Rosalyn: Querying wasn’t quite what I’d expected: previously I’d queried a contemporary middle grade for over a year in various iterations before shelving it, so when I started querying, I figured it was going to take a while. But I’d only sent out half a dozen queries or so before I got into Pitch Wars, so I stopped querying and settled into an intense period of revision with my mentor, Virginia Boecker. Her feedback led me to gut nearly a third of the story (the pacing was terrible) and rewrite it. I think that made a huge difference. (Incidentally, I’m a BIG fan of Pitch Wars!) I ended up with over a dozen requests from Pitch Wars. I also had a few requests from a contest at Adventures in YA Publishing before Pitch Wars, so when I started querying again a few days after Pitch Wars, I was fairly confident in my pitch and first pages and sent out a bunch of queries at once.
Amy: How many agents did you query for THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION?
Rosalyn: Between Pitch Wars and Adventures in YA Publishing and a couple of other contests, I had about twenty requests. Outside of that, I sent another thirty or so queries.
Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?
Rosalyn: I had responses pretty quickly, I think because many of the agents reading knew that other agents had my manuscript from Pitch Wars. I started getting responses within a week or so–I had an agent call without warning to offer a revise and resubmit about ten days after Pitch Wars, which was terrifying, and my first offer a few days later. After a few more offers and many more rejections, I signed with Josh Adams of Adams literary.
Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Josh Adams? How did you know he was the right fit for you?
Rosalyn: Deciding which agent to go with was much harder than I had anticipated. As writers, we get so used to dealing with rejection that it’s hard to be the one dishing it out–especially to someone who loves your book and who has gushed to you about it over the phone! (Josh, however, does not gush–he’s very mellow. Luckily, one of my writer friends had told me this beforehand.) All the offering agents were lovely, and I could have been happy with any of them. I think the tipping point was partly Josh’s reputation selling YA, and also the fact that he had represented a good friend of mine through several failed submissions without ever giving up on her or her books. I wanted that kind of support for my story.
Amy: What one thing are you looking forward to most as a debut author?
Rosalyn: My first fan letter (assuming I get one!). I know how influential books were to me as a teen–how important they still are–and the idea that something in my head could have that kind of impact on someone who is not related to me floors me.
Amy: If you were doing a book signing and you met a writer who was about to give up on their publishing dream, what would you say to them?
Rosalyn: This is a hard question. I think sometimes there *are* legitimate reasons to take a break from writing–for life stuff, for mental health, etc. I still remember a publishing workshop several years ago with picture book author Rick Walton, where he said his advice is typically: “If you want to quit, do it. If you *can’t* quit, keep writing.” I think his point was a good one: writing is a hard business. If you’re in it because you want to make money (hah!) or be famous, that’s probably not motivation that can or should sustain you for the long haul. But if you’re writing because you can’t not write, because putting words on paper makes something inside you sing, because creating itself is a maddening and marvelous thing, then keep writing. Take a break from trying to *publish* if you have to, to rediscover the joy in writing for yourself, but keep writing. There are stories only you can tell, and those stories matter.
Rosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle.
Her first novel, THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, first in a YA historical fantasy trilogy, debuts Spring 2017 from Knopf/Random House. You can find her on her website (rosalyneves.com), Twitter (https://twitter.com/RosalynEves), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/rosalyneveswriter/) and Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/rosalyneves/).