I love all the authors who have participated in my W.O.W. series. Each and every one of them has had their own unique and interesting path to success and I never get tired of hearing their stories.
Today’s journey with Katy Upperman is one I’m sure will stick with you. Katy has had her ups and downs with publishing, but she continued to fight and believe in her work. That perseverance led to her debut, KISSING MAX HOLDEN being picked up by Swoon Reads.
Congrats to Katy and many thanks to her for allowing me to share her journey today.
Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult fiction?
Katy: Originally… I’m not sure? When I started my first manuscript in 2008, I was a stay-at-home mom with a deployed husband, and I needed a creative outlet. I sat down, opened a Word document, and started writing. The words that filled my earliest pages were those of a teenage protagonist. Not long after, I found Sarah Dessen and Suzanne Collins and Jenny Han, and realized YA was an actual thing. Since then, I’ve read young adult novels almost exclusively and I’ve never even tried to write anything else. I’m drawn to YA fiction because it explores a time of intense change and growth — you’re not an adult, but your definitely not a kid anymore, either. Our teen years are also often when we fall in love for the first time and, being a romance writer, I enjoy exploring those feelings and challenges.
Amy: Was KISSING MAX HOLDEN your first completed manuscript?
Katy: It wasn’t! I wrote a very long, very convoluted, very melodramatic contemporary YA first. It went nowhere even though I queried the heck out of it. KISSING MAX HOLDEN came next, though the story it is today is VERY different from the original draft. It’s much, much better now!
Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish KISSING MAX HOLDEN? If so, what did they add to the process?
Katy: I have the most amazing CPs and beta readers. They are thoughtful and honest and super savvy, and their critiques come from a place of love and support, which makes them much easier to absorb and implement. They’re all incredibly talented writers, and I’ve learned so much from trading manuscripts with them. Additionally, they are the people I turn to when I’m stuck on a plot point, struggling with character motivations, or just generally having rough writing day. I feel so lucky to have them in my corner.
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?
Katy: I am terribly wordy. In the past, my query summaries have been three or four times too long because my inclination is to include as many details as possible. I always need my CPs to help me narrow my summary’s focus so I can get to the heart of the story and pique the reader’s interest without saying too much. So, yeah, I’m definitely a “several tries” kind of girl.
Amy: What can you tell us about “your call” with your agent, Victoria Marini? How did you know she was the right fit for you?
Katy: Victoria is fantastic! When she offered representation, I’d recently left my first agent, so I knew exactly what I didn’t want in a new agent. During our first call, Victoria was wonderfully enthusiastic and very easy to communicate with. She had awesome ideas for revising and strengthening my manuscript, and her submission plan was solid. I was lucky enough to receive offers from a few other agents, but I felt like I clicked best with Victoria. It’s been a couple of years since I signed with her, and I’m still so happy with my decision.
Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?
Katy: Uh, yes. Up until KISSING MAX HOLDEN sold to Swoon Reads/Macmillan, I thought about giving up writing literally every day. While finding my agent was a relatively painless process, submissions have not been easy. I had several close-calls with different manuscripts before MAX was picked up and while editors said lovely things about my writing, I was discouraged. It’s tough to work toward a goal while people are telling you no left and right — especially when it seems like everyone else is finding success.
I kept writing because, simply, it’s what I love to do. Even when I felt like an utter failure, the act of writing — focusing on the craft and the creativity — brought me joy. Plus, there was no way I was going to let my daughter see me give up on my dream of being a published author. In hindsight, I’m really glad I didn’t quit. :-)
Amy: If you were giving a keynote speech at a writer’s conference what would be the most important piece of advice you would share?
Katy: There are three bits of advice that have had the greatest impact on me and my writing, and there’s no way I can pick just one, so I’m breaking the rules and sharing all three…
1. Read, read, read. Mostly in your category/genre of interest, but I think it’s important to stretch, too. I’ve learned so much from the middle grade and adult novels I’ve read over the past several years.
2. Become a part of the writing community. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and sincere, people who want you to succeed. They’ll get you through the tough spots.
3. Have your next project in mind, and work on it while you’re waiting for query/submission news. Trust me — you’ll be so thankful you did!
Katy Upperman is a graduate of Washington State University, a former elementary school teacher, and an insatiable reader. When not writing for young adults, Katy can be found whipping up batches of chocolate chip cookies or exploring the country with her husband and daughter. Kissing Max Holden is her debut novel. For more on Katy, check out her website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Goodreads.