Selling contemporary YA is tough, especially for an unproven author. Publishers (and by extension, agents) want “high concept” ideas (think Graceling, Hunger Games, Delirium). I write contemporary stories that build rather than start with a bang, and I’m big on character development. The plot doesn’t always race ahead, isn’t always visible. Also, I tend to do stuff you aren’t supposed to do, which drives my critique partners a little crazy. I won’t say what, because I don’t want to spoil the story! But when someone says, “You can’t do that,” it makes me think Oh yeah? Why not?Q. Do you think you will continue to self-publish or keep trying to send queries and sell to a publishing company?
Agents are the publishing industry gatekeepers. They get several hundred queries a week. They might request 100 manuscripts in a month, and take on 1-3 clients a year out of those. If they don’t love something immediately, they pass. Those are scary, depressing odds. My plan is to be an indie author until/unless it doesn’t make sense to do so. I’ve written the sequel to Between the Lines (still working on a title – titles kill me), I have my current WIP, and I have a fourth story swirling around in my head. (I’m making notes and doing research for that last one until I finish editing/revising the second one and writing the third.) I may try querying again at some point, but I’m feeling very wait-and-see at the moment. Writing is the career I intend to pursue, and however I do it is fine, as long as I do it.Q. What advice do you give other writers out there trying to make it? What was the best advice you have been given?
Put your best work out there. It can’t be “good enough.” The thing is, only you can say This is as good as I can make it. You need to connect with other writers – I suggest 2-3 at a similar level – and trade chapters. You should be tough on your partners, and you want them to be tough on you. That said, don’t stick with someone who’s a dream-killer, and don’t shoot down someone else’s dream. Writing is a craft. If you work at it, you should get better. That can’t happen if you’re in love with everything you write, though. You have to be willing to say, or hear your partners say, “This is kind of crap,” and be willing to throw stuff out. You also have to trust your gut on when to ignore advice. Ultimately, it’s your story, and their names aren’t on it. Yours is.
About The Book:
Q. What inspired Between the Lines?
This story began nudging me when I became aware of how involved some fans can get in the lives of their favorite stars – or the ones they dislike. People say some horrible things online about them. They build them up and tear them down, and believe they should be privy to everything actors do because they’re “public figures.” But the truth is, they’re people. They have fears, get infatuated, fall in love, get frustrated with coworkers, doubt whether they’re any good at what they do – just like the rest of us. I wanted to create a guy who had fame and reveled in it (to his detriment, at times), and a girl on the verge of becoming famous who grows increasingly certain that she doesn’t want that life.
I researched the heck out of this, and my oldest son is an aspiring actor. He did theatre in high school and went on to study at NYU, and now he’s in LA, doing grunt jobs and waiting for that big break. His contacts in the business are all over the place, and he passes on all the gossip to me. He was a huge help in fact-checking Between the Lines, because I wanted to capture it as it is. He’s also one of the reasons I could see these characters as people, because every time I read or hear someone say how untalented or how unattractive some young actor or actress is, I can’t help but wonder how my son would take that.Q. I read on your blog that Between the Lines was originally only in Emma’s viewpoint, and then you added Reid’s? How difficult was that?
That was such a difficult decision to make. I fought doing it for several months, during which I was writing the sequel, which had emerged as a dual POV from the start. Adding Reid meant stripping a lot of Emma’s POV out. The first thing I did was add Reid to the first few chapters, when they haven’t yet met. I knew then that it was the right thing to do, and that made the decision easier, though the massive cutting was still rough. Once I decided to do it, I just went at it like I was hacking through a jungle with a machete. It was ugly.Q. Did you ever think of having Graham’s view instead of Reid’s? Or Brooke’s at some point?
I did consider that. I decided, though, that Graham and Brooke could be accurately portrayed, for the most part, through Emma’s and Reid’s eyes. Reid is complicated. He seems one way and is another. I wanted the reader in his head because otherwise they’d never be able to tell what’s real where he’s concerned. That’s one thing about him – he’s honest to the extreme with himself, and with a couple of choice friends. Everyone else gets the persona. I didn’t want more than two POVs for this book because I knew it would slow the plot down too much.Q. I loved the all the characters’ backstory, was that always in place when you began writing or did it come to you when you were in the process of creating the story?
Emma’s backstory, I knew. I actually misjudged Reid until I was near the end. He surprised me. That’s one of the things I love about writing. I seem to be telling a story, but really, I just create the characters and put them together and let them go. Like improv. If it works, it resonates and expands and grows into something I’m proud of writing. If it doesn’t, I rework it or ditch the whole project and move on to something that clicks.
Find out more about Tammara and Between the Lines Here!