Monday, April 27, 2015

Interview with Joanna Meyer

Today we're stepping away from the Interviews with Indie Authors series, and interviewing an author who is in the midst of a traditional publishing journey.

If you're wondering why please take a look at my post from last Friday.

The short answer is because authors of all kinds should stick together and support each other.

I met Joanna back in 2007 during my first ever NaNoWriMo. I think we might have met in person (we were both in Phoenix at the time and I did attend a write-in or two) but I can't recall with clarity whether or not that happened. We certainly "met" in the forums. I started following her blog then.

Years later, after various trials and tribulations, we both find ourselves much farther along the publishing journey. Recently, Joanna found herself in the enviable position of having multiple offers of representation from agents at the same time. She is now signed with an agent who represents many talented YA authors.

Today she'll be sharing that story with us.

If you're unfamiliar with her internet presence I recommend checking out her blog and twitter feed as listed below:


Here's a bit about her:

Joanna Ruth Meyer is a writer of YA fantasy, represented by Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary. She lives in Mesa, AZ, with her dear husband, a rascally feline, and an enormous grand piano named Prince Imrahil. She loves good music, thick books, looseleaf tea, and rainstorms.

Here's what she looks like:

And, without any further ado, here is the interview:

  1. When was the first time you thought, I want to write stories for a living?

    I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about seven years old. I read voraciously, and hardly remember a time when I wasn’t writing stories in one form or another—I just always imagined I’d be writing books my whole life, probably in a mysterious Victorian mansion populated with plenty of books and lots of cats! :-)

  2. Tell us a bit about your journey from that point to where you are now.

    Growing up I was always writing short stories or poems, entering writing contests, and submitting pieces to the (very few) magazines that accept material from kids. When I was fourteen, I had a short story published in Stone Soup, which was the best ever—they sent me a check and everything! I completed my first novel (although to be very technical it was only 35K) at the age of seventeen. After earning my Bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance, I started writing novels very seriously, inspired by discovering National Novel Writing Month in the summer of 2005. That summer I finished my first actual novel, and then went on to write a second in November. 
    I wrote a third novel during NaNo 2006, which was the first draft of The Whale and the Tree. I kept writing! I revised Whale a couple of times, and queried it to a handful of agents (I actually got a few requests!), but ended up pulling it when it wasn’t going anywhere. I wrote a few more books. I did several rounds of querying with three different versions of another book on and off between 2010 and 2014.Throughout 2013 and half of 2014, I did an enormous rewrite of Whale, connected with a wonderful critique partner, and collected rejections for that other novel. I started querying the new version of Whalein August 2014, and by March I was bracing myself to start querying something else in the summer… but as it turns out I didn’t have to. :-)

  3. You wound up with multiple offers for representation at the same time, and wound up having to choose. How did you make that choice? What criteria did you look at for the agents offering representation?

    First of all, I never thought I would be in that position! I honestly still can’t believe it happened! There was a lot of angsting, endless conversations with my critique partner, my writer friend Hanna (who was also fielding four offers at exactly the same time, which gave us both a lot of insight into each other’s predicament), my husband, my mom, my best friend… Tons of discussing and weighing pros and cons! I had two weeks to make my decision, and didn’t actually get offers two, three, and four, until Monday,Tuesday, and Wednesday, respectively (my decision day was Thursday). I considered things like experience, how well we connected during our phone calls, their visions for my book, etc. It was SO HARD because I loved all four. I couldn’t believe I was having to choose between such incredible agents! One thing that helped A LOT was asking for client referrals—I HIGHLY recommend any author in a multiple-offers situation to do this! It’s incredibly helpful to get the inside scoop of what it’s like working with a particular agent before signing with them.

    In the end I picked Sarah Davies, partially because I knew she was going to make me work the hardest! She had some extensive revision requests, but I connected with them deeply, and her thoughts made me excited to work on Whale again, and grow as a writer in the process.

  4. There are a lot of pros and cons to both traditional and independent publishing. Ultimately, the choice is a personal one made by each author. Can you tell us a bit about what made you choose traditional publishing over independent publishing?

    I guess there’s two main reasons! First, I want to reach as many people as I can with my stories, and I feel that getting published by one of “the big five” is the way to accomplish that. Second, I honestly don’t want the full weight of marketing my book to fall on my shoulders… I know I wouldn’t do a very good job of it! I so admire people who can be tenacious about initiating sales, but that’s just not me!

  5. Tell us a bit about the process from here on out! Now that you've got an agent, what happens next?

    I’m in uncharted territory now! :-) Next on the agenda for me is revising Whale under my amazing agent’s guidance, which will definitely take a few months. When it’s ready, I’ll go on submission, which is when Sarah pitches my book to editors. Then we wait for an offer—I’m already nervous just thinking about it!!

  6. Did you get enough feedback from agents to be able to share what about The Whale and the Tree caught their attention?

    Many of the agents said they really connected with the world and the myths I created for Whale. (The myths are my favorite part, too! Well, besides the love story. <3)

  7. Once The Whale and the Tree is out being subbed to publishers, what's next? Will you be writing a new book or revising one that already exists? Is your agent planning to rep your other books too? (Is that too nosy a question?)

    Honest answer: I don’t know! One step at a time! :-) I’ve definitely got a lot of drafts floating around, as well as new ideas in my brain bursting to come out, so we shall see what happens! One thing I do know is I’m going to be writing BOOKS for my JOB for the rest of my life, and I just couldn’t be happier about that!!

  8. What are three books that have most influenced your writing of The Whale and the Tree?

    Oooh love this question!

    The Far Pavilions, by M.M. Kaye. I read this monster of a book the summer of 2006—it’s an epic historical fiction set in British India, a time-period and setting I hadn’t known a lot about previously. It’s gorgeous and heartbreaking (it almost made me break down sobbing in a Panda Express), and I was just completely enamored with the setting. It inspired my main character’s home country.

    The Thief & The Queen of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner. I’m COMPLETELY obsessed with this YA fantasy series. I first read these books in the summer of 2006 as well, and was intrigued by MWT’s use of myths throughout her stories. They made me think “what if…” and following that rabbit trail exploded into much of the concept behind Whale.

    The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m a huge Tolkien fan, and I’d be lying if I didn’t own up to gleaning inspiration from his amazing mythical epic. I have to be careful how often I read it, though, as it generally translates into me writing VERY VERY FORMAL STIFF language. :-) The Sil is so beautiful and tragic and makes you ache in all the right ways.

  9. If you were to be sent on a one woman mission to Mars what three things would you take with you and why?

    Hmmmmmmmmm. A lifetime supply of tea, an e-reader with an internet connection, and a laptop with an eternal battery loaded with Scrivener.

  10. Plotter or pantser?

    I sorta aspire to be a pantser… but for me that way always leads to disaster! When I get stuck, I stop writing. So a number of years ago I realized that I must plan things out before I write them. I love using the Snowflake method of outlining—it allows me to grow my ideas in an organic way, which I really appreciate. In real life I’m fairly spontaneous and kind of hate planning things—the Snowflake gives me structured creativity! At the end of it, I have every scene outlined (I use Scrivener for writing, and use a separate notecard for each scene). That way, I always know exactly what’s coming! But I don’t necessarily stick to the letter of my outline… sometimes I get to a planned scene and it doesn’t feel right, so I get rid of it, or write something else in place of it.

  11. Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Slytherin or Gryffindor? Why?

    Okay. Horrible, horrible confession time: I’ve only read one and a half Harry Potter books. (I know, I know. The rest are on my list, I promise!!) I haven’t researched this enough to know for certain, but I strongly suspect I’m a Hufflepuff. Those are the cheery, naive, always-see-good-in-people ones, right?

  12. Best thing about being a jedi?

    Ohhhh the light-sabers, for sure!! And their robes are really cool.

  13. What is your favorite thing about The Whale and the Tree?

    The myths, and this one particular character who I just love to pieces!

  14. And my final question comes from what I thought was an excellent question in a forum of which I'm a member. Recognizing that not everyone enjoys the same things, who do you think would not enjoy reading The Whale and the Tree?

    Wow, what an interesting question! Hmmm, Whale is very fanciful and kind of weird, and if you don’t tend to wool-gather much, you probably wouldn’t care for it—definitely not the book for extreme realists!
Thanks, Joanna! 

There you have it folks. Keep an eye out for Joanna's name in the months to come. I have a feeling we'll be seeing her in all of our favorite bookstores in the not too distant future. Be sure to keep up with her blog as she continues the journey with traditional publishing. 

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