Thursday, February 17, 2011

Welcome, Sara J. Henry

Thanks to Paula for hosting me here. For this post I’m answering a list of questions a reader posted over at Murderati, which I cheerfully lifted for an occasion such as this. [Sara is another debut author I met on Twitter. Y'all have got to read the first chapter of Learning to Swim--link's provided below. This book really drew me in!]

What about getting a blurb if you’re a first-time novelist?

You ask the authors you’ve met at Bouchercon or in Backspace or via blogs, and one who shares a publisher and genre with you (thank you, Lisa Unger). Some offer without your asking (thank you, Reed Farrel Coleman, JT Ellison, Daniel Woodrell).

What about questions like, ‘what do you really do for a living?’ or ‘how much do you make?’

This is easy:

1. I’m a writer.

2. More than I made as a bicycle mechanic.

What questions do you ask of your beta readers or critique groups?

Read this and tell me what you think. I ask them to mark anything that they like or that makes them wonder about something or that confuses them. I’d rather too much be marked than not enough – I can always ignore it.

How detailed is their feedback?

It varies greatly. But it’s all useful.

How formal is pitching a book to an agent at a conference?

I’ve never pitched a book to an agent at a conference, and if that were a requirement, I’d likely never be published, because I would say Uh, uh, uh, and that would be the end of it. Thank goodness for query letters, where I can seem calm and confident.

How intense is editing – tweaking lines and scenes – or actual rewrites of each paragraph, like recreating the novel?

I edit like mad, and I edit every time I see the manuscript. Sometimes it’s changing a word or a line. Sometimes it’s deciding a scene is in the wrong place. On my first novel, part of this was because I was learning to write better as I went, and I’d improve part of the book and then another part would be out of sync.

What are typical comments from editors and how much of their suggestions must you take?

This scene doesn’t work for me. I’d take this out.

Mine also didn’t like my propensity to say “police” instead of “the police” – apparently this is a southern habit.

You must take at least 87% of their suggestions. (This is a joke – I shared it with my editor, and he’s still speaking to me.) I took the suggestions that made sense, found alternate ways to solve some of the issues, and one, at least, ignored after trying for half an hour to reword a sentence.

How do you take out a subplot or add one in to a complete manuscript?

Very carefully. Seriously, this I’ve done.

Sara J. Henry’s first novel, Learning to Swim, has been called “emotional, intense, and engrossing” by Lisa Unger and “an auspicious debut” by Daniel Woodrell. It’s available for pre-order and will be in stores Feb. 22 – you can read the first chapter here.


PatRemick said...

Welcome Sara and thanks for the interesting post! Looking forward to reading your book.

Paula Matter said...

Sara, thanks for stopping by today! I had to work, but don't know where everyone else is. Hope they're not having a party and forgot to invite me.

Best of luck with your book. I'm looking forward to reading past the first chapter. I hope everyone listens when I suggest they read this book.