Thursday, January 15, 2009

An Interview

I'm reposting this from lovely friend Kristin Briana's blog Acceptable Forms of Schizophernia (like here: http://kristin-briana.livejournal.com/)




KB: When did you start writing? (You know, like books, not the alphabet.)

HM: I started working on my first long manuscript when I was ten. Around that time, my fifth grade teacher read us that (fantastic) Andrew Clements book, The School Story, which is all about how this middle schooler writes a book and her friend pretends to be an agent and gets her published. So my best friend and I, of course, decided that we needed to do this, and she would be my agent. I think that was the first time I ever wrote something with the idea that it would someday be a real book.

The first long manuscript I finished was when I was eleven; it was a hundred pages or so. I wrote my first legitimate (though awful) novel when I was fourteen, and since then I've written nine total.

KB: Describe your upcoming book in 20 words or less.

HM: BREAK: A boy is on a mission to break all his bones.

Nine words to spare!

KB: What made you decide to write a novel and try to get it published?

HM: I think I sort of figured it was the natural consequence of writing so many novels. I've queried all but one of those nine novels I mentioned---some more extensively than others. This was just the one that got picked up.

I've yet to develop a deep answer for "why I write." I think it's because I'm a masochist fast typist with too much time on my hands...but that's not usually what people want to hear.

KB: Describe the process of getting your agent and publishing your book.

HM: At the time I was querying two novels--Break and another novel, These Humans All Suck. I'd been querying both for almost a year when out of the blue I got four offers in one week--three for Break, one for These Humans. I went with the agent who offered for These Humans--Jenoyne Adams at Bliss Literary (and she is such a rockstar). After she read Break, we both agreed that was a stronger first novel and subbed that one first. I got an offer from Simon Pulse after about three months.

We're hoping These Humans will be my next novel released, since it's my and my agent's favorite.

KB: Did anyone ever tell you that you were too young to sell a novel?

HM: Oh yeah, people tell you that all the time. Mostly it's those "how to write" books--there are always a few paragraphs addressing young writers, basically telling us to accept that our stuff is crappy and stop trying to get published.

I don't think it has anything to do with age. It has to do with experience. And age doesn't necessarily equal experience. I spent several years writing crap, just like most adult writers too. I just wrote crap from when I was 9-14 instead of when I was 30-35.

KB: What inspired you to write "Break"?

HM: I had this vague idea in my head that I wanted to write about a seventeen-year-old on some kind of weird mission. I had no idea what I wanted this mission to be, but I knew I wanted it to be over-the-top, high concept, and interesting. Then, a few days before Halloween, I saw Into The Wild with my best friend. I tend to latch onto weird things when I see movies. For Into the Wild, I was fascinated by the image of Chris McCandless near the very end, when he couldn't eat because of an accidental poisoning. I was totally entranced by this idea of starving surrounded by food you couldn't eat.

That night, we met up with some other friends and participated in some general teenage mind-altering hijinx. And it just hit me--I want to write about a boy who wants to break all his bones.

And maybe he has a brother (I LOVE writing about brothers) with really bad food allergies who can barely eat and how would this affect my main character and let's name him Jonah and it could start like this and end like...and it could be like Fight Club and Into the Wild all rolled into...

I went home and wrote the book in six days.

KB: Are any characters based on friends or family?

HM: Based on? Nah. Inspired by? Yeah...

KB: Did you always want to be an author?

HM: No, when I was a kid I wanted to be a singer.

In fact, I kind of still want to be a singer.

But writer will do.

KB: Name your top five favorite books.

HM: Sadly, a lot of these aren't YA.

Hotel New Hamsphire -- John Irving
Fight Club -- Chuck Palahniuk
Looking for Alaska -- John Green
The Stranger -- Albert Camus
A Prayer for Owen Meany -- John Irving

I love almost all YA books. But my very very very favorites tend to be non-YA. It's weird.

KB: What is your favorite flavor of jelly bean? ( )

HM: Toasted marshmallow. Hell. Yes.

KB: What advice would you give to young writers who want to be published?

HM: If you're good, don't stop sending out query letters until you get an agent. Ever.

If you're bad, don't ever stop improving. Ever.

The problem is that very few people really know which one of these they are. That's why I recommend doing both. Never think you're not good enough, and never think you can't get better.

That's what I'm still doing.

KB: How cool is it to tell people they can buy your book at Barnes & Noble this August?

HM: People don't really believe me. Also, they don't understand what's taking so long. The book was accepted last summer!?!? Why isn't it out now?

I'm not sure I really believe it, to be perfectly honest. I still think someone's going to shake me and wake me up and remind me I can't spell, and I don't know comma rules, and I'm seventeen, for God's sake!

So ask me that once again when it's really happened?

3 comments:

Suzanne Young said...

I love this interview, Hannah. Great job.

Megan said...

What a great interview! I can relate to the whole people-not-understanding-publishing things. Like, I think they think it's supposed to be super easy for my book to sell, and it's just not.

kristin-briana said...

Cool. :D Thanks for linking the interview back to my blog, Hannah!