Interview with YA author Chelsea Pitcher, author of THE S-WORD (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster)
Chelsea Pitcher is a native of Portland, OR where she received her BA in English Literature. Fascinated by all things literary, she began gobbling up stories as soon as she could read, and especially enjoys delving into the darker places to see if she can draw out some light. The S-Word is her first novel.
Her agent: Sandy Lu (L. Perkins Agency)
Her editor at Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster: Adam Wilson
Title of her book: THE S-WORD
Published by Gallery Books (Imprint of Simon & Schuster) | 320 pages | ISBN 9781451695168 | May 2013
Synopsis of THE S-WORD (also see an excerpt):
First it was SLUT scribbled all over Lizzie Hart’s locker. But one week after Lizzie kills herself, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie’s looping scrawl.
With the whole school turned against her, and Angie not speaking to her, Lizzie takes her own life. But someone isn’t letting her go quietly. As graffiti and photocopies of Lizzie’s diary plaster the school, Angie begins a relentless investigation into who, exactly, made Lizzie feel she didn’t deserve to keep living. And while she claims she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, Angie’s own anguish over abandoning her best friend will drive her deep into the dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull herself back out.
Q. What was your writing process for THE S-WORD?
I actually wrote the first draft of THE S-WORD in a month! Sounds crazy, right? But I was attempting NaNoWriMo for the first time, and there’s only one rule: write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days. So all the plotting, planning, and editing-as-I-go had to be thrown out of the window, in order to reach my goal. I couldn’t do anything but sit down and write.
And write I did. I got up early in the morning. I went to bed late at night. I wrote like a crazed, typing fiend and, in the end, I completed my goal one day shy of the deadline. It was a wonderful experience, and a great exercise in discipline. I highly recommend it.
Q. How did THE S-WORD get published?
Once I’d edited and polished that initial draft over a series of months, I started working on my query letter. When I was happy with it, I submitted it to Evil Editor, which is an amazing query critique site. After my query had been sufficiently torn to shreds (er, critiqued), I rewrote it, and started querying agents. Four months (and a handful of rejections) later, I received an offer of representation!
From there, my agent and I worked on the manuscript together to make it as strong as possible. Then she put together a submission list and started reaching out to editors. Six months (and again, quite a few rejections) later, I received a call from my agent. I was at work when the call came in, and had to step into another room to take it. I waited with bated breath as my agent told me an editor was interested in the book. About a week (and several phone calls) later, I had a book deal with Simon and Schuster!
Q. What advice do you have for aspiring YA writers?
I have SO MUCH advice for aspiring YA writers! I’ve compiled a list of what I think are the most important points:
1. Read, read, read! I know this is obvious, but it never hurts to say it again. Also, I want to point out that, while reading YA is imperative for successfully writing YA, definitely don’t limit yourself to one section of the bookstore. Read anything and everything you want, including YA.
2. Write whatever you want (or: Don’t write for trends.) A lot of people feel like they have to follow whatever the Next Big Trend is, and this is a mistake for several reasons. First of all, if you’re writing to please an audience, rather than yourself, you can’t be having as much fun. And writing should be fun, even if it’s also work. Second of all, writing for trends isn’t a good idea time-wise, because what’s hot today won’t necessarily be hot in a year and a half, when your book comes out. So write what you want, and write what you love, no matter how common or unusual it is.
3. Let people critique your work (and I don’t just mean your mom).Find people online (I recommend Critters and the Absolute Write Beta Readers Forum to give you their honest opinion of your work. And then? Compile the data, pay attention to patterns (like, if three out of four readers think your hero falls flat, pay attention. If one out of five readers thinks you need to add a dragon, maybe don’t take their word for it). And, at the end of the day, trust your gut.
If someone’s advice feels wrong, and takes the story in a direction that compromises your vision, it’s okay to ignore it. Just don’t ignore all advice, because critique partners are there to help you succeed.
Chelsea says she doesn’t have an official workspace. “I just take my laptop and work wherever.”
4. Research, research, research! (Because writing the book is only half the battle!) Once you’ve got your story written, critiqued and revised, it’s time to look for an agent. But where, oh where, will your agent be?
That’s when the internet comes in handy: you can search for agents on Agent Query, cross reference that information with the agent’s actual website (to make sure the submission guidelines are up to date), keep track of who you’ve queried on Query Tracker, and even get a feel for an agent’s personality on places like Twitter (just no stalking, okay?)
If you follow these four simple rules, you will be well on your way to becoming a YA author. And, if it doesn’t work out with one book, you can always lather, rinse, and repeat ☺
Q. What are you working on now? Any other upcoming events or other info you’d like to share?
Right now I’m working on a YA conspiracy thriller, which is a first for me. I really enjoy challenging myself, attempting to write genres I haven’t tackled before. It’s what I did with THE S-WORD (it was my first contemporary!), and that worked out wonderfully.
In terms of upcoming events, I have really exciting news! I’m going to be at Comic Con, on the “What’s Hot in YA Fiction” panel. If you’re going to the convention, definitely come by and check it out. It’s happening Sunday, July 21st at 11 a.m., and I’ll be in the company of some amazing authors!
Some other interviews with Chelsea Pitcher about The S-Word online: OneFourKidlit, The Social Potato, Girls On YA Books, Just Jennifer, Paper Riot, Scattered Pages, Forget About TV: Grab A Book, Rondo Of A Possible World, A.L.Davroe.
YA author @Chelsea_Pitcher used @NaNoWriMo to write 1st draft of THE S-WORD in a month: http://bit.ly/18PtO8F (Tweet this)
Tips on how to find an agent from YA author @Chelsea_Pitcher (THE S-WORD @GalleryBooks) http://bit.ly/18PtO8F (Tweet this)
Aspiring writers: Write for yourself, not for trends. @Chelsea_Pitcher (THE S-WORD @GalleryBooks) http://bit.ly/18PtO8F (Tweet this)
For more insights from book creators, see my Inkygirl Interview Archives and Advice For Young Writers And Illustrators From Book Creators.