The ebook of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence is only $2.99 right now! If you’ve been waiting to grab a copy, now is the perfect time! You can get the Kindle edition here and the Nook edition here. Happy reading!
I’m very excited to announce my new interview series, Authors & Inspirations! In it, I’ll be posting interviews with authors from all different genres in which I ask about the art and media that they enjoy and that inspires them in their work. As an author, I love talking about my favorite art and artists, and love hearing other creators talk about their inspirations as well, so I thought this would be a fun series – hopefully for both readers and for the authors I interview. Enjoy!
My first interview is with middle grade and picture book author, Dee Romito. Dee and I became friends a few years ago, and I just adore her books – they’re so fun to read but always have an inspiring message at their heart, whether you’re a kid or an adult! Her most recent release, the non-fiction picture book Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montogomery Bus Boycott, tells the story of an unsung hero of the Civil Rights movement, and appropriately enough released on Election Day this month. Welcome, Dee!
Do you listen to music while you write? Why or why not?
Not usually. My preference is a quiet writing space, and when I’m out somewhere writing I can usually block out the noises around me. If it’s really loud, I might listen to classical or Top 40 type songs.
What was the last live concert you attended?
My kids earned tickets for our local “Kiss the Summer Hello” concert with various artists, including Alessia Cara. Before that, I think it was Garth Brooks. His concerts are the BEST.
You are magically going to be granted the ability to be a virtuoso on one instrument. Which do you pick?
Piano. I love watching people play piano, and those fast, hitting-lots-of-keys songs are incredible!
What are your all-time favorite TV shows?
Friends, Seinfeld, 24, White Collar.
What TV shows are you loving lately?
This is Us! And the last season of The Big Bang Theory. I love sitcoms.
Is there a TV show that’s had an impact on you as a writer?
Not necessarily a specific show, but TV shows in general have for sure. I find that as a writer I often don’t just watch shows, I study them. Even my husband will say, “Ooh, they wouldn’t have shown that if it’s not going to be important later!”
I once binge watched the series Hart of Dixie and when I finished the four seasons, I started it all over again. I knew I loved it, but I wanted to figure out why I loved it so much. (It was the quirky characters and their friendships!)
If you got the opportunity to write an episode for one show (past or present) what would it be?
Ooh, this is a tough one. I’d pick Friends or Seinfeld except I don’t think I could do them justice. Maybe Parenthood or Party of Five. I really loved those shows because of the complicated relationships between the characters.
If Netflix were to option one of your books for a TV series, which book would you choose, and who would play your main characters?
The BFF Bucket List would probably best lend itself to a TV series. But if I get to cast the main characters, let’s go with No Place Like Home so I can have George Clooney or Josh Duhamel play the dad. 😉
What are your all-time favorite movies?
The answer to this has always been Grease and Field of Dreams, but I have now officially added The Greatest Showman to that list. LOVE it.
Who are your favorite actors/actresses?
Anyone who follows me online knows I have a massive crush on Hugh Jackman. So much so that a friend recently sent me a cardboard cutout of him. (Okay, I might also have been sent a cutout of Josh Duhamel.
Is there a movie that’s had a big impact on you as a writer?
I got the idea for No Place Like Home while watching the movie Up in the Air. It’s about a guy who travels all the time for work and I wondered, “Could you do that if you had kids?” From that, the seed for a middle grade book idea was born.
Has a place you’ve traveled ever inspired you in your writing?
Definitely. I have always loved to travel. Several of my books have travel themes and take place in cities I’ve been to. I have one manuscript I got the idea for while sitting in Trafalgar Square in London (Someday I’ll get back to working on that one!). Of course, sometimes places I haven’t been to inspire me too. My most recent book, Postcards from Venice, takes place in Venice, Italy where I have yet to venture to.
You can go on a two-week, all-expenses paid writing retreat to the location of your choice. Where would you go, and why?
Santorini, Greece. I have always wanted to go there and OH MY GOODNESS it’s beautiful.
Are you a podcast listener? If so, what are some of your favorite podcasts?
I wasn’t until this past year, but now I really enjoy them. My favorite kidlit podcast is Literaticast and my favorite just for fun is Dax Shepard’s Arm Chair Expert. Although don’t listen to it with kids in the car!
What’s your favorite book you’ve read recently?
I read a lot of picture books, especially nonfiction and biography. I love learning about people in history. One of my recent favorites is A Lady Has the Floor by Kate Hannigan about Belva Lockwood–an amazing woman I didn’t know about!
What are your very favorite kinds of scenes to write?
I like writing fun scenes that make me laugh, but I also like the ones that tug at the heart strings and make you feel the character’s emotions. Those are usually the hardest to write, but they’re so important to a story.
When you need to recharge your batteries/refill the well as a writer, what forms of media do you most often turn to?
I’m supposed to say books or music to sound official as a writer, I know, but my real answer is TV. I’m very visual, so TV shows and movies are my ultimate comfort spot when I need to recharge.
What artistic/creative talent do you wish you had?
Oh how I’d love to be an illustrator! But there are so many talented illustrators out there, it’s actually more fun to see what they do with the books.
If you could have a drink with any three people alive in the world right now, who would you pick?
Well first of all, I’m allergic to alcohol, so I’d just be ordering a water with lemon. Hugh Jackman, Ellen DeGeneres, and Michelle Obama.
Let us know what’s coming up next for you: new books, new projects; what are you working on?
I have a chapter book series coming out with Aladdin/Simon & Schuster in 2020 called Fort Builders. It’s about a group of kids who start a fort building company to earn money. Inspired by my own box fort builders at home. (Yes, there is currently a box fort in our play room.)
Dee Romito lives in her hometown of Buffalo, New York. You’re likely to find her on adventures with her husband and two energetic kids, at the local ice cream shop, or curled up in a comfy chair with her cats. She loves to write, travel, and giggle like a teenager with her friends.
Her middle grade books include The BFF Bucket List, No Place Like Home, co-authored Best.Night.Ever, and Postcards from Venice (Aladdin/S&S). Her debut picture book, Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Little Bee Books) is now available. You can visit her website at DeeRomito.com.
A thing that I never do is read my books after they’ve been published. Why? A few reasons: I know I’ll end up finding things I could have done differently and it’ll frustrate me; even worse, I might find mistakes/typos; and also because once it’s published, it’s out of my hands for good and I need to let it go, essentially, and let it belong to the readers. However, I did make an exception with my most recent release, The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel, in that I did listen to the audiobook version of the novel. How could I not, after all? It’s my very first audiobook, and I was DYING to hear how the narrator, Barrie Kreinik, had performed my story and my characters.
In that regard I was not disappointed in the least. Kreinik gives an INCREDIBLE performance; she uses just the right tone and voice and inflections and accents for my characters. I love how she gave Charlotte a low, smooth voice, Nancy a southern accent, and Mevrouw Douw a creaky old lady voice, just as I had heard her in my head. And the emotion she brought to the performance was just incredible. Oh, and I should mention that there is SPOOKY MUSIC at the beginning and end of the audiobook, which absolutely delighted me. Overall, the entire production was beyond anything I had dreamed of.
Beyond that, though, I was a little surprised at some of my own reactions to listening to a book that I had written. There were moments when I couldn’t stop myself from revising in my head – I don’t think I can help it – but for the most part, actually, I was able to put that aside. In fact, for a great deal of the time I sort of forgot that I had written it, if that makes any sense, and just let myself get caught up in the story. There were moments when I’d be worried for Katrina and Ichabod, or annoyed when Brom would show up, and then I’d remember, “Oh, yeah, I wrote this. I made it happen this way.” And then I would sort of laugh at myself and get back into the story.
I don’t know if that’s a testament to my skills as a writer so much as it is a sign of how deeply I love the characters, the story, the world. It was wonderful to visit them all again, in a completely new format. In a way I got to relive my experience of the story, which is something I’ve never really done before. When I’m reading it for pass pages and copyedits I still have that critical, writerly eye turned towards it; I’m still looking for mistakes and typos and things that need to be changed. This was really and truly the first time I got to experience my own work – at least somewhat – as a reader would. It was cool and weird and basically gave me ALL THE FEELS.
I did in fact cry at one point – there’s a scene near the very end that ALWAYS got me, every time through, and never more powerfully than when I listened to it. Again, I don’t know as this speaks to me being a great writer or anything like that, it was just…an emotional moment. I love this story and in many ways it feels like I lived it with the characters. In many ways I did. And this was my opportunity to sit back and marvel at something I’d created, this little piece of my heart that’s now out in the world for others to experience as well. This book is so special to me, and so it was particularly meaningful to revisit it, to sit with it and know that I’d accomplished something, that I’d made this book real for myself and for others, too.
Now, am I going to go back and read my previous two books? I don’t think so. I think I’ll always listen to any subsequent audio editions of my books, just because I so love to hear the narrator’s choices and performance and interpretation. It’s so interesting to hear my work in a different medium. And if there are future audiobooks, will they hit me quite like this one did?
I don’t know. I suppose I can’t say, although each book feels different to write; I know that to be very, very true. I suppose each book would feel different for me to encounter as a reader, as well.
On release day, Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018, I had my book launch party for The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel. It was held at the Witches’ Brew Bar and Café at The Great Pumpkin Farm in Clarence, NY – in other words, at a Halloween-themed bar at a pumpkin farm. The venue could not have been more perfect for this book, and indeed the evening was, overall, perfect. I had an amazing time, and so did those who attended – or so they told me! There were refreshments, a cash bar, and books for sale from Buffalo’s indie bookstore, Talking Leaves Books. I wanted to share some photos from this wonderful evening – enjoy!
At long last, today my third novel, The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel, is on sale!!! Available wherever books are sold!
It feels like this book has been such a long time in the making, and yet I also can’t believe that it’s really out already! And I’m so ecstatic to be celebrating this spooky, Halloween-esque book during my favorite month of the year. It really is the perfect time for this one to be released!
As I know I’ve said before, this book is SO much a book of my heart, and I’m just so thrilled and happy that it’s finally out in the world. I remember so clearly the day that I first had the idea for this book. It hit me like a lightning bolt, though thankfully there was no actual electricity involved, since I was in the shower at the time. But all at once, I had the concept of the story, a very general narrative arc, Katrina’s voice (that was a big one), and the title. I got out of the shower, got dressed, did a happy dance, and then sat down to write. And now that idea that came to me in such a magical stroke of inspiration is, three years later, a real book, a physical object that exists in the world and that others will be able to read. It’s a very cool feeling. I don’t think I know a cooler one.
This is also my first book to have an audiobook version, which is definitely an item I had on my author bucket list! I’m so excited that readers will be able to experience this book in an entirely new way, as well.
Tonight I’m having my dream launch party, which is at a Halloween-themed bar at a pumpkin farm (check out the Events page for details, if you’re in the Buffalo area and would like to come!). It’s going to be a blast, and after all the work that goes into writing and revising and editing and promoting a book, I’m excited to be able to celebrate. This book means so much to me: with its Halloween-adjacent spookiness; its characters whom I love so dearly; it’s love and loyalty and friendship; its twists and turns. I can’t wait for everyone to read it. I hope you love Katrina and Charlotte and Ichabod as much as I do. I hope they win a special place in your heart, just as they did in mine.
And be sure to always keep an eye out for you-know-who…
We’re just under a month out from the release of The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel, and I’m so excited to announce my preorder campaign! Here’s how it works:
-Preorder The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel from any retailer (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your local indie, etc. – some links are below) and in any format before release date, October 2nd, 2018.
-Send me your receipt/proof of preorder AND your mailing address at firstname.lastname@example.org
-Everyone who preorders will get some bookmarks and a signed bookplate
-You will also be entered to win a set of four tarot cards with custom art of the characters from the book, by the incredibly talented Jennifer Hark-Hameister. The cards are hand-drawn and digitally printed. One winner will be selected. Two of the cards are shown below:
(Note: The images above are proofs and not to scale. Final versions may vary slightly.)
The campaign is open internationally! Send me those receipts, and may the odds be ever in your favor 🙂
Some preorder links:
A little while ago I tweeted a bit about working with an editor and taking and using constructive criticism to make your book better. The initial tweet in my thread gained quite a bit of traction, and even as I was tweeting I knew this was a topic deserving of its own blog post, where I could lay out my thoughts in greater detail. Well, here is that blog post!
As a sort of disclaimer, I want to make it clear that what I’ll be talking about here is working with an editor at a publishing house who has acquired your novel. I do not personally have experience in working with freelance editors, etc., so I can’t speak to what that process is like specifically, nor do I know how the editing process goes for nonfiction. But I think the general spirit of what I’m saying here can apply to working with anyone providing edits/constructive criticism, be it your agent, your editor, a freelance editor, etc.
The absolute key thing to know about the author-editor relationship is that it is, it should be, a partnership. I think that often this isn’t something that is generally understood by aspiring authors and even debut authors when their book is first acquired. Which isn’t surprising; if you’ve never had a book published and never worked with a professional editor before, you wouldn’t know! But, again, that relationship is meant to be a partnership. An editor is not there to rewrite your book; to demand that you remove certain scenes or plot points or characters; to tell you how to change your book. No, what you and your editor should have is a collaborative relationship, an ongoing conversation on how to make your book better. They are helping you make your book better. Isn’t that what we all want?
I’ve heard, many times, aspiring authors react with dread and even anger to the idea of an editor “changing” their book. I cannot stress enough that this is the wrong attitude to have. A little tough love here: your book is not perfect. (Okay, technically no book is perfect, published or not, but you get my point). Your book can absolutely be made better. Especially in their earlier stages, books can ALWAYS be made better. And here’s the thing: there is only so much the person writing the book can do to improve it. I have seen this time and time again in my own work, and in feedback I get from critique partners, agents, and of course, my editor. When you’ve been working on something for so long, you lack an objective view; you’re so entrenched in the plot and characters and the world that you can’t see it as clearly as an outside reader would. This where your outside eyes (critique partner, agent, editor) come in. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten feedback/notes on one of my manuscripts with a suggestion that will so greatly improve the book that I slap my forehead and say, “Why didn’t I think of that??” These things oftentimes seem so obvious once someone points them out. But that’s the key: once someone points them out. My books have been improved so much by the ideas and feedback of others that I would never in a million years have thought of or seen myself. Because I’m too close to the work, I can no longer see it as clearly as it needs to be seen to be improved.
So, personally, I look forward to getting my edit letters. I look forward to hearing what thoughts my editor has on how to improve my books. It’s exciting to me, to know that there are ways and ways to improve the book that I haven’t thought of. I mean that sincerely.
Now, certainly, the editorial process can be scary and anxiety-inducing the first time you go through it, as a debut author. That’s normal! You’ve never done this before, and no amount of blog posts/articles/interviews with authors can prepare you for all the feelings you’ll go through when it’s YOUR BOOK going through edits. But! We can certainly talk about what that process looks like. Of course, every editor is different, but the standard process – based on my experience and that of the other traditionally published authors I know – looks something like this:
1. Once your book is acquired/turned in, your editor will go through to do his/her first edit. This results in them sending you, the author, what’s called an edit letter. The length of these can vary widely based on a lot of factors, but basically in it the editor gives you his/her thoughts on the book overall: what’s working well, what isn’t, what needs to be addressed in the next draft. They will then give you thoughts on specific scenes/plot points/character arcs/etc., as well as specific suggestions on how to fix what they feel isn’t working well, or what they feel needs to fleshed out/cut down/given more detail. These suggestions are meant to guide you as you revise. Maybe some of them work for you and you do exactly what the editor suggested; maybe some don’t, but they prompt you to think of a different way to address that same issue.
What an edit letter is NOT is a list of things your editor is DEMANDING that you change about the book. It is about areas that they want you to address, and as I said, they usually give suggestions on how you can do that, but how you address those things is entirely up to you. Again, we’ve acknowledged that your book is not perfect; you know there are ways it can be made better. And remember, editors are publishing professionals; this is their job, to make books better. They know what makes a book successful, both in connecting with readers and commercially. If you are publishing traditionally, the market is always going to be a consideration. That’s just the reality. So it’s very possible that your editor’s notes and suggestions may be geared towards making sure your book adheres more closely to certain expectations of a genre.
2. Once you get this edit letter, your best bet is to read through it a few times and sit with it for at least a few days. There may well be suggestions in it you don’t like, or you may disagree with your editor as to where the problem areas are. Trust me, take some time to digest their feedback. I have absolutely gotten certain suggestions that made me say “No way!” Yet after thinking about it for a bit, I’ve realized that they are exactly right, and that character can in fact have a much reduced role, or the book can do without this chapter entirely, or what have you.
You may also, after sitting with the edit letter for a few days, want to hop on the phone with your editor and talk things through. You can go over how you plan to address the problem areas/rough spots in your manuscript, get your editor’s take on how you’re thinking of putting his/her feedback into play, and brainstorm together if you’re feeling stuck. It can be super helpful to just bounce ideas off of each other. Remember, your editor loves and is excited about this book too; that’s why they bought it! And editors are generally very happy to jump on a call to talk things through at any point in the editing process – again, this is their job. That’s what they’re there for. Especially if you ever feel that you are your editor are not seeing eye to eye on something, a phone call will be the best way to work through that. Perhaps they did not initially understand why you made a certain choice, and if you can explain it they may then rethink their original feedback; this might then be a point in the story that can be made clearer but not necessarily majorly reworked.
3. You’ll usually be given a deadline to have your revised manuscript back to your editor, and so once you’ve turned in this first edit, things vary depending on the book and how strenuous a revision was needed. Your editor will read it over again and see how you addressed the identified problem areas. They may come back with more suggestions for another round of revisions, which doesn’t necessarily mean that you did anything wrong or that the book is “bad”. Some books are more difficult to get right than others; some have lots going on and lots of layers and so it’s easier to address different areas one at a time. Again, this process will vary based on the editor, the author, and the book. So, you may go back for another round of revisions. I know for myself, when making my edits to The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, there were some scenes that I reworked per my editor’s notes, but I wasn’t sure how well I had pulled it off. Your editor will review and let you know, and you can go back and rework again if you want. But once that’s done…
4. Once all bigger picture things with the manuscript have been addressed, it’s time for line edits. This is when your editor goes through the manuscript thoroughly and, using some kind of tracked changes, will indicate where things on the sentence level should be cut, added, and reworded. This, for me, is usually when my word count comes down. There are often lots of things on the sentence level that can be cut; extraneous words and even whole sentences that just aren’t necessary. For example, “I walked up and knocked upon the door” can simply become “I knocked on the door.” That’s a very general example; a lot of this will depend on your writing style and your editor’s editing style. But you get the idea. This is also where your editor will catch things like word repetition, someone standing in one sentence that’s sitting the next with no mention of them moving, phrases you use 500 times in the manuscript, and the list goes on.
Again, as with the edit letter, just because your editor indicates a change doesn’t mean you HAVE to make it. This is why you go over these edits very carefully and thoroughly. There have been times where my editor indicated I should cut a line or even a word that I really liked, and so I just left it. That is totally fine. These are suggestions; you are not obligated to take every single one (though if you’re like me and use the phrase “in truth” practically every time a character speaks, yeah, you’re gonna want to get rid of some of those). But it bears repeating that editors know what they’re doing, and line edits are meant to make the book, overall, much cleaner (and sometimes shorter, which, if length is an issue, will be something you and your editor have talked about). And, again, if there’s anything going on in line edits that you’re really unsure or perplexed about, hop on the phone with your editor and talk it through.
And, of course, at any point in this process you can still be tweaking and reworking things that you’ve thought of that you’d like to change. It’s always a good idea to give your editor a heads up when making any major changes if you haven’t previously discussed them, though. Remember, you want to both be on the same page.
5. You’ll probably have multiple rounds of line edits – I usually have one big one, then a second and maybe a third just to clean up any last little things – and after that, the book goes to copyedits. Copyedits are not done by your editor; this is done by a member of the publisher’s copyediting team in house. You will need to review these edits as well, but what is being addressed here is grammar, typos, any word repetition that remains, consistency, etc. I actually had my copyeditor for Most Beautiful point out some words and phrases that weren’t in use yet in that time period – for instance, at one point Simonetta had used the phrase “in one fell swoop”, and the copyeditor pointed out that that phrase originated in a Shakespeare play, which obviously hadn’t been written yet in 1472 (or whatever year that exact scene took place, I forget, haha). I would never have imagined that – and the vast majority of readers would never have noticed either – but it was still a cool thing to know and be able to fix. Copyeditors are truly publishing’s unsung heroes, ya’ll.
This, as I said, is generally how the process goes. Your editor loves your book – they have to, to have acquired and read it all the many times they will read it through the process above – and wants it to be the best it can be. As I mentioned several times, this is all stuff you and your editor can talk about and hash out. It’s not a list of demands with which you must comply for your book to be published. You DO have to work with your editor in good faith and consider their suggestions, and your editor DOES have to think about what you are trying to achieve with the story, and not steer it in a direction you did not mean for it to go. Miscommunications and misunderstandings can arise, certainly. But, as in any collaborative partnership, you talk and work through those together.
For myself, as I am drafting and revising on my own before turning in the book to my editor, I’ll lean on her in the sense that: maybe I know a scene needs something but I’m just not sure what – that’s something she can take a look at for me. In book 4, which I just turned in, I left notes for my editor aaaaallll throughout the manuscript for specific things I want her take on. I know she’ll address all those and find other areas for improvement that I hadn’t even thought about. And I seriously can’t wait to see what those are.
I’m sure there are horror stories of editors who have tried to rewrite an author’s book or been completely inflexible about changes, but I have certainly not experienced that personally, nor have any authors I know. That is definitely not the norm. The author-editor relationship is one that is mutually beneficial and should be creatively exciting for both parties. You are working on this book TOGETHER. Your editor wants your book to be the best it can be, and so do you. You’re a team. You’re on the same side. Your editor is your partner, not your adversary. It’s okay to ask questions, to be a little nervous. But ultimately, other than your agent, your editor is your book’s best and strongest advocate and biggest fan.