Fantastic news! I have another interview for you, this time with YA writer Rachel Pudelek! Rachel has agreed to talk to me about the revision process as well as her newly agented manuscript, DEADLY SPLENDOR. Take a look at what she has to say, then feel free to ask her follow up questions in the comments!
“Trust your instincts. I believe a writer’s muse is their instincts. The more you use ’em, the stronger they become.”
1. A few weeks ago, you signed with Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis, Inc. Hooray! Since then, you’ve been working with Christa to revise your manuscript, DEADLY SPLENDOR. Can you tell me about the story?
Thanks! Super exciting! I have a couple different blurbs on my blog under the “Writing” tab, but here’s my query:
Sixteen-year-old Allura comes from a long line of man-eaters.
That’s why she and her sisters have to stick together, because living as the descendants of folkloric women while pretending to be human isn’t easy. Especially when you attend an everybody-knows-everybody school like Friday Harbor High.
The elder’s prohibition of man-hunting centuries ago has left each generation of Femina Mari weaker than the one before, their hunger obsolete. Allura and her sisters still tree-jump and can take down a shark when they work as a team, but their strength and prowess dims in comparison to that of their foremothers. Only the forbidden mixture of testosterone and adrenaline found in male flesh can give their abilities a super boost.
But when their new leader announces she’s resurrecting the old ways, Allura’s embarrassing fantasies of hunting guys are encouraged. She’s the first of her generation to show true Femina Mari tendencies, and the elders couldn’t be more pleased. If she embraces her yearnings, she can awaken the carnal hunger within her sisters and revive her weak species, ensuring their place back at the top of the food chain. Allura doesn’t want to be the monster the elders insist she is, but she refuses to abandon her sisters.
So falling for David, the delicious-looking guy she’s hunting, scares the hell out of her. Especially when loving him reveals not all males deserve her wrath. If Allura obeys the elders, her cravings will intensify with each kill. And unleashing the flesh-hungry side of her sisters can’t be good for mankind. But if she defies the elders they’ll destroy David—the only guy she’s ever entrusted with her heart.
Too bad falling for the enemy never tasted so good.
2. That sounds awesome! Now, we hear a lot about revisions before writers query, but not often do we get to peek over the fence and see the other side. Tell me a little bit about what the process working with Christa has been like so far.
It’s actually really fun. When you’ve been revising over and over again, not exactly sure if you’re headed in the right direction, it feels amazing to have a professional who knows the business take your hand and guide you. As far as the process goes, it’s different for every agent/author partnership, but I’ll share mine with you.
During THE CALL Christa explained her general revision ideas. After I signed with her, she sent a page of revision notes. They weren’t bullet points or anything, and most of them weren’t exact. They were paragraphs starting with a question or thought about the story or character and then a few sentences with ideas on how to answer that question or go deeper. For instance, in one paragraph she mentioned how much she liked seeing the cult-ish ways of Alllura’s kind, so she suggested I add another scene to include one of their rituals.
Under each of her revision note paragraphs, I answered back with my ideas and opinions. On the ritual note, I asked her how dark I can take it and then explained where I think it’d fit best and what it’d be about. After I read through and left comments for each revision idea, I sent it off to her. She responded to each of my comments, and we went back and forth like that until we’d nailed them all down. Then I got to work. 🙂 I just finished last week, so we’ll see if I’ll need to go for another round after she reads the newly revised manuscript.
3. That sounds like a lot of fun…and a lot of work! Has this experience changed your perspective on writing or editing at all?
Yes! Christa has shown me that back story isn’t evil, if done correctly, which gives me more freedom to delve deeper into my characters. Also, her notes were basically ways to add to my story, a manuscript her and her assistant already loved. There was not one thing she insisted I change, and knowing this has given me more confidence in my writing and my ability to critique manuscripts.
4. What was the most challenging part of your journey to representation? How did you find the strength to keep going?
The most challenging part was feeling like I was the only person who REALLY (with every emotional piece in me) believed in my story. When you’ve been querying a manuscript for over a year and can’t make it past the first round in countless blog pitch contests, you (and everyone else) wonders if it’s time to trunk the thing, even if temporarily. But I just couldn’t. I’d trunked my first ms, so it wasn’t as though I didn’t know when it was time. I’d even written a third ms while querying DEADLY SPLENDOR. But I wanted SO BADLY to have Allura’s story told to the masses that it ached within me. The way I found the strength? Cling to every single shred of hope–every compliment. 🙂
5. Last but not least, can you give querying writers a bit of advice from the other side? (Bonus points if it’s something other than “keep going!”)
I have a few bits, if you don’t mind. 🙂
~ Don’t believe every negative thing you hear! Because we are SO GOOD at doing that! Trust the genuine compliments and hold on to them. Reread them if you’re having a rough writerly day.
~ Trust your instincts. I believe a writer’s muse is their instincts. The more you use ’em, the stronger they become. When your character does something that works perfectly in the story, but you would have never thought of it yourself, that’s your instincts, not your logical side. I believe we writers (for the most part) have amazingly strong instincts, and yet we question ourselves constantly! I’m not saying you should be stuck in your ways and ignore advice, because advice and critiques help you grow as an author, but stop questioning your ability. You’re either a great writer, or you’re on your way to becoming a great writer. Both are headed in the same direction, headed toward your dreams. 🙂
And that’s a wrap! If you have questions for Rachel, feel free to ask them in the comments! I also recommend that you follow her on twitter!
Thanks for reading!