Today I am pleased to host Lucienne Diver, writer of YA and fantasy literature (including the Latter Day Olympian series and Vamped) and agent for the Knight Agency. She is also the author of a blog, Lucienne Diver’s Drivel, which has been instrumental and inspiration to me as I created the Fiction Reboot. Lucienne has an amazing perspective on the publishing and writing world, and I am happy to include below her well-informed thoughts on the writing life!
Lucienne Diver is the author of the popular Vamped series of young adult novels (think Clueless meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer). School Library Journal calls the first book, “a lighthearted, action-packed, vampire romance story following in the vein of Julie Kenner’s “Good Ghouls” (Berkley), Marlene Perez’s “Dead” (Harcourt), and Rachel Caine’s “The Morganville Vampires” (Signet) series.” VOYA has suggested that the books “will attract even reluctant readers.”
Her short stories have been included in the Strip-Mauled and Fangs for the Mammaries anthologies edited by Esther Friesner (Baen Books), and her essay on abuse is included in the upcoming anthology Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories(HarperTeen). 2011 saw the launch of Bad Blood, the first novel in her Latter-Day Olympians series of contemporary fantasy, set in LA and featuring a heroine who can, quite literally, stop men in their tracks. Long and Short Reviews gave it her favorite pull-quote of all times, “Bad Blood is a delightful urban fantasy, a clever mix of Janet Evanovich and Rick Riordan, and a true Lucienne Diver original.” She can now die happy, (she says) though maybe not just yet.
Lucienne Diver joined The Knight Agency in 2008, after spending fifteen years at New York City’s prestigious Spectrum Literary Agency. With her sharp eye and gift for spotting original new voices, Lucienne is one of the most well-respected agents in the industry. Over the course of her dynamic career she has sold over seven hundred titles to every major publisher, and has built a client list of more than forty authors spanning the commercial fiction genres, primarily in the areas of fantasy, science fiction, romance, mystery, suspense and erotica. Her authors have been honored with the RITA, National Readers’ Choice Award, the Golden Heart, and the Romantic Times Reader’s Choice, and have appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. A publishing veteran, Lucienne has superb industry knowledge. She represents authors like D.B. Jackson and Rob Thurman.
CRAZY IN THE BLOOD (book 2 in the Latter Day Olympians)
CRAZY IN THE BLOOD. Latter-Day Olympians, Book 2 promises to be as exciting as the first–I have been watching the steady boil of enthusiasm on twitter and note that you can now pre-order the book on Amazon. A short snippet of good things to come: Tori Karacis’s family line may trace back to a drunken liaison between the god Pan and one of the immortal gorgons. Or…maybe it’s just coincidence that her glance can, literally, stop men in their tracks. But just a few weeks after Tori prevented some rogue gods from blowing L.A. into the ocean, more dead bodies are turning up near the leftover crater. Bodies that have been shredded by something too big to be…shall we say, of this world? Worse, Uncle Christos has disappeared after stumbling onto a deadly cult masquerading as the Back to Earth movement. Read more at http://www.luciennediver.com/latter.html.
1. I have always identified with the Asimov quote: “I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn’t, I’d die.” Does this describe you? Could you say a bit about your early writing experiences? Your favorite work?
Absolutely! I’ve discovered recently how much my mood is tied in to whether or not I’ve written that day. Every day that I don’t write feels wasted. I literally have to write to be happy.
One of my favorite writing quotes comes from THE CAT WHO WALKED THROUGH WALLS by Robert A. Heinlein, where the author hero explains about writing to the heroine. She asks him, “If it hurts so much, why do you do it?” To which he responds, “Because it hurts more not to.”
My early writing experiences? I started in the fifth grade with a wonderful teacher who started us off every day (or at least, that’s how I remember it) with a free-writing assignment. He’d put a theme or the start of a sentence on the board and we’d have to take it from there. For ten or fifteen minutes, our pens were not allowed to stop moving, and if we couldn’t think of anything to say, we’d write “nothing at all, nothing at all” until something occurred to us. It was a wonderful exercise. It not only got the creative juices flowing, but taught me something about writing through block, an important lesson when I only have an hour a day to write. (I spend the rest of it agenting.)
2. Not unlike many an author, I come from an academic background where writing fiction is a somewhat closeted affair. Can you talk about when you decided to “write for real”? How and when did you make the decision to write for publication and give your work the time and energy it so deserves?
I’d written a few trunk manuscripts before my son was born, but they were very undisciplined affairs, where I’d write when I had the time. They were also very self-conscious and, therefore, atrocious. I’d have rejected me in a second, and I knew it. Thus, I barely bothered to submit them. After he was born—well, after the first two years that I spent every spare second staring at the miracle I held in my arms—I was sparked to return to writing by an overheard conversation that created an entire storyline in my head. I had to write it down. Because I had a young son and a more-than-day job, I had to get really disciplined about my writing time. Back then, I woke up around 5:30 every morning so that I’d have time to write before he woke and I had to start the whirlwind of my day. Now I write after I drop him off to school. That early exercise from fifth grade and that one-hour time constraint really motivates me to stay focused and avoid distractions.
3. You two very successful series, Vamped and Bad Blood. Can you say a bit about series fiction? What does it take to retain interest and stamina?
Thanks so much! I love the Vamped and Latter-Day Olympians series, of which Bad Blood is the first. The second, Crazy in the Blood, comes out this month in digital, next year in print. I’d say that the trick to a successful series is two-fold. Up the stakes each time and build on what you’ve already developed, something I learned particularly from reading Rachel Caine, who constantly amazes me in the way that she keeps the Morganville Vampires series fresh and innovative, for example. With the Vamped series, I tend to throw a game changer in there somewhere so that I get to play with some new challenge and, hopefully, my readers will wonder where on Earth things will go next and come along for the ride.
4. As the author of a humorous “medical” vampire novel (Jacob Maresbeth), I am interested in your work on Vamped. In the present fervor of the fangtastic, what are some strategies for, pardon the pun, sticking out?
My heroine Gina, fashionista of the fanged, would say that the best way to stand out is to just be yourself. She’s not a new kind of vampire. She doesn’t sparkle in the sunlight (but does burn to a very unflattering crisp). She drinks blood unapologetically. I think where she does shine is in her voice. I love that the reviewers are picking up on this as well. Some of my fav quotes:
“This is a witty vampire romance/adventure with plenty of heart and action… that will attract even reluctant readers.—VOYA, reviewed by Ava Ehde
“Gina, the 17-year-old fashionista of the undead, is back and as sassy as ever…listening in on Gina’s thoughts and quick-witted dialogue is what makes this such a treat.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This quick read is filled with teen slang and fashion consciousness; it’s a lighthearted, action-packed, vampire romance story following in the vein of Julie Kenner’s “Good Ghouls” (Berkley), Marlene Perez’s “Dead” (Harcourt), and Rachel Caine’s “The Morganville Vampires” (Signet) series.” —School Library Journal
One of my absolute favorite things is hearing from readers, particularly those reluctant readers mentioned by VOYA. One that really touched my heart was a girl who said that she never liked reading until she picked up Vamped, and then her friends wondered what was wrong with her because all she wanted to do was read it. Made my whole day, month, even year!
5. I have been incredibly inspired by your blog and website. What is the value of these platforms for an author? What about social networks like Twitter?
Oh, thank you so much! There’s so much negative out there that I try to be inspiring, and, really, my experiences have been so positive that it’s not difficult at all. To me, blogging is about giving back more than it is a platform for promotion, although I think that group blogs and contests are wonderful for helping spread the word about a series, and guest-blogging for others can expand your reach and potential audience. I’ve heard people say that Twitter and other social networks don’t sell books, but I know when I hear from three or four different sources that a particular book really blew them away, I buy it. So, I think Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites are particularly useful not in self-promotion, so much, but in enabling readers to tell each other about great finds. Word-of-mouth has been the biggest seller of books for as long as I’ve been in the business. Still, I know I can’t help sharing great reviews and news of upcoming releases!
6. Every writer has a different writing strategy—or so I tell my novel-writing students. How do you approach the writing process? Revision? Writers’ block?
My mantra is “Get it down, then get it right.” Things tend to gel for me as I write…voices, situations. It means a lot of revision down the line, but you can’t revise what isn’t there to begin with. This is so important to me that I recently blogged about it over on Magical Words.
7. As the mentor for a university writing club, I often preach to my students about the value of workshopping. Could you say a bit about your own responsive readers and mentors? Your approach to criticism? Beta readers?
Critical feedback is invaluable! Authors are too close to their own work to be completely objective. I don’t know many authors, including those who are multi-published, who don’t use critique partners or beta readers to help them make their manuscripts the best they can be. Then those authors get additional feedback from their agents and editors. Manuscripts go through many rounds of revision before they’re ready for the readers and reviewers. That doesn’t mean that every piece of advice will ring true for you or that you have to incorporate everything. However, even if you don’t take a particular suggestion, it’s a good idea to look at why it was suggested and see if you can clarify or solve the problem some other way. It’s a pretty good bet that if one reader calls you on something, another will as well. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but you can sure try.
8. We are all looking for agents, and you actually are one! Do you have advice for new writers on “breaking in” to the YA publishing world? How do you find (and get!) a great YA agent?
Well, you already know that the most important thing is to write an incredible novel that an agent can’t help but offer representation on. This rarely happens, but I’ve taken on two debut novelists in the past couple of weeks because even with my workload, I just couldn’t resist. They’re amazing, and I knew that if I didn’t snap them up, I’d regret the decision. You can enhance your chances by doing your research and targeting the right people. It’s great, though not necessary, to let the agent in on the research by saying something like, “I’m approaching you because of my admiration for your work with author X, Y or Z.” A little praise never hurt anyone. If you’ve got a platform, whether it be contest wins, some form of celebrity or a well-trafficked blog or social media feed, it’s good to mention these things as well.
9. Who do you consider your inspiration? (Literary or otherwise?)
My authors are my inspiration. Early on when I wasn’t submitting, it was partly because all of my authors are so amazingly talented, I knew I didn’t stack up. But they gave me something to shoot for, and reading and critiquing their work taught me a lot about writing, pacing, plotting, and characterization. Like many in the publishing business, it’s nearly impossible for me to turn off my brain when reading, so it all becomes study. Fun study, of course!
10. Finally, are there any forums, books, blogs or other sites and services you would recommend to new writers?
I think the Magical Words blog is wonderful, particularly for science fiction, fantasy and horror writers. Writerspace, Romance Divas and other sites like them post great forums, articles, etc. Writer’s Digest puts on weekly webinars, one of which I’ve taught, that can be valuable for writers and often come with a critique component. For more established authors or those looking for tips on promotion and social media, I think the Author Marketing Experts newsletter is a must.
Thank you, Lucienne, for speaking with us today! You can follow Lucienne on Twitter at @LucienneDiver.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Friday Fiction Feature–and look for more interviews coming soon!