Fiction Reboot Author Interview: Lucienne Diver

Welcome back to the Fiction Reboot’ Author Interview!

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!

Welcome, Lucienne!

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AUTHOR BIO

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.

AGENT BIO

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.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

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

ReVamped by Lucienne Diver was witty, sweet, and just dark enough to ignite my morbid taste buds.” —Bitten by Books

ReVamped is full of smart, spot-on dialogue, engaging, authentic characters and a plot that’s so much fun it’s impossible not get swept up.” —Examiner.com

“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!

Ficiton Reboot: Literary Agents

FEATURING LITERARY AGENCIES

Last week, I posted on whether or not you need a literary agent. It was a surprisingly popular post, and so today I decided to feature some good agencies, much the way I feature fiction on Fridays. Here are a few places you might want to look, but remember, don’t let this be the final destination. Always do research to find which agencies best suit you!

Additional places to look for agencies: http://www.agentquery.com/ and http://www.scbwi.org/Resources/Documents/AgentDirectory-10.pdf

Established in 1996, THE KNIGHT AGENCY has gained worldwide recognition for the success of our authors in the fiercely competitive publishing marketplace. Our philosophy is simple: what you give is what you get. As a company, we are dedicated to cultivating prosperous, long-term writing careers by giving clients unparalleled service. Thus, the agency designed a multifaceted approach to success, which includes maintaining high visibility in the marketplace, fostering the all-important author-agent relationship and operating full-service subsidiary rights and marketing and publicity departments. This conscientious approach anticipates the needs of clients at all stages of the publishing process. The stellar success enjoyed by our clients illustrates the merits of our methodology. Lucienne Diver, whose blog I follow (and often link to) is one of the agents—and also a successful author!

ANDERSON LITERARY MANAGEMENT’S Kathleen Anderson is an award-winning editor and agent who has been working in the publishing business since 1979—first as an editor at W.W. Norton where she published DEAR AMERICA: Letters Home From Vietnam, which became an Emmy award-winning documentary, then as a senior editor at Poseidon, formerly a division of Simon & Schuster, where she published and edited Mary Gaitskill and Ursula Hegi. She is a recipient of the Tony Godwin Award, given to an outstanding American editor under 35 who is then sent to England to learn about British publishing. She was also selected to be among the first group of editorial fellows from the United States to attend the Jerusalem Book Fair. She was a founding partner of Anderson Grinberg Literary Management, Inc., then formed her own firm in 2006. She specializes in adult and young adult literary and commercial fiction, narrative nonfiction, American and European history, literary journalism, nature and travel writing, memoir, and biography. A graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, she is a member of PEN and the AAR (Association of Author’s Representatives).

STERLING LORD LITERISTIC, INC is defined by its rich heritage, as well as the energy and commitment of agents who are passionate about the writers they represent.   One of the most dynamic independent agencies in New York, Sterling Lord Literistic combines a long tradition of literary excellence with a diverse and successful client list unparalleled in the industry.   The Agency represents a wide range of authors, including National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winners, New York Times bestsellers, literary and commercial novelists, politicians, journalists, scientists, and favorites in children’s literature.   The winning combination of established authors and newly emerging voices attests to the past achievement and future promise of the Agency.

The ETHAN ELLENBERG LITERARY AGENCY was established in 1984 by Ethan Ellenberg who was a contracts manager for Berkley and associate contracts manager for Bantam. Since its inception the agency has represented several bestselling authors, career novelists, and professional writers. In addition to new and published authors, the agency also represents rights on behalf of publishers and literary estates. The agency is an independent full-service agency with robust sales in subsidiary rights and partnering agents all over the world. The agency is a member of the Association of Authors Representatives, an affiliate member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s of America, and an associate member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, The Romance Writers of America, and the Mystery Writers of America. The agency represents a broad array of fiction and non-fiction, and is currently seeking clients. For more information about what we’re looking for and how to submit your work for consideration, please read our submission guidelines.

Founded in 1875, A P WATT is the longest-established literary agency in the world. It is also one of the most dynamic and successful. The literary estates this agency represents include those of some of the foremost British and Irish writers of the 20th Century. Its current authors include leading novelists, biographers, historians, and specialist writers pre-eminent in their field. The agency also represents some outstanding children’s authors and illustrators, and, in its film and television department, a select number of screenwriters and directors. A P Watt’s clients include a Nobel Prize winner, four Booker Prize winners, three Orange Prize winners, several Whitbread and Costa Prize winners, and the first Children’s Laureate. Our writers have created many bestselling books, long-running television series and hit films.

The WAXMAN LITERARY AGENCY is a development-oriented firm, specializing inrepresenting nonfiction and fiction authors with powerful stories. Our strength lies in our ability to match authors with ideas and to connect them with the best possible publisher for their book. Our clients are accomplished journalists, experts in their fields, celebrities and first time writers with an exceptional story or message to share. We have been associated with numerous bestsellers and award winning projects, and look forward to continuing to help bring exciting and successful new voices to American and international markets.

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Don’t forget to tune in Wednesday for more Here Comes Troubelle–and this Thursday I will be hosting Robin Blake, author of A Dark Anatomy!

Fiction Feature Friday: Reaching for Others

I have mentioned this Asimov quote before: we write because, like breathing, we need to in order to survive. In other words, we write for ourselves, first, and would do so even if no one else ever read it. But if writing is actually a kind of communal activity (which I believe it is), then we also must reach beyond ourselves–stretch out with nerve and fiber, filament and heart-string–to other people. Who hasn’t read a book, looked up to the heavens and though finally, someone who understands? Who hasn’t laughed and cried with a character, yearned with their longing or felt their heart beating? Alternatively, who hasn’t stood on the wandering, far-off shores of distant countries and looked through the eyes of a non-fiction author with the freshness of really and truly seeing? Writing is a kind of “reaching for others” that we should celebrate, and on today’s Fiction Reboot, I will be featuring new releases–as well as a few debut novels by new authors.

BOOKS WORTH CONSIDERING

Marissa Meyer’s Cinder:

A cyborg’s Cinderella story, this is book one of the Lunar Chronicles. Intergalactic battle, the future of earth a gifted girl-cyborg… and a handsome prince. Published January 3rd 2012 by Feiwel & Friends, it is an interesting read. Who doesn’t love a fairy-tale’s retelling?

 

Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone:

Book one of the Grisha Trilogy, the novel tells the story of a once-great nation, Ravka, torn in two by the Shadow Fold (darkness crawling with monsters who eat humans. Nom-Nom, zombie fans!) The fate of this world rests on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

 

Nova Ren Suma’s, Imaginary Girls:

Described as “a surreal little nightmare in book form” by Nancy Werlin, this novel tracks death, denial, secrets and sisterly love. Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks up to and longs for, but a night with Ruby goes wrong, and Chloe discovers the body of a classmate floating in the reservoir…

 

First, the title of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making,almost doesn’t require one to say more.Catherynne M. Valente began the heroine’s adventures in instalments on the Web. While this is unconventional; the project won legions of fans as well as awards! This is Valente’s children’s book debut (she also writes adult fiction).

 

And for debut novels, I am going to reference Waterstone‘s top selections:

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Shelter by Frances Greenslade

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Absolution by Patrick Flanery

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

RECOMMENDATIONS?

These are just a few of the many, many new voices out there–and we have not begun to brush the surface of even my personal favorites (many of which are mystery novels!) But, as this blog is also a community endeavor, also reaching out to find the “others,” let me start by asking you. Do you have recommendations for the Fiction Feature Friday? Contact me or send them by blog post comment. And who knows, maybe someday I will be featuring YOU!

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

For more new voices in the book industry, check out the “Recent Deals” of the Knight Agency, which represents a number of fantastic authors and books (like THE ANATOMIST’S APPRENTICE, for instance–18th century historical mystery involving medicine? Am I in heaven??).