TWFT has had the pleasure of talking to Erin Jade Lange, author of the upcoming Bloomsbury YA novel BUTTER, about an overweight boy who plans on eating himself to death in front of millions of online viewers. In the following interview, Erin dishes on writing, publishing, and the whole learning process. Enjoy!
TWFT: Where were you when you found out BUTTER sold?
ERIN: I can’t remember the exact moment when we accepted, and it was a “done deal,” because there was a bit of a process leading up to that.
But the moment that stands out for me is when I first learned an offer was incoming. I had just stepped off a plane in my home town for a visit. As soon as I turned on my cell phone, it started blowing up with messages from my agent, who had been trying to reach me while I was in flight. There was a lot of frantic texting, and then I just remember standing in the airport parking lot and looking up at my parents in shock and saying something along the lines of, “I think someone’s going to publish my book.”
TWFT: Why YA?
ERIN: The first novel I ever attempted to write was for adults. Looking back at it now, it has the pace and voice of YA and even a fairly “young” adult narrator, but I wasn’t even thinking about what I was writing at the time. I was just getting my feet wet. Then the Harry Potter craze came along, and I rediscovered YA and MG books.
Over the next few years, I shopped mostly in the teen section and rediscovered everything I had loved about young adult books growing up. I could see they not only influenced my writing style but also shaped who I was as a person at a critical time in my life. Those were the kind of books I wanted to write.
Also, it helps that my inner voices are mostly angsty teenagers.
TWFT: Assuming that you are a writer of the social kind (critiquing other work, networking), you’ve run across your fair share of people who’ve made it and people who are still struggling to earn recognition. What sets apart these successes from the not-so-successful?
ERIN: This is a really tough question to answer, because it depends on how you define success. I know people at every stage of the publishing process, from writing a first book to hitting a bestseller list. I think of them all as successful because to me, success is just about setting a goal, achieving it, setting the next goal, rinse and repeat.
But I do think all authors who have achieved any amount of success have one thing in common – commitment. They’ve survived rejections or bad reviews. They’ve trunked beloved stories and moved on to the next project. They keep reaching. Most authors who seem successful have a NEVER QUIT attitude.
Coming out September 18 to a bookstore near you!
TWFT: A lot of writers, myself included, have various trunked novels buried deep without their closets. When do you know your work is ready?
ERIN: I’m better at knowing when it’s NOT ready. I often abandon projects or never get around to editing the first draft, because I’ve lost passion for them… which is just my fancy way of saying I get bored. And if I’m bored, the reader will definitely be bored.
When I do like something enough to send it to my crit partners, I tend to rely on feedback from that point on. Several rounds of revisions later, when my beta audience is happy with it, and I’m sick of looking at it, it’s probably ready.
TWFT: How do you deal with jealousy–say, when you’ve been struggling for a while and everyone else is getting published?
ERIN: This goes back to setting personal goals and defining your own success. If I see someone achieving something I’d like to achieve, instead of feeling jealous, I tend to see an opportunity. I’ll find out what I can about how the author managed to reach the goal and take notes. Literally. I take notes. I attended an event recently for an author who has successfully booked school visits and been invited to speak on panels. Those are things I would like to do, so when I got home, I jotted down a few notes about the structure of his presentation, then I checked out his website to see how he advertises his availability for events. His approach may or may not work for me, but I learned something.
I was the same way before I sold BUTTER – always watching other writers online to see how they landed their deals – what they put in their queries, what websites they used to research agents, etc… That pang of jealousy is usually an opportunity to learn.
TWFT: How do you find the time to write—and to write well? (I can sit down at my desk, scribble for a few hours, read the words the next morning, and find nothing I’m particularly proud of.)
ERIN: I’m always saying it’s impossible to FIND time to write. You have to MAKE time to write. Writers make a lot of sacrifices to carve out the time it takes to put a book down on paper, so it’s disappointing when a few hours of writing turn up nothing usable. A lot of people say “give yourself permission to write garbage,” in order to just power through. I agree with that, in theory, but honestly? Time is precious and I’m busy! If I’ve spent an hour writing something I know is going nowhere, I give myself permission to walk away and do something else.
On the flip side, if I’m having a sudden moment of inspiration, I also give myself permission to drop everything else on the to-do list for an entire day – even an entire week – and do nothing but write. Be flexible, so you can seize those moments of inspiration. That’s when you’ll do your best work.
TWFT: What’s one thing you learned now that you wish you should have learned before the whole process?
ERIN: Patience. I haven’t actually learned that yet, but I’m getting better. You’ll need patience for this biz. Publishing is slooooow! ;)
Erin’s a super-sweet person, so I’m sure she’d love it if you went by her website and dropped her a line about how much you love BUTTER/the interview! If you’re in the Twitterverse, remember to follow her as well.