It’s time for more in the Summer 2012 YA Debut Interview Series, featuring debut YA authors who’ve written books I am absolutely dying to read. I’ve chosen eleven (yes, 11 this time!) debuts to feature, and I hope by the end of this series you’ll be as excited about these books as I am.
Today’s Summer 2012 YA Debut is The Little Woods by McCormick Templeman. Read on to see how this author answered the Q&A… And be sure to enter to win a pre-order of The Little Woods!
Nova Ren Suma: I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing already from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during your next checkup: “So what’s your book about?” (Feel free to use the jacket copy, or describe in your own words. Up to you.)
McCormick Templeman: Unexplained disappearances. Suspicious deaths. There’s something wrong with the woods behind St. Bede’s Academy. When Cally Wood starts at St. Bede’s mid-way through her junior year, she’s suddenly thrust into a world of privilege and prestige, and in no time flat, she learns to navigate the complex social world of the upper echelon. But amid the illicit romances and weekend-long parties, Cally discovers that a brilliant but troubled girl, Iris, had disappeared from St. Bede’s just a few months earlier. Most people assume she ran away, but the police never found her. And Iris wouldn’t be the first girl to go missing from the school. Ten years earlier Cally’s sister was visiting a friend from camp at St. Bede’s when both girls vanished from their beds in the night.
As Cally tries to unravel the mystery surrounding Iris—one she can’t help but feel is linked to her own sister’s death—she discovers that beneath the surface of this elite school and its perfect students lies a web of secrets where rumors become indistinguishable from truth and it seems everyone has something to hide.
In my experience, every book wants to be written differently—and each one behaves differently from the one before it. Some novels like it out of order, and some rigidly insist on being written from start to finish. Some novels come out fast; others are excruciatingly slow. Some novels torment you, and some sing you to sleep. What did your novel want? How did you appease it? Did it ever misbehave?
The initial spark for The Little Woods came to me when I was reading a collection of case studies written by a medical examiner in the late nineteenth century. One of the cases was so horrific and bizarre that after reading it, I just sat there shocked, and then suddenly I had this flash of a story. I knew I had to follow it. I had a lot of false starts with it. I had to throw out mountains of work, but once I found the right setting, the rest came fairly easily, although not especially quickly. At the time, I wasn’t really focused on writing as a career; I knew the odds weren’t good. So I wrote for fun and when I had the time to do so. The book had a lot of time to steep, and I had no sense of urgency about it, which allowed me to make all kinds of excellent mistakes. So, I would say it was behaved like a very good dog that has accidentally ingested something hallucinogenic.
Tell us about the place—as in the physical location: a messy office, a comfy couch, a certain corner table at the café—where you spent most of your time writing this book. Now imagine the writing spot of your fantasies where you wish you’d been able to write this book… tell us all about it.
Once I found my stride, I wrote this book wherever and whenever I could. I was in my final year of a graduate program in Chinese medicine, so I was at school or in the clinic for very long days, and the time I had, I had to steal. I wrote in the library between classes. I wrote in the clinic pharmacy. I wrote a lot of it during a class on practice management, which turned out to by a very bad idea because once I did open my practice I was terrible at managing it. I wrote in little notebooks while standing up on the subway. I did a lot of revising at the NY Public Library reading room, which was where I I’d had that initial spark for the book. That reading room is also my ideal workspace.
I love everything about it—the magnificent arched windows, the squat metal lamps juxtaposed with the dripping luxury of the chandeliers. I love the guy whose music is seeping out of his headphones. I love the self-important lady who shooshes him. I would work there all day every day if I could.
Imagine you’re on the subway, or the bus, or sitting in a park somewhere minding your own business… and you look up and see the most perfect person you could picture devouring your book. This is your ideal reader. Set the scene and describe him or her (or them?) for us.
My ideal reader would be someone to whom the book brings joy. They would have that look on their face—you know the one you get when you’re really escaping into a book. I can’t really see much more about them, just that the book would be making them happy.
Publishing a novel is full of high points, low points, absolutely surreal points, and shocking points you never thought you’d see in your lifetime. Tell us a high point, a low point, a surreal point, and something shocking or at least somewhat surprising about your experience so far.
Surreal point: Talking to potentially interested editors on the phone. It was crazy. I kept thinking I was going to pass out.
Shocking point: I am shocked about pretty much all of it all of the time. Writing novels is such a weird thing. You’re going along being kind of a crazy loser who’s pursuing this insane dream, and all the time and effort you put into writing seems to be for naught. And then one day your book is being published and that seems to validate all your work retroactively, but really everything’s still exactly the same. You’re still sitting alone in your pajamas making up stories. I’m shocked that I’m getting paid to do that. I’m shocked that anyone wants to read my crazy stories.
Low point/ High point: This book went out on submission twice, and the first time it got very close a couple of places, and then everyone passed pretty much at once. When my agent emailed me the passes, I was at a party, and I went into the bathroom, sat on the floor, and cried. This was the second book I’d written, and the second one that had died at this stage, and it seemed like it was never going to happen. Getting an agent had been freakishly easy for me. I queried one agent and she took me. I know that kind of luck is beyond normal human luck, and I think the universe had saved up the requisite rejections for the submission stage. In those moments when I sat on that cold tile crying, I was a failure. I was worthless. That was my lowest moment. And then I realized that I would never ever think that about someone else, so why was I thinking it about myself? I decided to do what I would tell a friend to do: don’t take it personally, pick yourself up, and keep on going. So I washed my face, read the email again, and looked for a common thread to follow. The editors who passed had been extremely generous with their criticism, and as I read their reactions, I tried to see the book through their eyes. I decided I needed to re-read the book, keeping their comments in mind, but looking for my own solutions to what wasn’t working. I knew that if I did that, then I could fix it. That moment where I refused to beat myself up, where I refused to believe that I was a failure just because I had failed, that was the highest moment for me.
Dream question: If you could go on book tour anywhere in the world, with any two authors (living or dead), and serve any item of food at your book signing… where would you go, who with, and what delicious treat would you serve your fans?
If I had my druthers, I would get a big bus and have anyone from the YA community who wanted to come just pile on in, and we would have an amazing party with mojitos and board games and paint ball. But, I could never pick only two YA writers, so instead I will choose some dead people: Vladimir Nabokov and Dorothy Parker.
The three of us would sort of meander along, stopping to catch butterflies, and the two of them would make me laugh and cry. I would serve a panoply of pickled vegetables, and everyone would enjoy them as much as I do.
If you had to pick one sentence, and one sentence only, to entice someone to read your book, what would it be? (I almost hate myself for asking you this question and making you choose! Almost.)
It’s lucky when you don’t believe in ghosts.
The Little Woods will be published by Schwartz and Wade /Random House on July 10, 2012. Read on for a chance to win a pre-order!
McCormick Templeman is descended from musicians and criminals. She holds a BA from Reed College, two master’s degrees, an acupuncture license, and the world title for most irascible air hockey player. Her first novel, The Little Woods debuts on July 10, 2012, and her second novel, The Glass Casket, is forthcoming in 2014. She lives in California with some people and some stuff.
Visit her at www.mccormicktempleman.com to find out more!
Follow @McTempleman on Twitter.
The giveaway is now closed. Congrats to the winner!
What is the next Summer 2012 debut novel I’m looking forward to? Come back on Monday to find out.