Welcome back to my Fall 2012 YA Debut Interview series! I’m excited to feature these debut novels from the fall season, and I hope you’re as intrigued to get your hands on them as I am. Today’s YA debut author is Tiffany Schmidt—her first novel, Send Me a Sign, comes out on October 2 from Walker-Bloomsbury. Read on to see how Tiffany answered my Q&A…
…And be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a signed copy of her book!
Nova: 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.)
Tiffany: Mia is always looking for signs. A sign that she should get serious with her on-again, off-again soccer-captain boyfriend. A sign that she’ll get the grades to make it into an Ivy-league school. A sign that the summer before senior year will be the best one yet.
But when Mia is diagnosed with leukemia, the only sign she wants to see is that she will survive and still be the girl she’s always been—top student, top cheerleader, and top of the social food chain.
Until she’s better, Mia doesn’t want anyone to know she has cancer. She doesn’t want her friends’ pity. And she certainly doesn’t want to start feeling something more than friendship for the one person who knows her secret, her best friend, Gyver. But the sicker Mia gets, the more she realizes that not even the clearest signs offer perfect answers, and in order to discover what will happen in her life, she will have to find the courage to live it.
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?
This wasn’t the first novel I wrote—just the first one I didn’t give up on. It was the novel I used to figure out my writing process. Instead of following others’ rules: write in order, use an outline, don’t revise until you have a full draft—I made up my own. I never write in order (kissing scenes & dialogue first!), outlines make me gag, and I revise whenever I want.
When I was finishing up the first draft of Send Me a Sign, one of my students was diagnosed with cancer. This is a book about superstitions and signs, and the moment Morgan’s mother told me about her diagnosis, I mentally tied the book to her. If Morgan could endure radiation and chemo and the hell of treatments, I could certainly finish the book. In no way am I comparing writing to what she went through, but she became my hero—if she wasn’t giving up, neither was I.
Send Me a Sign is dedicated to Morgan. I don’t think she ever understood how much of an inspiration she was to me. She was a fighter—and I like to think some of her persistence rubbed off on the book. I know her courage and determination left its mark on me.
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.
I wrote Send Me a Sign while I was still teaching, so it was written in stolen snatches of time: at four a.m. before showering; late at night after all my grading was finished; up-to-my-elbows revisions over the summer and during school breaks. I plotted it out on the white-board walls of one of our spare bedrooms.
I sold the novel after I’d resigned from teaching to stay home with The Schmidtlets (my almost-two-year-old twins). So revision looked like this:
Shockingly, this is not all that productive. So when my edit letter arrived, I packed up The Schmidtlets (and my husband, St.Matt) and we joined my parents for a week in Prince Edward Island. They played with the babies on the beach, and I stayed at the house and revised.
But don’t feel too bad for me, the view from my writing table looked like this:
THIS is my ideal writing location. Now if only I could live there full-time…
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 imagine devouring your book. This is your ideal reader. Set the scene and describe him or her (or them?) for us.
My ideal reader… Okay, the friend/sibling/classmate/relative/neighbor who is struggling with how to treat someone they care about who has been diagnosed with cancer.
Or, the newly diagnosed teen who is reeling and wondering how does this change me?
Or, anyone who has ever felt they’ve lost control of their future for whatever reason.
Or, anyone superstitious.
Really, anyone who likes stories of friendship and hope and love.
What was the moment when the upcoming publication of your novel felt “real” for the first time—when you got your editorial letter, when you saw the cover, when you held the ARC in your hands… or something else? Or if it doesn’t feel “real” yet, when do you think it will?
Oh this question is actually easy! Thank you, Nova, for including ONE easy question.
The answer is simple: holding my first book for the first time.
This makes my list of lifelong Top Five Magical Moments. (Along with holding The Schmidtlets for the first time, my wedding, my first day teaching, and meeting Tigger at Disney World when I was seven.)
Of course, I was so overwhelmed by just the BOX my author copies came in, that it took me more than an hour to calm down enough to open it. Even then, I only removed one copy. I took it out for a snuggle—managing to give myself a paper cut on the chin in the process—then quickly put it back in the box so it wouldn’t get dirty (or bloody!).
It wasn’t until St.Matt came home from work and paged through one that it occurred to me that I could open the cover. But when I did, there was such an awed/Captain Obvious moment of looking at the pages and thinking: This story, all these words: I wrote them—and they’re now a book.
When The Schmidtlets first came home from the hospital, I’d get up dozens of times during the night to go stare at them and convince myself that they were real and they were mine. I’m not quite so ridiculous with my author copies, but I do pause to touch them every time I pass the box.
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?
Oh, this would be so easy if I could fill a bus with all the authors I’d love to tour with! You’re sure I can only pick two?
Okay. Maureen Johnson, because she seems like a mischief-magnet too. I can only imagine the hijinks we could get into together. And, Stephanie Perkins, because she just makes me smile and I could break into her laptop and read Isla while she’s sleeping. Not only are they both amazing writers, but I suspect they might tolerate me in sugar-high-hyper-mode, which would be inevitable given the location I’m about to propose.
The tour would take place in CANDY STORES (launch point: Dylan’s Candy Bar) and fans would have free reign of the sugary-awesomeness within the bins. (Personally, I recommend starting with gummy peaches and working your way toward jelly beans.)
Is there a magic fairy who can make this happen? Please?
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.)
“Gyver—the boy who’d visited every day in the hospital, whose voice chased away my fear, and whose hands knew just when to hold me—wasn’t mine.”
Send Me a Sign will be published on October 2, 2012, by Walker-Bloomsbury. Read on for a chance to win a signed copy!
Tiffany Schmidt lives in Pennsylvania with her saintly husband, impish twin boys, and a pair of mischievous puggles. She’s not at all superstitious . . . at least that’s what she tells herself every Friday the 13th.
Visit her at www.tiffanyschmidt.com to find out more.
Follow @TiffanySchmidt on Twitter.
Tiffany is doing a month-long pre-order promotion in memory of her student, Morgan, who the book is dedicated to and who passed away cancer this past year—join Team Morgan Pre-Orders.
And check out the Send Me a Sign book trailer here:
NOW ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!
You could win: a signed finished copy of Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt!
How to enter:
1. Just leave a comment on this post, or
2. Fill out this entry form.
If you do both, you will be entered TWICE!
And to gain another entry, just tweet about this interview and giveaway—and let me know you did in your comment or on the form—and you’ll be entered THREE TIMES.
This giveaway is open in the US only. This giveaway closes on Friday, September 21 at 8pm EST. Good luck!