Monday, March 26, 2007

What's Fresh with Pamela Lowell's Returnable Girl

A teen in foster care must choose between the woman who wants to adopt her or the mother who abandoned her amidst the cliques and bullying of middle school...

Hi Pamela, thanks for agreeing to chat with us! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale, Returnable Girl to Marshall Cavendish?
Pamela: My first sale was so exciting! I’d worked on Returnable Girl for about a year with a writing coach who helped make it a much stronger story. We weeded. I re-wrote. Weeded some more. Then I sent it out to only two or three publishers who I thought might be interested. (Compared to the 50 + publishers who read and or rejected my first novel. Call me a slow learner. It took 50 rejections for me to realize, hey, maybe that first novel sucked.)

Anyway, the editor’s husband at Marshall Cavendish was a psychiatrist, so she really liked the theme of the novel being about a troubled foster teen. They called in February to tell me the news. I think I screamed. And then, the best luck of all. I had read somewhere that the easiest and smartest time to get an agent is after you’ve made a sale to a publisher. I sent a query by email to a few agents, again a very small number. Susan Schulman read the query, and having adopted children herself was intrigued and asked to read everything I’d written so far. The next week she offered to represent me. She said, and I quote, “If it doesn't work out I will be disappointed.” She is the agent for the author of Holes, The English Patient, and a dozen more best-sellers, so needless to say I was thrilled. Basically having a real agent means I will never have to sit in the slush pile again. (The slush pile is where your novel goes at the publishing house if you’re an unknown, unrepresented author, sort of like getting sucked into a black hole or stepping in quicksand.)

Great story, Pamela! Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.

Pamela: I’m in my therapy office two days a week seeing teen girls and their families. People will always ask me if that’s depressing and I say, emphatically no, it is FUN. The girls are awesome, just like my readers. I’m the luckiest person alive because I truly love my job. The rest of the week I spend writing. Usually begin around 8 and work till 3, including weekends if I don’t have anything else planned. Sometimes, like anyone else, I do procrastinate and answer emails, or do interviews like today, or surf around the Internet, (bad, bad Pammie) but once I’m really into a project that rarely happens. Still, I find that here just aren’t enough hours in my life anymore…especially with Returnable Girl released a few short months ago…promoting it has really cut into my writing time. I’m hoping things will settle down with outside speaking engagements etc. so I can get back to writing soon, with my dog Harry (the best dog ever) curled up at my feet.

Please tell us about your novel, Returnable Girl and what we can expect from your characters.

Pamela: Returnable Girl, Marshall Cavendish, October 2006 is about a troubled teen in foster care Ronnie, who lies and steals things and has been kicked out of her past ten foster homes. She really has no other place to go when she lands with Alison a foster mom. A girl named Cat befriends her, but Cat has possibly a more messed up home life than Ronnie. Cat is made fun of by the kids at school, and begins to do things she shouldn’t in order to get guys to like her. So the first tier of choices Ronnie must make is whether to stay loyal to Cat or to go hang with the more popular girls at school. The other choice is to stay with her new foster mom Alison who wants to adopt her or “return” to the alcoholic mother who abandoned her. The action is fast-paced and culminates in a scene that will leave readers breathlessly turning the page. Girls say they like the story because it deals with the emotions that all teens have. But ultimately it is a love story. About friendship. And sticking by each other. And the difference just one person can make in the life of a foster teen.

Readers should note there is a contest to win a Tiffany necklace on my website page (just like the one Ronnie stole from Paige.)

Sounds like a wonderful read! I also want to say congrats for Returnable Girl being a VOYA winner and ALA Quick Pick for 2007! What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Pamela: Yes. And it’s driving me crazy. I’ve already written the story once and it came out totally boring and predictable, so now I have to write it all over again. This wouldn’t be so bad except that a few people keep emailing me saying how they can’t wait for my next book, blah, blah, and when is it coming out, and will there be a sequel?

So I will answer: THIS IS NOT A SEQUEL.

But, it is about girls and overcoming obstacles and how to stick by your friends, and how to survive when the worst possible thing happens—a car accident that puts your older sister in a coma. Okay, maybe it won’t be so bad to write it all over again.

PS. I promise it won’t be depressing.

Thanks for sharing with us, Pamela! I wish you the best with your writing career. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Pamela: If your novel isn’t getting published don’t be afraid to either 1) chuck it out a car window directly into speeding traffic or 2) get someone professional like a teacher or writing coach to help you figure out how to make it better. Don’t waste time (or years) trying to figure this out by yourself. Another set of eyes may be just what you need to make your dreams come true. Mine did. Okay, now time to get back to writing…

"I’m a middle aged woman, getting older by the minute, trying to write about things that might interest teens. And I love it. If that isn’t crazy, I don’t know what is." Visit Pamela's website,

6 fresh comments:

TinaFerraro said...

Pamela, your book sounds terrific and I love your advice on chucking the book out the window or getting another set of eyes!

FYI, I'm middle-aged and getting older by the minute, too, and I've just sold my first teen book, as well, and I'll be checking out your website!

Congrats, and thanks for visiting us here at YAFRESH!

stephhale said...

This book sounds terrific! I have a feeling it has helped and will help many teens!

Kelly Parra said...

Thanks for commenting, Tina & Steph!!

Lisa Asanuma said...

This sounds like a really good book. I'll be keeping an eye out for it!

Kelly Parra said...

Great, Lisa!! :)

Pamela Lowell said...

One of the best parts of the whole book publishing experience for me has been connecting with this big wonderful world of YA. From YALSA to myspace to websites to authors and agents and publishers and conferences...the people have been truly amazing. THANK YOU !!!
(Thanks again, Kelly)