On Monday, we ran a review of Catherine Hyde Ryan's May 2008 young adult novel, The Day I Killed James. She was gracious enough to answer some questions for us, too...so without futher adieu...
Hello, Catherine. Thank you for joining us. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?
Like most writers, I couldn't initially publish anything to save my life. I couldn't even get an agent for many years. I began to write short fiction, which I marketed myself. It's a nicely level playing field, because agents won't touch it (very little money to be made) and so (short story) editors accept and, in fact, expect submissions directly from authors. After a few short story acceptances (which I accomplished after a few hundred rejections) I found agents much more attentive. But I still had to start with a very small press (for my first novel, Funerals for Horses) and work my way up.
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.
They don't all look the same, so I'll describe two.
In one, I have a novel in progress. It's working. So I get up, do ten or fifteen minutes of Yoga, drink a cup of tea, and start work. I usually try to knock off in time for the evening news, but will usually go back and spend several hours polishing what I wrote that day, taking me close to bedtime.
In the second, it's not working. Which really just means that the scenes that come next are not ready. Not fully imagined. I find it not only waste of time but a morale drain to write pages that are destined for the recycle bin. So I may take off with my kayak and not come back until nightfall, or I may spend the day doing drudge work like getting the car serviced or catching up with email. It all depends on how much I have to do.
I think I'm still caught on the kayacking! Wow.
Please tell us about your novel, The Day I Killed James, and what we can expect from your characters.
Theresa is an eighteen-year-old girl who blames herself for the suicide of a young man who loved her. She didn't hurt him with malice aforethought, but she did hurt him. On the same night he drove his motorcycle off a cliff. So you can expect her to wither under the burden of her own crushing guilt. And to run away from everything she thinks of as comprising herself. And to try never to let anybody close enough to get hurt again. But since she's one of my characters, you can expect her to climb her way out of that self-made prison (one of my characters in one of my unpublished novels once remarked that a prison is a prison regardless of its builder). She does this with the help of an 11-year-old girl who sticks to her like a piece of gum on the bottom of her shoe, but who ultimately helps her turn around them both around.
What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.
I always have another project in the works. Except when I have two or three.
Next summer, Knopf will release my next YA book, Diary of a Witness. It's slightly different, in that it involves two teenage boy characters. Our protagonist, Ernie, (who is more than 100 pounds overweight) is an outcast, and so is his best (and only) friend Will. But Ernie has a mom who, though a bit hysterical, loves him. He also has his Uncle Max as a leveling figure. But Will's home life is falling apart and so is he, and he is about to take matters into his own hands regarding the popular jocks who torment them daily. And poor Ernie may be the only one who can prevent disaster.
I also have a new adult novel that is not yet under contract here in the US, but which has just been sold to Transworld, my UK publisher (things are actually much better for my career over there). I hope that I will soon be able to say it has a US publisher as well.
My YA editor is just now reading my new YA novel, Jumpstart the World, about a teenage girl who falls in love with her older next door neighbor before realizing he is transgender (female to male in transition).
And I'm writing a new YA right now.
They all sound terrific. Now, would Would you like to close with a writing tip?
I guess I'd have to say, "Expect rejection." I don't mean it as a negative. I say it because so many good writers get discouraged over it, and many give up. But maybe they could weather rejection better if they had set themselves to expect it. It's part and parcel of the business. I've gotten rejections within the past few months (editors who think my newest adult novel is too literary for the current market) and I hope newer writers will remind themselves of that before they decide they had better not quit their day jobs. Maybe just look at your next rejection as your membership card in the Real Writer's Club.
Thank you so much, Catherine, and we’ll be keeping our eyes open for all your books!