Doing new author blog posts has officially become one of my favorite things to do as an agent, so today I’m extra thrilled to be welcoming Marissa Doyle to my team of authors!
I read Marissa’s manuscript last month and was immediately enchanted. Her voice and characters have a bit of an Austenian quality about them, but with a decidedly more YA bent and more then a touch of fantasy and action. In other words: perfect for me.
I’m not generally the superstitious type, but I do tend to keep quiet about manuscripts that I really love while I’m in the middle of them. Too often a project will fall apart at the midway point or in the 11th hour, and I feel like I’m jinxing myself if I get openly excited about something until I know that it holds together. But with Marissa’s manuscript I threw caution to the wind. I was chatting with Moe about how much I loved it and was sub-tweeting my enthusiasm much earlier than is typical for me.
When I finished the book I knew I wanted to offer, and talking to Marissa sealed the deal. So welcome Marissa! Here’s the interview for all of you:
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Where do you write, and how often?
I’m lucky enough to (a) have a guest room and (b) have all my family members living close enough that no one ever has to use it, so it’s my office now (well, sewing room as well because my sewing machine and fabrics/craft stuff are here too). The guest bed is very useful for laying out research materials, I’ve found. I try to write daily, usually in the morning because that’s when my brain is freshest. Of course that doesn’t always work, but goals are important, right?
Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g. Tracy used to burn a candle if she was having trouble getting started at the computer, and sometimes write longhand first if she’s feeling uninspired.)
I actually do the candle thing, but for a specific reason: I choose a candle scent for each story I work on and burn it while working, so that pretty soon the scent is completely wrapped up in the story…which means that when I sit down to write and light that candle, the scent helps draw me back into the story more quickly. Gotta love cheap psychological tricks.
What do you love about writing young adult literature? How does it differ from writing for adults?
I’m not sure I write YA because I love it—I write it because that’s just what comes out of my fingers onto the keyboard. It’s said that all authors have one or two core stories they return to over and over again, and everything they write is an exploration of that core story. One of mine is finding one’s place in the world and recognizing and accepting one’s strengths, which is straight-down-the-line YA. So I’m kind of doomed—no, destined—to write it. 😉
The big difference for me between writing YA and adult is character—making sure that the characters in my YA and adult stories have backgrounds and goals and needs and wants and flaws that match where they are in life. Other than that, I can’t say I do anything differently. It drives me crazy on multiple levels when I hear people say that young adult fiction is somehow “simpler” than adult fiction or “dumbed down.” Young adult readers are smart and don’t need anything simplified—not writing style or vocabulary or theme or any other aspect. I mean, an awful lot of teen readers are in high school reading and analyzing the classics of English literature and studying for standardized tests. They’re probably better equipped than many older readers to appreciate good literature.
Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.
What is the hardest part about writing?
Sitting down in the morning and getting started. Hence the candle trick and the practice I’ve gotten into of editing what I wrote the day before—often adding beats and fleshing out details and description that I missed because I tend to focus on dialogue first. Doing that helps ease me into adding new words as well as saves revision time later on.
What book do you wish you had written, and why?
Oh, gosh. A lot of them. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke probably tops the list just because it’s a huge, rich, sticky plum pudding of a book that uses history as a basis for a whole new magical world that is wonderful and strange and also at times slyly hilarious. I reread it every year, usually in the fall because it’s a very November kind of book. Which means I’m about due…
If you’re not reading or writing, what would we catch you doing?
Probably fiddling around in the other half of my office with sewing or quilting or jewelry-making, or trawling through eBay for nineteenth century fashion prints and dance cards for my collection, or (of course) reading and talking about books with friends on LibraryThing and Goodreads.
By the way, if you think you’ve heard of Marissa before, it’s because she’s published with Henry Holt! You can see all of her books on her website.