Tuesday, September 25, 2012

NAWS: Interview with Erica M. Chapman


Today, I am excited to have the fantastic Erica M. Chapman with us for another Newly Agented Writers Series interview! Erica is a YA writer represented by the lovely Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency. Be sure to stop by Erica’s awesome website and blog. If you would like to follow her on Twitter, you can do that here.

Q and A:

First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself? What do you like to do for fun when you aren’t writing?
Let’s see. I live in Michigan. I’m married. I love to watch University of Michigan and the Lions play football. If you follow me on twitter you can see my frustration every Saturday and Sunday with my boys on both teams. I have 2 fantasy football teams. I play the guitar and I LOVE alternative rock. The Foo Fighters are my favorite band (which a lot of people already know – including you!) I also golf and watch too much TV for someone who’s supposed to be writing. My favorites are: Dexter, Vampire Diaries and any singing reality competition ;o) I also read a lot, of course.
What inspired you to start writing? Was it always a dream, or did a certain event get you going?
I was inspired to write after my dad passed away when I was 16. I needed an outlet for all the built up emotion, so I started writing bad poetry. Apparently, at age 11, I told my mom's friend I would write a book someday. But I also said I wanted to be a lawyer/astronaut, so I'm glad I got at least one of the three accomplished ;o)
Do you have a particular writing routine? A way to get yourself focused?
I write every night, or I try to, but I end up on twitter most nights. It can be a major time-suck. A good time-suck, but I need to curb it sometimes to get something done. I mostly write in batches because I write so quickly. NaNo is the perfect thing for someone like me. I thrive on deadlines.
What would you say is the hardest aspect of writing? The easiest?
The hardest part of the story for me is the beginning. I really think I have it nailed and then someone tells me something that completely changes my mind.  Also, I think that first revision after you write the first draft. That’s always the hardest revision for me. The easiest? Getting the ideas. Ideas come to me all the time, I have no problem with that part!
You’re currently an intern for Louise Fury of L. Perkins Agency. Do you think this experience has brought a deeper level to your own writing? Do you have aspirations of someday becoming a literary agent yourself?
I’ve learned so much from Louise. She’s amazing and knows the business, so I can’t help but gain knowledge just working with her. My writing has definitely improved. Her clients are seriously talented, so I see what it takes to be extraordinary. I’m not there yet, but I hope someday! I’m not really sure what I want in the future. I’d love to be an editor. I’m not sure I want to take on agenting. It’s a tough job, and with the job I have during the day, it would be pretty hard to go that route. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. I never say never ;o)
So, I was super excited to learn that you are a fellow musician (*high five*)! How big a part does music play in your writing?
*high five* It plays a huge part. Music for me is so organic. Certain songs bring out different emotions in the story. In my current WIP, I have a totally different music selection than my previous one. Music has always been a big part of who I am, from singing in high school and college, to playing the guitar. I love it as much as writing!
What is one unique thing that happened to you during the querying process?
Hmm unique? Well, my agent, Judith Engracia, emailed me to ask for The Call before she’d even read the whole manuscript. We didn’t talk until she was done, but she said she knew right away that my story was different. I also had an agent reject me (after she learned I had an offer of rep), and say I was welcome to bounce ideas off her for future projects. That was a little unexpected. It was the kindest rejection I’ve ever had.
Would you be willing to share a copy of your query letter for learning purposes? 
Of course! Quick note, I had some excellent people help me shape this puppy into shape. Always have others read it before sending out ;o) Also, through the process Jude decided to pitch it as a YA Thriller, so sometimes what you think is the correct genre isn't.
Dear Ms. Engracia,

Sloan's not a killer.

She brakes for squirrels and helps old ladies across the magnetic tracks. So when she’s the next seventeen-year-old to get her brain scanned for the government initiative, Project Reform, she never expects to end up in the Desolate, an island full of teens marked as future murderers.

In the Desolate, hover cameras follow Sloan’s every move, and sadistic wardens use any means necessary to keep the inmates in check. But death is part of everyday life, and trusting the wrong person is the fastest and only way off Killer Island—in a body bag. Convinced she doesn’t belong—she can’t be a real killer—Sloan makes a reluctant friend in her roommate who has a general dislike for every human except her arrogant boyfriend, Lane.

Problem is, Lane attacked Sloan on the day she arrived, and he seems to know a lot more about the Desolate than he’s saying. When Sloan's roommate starts acting strange, and transforms into a programmed assassin, Sloan discovers there’s a whole lot more to being marked a future killer in Project Reform than she was told. As more dead bodies appear around the island, Sloan will have to do anything to get out. Now the only thing she has to hold on to is the knowledge that she’s not a killer.

Not yet.

ANOMALY is a 70,000-word YA science fiction novel that explores the critical moments on one island in the year 2059. I believe it will appeal to those who enjoy the isolation and mystery of VARIANT by Robison Wells, and the futuristic aspects of the movie Minority Report. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from Central Michigan University.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

What were your reactions when you received The Call?
Well, it was the email first. My husband walked into the bedroom as I was checking my phone. I thought my heart would beat out of my chest. It went something like this...
Me: “Dude. She wants to talk. OMG this could be it. No, it might not be. Maybe she just wants to talk.”
Husband: *gives me that, Really? expression*
Me: "Well, you never know."
When Jude called, I answered on the second ring, cause, you don’t want to seem that eager. I could barely speak. I was kind of on auto-pilot. I tried to write down what she was saying and read it the next day. It was as if a five-year-old took over my body. Yeah, I would suggest actually writing full sentences or words. Luckily, I remembered most of it, and everything else she told me later ;o)
When taking The Call, is there anything you would recommend a writer be prepared for?
Have paper and a pen handy. Be prepared to ask them about their communication style, if they have previous sales, if they already have any editors in mind for your book. Also, what they liked about it. Ask about the submission process, if they have any revisions to the story, and what they are, timeline. A big one is if they are a book-by-book agent or career agent. That could help with your decision too.
How did you know beyond a doubt that Judith was the perfect fit for you and your novel?
She loved my story. Also, when I told her about my other ideas, she loved those too. She’s been incredibly supportive. And I really love how she communicates. The agency as a whole knows the business well, and they are a collaborative team. I feel confident in Jude's ability to sell my book. She’s someone I can DM on twitter, but also can email or call with pretty much anything regarding my ideas and stories. She’s also a good editor and always finds stuff I miss. 
Based on personal experience, what final advice could you give to other writers?
There’s a lot of extra stuff that goes into making writing a career, social media, networking, conferences, querying. It can get overwhelming, but always remember that your writing is the thing that matters. All that other stuff is good, but you can have 15,000 twitter followers and if your writing is sub-par, it won’t make any difference. Also, always be thinking of something new to write, don’t keep revising over and over the same stuff. Multiple revisions are great. I go through at least 6-7, but I also know when to stop and let it be and move on to something new.
Just for fun short answers:
Favorite book or series?
You can’t ask for just one!! That’s crazy talk.
Infernal Devices/Mortal Instruments series by Cassie Clare
GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson, Also CROWN OF EMBERS
There are so many more, UNDER THE NEVER SKY, DIVERGENT, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE, ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL. Anything by Jennifer Echols.
I already know that your favorite band is the Foo Fighters, so let’s take it one step further. What is your favorite song?
Ha! I love it. For fun we’ll list some non-Foo tunes since I love pretty much anything the Foos produce. Black, by Pearl Jam (I could listen to this one on repeat for hours), Mad World, by Gary Jules, Nutshell, by Alice in Chains, Virgin by Manchester Orchestra.
Favorite dessert?
Pumpkin cheesecake or Tres Leches cake, or malts
If you could be any fictional character, who would it be?
Oh man, I think Clary from the Mortal Instruments, she gets to fight demons AND make-out with Jace ;o)
Are you a day writer or a night writer?
NIGHT. Very much night. Sometimes until early morning.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Pantser. I would love to change that and become more of a planner. I had to write a synopsis recently for a book I haven’t written yet. It was good practice!
First draft or revisions?
Gah, both? I love the thrill of a first draft, but I also love seeing the sentences come together in a revision. I’m cheating I know. I cheated up there too and named like a grazillion books when you asked for one! Sorry, I don’t usually follow the rules ;o)
What is one thing about you that might surprise readers?
Some people know this, but some may not. I’ve had 2 open-heart surgeries, one when I was born and one in 2008. I also have at least one more to go in my lifetime. I have a valve that needs replacing every 10-15 years. All is well, I’ve had this one for 4 years and it’s doing really well!
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, Erica!! <3 I wish you the best of luck with your writing and with your internship. :)

This was SO much fun!! 
Thanks so much for having me on here, Kristin! Love the blog ;o)