Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Interview with Katy Upperman

Hey, everyone!
I found out not long ago that Katy Upperman, one of my awesome Twitter pals, signed with Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency! She graciously agreed to do this interview with me for my blog. I hope you all enjoy Katy's responses as much as I did!
Be sure to stop by Katy's blog, and if you would like to follow her on Twitter, you can do that here.
Congratulations again, Katy!! :)
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What kind of things do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
I’m a wife and a mama, and I spend most of my free time with my family. I read A LOT of books, mostly young adult fiction. I love to run, I love to bake, and as a somewhat new transplant to the California coast, I love hanging out at the beach.
What drew you to write young adult fiction?  What is it about contemporary fiction, in particular, that appeals to you?
After my daughter was born I stopped teaching elementary school to stay home with her. While I liked being a stay-at-home mama, I was a little bored, especially since my husband was deployed a lot. I needed something to do to keep my mind busy, and because I’ve always loved to read, I decided to try my hand at writing. That very first (poorly told) story just happened to be narrated by a teenager. Writing for young adults wasn’t a conscious choice -- I didn’t even know what YA was when I started out -- but I’ve never looked back.
Contemporary fiction is where my heart is because I love stories about relatable people with unique struggles. I find complicated characters and complex relationships fascinating, and I love to read and write stories that are character-driven. Twisty plots and tons of action can be lots of fun, but I most like to explore human behavior and I think contemporary stories often do that best.
What would you say are the hardest and easiest aspects of writing?
For me, coming up with a workable plot – particularly conflict – is the hardest part of writing. I struggle with making things as difficult as possible for my characters. I love them too much to torture them! But nobody wants to read about a bunch of people who’ve got it easy, right?
Voice is the aspect of writing that comes most naturally to me. For some reason it’s very easy for me to channel my inner seventeen-year-old. I suppose this is a good thing, because I’ve heard that voice is a hard thing to “learn.”
Can you tell us about the novel that you queried your agent with?
CROSS MY HEART is a contemporary young adult romance about Jillian, a seventeen-year-old aspiring pastry chef, who’s got a messy history with Max, the troubled boy who lives across the street. It’s a story about family dynamics and changing friendships, and it’s full of awesome things like classic country music, decadent baked goods, and steamy kisses.
What made you realize that Victoria was the perfect agent for you and your book?
When Victoria and I spoke on the phone for the first time, her enthusiasm for my story was evident. She got my characters, and it was clear that she loved them as much as I do. She shared some fantastic revision ideas and detailed her plan for getting my story out into the crazy world of submissions. She’s so savvy and passionate about books and publishing, and I totally wanted to be a part of that.
How do you find inspiration for your writing?
I find inspiration almost everywhere: coloring with my daughter, hiking with my husband, reading the latest YA novels. I live in an amazing town and take lots of long runs through it and along the coast; there are story ideas everywhere I look! I also draw from my past. Occurrences from high school that once seemed silly or insignificant have found new life in my stories.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing journey so far? What would you say were the most exciting parts? The scariest?
Is it just me, or is everything about the writing journey scary and exciting? Starting a new story, finishing a first draft, diving into that first revision, sending my work out to CPs… I think that’s why I’ve kept at it so long: Writing is NEVER boring.
That said, this last month has been exceptionally thrilling, with lots of highs and lows. I “won” NaNo for the first time (exciting), I amicably parted ways with my previous agent (scary), I queried new agents (SO scary), and I eventually signed with Victoria (incredibly exciting!).
Since you’ve recently dealt with the situation of having to part with one agent and jump into those query trenches again, do you have any advice for other writers in the same boat?
I’m not going to lie… Jumping into the query trenches a second time was no fun. At first I was very grouchy about the whole thing, but as I perfected my query letter I started to get excited about the possibility of a new agent and a fresh start. I spent a lot of time reading agent bios and blogs online. Because this was my second agent search, I knew exactly what kinds of personality traits and professional experience I was looking for. Though I was eager, I tried not to rush the process. Once I started sending queries and requested materials, I mentally let go. I tried very hard not to stress about what was no longer in my hands.
So, I suppose my advice would be: get lots of feedback on your query letter from trusted writer friends, research agents and agencies thoroughly, take your time because you only get one shot at a first impression, and most importantly, work on something new and keep lots of chocolate on hand while in the query trenches.
For fun:
I know that you love country music. Do you have any favorite songs/artists?
Why, yes I do! I adore Sugarland (especially Already Gone and What I’d Give), Tim McGraw (especially Real Good Man and Something Like That), Kenny Chesney (especially Down the Road and Anything But Mine). I’m also a big fan of Johnny Cash, Taylor Swift, and Zac Brown Band. But, let’s be honest… if it’s country, I’ll listen to it. J
What books do you think would make your Top 5 list?
This is so hard… There are so many books I love! If I had to choose, I think my top five YA titles would be (in no particular order): Jellico Road by Melina Marchetta, Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, If I Stay/Where I Went by Gayle Forman, and um… The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling (we’ll just count that as one loooong story, okay?). My favorite non-YA titles are A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, The Pact by Jodi Picoult, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
If you could eat ice cream with any fictional character, who would it be? What kind of ice cream?
Hermione Granger, for sure. She’s so smart and sassy and compassionate. Love her! And we’d eat Pralines and Cream with hot fudge… Yum!
What is something about you that might surprise readers?
I’m painfully boring! I’m a total introvert. I’d much rather watch a movie with my husband and girlie on the couch at home than be out and about in a crowded social situation. I prefer small towns to cities. I prefer books to parties. I prefer oceans to mountains. I prefer comfy sweats to tight jeans. I am addicted to Jelly Bellies.
Thanks so much for the interview, Kristin! It was so much fun to answer your questions and “visit” your blog! 


  1. Love it - we have some VERY similar taste in favorite books! Nice to read about someone doing the query trenches twice; it's certainly a reality I don't think gets discussed nearly often enough, and this is definitely a happy ending! Excited to see CROSS MY HEART on shelves!

    1. Thanks so much, Dahlia! And I agree... Once I started mentioning that I was on my second agent search, I heard from a lot of people who had similar stories. Sometimes that first match just isn't the best. I'm very thankful that my story has a happy ending!

  2. I'm in the query trenches, and I can't imagine landing and agent and then going back to the trenches. I'd be grumpy, too! :)Congrats on partnering with an amazing agent!

    1. Thank you, Rachel! Yeah... the idea of querying a second time was definitely daunting. I'm very thankful that my second effort was relatively painless, and I'm so glad I scored a fantastic agent. :)

  3. Congrats to Katy on landing an agent! I love her response to HP being one loooong book. When asked what my top 5 books are, I always lump series into one as well, or else how could I possibly pick only 5 favorite books?!
    I'll be looking for Cross My Heart when it comes--sounds wonderful!

    1. Thank you, Jenna! I think that when series are done right, they really are one looong story. Very convenient, because I could never narrow my favorite books down to just five. :)

  4. Great interview! And reading it made me miss living in California. I miss mountains and beaches, but I'm glad you're taking advantage!

    1. Definitely taking advantage, Philip. We're loving California so far!

  5. Katy, there is no way on God's green earth that you are painfully boring! :-) If preferring small towns, sweats and books to those other things is wrong, I don't want to be right. I'm so very proud of you, Katy!

  6. Great interview! The story sounds just like something I'd love, too. Can't wait to read it one day! (I prefer books to parties too... :)

  7. I know this is really late, but I wanted to thank all of you for stopping by and reading! Katy is fantastic, and I absolutely loved getting the chance to do this interview with her! :D