Monday, February 18, 2013

NAWS: Interview with Dahlia Adler

Guys, I’m so excited to have the wonderful Dahlia Adler on the blog for another Newly Agented Writers Series interview! Dahlia is a YA writer represented by Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger, Inc. Be sure to check out Dahlia’s blog, home of the awesome Perpetual WIPs series. And 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?

This is so sad to admit, but if I'm not working/editing, reading, blogging, or writing, I'm probably sleeping; that's how much of my life I spend doing those things!. The only exception is for TV, pretty much - I'm a TV fiend, though less than I used to be.

What inspired you to start writing? Was it always a dream, or did a certain event get you going?

I've been writing for as long as I can remember. No specific event, just something that emerged from a childhood of voracious reading. I remember being so obsessed with a book I got from the library - ELLEN TEBBITS by Beverly Cleary - that I literally started typing up the book just to have my own copy on my computer. Thankfully, I eventually figured out I could insert myself into my own stories doing something similar!

What is it that drew you to write YA contemporary?

I grew up reading a ton of Sweet Valley High because my sister is six years older and when I'd gone through all my books, eventually I made my way to hers. I was so obsessed with the lives of those girls, and the ones in the Baby-Sitters Club, and the Girl Talk series, and the Bobbsey Twins... basically everyone who was just sort of doing stuff in an everyday life that was very, very different from mine. I was raised - and still am - Orthodox Jewish, and in a suburb of New York City, so we weren't going to the beach or doing cool things on Saturdays or whatever. Writing YA Contemporary was a way to live an alternate life - over and over and over!

Do you have a particular writing routine? A way to get yourself focused?

I'm so lucky just to find some writing time that my "routine" basically consists of "OK, when I've finished copy editing X amount of chapters, I have to write a thousand words before I can go to bed." I live for the rare Sunday that I get a leisurely day to write, and sometimes, when I'm really stuck, I'll "Word War" with someone on Twitter, which works really well for me. For me, nothing helps more than deadlines and/or accountability!

What would you say is the hardest aspect of writing? The easiest?

I love drafting, but it's so, so hard for me not to revise as I do it. The manuscript I'm working on right now has given me so much trouble, and I've been thinking up tweaks as I go, but I know that if I stop to edit, I'll never finish the first draft. That self-control and push to write forward is definitely a challenge for me! The easiest is definitely the kissing scenes; somehow, those are never a struggle!

You do a lot of work as a copy editor (which I think is pretty awesome!). What is it about copy editing that drew you to it? 

Just one of those grammar and spelling nerds, I guess! I majored in Journalism, and I knew from the beginning I was going to take a class in copy editing. After that, I interned in the Production department at Simon & Schuster, and then eventually I moved on to doing it freelance, which I've now been doing for two years. It's also a great way to get to read work you wouldn't necessarily otherwise but without the time commitment of content editing.

I know you have an interesting story behind how you found your agent. Could you tell us a bit about it?

I found Andrea through the Writer's Voice Contest (Team CupidsLC FTW!), which was cool because I actually hadn't started querying my manuscript yet, nor had I ever done any contests, so it was very encouraging! Now I'm such a fan of contests and really encourage writers to do them, because "win" or "lose" you end up meeting so many great people.

What were your reactions when you received The Call?

The Call happened during a really difficult time in my life, so it was really hard to process that this great thing I'd been working toward for years was actually happening. I was really excited but so, so cautious about getting my hopes up. Like, I literally told two people when it happened, and one of them was my husband. I wish I had a more cheerful answer to that question, but all's well that ends well, right?

When taking The Call, is there anything you would recommend a writer be prepared for?

There are a lot of ways in which agents' processes differ, and it's amazing what you don't know until you start talking to other agented writers about it. (Which is basically the entire impetus for my blog series, Perpetual WIPs.) Yes, there are the questions everyone should absolutely know to ask - what are your revision plans? What are your submission plans? What's your contract like? etc. but I think a writer also needs to prepare to ask the things that might not be addressed, even if they seem like tough questions. "Are you a book agent or a career agent?" is a big one, and since I think most agents are the latter, you should definitely be prepared to talk about what else you're working on. Some agents also do a lot of revision nowadays, and you should be prepared for the possibility that an agent will want to do quite a bit with yours.

The biggest thing I would say, even though I know it's a total buzzkill, is this: Be prepared for the possibility that the person you thought was your dream agent isn't. Their revision ideas may clash with yours tremendously. They may want to pigeonhole you as a certain kind of writer when actually you would like a more varied career. There's only so much you can know from interviews and following them on Twitter, and sometimes the idea you build in your head isn't the reality. And that's okay. But don't sell yourself short or insert yourself into a relationship that ultimately isn't going to be good for either one of you.

How did you know without a doubt that Andrea was the perfect fit for you and your novel?

For me, it wasn't just that Andrea loved BEHIND THE SCENES, it was what she loved about it. You want an agent to be your biggest fan, yes, but if your agent loves your book because she thinks your writing is hilarious and that's not what you were going for, something there isn't clicking. Another huge plus sign for me was the fact that she reps just about every category and genre; she doesn't like to get bored any more than I do, and I liked knowing that if I ever did finish my women's fiction ms, for example, I wouldn't have to go find someone new for it. And in general, I loved that she was fast - she read quickly, she responded quickly, she called when she said she would... I pride myself on being a fast and reliable communicator, and it was really important to me to have an agent who's the same way.

Based on personal experience, what final advice would you give to other writers?

Thicken your skin as best you can, do your research, and make good use of the writing community. Enter contests, but not every contest. Join a writers' forum, even if all you do is browse the postings. And when you happen to have some luck, do your best to give some back!

Just for fun short answers:

Favorite book/s or series?

Pretty much anything by Ann Patchett, Geraldine Brooks, or Courtney Summers; THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson; JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta, The Secret Society Girl series by Diana Peterfreund; The Spellman Files series by Lisa Lutz; the Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French... and now I'll stop BUT THERE ARE MORE.

Favorite type of music?

Anything that once fell under the umbrella of "90s Alternative," especially Grunge. 

If you could eat ice cream with any fictional character, who would it be? What kind of ice cream?

 Right now, probably Ruby Oliver from the E. Lockhart series. I just want to give her a hug and a huge sundae and tell her I'm on her side. And Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, definitely.

 If you could pick any place to go on a writing retreat, where would it be?

Probably Charleston, South Carolina. It's so pretty and inspiring, and I love its character. Plus, I set my first series there before I'd ever been, and I'd love to revamp it and get it right!

Music or silence while writing?

Music, usually a combination of The Pretty Reckless and Canadian indie rock.

Are you a day writer or a night writer?

Night, absolutely and always.

First draft or revisions?

First draft. I try to make them pretty clean so although I definitely do a lot of polishing and adding in the revision stage, it still feels like a story by the time I'm done with draft one.

What is something about you that might surprise readers?

To those who don't already know, probably the fact that I'm a Jewish Sabbath observer, which means I get one day less per week for all the writing, copy editing, blogging, writing, and beta-ing than most, since I don't write or use a computer/kindle from sundown on Friday until an hour after sundown on Saturday. It's a challenge, but I also attribute it with maintaining my sanity, and I get a lot of pleasure-reading done, so I can't complain!

Thank you so much for doing this interview with me! I wish you the best of luck with all your writing endeavors. :)


  1. This was a really interesting interview with Dahlia. It's always nice to learn a little bit more about people. :)

  2. Little Dahlia typing up a book to have it on her computer is pretty much the cutest thing I've ever heard! I love that. And I agree--Ruby Oliver would be fun to hang out with. Both to hear more of what goes on in that weird little mind of hers, and to tell her that everything will be okay.

    Great interview!

  3. We have a lot of favorite authors in common :-) and I've been dreaming about visiting Charleston! :-) :-) :-) loved this interview!!!!

  4. What a fantastic interview... Dahlia, you have amazing taste in books. I love JELLICOE, TSIE, and anything by Courtney Summers. Best of luck with your manuscript!

  5. Thanks so much, ladies! Glad to see I associate with people who have such fantastic taste in both books and cities!! And thanks for having me, Kristin! Looking forward to seeing who's next!

  6. Thank you so much, everyone, for stopping by! I absolutely loved having the opportunity to do this interview with Dahlia. :)

  7. Fun to learn more about Dahlia. She's one of my Twitter favorites. :) And absolutely great advice about agents.