Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Interview with...Stasia Kehoe

This week I welcome Stasia Kehoe to the blog. I met Stasia several years ago at the regional SCBWI's Great Critique and consider myself privileged to have actually read a portion of her novel aloud before it was published. Stasia is one of the great people I've met in the publishing industry - always willing to stop and catch up or pass along some bit of encouragement. Please help me welcome her to the blog and be sure to find her at one of the many places she resides online: 

1. Welcome to the blog, Stasia. Thanks for taking time to visit with us. I know you’ve been involved in the publishing industry for some time in the publicity arena. Did this make it easier to transition into the writing realm? 

Most of my non-writer publishing experience has been in the area of school and library marketing so I found that there was still quite a bit I didn't know about being on the author side.  That said, working in publishing has given me the opportunity to read many wonderful books which is  an essential part of a writer's education.  I also realize how much work the people in-house have to do.  So, I think my work experience has made me very appreciative of the support I've gotten from my publisher.

2.   Why did you decide to write your novel in verse? 

I don't think writing AUDITION in verse was as much a decision as an instinct.  It is certainly the case that hearing Ellen Hopkins speak was a very important moment in the journey of this novel from prose to verse.  More broadly, though, I sometimes find it frustrating when people say, "If a novel is in verse, the author has to make a very strong argument for why it wasn't written in prose."  It makes me wonder if if anyone ever asked Merce Cunningham to explain why he choreographed modern dances instead of ballets, or asked Eminem why he wraps instead of singing opera.  Writing, like choreographing, making music, playing shortstop, is something you do in the voice that is yours with the talents you have.  Plain and simple. 

3.  You’ve obviously been out promoting your book heavily since it’s release. Could you share what that experience has been like? How does it differ as the writer instead of marketing for the publisher? 

Book promotion is the roughest part of the publishing journey.  Years on the marketing side has shown me that unless you are a celebrity or have some other type of platform (or hit the NYT best-seller or a major literary award list), there is very little an individual author can do to impact awareness (much less sales) of his or her books.  I also know that solo book events for debut novelists are a big challenge.  It's tough in-house, too.  Every publicist is working from similar media and educational contact lists, every book is in competition for the notice on the same key internet and paper publications.  Of course, in-house, you have a budget and a collaborative team to help you make decisions and, you know, seal envelopes.  But promotion is a huge challenge.  For these reasons, I think it is very important for individual writers to promote their work in ways that feel natural, organic and (dare I say it) fun because the rewards are unlikely to be significant in terms of dollar amount. 

I enjoy blogging about reading and writing, so I continue to blog as I did before I got my agent and published a novel.  And I love the company of artsy people, so I formed an author tour collective called Stages on Pages, comprised of writers whose novels and/or lives involve the performing arts.  We are about to embark on our fourth tour adventure, this one to Northern California.  We sell some books, sure, but more importantly, we talk about writing and the book biz with amazing writers, bloggers, booksellers, teachers and librarians.  I know other authors who focus their efforts on school visits, who are very active on Goodreads or Facebook, and some whose focus outside of writing books is much more on other aspects of their lives, such as performing or another day job.

4. What’s one thing you’d like to share with first-time novelists? 

Write what's closest to your heart, go down to the bone, make your characters as honest as you can.  Then, when you think you can't even breathe because it's so hard, go farther.  Don't save anything for the "next book" or even the next page.   Agents and editors can tell when you're not giving it your all.  This is true with the second book, too.  Try to fall in love with writing more than the idea of being published.  The writing will always take much more of your time. 

5. What types of books grab your attention? Are there a couple new releases (besides your own) that you’d recommend to my audience? 

I love a well-written book in any genre.  Novelists I admire include Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Markus Zusak, Lauren Oliver and Gayle Forman.   I suppose I'd recommend to people that they read widely because sometimes you can learn more about craft reading something very different from what you write.  

6.  If you could meet any writer from the past, who would it be and why? 

Noel Streatfield, Agatha Christie and W. Somerset Maugham.  Obviously, I am a bit of an Anglophile.  I also love theater people and all three of these novelists were also playwrights and, generally, theatrical types :)  Plus, I love to drink tea.

Thanks so much for the great questions!

Thank you, Stasia, for spending some with us today.

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