Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Interview with Amiee Salter, Author of BREAKABLE

Today I'm thrilled to have the illustrious, YA Debut author, Aimee Salter on the blog. She's touring to celebrate the release of her novel: BREAKABLE.

Here's the blurb:

When seventeen-year-old Stacy looks in the mirror she can see and talk to her future self. “Older Me” has been Stacy's secret support through the ongoing battle with their neurotic mother, relentless bullying at school, and dealing with her hopeless love for her best friend, Mark.

Then Stacy discovers Older Me is a liar.

Still reeling from that betrayal, Stacy is targeted again by her most persistent tormentor. Only this time, he's used her own artwork to humiliate her - and threaten her last chance with Mark.

Sounds amazing, right? Add it to your Goodreads shelf here. Buy it here: Kindle | Paperback | Nook

Now on to the interview-

1. Hi Aimee *waves*. Thanks for being here today. As book lovers, I think we all romanticize the way authors come up with books. The thought of a single idea that later grows up into a novel is awe inspiring. So I have to ask, how did the idea for your debut, BREAKABLE, come to you?

AS: Hi! *Waves back* Thanks for having me!

Just as an aside: I read the word “debut” there, and my stomach twirled. All by itself. Which is disturbing. Especially to passersby. But I digress…

For me, book ideas usually “just come”. I’ll be thinking about something I saw, or an aspect of romantic relationships that interests me. Then suddenly I can see a character, and as I think about that character, I’ll see more. Then I get a scene in my head and I can’t stop fidgeting until I write it down.

BREAKABLE was slightly different in that it had a tangible seed: I was reading the website www.dearteenme.com in which authors write letters to their teen selves. These letters are immensely personal and revealing. After reading about a dozen, I noticed how many of them began their letter with something along the lines of “I know you won’t listen to me, but…”

That sentiment resonated for me. I remember how I thought and felt when I was sixteen or seventeen. If the me from now could give advice to the me from then, I know my teen me would be nodding and smiling, all the while thinking “Sure, but…”.

It got me thinking – if I could have an ACTUAL conversation with my teen self, what would it be like? What would I tell her? What would she listen to and what would she discard?

And suddenly I could see it…

Two and half years, one publishing offer, one agent, one lost agent, and a terrifying plunge later, BREAKABLE is hitting the shelves!

2. Every writer seems to enjoy different aspects of the creative process. Example: I hate the first draft but love revising and rewriting. For you, what was the best part of writing this book? What was the worst part?

AS: This book has been an emotional roller-coaster from the start. The original version (VERY different to where it is now) ran very close to my own experience in high school, and the character of Stacy was very close to my own teen self. So those first drafts were heart-wrenching because it was like putting myself back through those experiences.

Thankfully, the story has morphed and the character has changed dramatically. It’s no longer a meat-grinder to read or revise those emotional scenes because I’m working with characters now, not my own heart!

Honestly, the best part has been people’s response to the concept. Right from the word go, the vast majority of people who hear what the book is about have that little *Ding!* moment where they go “That sounds interesting.”

Add to that, reader’s responses to the new ending I wrote this year (adding a significant twist). It was a risk to completely rewrite the last third of the book so late in the game. I was scared to death when I sent it out. But readers have been literally putting the book down to email me about how floored they were by the new developments – and about how they can’t write more than that because they have to get back to the book and see what happens.

As a writer, it doesn’t get better than that. I’ve had readers and critiquers read my manuscripts for years. I’ve never had responses like this before. It’s why I’m sure the book is ready to be out there.

3. That's awesome and I can't wait to devour it. Speaking of the act of writing - fitting writing and revising into our day-to-day lives can be hard. To complicate matters, I know you recently moved your family from New Zealand to USA. I’ve moved around a lot but nothing quite like that. How did your international move play into the writing/editing of this book?

AS: Oh, geez. That was a nightmare. I wouldn’t recommend it. And yet, I would, because it’s been wonderful to be back with my family! (Especially since I have a son now, so this is his first time living with extended family around).

Between January and June of this year I was literally under so much stress I was having trouble breathing. During those months I revised the book for my then-agent, cleared out my entire house, sold most of our stuff, had my agent put the book on first-round submission to editors, transitioned my son out of school in New Zealand, moved across the globe, reconnected with family and friends that I hadn’t had the chance to spend more than a few weeks with since I was eighteen, revised my book again, found out my agent was quitting agenting, cleared out another house that we moved into which was full of someone else’s things, decided to self-publish (that’s an entire ballgame on its own) and actually, you know, did it.

I’ll stop whining now. Suffice it to say, this year has been incredibly hard. But totally worth it! I think the book is better for it because I’ve had to be really focused. I haven’t been doing anything with half a brain. I couldn’t put much time aside for writing between February and July, so what time I did assign to it was completely tunnel-visioned. And I think it worked. (I guess we’ll see?)

4. Did your time in New Zealand inspire any scenes in BREAKABLE?

AS: There are moments in the book and settings that are inspired by real events and places. But the key word there is “inspired”. It never works to actually replicate life. The beauty of fiction is that I can take what I know, what I’ve experienced, and what I’ve observed, and roll it all together with ideas or things I like, into something that suits my story.

Since I only did my senior year of high school in America, in truth, New Zealand inspired most of the book. At least, my high school experience did. Interestingly, socially my high school experience in New Zealand was very different to my experience in America. So I was able to draw on both sides of the social spectrum from personal knowledge.

I will say this: The art room which features prominently in Breakable is an almost-perfect replica of the art room at my first high school. I had to change one little thing about it just for ease of description. But when I see it in my head, Stacy and Mark inhabit the same room I did. And the portfolios they're working on are based on my final-grade requirement for sophomore year.

5. As a fellow writer I have to ask: Do you have any writing rituals or superstitions? I’ve got this thing now where I need a giant iced coffee and a bottle of water before I can sit down and write. (Please say I’m not alone. Please say I’m not alone.)

AS: Er…sorry… *Shifty eyes* I have no idea what you’re talking about. (Please, ignore the mug of coffee to my right, and the playlist pounding out of my iPod dock…)

6. Your secret is safe with me *winks*. So, your decision to self pub has been well chronicled on your blog (See Aimee's posts on the self pub process here). What part of the self pub journey surprised you as being harder, or easier, than you anticipated?

AS: Hmmm…I’m still in the thick of it, so I could probably answer this question better in a couple months. But certainly in the early stages, the pleasant surprise has been the support I’ve received after making the decision. I expected a lot of skepticism and pessimism from people around me. But almost everyone has been very excited about and supportive of the idea. I’ve had a great deal of free help from people who are true professionals in their field. They’ve made my book better, AND helped me achieve an end product that is professional (without the price tag).

On the negative side, formatting electronically (for both digital and paperback) is far more complicated than I anticipated. I find computer software pretty intuitive, so it isn’t hard for me to understand instructions. But actually following them through is much, much more difficult than I anticipated.

Luckily, a couple dear friends self-published before me. They warned me that formatting would need more time than I thought. I gave myself the space on my to-do list, but honestly didn’t think I would need it. I was wrong. They were right. Thank the Lord I listened to them anyway! (If you’re wondering, they suggested giving the paperback formatting and proof process a full month prior to release, and the digital formatting a full week. They also said not to expect to use one format to set up the other. And they were absolutely right).

7. What awesome online resources would you suggest writers use if they are seeking to self pub?

AS: There are tons of them out there! The writing community is really generous in sharing information. But I’ll tell you my favorites (I’m going to have to split these up):

While Writing:

I hate do this but, I’d have to start with two of my series on my blog: plot development and self-editing . Sorry to blow my own trumpet, but I created those because I couldn’t find them anywhere else.

No worries here - those are excellent posts that I use myself. Great resources!

AS: While in final edits I’d suggest www.grammerly.com. You do have to pay for that service, but for someone like me who can’t afford to pay a professional proof-reader, it’s a godsend.

Industry Commentary:

If you want genuine, experienced, been-on-every-side-of-every-coin advice from a guy who’s been in every part of publishing, you can’t go wrong listening to agent Chip MacGregor (quietly awarded Dealmaker of the Year by Publisher’s Marketplace more than once). I’ve been reading his blog since 2009 and it’s still the best, most solid advice I’ve found online: http://www.chipmacgregor.com/blog/

He’s in a niche market now, but he’s literally been a writer, editor, publisher, self-published, traditionally published, agent, etc, etc, etc. And he’s been doing all that for 30 years or so. Listen to his words, Grasshoppers. He’s especially good on professionalism and what makes writing good.


While I haven’t made as much use of it as I could, author Kristen Lamb’s blog is incredibly solid, and backed by significant sales in the marketplace (http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/ ). Her MYWANA hashtag group is popular on twitter, and she’s made it into conferences, etc, which is difficult for self-published authors to do. Another ripe resource, I think.

Wow, seriously, thank you for all the resources. You just made the day of some of my readers.

8. Publishing is a huge achievement. What plans do you have to celebrate the release of your novel?

AS: Well, right now I’m going to try and run down one of those unicorns so, just in case my book doesn’t fly, I can get famous for being the world’s first Unicorn Wrangler.

Other than that… Umm… sleeping? Haven’t got to do a lot of that for the past few months. Also, sitting in my house without chewing over what I have left to do, and whether or not I’ve done what I already did right. Though, I suppose the chewing will be reassigned to my nails, waiting to see if anyone actually enjoys the book…

On a more practical level, I’m going out to dinner with my family, basking in the congrats, etc, from people who’ve been walking this journey with me for the past four years, and also doing a blog-tour *wink*.

9. If you could go out for a wild night on the town with any fictional characters who would they be? (Please note that there is no chance of a hangover, bad press, or arrest record from any activities undertaken during this wild night).

AS: Well, to start with, do we mean wild as in, “Wow, sure wish I hadn’t left my skirt on the Velcro wall,” or do we mean, “Mom, you and your friends are laughing too loud, and I’m trying to sleep”? Because I far prefer the second these days. Just sayin’.

In whatever manner though, hands down, I’d want to party with Sunshine, Drew and Josh from Katka Millay’s The Sea of Tranquility. I’d also get giddy if I had the chance to sit down to dinner with Colin and Hassan from John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines.

But that’s enough from me. It’s been so much fun being here today, Colleen. Thank you so much for hosting me, and helping get the word out about Breakable. I hope I’ll get to visit again soon!

Thanks Aimee!

Don't forget you can get your copy of Aimee's Debut, BREAKABLE here:

Add it to your Goodreads shelf here. Buy it here: Kindle | Paperback | Nook

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