Monday, February 6, 2012

The "Write" Facts Interview: Jessica Spotswood

The “Write” Facts is a new weekly post where I’m chatting with a different author every week about everything to do with writing. Here we’ll be discussing the writing process, editing, working with an agent, publishing houses and talking about some of the logistics of book you either already love or will soon be a new favorite!

Today, we've got Jessica Spotswood on the blog, talking about her debut novel BORN WICKED. It's being compared to Libba Bray's A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY and Cassandra Clare's novels. Check out what Jessica Spotswood has got to say.

Jessica Spotswood
Agent: Jim McCarthy 
Agentmates: Cyn Balog, Jill Alexander, Heather Brewer, Sarah Wilson Etienne
Publisher: Putnam/Penguin
Word Count: 85,000
Describe your novel in five words: sisters, witches & kissing
Favorite Word: dreadful (I just like the way it sounds!)
Writing is like (fill in blank): scratching an itchy, restless place in my imagination.

1) What are some of the things you do to motivate yourself to write? Do you have any goals set up, rewards or do you not need motivation?

Right now I’m working on revising book2, and it’s pathetically easy to get distracted by twitter and planning my launch party and ordering new BW bookmarks and dropping off the dry-cleaning for my bookseller tour, etc! I use Mac Freedom to turn off my internet for a set period of time (usually an hour or two). When I’m drafting, sometimes I use Write or Die, which will punish me by deleting my words if I don’t keep typing. I reward myself by watching the latest episodes of my favorite shows (Once, Vampire Diaries, Revenge, The Lying Game, Gossip Girl). Or with brownies.

2) Do you find it easier to develop characters or plot the story? Can you explain?

Characters, definitely! When I get stuck, it’s almost always because I’m trying to force a plot point because it’s in my outline and it’s what I thought should happen, but it’s not what the characters would do at this point. Then I need to stop and listen to Cate. The plot has changed a lot, but she has always been gloriously herself, no matter how many revisions the books go through.

3) What do you think is the most important question to ask your agent when you are first trying to decide if they’d be a good fit?

I would ask how they prefer to communicate with clients. It covers a lot of ground: is this someone who’d rather email or call? Who checks in once a week even when there’s not much to report, or who can go months without hearing from you when you’re working on a new project? Who will tell you the details of the submission list or keep you on a strict need-to-know basis? There isn’t necessarily a right answer, just what is right for you. One of my best writer friends has an agent who’s the polar opposite of mine, but we’re both very happy.

4) What surprised you the most after you started working with a publisher?

I was surprised by how fast everything happened! I’d heard horror stories about waiting ages for contracts and edit letters, and I’m not a patient girl. Luckily, that hasn’t been the case for me. My edit letter came three weeks after the offer, on the same day the deal was officially announced in Publisher’s Weekly. And that’s the longest I’ve ever waited for feedback from my editor. We were finished with three rounds of revisions and on to copyedits within three months. With book2, I had my edit letter back within a week. Now, the flip side of that is that my deadlines have been insane!

5) How many novels did you write before BORN WICKED?

Four. Inspired by my epic love of GONE WITH THE WIND, I wrote three sprawling YA historical romances when I was in high school. They were, in retrospect, pretty dreadful, but also very good practice in putting words together. I took a break from writing during college and grad school and came back to it in 2007 with a YA fantasy called INHERITING GAROLASS. That was the manuscript that snagged me an agent in 2009, but it didn’t sell.

6) What part of being published were you most excited about? Was it what you expected?
I am crazy-excited to go to a bookstore and see BORN WICKED for sale. My initial hope when my book was on submission was that I would get enough marketing support that I’d be able to walk into the local B&N and see it on shelves. And it turns out that the support for BW has been enormous and delightful and I will get to see it not only at B&N but in Target and Wal-Mart and airports and lots of wonderful independent stores. I cannot wait for February 7!

7) What is your best piece of advice for aspiring authors?

Surround yourself with supportive friends who will believe in you on the days you don’t. This is a crazy-amazing business, but it’s also crazy-making at times. There will be days when the Doubt Monsters strike, when you get a rejection or a challenging edit letter or a bad review and are convinced that you suck. I got a terrible review the other day and felt very woeful about it, but my husband just said: “Well, that person didn’t like your book, huh?” It is important to have people in your life who love you and support you and can also help you put things into the proper perspective.

While I've got her here, I had to get the scoop on BORN WICKED. Check out my bonus question and the answer!

Bonus Question: BORN WICKED is compared to A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY and Cassandra Clare's novels. What I want to know is what literary character Cate would consider herself like.

I don’t know if Cate would think she was like her, but I think she would absolutely admire and adore reading about Deryn Sharp in the LEVIATHAN series. She loves adventure stories.

Thanks so much to Jessica Spotswood for being on the blog today and sharing her journey into the publishing world! Next week, we have Courtney King Walker on, talking about her writing experiences!


  1. IT must be epic to see your book in a bookstore! I can't wait to pick this one up I've been hearing it,s fantastic and it sounds right up my alley too! Great post I love this! :D

    Xpresso Reads

    1. Giselle, I was thinking the same thing when I read this interview!

      I'm glad you're enjoying this feature. I need to send a new batch of emails out soon for more interviews!

  2. I can't wait to read Jessica's book! Really enjoyed this interview, and the bit about asking an agent how they communicate was really interesting.

    1. I'm so excited about this book too. Going to grab a copy at my bookstore tomorrow. Glad you enjoyed the interview!

  3. I love this feature! I've never really tried writing before (apart from my failed attempt at NaNoWriMo last year) but I've been thinking about having a go properly for a little while now :) This has definitely made me want to try more! :) And Born Wicked has been compared to A Great and Terrible Beauty?! It MUST be good then - I'll make sure to get myself a copy as soon as I can! :D

    1. Bella, so glad that you love this feature and that it has inspired you to try writing again too! I'm in the editing phase and love getting the interviews in for inspiration.

      I'm grabbing a copy of this book soon too!

  4. Awesome feature, really interesting. I cannot wait to get my hands on Born Wicked!

    The Cait Files

    1. Glad you like the feature! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. I haven't picked up my copy of Born Wicked yet, but I'm really looking forward to it. Great Q&A!

    Magical Urban Fantasy Reads

    1. Thanks! I'm looking forward to this one too!


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