Monday, February 20, 2012

The "Write" Facts Interview: Lauren DeStefano

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!

This week brings Lauren DeStefano to the blog. Lauren DeStefano wrote Wither which is a dystopian that came out last year and Fever which comes out tomorrow!

Lauren DeStefano
Novel: WITHER (3/11) FEVER (2/12)
Agent: Barbara Poelle at Irene Goodman Literary Agency
Other authors repped by this agent: Sophie Littlefield
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Word Count: Roughly 88,000
Describe your novel in five words: A broken fairytale sans
Favorite Word: Somnambulate
Writing is like (fill in blank): Getting punched in the everywhere.

1) Are you a plotter or a pantser (write without a plot to see where the story takes you)?

Something in between, I think? For Wither, I just started writing
with no idea what the story would be, and the more I wrote, the more the world appeared around me, and I started to draw lines and roughly plan things. They never go exactly as planned, though, so I don't get too married to an idea.

2) What do you think is the hardest part about writing? The easiest? 

The hardest part is actually writing. The easiest part is thinking and getting excited about new ideas.

3) Can you tell us about The Call and why you chose your agent? 

Ah, the call. It began in 2008 with a rejection letter. Fresh out of college, I'd just begun shopping my first manuscript, and I stopped counting the rejections after 140. One agent's rejection in particular was specific,
attentive, and invited me to try back with another project. That agent even checked in with me to see how my next manuscript was coming along. I really felt like we were simpatico and she was the ONLY agent I queried with my next project. About a week later, I got that "212 area code" call that every writer dreams of. First of all, she pronounced "DeStefano" correctly, and her exact phrasing was, "I just finished (name of MS that will never see daylight) and I want to rock it." So it goes from there.

4) Any tips or tricks of the trade that you use during the editing process that you’d like to share? 

I don't think there are any tricks and I wouldn't advise looking for one. If you have a drive and willingness to improve (no matter where you are in the game) and you have talent, you will get there. That's all it takes--drive and talent. Don't believe what the garden gnomes tell you; they're just trying to sell you a potion they've
fashioned from squirrel spit.

5) Can you tell us how you felt when you got the file for your novel cover and opened it? 

First, I got a text from my agent that was along the lines of, "I just saw your cover, I love it, they nailed it, my husband saw it, he loves it, I showed it to strangers on the subway and everyone loves it." My agent really isn't the sort to say things like that; she's got an incredible poker face, so for this level of excitement I knew it was going to be great. Sure enough, the cover was more than I could have wished for. It was so amazing that I sort of went into shock and I had to look at it several times over the course of a few days before my brain started seeing all the different props and elements. Basically, I feel like it's a perfect manifestation of Rhine's thoughts and her father-in-law's basement.

6) What has been your best experience as a published writer? 

Interacting with my readers. All my life, I've been a storyteller, and I've only told those stories in my own head. The day I got published, I set my thoughts out for thousands of readers to find, and they are reacting, and that means a lot to me.

7) What’s it like working with your agent? Are they hands on? 

Oh goodness. I don't know if I can articulate the bond I have with my agent. We've been through three pre-Wither manuscripts and a lot of heartbreaks together. When we first signed in 2008, she gave me a prompt to write 20 synopses. One in particular was a favorite of hers; I thought it was too ambitious and I wasn't ready to write it, so I set it aside. In late 2009, that synopsis grew into Wither. I say something to this effect in my acknowledgements, but without that prompt, and without my agent, this story probably wouldn't exist. Hands on is an understatement.

8) Can you show us your favorite place to write (could be your desk, a favorite café, the most comfy couch in the world)? 

My favorite place is my home office. It used to be a dingy attic with a pink carpet and a hole in the wall for circulation. I completely redid it, and it's the most "me" room in the house. I spend almost all of my time in it. 

The before: and the after:

9) How do you feel about using online media? Has the effect been over all good or have there been some drawbacks? 

I love online social media. I love that readers share their thoughts with me, and I love that they ask me about my cats.

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

Don't take advice too seriously.

Finally, I've got to get a question in about Fever!

Bonus question: I love Rhine but she seemed a bit lonely in WITHER. If you could pick another literary character to be her best friend, who would it be and why? 

Several years ago, I read a book called 26A by Diana Evans, and it's one of those rare reads that forever impacted the way I think, both as a writer and as a regular human person. The impact was sharp at
first--I saw the world in brighter, sadder colors--and eventually it ebbed and settled into the crevices of my brain and now I can no longer tell which thoughts are my own and which are inspired by that book. It's also
about twins--sisters. I would say that Rhine would relate well with Bessi, who saw the wonder in things and was caught between having a life of her own and worrying for her twin. Rhine is always looking forward, always trying to live and to find a purpose to things, but quite often she looks back at the space where her twin brother should be. She doesn't feel like a complete person without that twinness, and neither does Bessi.

I want to thank Lauren DeStefano for stopping by and giving us some insight into her journey in writing! Next week, Kelly Keaton is going to be in the interview seat so we can get all the "write" facts!


  1. Great interview, as usual. Love how she ended up coming up with the idea for WITHER. Super interesting!

  2. lovely interview, guys! not to be all irrelevant and stuff, but Lauren - that chandelier wall sticky is also in my daughter's bedroom AND i have been wanting to paper a room with giant black and white toile for about two decades. cleeeeeeeearly some sorta mind meld thing.


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