Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Life After the Phone Call

by Rebecca J. Carlson

We're all waiting for it, like a lookout in the crow's nest a yearnin' to sight land. Someday that phone will ring and someone will say, "I want to be your agent."

Today I've invited my good friend and upcoming debut author Beth Revis to tell you a little bit about what it's like once that happens.

Beth, you found your literary agent nearly a year ago, and your first book will be coming out next January. Go ahead, rant a while about how thrilled you are.

DUDE. It is so AWESOME. Last November, I was at the point where I was almost ready to give up writing. This November, I'm already thinking about how long my prayer will be at Thanksgiving. My turkey is going to get cold, I've got so much to be thankful for! 

What was it like to get an offer of representation?

Nerve-wracking. Not the answer you'd expect, huh? I thought it would be joyous, jumping-up-and-down excited, but I was so worried about everything--was I making the right choice, was this really going to be it, what if she changed her mind and doesn't want me anymore...?

Once the actual paper contract came, though, it finally hit me: this is real. *That's* when the joyous, jumping-up-and-down excitement came!

Do you spend more time on writing now than you did a year ago?

Yes, absolutely. Well, partly this is because my book deal enabled me to quit my job of being a teacher. I *loved* teaching, but teaching absorbs your life, you know? If you're a teacher, you can't quit being a teacher at 3:30--you carry the job home with you, you think about it constantly. The problem was, you do that with writing, too--if you're focused on your writing, you constantly think about it, new scenes, new characters, new plots. I couldn't focus on both. My mind isn't big enough for that! So, quitting the teaching job enabled me to focus more on my writing. 

What’s something that surprised you, something you didn’t expect, about being an upcoming debut author?

I always felt that being published would mean that I was suddenly validated. I think a lot of us are looking for validation. We need a reason to excuse the hours of time we neglect our families to write, a valid purpose for the money we spend on books or conferences or writing memberships, an excuse for how much we pour into something that potentially has no reward. I'd been writing for ten years--*ten years*--before I signed with my agent. And I was starting to feel as if there was no point. Here I was, giving away my time, my energy, my health (that's my excuse for not exercising), and had nothing to show for it except piles of paper that no one wanted to read. So, I always thought that publication = validation. But honestly? Now that I'm on this side of the fence, I feel no different from before. Which means, of course, that my validation lay in all those piles of paper. The creation of a written work is as much a validation as publication. This isn't something I thought would be true, but it is. 

Is there anything you’d like to go back one year and tell yourself?

Probably just that: to take pride in the creation of written work, not regret the lack of publication.

When did you make the switch in your mind to looking at yourself as a professional author?

That's another thing--I thought as soon as I signed with an agent, I'd feel like a professional. Then I thought as soon as I signed a book contract. Then I thought as soon as I saw my ARC. But you know what? I've quit waiting to feel like a professional. Because I realized, I'd been treating writing as a profession for a long time. I was a professional long before the contract because I'd been treating writing like my profession. Professional authorship is an attitude, not a contract.

Is there anything you miss about the pre-agented stage of the writing game?

No deadlines! Before, I could spend as long as I wanted on a work, tweak it to death, slowly meander through revisions. But now I don't have that luxury--I've *got* to write on a certain schedule, there are people relying on me to finish my next work on time. It's like the difference between reading JANE EYRE because you love it, or reading it for a class assignment.

What’s the most fun and exciting moment SINCE you got word that your book would be published? Was it seeing the cover for the first time?

Oh, seeing the cover was brilliant. And getting the ARCs in the mail. But actually, I think it's been seeing the response people have had to the book online. People are emailing me and tweeting me and facebooking me about how much they want the book, or, if they have an ARC, how much they liked it. It means more than I can say that there are people in the world who want to read (or re-read) my book! And some of the responses have been very creative, like this one!

Got plans for launch parties, book signings, etcetera?

Oh, YES. Yesyesyes. Of course! It's a celebration of ten years of work, all rolled into one event! A lot of things are still up in the air right now about it, but one thing that's going to happen is a book party at the school where I used to work. The students and my fellow teachers have been planning the event since they found out about my book deal!

THANK YOU so much, Beth. We’ll let you get back to working on your next book.

Beth's science fiction debut, Across the Universe, will launch on 1-11-11. Visit Beth's website to learn more.

Spaceship Illustration by Manning Leonard Krull


  1. Thanks for interviewing me, Rebecca!

  2. "Professional authorship is an attitude, not a contract." I love that! This was a wonderful interview, ladies. know how I heart you!! You rock! :-)

  3. I love, love that comment about professional authorship! And I can't wait for my copy of Across the Universe. Mostly, I hope to be as cool as Beth if I ever break into traditional publishing.

    p.s. Beth - I love the pix!

  4. Great interview! Thanks for being such an encourager, Beth. :)

  5. What an awesome interview! I can't wait to read you book, Beth! Thanks for reminding me to take pride in my written creation NOW and not wait until it finds its way into a publisher's hands.

  6. Beth, you're welcome! You know you inspire me. Here's hoping your book sparks a renaissance in science fiction for teens!

  7. Rebecca, great questions! Beth, I love your answers. Congratulations on getting it done! I'm so proud of you for not giving up! :D

    I'll have to take a peeksee at your book.


  8. Great interview!


    I really liked what you said about validation. Excellent point! Thank you.

  9. Fascinating! It's great to read success stories like this - it really can happen!

  10. Rebecca, thanks for the great interview! I love hearing the 'insider' views. Beth, best of luck! Can't wait until your book comes out.

  11. Thanks for reading, everyone! I've known Beth since we were both, well, not-quite-publishable. To see her become the author she is, and then have this great opportunity to start her publishing career, truly renewed my hope in the traditional publishing track.


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