Blogoversary Day 6: Jessica Spotswood

Jessica taught me so much. She taught me that criticism is a necessity and it can do nothing but help, even if it doesn't seem that way in the moment. She helped teach me the importance of writing by simply sending me a journal to give to impoverished children. She gave me a newfound respect for an industry I love by sharing her experiences with me, befriending me, and helping to give me a desire to write as well. This is someone who I respect greatly and whose books I eagerly anticipate. She is among the kindest, giggliest (in the best possible way) people I've ever met and meeting her was a privilege.

~*~

I grew up in a tiny one-stoplight town in Pennsylvania, where I could be found swimming, playing clarinet, memorizing lines for the school play, or—most often—with my nose in a book. I've been writing since I was little but studied theatre in college and grad school. Now I live in Washington, DC with my brilliant playwright husband and a cuddly cat named Monkey.

~*~Guest Post on Writing a Sequel~*~

I love STAR CURSED. It's full of intense sisterly rivalry, swoony kissing scenes, and growing tension as the battle between the witches and the Brotherhood - the priests who outlawed magic - heats up. There are book burnings and protests and visits to an insane asylum, and we find out for certain which of the Cahill sisters is the most powerful.

But writing it was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

STAR CURSED was the first book I wrote under contract. I had four months to write it - just as the advanced copies of BORN WICKED were going out into the world and I was nervously receiving my first reviews. I was adjusting to writing full time, which was a dream come true but came with its own set of challenges. What happens when you take the thing that has always been your passion, your hobby, the thing that you look forward to when you get home from work - and make it your work? If you're me, you spend a lot of time procrastinating. Worrying that it won't be good enough. That whatever magic happened when I wrote BORN WICKED could not possibly be duplicated.

It sounds a little melodramatic, in retrospect.

But the pressure was overwhelming. I had never expected a major deal, in PW terms, or to be able to quit my day job. I was terribly grateful. But I was also terrified that my editor would read this messy first draft of STAR CURSED - so different from the highly polished draft of BORN WICKED that had sold, which had taken me a year to write and had gone through multiple revisions with my agent and critique partners - and realize she'd made a mistake. That the entire dream - this thing I'd wanted so desperately since I was a little girl - would be over before it even started.

I have learned since then that this fear is not at all uncommon. Basically, every writer worries about this. We're a neurotic bunch.

So, I wrote a draft. It was difficult to go from a finished, copyedited ms back to a fledgling first draft; my inner editor was super-critical. And then...the worst seemed to happen. My editor read it and we talked. We came to the conclusion that the plot was all wrong. I had to throw out 75% of it and start over. I cried. I was devastated. Four months of work - gone. I felt like a failure. I knew the book was broken but I didn't know how to fix it. I spent four more months rewriting it, doubting myself every step of the way - and then the entire summer editing. 

It was actually the best thing that could have happened. I pushed myself - well, ok, my fabulous editor (Ari Lewin at Putnam) pushed me, kicking and screaming and crying and eating too many cookies along the way - to work harder than I'd ever worked before. The thing is, I'd never written a sequel. They're tricksy. Writers have to step up their games with sequels - make them more romantic and thrilling and fast-paced than the first book. The stakes have to be higher. The book has to serve as a bridge between books one and three, while also possessing its own plot and character arcs. How often do readers complain about a middle book that feels like a placeholder - like nothing happens?

In the end, all writers can do is work as hard as we possibly can and then let the book go, content in the knowledge that we did our absolute best.   I can't imagine settling for anything less - not when it's something as important as a dream-turned-career at stake. I am really, really proud of this book, and I can't wait to hear what readers think!


~*~Giveaway~*~

1. Three winners
2. US only
3. 13 years or older
4. One entry per household
5. Cheaters will be disqualified from and and all of my giveaways
6. Winner has 24 hours to respond before I pick a new one.
7. Giveaway ends at midnight on June 22nd

8 comments:

  1. I can't imagine the pressure of hoping that your sophmore novel lives up to your first! I am confident that Star Cursed will be amazing...can't wait to read it!

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  2. I'm still trying to come up with a good ending for my book (which probably stinks) so I can only imagine (in fear) what writing a sequel is like. However I am super duper excited to see where Star Cursed will take us and I'm sure I'll love it just as much as Born Wicked! Thanks so much for the guest post and giveaway!

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  3. Jessica's post was really insightful! I worry that I will become super stressed out if/when my book gets published but it really opened me to the world of publishing. I'm currently outlining Bk2 of my trilogy while I wait for some edits to come back, so I can totally understand!

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  4. I'm so looking forward to this.

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  5. Awesome guest post!! I would think that writing the first book would be harder than a sequel, but I guess not! Thanks for the giveaway!!

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  6. I thought writing the first book would be tougher...I never really thought about a sequel before! Great post, thanks for sharing!

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  7. Yeah, I guess writing a sequel would be tough, especially since the 2nd in a series is the one readers complain about the most. Great post :)

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  8. Great guest post! Thanks for giveaway, sounds like a great series.

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