The best part of the contests for us around here is when we hear about successes. Today we are so happy to have Janet B. Taylor and her Pitch Wars mentor, Heather Webb, here for a little Q and A. Janet recently sold her young adult time travel novel, THE DIM, sold to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. So as to not make this post a novel, we’ll jump right into the interview.
Janet, what made you decide to send a Pitch Wars application to Heather?
Well, I’d been keeping up with Pitchwars for a while, and seen all the wonderful results. I knew about Heather and her fantastic book, BECOMING JOSEPHINE. I was so inspired by her writing. So…when she said she wanted YA, I decided to give it a shot.
I love BECOMING JOSEPHINE and Heather is so talented. So, tell us about the revision period for Pitch Wars?
Well, first I ‘d like to say that not only is Heather just a phenomenal writer and editor, she is now one of my very best friends in the whole world. I absolutely adore her.We are critique partners now, and we talk every day!
Having said that, I must tell you that she is a SLAVEMASTER when it comes to editing!! (OK–Not really. She’s actually very sweet and helluva lotta fun.) But there is no doubt she has a gift for helping you take your writing to the next level. She can sense what you’re trying to do in your writing, and helps you carve out the best of it. So it was an amazing experience and I learned so, so much from her.
And Heather, what about Janet’s application made you choose her?
I have to admit, I’m a sucker for time travel novels, and why wouldn’t I be? As a historical novelist myself, I love diving into the past. Once I started reading Janet’s snappy dialog and fast-paced adventure, there was no turning back. I got sucked in by Hope’s voice (main character) immediately. Throw in a dash of Scotland and her book was a shoo-in.
I can’t wait to read THE DIM, time travel and Scotland total win! Heather, tell us about your experience with mentoring Janet. How was mentoring your other team members?
As an editor and teacher, I love to mentor anyway, so pitch wars was another fun extension of helping my fellow writers. What you do, Brenda, is charitable and wonderful! I hope your efforts are repaid to you in spades.
Janet was fabulous. She has a very sunny personality and sense of humor—never mind a great work ethic (she gets up at 4 a.m. to write!)—so she made it easy. I enjoyed my other mentees, too. Everyone is so grateful and easy to work with. It makes volunteering my time a joy.
Janet, after Pitch Wars you signed with Mollie Glick of Foundry Literary, tell us about “The Call.”
I was driving to St. Louis (with my mom), to a Missouri SCBWI weekend craft session with the awesome co-author of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, Margaret Stohl. We were in this really curvy, mountainous area, and the phone rang. It was Mollie. She started talking about all her ideas of how she saw the book (and the series) going, etc…And when I got off the phone, I was shaking so hard, I had to pull over over at a Wal-Mart parking lot.
I looked at my mother and said…”Okay. So, I’m not sure she actually said she wanted to represent me, or not. What do I do?”
Mom: “Well, just ask her.”
So I emailed her and simply asked, “Sooo…does that mean you want to represent me?”
She emailed me right back and said.. “Of course! The contract will be coming your way in a few minutes.”
Naturally, we sat there and cried for a good thirty minutes before we could continue. 🙂
That is such a fun story! Your fabulous story, THE DIM, a young adult time travel novel sold to Houghton Mifflin in a two book deal!!
YES!! Squee!!!! I can hardly believe it! The deal is for THE DIM and a sequel (Which I now have to write–eek!) And will be one of HMH’s lead YA titles for Summer 2016!
Janet, can you tell us the details about the offer: How long were you on submission? What did you do to distract yourself? How did Mollie contact you? How did you respond? How did you celebrate? Anything! We love knowing it all.
It’s a bizarre story, actually.
After a loooooong period of revision, Mollie and I went on sub at the exact same time I was in London with my son. He was going to grad school, and I’d gone along for a week to help him get settled in. The submission process actually happened very quickly. Within a week, we had quite a few houses interested, so Mollie set up a few editor/agent/me conference calls. In London. It was crazy. Then…on the day I’m flying back from England…we go to auction.
It ended at noon, the day after I got back. I was home alone. SUPER jet-lagged. Heartsick at having my son so far away. AND sick as a dog with what I was sure at the time was some form of Ebola. I was so weak, I could barely hit refresh on my phone. (Lol)
When the call came, telling me that my ABSOLUTE favorite editor–Sarah Landis at Houghton Mifflin–had won, I was ecstatic!! Because I’d been hoping it would be her all along. We just clicked from the first phone call and I’d had my fingers crossed for her the whole time!
Oh man, that had to be a rough and exciting time for you. So how do you feel Pitch Wars helped in your success?
OMgosh!! Pitch Wars was TOTALLY instrumental in helping me get my agent! Not only did it help me get my work out there for agents to see, it hooked me up with an amazing editor, who taught me so much. I can’t recommend #PitchWars enough for anyone with a finished manuscript that wants to polish their work and get it out there in the publishing world!!!
I’m so happy it was instrumental in your journey to success! Now for some fun! The following questions are for you both to answer:
What fictional academy/university/school would you most want to attend? (ie Starfleet Academy, Hogwarts, Jedi Academy, Camp Half-Breed, Battle School in Space, Beauxbatons, etc)?
Janet: There is no question for me… HOGWARTS!!! And I’d want the sorting hat to put me in Ravenclaw!
Heather: Hogwarts, hands down. I’d love to learn some magic and already consider myself a bit of a witch. (That’s a conversation for another day.)
Hogwarts is such a popular answer, which I totally get since that is what I would choose. What fictional character would be your confidante? Enemy? Idol? Kick-butt ally?
Janet: Well, I’d like to say Katniss, cause she’s so totally rockin’. But I’m not really a kick-butt kind of gal. I’m a total klutz, just like Hope, my main character in THE DIM. (Though I’m not even CLOSE to being as smart as she is!) So… I guess I’d have to say, Molly Weasley. She’s a mom, she’s awesome, and she will do anything to protect her kids. My favorite part in the whole series is when she whups up on Belatrix and says “Not my daughter, you bitch.” AWESOME!
Heather: Hmmm. There are many…
Idol: A mix of Elizabeth Bennett & Katniss Everdeen. Lol. Try to figure that one out
Enemy: The Mean Girls?
Ally: Some super-brainy save-the-world type
Great answers. I’d tend toward being a Molly Weasley type too. What fictional food/beverage would you most want to try?
Janet: Hmmm…Anything the fabulous Kate Quinn’s character Carmelina cooks in her Borgia series. AND I’ve been lucky enough to have Butterbeer at both Universal Studios Orlando AND The Harry Potter Studio Experience in London.
Heather: ALL OF THEM. I’m a foodie so I’d like a smorgasbord.
I want to try Butterbeer one day! You are faced with your nemesis! You instantly grab your trusty __________. (lightsaber, phaser, wand, mace, girly scream, katana, broadsword, etc)
Janet: Wand. Totally a wand. I’m a complete HP nerd, and have both Hermione’s and Molly Weasley’s wands on a shelf in my living room. (Like I said…nerd…) It’s always about the magic for me.
Heather: I would tap into my well of power within and release it in a burst of light and magic from my trusty WAND.
What is your work fuel of choice? (food-wise)
Janet: Buttloads (lol-private joke from my first, horrible public humiliation at DFWcon in 2009. If you were there, you know.) of coffee. Yep. Coffee and more coffee.
Heather: Coffee, chips, wine. Yes, all bad, but they keep a writer happy.
Coffee!! My people! Whose work inspired you to start writing?
Janet: No question there…. Diana Gabaldon. Always and forever.
Heather: No one in particular, actually. I’ve cherished books since I was a kid and dragged them all over the place with me. When I started getting restless teaching high school, that’s when I felt the idea to write a book coming on.
Any last words you’d like to share or tell us that wasn’t covered in the questions above?
Janet: I just want to thank you, Brenda, for #pitchwars, and everything you do for all us “aspirings” out there. You–and all those amazing authors and writers who work with you–are so generous. So supportive. So inspiring. I just hope there are writers out there who see this, and realize that it CAN happen for them. TRUST me!! I don’t have an MFA. My degree is in science. I studied the craft on my own. But the best thing I ever did was get with a great group of hard-working writers, who taught me so much, that I can never repay them.
But I try….Every day.
So if it can happen to me….It can and WILL happen for you!!
Heather: “Life is a daring adventure or nothing.”—Helen Keller Live the dream, people! Work your butt off and make it happen. You create your own luck.
Congratulations on the success, and we’ll just sit here and watch you drive, or rather, fly off together. Everyone else, go say hello to Janet and Heather on Twitter or check out their websites.
Janet B. Taylor