Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Author Miniview: Lindsey Leavitt

In the slim chance you are in kidlit and haven't heard of Lindsey Leavitt, you're in for a special treat today! Lindsey was kind enough to answer a few burning questions for me. And of course I'm passing on her earth-shattering answers to you!

But I get ahead of myself, first let me tell you a little about her...

Lindsey is a tween and teen writer, a mother of three, and a self-proclaimed doughnut-inhaler. I first met Lindsey through her popular blog where her funny, natural voice really resonated with me. Since then she has had another baby (#3!) and has sold four books. Yeah, she pretty much leaps tall buildings in a single bound. Her first book, Princess for Hire, came out in the US with all its pinktastic glory on March 16th. (Translation: it's available to buy now!) Here’s a little about it:

When a flawlessly dressed woman steps out of an iridescent bubble and wants to know, like, now if you’d like to become a substitute princess, do you a) run, b) faint, c) say Yes! For Desi Bascomb, who’s been longing for a bit of glamour in her Idaho life, the choice is a definite C–that is, once she can stop pinching herself. Well, Desi soon discovers that subbing involves a lot more than wearing a tiara and waving at cameras. Like, what do you do when a bullying older sister puts you on a heinous crash diet? Or when the tribal villagers gather to watch you perform a ceremonial dance you don’t know? Or when a princess’s conflicted sweetheart shows up.

I know you are all as thrilled as I am to hear what Lindsey had to say so let's get to it:

Q1. First off, congrats on your debut book, Princess for Hire! So exciting. You’ve gone and done what thousands of people have only dreamed of doing. Have you sufficiently patted yourself on the back yet? No, wait… that’s not my question. Don’t answer. My real question is: at what point in the long road to publication did you actually think you could succeed, that you could make it into print?

Hold on. Let me just finish… there. Back patted. Or pat? Ugh, where is an editor when you need her?

So not long before I signed with my agent, I had an editor contact me on my blog and ask if I had anything to send her. I did, and she liked it and asked if I would mind revising the novel with her so she could take it to acquisitions. It came at a wonderful time, because just a few days before I’d sat my husband down and seriously discussed quitting. He wouldn’t let me, the big, lovable jerk. ☺

Two weeks later, a marked up manuscript showed up on my doorstep. It was bound together by a binder clip. Now, for those who have braved the pathway to publication can attest, it can get pretty expensive sending out manuscripts. You aren’t reimbursed at all for sealing up your dream in an envelope and shipping it out. And at some point, many writers get so hungry they would probably sell their soul to get published, or at least settle for no pay.
So when I got this manuscript that was edited for free, sent to me on the publisher’s dime, with A REAL LIFE NEW YORK PUBLISHER’S CLIP attached to it, I started to believe it could happen. I didn’t even end up with that editor, as wonderful as she was, but working with her for that brief amount of time was a huge turning point for me. And I still have that clip in my office.

Q2. Was there ever a point when it was the opposite, where you thought you couldn’t succeed in getting published? Dare to share the story?

Besides all the times I almost quit? Hmmm, it was pretty tough getting my second revision letter. I’d worked really hard the first go around, so it stung to get a LONGER letter the second time. I wondered if there was anything at all my editor actually liked about the story, and if there was a chance they could still change their mind and pull the plug.
But just like before the deal, or after the first book, or at any time on the journey, I wrote through it. That’s pretty much the answer for any publishing obstacle: Keep writing.

Q3. I know you love to blog, Lindsey, because your personal blog is one of my favorites (so entertaining!) and you co-moderate the debut Tenner’s one as well. Do you feel that blogging has helped you in your path to becoming an author? In what ways?

Like I said, I did have that stroke of luck where an editor contacted me and that was a nice confidence boost, knowing that they liked my bloggy ramblings enough to see if I had any chops writing fiction. But the biggest thing I’ve gotten out of blogging is it’s helped me figure out my voice. I started my blog in 2005, only a few months after I’d started to write seriously, so it was a great place to experiment. Plus, you don’t have to make up characters or anything, just be yourself and babble. For now, I’ve left a lot of those early entries up (despite how much they embarrass me), because I think it’s interesting to see how my writing style, even in a blog, has changed along the way.

Q4. And now for the hardest question yet: many of my readers are moms or are working full-time outside of writing. Can you give us some advice on how you manage to keep up this writing gig and mother three cute girls to boot?

Sometimes I don’t manage. There are days I look around my house and think WHERE IS THE BOMB AND WHEN DID IT DENTONATE? But the biggest trick I’ve had to figure out is how to be at peace with the chaos. To let one part of my life get a little messy in order to achieve something else. And to not feel guilty about it, because that’s something so many of us carry around when we do something just for us. It’s okay, ladies. I believe going after your dream teaches your kids to do the same thing and shows them that you are a person in addition to a driver, cook, maid, psychologist, dog groomer…

That said, when I accepted my first book deal, I also made the decision that I would rather fail at writing then fail as a mother and wife. Meaning, no matter how crazy this business got (and it can get CRAY-ZAY), I was not going to let it mix up my priorities. Sure, I’ll let the laundry slide, or leave my kids with family while I’m on book tour, but I never want being an author to overshadow the other aspects of who I am. It’s one piece of me, a very important piece, but it isn’t everything.

Q5. So we know about Desi, the main character in Princess for Hire, but now we want to know about her future love interests. Are we about to see that princes can out-sparkle vampires any day, even in a tween book?

Oh boy, do they ever. I am so stoked on the love interests I have going on in both book 1 and now book 2. Like I want to stop people on the street and tell them about these boys. I want to make cardboard cut-outs of them.

But I will not say more and let you read about them on your own. It is a tween novel, so there aren’t any immortal boys watching girls sleep. There might be a kiss. Plenty of crush action.

Q6. And finally: long-winded first drafter or a skeleton sketcher?

Sadly, long-winded first drafter. My life would be so much easier if I could outline, but I have to just get down a super-sloppy rough first before I can even begin to organize.

Thank you so much, Lindsey! Check out the first two chapters of Lindsey's debut on the Princess for Hire website. Then go an buy the book. Your inner princess will be gratified.


  1. Great interview! Good to hear there are other long-winded first drafters out there :)

    Good luck with the book!

  2. What an inspirational story for us writers. Thanks for sharing it.

    I wish Linsey Leavitt success with her newest book. I like the story premise and so would my daughter. Now why don't I get to be a substitute princess instead of substitute teacher?!

  3. I loved hearing the story behind the book. Can't wait to read it!

  4. Great interview. Thanks for letting us know about this awesome author and book.

  5. Great interview - really enjoyed reading it! Best of luck with the book!

  6. Awesome interview! I love that at the end of the day, we're all people. Doing things. And that I'm not the only one that lets her housework slide. :)

  7. Great interview. I'm a long-winded drafter too. My editor and I area taking data dump out of a MS. I just took out eight pages last night.

    I can re-use this stuff later. In part or in whole. Just not now.

    Stephen Tremp

  8. Excellent interview! Princess for Hire has been on my TBR for a while now. I'm dying to read it. :-)

  9. What a fabulous interview! Great questions and entertaining answers! Thanks for sharing this with us. I'm off to add Princess for Hire to my TBR list right now...

  10. I adore Lindsey! Got to meet her last Saturday, and she is amazing. Thanks for this interview!