New Voice: Cyn Balog on Fairy Tale

Cyn Balog is the first-time author of Fairy Tale (Delacorte, 2009). From the promotional copy:

Morgan Sparks and Cam Browne are a match made in heaven. They’ve been best friends since birth, they tell each other everything, and oh yeah–they’re totally hot for each other.

But a week before their joint Sweet Sixteen bash, everything changes. Cam’s awkward cousin Pip comes to stay, and Morgan is stunned when her formerly perfect boyfriend seems to be drifting away.

When Morgan demands answers, she’s shocked to discover the source of Cam’s distance isn’t another girl–it’s another world. Pip claims that Cam is a fairy. No, seriously. A fairy. And now his people want Cam to return to their world and take his rightful place as Fairy King.

Determined to keep Cam with her, Morgan plots to fool the fairies. But as Cam continues to change, she has to decide once and for all if he really is her destiny, and if their “perfect” love can weather an uncertain future.

In writing your story, did you ever find yourself concerned with how to best approach “edgy” behavior on the part of your characters? If so, what were your thoughts, and what did you conclude? Why do you think your decision was the right one?

When I started writing this book, the first thing that popped into my mind was the title—”Fairy Lust.” I kept thinking to myself, what could a book with that title be about?

I thought that to live up to the title, it would have to be steamy, and I wasn’t sure I was the person who could pull that kind of thing off.

After all, I’m a good, churchgoing girl. I could just see members of my congregation shaking their heads in disgust. And I have young children, and I live in fear of them one day reading my book and saying, “Mommy, why did you write about —?”

But as I wrote, I became more comfortable because the relationships are much more about longing than the actual, physical act. I think that by letting readers fill in the details with their own imaginations, it’s much more effective. Furthermore, it lets me off the hook; I might still get into heaven after all!

Afterward, my editor changed the title of the book to Fairy Tale, which, though difficult for me to get used to since I’d been using “Fairy Lust” as a working title for so long, is probably the right decision. Moms everywhere are cheering, I am sure.

As someone with a full-time day job, how do you manage to also carve out time to write and build a publishing career? What advice do you have for other writers trying to do the same?

It’s not very easy. I have a full-time job that requires me to be in physical shape. I am the primary caretaker of a two-year old, and I have a baby on the way, due in July. [Cyn Note: July 2008; the interview has been in the queue for a while].

I always make time to write on my lunch half-hour, which really isn’t much time, but when you make an appointment and carve out the time for yourself, you tend to stick with it better than if you have a whole day free and just plan to write, say, sometime within those 24 hours.

But if this was just about writing, my career would be easy. Many writers tend to think that getting the first book published is the hard part and it’s all peaches and cream after that.

I know, believe me, I know, that it’s really difficult to get a book published, but it’s just as difficult to maintain that career. Immediately after a sale, writers tend to go a little crazy—”hey! I can write and sell a couple more books! I can fit in a bunch of appearances and a stint as creative writing teacher at my local college! Why not?”

But then suddenly you realize how much “hidden” work there is, apart from just writing your next book. It’s what you’d call a welcome nuisance.

Sure, you’ll probably be able to sell a bit easier as a published author. But that doesn’t cut down on the amount of work you’ll have to do. Did that first book take you years to write and perfect? Don’t expect to have that much time with your second—you will likely be on deadline, and there will be pressure from your editor and agent.

And the great thing about trying to find a home for your first book is that you had a wide-open field of numerous publishers that you could take your book to, so if one doesn’t like it, chances are, another will. However, if you are working on a second book from a two-book deal, your book is going to go in front of one publisher—and if they don’t like it, you’ll have to go back to the drawing board to fulfill your commitment.

You’ll probably go through the whole, “Maybe I am a one-book wonder” confidence crisis that 95% of writers experience. You may have rounds of edits upon edits from your editorial team to contend with. Plus, you’ll also be promoting your first book as even if you did get a heavy advance, you can’t ever rely completely on your publisher to do that for you.

It can be very stressful to fit all that in, especially if you, like me, only have a half-hour of “me”-time every day. But really, all the headaches are so worthwhile– I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!

Cynsational Notes

The New Voices Series is a celebration of debut authors of 2009. First-timers may also be featured in more traditional author interviews over the course of the year.