Author Interview: K.L. Going on Writing & Selling the YA Novel

From Writer’s Digest: “K.L. Going is a full-time writer and award-winning YA author; former assistant to literary agents at Curtis Brown Ltd. in New York; and former manager of an independent bookstore…” Her debut novel, Fat Kid Rules the World (Putnam, 2003), was a 2004 Michael L. Printz Honor Book. Read her previous Cynsations interview.

What’s new?

Since I last visited with you, Saint Iggy (Harcourt, 2006) has been published, along with a second middle grade novel called The Garden of Eve (Harcourt, 2007). I’ve had two short stories published in anthologies, and I also have a new teen novel out called King of the Screwups (Harcourt, 2009) about a drop-dead gorgeous guy who desperately wants to be a nerd. The book is full of fashion, glam rock, and mayhem. What could be more fun than that?

Congratulations on the success of Writing & Selling the YA Novel (Writer’s Digest, 2008)(excerpt)! In your own words, could you tell us what readers might expect from the book?

Writing & Selling the YA Novel is a primer for those who want to publish novels for teens. The book covers all the basics of good writing and also delves into issues that are specific to the young adult field such as the history of YA, tips for targeting the teen audience, and dealing with hot-button issues like bad language, sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Okay, I just added rock and roll for fun, but the rest is all in there!

What makes it different from other craft and/or manuscript marketing resource books?

First, it’s YA specific. Most craft books are more general, lumping YA into the category of children’s book writing, which is very broad.

Second, this is the only craft book I know of that includes a teen panel where writers have a chance to hear from actual teens about what they like and dislike about YA books and what they want to read more about.

How did you come to write the book?

I was approached by Writer’s Digest. My editor, Alice Pope, was familiar with my writing for teens and knew that I had worked for five years at a literary agency.

Since I’ve also managed an independent bookstore, taught adult literacy, and grew up as the daughter of a librarian, I truly know books from every angle. This gave me a unique platform to approach the writing of this book.

What were the challenges?

My biggest challenge was convincing myself it was okay to take a chance and try my hand at writing non-fiction. It’s so different!

What did you love about it?

I loved having the opportunity to use a different part of my brain. It was such a varied writing process from the one I was used to that it was refreshing. I also loved the fact that my editor gave me license to make the book fun. I don’t think a book has to be stodgy just because it’s non-fiction, so it was great to be able to be a little whimsical about the topic.

The book is arranged like a school schedule so that each chapter represents a different period in the school day. I also loved gathering the information for the teen panel. It was so much fun to draw up the questionnaire and then see what kids had to say.

More than anything, what do you want your readers to take away?

I hope there’s something different for every writer. For the beginner, I hope they take away the basic tips about writing that can improve their work. For the more advanced student, I hope they enjoy the chapters that shed light on what they may not know as much about, such as the history of YA or the business/marketing aspects of getting published.

What are you doing when you’re not writing?

I just had a baby boy, so I am ultra busy being in love and not sleeping.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I’m working on a new middle grade novel that I hope to have edited soon, and I’ve also got a couple picture books in the works. They won’t be out for a while yet, but they should make it onto the market in time for my son’s toddler years.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I hope readers will check out my website— specifically two features that I love to highlight. The GiveitAwayNow page has ideas for how you can give back to your community, and the Very Cool Person of the Month page highlights some special people who have excelled at doing that very thing. I love to receive new nominations, so please visit the site, and then send me an e-mail about someone you know who is just plain awesome.

Cynsational Notes

Watch a book trailer for The Garden of Eve: