New Voice: Stacey Lee on Under a Painted Sky

Stacey Lee

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Stacey Lee is the first-time author of Under a Painted Sky (Putnam, 2015)(author blog). From the promotional copy:

An unforgettable story of friendship and sacrifice.

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a
professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder
still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of
fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life.

the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the
unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls,
so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the
California gold rush.

Sammy and Andy forge a powerful
bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid
any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of
cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. 

the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls
quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

When and where do you write? Why does that time and space work for you?

Stacey’s office

I write in the evening into the wee hours of night, and go to bed typically at 1:30 am.

With two kids, I’m too distracted to do much during the day, so I must wait until everyone is in bed. It’s hard for me to write with any noise around me, so I rarely listen to music when I’m at my desk.

As a historical fiction writer, how did you capture the voices of the era? What resources did you turn to? What advice do you have for other authors along these lines?

I read a lot of pioneer diaries! I always gravitated toward books/film from the 19th century, so the voices weren’t hard for me to hear. I love the ‘formal’ way they spoke during that time period.

The trick is to immerse yourself in the ‘culture’ you’re writing about as much as possible, the way you would learning another language. You can’t help picking things up.

How did you go about connecting with your agent? What was your search process like? Who did you decide to sign with? What about that person and/or agency seemed like the best fit for you? What advice do you have for other writers in seeking the right agent for them?

Under a Painted Sky

I researched agents through Writer’s Digest, and identified Kristin Nelson as someone who might be a good fit. I was looking for someone who knew her stuff, and she ran a popular blog called Pub Rants that many writers, including myself, used to understand the in’s and out’s of publishing. She actually rejected the first book I subbed to her.

Several years later, I wrote Under a Painted Sky, and she was one of the first agents I queried.

I think it’s important that writers find an agent who not only can make a sale, but someone who will continually advocate for their writers during the entire process.

Publishing is not just about selling the book. You want someone who takes a holistic view of your writing career.

Cynsational Notes

Stacey Lee is a fourth generation Chinese-American whose people came to
California during the heydays of the cowboys. She believes she still
has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul.

A native of southern California,
she graduated from UCLA then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall.
After practicing law in the Silicon Valley for several years, she
finally took up the pen because she wanted the perks of being able to
nap during the day, and it was easier than moving to Spain. She plays
classical piano, wrangles children, and writes YA fiction.

Find Stacey at Twitter @staceyleeauthor, Facebook and Pinterest.

Stacey contemplates her plot as she walks along this path.

2 thoughts on “New Voice: Stacey Lee on Under a Painted Sky

  1. I'm so eager to read UNDER A PAINTED SKY after reading your interview with Stacey Lee. The setting, the history, the way Stacey speaks about the voices of the era, have already completely engaged me. Looking forward to a wonderful read…

  2. Congratulations, Stacey! We'd love to have you do a guest post on Mad About MG History - – or even be a regular blogger if you'd like. I didn't see a way to contact you directly through your website, so I'm hoping you'll catch this hear. You can e-mail us at mghistoricalfictionblog (at) gmail (dot) com or contact me through my website:

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