Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hilary Wagner!

So, remember how I promised you an interview? I have it! Hilary Wagner has answered the questions I had up earlier this month. Her book, Nightshade City, is coming out later this year!

Does it seem unfair to anyone else that someone so talented also gets to be so pretty?I mean, relaly, it seems as if someone should be one or the other, but Hilary really got both. :))
Anyway, she's way more interesting than I am so, without further ado . . .

Describe your book to us, please.
NIGHTSHADE CITY is about fighting for what's right and never giving up. It's about never letting a few decide the fate of many. Oh, and rats too!

Here is the summary:
Unbeknownst to humans, strangely intelligent rats have lived in the Catacombs, underneath Trillium City, for years. To the discontent of many of its residents, the Catacombs is now run by Killdeer, Billycan and his Kill Army. Fighting for their home alongside rebels who are hiding in a concealed world beyond the Catacombs, Victor and Vincent Nightshade battle for retribution and redemption while realizing their future and releasing ghosts from their past.

How difficult was it to get published?

For me, finding an agent was far more difficult than getting published. Nightshade City was rejected by about 175 agents over the course of 13 months. I received several requests for partials and fulls of the manuscript, which was encouraging, but in the end agents thought the book would be a hard sell to publishers. Lo and behold, my agent, Marietta Zacker of Nancy Gallt Literary, sold Nightshade City to Holiday House Books in less than eight weeks! It felt amazing! I feel so lucky to be with this publisher. They've been around since 1935!

Did you ever think it wasn't going to happen?

One night, after probably my 100th or so agency rejection, I told my husband, "You know, I will get published." He said he believed me, thank goodness for sweet husbands. I'm not sure if he really did believe me and I don't think even I believed me, but saying the words, changed things for me. I think then and there I said I know I can do this, Nightshade City will be published.

What's writing a sequel or getting a deal for a sequel like?

I'm having the best time with Nightshade's sequel. I think the key for a successful sequel is making the book markedly different from the first, but still capturing that same spirit. I just finished Part I of Nightshade City' sequel, which my editor at Holiday House is reading right now! I really love where this book is headed, I hope she does too! It's all about my favorite Nightshade City bad guy, Billycan, who you will all meet come this fall!

I know from your blog that you have kids and a husband. How do you deal with family life on top of writing? Does it ever get hard to focus and make time for reading?

You mean writers are supposed to read and spend time with their families? Ha, ha! I have many responsibilities, it's true, but it seems the more responsibilities I have the better I get at time management. I have my "alone" time early in the morning. That's when I do my best writing. If you told me when I was in high school that I'd be a "morning person", I'd never have believed you and neither would my parents! I write whenever I have free time. When I put my son and daughter to bed I can squeeze in an hour or so. If we have nothing going on, weekend afternoons are great too, sometimes late on a Saturday night. When I add up all the little hours I steal writing, remarkably it's quite a bit of time! Just don't ask me about my neglected laundry!

How many revisions have you gone through? Do those revisions ever make you feel as if you've lost something in the novel?

We went through two rounds of editing. We never did any major overhauls to the novel. It was more making sure everything "clicked". Julie Amper, my editor, had great Author Queries, which is a term used to describe an area of the manuscript that's need explaining or clarification.
As the writer, it's easy to forget that your reader doesn't know what's going on in your head and what you may have "intended" to come across in a particular scene. You need to be clear. Timelines need to be just right. Don't get so into your descriptions or back story, that you're neglecting dialogue or action. No info dumps! The story needs to be faultless in every way and readers deserve it to be so!
My editor didn't want to change Nightshade City; she wanted to make it the best it could be. When we spoke on the phone for the first time and talked about editing, I told Julie I was so happy she thought the book was good and she said, "The book is not good, it's great! Now we're going to make it perfect." I had goose bumps for a whole week!

Do you have any tricks to making your characters seem real?

Call me a drama queen, but when I write I feel the emotions of my characters. If I'm creating a sad scene, I've been known to get teary eyed, if it's funny, I laugh! I think I put a lot of myself in my characters, even my bad guys! I'm working on a new middle grade novel right now, and I'm writing a scene with two brothers (who happen to be hobgoblins) who are arguing with each other, and I think, what would I have said to my brother? We are friends now, but man, did my brother and I fight like cats and dogs. Pulling from your own life, past or present, is something I think is key when making characters real and not forced.

What books would you recommend for teens?

I think it depends on what you want to write! For anyone interested in writing animal fantasy, I'd recommend the Silverwing Trilogy and Darkwing by Kenneth Oppel, the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, the Ratha series by Clare Bell and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.M.H., by Robert C. O'Brien. Last, but by no means least, I highly recommend NIGHTSHADE CITY! Yes, I had to throw that in!

When did you start writing? Do you have any advice on that?

I was first inspired to write in 3rd grade! All we had to do was write a story, but I was so excited I created a book out of construction paper and my teacher read it to the whole class. It was entitled Mouse and Ladybug! I guess I've always had a thing for rodents!M y advice to young writers, learn from other writers! Read their books and figure out why you like their writing so much! What about it captivates you? Write about what interests you and what you know! I love doing research for my stories, because the topics fascinate me! The worst thing a writer can do is write for the market, hoping that will get them published. If you like vampires or zombies, by all means write about them, just don't do it thinking it will better your odds of getting an agent or editor. Don't be a copycat! Agents and editors want fresh, new ideas, things no one has come up with yet. If it's something that's been done before figure out a way to make your story distinctly different. Make it incredible! If you have the passion and creativity you can do it. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. I didn't and look where it got me. :)

Thank you Hilary, so so much! These answers are GREAT and so inspirational. It really give me hope for getting published.


Hilary Wagner ~ Writer said...


Thanks so much for your questions! I loved answering them!

You have such drive and passion for writing and it's so great to see! I know I'll be buying your book one day and I'll say, "I knew her when..."

xoxo -- Hilary

cipherqueen said...

Awesome interview! You are both incredible women. ;D

Maggie said...

I feel so out of it in the blogging department lately. It's strange. Sorry this comment took so long.


Yay! I liked this interview. It was very encouraging/inspiring/nice. :)

(And then I saw the word 'zombies' and I was like... hey now. -gasp- She understands my new obsession!)

Sam said...

Hilary: Hey, I get to buy yours and say I got to talk to you. That's way cool. :DD
Cipherqueen: Thank you!
Maggie: Pft. Fail. Zombies are amazing though.