Well hello! And welcome to this instalment of The Next Big Thing, a blog chain for writers and artists. I am chuffed to be a part of the action. The concept is simple: each creator gets a chance to share a bit about their latest project. The opportunity is paid forward to another blogger or group of bloggers. A big shout out to fellow writer, Candice Lemon-Scott, who nominated me. Best wishes for her Next Big Thing, Clearwing.
1. What is the working title of your next book?
Summer of the Silk Dragon: An American Teen in Beijing.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
For years I’d been incubating a story idea based on my experiences as an exchange student. A while back, I read a post on the blog Guide to Literary Agents, which mentioned an agent who was looking for past exchange students to write stories for a middle grade series about exchange programs. “Hey, that’s me!” I thought. The moment had finally arrived to move from incubation to delivery. I tried to imagine what the agent was looking for–and how to word a query, something I’d never dared to do. I put together a light-hearted proposal, with funny snippets from my year abroad. It turns out I missed the mark; the tone was all wrong, and Italy wasn’t “exotic enough” for her. I received a polite, “No thanks.” Undeterred, I asked if I could write something for her about my years living in Asia and learning Mandarin Chinese. “Yes, please!” Turns out Beijing was more to her liking.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
In a general sense it is middle grade fiction. Specifically…how about “travel adventure?”
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A 16-year-old aspiring investigative journalist signs up for a summer exchange program in China, where she sees the sights, wrestles with a tricky language, befriends some local teens, and uncovers a news story that will rock her world.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am represented by Waverly Place Literary in New York. Debbie Carter is my agent.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
5 months, using snatched moments here and there outside of work hours: weekends, early mornings, and evenings.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
It’s a cross between Nancy Drew for the new millennium and a sophisticated Harriet the Spy, and but instead of meddling in a petty mystery in small town America, Kate is discovering and fighting real injustice on a worldwide scale–all the while learning to speak Mandarin, mastering chopsticks, and navigating a new culture.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always felt my experiences as an exchange student and language learner would one day end up a book (or three!) The first book I offered to the agent, A Thousand Miles to Meet, was quite different. It featured elements that didn’t gel with the series she envisioned. Most importantly, she wanted an American protagonist. I laid aside my project (and my Aussie lead) to take advantage of the opportunity to work with an agent, and I tailored a synopsis to meet the agent’s requirements. Admittedly, it is a different kind of arrangement, but I have learnt so much through it. I hope to return to my original story once this one reaches fruition, but I may have plundered too much good stuff from it to make it work.
10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Aside from seeing the world and proving your mettle, probably the best part of being an exchange student is that you make friends not only with people in your host country but also with your fellow exchange students, who come from all over the world. Kate gets particularly close to a gorgeous guy from Costa Rica.
So that’s me and my *hopefully* next big thing!
Hermit that I am, I only have one blogger-friend to recommend, the up-and-coming Jenny O! Jeanette has practised medicine, taught theology, spoken at various groups, and is currently caring for her children and writing a fantasy series. (And, get this–even with all that going on, she managed to complete NaNoWriMo in 2012! Told you she’s “up-and-coming!”) Here’s a link to Jeanette O’Hagan’s blog: Jenny’sThread