Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Author Interview: Carrie Harris on the Class of 2k11

Carrie Harris is the monster-obsessed, geek-of-all-trades, Excel-spreadsheet-addicted president of the Class of 2k11. Brains are her specialty; she used to work in a lab where they were delivered daily via FedEx. After that, it seemed only natural to write a zombie book: Bad Taste in Boys, which will be published by Delacorte in July.

She lives in Michigan with her ninja-doctor husband and three zombie-obsessed children. And she really likes hyphens.

What is the Class of 2k11?

The 2k concept is pretty simple—we’re a small group of debut middle grade and YA authors who have banded together for marketing and promotion (and also slumber parties, but I’m not sure those are really for public consumption).

There’s been a 2k class every year since 2007, and previous members include Jay Asher, Cassandra Clare, Melissa Marr, Sarah Prineas, Rebecca Stead

I’d better stop before I make myself hyperventilate.

What are its goals and pursuits?

Being a debut author can get overwhelming because there are so many marketing type things to do. It’s much more manageable when you work together to spread the word. But we wanted this group to be more than “Eeeee! Look at us! We sold books!"

Who wants to hear that all the time? We wanted to pay some of our amazing luck forward, so we decided to give a little love to librarians, booksellers, and bloggers.

They told us they’re always looking for ways to draw in readers, so we focused on creating easy, cheap, and fun activities to take the pressure off on those days when you’ve got a book club/class/blog entry/whatever and forgot to plan something! And hopefully you’ll get introduced to some great new voices in kid lit in the process.

How is it organized?

We’ve got some crazy awesome officers that deserve kudos, medals, and showers of sparkles, and we’ve got committees that do the bulk of the actual work.

But really, we’re pretty casual. We all have lives and deadlines and crises. Some days, all you can do is eke out 50 words on the latest book, and you’re lucky to get that!

So we do as much as we can, when we can. I think the reality is that with groups like this, you get what you put into it.

Who are the classmates?

I’m so proud to belong to this group with K. Ryer Breese, Carole Etsby Dagg, Amy Dominy, Trinity Faegen, Alissa Grosso, Kiki Hamilton, Geoff Herbach, Tess Hilmo, Amy Holder, Tara Hudson, Julia Karr, Christina Mandelski, Sheila O’Connor, Gae Polisner, Bettina Restrepo, and Angie Smibert.

What is the interpersonal vibe?

We’re family, plain and simple. We’ve become so much more than marketing buddies; we’ve celebrated and cried together and offered to kiss each other…actually I think the last one is just me.

But seriously, I think the support is just as important if not more so than the snazzy marketing stuff. It’s scary to put that first book out into the big bad world, and it’s so much easier when you know people who don’t look at you funny when you say things like that.

Why did a cooperative promotional group appeal to you?

Years ago, I remember reading about the Class of 2k7 in my Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market and thinking, “Someday, I’m going to join one of those!”

People think of writing as such an isolated profession, but there are so many great support systems out there if you just get the guts to reach out.

And I think the fact is that we’re all good at something. Some marketing stuff makes me all giddy, and some of it makes me want to pretend that I no longer speak English. Promotional groups allow you to exercise your strengths and let other people take over when you get into No hablo Ingles territory.

What are the challenges?

There are so many things to do marketing-wise, and there are no right answers about what you must do if you want to succeed. Imagine putting together 15-20 strangers who write in a variety of genres, and then try to figure out what will work for all those books.

Starting out was hard. It’s hard to know where to put your efforts. I may or may not have used my Magic 8 Ball during this process.

Oh, who am I kidding? I totally used it.

What do you love about it?

How long do you have? Of course I love the people. I couldn’t imagine doing this without them. They’re a great source of info on things you didn’t even realize you needed to be thinking about.

And they’re funny. A lot of us have also noticed a real spike in attention toward our books once the class debuted. It’s so exciting seeing our plans take off and people interested in what we’re doing. So if I had to make the choice again, I would absolutely join, no matter what the cost. Funny and useful?!? Sign me up!

Tell us a little about your upcoming debut.

It’s about a science geek who learns that her high school football team has been dosed with steroids…or maybe not. Whatever’s in those vials is turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless, flesh-eating zombies. Which is bad. But if she doesn’t find a way to cure them, it’ll be even worse.

Dum dum dum.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

I remember when I was looking around at groups to join or thinking about creating one of my own, it was all so overwhelming. Author group blogs seemed to be multiplying like hyperactive rabbits for a while there, and How on Earth Are You Supposed to Choose?

(Ahem. Sorry. Got a little carried away.)

If you’re going to join a group, think about what you really need help with and what you can do on your own, and find a group that’ll fit those needs, whether it’s marketing or networking or talking in public without stuttering.

And if what you need is a group for debut authors in 2012, I hear that Class of 2k12 is taking applications…

11 comments:

Alissa said...

I agree with everything Carrie said. I am so happy that I joined the Class of 2K11. You guys are the best!

Tess said...

Carrie never fails to crack me up..thanks for the super fun interview. And, thanks for putting together all those links - that was a serious amount of work!

L.J. Boldyrev said...

Love the trailer! So many incredible debuts this year!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Carrie, what a perfect picture of the 2k classes! I'm so grateful to have 2k11 to look to for wisdom and direction.

For readers debuting next year who would like to know about the Class of 2k12 membership, please contact me at caroline starr at yahoo dot com.

Christina said...

Great interview! Being a part of this class has been invaluable to me professionally (I've learned a ton from these people). But as is obvious from Carrie's interview, we also have a lot of fun, thanks, in part to our fearless, zombie-loving leader!

Carole Estby Dagg said...

I can hardly wait until New York City when the Class of 2k11 gets together for the first time during Book Expo America! I never would have commissioned a website, written blogs, or learned what swag was without them. With their gentle prodding toward the 21st century I might even get a cell phone. Love this group!

Kiki Hamilton said...

As usual, a fun, and entertaining interview from Carrie that also comes from the heart. We are so lucky to have her and each other in the Class of 2k11. And guess what? BAD TASTE IN BOYS is just as much fun and more. It makes you laugh out loud while Kate Grable struggles to solve the mystery of the zombie takeover....Can she do it?....the answer on July 12th! :-)

Angie Smibert said...

Great interview, Fearless Leader (aka the Zombie Master)! I've learned so much from this group, and everyone does feel like family. It's invaluable to have other debuts to vent to and celebrate with.

gae polisner said...

omg what a fab sparkly group!

How do I apply?

er. Kidding. I are they. and we are many things including kissy. Some of us even lick, but that shall not be discussed here.

Carrie, thank you. And thank ninja-zombies for the Class of 2K11.

Bettina said...

Yeah for Carrie and Cynthia for a great interview.

Beyond thew marketing and the support, thsi group has meant an incredible amount of support.

We also teach each other. Twitter, making videos, how to answer bloggers from Timbuktu.... we do it all together.

But, with a click of a button on my email.

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Thanks so much, Alissa, Tess, Christina, Carole, Kiki, Angie, Gae & Bettina! I'm rooting for you!

Agreed, L.J.! A year for sparkling debuts!

And you heard Caroline, 12 debuts! This is your big chance!

Go, new voices! Count me a fan!

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