Cynthia Leitich Smith
What memories of your debut author experience stand out?
In my twenties, I wrote eight full-length adult historical novels set in ancient Rome, none of which were ever published. You’d think I would have noticed prior to writing eight of them that nobody wanted them.
I started writing short stories instead; one was accepted in Seventeen Magazine, and out of that, eventually, came the invitation from a YA editor to write teen paperback romances.
I had found my voice. I loved writing for teens. As to the unsuccessful books,I learned so much writing them. I learned not to give up and I learned to tell a good story fast.
If you could offer advice to the new voice you once were, what would you say?
If you want to write, don’t follow my footsteps! That’s a lot of failure. The best thing for a new writer is practice. Practice writing the way you’d practice the piano or basketball.
Fifteen minutes a day is fine. You don’t have to finish anything. You’re trying to become fluid at this difficult skill.
Did you ever consider giving up? What happened? What kept you going?
I did not ever consider giving up. For reasons I can’t identify, the rejections toughened me rather than weakened me. It became a battle: me versus publishing. Now publishing is my ally.
Although the years of failure were hard, my path since then has been a delightful upward route. There haven’t been valleys and there haven’t been rapids. I was blessed with brilliant editors and good publishers. YA readers embrace every kind of book – mystery, romance, suspense, time travel, family saga, historical fiction – and my editors have allowed me to try all those.
What can your readers expect next?
I’ve put a full year into research and travel so that I can tell the story of the English children who will eventually sail on the Mayflower.
I am riveted by their lives – such drama and tragedy. It’s a privilege to write about their courage and determination. I am so excited that my readers will soon see who these amazing children are.
I’m not sure what I’ll write then. Will I return to suspense novels? Experiment with something entirely different? A different age reader or a different kind of story?
There’s still so much out there. And it’s exciting suddenly to be in a new publishing age: digital books and e-short stories.
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