Thursday, October 16, 2008

A2A Chat: Interview with Saundra Mitchell

Tip of the Day: Today’s author blogged on how to build your own press kit here this week.

I am SO excited that I got to interview Saundra Mitchell, author of Shadowed Summer (in stores February 10, 2009).

Not only is Saundra a super awesome writer, she is a super fantastic person.

Here’s a bit about her debut book (from

“Iris is ready for another hot, routine summer in her small Louisiana town, hanging around the Red Stripe grocery with her best friend, Collette, and traipsing through the cemetery telling each other spooky stories and pretending to cast spells. Except this summer, Iris doesn’t have to make up a story. This summer, one falls right in her lap.

Years ago, before Iris was born, a local boy named Elijah Landry disappeared. All that remained of him were whispers and hushed gossip in the church pews. Until this summer. A ghost begins to haunt Iris, and she’s certain it’s the ghost of Elijah. What really happened to him? And why, of all people, has he chosen Iris to come back to?”

And now for the questions:

A2A: We have a lot of authors who read this site and are interested in the publishing process. Can you tell me what you found to be the best and worst (or hardest) part in the process for you?

SM: The hardest part is letting go! I've worked with Dreaming Tree Films for more than a decade now- not only am I their screenwriter, I also write a lot of their marketing and business copy.

Which means I got used to writing blurbs, catalogue listings, festival copy- basically, anything marketing related, for films I had written. So it was a real shock to hand over my book and have other people defining it. Creating loglines and hooks for it. Shaping its public face. It made me totally crazy! (Okay, it still makes me a little crazy- but I'm starting to get used to it!)

Everything else is the best part. I mean, I had a party at my desk when I got my ISBN. When I saw the tiny little leaf icon they used to separate my chapters. When my book showed up in the Japanese Amazon database. It's all just so good; I'm having so much fun.

Kristina: OMG! I totally know what you mean. There is a tiny cherub on the spine of my book and I was like THIS IS THE CUTEST THING EVER!

A2A: Your book will be released on February 10th of next year so I'm sure you are busily getting ready for your debut and preparing marketing wise. Is there any one marketing tip or trick you've learned that you can share with us?

SM: My trick is starting early. It works for everything- when I make Thanksgiving dinner, I chop all the onions, celery, cheese and herbs the day before. When I wake up, I can start cooking in earnest- my ingredients are all ready for me.

The same thing goes for marketing. We have *lots* of lead time in publishing. When you're waiting for a contract or a revision, work on building your mailing lists and contacts. Then, when it's time to start marketing, you're actively reaching out on Marketing Day One.

My tip is, there's no good place to start, so just start somewhere. It doesn't matter which list you make first. Seriously. It doesn't. Especially if you start early!

Kristina: Great tip! You make it seem less daunting!

A2A: You probably get this question all the time but I'm sincerely interested—how on earth do you get done everything that you do? You are a screenwriter, author, and mom to two kids. And you are always the first to organize activities online or assist other writers in just about anything. So what's your secret?

SM: Insomnia. I mean, I say that and people laugh, but it's partially true. I have bouts of insomnia and I can sit awake at 3 am and enjoy an existential crisis, or I can sit awake at 3 am and address postcards. You can get a lot done when you have 18 or 20 waking hours in your day!

But for those people who don't have insomnia- the real answer is, I don't get everything done all at the same time. When I'm finishing a book, my husband makes dinner, and the laundry piles up. When the book is finished, I clean the house and reintroduce myself to my family. Also, I choose to spend my energy on things that are important to me. I'm never going to lay on my deathbed and wish I had washed my curtains more.

I hope no one ever looks at me and thinks I'm balancing everything really effectively, because I'm not. I'm just doing a decent job of neglecting the right things at the right time.

Kristina: I love that last line! And you make me feel much better about the baskets of laundry piling up at my house.

A2A: In your book, your main character Iris spends the summer looking for a ghost she saw in the town cemetery—the ghost of a boy who disappeared from the town decades earlier. Here's my question, do you believe in ghosts? And if so, have you ever seen one?

SM: I definitely believe in ghosts, but with a caveat. 9 times out of 10, there's a totally rational, physical explanation for phenomena if you're willing to look for it. But I absolutely believe those 10th times happen, and here's mine:

When I was a kid, my grandmother's house had a narrow stairway in the back, which led to a finished attic. It was split like a small apartment, with a sitting room in front and a bedroom in the back-accessible both by doorway and by a tiny closet between both rooms. My younger brother and I loved to play up there.

One Thanksgiving, we headed up and at the top of the stairs, I headed for the closet, and my brother headed for the doorway. And then we both stopped abruptly when we emerged in the bedroom because there was a man we had never seen sitting at the window.

And then... he was not.

We screamed and scrambled down the stairs, got the whole family in a tizzy about the man upstairs that disappeared- everybody had to go look, the adults weighed whether to call the police or to sit us in corners for making things up- it was an exciting holiday!

Kristina: OH. MY. GOD. That is freaky.

A2A: What are you currently working on?

SM: Currently, I'm working on another YA novel, "The Last Will & Testament of Evan Todd," which is about a boy who died, but he's the only one who realizes it. I'm also working on a book proposal to write a guide to practically free filmmaking for teens!

Kristina: Wow—both books sound awesome!

Thank you so much for stopping by and chatting with me Saundra! I can’t wait to read your book and I know it will fly off the shelves next year!

Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub


Jenny Moss said...

Being a born-in-south-Louisiana gal, I'm looking forward to Shadowed Summer, Saundra. I've heard it's a deliciously scary tale. I'm ready to be scared. :)

Kate Fall said...

Wow, I got goosebumps from the attic story! What a fun interview.

Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann) said...

Wow, Saundra! I didn't realize how much you and I have in common—in terms of story interests, that is. I can't wait to read your books!

(And thanks again for sharing your blurb writing techniques with us.)

Good luck with both your projects!

Mary Ann

Sarah MacLean said...

I LOVE that ghost creepy, and NOT creepy. Which is what is good about ghosts. They shouldn't be scary. At least, no more than they are because they're...well...dead.

Lisa Schroeder said...

Yay Saundra! Yay for ghost stories! :)

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to check out Shadowed Summer. A ghost story set in the south? Yay!

Anonymous said...

Great interview and article you awesome people!

Shadowed Summer is fabulously creepy and so well written. I was lucky enough to read the ARC. Saundra is an enormous talent.

DeenaML said...

This is BRILLIANT!!! Thanks, Saundra!

"I hope no one ever looks at me and thinks I'm balancing everything really effectively, because I'm not. I'm just doing a decent job of neglecting the right things at the right time."

DeenaML said...

This is BRILLIANT!!! Thanks, Saundra!

"I hope no one ever looks at me and thinks I'm balancing everything really effectively, because I'm not. I'm just doing a decent job of neglecting the right things at the right time."

Anonymous said...

Saundra, I think we're sisters! Except you're the awesome one. Great interview! I cannot WAIT to read Shadowed Summer, and pretty please get Evan Todd out to us soon!

Emily Marshall said...

Great interview. Your book looks great. Ghost stories are extremely popular at the library I work at. It seems like at least once a week I have a teen in looking for books with ghosts in them.

Janet Gurtler said...

Great interview!

I was also lucky enough to read the arc and was blown away by Saundra's viseral writing.

Your hubby sounds great, stepping up to cook supper when you're finishing a book.

Can't wait to read the new book, too.