Saturday, July 7, 2012

Interview with Leigh Ann Kopans


Hi everyone! As promised, we've kidnapped Leigh Ann Kopans today to be interviewed (it almost didn't happen due to some seriously bad planning on Amy's part...). She's brilliant and funny and absolutely wonderful, so I'll stop singing her praises and let you guys see for yourselves!

Thank you so, so much for having me! I love visiting other blogs and I'm honored that you took me up on my (perhaps over-enthusiastic?) twitter volunteering to be interviewed.

How long have you been writing for?

I've been writing for about a year and a half.

Tell us a little about your book, ONE (this is the one you're going on subs for on Monday, right? Oodles of luck to you!)

ONE is about Merrin, a girl with only half a superpower - a One. She can float, but she can't do anything to move herself through the air - meaning she can't fly. She's been dreaming of getting an internship at the Supers' Biotech Hub and figuring out how to fix herself for years.

Then she meets Elias, another One who can push the air around him. There are a couple awesome things about Elias - first, he is very cute and a really good kisser; second, when she touches him, their One powers combine to make them fly.

Everything's going great, including Merrin getting short-listed for that internship she always wanted, until Elias gets kidnapped, and Merrin suspects the Hub is behind it. She's going to have to decide which she wants more - Elias, or a future with the Hub.

I've been obsessed with superheroes since my dad introduced me to the 90s X-men cartoons on lazy Saturday mornings. This book is the ultimate illustration of how I spend WAY too much time thinking about them.

Tell us about your other two novels, SOLVING FOR EX and CHROME

Solving for Ex is about a girl who had to leave her hometown high school after her mad math skills got her into a sticky situation - help one of the most popular kids at school cheat on a final, or suffer merciless bullying. When the bullying drives her to stay with her Aunt and Uncle, she falls in love with the boy next door, Brendan, who has everything in common with her, and, amazingly, is Captain of the Mathletes. But then, a new girl at school is determined to do anything she can to get close to Brendan, including cheating her way to Mathletes State and risking the team everything.

Chrome is a futuristic science fiction retelling of the Exodus from Egypt, with Pharoah recast as a merciless Queen ruling a biodome-encased city and the slave class living beneath it one thousand years after a devastating nuclear world war. Moses is recast as a sixteen-year-old girl, and instead of blood, frogs, and lice, the plagues are faulty circuits and battery acid. I'm pitching it as Battlestar Galactica meets the Bible, and it's all kinds of fun to write.

How long did you query for?

I queried (and contested) One for four and a half months.

How'd you get your agent? From the slush pile, a conference, a contest?

Tricia discovered me in The Writer's Voice Contest, where I was a member of Team Cupid's LC. (http://cupidslitconnection.blogspot.com/2012/05/team-cupidslc-5-one.html)

I also had an offer from a ninja agent, who had seen something she liked on my blog and emailed me directly asking for a submission. So make sure your blogs are up to date with your WiP info! You never know what will come of it.

Tell us about THE CALL.

The Call with Tricia (Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency) was the most surreal - and amazing - experience. She spent the first ten minutes or so of The Call just telling me everything she loved about my book and its characters. It was honestly a dream come true - she said everything I'd ever imagined someone understanding about One, and then some. She even thanked me for writing my main character! I didn't even know what to say to that.

But then, it got even crazier. She asked me about my plans for a sequel - a SEQUEL! No one had ever even asked me whether I'd thought about a sequel. But wait! She also wanted to know about all my OTHER projects. She explained to me that she was invested in my long-term career as a writer, not just this one book, which was all kinds of confidence-inspiring and, again, a dream come true.

I seriously felt like my brain had been liquefied by the shock. At that point, I'd had 91 form rejections on this manuscript - I had convinced myself it was complete crap. And then here was this amazing agent from a big-shot literary agency telling me that she absolutely loved it, and understood it in a way I never dreamed possible.

Are you nervous about going on submission?

In theory, no. I've been through the muddy, smelly, starving, despairing query trenches twice before (once for my first manuscript and once for One), and I'll certainly survive them, one way or another, with one of the leading industry pros championing my book. Besides, Tricia is my agent for my entire kidlit career, and there will always be A Next Book.

In reality, yes. Completely terrified. It's scary to think of making it this far only to get shot down at the very final step before your book gets to sit pretty on a store shelf somewhere. I'm focusing on that Next Book just to keep myself from completely hyperventilating.

What's your favorite part of working with your agent?

I think it's being able to focus on just the writing, without having to tear my hair out at every moment about how, when, or to whom I will query it. I used to stress a lot about marketability - namely, how very little I knew about whether a project I was working on would attract any attention.

And then, of course, deep down, I just worried that I was a totally sucky writer.

Now that I've signed with Tricia, I have some reassurance from at least one person in the publishing world that I am not, in fact, a completely sucky writer. More importantly than the requisite coddling is Tricia's guidance. She can steer me away from projects that she knows will never make it and advise me on other ones that have the best chance of making my career successful. She has my back, and she believes in me, and that's worth a whole hell of a lot.

What piece of advice would you give to newbie writers? Anything specific for YA writers?
YES! For newbie writers - surround yourself with people who are at the same writing stage as you. Support one another, grow together, and you'll see amazing results in your writing and your careers.

For YA writers - *readies soapbox* Write YA for one reason, and one reason only - because you have stories to tell young adults. Don't write to teach lessons, or to make a point, or to tell teens which decisions to make. Teens are people, with brains, which they use a lot. They'll learn those lessons with or without your books, and they can make decisions for themselves without your input. Teens can smell your agenda from a mile away. Don't try to sneak it past them, because you won't succeed, and you'll just look silly in the process.

Also, if you have to try to "sound like a teenager" when you write, you're doing it wrong. Write about authentic teens with authentic teen voices. Spend some time listening to your characters talk. If they're real enough, they'll tell you what they need to say.


Wow! I didn't know I could get so preachy about writing YA, but there you have it.

Anyway, thanks a ton for having me. I think you two are absolutely incredible, and I'm fascinated by your writing paths. I'm going to be watching for your success stories so I can be appropriately giddy for you, and smug that I knew you when.

And to your readers, thanks so much for reading! It's been fun

Isn't she brilliant, peeps? Thanks A TON for letting us interview you, Leigh Ann!

4 comments:

  1. A few months ago, I wrote a post about the possibility of Biblical retellings. It's kinda cool to hear that someone is actually trying it.

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    1. *waves* Hi Yael!

      My CP Dahlia is working on one, too- a contemporary YA retelling of the book of Esther. :-)

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  2. Just found this interview I didn't even know existed, and then found me mentioned in the comments! Our conversation on Twitter this morning now makes so much more sense!!

    Great interview with a great subject!!

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  3. So did you have any ideas right away for a sequel or do you have to think about it a little?

    Good luck on submission.

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