Monday, March 15, 2010

Fabulous New Fiction: 2k10 Debut Author Mara Purnhagen

I have the pleasure of hosting an interview with Mara Purnhagen, author of TAGGED. Here's a bit of the book's synopsis: "Kate Morgan is just as confused as the rest of her classmates when she arrives at Cleary High to find six life-size gorillas spray painted on the side of a building. Could the culprit be one of her friends or classmates? And is the kind-of-amazing creation really vandalism, or a work of art?"
I love this concept - gorillas! What an enchanting mind. You'll see what I mean...

Congratulations on the publication of your debut novel, TAGGED! Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

Thanks, Janet! Two main elements of the story-- a mysterious graffiti artist who paints gorillas and a huge, televised birthday bash-- came to me while I was washing dishes. I could hear the TV in the living room, which was advertising a reality show about huge (and expensive) sweet sixteen parties. I was listening to the commercial and thinking about Banksy, a British graffiti artist whose work I love, and I wondered how I could connect those two things. I had just bought my husband a work bench for the garage which had a gorilla sticker on it and he was joking about how serious the gorilla looked. Those three things collided, and I had a first chapter before the end of the night (and a pile of dishes that didn’t get done).

I love that story. How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

I wrote short stories for a long time, and had a few published in literary magazines. I won the Hardegree Prize for Short Fiction (a regional contest sponsored by the Hub City Writers Project) in 2003. I began writing YA in 2003 and completed my first novel in 2004. TAGGED is my third book.

Which just shows how experience is the best teacher. Can you describe your path to the publication of TAGGED?

I wrote TAGGED in nine months and began sending out query letters in May of 2007. I sent 17 queries (not all at the same time, of course, but two a week). Of those seventeen, I received three rejections immediately (“Sorry, not right for us.”) and 14 requests for a partial manuscript. Of those fourteen, ten requested fulls. Of those ten, three offered representation (in the same week). The query process took less than three months.

That seems like a lesson in persistence, and in knowing your market. Do you have any other advice for beginning writers?

Know your genre. Read as much as you can. Take rejection as proof that you’re doing something so many people don’t: you’re putting yourself out there.

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

I find inspiration in music. I’m a big fan of satellite radio because it allows me to discover new bands. While I was writing TAGGED, I listened to The National, an indie band I absolutely love.

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

I’m working on the third book in my Past Midnight series. Book One will be released in September 2010, followed by the next two in 2011.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about TAGGED?

Thanks, Mara!


Anonymous said...

Great interview. Loved hearing about Mara's inspiration for Tagged. Can't wait to read this book!

Swati said...

Great response to your query and ms. How cool!

Leah Cypess said...

Wow - those are amazing query ratios! Tagged sounds amazing.

Karen said...

Loved this book! Fun, smart, with a sweet romance!

Janet Fox said...

Thanks, all! Not only a great book but I think this cover goes with everything I own. I love it.

Denise Jaden said...

I love hearing about the inspiration for the story! Great interview!

Judith Graves said...

Cool interview. I do love hearing road to publication stories. I did wonder how you settled on the gorilla image. lol...