It's amazing to me that the Class of 2k10 has all but fully graduated, and I'm hosting our final debut author today. Where did the year go? Today I'm thrilled to be welcoming Laura Sullivan, who is here to talk about her new novel, UNDER THE GREEN HILL.
Congratulations, Laura, on the publication of your novel, UNDER THE GREEN HILL. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?
Thank you so much for having me on Through the Wardrobe! The Chronicles of Narnia were a childhood obsession, and still are, really. I re-read them every couple of years. I even have a “through the wardrobe” reference in my first book.
UNDER THE GREEN HILL is about fairies, sacrifice, and the fate of the world. A group of American children are sent to England to stay with distant relatives, and find themselves in the middle of a fairy war. Rowan, the eldest, is chosen to be the Fairy Queen’s champion, and has to fight a mysterious opponent with a secret agenda. Only one will survive – the other will be the sacrifice to the land. His sister Meg is determined to save him, but everything that lives depends on the outcome of the Midsummer War.
A fellow Narnian! I should have know when I saw that gorgeous cover and heard about your book. How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?
The books I wrote as a teenager (the trunk books that will never see the light of day) were all written for adults. But since I’ve “grown up” almost everything I’ve written has been for children. Maybe I write what I yearn for? UNDER THE GREEN HILL and its sequel, GUARDIAN OF THE GREEN HILL (Fall 2011) are middle grade, while my next book, LADIES IN WAITING, is a bawdy young adult historical.
I recently made the plunge back into adult writing, though. I have a commercial action/romance set in the Everglades ready to go, and I’m working on something I call a pastoral comedy – I’m not exactly sure where it will be shelved!
Because I’m an adult who reads children’s books (not just because I write them, but because I love them!) and I know so many other adults who do, too, I always try to keep both audiences in mind when writing. The young readers are always the top priority of course (and I know we all go crazy when someone says their books are for all audiences, all ages) but I’m generally thinking of adult readers, too, in the back of my mind. It is a very delicate balance.
Wow. I'm impressed with your prolific output and broad range. Can you describe your path to the publication of UNDER THE GREEN HILL?
I wrote UNDER THE GREEN HILL a long time before I sold it – a really long time. I was sure it was the best thing I’d ever written, and I told myself if I don’t sell this, I’m not meant to be a writer. I queried several dozen agents and got nothing but rejections. So I quit writing. Completely. I decided to have an adventure, so I became a deputy sheriff. It was thrilling, empowering (and, to my surprise, made use of my writing skills) and for four years I loved it… but it wasn’t really me. Then I got married and had a baby, left the sheriff’s office, moved to the beautiful hills of eastern Kentucky… and of course began to write again. Writing was the only thing I ever wanted to do. I took another look at UNDER THE GREEN HILL, decided it was as good as I first thought, and sent it out. That time I got an agent right away, had several editors interested, and sold it in a two-book deal within two months of sending my query letter.
So you never know.
That is so true. Do you have any other advice for beginning writers?
Oh, golly… Read. Write. Repeat. Seriously, read everything, the Victorians, the best seller lists, in your genre and outside of it. Set aside time for writing, and stick to it, come heck or high water. If you give up, you better keep your old manuscripts, because you know you’ll change your mind. If you’re a writer, really a writer, I don’t think you can help writing. It is a pretty serious addiction.
And one more thing – never forget that luck is a huge part of this business. It is like playing the lottery. Writing a great book gets you two of the numbers, getting an agent another one, maybe having a platform or knowing some important people gets you that fourth number, but there are still two more to go before you hit the big prize, and you have almost no control over them. So if you get nothing but rejections, or have setbacks later in your career, remember, it might not be you or your writing. Always be working on something new. If you have talent, and persevere, odds are you’ll eventually get published.
Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
After a nerve-wracking period of change (editor switching houses, leaving my agent, getting a divorce) things are looking brighter than ever! I have a fabulous new agent, Emily Van Beek of Folio, who loves both my children’s and adult work. I have five manuscripts ready or almost ready, and we’ll be sending some of them them out soon!
Right now I write full-time, and I hope to be able to continue to do that.
Best of luck with all of those changes - and so happy you found Emily! Do you have any new writing ventures underway?
Oh-boy do I ever! More than anything, I love to start a new study, which invariably leads to a new book. I’m a dilettante, which is terrible for, you know, a real working career, but great for a writer. (Not that writing isn’t a real career, but like any of the arts, the money is rarely commensurate with the hours you put into it.) I don’t think I could ever settle down to one genre or topic – and luckily, I have an agent who supports that.
I wrote a Middle Grade book set in Medieval Baghdad – THE BULBULS OF BAGHDAD – and I’m just finishing up a young adult set in Restoration England (1660s). One of the adult books features crime (which I know a lot about!) and Everglades survival, which I had to research. Let’s see, what else… a contemporary young adult called EUGENE about a boy searching through his mother’s very risqué diaries for clues about who his father might be. And a chapter book about a girl and her magic fleas.
I’d love to do more GREEN HILL books – I have so many ideas for what happens next! – but that’s up to the publisher, and of course, the readers.
What’s next? Maybe a YA science fiction about harnessing the amazing power of teen girl emotions to save the world. Maybe a fantasy set in WWII. We’ll see.
Wow - I'm very impressed, Laura. Do you have a website where readers can learn more about UNDER THE GREEN HILL and all of your other endeavors?
I have a very basic web site that will tell you more about my books, and me. www.lauraleesullivan.com It is still being tweaked so it might be up and down for the next few weeks. Soon it will have information about the contests that will start when UNDER THE GREEN HILL is released October 26. I’m also active on Facebook, and I love to make new friends. Just search for Laura Sullivan. I’m the one with the big pink wings!
(I love those wings!)
Thank you so much for having me on Through the Wardrobe, Janet! It was a lot of fun!