Sunday, April 3, 2011

Debut Authors of the Class of 2k11: Angie Smibert

I can't wait to get my hands on this book by debut author Angie Smibert: MEMENTO NORA. It sounds like a fabulous premise. I'm thrilled to introduce you to her today with this interview. 

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, MEMENTO NORA. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

Thanks, Janet! Memento Nora is set in a near-future world where terrorism is so common place that people just pop a pill to forget and go on like nothing ever happened. Nora James, the popular girl and happy consumer, witnesses a horrific bombing on a shopping trip with her mother. When Nora makes her first trip to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic, she learns what her mother, a frequent forgetter, has been frequently forgetting. Nora secretly spits out the pill and holds on to her memories. She joins forces with two new friends, each with their own reasons to remember, to put out an underground comic about their memories--and other things they find out about their world. They soon learn they can't get away with remembering.

The novel grew out of a short story (of the same name) that appeared in Odyssey magazine a few years ago.  The theme of that issue was memory, something I've always been fascinated with--both on individual and societal level. I based the science of the pill on current research in post traumatic stress disorder.

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

I started off writing short stories, mostly for adults, but I've always loved YA/MG fiction. So I tried my hand at short stories for the teen/tween audience and stumbled upon my writer's voice in the process.  I became a frequent contributor to Odyssey magazine, a science / science fiction magazine for 9-14 year-olds.  This book actually started as a short story (of the same name) that appeared in Odyssey a few years ago.  Memento Nora is the first book I've written.
Can you describe your path to the publication of MEMENTO NORA?

I've been extraordinarily lucky with Memento Nora. Shortly after completing what I considered a solid draft of the book (which had been workshopped), I attended a regional SCBWI meeting. The great thing about these conferences is that the editors almost always allow you to submit straight to them just because you attended their panel.  So I submitted my manuscript to 3 of the 4 editors (the 4th didn't read science fiction), and a few months later Marilyn Mark (now Brigham) from Marshall Cavendish contacted me. They'd be interested in buying it if I made a few changes in the ending. (The word "terribly anticlimactic" were used, I think.) So I furiously revised, and they liked it. Once they made me an offer, I scrambled to find an agent--and got a pretty brilliant one.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Be persistent. Be prepared to wait. A lot. And, when you're ready, attend things like SCBWI conferences. (The one I mentioned above was the best $150 I ever spent.)

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

I've had some cool jobs in the past, including 10 years at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.  All of them involved writing in some form or another, but I really felt like I needed to concentrate on my writing. So I moved back to Virginia (where it's cheaper) and threw myself into writing.

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

I'm currently working on the sequel to Memento Nora. I have a few other projects planned out, but I haven't started writing them yet.

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

In addition to my own personal website, I've built a site just for the book:  There readers can submit their own underground comic for publication on the site--and possibly win a prize.  I also have information on the many inspirations for book as well as possible activities for teachers.

Thanks so much, Angie!


Carole Estby Dagg said...

Great advice about joining SCBWI and attending conferences - I had my breakthrough at an SCBWI conference too!

Janet Fox said...

So did I! I'm seeing a trend...

Kiki Hamilton said...

Great interview Janet and Angie! It's always so interesting to hear the backstory of the author! Thanks for sharing!!

Amy Fellner Dominy said...

I love reading how people find their way to writing, and their stories. SCBWI helped me get a start, as well! Thanks for the interview!

Alissa said...

Wonderful interview, Janet and Angie!

Janet Fox said...

Thank you all for coming by! I think I have to do a post on the helping hand offered by SCBWI, now...

Amy Holder said...

This is next up in my TBR list! Can't wait! I've heard so many great things about it.