Note: Follow the rest of Lynne's debut author tour here.
I'm delighted to host my good friend Lynne Kelly, here to talk about her debut novel CHAINED. I predict this sweet story will garner major kudos as well as charm many kiddos. Here's Kelly:
Congratulations on the publication of your novel, CHAINED. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?
Thanks! CHAINED is about 10-year-old Hastin, who leaves his home in the desert region of Northern India to work as an elephant keeper at a run-down circus. He becomes best friends with the elephant, Nandita, and soon realizes that they're both captives. He wants to run away and return home to his family, but doesn't want to abandon Nandita.
I got the idea for the story when I heard that a young elephant who's tied up will try and try to escape, but once it gives up, it gives up forever. So, years later when the elephant is full grown, it's still tethered by that same rope, not knowing it could easily break free if it tried. Elephants have always been my favorite animals, so I knew I'd love writing about them too.
I adore elephants, and can't wait to read this story. How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?
I started writing in 2006 when I got the idea for CHAINED. It's the first book I've written, although it's changed so much from the first version I feel like it's also the 2nd book, the 3rd, the 4th...
Can you describe your path to the publication of CHAINED?
Yes, I spent about three years writing the book and learning as much as possible about writing. In 2009 I started submitting to agents, and in June that year I heard from an agent who was interested in representation but wanted to see a lot of revisions first. I spent the summer working on her revision suggestions and submitted the manuscript to her again in September. Then she said no after all. Even though the story was better, something about it still wasn't working for her and she wasn't able to place what it was. So that was a bit crushing. But I knew the manuscript was much better, so all the work I did wasn't wasted. I think it was the next day that I started submitting to agents again. Like before, there were some rejections, some partial requests, and some full requests along the way, and in February 2010 I heard from another agent who was interested in representation, and we set up a phone appointment for later that week. Coincidentally, Joanna Volpe called me that same day and said she'd like to see the full manuscript if I wasn't represented yet. I replied back, "I'm not represented yet, but I have a phone appointment with an agent in two days!" She read the full manuscript right away and wrote back to say she'd also like to set up a phone call to discuss representation. I talked to both agents that week and loved them both, then took a couple days to think about it and decided to go with Joanna. (And she's fabulous so I'm really happy with the choice I made!) After doing some revisions for her, she sent the manuscript out to a few editors, and called me about three weeks later to tell me that a publisher was interested in acquiring it. Soon after that, she let me know there was another interested publisher, so she set up an auction, and the book sold that April to Macmillan/FSG.
What a great story! Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Read as much as you can. Read about writing, and read great books in the genre you want to write. And even if you think you don't have time to write, try to get in a few minutes here and there throughout your day. It helps to keep little notebooks with you so you can jot down ideas or some dialogue you've overheard. Plus little notebooks are fun to buy.
Find a good critique group and take the time to listen to their feedback. Join the SCBWI and attend workshops or conferences in your area-- even if you can't afford the expense of a national conference right now, local chapters have fabulous conferences where you can meet other writers and listen to presentations from agents and editors.
Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
I plan to keep writing books!
For my "day job" I work as a sign language interpreter, and I'm really lucky to have a job I enjoy doing.
Do you have any new writing ventures underway?
Something completely different-- a humorous young adult novel that's close to home! I've just finished a revision of REASONS FOR LEAVING for Joanna, so I'll find out soon if it needs more work or if it's ready to send out to editors yet. I'm excited about being on submission again even though it's a bit nerve-wracking, waiting for an email or a phone call. But, what helps with that is turning off the Internet and writing the next thing, so I'll get going on my next midgrade novel, about an amateur forensic scientist with cryptozoologist parents.
Fun! Do you have a website where readers can learn more about CHAINED?
Yes, my website is http://www.lynnekellybooks.com. There's a "Books" tab there with more about CHAINED and the other books I'm working on.