Interview with Dawn MetcalfSeptember 6, 2009 at 1:40 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
I’m so excited to post my interview with the hilarious and hardcore (seriously – did you SEE that picture?) Dawn Metcalf, a Tenner whose novel SKIN & BONES is coming out fall of next year. She’s here to talk about the publishing process, karate, and Jack Bauer (aka Batman).
KB: Describe your upcoming novel in 20 words or less.
DM: Consuela Bones discovers that she can make skins of out anything to save people from dying before their time.
(TWFT note ~ Here’s the full synopsis for SKIN & BONES: When sixteen-year old Consuela Bones discovers that she can remove her skin, revealing a lustrous mother-of-pearl skeleton, she slips into a parallel world known as the Flow; a place inhabited by archetypical teens with extraordinary abilities. Crafting skins out of anything – air, water, feathers, fire – she is compelled to save ordinary people from dying before their time. Yet now someone is murdering her new friends, one by one, and Consuela finds herself the focus of an intricate plot to end the Flow forever when all she really wants is to get back home, alive.)
KB: Can I just say I really love that concept? So unique! Where did you get the idea for Skin & Bones?
DM: My brain. It’s like an attic with all sorts of bizarre trivia and bits of memory packed up in storage until one day, one thing accidentally bumps against another and the boxes topple over, spilling stuff all over the floor and new connections/combinations are made like the old Reese’s peanut butter cup commercial: Hey! You got your chocolate on my peanut butter! You got your peanut butter on my chocolate! Wait a second…Mmmm!
Or something like that.
I’m also a geek so it’s not uncommon for me to talk with friends about online games, folklore, politics, comic books, and body image…who knew that they’d all fit together? This particular inspiration came from a discussion about how Jack Bauer is the “Batman” of our generation crossed with rants about superheroines in skimpy costumes and a little leftover recollection of José Guadalupe Posada’s La Catrina from some anthropology textbook. I joked that I’d like to see anyone sex-up a girl skeleton! The idea stuck. Somewhere between Joss Whedon, Octavio Paz, and Quantum Leap, Consuela Bones was born.
KB: Wow, anthropology? Stories just seem to be waiting everywhere. :) Do you listen to music when you write?
DM: Nope. Oddly enough, I need compete silence when I write…which is pretty rare in my house! I do most of my writing from 9pm-midnight.
KB: Haha, me too, actually… So much for eight hours of sleep. So what made you first want to publish a novel?
DM: I’ve wanted to be a published author my entire life. I wrote my first full-length novel at age 11 (365 pages, just like the year it took to write it!) and wrote roughly a book a year after that until college. But it wasn’t until many years later when my husband sat me down at the computer and asked what it would take to have me join SCBWI* that I started taking the idea seriously. From that day until I got my offer was roughly 15 months. All I could think was, “I should’ve done this sooner!”
* Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators
KB: What has been your favorite part of the writing/publishing process so far?
DM: Getting the offer! I met my editor at a SCBWI Writer’s Intensive where participants get to share 500 words from a manuscript with eight peers and one professional, either an agent or an editor. What we are all hoping for is to get great feedback. Of course, what we’re really hoping for is to get great feedback from that professional. And what we are really, really hoping for is to have that professional ask us to send them our manuscript! Well, that’s what happened…sort of. She passed on that manuscript seven months later. In fact, over the course of the next year, she passed on all three of my complete manuscripts before she got me on the phone and asked me what I wanted to be known for? I told her that I was working on a novel about a modern superheroine based on Mexican folklore. She asked to see what I had. Two weeks later, I got my offer off of those four rough chapters and a bunch of notes.
Moral of the story: Make yourself available & stay in the game!
KB: Wow, what a great story! What made you choose your agent?
DM: I got my offer without an agent, but I still wanted someone to be my business partner, helping me manage my writing career. My first agent was a lovely person, but after a year it was clear that we had different communication styles and visions. My editor recommended Michael Bourret, since she was familiar with my work and future goals, she thought it would be a good match; I have to thank her for changing my life twice! Michael is fun and funny with a great head for business and an eye for the Big Picture. Talking to him, I was nodding and saying “Exactly!” a lot.
KB: That’s always a good sign! So what kind of revisions have you had to make on Skin & Bones? Were they hard to deal with, or did you enjoy it?
DM: The first six major revisions with my critique groups and partners were great: I love having things ripped and torn and hacked to bits – call it my inner vampire slayer – but having gotten critiques from the person willing to PAY for it was a new thing entirely. I’d liken the process to depilitating your own armpits with an Epilady on ‘High’ – the very idea is cringe-worthy and it’s hard to believe that I’m doing this to myself, but I can already tell that my editor is a genius and that this will be a better book. I will get through it and I know the results will be worth the pain. …Of course, I have a black belt in karate so I’m used to pain.
KB: Ooookay… *makes mental note* “Do not make Dawn angry…” Ahem. Anyway – did you write as a teenager?
DM: Yes! Remember: geek + ambition. I wrote all the time: poetry, short stories, novels, plays. I loved the theater but was very bad at delivering lines, which is why I loved improvisational theater, Comedy Sports, Renaissance Faires, interactive gaming and Live Action Role Playing – give me a character and a motivation and I can make up my own lines!
I wrote seven full-length novels before I went off to college. Nothing published. Then, after graduate school, I wrote two more adult novels, two middle-grade novels, two more young adult novels, and an embarrassing number of picture books. (Later in life I learned that the odds of getting published increased significantly if you actually send something in! Who knew?) I’ve been previously published in magazines, gaming manuals, and educational curricula, but this will be my first ever novel that is Mine All Mine!
KB: SEVEN full-length novels? Wow! What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
DM: Read, Read, Read & Write, Write, Write. Good writers are voracious readers – I have 3-4 books on my bedside table each week – and always make time for writing. Don’t stop! Lots of people think about/plan to/want to write; the difference is that writers write.
Once you complete something (Congratulations! Woo-hoo!), the next important things to do are find critique groups (one of my rules of thumb is that no manuscript goes out until at least 5 people who are not related to me by blood or friendship have hacked it to bits), join a writing organization or community (like SCBWI, RWA or Verla Kay’s Blueboards), and research a lot. My bookmark bar is a long list of info sites, community boards, agent and editor blogs, book bloggers, publishing advice and market news. I click from left to right each morning like I’m reading the morning paper. Then I check my email, website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. and update my blog. Then – now here’s the important part – I log-off and concentrate on writing (or marketing, depending on the day’s plan). Unfortunately, research, updating and web-surfing do not count as actual “writing” and deadlines are based on words written down. So, as Jane Yolen says: Butt In Chair! And, as Hank & John Green say: Don’t Forget To Be Awesome!
KB: Fabulous advice! (Nerdfighters FTW! :D) And now, the million-dollar question…What is your favorite flavor of jelly bean?
DM: Very Cherry. It’s a classic.
Dawn Metcalf has no good excuse for the way she writes. She lived in a normal, loving, suburban home, studied hard, went to college, went to graduate school, got married, had babies, and settled down in northern Connecticut. Despite this wholesome lifestyle, she has been clearly corrupted by fairy tales, puppet visionaries, British humour and . As a result, she writes dark, quirky, and sometimes humorous .