Sunday, January 27, 2013

What Happens Next?

Recently I read an amazing book by Colleen Clayton called What Happens Next.

Let's flip to the back cover:

How can you talk about something you can’t remember?

Before the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader, a straight-A student, and a member of a solid trio of best friends. When she ends up on a ski lift next to handsome local college boy, Dax Windsor, she’s thrilled; but Dax takes everything from Sid – including a lock of her perfect red curls – and she can’t remember any of it.

Back home and alienated by her friends, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey “The Living Stoner” Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey (slacker, baker, total dreamboat), Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if she can just shake the nightmares and those few extra pounds, everything will be perfect… or so she thinks.

Humorous and thoughtful, Colleen Clayton’s stunning debut is a moving exploration of one girl’s triumph over tragedy.

I already know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT in this book, but before you go grab a copy and find out for yourself, hang out a minute and see what Colleen had to say about her life and her writing:
Please tell us a little about your everyday life.

My typical 24 hour day looks like this:

5:50-5:51 AM Put my kids off to school (they're teens so mostly it consists of me banging on their doors and yelling "Wake up!" and then going back to bed...)

5:51-9:30 Sleep

9:30-10:00 Lay there and think about getting up.

10:00-10:30 Currently, as of Jan 7th, walk by my Christmas Tree that's still out and wish I had a Harry Potter wand. Check my various networks (email, Twitter, Facebook) while having a hot chocolate. Stalk myself online.

10:30-12:30 Shower then walk dogs in my town (I have a small dog-walking business. The Irish Sitter: "Keeping your furry family members healthy, happy, and home"), hit a drive-thru or gas station for a sandwich and iced coffee. Think about how I'm totally going to hit the gym after work.

12:30 - 3:30 Teach writing classes at Youngstown State.

3:30-3:45 Skip the gym thing and head home.

3:45-3:46 Walk by my Christmas tree again and wish I was Samantha from Bewitched.

3:46-4:00 Check my networks again. Stalk myself some more.

4:00-7:00 Family time, dinner, kids' extracurriculars, homework, and sometimes laundry

7:00-10:00 TV shows (Once Upon A Time, The Walking Dead, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Copper, Downton Abbey, Wilfred...I watch an embarrassing amount of television).

10:00-2:00 am Hook into one of my Pandora ambient-hipster-new-age-instrumental-folk channels and write my a** off.

2:00 Go to bed.
Besides your main character, who is your favorite character in What Happens Next and why?

Corey, definitely. He's everything a gal would want in a boyfriend. Kind, funny, hot, masculine, and somewhat damaged.
Do you have a favorite scene in What Happens Next?

Sid and Corey's first kiss
Did you always know how What Happens Next would end, or did it change as you wrote it?

The initial ending was very explosive. Like, Law & Order Special Victims Unit explosive. The current ending is much more realistic and touching, I think.
Is there anything you can tell us about how your cover was designed?

It was a total surprise and I absolutely LOVED the silhouette of Sid in winter against a night sky, standing on a road with her arms outstretched. At first, I was hesitant about the color of the title font. But then it grew on me and I understood why the cover designer chose it. It's hopeful and light-hearted which is a nice contrast with the darkness of the silhouette and is in line with the tone of the book...poignant but humorous.
Can you tell us a little about your path to publication?

40 agents rejected this manuscript so it was long, brutal, and frustrating. I generally just walked around feeling like a failure but tried to keep a good face on for my family's sake. I lit candles at various churches for two years, folded my hands, looked up at Jesus and said: "Please God...I want this so bad." Also, I'd cry in the car a lot. I landed an agent in summer while on vacation in Myrtle Beach. The following winter, we sold the manuscript to the first publisher who read it. I went to Lakewood Park, one of the settings in the book, sat on a swing that my main character sits on and looked out at Lake Erie. It was winter and snowy and beautiful. I thanked God and cried some more, only with joy this time.
What’s next for you?

Another book! HOORAY! (***lightens mood***) Same high school but with marginal characters from WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Untitled. Teaser: "Take Kristen Stewart's ADVENTURELAND, add an episode of HOARDERS, mix in a Heath Ledger-looking biker boy and stir..."
Do you have any marketing advice for other writers?

Twitter, giveaways, Goodreads, blogger outreach, local book signings and then a signing in NYC if you can swing it. Meet in-person with your agent, editor, and PR rep while you're there. The rest is up to the word-of-mouth Gods.


Natalie Aguirre said...

Awesome interview Tracy and Colleen. I'm going to start querying soon so Colleen's querying process was really good to know. Good luck with your book. It sounds good.

Tracy Bilen said...

Good luck with the queries!!

Jody Casella said...

Loved this interview. I'm always fascinated by other writers' schedules. I'm bowing down to Colleen's middle of the night work and balancing that with teaching. Amazing. Her book was amazing too. One of my favorites this year and very much looking forward to the next!

Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats to Colleen! From 40 agents rejecting this book to publication with a starred review from Kirkus - that's inspiring!