Friday, December 26, 2008

Interview with Jacquelyn Sylvan on Community Fridays

Welcome to Community Fridays!

During Community Fridays, I interview authors, editors, publishers, and pretty much anyone else who I can get my hands on from the writing and publishing community. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to suggest new participants. Check out current and past interviews here. Only have a minute? Click here for interviews at a glance.

Today's guest is Jacquelyn Sylvan, author of the book Surviving Serendipity.

I was reading a blog post you wrote about a book signing you had back in June. It sounded like a great experience - lots of interesting people to talk to, and you even managed to sell out all of your books! Do you have any fun signing stories to tell? Advice for authors who are worried about their first signing?

Ha…I have a lot of great stories to tell, and I haven’t even done that many events yet! One rather interesting signing was in the Waldenbooks in Stroud Mall, Stroudsburg, PA. After giving one woman my bookmark, she looked at me, smiled, hit me with it, and then walked away. That same day, I also traded a bookmark to a gentleman for an orange golf ball, which I still have.

My advice to authors… just remember, there’s going to be at least one, if not more, signings where you’re going to tank. No books sold, one or two books sold, etc. There are going to be days where people just aren’t buying anything. But when you’re at a signing and you’re not doing well, pay attention. Try a number of different opening lines. (You are approaching people and talking to them, rather than waiting for them to come up to you, RIGHT?) If one particular opening line seems to get people’s attention more than others, play around with it. Tweak it. Don’t be a robot. And be very, very nice to the bookstore staff. Buy them chocolate and stuff. Make them remember you, so that when someone asks them for a book recommendation, yours will be the one they pluck off the shelf and hand to the customer.

Just please, please remember this… at least once, your event is going to suck. Do not take this as a sign that you should give up and go back to your day job. If you resign yourself to the fact that this is going to happen at least once, then, when it does, you’ll take it in stride. And just think…when you’re so famous people start writing books about you, it’ll make a very dramatic and heart-wrenching scene in your biography.

Would you like to tell us a little about your novel, Surviving Serendipity?

Well, since you twisted my arm... :) Surviving Serendipity is the first book I’ve written. I’ve always loved the epic fantasy genre, but was disappointed by the lack of strong female leads in that genre. So, I wrote one myself!

The story goes like this: June is an ordinary young woman, or so she thinks, until one night a stranger shows up in her empty apartment and abducts her to a world halfway across the universe, Thallafrith… a world she’s soon told is her homeland. But Thallafrith is in trouble, and June is the only one who can save it. Despite her reluctance to rise to the role of hero and accept this new reality, June uses her newly-discovered talents to guide herself and her companions through the kingdom of Prendawr. But all is not what it seems, and June has to learn the truth about her own origins as she struggles to keep her friends alive. In the end, she must make a devastating decision that begs the question—how much can one heart take?

The main character in Surviving Serendipity, June, is very much a fish out of water. In fact, she eventually realizes that her entire known life has been a sham. What made you want to write about a person gaining self-knowledge and using that to overcome obstacles?

I think that one reason we all find disaster situations, like the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, so fascinating is because they are the few situations where we can find out what people are really made of. So much of us is what we’re surrounded by; our homes, our families and friends, our things. When you strip all of that away, you find the true nature of the person. And as we sit in our comfortable living rooms watching ordinary people rise to heroism, I think we all wonder—what would I do? And so I wrote June’s story, the story of a very average girl (she thinks, anyway), who, when she finds herself in such a situation, does what we all hope we’d do.

In addition to writing, you have an interesting occupation that you've described as "professional vampire." Has this affected your writing at all, and if so, in what way?

To clarify, I’m a phlebotomist—most people don’t know what that is, though, so professional vampire seems to clear things up nicely. And, actually my job has had a pretty big impact on my writing, but not in the way you’d think. Before I was a phlebotomist, I was a veterinary technician, which translates to “animal nurse who sprints for twelve hours a day.” I didn’t exactly have a lot of free time, physical or mental, to spend with my imagination.

Then I became a phlebotomist, which translates to “woman who sits and reads library books all day, waiting for people who need their blood drawn.” Suddenly, I had a lot of free time, and my brain gave me something to do with it.

Another way my careers have influenced my writing is in my characters. Most of them end up in some profession related to either the medical or animal fields. It gives me a way to feel closer to my characters…and saves me a lot of tedious research, my least-favorite thing about writing.

What's it like to be a first-time published author? Do you have any special projects in the works that you'd like to tell us about?

Being a first-time author, or an author on any level, is a lot of work. And not just the fun kind of work. You have to be a marketer and a salesperson, too, and those things don’t exactly come naturally to me. You have to commit to changing yourself, though… the industry is what it is; adapt or die.

I do have a project I’m working on now, which is a werewolf thriller trilogy. I have an agent, who is working on her end to get the first book, Immortal Moon, sold, and I’m working to get the second one polished and the third one written. I’m very excited about it, not only because it’s a great supernatural story, but also because this is my first foray into sequels. Honestly, Immortal Moon was supposed to be a stand-alone, but when my agent told me that if I made it into a trilogy she could probably get it sold, I did.

Another back-burner project I’m working on is one I’m really excited about. I still don’t have a title; I’ve been referring to it as The Ghost Story, just to make it easier for discussion. It’s a YA supernatural romance, the idea for which came to me in a dream. My subconscious is so cool sometimes.

What is your one super-secret tip to getting published?

Faith. If you don’t believe that your book is going to not only get published, but go to the top, then a prospective publisher isn’t going to believe it, either. And if you don’t believe your book is the absolute best book out there, you’re not going to convince anyone to buy it. Come up with your best work, and believe in it.

Lastly, because this feature is about establishing bonds within the writing and publishing industries, can you name one author, editor, publisher, organization etc. who's doing great things right now, and why?

There are so many people out there doing great things it’s impossible to pick just one. Karen Syed, my editor at Quake, is one of many editors of independent publishing houses fighting to gain recognition, and doing a pretty good job. For the bigger publishers, it’s not such a big deal to invest in a new author, but for the smaller houses, they’re putting a significant amount of their total resources into each and every author. The little guys have to put so much more of themselves into their authors, and they can never stop fighting… they don’t get a break.
Another thing I want to mention has to do with some of the bigger houses. I’ve seen a trend lately that I think is absolutely fantastic—the marriage of pop culture with books. I’m sure the first one that springs to your mind is Twilight, but there are so many other authors out there who are making reading cool again; Lisa McMann, author of Wake and the upcoming Fade, is another. The world is changing, and some of the savvier authors are making sure they change with it. And any author who gets a child who “doesn’t read” to pick up a book is a hero to me.

About the Author

For more information, check out Jacquelyn's website.

Beware the sound of crying children, watch out for the barmaids, and whatever you do, don't let the Pegasus spit on you.

© Emma Larkins and Jacquelyn Sylvan


Jean Henry Mead said...

Great interview. After many years of signing parties, I decided to do my book promotions online and have had much better successes. Blog book tours are sometime you should try. A lot of work but well worth the effort, and you reach a worldwide reading audience.

Helen Ginger said...

I like the cover. It's intriguing.

Good interview. I enjoyed reading it. Thanks

Deb Hockenberry said...

Great interview! I really enjoyed reading it. It gives this aspiring writer more hope. I'm following you now.