Thursday, October 22, 2009

Author Interview - SHELLI JOHANNES-WELLS

Everyone knows marketing extraordinaire, Shelli Johannes-Wells, right? If you don't know Shelli, she runs a very helpful blog about marketing for authors and interviewed me a while ago. Her agent is Alyssa Eisner Henkin of Trident Media Group.

The illustration featured is of the main character of ON THE BRIGHT SIDE. Her name is Gabriella, and she is thirteen years old. I thought an almost water color look with the sky would be perfect.



1) It's great to have you, Shelli! What is your novel about?

ON the Bright Side is a 65,000 word middle grade/tween novel. 

After dying in a car accident at the crappy age of 13 and witnessing her own funeral, Gabby becomes a Bright-in-Training (BIT) and Transfers up to Cirrus, where SkyFones, SkyPods, and InnerNets are all the rage. As if her unexpected death isn’t bad enough, Gabby is immediately assigned to protect her school rival, Angela Black, who is now dating her lifetime crush, Michael. 

As Gabby moves through her Bright Training, she is deeply tortured by her mom’s sorrow and the possibility of losing her 
first love forever. But instead of protecting her Assigned Mortal as pledged, Gabby goes on probation for illegally sabotaging her. In a desperate attempt to interfere with Michael's new relationship and helping her mom move on, Gabby triggers a series of “death-changing” events and learns what happens when you hate someone to death. In the end, Gabby must decide her own fate, be banished to Ignitus or take her place as a Starling committed to protecting Cirrus for all eternity.



2) Very intriguing plot--and the world sounds fun! What inspired you to write the story?

To be honest. There is not one thing. But I remember when I first got started. It was 
Dec 08. Right after I read Lisa Schreoder’s “I heart you you haunt me”. I was subbing Grace Under Fire to agents and needed to pass the time. And I started to think about an angel book and wonder, what if the reader got to see the perspective of the angel who was longing for life again. So I played with flipping the roles. The book started out as a YA. But when other YA angel books started to sell. I realized MG doesn’t have many paranormal books. So I switched it. The question became “what if an angel is forced to protect someone she doesn’t like. That became much more interesting when I threw in the love triangle.  I knew if I was going to do a middle grade, I wanted to do something fun and light and hip. Something more like Meg Cabot or Ally Carter. All the other ones were dark and sad and depressing. On the Bright Side is funny and light even though death, loss, forgiveness, and the fear of moving on are at its core.


 
3) An angelic theme has a lot of depth. Can you tell us about the research you did?

Well everyone has either lost someone or is scared of losing someone. That is where the death theme comes in. My challenge came in how to make the subject of death light enough for tweens. It was important to me that I create a book that was not associated with any religion so kids could step away from what they have been taught or what they believe and open their minds to a new world.  That is why I renamed angels as Brights and Heaven as Cirrus (meaning feathery clouds). There was no research except searching my own heart and wondering what a cool heaven or Cirrus could be. I took in the major theme of kids, eco-friendly, technology, and fashion and built a place that kids would find fun and cool.  Not scary or sad or even perfect. I do know a lot about philosophy and the beliefs of different religions so a lot of the things in the book pull from that breadth of knowledge. Oh yeah, and I also remember all the things girls did to me and thought “if I could get revenge – how would I do it in a way that was funny”. 



 
4) Very awesome. I love how you tackled the challenge of making death light enough for MG. And I bet your agent appreciates how you got this so well thought out too. So, how do you like working with Alyssa Eisner Henkin (Trident Media Group)?

OMG I LOVE LOVE LOVE her (and her secret assistant!). Even though I just started working with her in May, I think we’ve gotten to know each other’s style pretty quickly.  
What’s so great about Alyssa is that she was an editor for 7 or 8 years. She has a great eye/ability to for spot those things (small and large) that prevent a manuscript from getting offers . She knows first hand what editors look for in a book? What sells? How to pitch? She has a rare glimpse into the editor side of things that makes her a very strong agent.

In addition, I love her passion and enthusiasm. I’m a VERY passionate and determined person. Alyssa is too. I really get the feeling she loves my books as much as I do. 

Oh yeah and not only does she LOVE to brainstorm, she has awesome, funny ideas. Not to mention, she is very communicative (which again so am I) and turns my stuff around quickly. I am a fast writer. I tend to jump in as Alyssa would say “whole hog”. I think she does too but she also knows when to slow me down. I need that.

Can you tell I really like her? We just clicked from the beginning – she got my books and voice and style immediately. And she had a very strong vision of the books, their market and my place as an author. I like that liked my stuff enough to think through all that before she signed me. 

I could go on and on about Alyssa. She rocks. I highly recommend her.



 
5) Alyssa sounds rockin! She must be proud of you too. You have a very popular marketing blog for authors. Do you have a marketing tip to share with us today?

I started my blog along time ago but stopped during my frustrations with the industry. Last fall, I kicked it off again. It’s amazing how it has grown. In jan, I started doing interviews on marketing and it has been amazing to see it grow. I had more than 30,000 visitors in just 6 months. I guess I’m addressing a gap that authors are desperate to fill.

As far as one piece of advice. Goodness that is hard. I could talk about marketing all day. 

I would say - Don’t be afraid of marketing!!!. 

Get out there. Make mistakes. You can always redo them. It drives me CRAZY when authors say, “Im just not good at marketing” but then I realize they haven’t tried to do anything. It is an author’s responsibility to sell their books. Your books deserve your time and dedication. If not, they just sit on shelves instead of touching that one kid that can benefit from your message. If you want to sell books, you need to be marketing yourself and your work. Always. No excuses.



Amen to that! Thank you so much, Shelli! I'm looking forward to seeing ON THE BRIGHT SIDE on the shelves!


--Realm

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If you're an author, editor, agent, or illustrator and would like a five question interview and a drawing of your character (or of yourself), email me at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com. Check out the FAQ page for more info.

11 comments:

  1. Great interview, Realm & Shelli.

    And I love the image! Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.

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  2. Lovely watercolor and insightful interview. Your art rocks. (I drifted in from Shelli's blog, should you wonder)

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  3. Love that artwork! Wow!

    Thanks for the interview with Shelli. I hope Bright sells soon so we can all read it :)

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  4. great interview Shelli and your artwork is breath-taking, Realm!!

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  5. This was an amazing interview! The book sounds fantastic and that cover is totally beautiful.

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  6. Great interview! ON THE BRIGHT SIDE looks like a great read :)

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  7. Beautiful illustration and fab interview!

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  8. SO pretty Realm. Amazing art work and another great interview!

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  9. Thank you for stopping by and your kind words, everyone!

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  10. Great interview and I love the artwork. I'm definitely coming back often. :D

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