Monday, August 6, 2012

MSFV Success Story Blog Hop - Interview with Kristi Helvig!

Welcome to what will hopefully be the first of the Annual Authoress’ Success Story blog tours! Those of us who have owed our publishing successes, at least in part, to the Miss Snark’s First Victim contests and blog have decided to come together and help cross promote each other’s work.  Every day in the first two weeks of August, a different author will be posting an interview of one of our fellow Success Stories, so make sure to tune in to everyone’s blogs.


Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Kristi Helvig. Welcome, Kristi!

Hi Amanda, thanks so much for having me today. I’m so happy to be part of the MSFV Success Story group!

And we’re excited to learn more about you! Could you tell us a little about yourself first?

I’m a YA writer by night and Ph.D. clinical psychologist by day. My novels fall mainly in the sci-fi/fantasy realm, and include some speculative elements. I can be found musing about space monkeys on my blog at, and rambling about various other things on Twitter. I reside in sunny Colorado with my hubby, kids, and behaviorally-challenged dogs. When not writing or rescuing dogs, I’m usually watching Discovery channel documentaries and eating chocolate. 

Sounds awesome! I’ve noticed the space monkey theme on your blog. ^_^ So how did participating with MSFV blog get you where you are now?

When I entered the Miss Snark’s First Victim contest, I was mainly looking to get feedback. I had no idea I would end up with an offer of representation from the judging agent. I also had another agent contact me through MSFV after reading my entry, so basically, the contest gave me confidence that my writing didn’t totally suck. I ended up lucky enough to have a choice between agents, and love, love, love my agent Jessica.

Wow, that’s a great turnout for sure. Congrats! Could you tell us what you're working on right now? What's your current WIP and why are you excited about it?

My current novel, BURN OUT, is a YA sci-fi novel about the solar apocalypse and the last girl on Earth. I mentioned above that I’m a documentary geek, and I spent hours watching science documentaries and corresponding with astrophysicists. I had such a blast working on the book. My new one, which I promised to have to my agent very soon (if you’re reading this, Jessica, I swear I’m almost finished :) ) is set in an alternative world and involves ballerinas. That’s all I can share about it right now.

Oo, exciting! I LOVE the idea of a solar apocalypse YA novel. And who doesn’t love an alternative world involving ballerinas? Can’t wait to hear more about it when you can share! 

Ballerinas in another world? Need to read now! 
(photo by Melissa Dooley, used under Creative Commons License

On your blog, you have weekly query critiques. We'd love to know--what was your querying experience like? Any words of wisdom to impart on those querying?

I actually had a very positive querying experience. I learned quickly that I’m a decent query writer and got a ton of requests for my first book (the one before BURN OUT). The book itself needed some work, but I can’t wait to get back to it soon. I received a bunch of personalized feedback and “revise and resubmit” requests on that one, but felt strongly about moving on once I got the idea for BURN OUT.  

As far as advice for those querying, I’d say to do your research, take your time, and query in batches. I have numerous posts about query tips on my website, and I do the query critique giveaways as a way to give back to fellow writers. I also recently started offering query critique services, since some people wanted a critique ASAP without entering the contest (see my blog for details).

Sounds like a great opportunity! So now that we’ve talked queries, what is your writing process like? Are you a morning/evening writer? Do you need anything in particular to have a great writing session?

I really wish I had a set writing schedule, and one of my goals for this year is to have a better routine.  My youngest starts school next week, so it will be the first time I have daytime writing hours—woo hoo! I envy those that can get up at 4am before the sun rises, but I just end up asleep in my coffee. I’m definitely a night owl by nature and write a lot after the kids go to bed. My writing environment involves my laptop and couch, with a beagle crashed on either side of me. And did I mention chocolate?

You did, and I might need to get some in a minute. ^_^

Before you go, can you tell us something about yourself we'd be surprised to know?

I was a pre-school dropout. Seriously, I couldn’t stand pre-school and thought I could learn to eat paste just as well at home. My mom let me quit, and I hung out with her until Kindergarten. In the apple not falling far from the tree department, my youngest never wanted to go to pre-school and has been home with me for the past few years…until next week! Since I ended up getting my Ph.D., I’m not too worried about her becoming a chronic slacker. :)

Haha, nice to see the pre-school dropout tradition continuing. ^_^ Here’s the final Bonus Question: What are you reading right now? Which authors inspire you?

Right now, I’m reading Hold Me, Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride—I love when main characters have some snark. I also love anything by Libba Bray, Gayle Forman, and Amy Reed. 

As far as YA books that blew me away, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is one of my fave all-time books, as is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Great choices! Thanks so much for stopping by today, Kristi. It’s been great to get to know you better!


To celebrate this leg of the blog hop, Kristi is giving away a FIRST CHAPTER CRITIQUE to one lucky winner!

To enter, fill out the options you'd like in the Rafflecopter below. More entries mean more chances to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Tomorrow’s stop on the blog hop will be Kristi Helvig’s interview of Leah Petersen.  We hope you’ll follow along on the tour! And don't forget the official hashtag of the tour, #MSFVSuccessStory.

Blog Twitter Posting   Date
David   Kazzie @davidkazzie 1-Aug
Leigh   Talbert Moore @leightmoore 2-Aug
J.Anderson   Coats @jandersoncoats 3-Aug
J.M.   Frey @scifrey 4-Aug
Elissa   Cruz @elissacruz 5-Aug
Amanda   Sun @Amanda_Sun 6-Aug
Kristi Helvig @KristiHelvig 7-Aug
Leah   Petersen @Leahpetersen 8-Aug
Monica   Bustamante Wagner @Monica_BW 9-Aug
Emily   Kokie @emkokie 10-Aug
Monica   Goulet @MonicaGoulet 11-Aug
Peter   Salomon @petersalomon 12-Aug
Sarah   Brand @sarahbbrand 13-Aug
Angela Ackerman @angelaackerman   & @writerthesaurus 14-Aug
Tara   Dairman @TaraDairman 15-Aug

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Twilight Games - Should We Write to the Market?

It's something we hear a lot on the internet, right? Don't write to trends. By the time you finish your vampire, dystopian, give-them-delegations-and-throw-them-in-the-arena novel, the market will have moved on (although for the record, I'd probably read The Twilight Games *snicker*). A lot of agent guidelines already say not to send stories with vampires, werewolves, angels, and so on. We all know that writing to trends is risky at best.

Which brings around the other internet advice I often, read. Write the book of your heart.

Now that's fantastic advice too, but here's a little story about when I wrote a book from my heart. It's a story I'd been dreaming about for a long time. It's not entirely filed away in a drawer, mind you--I think it might have a future someday.

After years of unfinished novels, I started doing something incredible--I started finishing the stories I started.

Breakthrough, right? But actually finishing stories can be a hard hurdle to overcome for us writers. I think we've all been there--you're slogging through the middle of your book, or bogged down with revisions, and things have become a little blasé between the two of you. And then suddenly, a fresh, exciting idea flits in front of your eyes. It's practically gleaming, and it takes all your will power not to follow it.

So I finally made it to the point where not only was I finishing my short stories, they were even selling! And so I deciding to finally tackle it--a book I'd wanted to write for a long time.

It was an epic, Narnia-style fantasy, complete with twists and turns, lots of journeying on horseback, mystical items, dying races, castles, flat-out war...the usual. And I was so proud when I started sending it out all polished.

There was only one problem. I didn't know the YA marketplace too well. But it didn't matter, right? Because don't write to the market! I sent my little novel into the world.

The responses I got from agents were fantastic, because they weren't form rejections! But you know what else? They weren't requests.

They were personalized letters that said, "This is great and all, but I'm just not reading traditional fantasies right now." One of them said, "Traditional fantasy just isn't as big in the market right now."


But...but... I thought I wasn't supposed to write to the market!

So I started following about 50 agent and book reviewer blogs. I brought home armfuls of books from the library and the bookstore. I spent a YEAR reading everything that was out there in every genre of YA.

And then I looked at my manuscript again, and I saw the problem. What I had on my hands was not very salable at the moment. The voice was stuck somewhere in the 90s, and it had no comparable titles.

Because while you SHOULD write the book of your heart, you should also be aware of the market around you. Be aware of the trends. Do your research. And don't keep your head down! You wouldn't head to school on the first day without a pencil in your backpack, right? You'd have a list beforehand of what you'll need, what other people will be bringing, and what's expected from you.

(Sorry for the reminder of school. It's August, so it comes to mind ^_^ )

So a year later, I sat down with my knowledge of the market, fresh from reading some of the most exciting voices in YA. I felt recharged, ready to share my own voice amid all these works of art.

I remembered that even dearer book of my heart, the YA I'd always wanted to set in Japan. The book that had haunted me for years after I left Osaka, whispering at me even from the plane, "You're going to write me."

And I did, and the rest turned out well because I was finally aware of the publishing world, how it worked, and what else was out there.

So writers, please, write the book of your heart. Be passionate about it, and write it the way you need to! But make sure your work is marketable. Research, read, and love your genre.

Because even more important than having your book published is having your book speak to a reader. And that will only happen if you look up and engage on common ground.

And if you have a vampire/angel/werewolf showdown in an arena book, I promise I'll read it, because you'll have written it with both eyes open, and it will be fresh. :)

Let me know in the comments--do you keep an eye on market trends?