Writing a sequel to a Bestseller -- Exclusive Beth Revis interview about A MILLION SUNS

I had the joyful opportunity to interview Beth Revis during her exciting launch week of A Million Suns. Her answers surprised me, gave insight into her writing process, and also gave me a chuckle.

Across the Universe has one of the most memorable and visceral beginnings in recent YA science fiction. How much did that weigh on you when writing A Million Suns? Were you trying to top it? Or were you not thinking about that at all?

Heh. I'm obsessive. I thought about that first chapter SO MUCH. And I wrote about six or seven completely different openers. Should it start with Amy or Elder? Should it I go for emotional or physical punches? Is it good enough?

I wrote far more Elder chapters than Amy chapters to open with. One of the first chapters was moved to the middle of the book--it's a flashback chapter, and I think it works better in the middle (when they actually talk about the flashback) but I also quite liked it as an opener. I also had another chapter where Elder remembers one of the first lessons he had with Eldest. There are remnants of that chapter throughout the book (look for the character Evie), but otherwise it was cut.

In the end, I opened with Elder--and I really love the chapter we settled on. It ends with a punch and a revelation, and it echoes the tone of the whole book.

I know that chapter one in Across the Universe was originally chapter four. Did you have any big changes in revisions like that for A Million Suns?

Ha! HAHAHAHA! HAAAAHAAAAHAAAA!!!!!! <--insert more maniacal laughter here-->

Dude. SO MUCH REVISION. I finished AMS in October. Sent to beta readers. Who hated it. Rewrote the entire manuscript in November. Sent to my editor. Who is too polite to tell me she hated it. Rewrote the entire manuscript in February. I estimate only 20% of the original manuscript made it to the final, and that I wrote approximately 300,000 words for a 90,000 word novel.

This was sold as a trilogy. How much of the entire story arc – if any -- did you have in your head when you finished Across the Universe?

Well. Here's the thing. I like to make things up as I go. Which is why I'm an author. Technically, I submitted a synopsis of Books 2 and 3 when I sold AtU. But...I didn't stick with them closely. In fact, the person who's the killer in Book 2 was supposed to be a key good guy or girl in Book 3. That's changed. I was a little worried that my editor would hate SHADES OF EARTH because it was SO different from the synopsis...

What discovery -- about your characters, or about yourself -- surprised you the most in the writing of A Million Suns?

That I will actually be happy to rewrite the same novel four #$%! times, because it matters that much to me that the words are right.

Your first book made the best-seller list. When did that happen and what was that experience like?

It happened the first three weeks the book came out (I made the list the first and third week of the debut; apparently that second week was killer, lol!).

The experience was INSANE. I found out while sitting at my kitchen table, paying bills. A friend got the list early and congratulated me...and I had no idea why. Then I got the email from my editor. Then I flipped out.

What would the published Beth say to the pre-pubbed Beth?

Told you so.


7 comments:

Kristin Briana Otts said...

I'm LOLing at the "Told you so" comment. This makes me feel better about my - *cough* - average of four rough drafts.

Cherie Reich said...

Love the "Told you so" too! And A MILLION SUNS is totally awesome so far (about 27% in it).

Eric said...

I am just stunned (and scared) at your revelation that you wrote 300,000 words for a 90,000 word novel. Here I am struggling with whether I should re-write whole chapters and you've re-written the whole book. Still, it at least makes me feel better that I'm not the only one who has to do such major editing LOL. I just figured I was being slightly stupid when in fact I guess it's just part of the writing process. Great interview and thanks for sharing it.

Tere Kirkland said...

ROFL at the Told you so.

Ugh, I think I've written close to 250,000 words for my 90,000 word novel, too. But it's so worth it in the end when all the pieces fall into place.

I loved A Million Suns even more than Across the Universe, and I know others will too. So get used to seeing your name on the NYTB list! Congrats in advance, Beth! ;)

Ava Jae said...

Omgsh, I love the "Told you so" comment. That's absolutely brilliant.

This was a really fun interview--thanks so much for sharing it with us! Can't wait to read A MILLION SUNS!

Kate said...

Great interview! I love the 'I tild you so' at the end :-)

Lissa Price said...

Thank you so much for the feedback! Isn't Beth a hoot? I apologize for the type. I'm new to blogger (I know Wordpress) and did not mean to make my questions so much BIGGER than Beth's answers!