What is it like working on a work-for-hire novel? Find out in my interview with Leaguer E.C. Myers - Lissa Price.
E.C., What should we know about your newest book?
The Silence of Six is a contemporary YA thriller about a group of teenage hackers who combine their skills to answer an intriguing question: “What is the silence of six?” As they investigate, they dig deep into a high level conspiracy that not only endangers the privacy of individuals, but their lives. And they have to work quickly because they’re being pursued by shady operatives online and in the real world, and the truth could affect the outcome of the presidential election just a few weeks away.
Adaptive Studios is a newish company that adapts orphaned works (such as an unproduced screenplay, in the case of The Silence of Six) into other properties, like television shows, novels, and picture books. I was introduced to them by fellow YA author Tiffany Schmidt, and on the strength of my first novel, Fair Coin, they offered me the opportunity to audition for the project. They liked what I came up with, so we worked together on developing an outline for the book; other than the title, the book bears little resemblance to the source material, which I haven’t even seen! This was my first work-for-hire novel, and I took it on because I loved the premise and thought I could write something really fun and interesting about hacking, conspiracies, and social media. I also liked the idea of having a new book out this year, particularly one so different from my usual work. My first two books were both published in 2012, and though I have some other manuscripts in the works, nothing else is scheduled for publication. Adaptive has a really fresh take on publishing, and it was great to participate in the collaborative process of writing and marketing the book.
The cover is especially haunting. Did you have any say in the design process?
Adaptive and their cover designer had several strong, compelling ideas for the cover, any of which could have worked well. I was surprised and pleased that they took my opinions into consideration throughout the process, as well as feedback from my literary agency, which has experience in designing and marketing their clients’ books. I thought it was important not to show a face (particularly following on Fair Coin and Quantum Coin), and I didn’t want to see a character of a specific gender. What we ended up with was one of the earliest concepts and I kept coming back to it because it was so mysterious and chilling — to me, it represented anonymity, and the hood added a Grim Reaper-esque element that seemed thematically appropriate. I especially love the title treatment.
How has winning the Andre Norton Award changed your career?
Not as much as you might think! I am incredibly honored to have the award, and it may get me a little more attention from editors and booksellers and librarians, but the Norton isn’t largely recognized outside of the speculative fiction field. I’m also usually the last person to mention that I won it, which I suppose makes me a poor self-marketer. When people do know about the Norton, they are often impressed, which makes me feel great. I think most of all it helps me with those moments when impostor syndrome hits — it gives me some reassurance that I’m not terrible at this writing thing.
Whose career would you most like to have?
That’s a dangerous road to go down. Of course it might be nice to be a rock star with multiple book deals, movie options, and all that jazz, but the only career I can have is my own. Money and fame are measures of success, but the only appeal there is that they usually signal a wide readership — which would be great because most of all I just want people to read my books! (I would also love to keep publishing them, which requires some level of financial success.) That said, if I ended up writing a few books that people love, I’ll be happy. One of my favorite authors, William Sleator, wrote a lot of terrific books that people still remember, although he didn’t seem to garner a lot of attention or riches. Robert C. O’Brien only wrote three books (one of those posthumously completed by his family), but they are amazing books. I want my books to outlast me and affect young readers the way books affected me.
What has been the biggest surprise for you in your publishing journey?
Boy, this is a lot of work, isn’t it? I was most surprised by how much of writing involves doing things that isn’t writing: marketing, signings, events, etc. I’m also constantly surprised at just how random and impersonal it all is; editors leave publishers, books get cancelled, contracts fall through. Make no mistake: Publishing is a business, and it’s hard to separate that from the “purity” of writing as art — something we’re driven to do because we have to tell stories. Talent is just part of the equation; you have to be in the right place at the right time with the right book. The only thing we can control is the quality of our writing, and we have to try not to worry about the rest.
If you could be something else other than a book author, what would you be?
I’ve tried a bunch of other jobs, and this is the best one so far! But all other things being equal, I would love to develop video games.
Anything else you’d like the League readers to know?
One of the best parts of being an author is getting to interact with readers and other writers, so I love participating in blogs like this one. Thank you for your support! And thanks for the terrific interview, Lissa.
Thank you, Eugene. Have questions? Ask Eugene in the comments below.