I know you guys are going to love today. Ever since Jill Williamson told me about Rachel Coker - who is 16 and her debut novel, Interrupted, is releasing with Zondervan in February - I have been itching to have her on Go Teen Writers. Well, itching isn't really accurate. More like "leaping" or "cartwheeling."
Yesterday I shared Rachel's book trailer and some information about her book, but today we get to talk to her!
Rachel has agreed to poke her head in from time to time to interact. She likely won't have a chance to answer every question that comes her way, but she could probably get to a few.
Enough of me. Onto Rachel:
Rachel, at what age did you start writing Interrupted? Was it your first novel?
I first got the idea for Interrupted when I was fourteen years old. Most of the book was written in the spring of 2010, when I was fourteen. I was fifteen when I was signed with Zondervan, and did a few revisions after that, but I’d say that over 90% of the book was written before my fifteenth birthday.
Funnily enough, Interrupted is not the first novel I ever wrote! When I was twelve, I wrote a novella (short novel) about an Irish orphan at the turn of the century. It was back when I was first trying to develop my writing style, and really reflects my personality at the time. I was a very dramatic, sensitive child. ;)
Oh, boy. Me too.
How did you know your book was "finished" and ready for the eyes of an agent?
I don't really know if any book is ever really 'finished'. A lot of authors say they knew their book was agent-ready when they looked over it and felt it was finally perfect, or at least close to it. I don't think that's the case at all. I'm always finding things to fix about Interrupted, even in the post-editing phase. I think it was more a matter of: I spent a lot of time writing this book, and I finally think it's good. It's not perfect, but it has a lot of potential and it's something I would be interested in reading. That's when I knew that I was ready to pursue publication.
What were the first steps you took toward getting published?
Well, the first thing I did was pray a lot. I don’t really know what I was praying for—just that God would make things happen if it was His will, I guess. Finally I decided to just go for it. I figured getting published was such a long shot that if it wasn’t His plan for me, there was no way it would ever happen.
Did you look for an agent? How did Interrupted get in the hands of editors?
Yes, I did my best to find an agent, because I knew there was very little chance getting signed with a good publishing company if I didn’t. I actually checked out a big book of Christian agents from the library, and then Googled a list online. I sent cover letters to about fifteen people, and only one or two were even interested.
Bill (my agent) and I just clicked from the beginning, though. Everything he said was just so in agreement with what I believed. We both prayed about it, and felt God leading us to work together. So I was over the moon when I signed him to be my agent. He’s the one who got out there and sold my book to the editors at Zondervan.
Are you in any kind of critique group? Who are the big supporters of your writing in your life?
Actually, no, I’m not in any kind of critique group, but if you know of a good one let me know! I’m very personal about my writing, and I think the only people who have even read Interrupted outside of my editors are my mom and sister. They read everything I write and tell me what they think about it. Our family is full of big readers, so I respect everything they say. I love that they are blunt with me, too. My mom is not shy about telling me when something seems to be too big of a stretch, and my sister can find character flaws in anybody. And of course, my agent and editor are fantastic supporters. Reading their comments always make me smile.
What made the big difference in you going from being an aspiring writer to being a contracted author?
I think timing is really important. Two years ago, I never could have dealt with all the pressure and business of being a signed author like I can now. I also don’t think I was mature enough to write at the same level. I never want to feel like I have to do everything too early in life, even if I’m tempted to sometimes. No, I want time to live and grow as a result of my choices and mistakes. You need time to let your feelings and thoughts mature, before you can make a lot of the big decisions that being a contracted author takes. I feel like sixteen is a good age for me, personally.
Very interesting. What surprised you most about being published?
The amount of support I’ve been getting, definitely. Before Interrupted, I never talked much about my writing or my desire to be a writer. I figured I was too young and everyone would be secretly laughing at me. But ever since I’ve started talking about my journey, I’ve been blown away by the number of teens and other aspiring authors who have told me they were encouraged by my story. I never thought being a writer could mean connecting with so many different people. And my book isn’t even out yet!
I'm eager for it to hit shelves!
What advantages are there to being published at 16? What disadvantages are there?
The biggest advantage is that it creates quite a buzz. Everyone wants to talk about you, and interview you. It makes for a really cool story, and gave me an excuse to take a year off of writing in high school. ;)
The downside is that, at sixteen, you still suffer from a lot of peer pressure. I’m always worrying that my book is being hyped too much, and wonder what my friends will think. Will they all think it’s lame? And I also worry that people will judge my writing based on my age, and not on whether or not I am a good writer. The last thing I want is someone to say, “Oh, it was a good effort from a sixteen-year-old.” I’d rather them just like it, or hate it. You know what I mean?
I do. And I'm so appreciative of you taking the time to share some of your journey with us.
I had such a great time emailing back and forth with Rachel. I've found her to be sweet, professional, full of faith. Oh, and very brave. She didn't seem too freaked out by my exuberance.
So, tell Rachel hello, and look for her book in stores February 1st. Support teen writers!