I'm so excited that my friend Joanne Bischof is here today. Joanne and I met because we have the same literary agent, and she was looking for writers to endorse her upcoming contemporary YA novel, To Get To You. I'm always up for a good contemporary YA read, so I said, "Sure!"
And thanks to an extremely long flight delay on my way home from my writing retreat in July, I was able to read To Get To You in one sitting. It's a good thing too, because it's totally one of those books that would have had me ignoring housework and letting my kids watch too much TV just so I could finish.
When I got home, I immediately wrote to Joanne and asked if I could please, please, please host her on Go Teen Writers and give away a copy of To Get To You. She was awesome and let me ask my burning questions about how she finished the book, the challenges of writing a "road trip" style novel, and why she chose to indie publish this title.
Stephanie: You confessed to me that this book was a struggle to write. What was it that helped you to push through to the end?
Joanne: Oh yes! There were a handful of hiccups involved that were quite extensive. One of the biggest was a crashed computer (crashed = I dropped it twice!) and it ruined the hard drive so much so that I barely saved the manuscript. This was right after the gal that I had set up to critique the manuscript, had to pull out of the project. I was trying really hard not to panic. My husband stepped in and sorted out everything with my computer and in the meantime, a friend stepped in and miraculously critiqued the entire thing in a really small amount of time. She was such a Godsend.
Once everything was back in business–and the manuscript was shaping up–I had some teen girls read the unedited story – even one that was a complete stranger on a plane ride! I needed to see if this book was shaping up into the story that it needed to be. Their enthusiasm for it really spurred me on. It reminded me that I was writing this book for teen girls and to strip all other fears and worries away. God was showing himself so mightily as He equipped this story to be…despite it all. It’s been a wild, ride but I really got to see the great things He can do in seemingly impossible circumstances.
Stephanie: Writing a road trip (or any kind of quest) book has always seemed very challenging to me. What thoughts do you have on making it work?
Joanne: I didn’t realize just how much fun it would be to write a road trip until I was in the middle of this one. It was almost like taking a mini vacation! But even so, there were definitely challenges at hand. The trip consists of Riley and his pro surfing dad and also his dad’s best buddy. Three guys for four days in a VW van? Seriously challenging.
A lot of the action took place in a very small space so coming up with action beats and things for them to do to keep the story fun and interesting was probably the hardest part. I find in situations like this to just dig deep. Don’t be afraid to highlight things that are super ordinary, like seatbelts and rolling down the window. But to also have fun with unexpected things. The guys listen to an audio book during a part of the trip that not only paralleled the story, but almost became like a character itself. And the VW van. That thing definitely became a character. As writers, if we’re not afraid to play around with both the unexpected and the ordinary, it’s amazing how much people can really engage with a book. Those things not only highlight the fun and familiar, but add a dimension that makes the adventure a whole new experience. Cali to New Mexico anyone?! I call shotgun.
Stephanie: I'm stunned that this book hasn't been picked up by a traditional publisher, because it's so, so good. Lots of our writers at Go Teen Writers have an interest in indie publishing, and you've done that exceptionally well with To Get To You. What are two or three things you feel are vital to creating an excellent self-published book?
Joanne: Why thank you! That’ so sweet! I’d say the number one reason this wasn’t picked up by a publisher is because I decided not to try.
Stephanie: Ha! Well, that would do it. Why is that?
Joanne: I know that sounds kind of silly but after trying to get re-established in traditional publishing for several years, To Get to You sort of became my way of letting go of expectations and what I thought the market might want from me, and it became an opportunity to simply write something from my heart. A way for me to have a ton of fun with words, this story, and to set aside everything else.
For those three things, I’d say this:
- Editing: Don’t skimp on editing. I hire or trade work with 3-4 editors ranging from critique to macro edits to copy edits and finally, I finish with an excellent proofer. I’m a bit obsessed with editing. As painful as it is, it’s one of the best ways to make your writing and your book the finest it can be. If you can’t afford an editor? Don’t be afraid to swap work. A lot of writers make rather good editors and it can be an affordable way to go. And I love singing the praises of my editors so if you’re looking for one, just ask!
- Cover: Covers are so key. A strong cover can work wonders for a book. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and an appealing cover tells readers that you’ve done your work. You’ve put thought, time, and effort into it which brings them confidence that you’ve done the same for the story inside. Of course, this isn’t always the case, which is why my number one tip is – well #1! :)
- Think outside of the box: Whether it’s marketing or building a launch team, you’re going to do things a little different than your traditional publishing friends. I’ve published three books traditionally with Waterbrook/Random House and it was not only a wonderful experience, but I learned SO much.When I approached publishing independently, I really drew back on the valuable tools I had learned to create a plan for my next books. On the flip side, I’ve also had to think outside the box to market my books. Without a lot of funding and resources—creativity is the biggest tool for an Indie author. And it’s a tool that has no limits. The ability to do things in unexpected and new ways is one of my absolute favorite things about writing Indie.
You can get entered to win a copy of To Get To You from Go Teen Writers down below, and you can also enter to win at Joanne's site where you'll get the book as well as all kinds of travel goodies!
About To Get To You:
To get to the girl he loves, Riley Kane must head off on a road trip with the father he never knew. Then pray for a miracle.
Most teens would love to have a pro surfer for a dad. Just not Riley. Abandoned as a kid, he hates the sound of the ocean and the man who gave himself to it.
When the eighteen-year-old learns that his best friend is stranded at a New Mexico hospital as her father fights for his life, Riley hits the highway to head east. But when his Jeep breaks down before he even leaves California, he must rely on the one man he despises to get to the girl who needs him the most. And when it comes to the surfer with the Volkswagen van and dog-eared map, a thousand miles may–or may not–be enough to heal the past.
Tell Joanne hey, ask a question, or share a part of her journey with To Get To You that you found particularly inspiring!