I’m happy to be taking part in the YA Contemporary Scavenger Hunt… and even happier because I’m interviewing my critique partner, Emily Martin, whose debut, The Year We Fell Apart, comes out tomorrow from Simon Pulse! Read on for more!
Hi Emily! I’m honored to be debuting with you and thrilled to be able to ask you a couple of questions for the YA Contemporary Scavenger Hunt.
1) Like me, you were a Pitch Wars mentee and signed with an agent shortly after the contest ended. What made you decide to submit your manuscript in Pitch Wars instead of just querying the traditional way?
Pitch Wars!!! I love this contest so much. Before entering, I had never queried, mostly because I knew my manuscript wasn’t ready. That’s the great thing about Pitch Wars—at it’s heart, it’s not really about getting agent attention. It’s about working with another writer to make your novel better, and to get it ready for agents. It was a lot of work (as in, rewriting 75% of my manuscript in a 4-week period), but so, so worth it. In the end, I did land my agent through traditional querying, but it was thanks to all the hard work my mentor and I put in during the contest.
2) The Year We Fell Apart deals with so many themes that both teens and adults can relate to. Is there part of the book that makes you especially proud, or a part that was difficult to write?
There were a few scenes that were particularly difficult to write, but they’re also some of the passages I’m most proud of. Harper makes a lot of mistakes over the course of the story, but every time I cringed, finger hovering over the delete key because I couldn’t believe what she was getting herself into, I knew I’d written something honest. That was always my goal. As a result, Harper isn’t always likable in the traditional sense of the word. She can be selfish and she can be mean, but she also faces a lot of ugly realities like bullying and toxic friendships. As someone who’s made her fair share of mistakes, I can relate to Harper, and though she still has some work to do, I’m proud of how far she’s come.
3) The setting in The Year We Fell Apart is so visceral and really plays a role in the story. As a reader, I could visualize it so well. What went into your research before writing to make sure the detail was right?
Thank you! The setting was based on the two years I lived in North Carolina while earning my masters degree. I wove in details from my own experiences (bonfire parties in the woods, hikes along the Eno river, and lots of deep-fried pickles), but also incorporated some fictional details, like the town Harper lives in. A few shoutouts to my home state of Michigan are also thrown in the mix. Mostly I just tried to have fun with the details I incorporated, and to choose snippets of description that would help set the mood of the scene or develop Harper’s character.
4) Can you tell me a bit about your writing process? What does a typical writing session look like?
I think I’m still in the process of figuring out my process. 🙂 While writing The Year We Fell Apart, I was working a full-time job in the environmental field, so I wrote at night and on weekends—whenever I could find the time. It actually started as a NaNoWriMo project, so the first (messy) draft came together pretty quickly. Then I spent a lottt of time revising.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that I love listening to music while I write. The song “Breathe Me” by Sia was a huge inspiration for this book, and I probably listened to several hundred times while drafting.
5) What element of being a debut author has most surprised you?
All of the support! I’ve been so touched by the amount of encouragement I’ve received from the book community, especially from fellow 2016 debut authors, as well as teen bloggers. It means the world to me to hear from readers, and it’s been one of the best parts of my debut experience so far.
6) If you could go back and give your querying writer self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Believe in yourself! Being a writer is tough work, and it involves a lot of waiting and rejection. With that comes self-doubt—at least for me. But I would tell my querying self (and any other querying writers out there) to have patience and to be open to feedback, but also to trust your gut. It got you this far!
Emily Martin lives and writes in the Greater Boston area, though she will always call Michigan home. She has a penchant for impromptu dance parties, vintage clothing, and traveling to new places. When not writing, she can be found hiking New England’s peaks, searching for the perfect cup of hot chocolate, or baking something pumpkin-flavored.
Emily’s debut young adult novel, The Year We Fell Apart, comes out January 26, 2016 from Simon Pulse.
Her work is represented by Lara Perkins of Andrea Brown Literary.
In the tradition of Sarah Dessen, this powerful debut novel is a compelling portrait of a young girl coping with her mother’s cancer as she figures out how to learn from—and fix—her past.
Few things come as naturally to Harper as epic mistakes. In the past year she was kicked off the swim team, earned a reputation as Carson High’s easiest hook-up, and officially became the black sheep of her family. But her worst mistake was destroying her relationship with her best friend, Declan.
Now, after two semesters of silence, Declan is home from boarding school for the summer. Everything about him is different—he’s taller, stronger…more handsome. Harper has changed, too, especially in the wake of her mom’s cancer diagnosis.
While Declan wants nothing to do with Harper, he’s still Declan, her Declan, and the only person she wants to talk to about what’s really going on. But he’s also the one person she’s lost the right to seek comfort from. As their mutual friends and shared histories draw them together again, Harper and Declan must decide which parts of their past are still salvageable, and which parts they’ll have to let go of once and for all.
In this honest and affecting tale of friendship and first love, Emily Martin brings to vivid life the trials and struggles of high school and the ability to learn from past mistakes over the course of one steamy North Carolina summer.