S.D. Grimm is another of the amazing writers I know from PitchWars, a mentorship and agent-pitching program I participated in a couple of years ago. She managed to snag a publishing deal with Gilead Publishing for her young adult fantasy novel Scarlet Moon, which was just released. She's stopping by my blog today to talk about her book and her path to publication.
Sarena Ulibarri: What was your inspiration for writing Scarlet Moon?
S.D. Grimm: I love animals. The novel I wrote prior to this one (which sits in a proverbial dark, secret drawer) was about animals. All the characters were animals. And one day I decided to get serious about publishing. Then I decided I was going to write about people. I still wanted animals to be a big part of the story so I chose to write about a race of people who can commune with nature. These people basically get certain talents or abilities from animals—and they reciprocate, giving animals certain abilities too. Then I researched some really cool animals, including mythological ones, and the story world really grew from there.
SU: What has your journey to finding an agent and the road to publication been like?
SDG: Hard. Crazy. The thing about this business is it’s not for the faint of heart. You better your craft all the time. You build your social media presence. You try to send the right work at the right time to the right people. You attempt to stay ahead of the curve without knowing where the curve is. You survive getting your heart broken again and again and again. You don’t give up. You make connections. Friends. Partners in writing who help and encourage you. You have fun. You learn a lot about writing and about yourself. And when something good happens and you take another step forward down this path, all those people celebrate with you. You find community. You work your heart out and wear it on the pages of your work. People will crumple it up, step on it, and some will even use it wipe the snot off their own faces. And then there will be those who feel what you’re trying to say. They’ll cherish it, and they’ll recommend that others read it. Some will misunderstand it. Others will get it. And still that journey—probably on the road less traveled—is just beginning.
SU: How many books did you write before being published?
SDG: Three. They’re each part of a trilogy I started when I was in middle school. It’s about a dog of magical heritage who’s supposed to save the world, except he got hit by a car and now has amnesia. They live in a proverbial drawer and who knows, maybe someday they’ll see the light of day, but I’m not holding my breath.
SU: What kind of things did you learn from your PitchWars mentor when you were getting your PitchWars manuscript ready to query?
SDG: So much. Molly Lee was my awesome mentor, and she was amazing with big-picture edits. She took knowledge from her critiques with agency sibling writers and applied those tips to my story so I could see what was working and what wasn't. She was fabulous at brainstorming and always let me bounce ideas off of her. I loved that not only was she willing to help me fix what wasn't working, she was also quick to tell me what was working and why. The why part was invaluable. I actually learned a lot about my strengths as a writer from her.
I would say the most helpful thing I took away from her advice will be applied to all my future stories is don't try to force something into the story that's not working. I had this relationship planned between these two characters and it just ended up being uncomfortable. On paper, for my plot outline, it worked. But once those characters actually had personality and were interacting, it flopped. So be flexible and willing to change what's not working in the story instead of trying to force it because it looks good on paper.
SU: I loved seeing the video by your cover artist about all the work that went into creating the cover art! Did you have any input on the cover design, or did you just see it in its beautiful final form?
SDG: It was amazing wasn't it? My cover artist, the amazing Kirk DouPonce, actually read the story so he could get a feel for the cover and characters. He then talked with me about the idea he had. I was over-the-scarlet-moon excited because I wanted Jayden (my main character) to be in the woods with daggers and a wolf. And that was exactly his vision. And then he said he was going to make the dagger glow with the blue mist and I was jumping up and down, because it was so perfect. So he asked me what Jayden looked like and I sent him some awesome photos (taken by my dad) of my sister wearing a costume my mom made that portrayed my character. He loved the costume and asked me to mail it to him for a photo shoot! So the costume the girl on my cover is wearing? Yeah, my awesome mom made it. Cool right? I was really excited to have that much brainstorming input into the cover. And guys, I've seen the cover for book two already. And can I just say SQUEAL! That is all.
S. D. Grimm’s first love in writing is young adult speculative fiction. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Agency and her debut novel, Scarlet Moon, is slated to be published in October 2016. When she’s not writing or editing, Sarah enjoys reading (of course!), making clay dragons for her Grimmlies store on Etsy, practicing kickboxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu, training dogs, and doing anything outdoorsy with the family. Her office is anywhere she can curl up with her laptop and at least one large-sized dog.
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