Visiting Author Series: Stacey Lee

We’re delighted to welcome Stacey Lee to Sixteen to Read’s Visiting Author Series. Stacey published her debut novel, the critically acclaimed Under a Painted Sky, with Putnam in 2015. In May 2016, she followed it up with Outrun the Moon, which Kirkus has called “powerful, evocative, and thought-provoking.” Stacey’s third novel, The Secret of a Heart Note, is due out from Katherine Tegen Books on December 27.

Sixteen to Read’s Sonya Mukherjee recently chatted with Stacey about writing, publishing, and what she’s learned so far.

Stacey, thanks so much for taking the time to drop by. To begin, we’d love to hear about the earliest stages of your career. What was the querying process like for you with your first book, Under a Painted Sky?

I began querying when I was fifteen, and that was a very long time ago, before there were computers. All told, I queried about seven different projects at various stages of my life, from picture books to YA. Each project received more nibbles than the prior one, and so I knew I was moving in the right direction at least. Plus, with the advent of the Internet, it became easier to figure out what I was doing right or wrong through sites like Query Shark.

For more detailed information about perfecting a query letter, my agent Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency and I chatted about my original query for UAPS at Literary Rambles.

What aspect of the publishing experience was most surprising for you that first time around? And what was the most fun?

I was surprised by how many people it takes to make a book. There are so many people involved with getting a book on the shelf, marketing people, salespeople, publicists—I’m still not sure I met everyone who worked on UAPS! The most fun was meeting some great author friends along the way. I couldn’t have done it without their support!

Your first two novels were both historical, while The Secret of a Heart Note, which comes out next, is contemporary. What drew you to writing historical characters and settings? And after starting with historical, what appealed to you about contemporary?

As a fourth generation Californian, I always wondered about those Chinese ancestors of mine who first touched down on American soil. So that’s what led me to write UAPS, as well as my second historical, Outrun the Moon. But I also love writing in other genres, like contemporary with a little magic, which is how I describe The Secret of a Heart Note. That one arose from my odd synesthetic ability to ‘hear’ different scents and my interest in natural perfumery. It’s different animal than my historicals, but everyone who has read it says they can tell it’s me who wrote it.

What’s your writing process like? Has it changed over time?

I brainstorm on paper. I take lots of walks to develop those ideas, then plot out some emotional beats I’d like to hit. Then I start writing soon after I get a general outline going. It’s definitely an organic process for me, and often what and who I intend to write about changes along the way.

You’ve been quite prolific. Your first book just came out last year, and you have two out in 2016. How do you balance your writing time with all the other tasks related to publishing and promoting your work? Do you have set schedules or plans that help you divide your time?

I don’t watch TV! I just have to clip bits of time here and there and hope and pray it all gets done! With two kids, it’s definitely a challenge because I don’t start writing until around 9 or 10 pm. I stop around 1 or 2 am.

Can you share anything about what you’re working on next?

Another historical that might or might not involve stagecoaches. J

Lightning round:

Favorite writing beverage: iced coffee with almond milk

Favorite place to write: in my home office

Music to write by: I need quiet. I get too distracted by song lyrics.

Last book you read: I’m reading The Reader by Traci Chee.

Author from the past you’d most want to meet: LA Meyer, author of the Bloody Jack series, who passed away in 2015.

First thing you’d do if you could time travel to one of your novels’ settings: What a great question. I’d learn how to ride a horse.

Best thing about living in the 21st century when not time traveling: Anesthesia.

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Jennie K. Brown at the Teaching Shakespeare Folger Academy

Jennie K Brown_ShakespeareAn Honor and a Joy

Jennie K. Brown, author of the MG novel POPPY MAYBERRY, THE MONDAY has been in D.C. for the last few days participating in an intense study of Shakespeare at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

This is a photo of Jennie with Shakespeare’s First Folio. Talk about CRAZE-EEE-NESS! She gets to work with this 1623 text for hours on end! Without gloves! She’s so happy to be nerding out! We couldn’t be happier for her.

The program is the Teaching Shakespeare Folger Academy and Jennie was one of 30 teachers selected from across the country.

Now, we know Jennie’s super special but this just proves it!

Jennie K Brown_Shakespeare IThis huge honor is just that—a huge honor. But, Jennie is a Shakespeare nerd so she’s pretty much in heaven and having the time of her life.

Plus, there’s sword fighting so there’s that.

Tips for building up your Facebook author page

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In September of 2014 I started a Facebook page called The YA Gal. Now, seven months later it has over 6,000 followers. By fall of 2016 when my debut YA novel is published by Month9Books my goal is to hit 20,000. In the meantime I enjoy talking books and building relationships with YA readers.

Why is my page growing so fast? The number one reason is its name, The YA Gal. If I attempted to attract followers using my own name, Jennifer Bardsley, it would be a challenge because YA readers don’t know me yet. But through my FB page, I can make a name for myself as somebody who reads and writes YA books.

The rules that govern FB can shift at any moment, but at the time of this posting FB allows page operators to change their page’s name one time, and one time only. After my book comes out I might change my FB page over to Jennifer Bardsley Author. Or, I might decide to keep posting as The YA Gal. I’m not certain what I’ll decide.

Another way I help my page grow is by following other pages. Go into your FB dashboard and click the icon that lets you be your author page, not yourself. In my dashboard you can see that I manage four pages: Cybersafe Kids, Edmonds United Methodist Church, Teaching My Baby to Read, and The YA Gal. (I’ve applied my FB growth strategies to the last two.)

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Operating as your author page, “like” a bunch of related pages. Authors, publishers, blog tour companies, relevant teenage TV shows etc. Then when you click “home” all of those feeds will pull up.

Every other day I spend about five minutes clicking through the home feed. I leave comments on anything that seems appropriate. Likes are good, but comments are better because your name really stands out. Often time if an author sees you leave comments for several weeks they will follow you back.

What’s different between your author page and your personal page is that on your author page not everyone will see your posts. FB lets you pay to boost your post, but I almost never do this. I did this for my book announcement and that’s it. Next year I’ll do it several times during my cover reveal and launch because it will be worth it to reach my whole list.

The more people like, comment on, and share your posts, the more people will see them. Other pages will really appreciate you leaving a comment. They will definitely notice you, and might follow you back.

I also try to share books about other publishing companies besides my own. My thinking is “If Katie likes book from publishing house x, she might also like my book from publishing house y.”

If you really want to become analytical about FB, try determining which days and times of the week your posts get the most views. For me it’s weekdays at around 8am Pacific Time. You can use this to your advantage by scheduling posts. Nobody but you will know that those posts are scheduled. It’ll make your life easier because you can write a post the night before, and have it run in the morning while you drive your kids to school.

The final way you might choose to build up your page is by paid FB advertisements. Is this worth it? I have no idea. Will FB followers someday buy books? That’s a very good question. Some people describe FB pages as “crop sharing” because you could invest a lot of money into building up a page, break one rule (like the governance codes for raffles), and have your page deleted. That is no way to launch a book! When it comes to paid advertisements, I would advise to proceed with great caution.

Luckily, likes and comments don’t cost any money at all. Whatever your genre, you can find readers on FB who will appreciate you. Have fun, make friends, and share!

img_5223Jennifer Bardsley writes the parenting column “I Brake for Moms” for The Everett Daily Herald. Her debut YA novel, BLANK SLATE will be published by Month9Books in 2016, with the sequel releasing in 2017. You can find Jennifer on Twitter or on her Facebook page The YA Gal. Jennifer is also a member of SCBWI and The Sweet Sixteens debut author group, and was recently a judge in the Pitch Plus One writing contest sponsored by Adventures in YA Publishing. An alumna of Stanford University, Jennifer lives near Seattle, WA. http://JenniferBardsley.net