I’m thrilled to have our first featured author for Taking 10 on my blog today! Please welcome EB Wheeler, author of The Haunting of Springett Hall which releases July 14, 2015 from Cedar Fort Publishing! The Haunting of Springett Hall is a paranormal romance that happens to feature of a few of my favorite things: ghosts, haunted mansions, and Victorian England! Isn’t her cover gorgeous?
Eighteen-year-old Lucy doesn’t remember how she became a ghost, but the more she discovers about her life in Victorian England, the more she wants to forget. Her only hope of correcting the mistakes of her past is to enlist the help of a servant named Philip – the one living person who can see her. This impossible romance is filled with delightful period detail and plenty of mystery.
Now, without further ado, let’s ask some slightly difficult writerly questions!
- First, let’s talk about your upcoming novel, The Haunting of Springett Hall! I’m always curious to know what triggered the idea for a story! How did The Haunting of Springett Hall come about, and which came first—the premise or the main character?
The Haunting of Springett Hall started as a dare. I told my husband it was unfair that there are love stories even for zombies these days, but not for ghosts, and he said you couldn’t write a ghost love story that wouldn’t end badly. I already had vague ideas about a ghost who was trying to solve her own murder on a Victorian estate, so I said, “Challenge accepted.” National Novel Writing Month was coming up, and I needed a break from the project I’d been working on, so I dived into it.
It’s hard for me to pinpoint if the character or premise came first—they sort of evolved together. I tend to write bits and pieces of a story as I think of scenes or ideas, but the story (and the writing) doesn’t really take off until the character comes to life for me. I think characters have to be the driving force behind a story, but of course you need an interesting idea too.
- What’s one juicy fact about yourself readers may not already know? And please, provide tons of details!
Juicy? Haha, I’m afraid I’ve lived a disappointingly quiet life for an author. I have visited an honest-to-goodness haunted castle, though. After high school, my best friend and I decided to backpack through England, and we visited Powderham Castle near Exeter. We were going along on the tour, learning about architecture and famous dead people, when we walked into this one room that seemed dim and creepy despite the window being open and the lights on. I started edging out of the room when the guide came in and shut the door behind him.
“Welcome to our haunted room,” he said.
He proceeded to tell us about the many uncanny happenings in the room. Like in World War II, when the family blacked out the castle and hurried outside during an air raid. They looked back to see the light on in the window of that room. He ended by telling us that when they did renovations on the room, they found a girl’s skeleton buried in the wall. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
I don’t know about everyone else, but I am both extremely jealous and terrified of that answer! WOW!
- What do you do when you’re faced with “no-writing-feels”—those days all writers face where we’re certain we’re not meant for this writing-thing?
I’ve got two little kids, so my writing time is precious; I’m not a morning person, but I get up before everyone else in the house to get my wordsmithing done. There are definitely days I get that “paralyzed” feeling where I can’t find the words, or days I think everything I do sucks, but I try to make myself work at least a little. Sometimes it “takes” and sometimes it doesn’t, but I press through until things start clicking again. When all else fails, I read a book I like to have a break and feel inspired again. I’ve hit points where I thought about just quitting—taking up jousting or karate or something else less painful and brutal than writing—but I know even if I stopped writing for other people, I couldn’t stop writing for me (I wouldn’t know how to function), so I might as well keep going.
Now to show off my hard-hitting journalism skills—try to contain your laughter as I adjust my sleuth’s hat! You’ll be fascinated to know that EB Wheeler has an interesting story—she had a publishing contract before she had her agent! Read on all for all the juicy bits!
- Let’s go back to your querying days for just a moment, to before you sold your first book or signed with your agent. How long were you in the querying trenches?
It feels like forever, but it was more like two years. The first year I didn’t query very intensively. I’ll admit I was rookie enough to think I just had to send my manuscript to a publisher and they’d love it and pick it up, so that first rejection letter was a wake-up call. I joined a critique group, revised heavily, and slowly started querying again. When I felt like I was getting some traction (partial requests from agents, personal feedback in rejection letters), I queried more intensely and got involved in pitch contests, and that lasted about another year before I found my agent.
Haunting was a quicker process, maybe since it wasn’t my first manuscript. I’d entered it in contests and sent queries for about 6 months before I pitched it to the editor who picked it up. She was so enthusiastic about it, I felt like it would be great home for it, but I kept querying the first manuscript for about three more months before I met my agent. It kind of all fell into place at once, but it was a long, grueling process to reach that point.
- There’s a lot of buzz around agent contests (and contests are great for writers in so many ways), but many authors still find their publishers and agents through good old fashioned querying, too. Was it a contest or the slush pile that connected you with your publisher? Your agent?
I did plenty of old-fashioned querying, but I had a lot more luck as far as getting manuscript requests through contests. I met my publisher by pitching to their editor at a writer’s conference, and I met my agent through a twitter pitch contest. Haunting benefitted from contests as well. I got some great feedback from them, and I was an alternate in Pitch Wars, which really gave it the polish to catch the editor’s eye. Along with my wonderful critique groups, I also credit pitch contests with helping me find my publishing path.
- One of the least written about topics for writers is the submissions process itself. What can you share about being on submission for The Haunting of Springett Hall? How did you manage to stay sane?
I think the thing most likely to make writers crazy (or, at least, this writer), is that the submission process is so slow. Publishers work on a very different time frame than authors, who have worked so hard on their book and are anxious to get it out into the world. So, we think waiting a month or two (or more) to hear back from an editor or agent is an insanely long time, but they’re so busy it flies by for them.
I heard back really quickly about Haunting—they called to offer me a contract about a month after I pitched to them. The process of signing with my agent was a bit slower. She requested my first chapters in a twitter pitch contest. A few weeks later she requested my full manuscript. Maybe a month after that she emailed me about revisions. We emailed back and forth a bit, and then we set up a time for “The Call,” where she offered me representation.
There’s an element of luck and timing (in addition to hard work and skill) that goes into finding a publisher or an agent, and I think you can help make your own luck (and stay sane) by continuing to write while you wait to hear back from the latest round of queries. Send the queries, forget about them, and work on something else. If you can’t do more than one novel at a time, try short stories or creative nonfiction or articles about things that interest you.
- It’s not uncommon for writers to go through one or more rounds of revision with their editor once the manuscript is acquired. Can you share what the revision process was like for you and The Haunting of Springett Hall?
Haunting went through two rounds of edits: one for content and one for copyedits. The manuscript my agent and I are working on now is going through even more intense editing. Some of it is just minor stylistic issues, like cutting instances of overwriting, but I’ve also rewritten my first chapter almost completely. I had to murder quite a few darlings in that one, but the final result that’s emerging is going to be stronger for it.
In both processes, there’s a lot of give and take. Your editor or agent will suggest changes you’re not sure about. Sometimes you just trust that they know more about the process than you do, and sometimes you feel so strongly about something you stand up for it and maybe negotiate your way through the edits so you can keep the things you think are important while still satisfying their concerns. It’s very collaborative—the whole writing and publishing process is, despite the image of the author as a lone wolf creating these stories locked away from the world somewhere.
- What were a couple of your biggest surprises about the publishing process?
Other than how collaborative it is, like I mentioned above, I’ve been surprised by what an emotional rollercoaster it can be. I believe a lot of writers think, “When I reach X goal, I’ll feel like I’ve made it,” but those goals can keep growing and staying just out of reach. Getting a publishing contract or an agent can be such a high at times, but then something plunges you right back to the same self-doubt, and there are all these worries about if people are going to like it—and the realization that not everyone will—or if your next book if going to sell, or if you chose the right publishing route, but then someone says something positive about your book, and you’re happy again.
- If you could whisper in the ear of the writer reading this, what one piece of wisdom would you share with them?
Keep writing, and do it for yourself. If you’re writing to catch the latest trend or get rich and famous, you’re probably going to make yourself miserable, but if you write because you love words or stories, and if you’re passionate about the story you have to tell, you’re more likely to stay sane during all the ups and downs of trying to get published. I had an author tell me not to bother with Haunting because no one wants paranormal anymore, but it was the story I wanted to tell, and I’m glad I ignored her. J Even if it had never seen the light of day, I wouldn’t regret writing it, because I enjoyed it and learned a lot during the process.
- What’s next for The Haunting of Springett Hall and its illustrious author?
Well, I’m sending my first book baby out into the world now, and of course I hope people will like it. I’ve had a couple of readers ask about a sequel, and I’m not opposed to the idea, but I don’t have any immediate plans for one. I think Haunting would make a great movie, though, if anyone from Hollywood is in the audience. J Right now, I’m putting the final touches on an adult historical novel about a woman in the 1500s who gets involved in smuggling banned books, and when my agent is satisfied with the revisions on my YA Victorian fantasy (about a group of young people trying to stop the Unseelie Queen from claiming a human sacrifice to pay her tithes to Hell), we’ll move into submissions for that one. I’ll be optimistic and say keep an eye out for my next book in a year or so.
E.B. Wheeler grew up in Georgia and California. She attended BYU, majoring in history with an English minor, and earned graduate degrees in history and landscape architecture from Utah State University. She taught and wrote about history and historic preservation before focusing on fiction. THE HAUNTING OF SPRINGETT HALL is her debut novel. She lives in the mountains of Utah with her husband, daughters, various pets, and as many antique roses as she can cram into her yard. If she had spare time, she would spend it playing harp and hammered dulcimer, gardening, hiking, shooting archery, knitting, and reading.