Today we have Emily Bleeker on the blog, author of Wreckage, released from Lake Union Publishing this past March. She’s got some pretty cool insights on writing and her publishing experience, so I hope you’ll enjoy her interview as much as I did! And check out her amazing cover! Isn’t it gorgeous?
Lillian Linden is a liar. On the surface, she looks like a brave survivor of a plane crash. But she’s been lying to her family, her friends, and the whole world since rescue helicopters scooped her and her fellow survivor, Dave Hall, off a deserted island in the South Pacific. Missing for almost two years, the castaways are thrust into the spotlight after their rescue, becoming media darlings overnight. But they can’t tell the real story—so they lie.
The public is fascinated by the castaways’ saga, but Lillian and Dave must return to their lives and their spouses. Genevieve Randall—a hard-nosed journalist and host of a news program—isn’t buying it. She suspects Lillian’s and Dave’s explanations about the other crash survivors aren’t true. And now, Genevieve’s determined to get the real story, no matter how many lives it destroys.
In this intriguing tale of survival, secrets, and redemption, two everyday people thrown together by tragedy must finally face the truth…even if it tears them apart.
Told you that was an impressive cover, and such an intriguing story! Now, without further ado, let’s ask some slightly difficult writerly questions!
- First, let’s talk about your novel, Wreckage! I’m always curious to know what triggered the idea for a story! How did Wreckage come about, and which came first—the premise or the main character?
The premise definitely came first. I was watching the show “I Survived…” and there was a story about a shipwreck that left the crew on a life boat for several days. There were only two survivors being interviewed for the story which I found curious since five or six crew members survived the crash. By the end of the show all the other survivors had died and the two giving the interview came off as the heroes of the story. Some little voice in the back of my head said, “What if they are lying?” Now, I’m sure those poor people were telling the truth, but I still thought the idea was compelling. What could’ve happened that would make them want to or even need to lie? So I decided to write a story exploring what compelled my survivors, Lillian and Dave, to lie after being rescued off an island in the South Pacific.
- What’s one juicy fact about yourself readers may not already know? And please, provide tons of details!
One thing about me that might not be obvious from the genre I write is that deep down I’m a sci-fi nerd. I grew up watching all of the “Stars”—Star Trek, Star Wars, Star Search…okay maybe not the last one, but still, you get the idea. In fact my first foray into writing was written in fourth grade and it was about kids competing to be the first kids in space. If I ever have writers block, a good sci-fi show or film will knock the cobwebs right out.
- What does a writing day look like for you? Do you have any habits or quirks you can share with us?
The answer to this question changes constantly! I have four kids so when they are in school I have one schedule and during the summer I have another. Right now I wake up early, go for a run, write until everyone is awake and wanting breakfast. Then I put on my mom hat for most of the day, usually writing for an hour or two in the afternoon while the kids have quiet time. After quiet time, I’m mom again for the rest of the day. Then I write for a few hours after they go to bed.
My only writing quirk is that I can edit with the kids around, but I can’t write anything new. That takes a quiet room, headphones and mood music.
- 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?
Like I mentioned above, I tend to turn to movies and books when I need to get my brain moving again. A very creative story or beautiful writing awakens that part of me that HAS to write, gets all my juices flowing. One particularly inspiring activity is sitting through the previews in a movie theater (has to be in an actual movie theater though). I find myself caught up in the possibilities of all of the stories presented to me. I cry far more often during previews than during an actual movie. The potential those brief teasers provide, make my creative mind wake up and take notice. So if you are having a “no-writing-feels” kind of day, take a trip to the movies, but make sure to get there early enough to watch the previews!!
Now to show off my hard-hitting journalism skills—try to contain your laughter as I adjust my sleuth’s hat!
- Let’s go back to before you were published for just a moment. Tell us about your querying adventure than ended with Marlene Stringer, of Stringer Literary, as your agent! How long were you in the “query trenches” and was Wreckage the first manuscript you queried?
Wreckage was the first manuscript I queried. I started the process very slowly. I spent an obscene amount of time on my query. I read every single resource I could find on querying, got feedback from other authors, edited, refined and honed the thing for weeks before I sent one out. Once I started sending out my queries I had a positive request rate. It took five months of sending out five or so queries at a time before receiving the offer of representation from Marlene.
One thing I always like to share is that Marlene requested the full for WRECKAGE in October, but didn’t offer until February. So—don’t give up hope!
Take note of that, folks! Sometimes it seems like instantaneous stories dominate the “how I got my agent” landscape, but that’s not always the case! Never give up hope!
- It’s not uncommon for writers to go through one or more rounds of revision with their agent before going on submission, only to do even more revisions with their editor once the manuscript has been acquired. Can you share what the revision process was like for you and Wreckage?
I went through one round of editing with Marlene before submissions. There were no story changes at that point, just editing, refining the language, and changing a few things here and there to get it ready for submission to publishers. The biggest change at that point was picking out a new title. That took us weeks! The title we submitted under wasn’t even WRECKAGE.
- One of the least written about topics for writers is the submissions process itself. What can you share about going on submission with Wreckage? How did you manage to stay sane?
For me the submission process was far more difficult and nerve-wracking than the querying process. Querying I had a system. Every query rejection I got, I sent out a new query. Every partial rejection I got, I sent out three. If a full was rejected, I’d send out five. It was my way of coping with the rejection, staying proactive and feeling like I still had some modicum of control. Submission to publishers is far different.
WRECKAGE was only submitted to five publishers. A few weeks in Marlene told me that a few of them “showed interest” in the book. After a few more weeks I received my first rejection from a publisher. I read and reread that rejection like ten times. I did research on how many authors don’t get published on their first try and started to focus on writing my next book. I also turned my phone to silent so I wouldn’t check my emails incessantly. I still have a bit of a Pavlovian response to the ding of my email.
Once I stopped checking I got the email from Marlene. I was actually at Cub Scout Day Camp with my boys and had to go find a spot in the woods with reception. For me that was about two months after being submitted to Lake Union.
- What were a couple of your biggest surprises about the publishing process?
Well my experience is a bit different because I’m with an imprint of Amazon. Marlene told me up front that Amazon imprints move a bit faster than traditional publishing, which means that I signed a contract for WRECKAGE in July 2014 and was in print by February 2015. Just to put that timeline in perspective, I have an agent-mate who signed a contract at the same time as me and his debut is next February 2016. So my biggest surprise was how fast things go.
Fast does not mean sloppy though. Lake Union has a very painstaking and careful process of editing, revising, proofreading etc. When things needed time, like the cover and the title which both took some time to solidify, my editor, Danielle Marshall, took her time and made sure the decisions were the right ones.
- If you could whisper in the ear of the writer reading this, what ONE piece of wisdom would you share with them?
Writing is work! All you writers out there know that already, but I don’t think we acknowledge that enough. Being an author IS fun and I pinch myself every single day that I get to do this for a living, but it is also a job that takes actual time and work with an equal number of deadlines and disappointments as book signings and five-star reviews. Good news is—when you love what you do it is ALL worth it.
- What’s next for Wreckage and its illustrious author?
You can find my next novel, WHEN I’M GONE, March 15, 2016! It’s a story about Luke, a recent widower who starts receiving letters written by his deceased wife before her passing. The letters give comfort, advice and eventually reveal secrets about their family that Luke isn’t sure if he’s ready to uncover.
I can’t wait to share this book with the world!
WHEN I’M GONE sounds amazing! I have no doubt it would take my feelings out and make me sob all over them! So, of course, I can’t wait to have the opportunity to read it! Thanks so much for stopping by, Emily!