Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Wednesday Debut Interview: Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul

Today's Wednesday Debut Interview features Marcy Beller Paul, talking about her contemporary YA, UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING.

Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed at Operation Awesome! Your bio on Goodreads mentions that you've kept all the notes you passed in seventh grade -- very impressive! What would your seventh-grade self say if she knew that years later, you'd write this YA book?

Every year I unfold one of the notes to make sure I can still remember how to fold it the right way. And every time I do that I read one of the notes and remember how many things I was still trying to figure out in seventh grade about who I was, who other people were, what I meant to them, and how much pain/happiness we were capable of causing each other. With that in mind, I think my seventh-grade self would be way more impressed with how I survived certain relationships than the fact that I’d publish this book. At that I age I had no idea how hard it was to get published! Everything seemed possible if I just tried hard enough.

So true!
Your main character, Mattie, collects maps. Do you have any collections (besides your seventh grade notes)?

I’m a pack rat but I was never really good at collections. My rock collection started and ended during one year in elementary school. My lighter collection in high school and college probably topped out at ten, maybe less. None of my collections were as serious as Mattie’s, and none of them involved maps. I have a pretty terrible sense of direction and would choose English class over Geography any day of the week.

Let's talk about your writing process. How long did it take you to draft this novel? How long from that first draft until publication?
Four and a half years from first words to pub date. During the initial writing and revising stages my kids were very young (1 and 3) so I wrote whenever I could, which was during their naptime. On that schedule, it took me a year to write the first draft and then another year to revise it. When I was done with the revision, I queried agents, got an agent, and revised for a few months before submitting and eventually selling the book to a publisher. That whole process took almost 6 months. Then I revised with my editor and copyeditor for about a year (that time included both my work and the time between rounds when my editor was reading) and turned in the final draft almost a year before the actual pub date.

Can you tell us about how you landed your book deal with Balzer + Bray and what makes them a good fit for your book?
My original editor at Balzer + Bray was the first editor to respond to my manuscript and the first to make an offer. The entire imprint, including the publishers, had read my book within a week or two. I loved that they were so enthusiastic and that the whole team was on board. But more than anything I loved that they understood the book. Another editor wanted me to change it pretty significantly. Her suggestions weren’t bad, but they were for a different book than I’d set out to write. I think Balzer + Bray is a fantastic fit as an imprint because they are like a boutique with the backing of a big house. On top of that, they publish brave, diverse, and challenging fiction. It’s been a fantastic working with them.

What about the title? Was UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING the original title you had in mind? How did it come about?
I queried agents with this title, but always assumed someone would change it! My manuscript was nameless for a long time. When it came time to query agents, I went through the manuscript and tried to pick out lines that had title possibilities. UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING was on the list. It was my critique partner’s favorite (*Hi Paula Stokes!*). At every stage—selling to publishing house, final revision, copyedits, etc—I asked if we were going to change the title but everyone seemed happy with it. I’m still shocked that the original title stuck!

I noticed on your website that you were signing galleys at BEA this May. Can you describe that experience for us?
In my former life as a publishing house employee I worked the booth at BEA, so being there as an author was absolutely surreal and not just because I didn’t have to stand in heels for 8 hours straight! Seeing my name on the screen in the Harper aisle was like an out of body experience.

My biggest fear, of course, was that no one would come to my signing. After all, the show is very busy! Not only did people come, we had to go to the overflow table to keep signing after my slot was over. The best part—by far—was meeting teenagers who were excited to read my book.

And, just for fun: what celebrity do you think would enjoy reading UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING?

Demi Lovato, Angelina Jolie, Evan Rachel Wood

Thank you so much for your participation in this Wednesday Debut Interview and congrats on your book!


  1. My vote for the title was RELEASE ME, because Pearl Jam. I *almost* convinced her to use it ;-)

    Even weirder than the fact that Marcy's book didn't have a title for a long time is the fact her book didn't have chapters for a long time! That is hard for me to wrap my much more structured brain around. But one of the things that makes Marcy such an awesome CP (aside from her willingness to let me whine endlessly and her A+ cab-hailing skills) is that she and I are so different in our processes, styles, and preferences. It's incredibly helpful to have a thoughtful voice who views your book through a completely different lens.

    Great interview :) I am so excited for the world to finally get to read UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING!

    1. <3 RELEASE ME! I'd totally forgotten about that! You're the best.

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