DON'T FORGET! Today's the last day to enter March's #PassOrPages. If you have a contemporary YA novel to query, enter HERE.
Today's Wednesday Debut Interview features Ava Jae, author of the debut YA sci-fi novel, BEYOND THE RED.
First off, tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi! I’m Ava, author of BEYOND THE RED, which just released on March 1st! I’m a college student (graduating sooooon), blogger, assistant editor, and YouTuber with a mild tea addiction.
Congrats on your graduation!! Tell us about your book. What's your elevator pitch for BEYOND THE RED?
BEYOND THE RED is a YA Sci-Fi about a violent uprising on a distant, alien planet that threatens the reign of a teen alien queen—Kora. It’s also about Eros, a half-human, half-alien rebel soldier whose life collides with Kora’s when her people attack his and he’s taken captive.
One of the most interesting things for me about science fiction is the worldbuilding. Tell us a bit about the alien world you created for this story?
Safara is a technologically advanced extrasolar planet—meaning that it’s in a different solar system, but the same universe we live in. BEYOND THE RED primarily takes place in the southern deserts, where the sands are red and white under the heat of the twin suns. Safara is inhabited with humans, who are descendents from explorers from Earth, and Sepharon, the native species to the planet—but the two don’t exactly get along...
What kind of research did you have to do in order to make a believable world where humans and aliens coexist?
Honestly, a lot of it was just paying attention to how we coexist and interact with different races and cultures—which is to say, not very well. The humans and Sepharon have a lot of animosity between them, and much of the way they treat each other is, unfortunately, not unheard of in our reality.
Let's talk a bit about your publishing journey. How long as this process taken for you, from the first draft until publication date?
I started the first draft of BEYOND THE RED in May 2014, officially signed with my agent in February 2015, sold RED to Sky Pony Press in October 2015 and just saw it published on March 1st of this year—so we’re looking at nearly two years from first draft to publication. However, BEYOND THE RED is actually the tenth manuscript I wrote, and it took me nearly eight years from first draft of my first manuscript to signing with my agent—and roughly ten years to RED’s publication.
Every writer experiences some rejection and setbacks along the way. How did you learn to cope with them and move on?
Honestly, after a while I just kind of got used to them. It was getting pretty discouraging by the time I started getting rejections while querying RED—it’d been my sixth time in the query trenches and I was starting to wonder if maybe the results would be the same as the first five times I queried. But I learned to distract myself with new projects and I frequently read testimonials from authors who took a long time to get published (Beth Revis was a major inspiration in that area—her debut was her eleventh novel, and now she’s a NYT Bestselling author!), which helped me power through it.
What makes Sky Pony Press and your editor(s) there a good fit for you and your book?
Sky Pony’s been great to work with—and I especially loved how much say I got not only in the cover, but in the interior design. It was such a fun process, and the result is one that I absolutely adore. My editor, Nicole, has also been nothing short of wonderful to work with. :)
Tell us about your cover. I love how it immediately tells the reader that this story is taking place on an alien world. What else did you want it to convey?
Thank you! Conveying that the book doesn’t take place on Earth was definitely important to me—I also wanted to convey the vastness of the desert the book primarily takes place in, which I think the cover does an incredible job with. It’s basically exactly like I hoped it might be when I’d daydreamed about potential covers.
Was BEYOND THE RED the original title you'd had in mind for this story? If not, tell us about how it came to be titled that.
Ha ha ha ha ha nooope. RED’s original title was SLAVE & SIRA, which wasn’t a great title for various reasons. From there it took me a really long time to brainstorm new title ideas with my agent, her team, and my critique partners. Ultimately, it was a suggestion from one of my amazing critique partners who came up with the title that was tweaked into BEYOND THE RED—to this day I continue turn to her to help me choose an evocative title!
Can you tell us about some of the things you been working on between signing a contract for BEYOND THE RED and its release? What about the post-book-deal process been most surprising for you?
For a while I focused on a YA Fantasy I really love and hopefully will one day be able to share with everyone, now I’m working on a sekret thing I can’t talk about, but they’ve both been great distractions! As for most surprising, it’s been kind of interesting to see how very different the pre-pub process is depending on the publishing house. I sort of imagined the timeline and processes would be similar, but it can vary a lot.
How does it feel to finally have your book out in the hands of readers? Do you have any events planned you want people to know about?
It’s amazing! It’s been so great to see pictures of people with their copies of BEYOND THE RED and it’s been equally wonderful to see pics of RED in the wild. I’m very happy to finally have reached the “published” marker. :)
As for events, I’m preparing to head off really soon to the DC/VA/MD area for a mini book tour with some other debut authors and to speak at an SCBWI conference, all happening from 3/16-3/22, which should be fun!
Is there any other advice you'd like to pass on to others pursuing publication? Anything you would have done differently?
My biggest mistake with my publishing journey was putting a deadline on myself—I was thirteen when I decided I wanted to be an author, and for the longest time I put a *ton* of pressure on myself to be a teen author (spoiler: it didn’t happen). Putting so much pressure on that arbitrary deadline made the first several years of my journey that much more stressful and difficult, and I had to learn that time is actually on our side. Take all the time you need to improve your craft and get your writing skills publication ready—your future self and readers will thank you.
Great advice. And for what it's worth, I think you're the youngest author we've had on Wednesday Debut Interview thus far!
And, just for fun, which other YA hero/heroine do you think your main character Kora would want to invite over for dinner?
This is *such* a fun question! A lot of my favorite heroes are thieves, for some reason, and Kora would not invite them over, but I think she’d quite enjoy Nikolai Lantsov’s company. They could talk politics, and his easygoing personality would be a refreshing change for her.
Thank you so much for your participation in this Wednesday Debut Interview!Thank you for having me! :)