Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wednesday Debut Interview: TREASURE AT LURE LAKE by Shari Schwarz

For today's Wednesday Debut Interview, Shari Schwarz will be talking with us about her debut MG novel, TREASURE AT LURE LAKE

First off, tell us a bit about yourself!
Thank you for having me on Operation Awesome! I love visiting this blog and even was a winner of one of your Mystery Agent contests a while back, so I’m a huge fan!

I’m a wife and mom of four boys ages 16, 14, 11 and 4. We live in Ft. Collins, Colorado and love being so close to the mountains where we like to hike and camp. I grew up in Batavia, IL, a suburb of Chicago, but my family would often vacation in Colorado, so I had a love for rock-climbing, mountain biking and hiking early on. Before I started writing in earnest, I coached gymnastics for several years, and then I got my teaching degree and worked as an elementary librarian and started a garden at the school. Now I stay home with our youngest, write and freelance edit.

Tell us about your book. What's your elevator pitch for TREASURE AT LURE LAKE?
If I pitch to someone who I know is a reader or writer, I say it’s HATCHET + IF I STAY. Otherwise, I say it’s about two brothers who have never understood why they don’t get along. They go on a backpacking trip into the wilderness with their grandfather, and when disaster strikes, the boys have to learn to work together to survive.

Is Lure Lake a real place? Is it based on somewhere in particular?
No one has asked me this yet! Lure Lake is not a real lake, but it is based on one of my favorite hiking destinations in the Northern Colorado Rockies: American Lakes. The hike up the trail that the boys take in the book is based on the Big South trail, but I set it heading in the opposite direction and further into the wilderness, because the Big South is too well-traveled. I needed something a bit more remote for Jack and Bryce.

Why middle grade? Is there a reason you choose to write to this audience?
I had been an elementary librarian previous to writing Treasure at Lure Lake, so I was working with this genre all the time. Plus, my own boys were reading MG books at the time, and I was reading a lot of them. I was hoping to write something that was a quick, easy read, but exciting at the same time.

Let's talk a bit about your publishing journey. How long as this process taken for you, from the first draft until publication date?
In total, it took two years and four months. I started writing the first draft on December 10, 2013. I wrote it in two months and to be honest, I had NO clue what was ahead of me in terms of revising, critique partners, and least of all, querying. But I jumped in with both feet, made a lot of mistakes, had a lot of wonderful people help guide me, entered a ton of contests, and met some amazing writer friends along the way. I kept a detailed log of all my queries and responses. In just over a year, I tallied up 100 rejections before my YES came! At the end of May 2015, I received a contract for publication through Cedar Fort. After a lot of questions to some of their authors and looking into the legal side of the contract, I said yes to them. It took me until September of 2015 to finish the first round of major edits with my acquiring editor, Ashley Gephart, and then my book comes out on April 12th, 2016. I’m a bit on the fast track with writing my first book, but I don’t have an agent, so it will be back to square one soon!

Every writer experiences some rejection and setbacks along the way. How did you learn to cope with them and move on?
Yes, there were some really hard times through the querying process and some rejections that stung much more than others. But the things that kept me sane were my critique partners who were amazing and kept cheering me on. Reading about other writers’ journeys here on OA and other blogs helped me realize that this isn’t easy for anyone. I also wrote two more books, several picture books and went for some long walks and hikes which helped clear my mind and gave me a new perspective.

What makes Cedar Fort Publishing and your editor(s) there a good fit for you and your book?
Everyone I have worked with at Cedar Fort has been exceptionally kind, responsive, skilled and helpful with each step along the way. They produce high quality books with gorgeous covers. My book is intended for national release which they are expanding into and not just for their LDS markets. The contract was great and they were willing to negotiate on a couple of points that I had questions on. I felt that they really had my best interest at heart. My editor, Ashley Gephart, is brilliant, kind and always got back to me with my hundreds of questions. I loved that my editor was so accessible.

Tell us about your cover. I love the rustic feel! How much say did you have in it? What do you want it to tell potential readers?
Thank you! I love it too! Before they ever created my cover, Cedar Fort gave me a questionnaire, wanting to know if I had thoughts, ideas, or opinions about how it should look. I love that I had some say in it, but it came out so much better than I could have imagined. I cried when I saw it. They sent me a few different versions to ask which my favorite was. There were also a couple of minor things that needed to be changed at that point. One was that the profile of the bear was a grizzly bear instead of a black bear. An easy mistake to make, but since there aren’t any grizzlies in Colorado, it had to be changed, which they were more than happy to do.

Was TREASURE AT LURE LAKE the original title you had in mind for this book?
No, it wasn’t. I had used the working title of THE LEDGE. I personally never intended for that to be the final title, but some people had become attached to it and reacted strongly when they saw the change. Cedar Fort wanted something more geared to the Middle Grade audience. But, I did work THE LEDGE into the book in the acknowledgments! I was happy about that.

Can you tell us about some of the things you’ve been working on between signing a contract for this novel and its release? What about the post-book-deal process been most surprising for you?
I have worked on another MG which I decided to shelve for now because my next big goal is to find an agent for my picture books. I’m pretty focused on wanting to go more in the PB world. I now agree with many writers that PBs are harder to write than anything. The most surprising thing about the post-book-deal process is how much work and how many people it takes to write a book! And book promotion…it is endless. Luckily, I have been able to team up with The Sweet 16s which is a debut MG/YA author group. I can’t imagine doing this alone! I thought that, because I am with a smaller publisher, I would have to do so much more work that the authors with large publishers have to do, but that’s not the case. We all have to promote our own books in many ways. Although Cedar Fort and the other publishers do some things to help, being in a debut group allows us to promote each other as well, which is wonderful!

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 is, in equal parts, exciting, frightening, and surreal. I can’t believe that this is really happening at times. Other times, when my friends and family are celebrating with me, I’m thrilled that I’ve accomplished a life-long dream. And there are times when I am so nervous, because now my ‘baby’ is out in the world for people to read (yay!) and to judge (oh, no!). But my hope is that it will resonate with that one person who needs to read it. If that happens, it will all have been worth it!

Is there any other advice you'd like to pass on to others pursuing publication? Anything you would have done differently?
All the way through, I think it’s important to be kind and respectful and open to anyone who crosses your path. There are so many people who have helped me become the writer I am today…even that one guy who gave me a horribly mean critique on one of my first drafts. In the moment it was hard to accept, but I’ve learned to see what truth there was even in something like that. I’ve learned to be open to it all but not to let it all change who I am or the stories I want…no, need to tell. There are probably a thousand things I should have done differently, but when I think about redoing any of them, I think, no. Those mistakes are what got me to where I am today. They were all learning lessons, and hopefully, I can use them to help others in the future.

Excellent advice.
And, just for fun, which book in your own collection do you think your hero Bryce would most enjoy?

I’m going to answer this for both Bryce and Jack since the book is told in dual-POV. They both should read HATCHET by Gary Paulsen. Bryce would just plain-old enjoy it, the geek-survivalist that he is. Jack, on the other hand, really needs to read it to learn the survival skills from it.

Thank you so much for your participation in this Wednesday Debut Interview!


Shari Schwarz said...

Thank you for having me!


Kara Reynolds said...

Next time I come down to Fort Collins I want you to sign my book!

Shari Schwarz said...

Absolutely! I can't wait to meet you! :)