Sweet Sixteener Janet Taylor recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Melissa Grey about her YA fantasy debut novel, THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT (April 28, 2015 from Delacorte/Random House).
Melissa Grey penned her first short story at the age of twelve and hasn’t stopped writing since. As an undergrad at Yale, she learned how ride a horse and shoot a bow and arrow at the same time, but hasn’t had much use for that skill since graduating in 2008.
For readers of Cassandra Clare’s CITY OF BONES and Leigh Bardugo’s SHADOW AND BONE, THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.
Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.
Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act. But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.
Janet: First let me say how utterly excited I am for THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT to hit the stands. AND that I have a serious case of cover-envy! This is your debut novel. Can you tell us how that came about? How did you meet your agent, and how did your submission process go?
Melissa: I met my agent, Catherine Drayton, through the slush pile. I queried her and almost immediately after, I got an offer of representation from another agent and received a partial request from Catherine. I told her I had an offer on the table and she upped her request to the full manuscript. A day or two later, she offered representation.
My submission process was short but scary. As a debut author, lots of things are frightening, but I did not deal with the submission process well — I couldn’t eat or sleep or function like a normal human being. Thankfully, the book sold at auction a few weeks after we went out so I didn’t lounge around the house crying in my bathrobe for too long.
Janet: What would you tell other writers out there, who are still struggling to get to publication?
Melissa: I would say: Don’t give up, but also know when to shelve something that isn’t working. If a novel you’re querying or submitting isn’t going anywhere, it’s not a reflection of YOU. It might just not be the right book at the right time. Always keep writing. And remember, everyone gets rejected. EVERYONE.
Janet: How did you come up with the idea for TGaM, and when did you know it was “the one”?
Melissa: TGaM started with the characters of Echo and Caius and the concept of the firebird. The story that became the book grew around those things as I worked on world-building and forging relationships between new characters.
As for it being “the one,” I never really thought about it in those terms. I’d started two novels before beginning TGaM but I knew that they weren’t particularly good so I trunked them before wasting more time. With TGaM, I never hit the point where I felt like it wasn’t working, so I just kept writing until it was done, then edited it until it felt clean enough to submit.
Janet: Your main character, a pickpocket named Echo is clever and fiercely loyal to the Avicen, even though she’s human and they most decidedly aren’t. How are you like/unlike Echo?
Melissa: I’m a lot like Echo. Her childhood was pretty rough and so was mine — I didn’t run away to live in a library, but I certainly wanted to, and we both use humor as a defense mechanism and have a love of burritos and macarons. She’s a better, stronger person than I am though.
Now comes the dreaded Lightning Round.
Pantser or Plotter?
What was your favorite book when you were sixteen?
Probably Harry Potter
What three people (alive, fictional, or from history) would you invite to a dinner party?
Nancy Wake. Artemisia Gentileschi. Lucille Ball.
Robot revolution or zombie apocalypse?
Zombie apocalypse. I’ve seen every episode of The Walking Dead. I got this.
About the Interviewer:
Janet B Taylor lives in such a small town in Arkansas that if you happen to sneeze when you pass by, you’ll totally miss it. (Cause, you know, you can’t sneeze with your eyes open. For real–try it–it’s impossible)
Her debut novel, INTO THE DIM (HMH, Spring 2016), described as an ‘Outlander’ for teens, chronicles the tale of 16-year-old Hope, who must travel back in time to the brutal, medieval world of the 12th century to rescue her mom.
Janet is a reader/fangirl first and a writer second. She lives with her fantastic husband, two hilarious sons, and Dorda the diabetic dog who won’t win any beauty contests, but has a “nice personality”. Janet would think you’re the coolest thing since AC if you’d like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, or Tumblr, or visit her website. And if you felt like adding INTO THE DIM to Goodreads, she might come over to your house and do cart-wheels on your front lawn.