How did you get the idea for Wither?
This is a question I get often, and I'm never sure how to answer. I don't know. Insomnia. Flu medication. A story I heard (maybe it was on the news?) involving a genetically altered potato and children being born without the genes for certain cancers. The idea of altering nature fascinates me. Eliminating one problem might create a different problem. Maybe stripping the carbs from a potato means introducing a new sort of food allergy. Maybe altering human genetics to eradicate cancer will make humans more vulnerable to other ailments, or new ailments entirely. I don't stand on any particular side of the argument. I'm just a weaver of what ifs.
Also, back in 2008, my agent had me write up 20 hypothetical synopses as an exercise, and this was #15:
In the not-too-distant future, women grossly out-populate men, and in the new nation, self-proclaimed to be genetically superior, men take two wives or more. But the world is still ending despite the efforts of the World Leader and environmental activists. When a vaccination to promote longevity turns sour, the ensuing chaos may just be enough to end the world.
I recall my agent writing back that #15 was among her favorites. As you can see, there was no indication that it would be YA. I remember that this was my favorite of the 20 ideas, but I didn't pursue it at the time because there were too many unanswered questions. More than a year later, I decided to give it a shot as a short story, with an intended word count of 3,000-5,000 words. After a lot of brainstorming and rewriting, I found the story through the eyes of a young protagonist, whose name, it turned out, was Rhine. Rhine wasn't alone; there were two other girls with her, and I knew that one of them would be despondent and tragic, and I knew that at least one of them would have a child. In the short story I'd intended to write, I saw the three girls being executed as they clung to one another. Spoiler alert: that's not how Wither ends. However, I think the girls have maintained that strength and stoicism, and I think they are absolutely loyal and brave enough to have remained at one another's side if things had gone down that way.
When people ask me how I stumbled upon an idea, I like to say that all of my life's experiences go into this big cloud inside my brain, and every so often an idea emerges like a fortune in a Magic 8 Ball. I'll never completely know.
What is Wither about?
In the near future, a botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. When Rhine is kidnapped and sold to be a polygamous bride—a common practice by the wealthy, who are desperate to keep their family lines alive—she vows to do all she can to escape.
How long did it take you to write Wither?
The first draft took under a month, under the influence of the flu, followed by several months of editing.
Any particular reason males live 5 years longer than females?
The point is that nobody within this world as of yet understands why the virus does what it does, and why males have a longer life span.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer, and how long did it take you to get published?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid, long before I concerned myself with words like “publishing” and “marketing.” I kept my writing to myself for the most part, but I had a teacher in the 5th grade who suggested I might want to pursue it when I got older. That teacher is mentioned in the acknowledgements for my debut novel, Wither, as I consider that conversation with her a life-changing moment.
In 2008, shortly after college, I began querying. 140 rejection letters later, I found a wonderful agent who stuck with me through two adult manuscripts that didn’t sell. In October of 2009, Wither and its two sequels were sold less than a month after I’d completed the first draft. It was published in March of 2011.
Who is your agent and how did you find one?
My agent is Barbara Poelle at Irene Goodman Lit Agency. I found her in the 2008 Publisher’s Market book in the writing section of Barnes & Noble. A new version is published every year with updated information, and I recommend it because it provides details about what each agent is looking for.
Any tips for an aspiring author?
Be 100% true to yourself. Write for yourself, your characters, and for the story that’s in your head. Take advice if you’d like, but don’t do anything that compromises your vision for your writing. What works for one bestselling author might be poison for another.
How many books will be in this Chemical Garden series?
When is book 2 released? Book 3?
Book 2, Fever, will be published in February 2012, and there hasn’t been a release date for Book 3 yet.
How do you pronounce your last name?
DeSTEFFano, almost exactly as it’s spelled. Not “day-steh-FAH-no.” Vlogger Kelsey Dickson pronounces it flawlessly in this video at 2:11 http://www.readingorbreathing.com/2010/12/in-my-mailbox-15.html
Are you related to the mayor of New Haven, CT?
No, I am not.
How can I contact you?
Whom do I contact about ARCs, reviews, and interviews?
You can email me (contact info posted above), and I’ll forward to my publicist.
Is the girl on your cover Mandy Moore?
Who designed your cover?
My cover was designed by Lizzy Bromley in the art department at Simon & Schuster; you can read a great interview with her regarding Wither’s cover here: http://alismith.com/blog/2011/04/withers-art-director-is-interviewed/
Are your characters inspired by actual people you know?
No. The characters in my books have nothing to do with the people in my life.
Do you see yourself in your narrator?
I don’t. I don’t intentionally pour any of myself into my narrator. She lives independent of me; she tells me her story, and I do my best to write it down.
Does your book have a trailer?
It does! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJD_C0eh_K8
Will there be a movie? Who do you want to be in it?
When I write, I’m not thinking about which actors best resemble my characters, and the story doesn’t play out like a movie in my head. That’s not to say I wouldn’t love a film adaptation! But, if there is ever a film adaptation of my book, I plan to be very hands-off about it. My top priority will always be my books, and writing the best story I can for my readers.
How do you feel about a film adaptation?
Can I be in the film version of your books?
I get a lot of emails about this, but it's something that's actually out of my hands entirely. Most authors have zero say in who will get cast in their movies, and I'm no exception. I'm not involved in the screenwriting, directing, filming, casting, etc. I'm just a girl who wrote a book. You might want to try seeking a casting director or a film agent, although, honestly, I have no idea how ANY of that stuff works. Trust me, this is a good thing; if I had my way, the entire movie would be just a bunch of kittens in ironic outfits.
What will you write next?
I am always writing. If I’m still alive, you can bet I have something in the works. It’s just that it’s a secret right now…
Why are most of your giveaways US only?/You should do more international giveaways:
The answer to this goes all the way back to 2008, before Wither was even written. My agent and I signed a contract, and somewhere on there it stated that the agency would keep foreign rights to any book that was sold to a publisher. What this means is that when my trilogy was sold to Simon & Schuster in 2009, Simon & Schuster acquired the rights to advertise and sell my books in the US, as well as any other areas that fall under their jurisdiction (Canada and Australia, for example). But in order for Wither to be sold outside of the US, the foreign rights agent outlined in my contract that my agent and I both signed (Baror, in my case) would have to approach foreign publishers directly. If you see a copy of Wither in Vietnam or China or France, etc, you won't see Simon & Schuster's logo on the cover because the foreign editions are completely unrelated to them. Each foreign edition is the property of an individual publishing house overseas. If you're in France and you want an ARC, you'd contact the French publisher to inquire, and so on.
So when it's time to print ARCs, Simon & Schuster decides how many ARCs will be printed and how they'll be distributed. Since their jurisdiction only covers the US, and since the only promotions that concern them are within the US, that's where their ARCs are distributed and that's why you won't see international giveaways.
As far as my author copies go: I only get a small number of ARCs. Despite what you might think, I don't have a trove of them just because I am the author. I got five ARCs of FEVER to do with as I pleased. I kept one of them for myself. A couple went to my family, and a couple were given away to bloggers or to fellow authors who were kind enough to host giveaways.
Do I love my overseas readers? Of course. And when I am able, all of my giveaways and charity auctions are international. I could paper the walls with the complaints and inquiries I get about this, but this is something I have virtually no control over.
What kind of message do you hope your books send to readers?
One of the most surprising things about being published is that I get so many questions from readers about my ethics, my sense of right and wrong, my intentions in writing this story. I get asked what kind of message I was trying to put out there, what kind of example I mean to set. My answer to this: Does it matter what I think or how I feel? I could tell you all about my ethics and what I think of my story. But that isn't my place. I wrote this story, sure, but then I gave it to you.
Will you read my writing?
I get this email/tweet/message all too often, and it hurts my heart a little every time, because I am all about encouraging writers to find their voices and to pursue their dreams. Unfortunately, your dream does not include a critique from me. The simple fact is that I earn my living as a writer; it pays the bills, keeps the cats fed, and it occupies a lot of my time. Even when I'm not writing, I'm scheming, plotting, and considering what will come next. When I do read, that also takes a lot of time, and it does not pay the bills. I read to remain an active member of the literary world, and I read when the author/agent/editor of an upcoming title would like me to consider offering a blurb for the jacket, and also, oh yeah, I read for that "fun" thing all the kids are talking about these days. I also like to do other things, like dangle yarn in front of my cats, call my family so they know I'm not dead somewhere, and eat things, and sleep sometimes. To ask me to read and then thoroughly critique your story is to ask me in no uncertain terms to work for you, for free. Would YOU work for free? That's time away from my own writing and time away from my yarn-dangling hobby. It just isn't feasible, especially if you could see what my inbox looks like when I am running late on a deadline. It would reduce a hardened sailor to whimpers.
All of that being said, I wasn't born a published author. I've been where you are. I understand that feeling that the publishing industry is a faraway star and you are frantically trying to build an adequate spaceship that will reach it. I understand the frustration of bolts falling down at your feet. But a read from me really wouldn't appease any of that. There are plenty of writing workshops available online and probably in your area if you do a bit of research. Just keep writing. Keep reading. Grab some super glue for that spaceship. (Disclaimer: I do not actually know how to build a spaceship).
Will you accept my invitation to join LinkedIn?
No. Why do I get 50 of these requests a week? Everything you need to know about me, you can just google. I tweet about my wardrobe bloopers and whenever my cat pees on something or my agent lovingly throws a shoe at me for being late with a revision, for crying out loud. You know way more than is even necessary. I am linked like a Flava Flav clock necklace.
How many cats do you have?
Three. Sokka (yes, as in Avatar the Last Airbender), Cecil (named for Cecily in my Chemical Garden series), and Mo.
©2008-2013 Lauren DeStefano. Layout by Harry Lam.
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