Today’s Author Spotlight features New York Times bestselling author and Pitch Wars founder Brenda Drake.
Introducing Brenda Drake
Brenda Drake is a New York Times bestselling author of Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1), Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers #2), Touching Fate (Fated Series #1), and Cursing Fate (Fated Series #2). She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. She hosts workshops and contests for writers such as Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness on her blog, and holds Twitter pitch parties on the hashtag, #PitMad. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).
Welcome Brenda! Where do we even start? You’re prolific, successful, and do so much to give back to the writing community. Let’s begin here: how do you find the time to do it all?
Ha! I wish I knew. On some days I’m organized and get tons done and on others I’m scattered and waste time. I try to make a schedule each morning on everything I have to do for the day. I put them in order of importance. I tend to move the less important ones to the next day if I run out of time. Lately, I keep moving things.
Don’t we all! There’s always so much more to do than hours in the day to do it. So tell us, did you always plan on writing young adult novels? Or is it a niche that found you instead of the other way around?
I started writing in all categories before landing on young adult. With all the teen girls in my life, I was reading tons of young adult novels and it just felt like a natural fit. I do write middle grade books, but haven’t published in it yet. I’m not sure if this is where I’ll stay. No telling where the future will lead me. I enjoy writing what interests me.
Every time I pick up one of your books, the concepts in it absolutely floor me. From portals in libraries to kids who don’t realize they can change fate to sons of Norse gods hanging out in high school, I’m continually impressed by your imagination. I have to ask: where do you get your ideas? What leads you to them, besides Goldfish crackers?
Goldfish crackers are powerful! My ideas come from some of the simplest things I come across while just going about my day. For the Library Jumpers series, it was a coffee table book of the world’s most beautiful libraries. While viewing the photographs, I wished I could jump into the pages and visit each one. The idea for my fated series came while having a tarot reading. I wondered what would happen if the reader could change anyone’s fate just by touching a card. So sometimes it’s a simple as an object that spurs an idea or a person or show I’ve seen. All you have to do is be aware and open your mind to accepting whatever your imagination brings you.
This month on All The Kissing, we’re focusing on traditional publishing. Did you always know you wanted to be traditionally published?
Yes. I don’t think I’d have the energy or know how to do it any other way. Publishing is tough. I like having many professionals in my corner, helping me.
What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from the traditional publishing approach? Has it changed or molded you as an author in any way?
Patience is key. Everything in publishing moves slow and it never goes on your schedule. I believe it changes and molds me with each book. I’m always learning something new with each one.
If you were just starting out as an author today, would you still seek to go the traditional route?
Yes. I can’t imagine going it alone. I think it takes a special person with a lot of strength to go the non-traditional way. I’m not that person.
Do you have any words of wisdom for unpublished authors seeking to go the traditional route? We all know it takes patience and perseverance, but from your perspective on the other side, is there anything you know now about traditional publishing that you would have liked to tell your younger self?
You may receive a lot of guidance from your agent and publisher going the traditional way, but you have to put in the work too. It’s a team sport, but you’re your best advocate. You have to help market your book and do whatever you can to get it noticed in the huge sea of new books each year.
What are some of your favorite resources for prospective authors looking to publish traditionally?
I’m bad at finding resources for myself. But I do follow and read a lot from Jane Friedman. She gives great advice on publishing and writing. There’s this post, Understanding the Book Publishing Process, and you can find more information on her site.
What is the hardest part for you about the traditional publishing process?
Reviews. You work so hard on a book. You put in your sweat and tears. Spend hours upon hours with the story. Fall in love. Then you send it out into the world. Some people will enjoy it, others won’t. Some who don’t will let you know. Sometimes they yell. It’s disappointing and is like a knife in the heart, but there’s no avoiding it. Once you release your book, it’s no longer yours. It belongs to the readers. Reading is subjective. With each book, I get a little better at ignoring reviews.
How about something that was much easier than you expected?
Hmm … let me think … um …. still thinking.
Ha! Nothing about publishing is easy, but you’re so prolific. Congratulations on your latest release, Analiese Rising. Can you tell our readers a little bit about the book?
Thank you! Analiese Rising is a book I really enjoyed writing. It’s The Da Vinci Code meets American Gods. I got to explore my love for mythologies. The many gods and goddesses in the book comes from the different mythologies around the world. The story starts when a stranger gives Analiese a list of names before he dies and her name is on it. Her search for answers leads her to the man’s grandson and into a war between gods.
How about your upcoming projects? Anything you’re at liberty to discuss with us?
I just finished editing a middle grade project, and I’m drafting a new young adult fantasy novel. That’s about all I can say for now.
Now a little change of pace. I think of you first and always as our Brenda from Pitch Wars. After all, All The Kissing wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you and Pitch Wars. Without playing favorites too much, can you share some of your favorite things about Pitch Wars with us?
I’d have to say the community that surrounds it is my favorite thing about Pitch Wars.
Pitch Wars is all about community, and we’ve all benefited from it in so many ways. It’s affected our careers here at All The Kissing. In what ways do you think Pitch Wars has affected your own writing career?
I think that it’s brought me many benefits with the people I’ve met through the contest. Having connections in this industry is a big help.
What books are on your night stand right now?
I’m reading a list of books for the RWA Rita awards and can’t name them. But I’m enjoying them!
I have to ask: who are some of your all-time favorite book characters?
Hermione in Harry Potter. Katniss in The Hunger Games. Jesper in Six of Crows. Oh my gosh, I could go on and on. There are so many characters I love!
What great picks! Finally, I get to turn the tides on you. After reading (and answering) all those Pitch Wars mentee stories, which fictional world would you most like to inhabit?
I’m not sure if I’m supposed to pick a mentee’s fictional world or one from a book, but I’m going with the world of Harry Potter. I want to wield magic and live in Hogwarts.
Thank you so much for being here, Brenda! It’s been our pleasure having you!
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Feature image from Brenda Drake’s Facebook, in-article images provided by author.