Let’s keep the celebration going! As part of kicking off the new Transmedia Mutts website and blog, we interview two Young Adult fiction authors: Joy McCullough and Isabel Sterling. Joy is a New York Times bestselling author who writes YA, Middle Grade, and Picture Books in a variety of genres. Isabel writes paranormal YA and also coaches authors about their writing lives.
Joy and Isabel stress the importance of writers being stubborn and tenacious in order to get traditionally published. They bond over crocheting helping to unstick their creativity and share ways their writing community keeps them going. And there are shoutouts to Shannon Hale, E. K. Johnston, and blue telepathic foxes. Watch the interview and absorb their wisdom!
Here are a few of the things we chatted about, condensed and edited for readability.
Jocelyn: Joy, have you had am AHA moment along the way?
Joy: Fairly early on in fiction writing, I remember seeing a tweet from Shannon Hale, who said something along the lines of: The first drafting is just shoveling sand into a pile, and then you have the sand to make it into the castle later. And so what works best for me is really rough first drafting, letting myself just dump it out, knowing it’ll suck, expecting it to suck because then I have something to work with. Knowing that it doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be something you can work with, continues to be important.
Jocelyn: Yeah, that’s why I’ve always been a fan of NaNoWriMo – having that ridiculously tight deadline helps me just pour words on the page without editing and second guessing as I go.
Isabel, what do you do when you need a boost in your writing life?
Isabel: I like being around other writers. I have a group of writers where we call it study hall, and we’ll just pop into a zoom, and we’ll either write or we’ll kind of talk through our stories or we’ll work. It’s like being at a coffee shop, but we live in different states, and we get to do that virtually. And I love that because I write full time now – I write and I coach – and so I’m just like alone. I don’t have an office to go to anymore, so I love to be able to have some face time with other creatives.
Jocelyn: Spending time bouncing ideas around with other writers is both helpful and inspiring. As an aside, if you’re looking for a community of supportive writers, then come join us in the Transmedia Mutts Facebook group!
Joy, since you’ve published books in a number of categories and genres, have you picked up any tips around promotion?
Joy: I got to meet E. K. Johnston like a week before my debut novel came out – she’s a YA fantasy writer and writes Star Wars books – and I asked her: What’s your advice for debuts? What’s your one piece of advice? And she said: You can do absolutely nothing to move the needle on sales. And, honestly, sometimes I tell writers that and they’re discouraged by that, but to me, it’s very freeing. It’s like if there’s nothing I can do, then I don’t have to try to pour my energy into all these possible things that might help but then will probably disappoint me because they won’t. And, instead, I can put that energy into another project. Because I think the one thing writers can do is make more books so that people discover you, and then they go back and read your other books. So I always really parrot that line: There’s nothing you can do to move the needle on sales. So only do things that are fun for you. I mean, things like this where I get to interact with other writers, are fun. I will almost always say yes to a zoom panel of some sort because that is fun for me.
Jocelyn: I’m so glad this is one of the things that is fun for you because I’m extremely grateful you volunteered to be part of my new adventure! And, Isabel, I’m so grateful you volunteered as well! Since you’re a writing coach, do you have one last piece of advice for us?
Isabel: Yeah, I really focus on author burnout, and so for me, the biggest thing is being able to celebrate where you are right now. So celebrate, “Hey, I wrote a really good bit of dialogue today,” or “I met my goal,” or, “I noticed that I needed a nap, and I actually took one!” You know, finding something to celebrate. Often I see, especially with debuts, they expect that everything’s going to change. But then your book comes out and you’re still you and your family is still your family and everything in so many ways is the same. So you have to learn to celebrate what you’ve got going on now. That’s really all you have. And then just keep building on those celebrations. Nothing is too small to celebrate.
Jocelyn: Yes! Celebrate everything! The giant milestones and the small accomplishments. Writing is HARD! Publishing is even harder! So get out there and shimmy your shoulders in celebration of each and every thing that brings you joy! And we’re definitely celebrating the launch of the Transmedia Mutts blog, so make sure to enter to win in the entry form below!
Have fun and go unleash your creative bark!
From the author of These Witches Don’t Burn comes another paranormal romance for fans of Richelle Mead and Stephenie Meyer.
Elise Beaumont is cursed. With every touch, she experiences exactly how her loved ones will die. And after her brother’s death—a death she predicted but was unable to prevent—Elise is desperate to get rid of her terrible gift, no matter the cost.
Claire Montgomery also has a unique relationship with death, mostly because she’s already dead. Technically, anyway. Claire is a vampire, and she’s been assigned by the Veil to help Elise master her rare Death Oracle powers.
At first, Elise is reluctant to work with a vampire, but when she predicts a teacher’s imminent murder, she’s determined to stop the violent death, even if it means sacrificing her own future to secure Claire’s help.
The trouble is, Claire and Elise aren’t the only paranormals in town—a killer is stalking the streets, and Claire can’t seem to shake the pull she feels toward Elise, a romance that could upend the Veil’s mission. But as Elise and Claire grow closer, Elise begins to wonder—can she really trust someone tasked with securing her loyalty? Someone who could so easily kill her? Someone who might hold the key to unraveling her brother’s mysterious death?
Isabel Sterling is a master coach, foster mom, and host of The Author Burnout Cure Podcast. An alumna of Purchase College and Syracuse University, Isabel spent several years working in higher education and LGBTQ non-profits. When she’s not writing or coaching, Isabel can be found crocheting projects she’ll never finish, completing crosswords with her spouse, and chasing her toddler. She lives with her family in Central New York, where the winters are frigid, the summers are too hot, and autumn is perfect. Isabel is the author of These Witches Don’t Burn, This Coven Won’t Break, and The Coldest Touch.. Find out more at https://www.isabelsterling.com/
“At once tender, poetic and ferocious, Enter The Body breathes new life into the Bard’s most tragic heroines. More than a tribute to Shakespeare, this kaleidoscopic, ambitious novel-in-verse gives Juliet, Ophelia, Cordelia, and Lavinia the chance to tell their own stories full of passion, justice, sisterhood, and love. Simply spectacular.”—Michael L. Printz Award winner Laura Ruby, author of Bone Gap
In the room beneath a stage’s trapdoor, Shakespeare’s dead teenage girls compare their experiences and retell the stories of their lives, their loves, and their fates in their own words. Bestselling author Joy McCullough offers a brilliant testement to how young women can support each other and reclaim their stories in the aftermath of trauma.
Joy McCullough’s debut young adult novel, Blood Water Paint, won the Washington State and Pacific Northwest book awards, as well as honors including the National Book Award longlist, finalist for the ALA Morris Award, a Publishers Weekly Flying Start and four starred reviews.
She has since written picture books and young adult and middle grade novels that have been Junior Library Guild Selections, Indie Next Selections, finalists for the Washington State Book Award, and a New York Time bestseller.
She writes books and plays from her home in the Seattle area, where she lives with her husband and two children. She studied theater at Northwestern University, fell in love with her husband atop a Guatemalan volcano, and now spends her days with kids and dogs and books. Find out more at https://joymccullough.com/