The Fangirl Interviews Sci-fi Ya author: Beth Revis
Beth Revis's debut novel, Across the Universe, is coming from Razorbill/Penguin in Spring 2011. [link: http://acrosstheuniversebook.com] A former high-school English teacher, Beth can't help but blogs about writing, grammar, and publishing at Writing it Out [ bethrevis.blogspot.com]. She is the founder of the new popular dystopian blog, the League of Extraordinary Writers [ leaguewriters.blogspot.com], and blows off steam by trying to come up with something witty in 140 characters or less [link: twitter.com/bethrevis], lusting after books on GoodReads [link: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/2192858], or wasting time on Facebook [link: http://facebook.com/authorbethrevis]. Beth is represented by Merrilee Heifetz at Writers House.
The moment I found out about Beth Revis and that she wrote YA Sci-Fi, I knew that I had to interview her. After Fangirling out over her blog for awhile I got the courage to say, 'ZOMG I WRITE SCI-FI YA TOO WILL YOU DO AN INTERVIEW?' The rest is history...
Magan: For those who haven't heard of your debut novel ACROSS THE UNIVERSE can you tell them what it's about?
Beth: It's a murder mystery...IN SPACE!
OK, but seriously, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is about a girl who is cryogenically frozen in order to survive a centuries-long journey to another planet, but wakes up fifty years before the ship lands. And it's about a boy who was born on the ship, one of the generations of crew that keep it running, who is destined to be the ship's new leader. And it's also about a murderer, who's somewhere aboard the massive space ship, unplugging the frozens and letting them die...
Magan: How did you get the idea for this novel?
Beth: Well, the whole book was written around the twist at the end--but I can't very well tell you what the twist at the end is. But I'll say this much: I knew I wanted a mystery similar to Agatha Christie's MOUSETRAP or Jeanne du Prau's CITY OF EMBER--you know that the "bad guy" has to be someone trapped in the same area as everyone else. I made my area a space ship instead of a snowed-in inn or a city underground, but the concept's similar.
Magan: Why Sci-fi and more importantly, why YA- Sci-Fi?
Beth: The entire reason I made my book be sci fi was for the setting--I wanted a trapped area, and a space ship was the coolest trapped area I could come up with. As for why YA? Well, YA is about the only type of book I read--I much much MUCH prefer my stories to be exciting, fast-paced, and character driven, and YA does that best.
Magan: Do you think with novels like yours and I AM NUMBER FOUR that it's the beginning of a Sci-Fi trend in young adults?
Beth: I hope so! It's my opinion that YA is much more about a style than about an age suggestion--so, for example, YA sci fi isn't so much about science as about characters in these extreme situations. That's truer to what most sci fi movies and TV shows are about (and they're pretty popular among all age ranges). With the vast cross-over appeal of YA novels like Harry Potter and TWILIGHT, people are starting to see that YA is a style, not an age, and there's more of a chance for this type of book to be published.
Magan: As a fellow Querytracker.net member, would you be willing to share your querying journey? How many did you send out for this novel and how did you deal with rejection?
Beth: Before I say my stats for ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, I want to make it clear that I've been writing for a long time--ten years--with nothing published before AtU. I've written 11 books in that time, and only ACROSS THE UNIVERSE crossed the publishing hurdle. So, my REAL stats before AtU are: 10 years of writing, 10 manuscripts, and 300+ queries. I hit the gamut in that time--had one manuscript that never got a single request for a partial or anything, had one manuscript that *almost* made it...but before AtU, none of them were good enough.
With AtU, I sent out about 40ish queries. I used Query Tracker and Casey McCormick's website almost exclusively for research (as well as the agents' own websites, of course). And--to be honest--I thought nothing would come of AtU. I had zero publishing credentials (such as pubbed short stories), zero publishing connections, and--to top it off--I had written a sci fi, and there were almost NO science fiction for teens on the market at that time. Seriously. I AM NUMBER FOUR, Dom Testa's novel, Patrick Ness--none of that was out when I started querying. And I had more than one agent reject me flat out with the idea that they believed they couldn't sell a sci fi novel set in space (dystopia, on the other hand, was very popular).
But, in the end, out of all the novels and all the queries, and everything else--ACROSS THE UNIVERSE found a home--first with Merrilee Heifetz, then with Razorbill.
(Also, btw, the Elevensies, a group of debut 2011 YA and MG authors, just asked this question of all the upcoming debuts--so if you want to find out about this from more authors, go to http://community.livejournal.com/2011debuts/162108.html)
Magan: How do you balance work, a social life, and a writing life?
Beth: Well, I am a full time writer now, so it's going better, but when I wrote ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, I was a full-time teacher of tenth grade world literature students. For me, it was about choices. I am not the kind of person who can "turn off" unless the job is done--so writing after school was difficult and usually impossible for me--I was still in teacher mode and couldn't switch off. Whenever I had chunks of time--the weekends, Spring Break, etc.--I wrote. So, I didn't write 500 words a day or anything like that, but I might knock out 5k in a weekend, then two weeks later get out another 3k or so--all my writing was done in sprints whenever I could.
Also, for the record--I wrote ACROSS THE UNIVERSE while I had students, in the spring semester, then used summer break to revise, and started subbing it at the start of the fall semester.
Magan: What's next for Beth Revis?
Beth: Polishing up Book 2 of the trilogy and getting that sent off to my agent and publisher!
Magan: If ACROSS THE UNIVERSE was to be made into a movie who would you cast in the lead roles?
Beth: Personally, I envision someone like Molly Quinn, the daughter in the TV show CASTLE as Amy--she's got the physical features of pale skin and eyes, and red hair, as well as the sort of beauty that's not obvious that I wanted for Amy. (http://uk.imdb.com/name/nm2829369/)
For Elder, I honestly can't think of an actor that would fit him--but it would need to be someone multi-ethnic and with the right physical features, as race does play a part in the story.
Magan: Favorite book, movie, food?
Beth: Book: The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
Movie: Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn
Magan: Famous last words?
Beth: Like an epitaph? How about..."She wouldn't have changed a thing."