Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Start your next book now"

I'm happy to bring you another guest post on "second books." Today's guest author is Rosanne Parry.

The very best advice I got when I shared my news with my author friends that I had sold the manuscript to my first novel, Heart of a Shepherd, was, “Publishing takes a long time. Start your next book now.” I got this same advice from Susan Fletcher, Heather Vogel Frederick and Carmen Bernier Grand—all authors who live here in Portland. I am a notorious ignorer of good advice but three times was apparently the charm, because I took them at their word and got busy with a new story while I was waiting for the edits to come on Heart of a Shepherd. And thank goodness I did. It was almost 3 years between the sale of the manuscript and the release of my debut book.

My editor and I talked about what kind of book we wanted for the second one, because my first was set in rural Oregon and had a very regional flavor. We decided to go with something a little broader in scope. Because I know what middle grade kids think about books that make you cry, I wanted to do one that was a little lighter in its content. So we decided on a road trip adventure story about three girl musicians who live in Berlin at the end of the Cold War. It’s called Second Fiddle and it was all joy to write.

Here’s what I found easier about a second book.

1. I am fortunate enough to be with the same team of people who helped make Heart of a Shepherd such a beautiful book. Second Fiddle is at Random House, with my insightful and generous editor, Jim Thomas, his champion assistant, and now editor in her own right, Chelsea Eberly, and with the amazingly hard working school and library department and the best copy editors on the planet! So this time I didn’t worry about deadlines. I didn’t worry about the cover art or the details of production and marketing. I’m confident that I can leave those things to team Random House and just focus on the story. And look! They gave me this amazingly beautiful cover!

2. I’ve met hundreds of readers at my school visits. I have a much clearer picture of who I’m writing for and how much each one needs to find a story that speaks to his or her own life experience. It’s very motivating to hear kids ask what I’m working on next. And I get letters. My most recent favorite, from a third grader, said: “your book is the very beast one! I hope you write a serious.” Really, how could you resist that—of course I’ll write a serious. :-)

3. I’ve always had a great writing community in Portland, but as I’ve participated in the Class of 2K9 and the Mixed Up Files blog and the Powells Young Writers Workshop, I’ve found a much wider circle of writing friends. I’m grateful for their support every day!

And here’s what’s difficult about a second book.

1. In a word, expectation. My first book was warmly received, which was as wonderful as it was unexpected. Before I only owed it to myself to grow with each book I wrote, but now others have this expectation, too. It’s great to have earned the expectation, but it’s hard to meet it without writing the same story over again. It’s also tricky, when you know the kinds of things people are going to ask you in interviews, not to think of those things when you are writing. But thinking of those interview questions is like pouring cold water on the heat of whatever scene you are writing. Disastrous!

2. I can see now how easy it is to get pigeon-holed in one category. So I need to choose each new project carefully to build on the readers I have but still grow and gain new readers. I never thought about any of those considerations before my first book came out. I feel very lucky to have strong guidance in this area both from my editor and my agent, Stephen Fraser.

3. More than anything, I find it’s not finding the time to write, as much as it’s learning to divide my attention between the tasks of promotion, the maintenance of my business, and the production of new work. I worked very long hours in the last year, but I’m delighted to say that I finished a first draft of my third story, The Wayfinder, one month before the launch of Second Fiddle. I’m so relieved to have that accomplished, so that I can put my full attention to Second Fiddle which was great fun to write, in part because I started playing my violin again and playing in a trio with my own daughters which I love, love, love!

I’m going to have a bunch of book events this spring in which I play music with kids at bookstores and libraries. You can check my schedule at my website. If you’d like me to come to your school, library or bookstore to talk about music and books you can reach me at

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