Emily Liebert, author of You Knew Me When – to be reviewed here soon – recently answered a few questions for us.
Can you tell us a little bit about your average writing day?
When I'm writing a first draft of a book, which is about six months out of the year (not including edits!), I do my best to actually sit at the computer and write for about four hours a day. Some days I feel it, some days I don't. But I always try to push myself. Then I let what I've written marinate and go back to it later in the day, when I decide if it was inspired brilliance or total crap. I typically write between the hours of 10am-3pm. I'm not someone who can write from 9am-5pm or very late at night. I have two little boys so my mind is fried by 9pm and then it's reality TV time!
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
Oh yes! It's much more common that I'll use people I know (including myself) as inspiration for the main characters. So if you're my friend – or my enemy – watch out! As far as celebrities, I do tend to mention some either by real name or pseudonym (though you'll know who they are) in each of my novels. My books are about the world we live in now and our culture is so inundated with all things celebrity, that a reference here and there is hard to avoid.
Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. Blume's writing is timeless and her character development is unrivalled. I also tend to be drawn to books, which involve poignant female friendships and that take you back and forth between past and present. I'm a big Jennifer Weiner fan too. I've read and thoroughly enjoyed all of her books.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I'm a planner in all areas of my life and my writing is no exception. I put together a detailed outline before I write even the first word. I typically write half the book (roughly 15 chapters give or take) before I go back and read from the beginning, though I always go back and edit each chapter after it's written – either later that day or the next morning. Sometimes reading through the previous chapter helps me get into the groove for attacking the next one. Then I write the second half of the book and do one final read through before sending it to my editor. (I just did this for my next novel, which comes out in September 2014). After that, my editor and I will go through a few drafts, maybe three. My writing is very concise and as a former editor my writing is also very clean. When my most recent novel You Knew Me When was copyedited, it came back with only ten comments. My editor and I were both shocked!
What was your journey to being a published author?
I wrote one novel, which was very autobiographical – even though I claimed it was fiction. I pitched 80 agents and was very lucky to have three offers. I was fortunate in that I had a platform since I was already a magazine editor-in-chief and had written hundreds of articles for various magazines. Unfortunately (and fortunately), that novel never sold. I'm now thankful for that, even though it was a serious bummer at the time. That novel will NEVER see the light of day! After that, I decided I wanted to write another novel, but got what I thought was a great idea for a narrative non-fiction book first. This was in 2009, just as Facebook was really exploding. I thought, with all of the hundreds of millions of connections on Facebook, there must be some amazing stories evolving. I told my agent. She loved the idea. And Facebook Fairytales was born and sold very quickly. It's a collection of 25 amazing true stories that came from Facebook connections – an adopted baby, a teenager's life saved, long lost sisters reunited etc … I wrote the book in two months and it published in April 2010 to great success! After that, my career took a turn toward multi-media and I switched agents/agencies. I'm now with Paradigm. And my agent, Alyssa Reuben, is a literary goddess! I then wrote You Knew Me When with her guidance and wisdom at every turn. In August of 2012, she landed me a two-book deal with Penguin (now Penguin Random House) and my super-fabulous editor, Kerry Donovan. Dream. Come. True.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That all you have to do is sit down and write a book. There is SO much more to it. Much of my time is spent on publicity and networking. You can write the best book in the world and if no one knows about it, you're kind of screwed.
What advice can you give to readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Write about what you know. Write about something you're passionate about. Force yourself to sit down at the computer every day, or as often as you can, and put words to paper. Ask family/friends to read it. Develop a thick skin. Everyone gets rejected. Believe me, I've saved every rejection note I've ever received.
What are you working on at the moment?
I just finished writing my next novel a few days ago and sent it off to my editor! WOOHOO! Once she reads it, I'll dive into the editing process. In the meantime, I'm doing non-stop publicity for You Knew Me When. I like to think outside the box, even though I hate that expression. For this particular book, I forged three amazing partnerships. The first is with Zoya – they created a nail polish collection with three polishes named after the main female characters in the book – Katherine, Laney and Luella. The second is with Meskita, a clothing designer. She designed a collection of three dresses named Katherine, Laney and Luella. And, last but definitely not least, my accessories partner is DoDo – they make stunning animal-themed charms which all boast cheeky expressions. They've also put together a collection with three charms named Katherine, Laney, and Luella with expressions that correspond with the characters' personalities. So, right now I'm doing a lot with my partners for publicity and events.