1) What is the best and worse thing you have learned from an editor/agent?
In 2008, I finished my very first book and entered it into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Of course, it flopped…as it should’ve. I didn’t know anything about the craft of writing in terms of structure, pacing, character development, story arcs, etc. All I had was some very funny words on 300 pages, a basic story structure (beginning, middle, and end) and a pretty compelling character.
But the problem was that I was too green to know that I didn’t really know squat.
So after the contest, I took cues from my fellow author contestants and started shopping it to agents, too stupid to know that what I considered “genius” was actually under-developed rubbish. It took about 100+ rejections for me to give up the querying process.
Most agents said they really liked or loved the book but didn’t believe there was a market for it; it was considered Chick Lit which was in the throes of dying a painful death in the literary world—a mark of death for my novel. BUT, what I did learn from the experience is to accept criticism (painful as it was). There is always some thread of truth and I used the every bit of the constructive criticism to make my book better. I did find an agent eventually…just not through that initial process.
Once my publisher picked up my very first book (published at a big six under a pseudonym), I think my editorial experience was A-typical for both books. I’d done quite a bit of self editing so both of the drafts for my first and second books were very clean. My editor had very few changes and both were published as pretty much as I had written them. I think the copyeditor had the most work. My lesson learned there was—your editor will only make changes when they feel they have to. If you don’t want changes to your manuscripts, then learn your craft and write clean drafts. You can keep your story intact and you’ll build a good reputation.
2) What is your typical day?
On weekdays, I’m usually awake at 4 am, if not earlier. Depends on when the voices in my head wake me up and beg me to get them on paper. I grab my laptop which is taking up the space in bed next to me like a reliable old boyfriend (except no snoring and no sex)…and I write for an hour until it’s time to get Junior up for school. After bellowing out a hearty “Wake up!” to my son, I head to my Keurig, a writer’s best friend, and make myself a cup of something hot and caffeinated. My favorites are Caribou Coffee, Earl Grey tea, and Zen tea, depending on my mood. Once Junior’s up and going, I run around the house barking orders like a crazed Marine drill sergeant until he’s out the door and then I prepare to head out for the 9-to-5 job that still pays most of the bills in the house.
After an hour of extreme road rage I arrive at work…where I write and edit for a government contractor. Ten hours, including another hour of road rage later, I’m back home where I greet Junior with a grumble and a kiss and retreat to my bedroom to calm my nerves. After about 30 minutes, I feel human again and return to Junior. I ensure he eats, check his home work, chit about his day, and then play on social media until he goes to bed by 9pm. From 9pm to 11pm, I write some more until I fall asleep and then repeat the next day.
On weekends, my schedule is mostly the same with a few exceptions. My internal clock wakes me up 4 am no matter what day it is. It’s not programmable for “day off.” I wish someone would provide me with instructions on how to turn that darn thing off. Instead of an hour, I take a 10-second commute from my bedroom upstairs, to the dining room downstairs. I check my email while drinking a Keurig special and scarf a bagel. Then my writing day begins if I’m working on a book. Depending on how deep I’m into the book I may or may not stop for food or change out of my pajamas until bedtime. I’ve been known to work 12 hours before I looked up to ask what time it is. Then I repeat the same thing on Sunday. If I’m not deep into a book then I’ll probably spend that time on Facebook and doing other marketing activities.
Whew! What a day!
3) What do you read while in the midst of a project? Or don’t you?
I don’t typically read anything while I’m writing and if I do, it’s definitely not in the same genre that I’m writing. For example, if I’m writing a spy thriller, then I might read chick lit if I need a break…or vice versa. Generally speaking, if I’m reading anything, it’s usually for research…and I haven’t had to do much of that for my books because they’re all based on my experiences to a large degree.
4) What do you do with a paperback once you’ve read it?
I shelve my paperbacks…and I haven’t bought many because I’m a kindle owner from way back. As an author, I definitely recommend the good ones but I don’t let people borrow my books very often. I know that every sale counts. If it’s part of a series and I know the person is likely to go out and buy all the rest of the books, then I might consider it.
5) Are you nervous about friends reading your book?
I’m nervous every single time ANYONE reads my books. I’m a walking contradiction because I’m ultra introverted but I put myself out there in a very public way. While I’m adept at handling criticism, I still want all good feedback. So, it’s a bit nerve-wrecking anytime someone tells me they’ve picked up one of my books. I’ve learned to just cross my fingers and hope for the best.
6) What things inspire you to write? Location, music, film or even in a book?
Because my mind is constantly going 1,000 miles a minute, it’s usually not until my world quiets down that ideas have room to flow. That’s why my laptop is usually right beside me when I fall asleep. It usually at 3 or 4 am that the house is stone quiet and my brain says, “Remember all that stuff you didn’t have time to think about earlier today? Well, HELLO!” It’s like the floodgates open and the ideas spill through. That’s definitely my favorite and most productive time of day to write. So silence actually works for me.
8) What’s next for you?
I’m working on the third book in the series called A No Good Itch (A J.J. McCall Novel) (so named because the main character is a human lie detector who itches when she hears lies). It takes off where Son of a Itch leaves off and is what I would consider the mid-point of the story arc in this planned 5-book series. Each of these books is carefully wound together but can also stand on their own. But a lot of issues come to a head in Book 3, including the organized crime conflict between the Russians and Italians. I feel like I’m getting to write my own “Godfather”-type story so I’m hugely excited about the prospect. It promises to be more fast-paced than the first two—and the ending is a truly doozie! (Yes, I already know how it will end.) I’m expecting to release it in late 2014.
Son of a Itch
by S. D. Skye
On the lam from the FBI, the ICE PHANTOM continues with plans to defect to Moscow but not before seeking revenge on J.J. McCall. Meanwhile, the FBI commences Task Force PHANTOM HUNTER, a team ordered by Director Russell Freeman to track down suspected Russian illegals within the U.S. Intelligence Community—and not a moment too soon. An agent of the Russian Intelligence Services is targeting the nerve center of U.S. national security, taking the lie-detecting FBI Agent and her cohorts’ next mole hunt to the highest echelons of the U.S. government.
J.J. and her co-case agent lead the motley crew of spy catchers while she struggles to deal with sobriety, conflicting feelings for Tony and Six, and an egotistical Secret Service agent whose jurisdictional stonewalling complicates her every effort to identify the culprit before he gets away—with murder.
Exactly three moments defined the entire course of J.J.’s being —the day she got “the itch,” the generational curse that sparked random irritating tingles through her body anytime she heard a lie; the day her mother died; and this one, the day in which she grasped the fragility of life and how it could slip away in an instant.
The ambulance siren blared down Pennsylvania Avenue through the remnants of rush hour traffic as she stared down at his tearful eyes, his face shredded with pain, his body curled with anguish. Slowly, his lids opened to expose a bloodshot blank stare. She saw her mother’s eyes in his, and his last breath whispered in the distance, drawing ever near.
“I’m here. You’re going to be okay. We’re almost there,” she said as her voice shook.
George Washington University Hospital was just a few minutes away and had one of the best trauma centers in the D.C. area.
He placed his trembling hand on hers and struggled to speak. “There…something…you should…kn—”
“Shhhh. Save your strength,” J.J. shook her head to dissuade him from speaking. She stroked his fingers and tried to maintain a steady front. “You’re gonna be okay. You can tell me everything when you’re better.”
Her mind whirred as the ambulance zipped into the circular driveway beneath the overhang and masked emergency personnel in blue and green scrubs swarmed the doors. They pulled the gurney out and wheeling him inside, beyond her view. She’d never felt so alone in her life. She had calls to make, people to notify, but her mind was still foggy from the shock.
She searched her purse for the flask, the reminder of just how far she’d come and how much further she had to go.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
S.D. Skye is a former FBI Russian Counterintelligence Program Intelligence Analyst and supported two major programs during her 12-year tenure at the Bureau. She has personally witnessed the blowback the Intelligence Community suffered due to the most significant compromises in U.S. history, including the arrests of former CIA Case Officer Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen. She spent 20+ years supporting military and intelligence missions in the U.S. Intelligence Community.
Skye, an award winning author, is a member of the Maryland Writer’s Association, Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She’s addicted to writing and chocolate—not necessarily in that order—and currently lives in the Washington D.C. area with her son. Skye is hard at work on several projects, including the next installment of this exciting series.
S.D. Skye Novels on Amazon – Kindle and Paperback
S.D. Skye Novels on Kindle – Worldwide Links
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