The year is 1867, and seventeen-year-old Verity Boone is excited to return from Worcester, Massachusetts, to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, the hometown she left when she was just a baby. Now she will finally meet the fiancé she knows only through letters! Soon, however, she discovers two strangely caged graves . . . and learns that one of them is her own mother’s. Verity swears she’ll get to the bottom of why her mother was buried in “unhallowed ground” in this suspenseful teen mystery that swirls with rumors of witchcraft, buried gold from the days of the War of Independence, and even more shocking family secrets.
As promised, author Dianne Salerni is back to answer a few more questions about her journey from writer to published author...
Tell us how you acquired your agent, Sara Crowe? What did you do right?
I realized shortly after signing a book contract un-agented that I needed someone looking out for my interests. No matter how nice your editor or how small your publisher, they have a business to run, and the author needs a representative.
I started querying shortly before We Hear the Dead was released. In spite of one self-pubbed author’s prediction that “With a book contract and a film option in hand, all you have to do is wave at agents,” it took months of rejection to find Sara. Agents aren’t interested in deals you’ve already signed; they want to know what you have for them to work with.
What did I do right? I kept revising my new manuscript throughout the querying process. I give that advice over and over, and I know a lot of people don’t want to hear it. With every rejection and every bit of feedback, no matter how tiny, I tweaked and polished that manuscript before sending out more queries. I deleted chapters. I took a really good scene that was planned for a proposed sequel and moved it into this story.
By the time I queried Sara, the manuscript was something worth reading. I admit, when I queried her, I thought she was out of my league. But she responded to my query with a full request within 24 hours and made an offer in under a week. If I’d sent her the manuscript that I started querying with, I’m positive she would have passed.
How long before you sold The Caged Graves? Tell us how it happened. Did you scream? Cry? Celebrate?
The first book Sara submitted for me didn’t sell. Yup, that one I worked so hard on. The Caged Graves was the second book I sent to Sara. (Querying took so long that I almost had it finished by the time I found Sara. I signed with her in December 2010 and sent her The Caged Graves at the end of February 2011 while the other book was out on sub.)
We went through a couple rounds of revision with CG and waited for responses to the first book before submitting this one. I think it went on sub in the beginning of June 2011. In early August, Dinah Stevenson of Clarion/HMH expressed interest, but wanted a R&R of the first few chapters due to reservations she had. I spent three weeks on the revisions, and Dinah offered for the book shortly after Sara passed my changes along to her.
Celebrate? You bet I did! My husband took me out to dinner. There might have been champagne.
One of the things writers sometimes forget is that once you – or your agent – has sold your book, there’s still work to be done. What did you like best about working with an editor? Least?
A good editor is very demanding. All those little details that you think aren’t important? They are. In fact, what I’ve learned in conversation with other authors is that the more revisions an editor demands of you, the more they’re invested in your book. The time to worry is NOT when you receive a 20 page editorial letter. The time to worry is if your editor’s notes come in a single paragraph in an email.
That said, there’s always a small panic attack when opening the 20 page edit letter. That’s the part I like least – not knowing what’s going to be in there.
What was the highlight of seeing The Caged Graves in print with that gorgeous cover? (I must admit I might have squealed a little.)I squealed too! I just couldn’t get over how pretty the book is. The gold ornamentation around the title is textured and shiny. And when you take off the dust jacket, the book inside is gorgeous, with purple end papers, a green cover, and more gold decoration on the spine. With or without the jacket, it’s a darn good-looking book to have on the shelf!
I must agree; it's a beautiful book and a fabulous read. Friday, I'll have the third and final part of my interview with Dianne, and we'll talk about her upcoming release, The Eighth Day, an MG book due out next April.