Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2013 Debut Author Interview: Megan Shepherd

Today marks a first for me. I am introducing a reappearing blog segment highlighting some of the hottest debut YA authors of 2013. This month, I’m interviewing Megan Shepherd, the author of the upcoming Gothic thriller, THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER.

Here's what GoodReads has to say about it:
Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.
Accompanied by her father's handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father's madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island's inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius—and madness—in her own blood.
Inspired by H. G. Wells's classic THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MONREAU, THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect.

Sounds amazing, right? I KNOW!

SJS: So, Megan, where did you get the inspiration for THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER?

MS: THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER is a reimagining of HG Wells’ classic novel THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU, but it actually started as inspiration from the TV show LOST. I was a huge fan of the mysterious island setting on that show, and when it ended I was thinking a lot about islands, and I happened to be re-reading Bram Stoker’s DRACULA for fun, and the idea just hit me to do a retelling of a classic!

SJS: What, if any, characteristics do you and the protagonist, Juliet, have in common? How are you different?

MS: Juliet is a very tough girl. She came from wealth, but she’s had to survive on her own in a world where women, especially young poor women, have a very hard time. I would say we’re more different than we are alike. She’s inherited a little of her father’s madness, and that comes with tendencies toward violence and a skill with science…neither of which I share in the least! However, when I was Juliet’s age (16), I also traveled to an exotic, tropical locale for my own adventure. I was an exchange student to Costa Rica, and a lot of the jungle setting came from my memories of that location.

SJS: How long did it take to complete the project starting with the idea and ending when you signed your book deal?

MS: It took nine months from idea to book deal. I had a fulltime job at the time, so I was writing evenings and weekends and hardly saw my friends and family.

SJS: That’s incredible! Tell me about how you found your agent?

MS: I made a careful list of agents I wanted to query (maybe about 80) and decided to send the queries off in batches of 10. That way, if I got all form rejections, I would know my query letter just wasn’t working and I could fix it before burning my bridges with all those agents. Luckily, though, I got great response from that first batch. Quinlan Lee at Adams Literary requested my full manuscript the day after I sent the query, and the next day, Josh Adams had offered representation.

SJS: Great advice! What surprised you most about the publishing process?

MS: I guess as an aspiring writer I was so focused on getting The Book Deal that I didn’t think much about what would happen after. It’s just as stressful to try to get a second deal, and struggle with professional jealousies and disappointments and rejections, and to try to turn one deal into a career. But just as there are some “lows” I hadn’t thought much about, the “highs” of publishing are pretty darn great too.

SJS: What other advice would you give to all the "not yet published" writers out there?

MS: The most common trait I see in other published writers is that they work incredibly hard. They work hours and hours and hours a day, until the work is as good as they can possibly make it. I don’t know any published writers who sit around hoping for another book deal but not actually slaving away at their keyboards. In aspiring writers, I sometimes see a desire to be published, but a reluctance to actually do the work it takes.

SJS: What's next for you? Any new projects coming up? And can you give us any hints at what to expect in Book 2 of the Madman's Daughter trilogy?

MS: Well, THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER is inspired by Wells’ THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU, and I can say that the second book in the series follows the same characters and plotline, but some of the themes and ideas were inspired by THE STRANGE CASE OF DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE. In addition to The Madman’s Daughter series, I’m also working on a YA scifi series called THE CAGE, about six teenagers put in an elaborate “human zoo” by a super intelligent alien race.

SJS: That sounds awesome! What are you doing talking to me? Get back to work. I have a space reserved for all of those on my TBR shelf! Seriously, Megan, thank you so much for letting me pick you brain! It's been inspiring to hear about THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER and your path to publication! I know those of us still trudging through the slush pile will take your advice to heart! Best of luck with your launch and I look forward to reading THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER when it comes out on January 29, 2013. 

MS: Thanks for having me on the blog, Sarah!

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