Livia Blackburne: MIDNIGHT THIEF

We’ve got a great group of debut authors here at OneFour KidLit. Today we’re introducing Livia Blackburne. One author, four questions. Here we go!

Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen?

It was a combination of graduate school and Stephanie Meyer. In my third year, I took a class that required taking a bus to and from Harvard Medical School. Boston winters are cold, so I waited for the bus inside the Harvard bookstore. There happened to be a table display for Twilight, and I started reading it while I waited. After a few days of  this, I broke down, bought the series, and read them over the weekend. It had been so long since I read for fun, and I realized how much I missed it, and how much I missed writing. I also needed a distraction from research.  I started writing a novel that had been in my head for years. It was haphazard at first, but I gradually got more serious about it, joining a critique group and starting to follow blogs.

This was about the time that self publishing was starting to gain traction. I hung out with a lot of indie authors online, and when I finished my manuscript, I decided to self publish it. My critique group was very supportive but suggested I query a few agents just to keep my options open. I sent out queries while I sent my work to a second round of beta readers. And as irony would have it, I received my first offer before I heard back from my first beta reader. That led to a lot of thinking and soul searching on my part, but eventually I did sign an Jim McCarthy at Dystel and Goderich (I blog about my reasons here). We did one round of revisions and it sold pretty quickly to Abby Ranger at Disney.

What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?

With this, I have to start way back. I went to a high school that required camping as a graduation requirement. They called it “experiential education.”  I hated camping, pretty much more than anything else in the world, so I proposed writing a novel as an alternate “educational experience.”  To my surprise, they actually let me do that instead. That was how I started the project that later became my senior project in high school. It was an incredibly derivative story about a young thief who discovered she was a wizard. Cardboard characters, no pacing, what you would expect from a first time writer. My English teacher pointed out that the only character that with any personality was the heroine’s best friend Kyra. So 12 years later, after I read twilight in a weekend binge and decide to start writing again, I reworked Kyra’s story. Kyra got a makeover and a few modified characters from my high school novel also made it in. The story itself is about a talented young thief who takes a shady job with criminal organization known as the Assassin’s Guild. But as she goes more deeply into the underworld, she realizes that what she thought was the perfect job is far more sinister than she’d imagined.

What do you do in your daily life outside of writing?
I’m very fond of singing and dancing. I’ve sung in choirs and accapella groups throughout school, and I was into West Coast swing dancing for a while. Despite being one of the least athletic people who ever existed, I have a fascination with combat sports. I did kung fu in high school and recently started Brazilian jujitsu and Muay Thai.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

Much of my writing is done via voice recognition software, because I developed repetitive strain injury during undergrad. This has led to a few embarrassing moments in e-mail correspondence (I once addressed a Professor Snedeker as Professor’s Medicare). I recently started trying to get voice recognition to work for me though, and I’m now experimenting with voice dictation while I’m doing dishes or cooking. We’ll see if that helps my productivity at all.

Livia Blackburne is a fantasy writer and recovering neuroscientist. She wrote her debut MIDNIGHT THIEF while conducting her dissertation research at MIT on the neural correlates of reading in children. She blogs about the intersection of psychology and writing on her blog A Brain Scientist’s Take on Writing.
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18 thoughts on “Livia Blackburne: MIDNIGHT THIEF

    • Thanks, Robin! Yeah, I was glad that I could salvage some stuff from that project. It sometimes resulted in some interesting complications though. One character had a name that didn’t fit my current naming scheme, and I didn’t end up changing his name until my first round revisions with my editor.

  1. The fact that you chose writing a novel over going camping proves you are heads and shoulders above most others. (Although, I’d like to combine the two. Writing while sitting by the campfire…)

    I honestly can’t wait to read MIDNIGHT THIEF!!!!!!!

  2. Can’t wait to read the book – and as an aside, I would LOVE to find out more about your writing process, using voice recognition software. Perhaps another blog? 🙂

  3. Another unashamed Twilight fan over here! Those books inspired me to get into writing too. Really looking forward to reading MIDNIGHT THIEF!

    • Michelle — yeah, Twilight gets bashed a lot in writerly circles, but I think Meyer really nailed the emotional pull in her novels. My books aren’t really romance (and my romance tends to be understated, when it’s in there), but I try to create the same degree of emotional experience.

  4. Voice recognition software has saved my dyslexic partner’s life! Literally – totally opened up her world. She does so much more on the computer now that she’s not worried about actually having to type and spell things.

    Your book sounds great, and I’m all for hotel camping myself!

  5. Oh my gosh, this is so weird–did you go to Albuquerque Academy?? I am 99% sure you are who I’m thinking of! I knew I recognized your name, but I assumed it was just from seeing you around the writing world, until I read “experiential education” and it all clicked! I was class of ’01! (Maiden name Maggie Bunting.)

    SO WEIRD that we are 2014 debuts together! Congratulations!!

    • Ooh, I love classical acapalla too. Probably more than I like contemporary accapella. With all the singers in the group, we’ve gotta have a singalong when we get together IRL.

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