We’ve got a great group of debut authors here at OneFour KidLit. Today we’re introducing Liz de Jager, author of The Blackhart Legacy series. The first book coming to you in Spring 2014 from Tor UK, an imprint of Pan Macmillan UK.
One author, four questions. Here we go!
Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen?
My dad was a great storyteller. As most little girls tend to do, I thought my dad knew all the stories in all the world. He raised me pretty much on a diet of Westerns and retellings of Jules Verne and H Rider Haggard. My mum despaired as stories to her were a waste of time as she was a firestarter, always creating things with her hands, running around being active. So reading for me became something special and secret and when I started writing my own stories I hid them away like a secret thing to be ashamed of. I loved my mum but she was fierce and so it wasn’t until I got to high school and teachers were telling me that I could actually write that I took what I scribbled seriously.
I met and married my husband and moved to the UK. I joined SCBWI British Isles in 2008 after completing my first novel, a middle grade action adventure. I thought I was pretty hot stuff back then but I had a lot to learn and SCBWI helped me a lot; they put together classes that taught members about characters, plotting and revision.
I wrote the first book in my trilogy and entered it into the SCBWI BI Undiscovered Voices competition and got long listed. I was devastated that I did not make the short list but I was so excited for my friends who did make it. On the back of the long-listing, I received some interest from agents and sent it off to two of them. I received one very polite rejection and one very personal hurtful rejection that utterly broke me. I didn’t write for three months. But after a chat to a friend, she told me to pull up my big girl panties and get writing because quitters don’t find their books in bookshops. This scared me and so I did what she instructed. I dumped the entire manuscript and started from scratch. And it soared. I utterly fell in love with my main character, Kit Blackhart, and the world I had created just grew and grew.
I approached an agent I knew from twitter in my capacity as a SCBWI Volunteer to invite her to come to our Agents’ Party. She responded with enthusiasm and we chatted amicably for a few days until she told me she’d be interested in seeing my manuscript as she was building her YA list and she loves fantasy and urban fantasy. I literally freaked out. I sent the requisite three chapters off to her (in a ridiculously formal email) during the Olympics here in London and got an out of office reply. My heart sank as I realised she was travelling. My boss sent us all home early to avoid travel chaos and en route to my station I felt my phone buzz and it was from the agent asking me to send her the rest of the manuscript as she loved the opening three chapters so much. The following day, a Saturday, she sent me an email to tell me how much she loved the manuscript and she wanted to meet with a view to offer representation.
We met up and we talked extensively about the manuscript and the characters and other stories I had in mind. She suggested a few minor changes and one major big breathtaking change and I remember thinking: she’s got guts and obviously knows of what she speaks! We shook hands after out chat and hugged and suddenly, I had an agent. I went away, made the changes and edits she suggested, sent it back to her a few weeks later after which she sent along a few line edits and then at the beginning of January 2013 sent it off to a hitlist of editors and publishers. We got some interest, some said no pretty quickly, but mostly the rejections were so lovely, you could not take them personally.
Within a few weeks of visiting a handful of publishers and listening to a smattering of editors and publicity people talk about Blackhart we went to auction and after extensive sober and very grown up chats, we chose Tor UK as the home to The Blackhart Legacy trilogy.
What are you most excited about in the debut process?
All of it, really. Meeting my editor and her team, hearing their thoughts on the covers and the titles we’re choosing for the three books, joining Onefourkidlit and having to change my Facebook and Twitter profiles! It’s the small things, you know? It makes it real. It’s a year until the first book is released and there’s a lot of work to be done but I am so looking forward to it. Also: telling my friends and people I work with, that I’ve got a bookdeal and then having to explain it all to them, how it works. And assuring them that my wealth is nowhere near JK Rowling’s…unless I win the lottery.
What cool facts might readers not know about you?
I owned a motorbike in South Africa. She was called Black Betty even though she was purple. I loved her and rode her badly. I also have a tattoo in the shape of a Brian Froud pixie on my shoulder. I am a wild child. (not really)
Do you have any writing quirks–places you need to write or things you need to have with you?
I love Moleksine notebooks but am only able to write in the plain / unlined notebooks. I have hundred of them and I wish I was exaggerating but I’m not. I can pretty much write anywhere if my laptop is charged – the noisier the better and I also have a huge writing playlist that consists of a lot of movie soundtracks – so a lot of big orchestral pieces. I am unable to watch The Lord of the Rings or The Kingdom and hear the music and not suffer pangs of: “I have to write immediately!” feelings. Very Pavlovian.
|Liz de Jager, although originally from South Africa, now lives in London, United Kingdom, with her husband Mark and their Jack Russell Terrier, Sparrow. Her house is brimful of books and she spends most of her free time writing, reading, drinking too much tea and dreaming of kick ass heroines saving the day. She’s also obsessed with folklore and fairy tales. She can be found on Twitter: @LizUK|