Skylar Dorset: BREATHLESS

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. Today we’re talking to Skylar Dorset, author of BREATHLESS, coming in June 2014 from Sourcebooks. One author, four questions. Here we go!

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

I have no idea. Magic?

Which is not to say that I don’t have a practical human story to tell you about the things that I did and then the things that other people did, etc., etc., but I choose to believe that somewhere along the way a bit of magic was added to the process.

I’ve been writing stories ever since I was a little girl, but I started writing BREATHLESS, the novel that’s going to be published, a few years ago, when I was no longer as little a girl. At that time, the story had a different title and a slightly different look but the core idea was there.

After I finished the novel, I thought, “I quite like this novel. Maybe I will try to get it published!” Which had been a long-cherished dream of mine. So I started crafting a query letter. That took months. I am not exaggerating. I had everyone I know read the query letter over. In fact, I think more people have read my query letter than my novel at this point! I edited the query letter and edited the query letter and edited the query letter…and THEN I started to send it out.

I was very orderly in the way I sent it out, and I refused to get dejected early on. People tell me Rome wasn’t built in a day and I guess I believe that’s true. I didn’t want to get myself overwhelmed by the process or fixated on hearing from people so I made myself send the query letter out to one agent per day–no more, no less. I ended up sending my query letter to a total of 40 agents. I was rejected a total of 27 times (and there were a few other agents I never heard from). I got my first request for my manuscript sixteen days after I started sending query letters out, which was SO EXCITING and gave me the strength to keep sending out query letters. My first offer of representation came about two months after that. I ended up signing with the awesome Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger about three months after I started querying.

And then I thought, well, of course, the hard part was done and the book would be sold immediately! We went out on submission, and we got back some requested edits. Andrea said it was up to me whether I wanted to edit the book according to the feedback we’d gotten or continue going out on submission. I thought about the edits and decided that they would make the book better, so I took a few months out of the submission process and revised the book. I’m so glad I did, because I think the book is better now. In fact, every time I finish a revision I think the book has improved, so it’s true what they tell you: Revision is hard work but worth it! After the revision, the book was sold to the fabulous Aubrey Poole at Sourcebooks not long after that. And I couldn’t be happier with the way things have turned out so far! (Whether magic was involved or not…)

What’s your debut book about?

When friends and family members who haven’t read it yet ask me this, I say, “It’s about faeries in Boston.” So I guess that’s my short version.

Here’s the longer version:

BREATHLESS is the story of Selkie Stewart, who thinks she’s a totally normal teenager growing up in Boston. Sure, her father is in an insane asylum, her mother left her on his doorstep—literally—when she was a baby, and she’s being raised by two ancient aunts who spend their time hunting gnomes in their Beacon Hill townhouse. But other than that her life is totally normal! She’s got an adventurous best friend who’s always got her back and an unrequited crush on an older boy named Ben. Just like any other teenager, right?

When Selkie goes in search of the mother she’s never known, she gets more than she bargained for. It turns out that her mother is fairy royalty, which would make Selkie a fairy princess—except for the part where her father is an ogre, which makes her only half of anything. Even more confusing, there’s a prophecy that Selkie is going to destroy the tyrannical Seelie Court, which is why her mother actually wants to kill her. Selkie has been kept hidden all her life by her adoring aunts, with the help of a Salem wizard named Will. And Ben. Because the boy she thinks she’s in love with turns out to be a fairy whose enchantment has kept her alive, but also kept her in the dark about her own life.

Now, with enchantments dissolved and prophecies swinging into action, Selkie finds herself on a series of mad quests to save the people she’s always loved and a life she’s learning to love. But in a supernatural world of increasingly complex alliances and distressingly complicated deceptions, it’s so hard to know who to trust. Does her mother really wish to kill her? Would Will sacrifice her for the sake of the prophecy? And does Ben really love her or is it all an elaborate ruse? In order to survive, Selkie realizes that the key is learning—and accepting—who she really is.

What inspires you to write?

EVERYTHING. Anything can strike a chord of inspiration with me; I never know what it’s going to be. The idea for BREATHLESS (the title, btw, is subject to change!) came to me in a dream. I sometimes have dreams that I think would make great stories. And then other times I have dreams where I’m with Emma Watson and we’re watching a group called Emo Vodka Hippopotami perform ballet. (Wait, actually, that could be a great story, too…)

I also get inspired by the things around me. I find certain places very inspiring. Some buildings I step into and feel a little frisson of excitement, thinking of all the stories that could happen in there. Little moments that happen in my life also sometimes make me think, “What if this had happened instead?” For instance, the other day my sister had a clogged pipe in her house and had to have a camera stuck into the pipe to see what was clogging it. I said, “What if you see a monster down there?” She didn’t. BUT SHE COULD HAVE. And that’s where my stories come from.

Sometimes I can just hear someone’s voice in my head, a first line, a little snippet of dialogue, SOMETHING. And I won’t be able to think of anything else until I sit down and figure out what that story is about.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

Meeting people! I’ve already gotten to meet my fellow debut authors, and now I can’t wait to meet readers! (And other authors, too, of course!) I love hearing other people’s stories, and I can’t wait for all the good ones I’m going to get to hear in the years to come! And I hope some of them are inspired by the stories I tell you!

Skylar Dorset is a born-and-bred New Englander, which is why Boston was a natural setting for her debut novel, BREATHLESS (Sourcebooks, June 2014). Skylar shares her home with lots of Mardi Gras beads from the time she spent living in New Orleans and a harp she’s supposed to be teaching herself to play. She’d like to get a dog.

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