Today I am delighted to welcome Dominique Valente to the blog with a special Q & A about getting published as part of the ‘Starfell,’ blog tour. Willow Moss is the youngest and least powerful witch in her family, the power to find lost socks, missing teeth and misplaced glasses is not very exciting. Not only that, Willow failed to inherit her mother’s striking looks – unlike her sisters – feeling like a general disappointment to her family, she’s constantly left behind. But this seemingly dull power to find things that are lost becomes crucial when Tuesday disappears and Willow is sought out by the most powerful and intimidating witch in the whole of Starfell. Can Willow find the lost day and save Starfell from impending catastrophe? Dominque has conjured up the most glorious of places in Starfell, through the most exquisite and intricate world-building. Starfell,’ is magical storytelling at it’s very best with dreamy and beautiful illustrations by Sarah Warburton. An enchanting start to this wonderful series.
Getting published – Q&A with Dominique Valente
When did you start writing the book and how long did it take from starting to write to publication day?
The character of Willow Moss appeared, around eight years ago. She popped into my head while I was driving home from work and I started writing it the next day.
It took a further four years to really get to grips with the plot and what losing a day would mean. It got over twenty agent rejections. But I kept trying, and kept redrafting. Finally, in 2017, on the third I got two offers of representation and I chose my agent, Helen Boyle of Pickled Ink (who is the absolute best). Then after seven years of hearing no, seven publishers offered to publish it at the same time – one for each year, maybe? I am not the kind of person who cries when I’m happy … but I did then.
How far in to the process of writing did you start sharing your work with others?
In a bevy of excitement, I shared my first chapter with my best-friend, who was incredibly kind and supportive, and had a field day fixing all my appalling grammar… One of these corrections was a query about a misplaced comma, in which it appeared that Willow amongst finding misplaced wallets and wooden teeth, had also found last Tuesday. Was this what I intended, she asked? Of course not, I answered. A missing day? How absurd … only to sit up (three years later…) while on holiday in France, realising that actually THAT could be the ENTIRE plot for book one! It was kind of a Eureka moment while I was trying to have a nap and my brain had other ideas.
I’d say though – that you have to pick who you share your work with. I once shared a story with a friend who said it was too much like Terry Pratchett and I ended up abandoning the story, which now I think was a mistake. So be careful who you share it with.
What is the hardest bit about getting a book to publication?
For me, it’s all the waiting involved. The limbo-land that you exist in for months at a time. There’s the waiting to see if an agent will take you on. The knife edge feel of rejection when you’ve waited and waited and then you still hear no. Then when you do get an agent and then a deal, it all happens rather painfully slowly, then rather all too fast and all at once.
What is the best bit of getting a book published?
There are so many amazing bits – it’s like a roller coaster at times. There’s the day you see your cover, and for me when I got to see the first illustrations! The most surreal moment though was seeing the story as an actual book for the first time.
Any top tips for writers on how you get your book finished?
Change the goal from a perfect book to a finished book. There comes a time when we all shut up the voice/s that said we aren’t yet ready/ need more life experience/ schooling – add an excuse of your own, and sat down and just saw what happened. It’s a tip that alas is just as important on the first book as it is on the seventh. There’s no big secret, apart from just going for it. I wish there was as trust me, I’ve looked for them all. Then set yourself a deadline – a year is good, perhaps before your next birthday.
Did you get any advice from anyone/anywhere while writing?
I love reading about other people’s writing processes and journeys to publication. Starting out I used to scour the internet for them. I came across Anthony Trollope’s advice about writing first thing in the morning a few years ago, and that has been one of the best things I’ve ever done – I write before my brain has a chance to fully wake up and fear can get in the way. Also, Jodi Picoult’s advice – that you can’t edit a blank page is just so true. I also love the late Terry Pratchett’s advice about writing the first draft for yourself.
Anything else you would like to share on the process?
Along with my children’s book, I have written seven books for grown-ups published under my pen name, Lily Graham, and what I’ve learnt is that we all have different processes. It’s about doing what works best for you. I tend to live with my book, and not do much else until it’s done. It’s a few intense weeks of living, breathing and sleeping with it. I’m very much an all or nothing sort of writer, I’ve tried to be someone with a regimen and a daily word count but it doesn’t completely work for me. The story gets stale, I Iose my nerve and my enthusiasm … I think the important thing is to find the love, and the process that makes the most sense to you. With Starfell I had to learn to let the story brew, and that was different to how I write my women’s fiction. So sometimes the story dictates too, it’s what keeps writing interesting, for me at least.
Why not join in with the rest of the blog tour for more reviews and guest posts.
Thank you to Dominque for this really insightful Q & A and to Laura and Harper Collins for inviting me to join in with the blog tour. ‘Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.