Author Ami Allen-Vath is here talking Liars and Losers Like Us
In a past post I talked about Twitter and how even a social media hermit like me has found Twitter not only useful, but essential to getting out there and known in the writing community.
It wasn’t Twitter exactly that brought Ami Allen-Vath and I together, it was the wonderful Sun Versus Snow contest held by Michelle Hauk and Amy Trueblood. Ami was my mentor and helped me polish my query and first 250 words of my manuscript. Not only was Ami helpful in getting me 3 full requests and 1 partial (which all eventually led to a polished entry in Pitch Madness that landed me my agent), she has continued to be supportive of me on Twitter and by coming on this blog for an interview.
So, let’s begin.
It’s wonderful of you to agree to answer some questions for us, Ami. Just from my interactions with you on Twitter and during Sun Vs. Snow, I’m sure we’re in for some hilarious insight into your writing mind.
Kristi! Thanks so much for having me, I’m flattered and excited to be here. I’m also wearing my fancy hoodie today so you’re in for a professional and classy interview. Hilarious? Ack, the pressure! Hold your disappointment and courtesy applause until the end, please.
Your fancy hoodie is better than my pajamas, so this is definitely going to be classy! I don’t know much about your book Liars and Losers Like Us, which is just how I like it. Seriously. I usually close my eyes until I flip the first page so I don’t even get a peek at the book jacket blurbs. But I’ll let you give us a little teaser here.
I think it’s awesome that you don’t read jacket blurbs so I’ll keep the teaser simple. Liars and Losers Like Us is dark and light, funny and sad. And hopefully people will be cool with that kind of mash-up. Oh yeah—there will prom dresses and a hot guy who plays guitar. If that’s not your thing, there’ll also be half a bottle of wine.
Something for everyone! Want to share your prom experience with us? I have to live vicariously through books like this because I went to a small Christian high school and we had a “Junior/Senior Banquet”. I watched Pretty in Pink a lot to get over it…
Oh man. A banquet? Somebody up there owes you a re-do! I guess I’m pretty lucky. My boyfriend was great, the friends we went with were super fun, and I wore a pair of cute black platform heels. My only “regret” is that I had so many insecurities and so much anxiety during that time, that I didn’t really stay present or live in the moment as much as I should’ve. But hey, I guess that’s high school.
When did you start to take your writing seriously—as in, when did you start your road to publication?
Does the time I got really drunk and did slam poetry count? No? Okay.
In 2008 I started a memoir-based novel and then tried to turn it into a YA novel. It was too intense to write so a couple years ago, my friend Laura had the idea to ditch the serious stuff and just write something fun. So, I opened up a new document and called it Prom B*tch. (Of course it ended up getting dark and sad but I still tried to keep it fun too. Also, yes, it’s true–the original title for LaLLU was Prom B*tch). When I started in 2008, I had no idea how intense and complex the publishing industry is, but the more I learned about it while writing, the more I wanted to be a part of it. After many rejections and revisions (unsolicited advice time: REVISE & USE CPs!), I queried and signed with my awesome agent, Victoria Lowes.
I love it when authors share their stats and I know that you recently compiled a very thorough list of stats for the FallFifteeners’sblog. But, for you, how many queries, rejections, requests did you receive before landing an agent? And once you were agented, how long until you sold the manuscript?
As I implied above, I sent a lot of queries. About 94. Yes, I definitely think perseverance is a great thing but I strongly believe that I should have revised a lot more and used CPs before I started querying. I’m glad it ended up how it did, because I love my agent, but I don’t recommend querying until you’re ready. I think PB had 20 requests.
After signing, Victoria and I did two more rounds of revisions and then she sent my book out into the hands of editors. Five months later we received an offer on it!
Did you know you wanted to go the traditional route or did you have a plan B in mind—like a deadline, “If I’m not agented in 3 years, I’m going to…”?
I knew I wasn’t going to give up anytime soon. My only plan B was the book I was working on while querying. I really felt strongly about it and had already started a list of agents I’d be sending it to.
Was Liars and Losers Like Us the first book you wrote?
Yes, it’s my first completed novel.
Do you still run your ideas by your critique partners before showing it to your agent or do you like to get your agents input before you run with it?
Both! CPs are so valuable in this way. As much as I hate to subject my CPs to first draft material or snippets of ideas, it’s been done! I do the same with my agent. Once, I met with her and told her a few ideas and I remember her asking “But what’s it about? What’s the story?” Now, I always have that in the back of my head. It’s a good thing to remember when jotting down ideas and creating outlines or a synopsis. And since I am agented, I think that unless I get this idea I MUST WRITE NO MATTER WHAT, I’ll be bouncing story ideas off my CPs and especially my agent before writing the whole thing. These days, I just don’t have that kind of time to kill. ; )
Speaking of critique partners, how and where did you find yours?
I met my main CP through AgentQueryConnect. I recommend AQC highly. It’s an awesome site full of knowledge and writerly support.
Also, I’d love to know how you got involved in Sun Versus Snow and if you mentor or host any other competitions?
I met Michelle Hauck and Amy Trueblood through AQC and Twitter. I’ve been a mentor for SvS twice and I believe I helped with another contest of Michelle’s.
Do you have a funny/embarrassing/borderline psycho writing routine or habit? (If I’m asking you for one, I’d better share mine, right? I have a file saved as Acknowledgement Pages. Yes, yes I do. I drafted it last year and I add little things and people to it as time goes on. It reminds me of having an Oscar speech, just in case…)
Oooooh that’s an awesome idea. I’ve been reciting snippets of my acknowledgments in my head here and there for some time now. I should probably start drafting this, right? I don’t have any set-in-stone embarrassing writing habits but I do have one weird writing related thing. Judy Blume was my first writing idol and I’ve never met her, but whenever I really think about meeting her, I get teary eyed. I’m thinking of trying to meet her as she tours this summer, but am honestly scared I’m going to be an awkward crying mess.
Awww! Judy Blume. I think so many of us idolize her. I just listened to an episode of First Draft the other day with Libba Bray saying she got to use Judy Blume's lipstick during a writer's conference!
Thanks again for having me Kristi! It’s been a fun interview and I hope someday you’ll let me come back. I’ll try to bring more jokes next time.
Ami, it has been such a pleasure to have you here and I’m so excited for the release of Liars and Losers Like Us in March of 2016.
So, mark it on your Goodreads “To Be Read” list