How They Got Here: 2009 Debut Author Stacey Jay

This post is part of a year-long series of blog interviews I’ll be hosting with my fellow 2009 Debut Authors, called "How They Got Here." 

It should be an especially helpful series for teens who write, teachers, and anyone who wants to write for kids.  2009 debut authors will be dropping by to talk about how their writing in school shaped the authors they are today, what teachers can do to make a difference, how they revise, and how they found their agents and editors.  (You’ll even be able to read some successful query letters!)  If you know a teacher or two who might be interested, please share the link!

Today…Stacey Jay, author of YOU ARE SO UNDEAD TO ME!

Megan Berry’s social life is so dead. Literally. Fifteen-year-old Megan Berry is a Zombie Settler by birth, which means she’s part-time shrink to a bunch of dead people. All Megan wants is to be normal–and go to homecoming. But someone in school is using black magic to turn average, angsty Undead into flesh-eating Zombies, and it’s looking like homecoming will turn out to be a very different kind of party–the bloody kind.

Welcome, Stacey! Tell us about the first thing you ever wrote that made you think maybe you were a writer.

I wrote the first four chapters of a romance novel when I was probably…eight years old. Maybe nine, but whatever my exact age, I was WAY too young to be writing romance novels. But what can I say? I guess I’ve always been a romantic.

What books did you love when you were a kid?

Little Women was a HUGE favorite. I think I read it a dozen times. And I’d read anything with fantasy or paranormal elements. I loved horror, got big into romance in my teens…really I’d read just about anything and enjoy something about it. I still would if I had the time.

Is there a particular teacher or librarian who was a mentor for you in your reading and writing life?

I was lucky enough to have a lot of great teachers and librarians, but probably the most influential was my college professor, Susannah Berryman. She was the first person to make me believe I could do this professionally. Thanks Susannah!

Moving on to the here and now, most writers admit that making time to write can sometimes be a challenge.  When and where do you write?   Do you have any special rituals?  Music?  Food & beverages?

I write whenever, wherever. I prefer to lock myself in a quiet room while my husband watches the kids, but that’s not always possible. He has to like…work to earn money to pay our bills and stuff. So I write while cartoons are on, make notes in the car while I’m waiting to pick up my older girls, daydream storylines while I’m feeding the baby, just snatch time wherever I can. There is no special ritual, just stubbornness and determination.

Do you have a favorite strategy for revision?

Getting it done as quickly as possible because it is The Yuck. I hate revisions! 

What’s your best advice for young writers?

Read! All the time, everything you can get your hands on.

What’s special about your debut novel?

Zombies and romance, but not zombies having romance. (That’s my other book coming out with Flux in early 2010, lol.)

What were the best and worst parts of writing it?

Best=having my first revision go over well with my new editor.
Worst=learning my current editor was leaving…twice! Ugh, that was also The Yuck.

Would you like to share part or all of your successful query letter with blog readers? 

Dear Agent X:

Nothing is going to keep Megan from going to the Homecoming dance with Josh Pickle, the cutest guy in school. Not even an army of undead.

Megan is a zombie Settler. She helps the freshly dead to move on—at least, she did until a childhood accident stole her power. No big loss. Life as a normal teen is way better than hanging out with the undead, but just as Megan starts really going places—like on a date with Josh—her powers return.

Along with them comes Ethan, her childhood best friend and fellow Settler, who’s now all grown up and dangerously appealing. Being with Ethan feels…right, despite his attitude, but being with Ethan also means admitting to herself that she isn’t a regular teenager at all-she’s a Zombie Queen.

Of course, when someone tries to ruin Homecoming–not to mention her life–a Zombie Queen is just what’s needed to settle the risen dead. With the help of family and friends, she’s going to rise to the challenge of her new life, and maybe manage to dance with the hunk of her choice too.

YOU ARE SO UNDEAD TO ME is a 75k stand-alone YA novel, but is intended as the first of a series.

As XXX, I have three books accepted for publication with XXXX. YOU ARE SO UNDEAD TO ME is a different genre for me, but I’ve been a big fan of YA since I was a Y myself, and can’t imagine a more wonderful break from penning XXXX than writing for this exciting market.

Please feel free to visit my website: if you’d like to learn more. Thanks so much for your time, and I hope to have the chance to shoot a few chapters your way.

(That query letter got a lot of response and several requests from agents other than the one I ended up signing with, so hopefully that will be helpful to someone J.)

Thanks, Stacey!

If you’re a zombie kind of person (come on…admit it), you can pick up YOU ARE SO UNDEAD TO ME at your local independent bookseller, order it through one of my favorite indies, Flying Pig Bookstore(they ship!), or find an indie near you by checking out IndieBound!

Up next in the "How They Got Here" Debut 2009 series… Jenny Moss, author of WINNIE’S WAR, will be stopping by on Monday, March 2.