Interview with Adalyn Grace

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Last week, I interviewed Adalyn Grace, a debut novelist I could not be MORE excited about! We talked about inspiration, her writing process, and most importantly the upcoming release of her novel, All the Stars and Teeth!

It’s due out in February 2020, and you can preorder it here . This is a book you won’t want to miss!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I knew from a young age—probably around eight or so—that I wanted to be a storyteller. I used to think that meant directing movies, or working in film in some capacity. But then one day, playing Neopets like the true nerd I was, I discovered the roleplaying boards.

I'd never even heard of roleplaying before, but I was young, bored, and internet obsessed. So I figured why not give it a try? There were definitely people on those boards far more skilled and talented than I was, but I didn’t care. I wrote up some list intros (back then you didn’t use long summaries to actually describe your characters. You just said “Hair: brown. Eyes: Green. Height: 6’0” and people just went with it. If only I could get away with that, now), and got roleplaying. 

I must have been a more morbid kid than I realized, because after writing on the boards for a while, I found a group and formed a roleplaying guild (yes, really) and my first full roleplay was about a wolf named Shaikoh who, after killing her entire pack, sets out on a new journey to become alpha of her own pack. 

After that came more and more roleplaying. More and more stories with this group of 4 girls who had become my best friends. Every spare minute I had was dedicated to writing and creating these stories. Especially since it was with friends, it was a blast. And eventually, after years of doing it, it got to the point where I couldn’t really imagine wanting to do anything else as a career. I loved creating stories.

I still tried other things, like working in theater and interning at an animation studio for a show I really loved. But ultimately I wanted what I was working on to be my stories and not someone else’s.

What do you love the most about writing?

I love creating concepts and characters. I actually hate the act of drafting, because I want my ideas to just magically appear on paper within like a week and am really upset when they're rude and don't. I’m not a patient person, so drafting is SUPER hard for me. But coming up with the concept is so much fun. The formulation of ideas and characters is by far my favorite part.  

What draws you to YA Fantasy? What is your favorite thing about the genre?

The freedom! I love being able to create worlds, characters, and magic systems that can behave however I want them to. That’s not to say there are no boundaries—especially if your world has magic, there’s so much work you have to do to set limits and parameters around the magic system—but I get to figure all that out and not anyone else. There’s so much freedom with fantasy, and the sky is the limit on the worlds and systems you can create. 

What is or has been your biggest writing struggle? How did you learn to overcome that struggle?

For the longest time I struggled with knowing when to let go of a project. Before All the Stars and Teeth, I worked on a young adult sci-fi manuscript for probably around 4-5 years. I had edited it so many times, and was even chosen to participate in a popular writing contest known as Pitch Wars with it. I received many agent requests, but never any bites or offers. For the longest time, I thought that maybe I could just keep editing it based off their feedback. I queried everyone, which is such a rookie move that I cringe thinking back on that. There are only a few agents/agencies in this industry who I’d truly recommend, and having no agent is absolutely better than having a bad one. But that didn’t matter to me back then, and I was throwing my manuscript at everyone. Thank God none of them wanted it. 

I don’t even know why I lingered on that book for so long. It wasn’t the book of my heart. I wasn’t even that passionate about it. But I’d worked on it for so long, so maybe that was the reason—just invested hours. The moment I put it down though, I was able to draft All the Stars and Teeth. Five weeks after starting it, I’d drafted the book, edited it twice, and had multiple agent offers on it within the first 24 hours of querying. 

It was a night and day difference, and such a whirlwind. I’d learned so much working on that other book, but it wasn’t right for me and it wasn’t right for the market. My skills and my talent were more than that book could reflect, no matter how much I edited. Realizing it was time to put it down, and that I wasn’t a failure for it, was the best thing I did for my career. 

 A lot of our readers are on the querying journey. What was your querying journey like? Do you have advice for writers in the querying trenches?

I kind of answered this a bit in my last answer, but to dive a bit deeper: I had queried my previous manuscript over 100 times, all to rejections. I took their feedback and learned from it, and entered contests and gathered critique partners to really grow and learn for my next book.

When it came time for All the Stars and Teeth, I want to clarify that my journey with this book was NOT normal. Even if your book is the best book on the planet, agents have lives and schedules and clients, and they’re not always reading queries right as they land in the inbox. It was rare for it to happen so quickly, but ultimately I did receive multiple offers within the first full day of querying.

My best advice to querying authors, as hard as it can be to hear, is two things:

First, remember that this is a business partnership. The power dynamic surrounding agents of querying writers is abysmal, and leads us to thinking that agents are shiny unicorns, and that we should be thankful to have any one of them. This mindset is so damaging! This is business. If I had to go back and ever query again, there are under 20 agents/agencies I’d ever send my work to. It’s so important to know who you’re doing business with. What are their sales like? Who are their clients? What kind of deals are they making, and with what publishers? You can find this information on publishers marketplace, or by talking to writer friends. But I ultimately hate the “it just takes one yes” mindset. It takes a good yes; the right yes. 

Second, if your manuscript doesn’t work out, you’re not a failure.  Sometimes it’s not even your book or writing, but the market. Take what you’ve learned from that book and your journey, and apply that to your next one. Keep growing and being open to feedback and learning. The only guaranteed way you don’t break into this business is by giving up. 

Can you tell us about your current WIP?

I’m. currently working on the sequel to All the Stars and Teeth, which is currently untitled and will be out in 2021! I can't talk much about it right now, but I'm very excited for it :)

What current media (books, shows, games, etc.) would you recommend right now?

My Hero Academia – this is an amazing study for YA writers. It’s an excellent showcase for student/mentor relationships, peer rivalry, and limiting the power and abilities of your characters (primarily for the fantasy writers out there)

Goblin – This K Drama has my heart, and I’m totally obsessed. It’s such a unique take on life, death, and living. The romance is adorable, and the bromance kills me. 

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia – I adored this book. The writing is absolutely stunning, and it’s so politically relevant to everything going on right now.  

Breath of the Wild and Overwatch – Overwatch is great when you feel like you need to be angry. Breath of the Wild is a great game to relax to. It’s so so beautiful!

Tomi Adeyemi

Tomi Adeyemi is the #1 NYT and International Best-Selling author of book and upcoming movie CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE.