I always think it’s so fascinating to hear the stories of how a writer goes from aspiring to published author. So I am so thrilled to have the incredibly intelligent and witty Caitlin Sangster here on the blog today to tell us a little bit about her own journey! If you’re an aspiring author, I definitely recommend reading what Caitlin has to say.
Caitlin’s debut novel Last Star Burning will be hitting bookshelves on 10/10/17, and it sounds PHENOMENAL, you guys! I was lucky enough to obtain an ARC copy, so I’ll be spending my weekend with this beauty and will have a review posted soon! In the meantime, be sure to check out the description below, add Last Star Burning to those fall TBR lists, and be sure to enter the pre-order giveaway!
Writing Journey Q&A with Caitlin Sangster
1. How old were you when you first started writing, and were there any books specifically that made you want to start writing yourself?
I started writing in middle school. I loved Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness books and pretty much tried to rewrite them, complete with twins, dressing up like a boy and magic. I suppose there are lots of books out there with a lot of those same elements, but my attempts were pretty much scene for scene copies, only with misspellings. I tried co-writing a book in seventh grade with a friend of mine—I’d write one chapter, she’d write the next—which was my first and last foray into contemporary lit. The only thing I remember about that book is there was a car accident, and also a main character boy with long red hair that was also somehow black at the roots. And that my friend was very, very proud of having come up with that.
2. How many manuscripts did you complete before you wrote Last Star Burning?
I didn’t seriously sit down and write a whole book start to finish until I wrote Last Star Burning, so technically none, I guess.
3. Can you tell us about what the process of querying was like for you and how you came to sign with your current agent?
It’s actually kind of funny to remember my first queries. I was so naively hopeful and had done almost no research on how to write queries or even how to go about looking for an agent. I think my first query letter didn’t even directly address whoever I sent it to, and was probably in three different fonts. I had no idea what I was doing, and got the sorts of responses you’d expect (chilling silence).
Another fun fact: I was querying a dystopian novel in a flooded dystopia market. I figured out the querying part and how not to make myself look like an idiot (for the most part. I hope.), but I got lots of “I don’t think I can sell this in the current market” types of responses. I still remember my first partial request. There was a lot of jumping up and down and screeching . . . and it didn’t go anywhere. After a long hard six months-ish of querying I saw a plug for Victoria Wells-Arms from some big-wig agent on Twitter. She’d just moved over to the agenting side of things from Bloomsbury, I queried her . . . and it was just a good fit. A few other agents were reading for me at the time, but she just seemed to click with me. I liked her. It’s almost sort of anti-climatic. After so many months and so many revisions and so much rejection, she just picked it up and said “yep. I like this.” When I asked if she was worried about the dystopia market being flooded, she said, “I like your writing, Caitlin. If this one doesn’t sell because dystopia’s out, you’ll write another one and we’ll sell that.”
4. Did you receive any rejections either from agents or publishers for Last Star Burning or any other manuscripts you’ve written? If so, how did you get yourself to keep pushing forward?
Rejection? Me? Why would you think a terrible thing like that?
As you can probably guess from what I said about finding my agent, I could probably build a house with all of my rejection letters. I understand now that I went at publishing in just about the most difficult way possible. Cold querying, while it’s possible to succeed, is a long, lonely, bumpy road. There are so many resources out there, writers who want to help those who are just starting, conferences, in-person pitch sessions… I just didn’t know. And I have the rejection letters to prove it.
I did learn something very valuable in that process though. Agents and editors say their rejection of your work is subjective, but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels personal. Thing is, it is subjective. Agents only take on work they are over-the-moon excited about. They might like what you’re writing, but unless it’s that elusive, best-thing-I’ve-ever-read unicorn for that specific agent, then they won’t put their time into it . . . and you wouldn’t want them to represent your work anyway. Out of all the books I personally like, there are only a few that have that sparkly, fabulous, written just for me feeling, and remembering that keeps it in perspective for me.
And, for times I don’t great about that explanation, I run. A lot. It’s really helpful to have a hobby where the only gatekeeper is me. I can set goals and succeed without reference to anyone else. No one has to like my running. I choose how long and how far I want to go, and then I do it. For some reason that always seems to blunt the edge of the publishing industry in my mind.
5. What has your experience with being a 2017 debut author been like so far?
It’s kind of been like coming home. I found a whole group of people whose eyes do not glaze over when I start talking about character sympathy and redemption arcs. The writing community, especially where I live in Utah, is such a warm, inclusive, wonderful place to be. On a wider scale, debuting right when things like Own Voices are gaining momentum and representation in books is getting the scrutiny it deserves, I feel like I have had so many opportunities to listen and grow and . . . just expand not only as a writer but as a person. I stepped into the larger writing community at one of those necessary painful growing stages, and I’m glad I get to grow along with it.
About Last Star Burning
Title: Last Star Burning
Author: Caitlin Sangster
Pub. Date: October 1o, 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Sev is branded with the mark of a criminal—a star burned into her hand. That’s the penalty for being the daughter of the woman who betrayed their entire nation.
Now her mother’s body is displayed above Traitor’s Arch, kept in a paralyzed half sleep by the same plague that destroyed the rest of the world. And as further punishment, Sev is forced to do hard labor to prove that she’s more valuable alive than dead.
When the government blames Sev for a horrific bombing, she must escape the city or face the chopping block. Unimaginable dangers lurk outside the city walls, and Sev’s only hope of survival lies with the most unlikely person—Howl, the chairman’s son. Though he promises to lead her to safety, Howl has secrets, and Sev can’t help but wonder if he knows more about her past—and her mother’s crimes—than he lets on.
But in a hostile world, trust is a luxury. Even when Sev’s life and the lives of everyone she loves may hang in the balance.
Enter the Giveaway!
Click below to enter this pre-order giveaway for a copy of Last Star Burning.
- Open Internationally
- Giveaway ends at midnight on 08/16/17.
From Caitlyn’s Website
Caitlin Sangster grew up in the back woods of California and would rather go hiking, running, swimming, or general outdoorsing than just about anything else. If there aren’t any mountains, it doesn’t count as a real place. At eighteen, she moved to XinJiang, and at twenty-one it was Taiwan. She did eventually buckle down and graduate from Brigham Young University with a BA in Asian Studies and is now that person you avoid at parties because she’ll probably start talking about Shang dynasty oracle bones.
Caitlin has been writing since middle school. She always thought of it as a silly sort of compulsive habit until she realized that people like reading stories and she liked writing them and there wasn’t much silly about that.
She currently lives in Utah with her husband and four children.
Have you guys pre-ordered Last Star Burning yet? What are your most anticipated fall releases?