A Successful Author Talk with Sci-Fi YA Co-Authors Katherine Ernst & Chelle Bruhn

Today’s guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) are a pair of talented Sci-Fi YA co-authors. Chelle & Katherine have been concocting stories together since they were 15—or, well, 14 if you count the stories they’d tell their parents to get away with things. A few years ago they discovered a play they wrote together in the 10th grade and thought they should take a serious stab at this whole writing thing. They’ve been hard at work writing novels ever since. They’re represented by the amazing Pooja Menon of Kimberley Cameron & Associates, and their YA Ottoman-inspired Steampunk novel, VEILED, will soon be out on submission. They eagerly anticipate seeing their names in golden typeface on the cover of a book (not that they’re picky or anything).

Writing Process:
Are you a Planner or Pantster?
KE: Can I first say that I hate the term pantster? It sounds like you like to run around pulling people’s pants off (not that I haven’t been known to do that). But seriously, in my own writing, I am definitely a planner. If I didn’t have an outline, I’d just stare at a blank screen all day. Working with a co-author only makes planning even more important.
CB: I’m a planner with panster tendencies. In solo projects I’ll plan an overarching story and then dive into individual scenes without much planning. I have found, though, that I’m way more likely to actually stick with a project if I have a detailed outline, because, like Katherine said, no plan equals a lot of time staring at a blank screen. There’s no way to not outline if you’re working with a co-author though.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
KE: I guess it depends on the project and how much time I have to dedicate to writing. The young adult and middle grade novels I’ve written have taken about two-four months, but I’m currently working on an adult project that requires a lot more research, and I have a feeling it’s going to take me six months or more.
CB: Katherine and I have written two novels together—one took about four months from start to finish, and the other about two. Honestly, if I wasn’t accountable to a co-author I might never finish anything, as evidenced by the half-written manuscript I’ve been kicking around for about a year now. 🙂
Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi-tasker?
KE: I only actively write one novel at a time, but I’ll start working on a new project (conceptualizing at least) while I’m editing the most recent one.
CB: I definitely stick to writing one project at a time, though sometimes new ideas pop up that demand a little attention. Switching between projects can be difficult when you’re trying to maintain separate and distinct voices. I also try to pay attention to my kids every once and awhile.
Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
CB: I had to convince myself that I could actually devote the time and energy to finishing something. I have a tendency to jump into things full steam ahead and then get overwhelmed or bored with a project and abandon it. Finishing the first novel, even if it never sees the light of day, went a long way in convincing me that I might actually have a shot at this whole author thing.
KE: I thought I wouldn’t be able to write description because I’m not a visual person. Writing with Chelle helps for that because she’s the description queen, and when I write novels solo, I just don’t get too description-heavy. Problem solved.
How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?
CB: If we’re talking finished manuscripts, then just the first project Kate and I wrote together. I actually stepped away from writing for awhile after that, both because I was finishing a masters degree and because I was pretty discouraged by the first round of rejections. But then Kate had an amazing idea and very generously asked me to work on it with her. It was way too good to pass on, and I’m very glad I put on my big girl pants and got back to the keyboard.
KE: Other than what Chelle mentioned, I’ve actually written two other novels on my own. One of them actually did gain representation, but that novel never sold when it was on submission. That agent, sadly, didn’t represent YA Sci-Fi, so when Chelle and I finished VEILED, our current novel, we had to query for a new agent.
Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
KE: I don’t quit things.
CB: Never officially, but, like I said before, I’ve definitely abandoned them for “later”. That’s why Kate is the perfect co-author. She keeps me motivated when I’m ready to give up.
Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
Who is your agent and how did you get that “Yes!” out of them? 
KE: We’re currently represented by Pooja Menon, a new agent at Kimberley Cameron and Associates. We queried her in the traditional manner, but we also entered a few contests at the same time, one that she incidentally was a judge for. Did it make her jump on our manuscript even faster? I’d like to think so.
How long did you query before landing your agent? 
CB: We queried for about a month with just a few nibbles, so in the second month of sending out queries we started entering contests as well. That definitely raised the number of requests we received and eventually helped snag our agent.
Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
KE: Don’t give up. Don’t despair. Make writer friends. They’ll send leads your way and otherwise keep you sane.

Social Networking and Marketing: 

Do you have a blog / site / Twitter? 
CB: We’re glad you asked. We maintain a joint blog, and we’re both on twitter (Chelle, Katherine). Katherine also has a Facebook page.
When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
KE: Before, for sure. We’re trying to increase our web presence now, but we began building our platform before landing Pooja, but I definitely wish we’d put more emphasis on it before. It takes months to years to really get a following going and make connections with other writers and readers.
Do you think social media helps build your readership?
CB: I guess we’ll find out!

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