Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Preview of the Dystopian/Apocalyptic Side of My Historical Novel

Level Two author Lenore Appelhans interviewed me at her website, Presenting Lenore, as part of her Dystopian August feature.

I'm sure you might be wondering why an author of a historical ghost tale was interviewed for a dystopian celebration. Instead of answering here, I'll send you over to the interview, where you'll learn about the dark, strange year of 1918, the setting for In the Shadow of Blackbirds:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Tentative Release Date

I now have a tentative release date for In the Shadow of Blackbirds: April 1, 2013. The date won't be official until the Amulet Books Spring 2013 catalog debuts in another month or so, but it sounds like there's a strong possibility that will be the date. Definitely check back here for updates by October.

Furthermore, In the Shadow of Blackbirds is now available for pre-ordering over at Amazon. We haven't yet revealed the cover or the official synopsis, so the Amazon page for the book is a little empty right now. Here's the only blurb we've released about the novel so far:

Cat Winters's IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS, the story of a teen girl mourning the loss of her first love in 1918 California, where a flu has turned deadlier than a world war, and spirit communication has become a dark and dangerous obsession, illustrated with early-twentieth-century photographs.
(From Publishers Marketplace)

I'll make a much larger announcementand share details about the Spring 2013 releases of my fellow Amulet Books authorswhen there's more info to reveal.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Fall Passionately in Love with Your Book

Yesterday, dozens of us 2013 debut kid-lit authors offered writing and marketing advice at WriteOnCon. I feel like I need to expand upon the advice I gave over there, so I'm going to continue my thoughts here.

This is what I said:

Make sure you’ve fallen passionately in love with your book before you try selling it. If you don’t love it, readers won’t either. It’s also perfectly fine to call the book a practice run and move on to a completely new project.

If you're an aspiring writer and you're not feeling passionate about your current project, I don't mean to leave you shaking in your boots. I'm not suggesting you immediately scrap the entire draft of the troublesome manuscript you're tackling. But let me offer some food for thought...

Writing a book isn't easy. You're mapping out plots, struggling to make your characters fascinating and three dimensional, avoiding awkward sentences, keeping grammar in check, etc., all at the same time.

You NEED to have passion to keep you going. If your story is feeling more like a business relationship—something you feel obligated to sit down and do each day—and less like the rush of a brand-new romance, perhaps you should question yourself, "Why am I writing this book?" Is it because everyone else on Twitter is announcing their daily word counts and you want to keep up? Is is because you once caught the writing bug and are fighting to get it back? Or is it because you truly have a story inside you that needs to be told?

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is my first major book success story, but it's not the first manuscript I ever wrote. I started penning a few novels as a kid, completed my first book in high school, and finished another one in college. Those books were set aside. They were practice runs, not ready to head out to the world.

After I graduated from college in the mid-90s, I fell madly in love with an idea for a historical novel geared toward adult readers. I sat down and churned out the pages and daydreamed about my plot on my drive to work and while shopping in the grocery store. I was brimming over with the need to share this book with the world, and I was more than happy to revise it and polish it like crazy after receiving feedback from other writers.

That was the first book that landed me an agent.

The book never sold because of marketing reasons, and I did have to put it aside and move onward. But I learned that my own passion for a story would translate into other people falling in love with it.

Fast forward to 2007. I fell in love with another book idea, which led to me signing with a new agent. The book also didn't sell for marketing reasons. 

Fast forward again, this time to 2009: A brand-new romance bloomed. I fell head over heels in love with an idea for a WWI-era YA ghost tale. I was calling the manuscript simply Blackbirds at the time, and I knew in my gut this book was extra special. Yes, some scenes didn't come easily, and I would end up reworking the entire manuscript numerous times, but I loved the story dearly and always looked forward to sitting down with my characters. My agent and I sold In the Shadow of Blackbirds to Amulet Books in the fall of 2011, seventeen years after I started writing the first book that I sold to an agent.

Were there other books in between that didn't inspire as much passion in me? Yes. Definitely. I had many practice runs along the way—manuscripts I was rushing through just to try to sell anything, but those novels didn't garner agent interest. I knew deep down they weren't my best work, but I was trying to write books I thought would sell... not books I truly loved.

Can you eventually feel passionate about a manuscript that initially feels more like work than pleasure? Yes. I'm working on a new book right now, and earlier this year, that story started feeling more like a business relationship than a romance. After I put the manuscript aside a couple times to work on In the Shadow of Blackbirds edits, some serious character changes hit me, and I found myself daydreaming about the book at the grocery store, in the car, etc. In fact, I'm feeling the itch to work on the new manuscript as soon as I finish this post.

Why do you write? Is it just to put words down on paper in hopes that someoneanyone—will read them? Or is it because you have a story you want and need to share?

Your love for your story will become our love for the story. Find your passion, and you'll eventually find success.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Line Edits, Cover News, & Other Updates

I just wrapped up the latest revision stage for In the Shadow of Blackbirds, a process called line edits. My editor, Maggie Lehrman at Amulet Books/Abrams, went through the entire manuscript and commented about any actions or dialogue that didn't seem quite right, cleaned up awkward words and phrases, and addressed plot issues that still needed some work. Her notes were brilliant. I'm so thankful to be working with Maggie.

It was an intense process, especially with the colorful array of tracking changes showing all our edits throughout the document. But I'm extremely glad this stage exists. When you're writing a historical novel that involves a mystery, cleaning up plot holes and anachronisms is essential.

Toward the end of these revisions, I received a lovely surprise in my inbox: A peek at my cover art.


That's all I can say about the cover for now, but I will share it as soon as I'm able. To ensure you don't miss out, sign up for my monthly newsletter (launching this fall) at You can also subscribe to my posts in the right sidebar of this page.

Other August news:
  •  I'm a contributor at WriteOnCon, an online writer's conference that starts tomorrow (August 14 & 15). I'm giving writing advice, along with other members of The Lucky 13s.
  • Later this month I'm being interviewed about the setting of In the Shadow of Blackbirds. I'll post a link as soon as that feature is live.
Many more updates are yet to come. I hope everyone is enjoying the summer! Don't suffer too much Olympics withdrawal.