Monday, November 26, 2012

Interview with Dan Rix


Happy Monday everyone! I hope you all had wonderful weekends. I want to thank Becca Puglisi, Angela Ackerman, and the Bookshelf Muse for letting me guest post last week. I want to also extend a warm welcome to all my new members. I’m so glad to have you all!

As promised, I interviewed Dan Rix on his new book, Entanglement, and answered some of your burning questions. On top of explaining a bit about his book, he sheds some light on how long it took him to write the book, how many rounds of revisions he made, and why he dropped his high profile agent.

Interview with Dan Rix

What made you decide to write a book?
It’s something I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I remember when I was a kid, probably around six, picking up a novel and asking my parents how it was possible for someone to write so much. From that moment on, I was always impressed with books and the people who wrote them. And probably because I was so impressed, I aspired to be one of those people. However, it wasn’t until I came up with a solid idea that I started writing seriously with the aim of publication.

How did you come up with the idea?
Lying in bed one night, it just hit me. I know, I know…you’ve probably read on my blog that writers should go after ideas rather than stick with “the tooth fairy’s lousy pittance,” and believe me, if I had followed my own advice, I would have had a good idea years sooner. Still, the initial concept required work. The idea that everybody has a soul mate wasn’t very original. The idea that everyone has a soul mate who is born at the exact same time as them, somewhere else in the world, was better.  Finally, add that one boy is an exception to this rule, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a book exactly like it.

How long did it take you to write the book?
Just about three years. Four years total, but the last year has been mostly small changes, querying, and working on my next project. Of course, I only worked part time on it. If you add up the total hours, you get about 2,500—a little more than a year’s worth of full time work.

How did your experience in architecture and other fields shape this book?
I think every writer should major in architecture. Architecture students work on a project for months and then present it before a panel of judges, whose only purpose is to rip it to shreds (sometimes literally). People leave the critiques crying, pissed off, and humiliated. Usually, the better your project is, the worse they treat you. After four years, we graduate with no ego to speak of. But there’s another thing that happens.

Before every critique, you think your work is perfect. After every critique, you realize it’s not. And you realize there’s probably a kernel of truth in something they said. After the twentieth time this happens, you learn an important piece of wisdom. No matter how perfect you think something is, it can always, always, be improved. That’s a philosophy that applies directly to writing. Great writing doesn’t come from a brilliant mind, it comes from taking bad writing and making it a little better—and doing that again and again and again, more times than you can stand.

Did the book draw on any real people, places, and/or events?
I actually took two characters directly from people I knew. I changed them, though, and made them more extreme versions of themselves. They’re not recognizable anymore as the same people. Also, Tularosa, the ideal Southern California city in which Entanglement takes place, is essentially my home town Santa Barbara, with a few minor differences.

How many rounds of edits did you go through?
Ten altogether, with minor revisions in between. There’s not a single sentence from the first draft still in there. My approach to revision is this: rather than ask myself, “What is easiest way to fix this weakness?” I ask myself, “What is the most I can do to fix it?” and “If I was going to completely rewrite this, how would I do it?” If you have that attitude for every revision, your weakest scenes will turn into your strongest scenes.

What is your favorite aspect of your book, Entanglement?
Wow…tough questions! I think I’m most proud of the way Entanglement really leaves you thinking after the end. It’s a simple idea, but the way it plays out is layered and deliciously nuanced. It’s the kind of stuff that’s hard to swallow, that heats up the back of your neck and gives the rest of your body chills. It’s more than I could have hoped for!

You had a literary agent from a respectable agency, so why did you decide to self publish?
I think my story is depressingly common for writers. I signed with an agent who said she and everyone else at her agency who had read it “loved it.” She said it was highly polished and that there were just a few minor things she wanted me to address in the manuscript. I spent a month revising and sent it back to her. At this point, I started to feel that there was a lack of communication. She was okay about responding to my emails, but her replies were always so short, and I didn’t get the sense that she was gearing up to send my book out. I was worried. After another month passed and I still hadn’t heard from her, I followed up with an email, and then a call a few days later. At this point, she did get back to me with another round of revisions, this one substantially more serious than the first. To me, it felt like we had made backwards progress.  But more than that, while I had agreed with her first round of edits, I disagreed with most of these revisions and started questioning whether she was the right agent for the book.

Agents have a tough job. They’re trying to get an editor to make a $20,000+ investment in a completely untested product. One of the ways of hedging that uncertainty is presenting a book that’s similar to another book that has done well. My agent wanted to make Entanglement similar to other books on the market, such as Matched. This meant altering the parts of my book that make it unique and are its best selling points.

After a few more emails back and forth, we made a mutual decision to part ways. I do think I learned my lesson, though. Not every agent is right for every book, and it’s important to discuss upfront what kinds of revisions they expect. I’ve heard stories of writers doing dozens of revisions for an agent over the course of years, and I don’t think that’s right. I bet those writers could have accomplished much more in that year if they hadn’t been with that agent. My advice: find an agent who loves your book as it is. If they want you to make changes, tell them you’re willing to make one round of edits, and that you’re absolutely willing to work with an editor on more rounds, but you don’t want to get stuck going back and forth on edits. In my opinion, it’s fine if an agent wants you to do work on your book, but if you don’t agree with that work, he should concede and be willing to submit the book as is.  If not, he’s not the right agent for you—and he probably faked it a little bit when he said he “loved” your book.

For those writers in the process of querying, what advice would you give them?
Querying sucks. I didn’t learn much from doing it, except that it sucks. I mean, it really sucks. Okay, but you asked for advice. Go on to agentquery.com and read successful query letters. Try to make your own, then post it and have people rip it apart. Think like an architect. Don’t just seal the leaks. If writers are saying a sentence isn’t clear, rather than just rewrite the sentence, rewrite the whole query letter. Writers are in the business of pointing out symptoms, not the underlying sickness—so you have to go after the sickness.

Once you have a good query letter, go onto querytracker.com and start a free account. Search for all the agents that represent your genre and add them to your list. Don’t bother being selective.

Finally, query the hell out of this thing. Try fifteen to start with, but DO NOT stop there. A big mistake writers make is assuming that if fifteen agents reject them, then it’s time to give up. There are 1,200 agents in North America, give or take a few hundred. Make them ALL say no before you try something else. And if all 1,200 do say no, should you give up then? No way.

There are many other ways to get into print.

What’s next?
I’ve got a sequel already outlined, but I’m putting that on hold for a bit—at least until readers chime in that they’re ready for the next installment. :) Right now, I’m working on another speculative YA thriller.

Is there anything you’d like to say to writers who are in the process of writing books of their own?
You’ll hear a lot of disheartening statistics tossed around in the publishing world. Only one book in a hundred gets published. Even good agents only sell half their books. Two thirds of books don’t earn out their advance. Most writers don’t earn enough to quit their day jobs…and on, and on, and on. Let’s put some of these to rest right now. Here’s the only statistic that matters:

The odds that you will publish your book and be successful is 100%.

If you want it badly enough and are willing to grow.

Contact the Author
Interested in knowing more about Entanglement and Dan Rix? Click on the links below to read more!

Dan Rix                                               Entanglement
Website                                               Amazon
Facebook                                            First three chapters

1 comment:

  1. Great interview, and nice encouragement. I'm always interested in other writers' processes. It's fascinating. And yes, querying does indeed suck.

    ReplyDelete