Friday, March 01, 2013

Drumroll, Please!

Finally, after a long wait, here's the big announcement I've been hinting at:

Author of the Enchanted Inc. series, Shanna Swendson's debut YA in which a young governess in an alternate 19th century New York finds herself caught up in a budding revolution when she's recruited by a group of mechanically minded rebels to spy on her employers in the magical ruling class, in a nice deal, to Margaret Ferguson at Margaret Ferguson Books, by Kristin Nelson at Nelson Literary Agency.

That's the official version. This is that YA steampunk fantasy I've mentioned a couple of time and that I've read from at a few conventions. Apparently "steampunk" is something of a touchy subject in publishing (there have been a few hits, but the rest hasn't done as well as they hoped), so they avoided that term in announcing it. But really, this is probably one of those most pure "steampunk" books you're going to find because it really is about a group of steampunks -- or, in terms of the book, Rebel Mechanics. To rebel against a magical ruling class, they need technology, so they build it. And they also dress like steampunks, making their own rules for Victorian-esque clothing. I even came up with a plot reason for sticking gears on everything, since that's the emblem of their movement. I sometimes refer to this book as "Jane Eyre meets the Scarlet Pimpernel in a steampunk 1880s New York."

This book has been an exercise in persistence, both writing and selling it. I first came up with the idea in the fall of 2009. I love the steampunk esthetic, and I'm into Victoriana, so I liked the idea of it, but hadn't quite found the book that embodied what I wanted it to be, and I hadn't come up with an idea for a steampunk book. Then as I was working on something else, I found myself gazing at my bookcase, and I saw very close together my copy of Jane Eyre and a Madeleine Brent book. Jane Eyre is, of course, a classic gothic, and Madeleine Brent wrote gothic-esque romantic adventures. Then I decided that's what my book needed to be. That idea collided with an idea fragment I'd had when snarking about a literary trope, and the story idea built gradually over the next year, based on all sorts of little bits and pieces. I read about 60 books to research this one -- non-fiction books on the era, on steam engines, on airships, on clothing, on various aspects of society. Novels written during the era, to get a feel for the language (I tried to write in a sort of pastiche of 19th century first-person). Plus, it's an alternate history in which the American Revolution doesn't happen until the late 1800s, so I had to research the real American Revolution to find the patterns that might repeat.

I was finally ready to start writing in the fall of 2010. My agent loved it and said if she couldn't sell it, she'd eat her hat. She started shopping it around to fantasy publishers, and none of them "got" it. Or else they said they were overbought on steampunk, and it wasn't doing as well as they hoped. Sometime the next year, it occurred to me that my main characters were pretty young, and I could make them just a little younger and I'd have a young adult book. My rebels were already all college students. So I revised the entire thing to make it a young adult book, which I think ended up making it a better book because it was tighter and faster-paced, and I also didn't have to worry about finding the fine line between fantasy and romance. I could just let it be what it wanted to be. We had discussed whether I could turn it into a romance, but I did some market research reading there (reading even more books) and concluded that I'd be happier doing it as YA.

So then it went back out onto the market, and the response was better, but kind of heartbreaking because there was a lot of "we love it, but we can't publish it" kind of stuff. On the second round of submission, an editor snatched it up. And the rest, I hope, will be history. It's currently set for a 2015 release, so I'll have plenty of time to talk about this book and what went into it before it hits the shelves (in hardcover!).

I guess you can tell from what I went through to sell this book that I love it with an intense, fiery passion. If it hadn't sold, I was going to self publish it because I believe in it that strongly. I've seen the way audiences respond to it when I read from it at conventions, so I believe that if people discover it, they'll like it as much as I do. Now I have a couple of years to work to make sure absolutely everyone is dying to get their hands on this book so my new editor and I can do the "Ha! So there!" dance to the rest of the publishing world.

And now I have even more news that I think I'll save for Monday because I've got a lot of intense work to do today.

1 comment:

Angie said...

Congratulations! I can't wait!