I’m very excited to be hosting Eliza Crewe, debut author of the young adult fantasy Cracked, which releases tomorrow from Strange Chemistry! I really enjoyed Cracked and you can read my review here. Eliza was kind enough to answer some questions, and she’s even sharing a photo of her pet hen with us! Strange Chemistry is offering a copy of Cracked to one lucky winner, and the giveaway is International! Keep reading to enter the giveaway at the end of this post. So without further ado, here’s Eliza!
Welcome to Books, Bones & Buffy, Eliza! I’m thrilled to have you visiting, and I’m so happy to help promote your debut, Cracked! First of all, as a debut author, can you tell us a little about your path to publication? I understand Cracked has already been published in India. How did that happen, and how did you hook up with the folks at Strange Chemistry?
Thank you so much for having me!
Oh Lord, my path to publication–it’s kind of a crazy story.
I finished Cracked in the fall of 2011. I queried it around to at least thirty agents, but didn’t have much luck–I had a grand total of one “revise and resubmit” (when an agent says they’ll take another look if you make some changes) and a whole pile of form rejections. Then, in April of 2012, out of the blue, an aspiring writer in India I’d met through an online critique group emailed and said he liked Cracked and passed it on to a friend “in publishing.” Turned out that friend is an editor at Penguin in India, and she ended up offering on Cracked shortly thereafter. So I actually found a publisher before an agent. Fortunately the agent who’d asked to see revisions way-back-when, Victoria Marini, ended up offering right after Penguin did.
I’d already submitted Cracked to Strange Chemistry during their open door period (when they take submissions from authors without agents). We were in a bit of a time-crunch since Penguin India wanted to release Cracked the following April (in six months!) when they launched their new YA imprint, Inked, and for all sorts of logistical reasons we didn’t want the book’s release dates to be too wildly far apart (for context it typically takes about two years from submission to publication in the US). So I emailed Amanda at Strange Chemistry to ask if, given the circumstances, she could read Cracked sooner than later. She said “no,” lol. Fortunately Victoria was able to sweet-talk her into reading it, and Strange Chemistry offered shortly thereafter. So, as a result, I have two editors, two covers, and two release dates–fortunately not too insanely far apart.
Cracked is about a girl named Meda who eats souls. Where did this idea come from, and how did it evolve into the finished story that will soon be sitting on bookstore shelves?
I haven’t the faintest idea where it came from. I remember sitting on my porch one early morning with a cup of coffee in my favorite red mug. I had just decided to set aside my previous novel and work on something new, but I hadn’t made any decisions. I was just sitting there, listening to music (though I can’t remember what song), and I just saw this frail girl curled on the floor of an insane asylum, and I could hear her creepy, lyrical voice as she contemplated the murder of one of the nurses, and I just wrote it. I didn’t know anything about her. I didn’t even know if she was really going to kill the nurse or was actually insane! I just loved writing it; it gave me goosebumps, so I decided it had to be my next story. Then it just kinda happened from there.
Cracked really hasn’t changed much at its heart, though I did have to back down off the crazy a bit. Mostly revisions consisted of fleshing things out and adding in scenes Meda mentions but that I didn’t actually show.
How long did it take you to write Cracked?
About eight weeks, I think, for the rough draft (and we are talking ROUGH)–then about eight months of revisions.
Which character was your favorite to write, and which one do you think was the most difficult to write?
Meda is my favorite hands-down. She is just awful–a truly wicked character who does what she wants and makes no apologies for it. Writing a bad character is loads of fun because nothing is off-limits–or as Meda puts it, she “gets to play the game without any rules.”
The hardest was probably Jo, Meda’s nemesis. She was tricky because she has a complicated role to fill. The book is written from the bad guy’s point of view–Meda–and so Jo, as her nemesis, is one of the good guys. The challenge was to make Jo good without making her too likeable–but not unlikeable either. I wanted the reader to be torn over who to root for–Meda or Jo.
Cracked is the first in a series. Have you already planned out the entire story? How many books do you foresee for the Soul Eater series (or how many are you contracted for)?
They are all planned–my editors made me! I am contracted to Penguin for three books and Strange Chemistry for two.
Congratulations on being a new mother! Having two children myself, I vaguely remember how hard it was when they were babies (but wonderful too). How do you balance your professional life with your family life?
HA, balance. Yeah, I haven’t quite figured that out yet. Right now in particular is pretty intense. We’re gearing up for the release of Cracked (obviously :-P), but at the same time the draft of the sequel is due to Penguin. I missed a lot of writing-time with pregnancy-induced early bedtimes and when the baby was born (I actually thought I’d have time to write while on maternity leave–hahahahhahahahahaha *cries a little*) so I’m definitely a little behind. Then, there’s that whole, ya know, full-time job eating up nine hours of my day. So I’m still definitely working on that balance thing. Mostly I don’t sleep. Fortunately, both baby and book are worth it!
(Yes, Eliza actually has a baby. A human baby.)
What sort of books and authors from your childhood and adult life had an impact on your writing as you were thinking of ideas for your first novel?
Hm, that’s pretty tricky! As I said before I didn’t really pre-plan Cracked, so there weren’t any obvious influences (though I’m sure there were a million subconscious ones!). The relationship between Rose and Lissa in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series probably influenced it–I love their best-friend dynamic.
Also, after I’d written Cracked, I was pretty worried about how weird it was. There aren’t a ton of anti-hero YA books, especially with girl anti-heroes, and, on top of that, there are some weird parts in Cracked (like when Meda jokes directly with the reader, for example) that really made me worry (read: “panic attack”) that I’d written this monster (literally) no one would want to read. Fortunately, right about that time I read Franny Billingsley’s Chime, now one of my all-time favorite books, and it really just reminded me that writing is fun. It made me hang with it, keep the crazy voice, and send it out into the world.
Tell us three things about Eliza Crewe that can’t be found on your website.
Hmmm…I am incredibly uninteresting in real life, so that’s tricky!
- My husband hasn’t read Cracked. It’s probably better that way, though–there’s a whole level of crazy in there I should probably expose to him gradually over the next fifty years or so.
- In eighth grade I stumbled upon my Grandma’s collection of 1980’s & 90’s bodice-rippers which I read secretly by hiding their covers under a cover I’d peeled off my copy of Anne of Avonlea. My parents must have thought I LOVED that book (which, actually, I did). (*Insert Tammy laughing hysterically here*)
- Last year I tried my hand at carpentry and built a chicken coop. Ta-da!
Don’t you love that they’ve placed chairs and a table facing the coop, so they can watch the hens?? I love this:) “Honey, lets have some coffee and watch the hens.” Thank you so much for visiting today, Eliza!
About the author:
Eliza Crewe always thought she’d be a lawyer, and even went so far as to complete law school. But as they say, you are what you eat, and considering the number of books Eliza has devoured since childhood, it was inevitable she’d end up in the literary world. She abandoned the lawyer-plan to instead become a librarian and now a writer.
While she’s been filling notebooks with random scenes for years, Eliza didn’t seriously commit to writing an entire novel until the spring of 2011, when she and her husband bought a house. With that house came a half-hour commute, during which Eliza decided she needed something to think about other than her road-rage. Is it any surprise she wrote a book about a blood-thirsty, people-eating monster?
Eliza has lived in Illinois, Edinburgh, and Las Vegas, and now lives in North Carolina with her husband, daughter, hens, an angry, talking, stuffed dwarf giraffe, and a sweet, mute, pantomiming bear. She likes to partially-complete craft projects, free-range her hens, and take long walks. Cracked is her first novel.
Ever since my mom was murdered, I’ve been completely alone. I live in the shadows, because there’s no one like me. I have no choice because I have to fight the Hunger, the Hunger that drives me to hunt people and eat their souls. And I have to fight it if I want to stay out of the darkness.
Who am I?
I’m Meda Melange.
What am I?
I don’t know—but I’m not human.
And now, I finally have the chance to find out.
In this first book of the gripping Soul Eater trilogy, find out who Meda is and which side she will come down on in a thrilling tale of the war between good and evil.
You can find Cracked here:
And now for the giveaway! Thanks to Strange Chemistry, one International winner will receive a copy of Cracked. Simply fill out the form below. You can earn extra entries by leaving a comment, tweeting about the giveaway, and following Eliza on Twitter! Giveaway ends November 18th at midnight, PST. Good luck everyone!