Monday, March 21, 2011

Interview with Author Cambria Dillon

I'd like to welcome my agent-sister Cambia Dillon to the blog today-- go follow her right now. I'll wait.

Cambria is celebrating having signed with our wonderful agent Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary Management and officially submitting her manuscript to editors. She's running a fabulous contest this week on her blog--win query critiques, first five page critiques, signed books, and agent critiques.  She was also kind enough to take time out of her busy week to answer a few questions for me.

KCA: You’re about to go on submission with your first book. Congratulations! Is it the first book you wrote?  Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
CD: Thank you, Kristine. And thanks for having me here, too! This has been such a whirlwind process! My book, LIFE AFTER SEND, is actually the first fully completed book I queried. I still have some half-finished projects on my hard drive that suck so bad I'm convinced one of those stories actually crashed my laptop. When I first started writing, I focused on paranormal romance and I struggled with it. I read a lot of the genre and loved it, but couldn’t ever write past a hundred pages. It frustrated me endlessly! And then I started reading YA and got an idea for a contemporary story. As soon as I wrote the first chapter of what would turn into LIFE AFTER SEND, I knew my voice was better suited to YA. I wrote the first draft in six weeks and then spent about four or five months revising before I sent out that first query. I revised it again during the query stage when I realized there were still some elements missing. And late December, I queried Vickie. I’m a slush baby and proud of it!
KCA: I can relate! How long have you been writing? What made you start to write seriously?
CD: My mom will say she remembers taking me to an Amway convention when I was younger, around seven or so, and would let me stay in the car because all I wanted to do was write "furious stories about ghosts and magical trains." I don’t remember this at all. And I’m more than a little troubled that my mom would leave her seven-year-old daughter in the car while she was at a convention! But I do remember a cross-country trip I took with my parents where I did nothing but write from D.C. to Spokane, WA. So it’s safe to say I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember…however, I didn’t start writing toward publication until April 2009, a few months after I had my first daughter.
KCA: Can you tell us anything about your current work-in-progress?
CD: My current WIP is another contemporary YA (still in the first draft phase) but it’s more of a ‘trial of love’ story — following two teens who question their place in each other’s lives when what they thought they knew, comes into question. It’s told in dual perspectives and I did A LOT of research at the end of last year just so I could get to a point where I would feel comfortable enough writing it. There are some twists I'm really excited about…but that’s all I’m gonna say!
KCA: It sounds wonderful! Very unique! You just signed with Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary. Has anything surprised you about having an agent?
CD: YES! I'm surprised by how quickly things seem to be moving right now! I did a few rounds of edits for Vickie and it really seems like it was only last week when she offered to represent me. For as slow as the publishing industry moves, these last five weeks have FLOWN by.
KCA: That’s a great feeling! Where do you find your inspiration?
CD: The news. Photographs of random people and places on Flickr or DeviantArt. Music. Advertisements on the sides of buses. Snippets of overhead conversations. The beauty of a child's brutal honesty. All of these things inspire me to some extent.
KCA: Are you a full-time writer? What is your non-writing life like?
CD: I wish! I work full-time at a software company and I have a husband who competes in triathlons and ultra-marathons, and a daughter who'll be three in September. It's never quiet in our house! Someone once told me that the "Terrible Twos" are nothing…year three is the one to watch out for because by then, she'll be two years old with one year of experience. I can't tell you how terrified I am about that!
KCA: Um, mine is two with six years of experience. Just wait! :) What is your biggest challenge with your writing?
CD: My biggest challenge is that I'm a natural pantser but I TOTALLY want to be a plotter. Like, a real one. With spreadsheets and whiteboards and character bibles and flowcharts. So sometimes I start off in one direction, and then as I start to think more about the plot and what needs to happen, I realize my original idea isn't going to cut it without some major reworking. Feeling like I wasted my time by not producing something tangible on the page is a bit of a mindtrip for me and something I still struggle with.
KCA: There are no wastes of time! What are your favorite books? 
CD: I'm such a sucker for a good contemporary YA. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson is on my fave reading shelf. So is Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott, even though it's still probably the most haunting book I've ever read. Also, Stolen by Lucy Christopher is lush and beautiful and engaging. And anything by Laurie Halse Anderson or Courtney Summers. They're both big reason why I even write contemporary YA. For non-contemporary books, I'm a HUGE sucker for The Hunger Games trilogy – I mean, who isn't, right? But I'm proud to say I actually convinced my non-fiction-only husband to read the whole series and he loved it too—a true testament to an evergreen story.
KCA: Do you have a favorite “guilty pleasure” you’d like to share?
CD: Sour Patch Watermelons! New office supplies. Google Reader. Words with Friends (iPhone edition). Talent-themed reality TV (American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Project Runway, etc…). Buying something I like in multiples. Going to Sephora and splurging on lip glosses I don't need. And now that my daughter has just enough hair to pull back in a half-ponytail, I've taken to buying elastic holders in every color, flower, jewel-bob-thingie they come in! 

Thanks so much Cambria for being here today! Now, everyone, go to her contest and enter for cool prizes!


Laura Pauling said...

congrats Cambria! Great interview. And good luck with the submissions process!

Cambria Dillon said...

Thanks again for having me, Kris! So much FUNNNNN!

Tina Laurel Lee said...

Thanks for the interview, Kris. Great to meet Cambria and read your real stories!

Ansha said...

Great interview Kris. Congrats again Cambria! 3 with 2 years experience... actually my daughter was a sweetheart at 3... now 4 was another matter... ;)

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Oh my word, it's eerie how similar Cambria and I are!

So happy to be agent-sisters with the both of you! What a trip, huh? Looking forward to getting to know both of you even better!