10 January 2012

Shhh... Holly Cupala is about to Tell Me a Secret (Don't Breathe a Word!)

Please welcome today's featured author, Holly Cupala. She is the author of TELL ME A SECRET (HarperCollins 2010) and DON'T BREATHE A WORD (Jan. 3, 2012). Holly gives ten percent of her proceeds as an author to World Vision's Hope for Sexually Exploited Girls. Read more about Holly and her work on her website

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and education, and how it led you to writing YA? (We all seem to come to it from so many different and interesting places!)

A: I pretty much did everything you’re supposed to do when you want to be published—joined SCBWI and RWA, took classes, formed writing groups, went to conferences and timidly offered up my pages for critique…

Holly Cupala
All of that changed when a tragedy struck our family. I almost quit writing, but some very good friends wouldn’t let me. A few months later, the idea for TELL ME A SECRET came out of nowhere. It compelled and terrified me. I knew it was something I was meant to write.

Q: Congrats on your Jan. 3 release. I'm curious to know what goes into the selection of a specific release date, and how much information publishers share with their authors about that. What can you tell us? Are certain times of year considered better than others for book sales? (I'm thinking Jan. 3 is an awesome release date because everyone has gift certificates to bookstores to spend!)

A: Thank you! DON’T BREATHE A WORD was originally supposed to be released in October 2011, but the word (at least from my wonderful and loyal editor) was that the sales and marketing team at Harper loved the book so much that they wanted to focus more attention on it. And personally this was fortuitous because I spent most of the summer on the couch with morning sickness! I definitely wasn’t ready for an October launch. I think you’re right about January releases—I’m hoping teens will use their holiday money on books, maybe mine!

Q: You've gotten many wonderful reviews in the press, book blogs and from other authors. While you are able to share that feedback with us, I expect the response from readers is even more amazing. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience... seeing how your work has affected your readers?

A: That was probably the thing that surprised me the most—that these stories, so very personal to me, would speak to teen readers and be meaningful to them. I have been so grateful for readers of all ages, and honored to have the support of my peers. It makes me tear up! I think it may be the pregnancy hormones.

Q: We all love a good "squee!" story about how authors found their agent and/or first publisher. Can you share yours?

A: My first novel, TELL ME A SECRET, received a Work-In-Progress grant, which lit a fire under me to finish and start submitting it to agents. I ended up meeting my agent, Edward Necarsulmer, Children’s Director at McIntosh and Otis, at in SCBWI conference in NYC at the Writer’s Intensive. I read my first 500 words, and he said, “W-w-w-wow.” (Which totally wowed me!) A few weeks later, both he and another agent made offers. But Edward and I had completely hit it off—plus he was really passionate about the story (which didn’t stop him from telling me it needed revision). We spent three months getting it ready to go, and immediately he sold it in a pre-empt two-book deal to our top choice. I was floored. Both of my editors have turned out to be wonderful.

Q: Can you tell us about the promotional efforts for your new book, including your blog tour?

A: My husband and I are closet graphic designers, so we have been known to go crazy over creating countdown graphics, posters, stickers, websites, blinky buttons, videos, blog tour, trailers...and there are so, so many things you can do to network online that it can be endless. After everything we learned from TMAS, we went for the highest impact efforts for the DBAW launch. We created a downloadable sneak preview booklet, we’re working on a trailer with incredibly gorgeous graphics from our friend Realm Lovejoy, and a blogger fan generously put together a tour. With the guidance of a couple of wise fellow authors, I enlisted the help of a street team to get the word out, so of course we’ve made stickers and posters and fun stuff to send to them. I’ll be doing a few local and national events as well. Right now I’m making a video with cameos from lots of author friends. Watch for that around January 16th!

Q:  What are you working on next?

A: I’ve joked around that TELL ME A SECRET took four years to write, DON’T BREATHE A WORD took four months, and I hoped this next book will take four weeks…which sort of turned out to be true minus the ending—partly because I’ve learned to outrun the internal critic (at least in the crucial first draft stages) and partly because I have this imminent life event looming! It’s another contemporary YA, sort of like TMAS and DBAW on steroids in that it’s very emotionally charged and suspenseful and hopeful. Four voices, four terrible secrets, one explosive murder that will connect them all. At this point, I have about a month or so to finish it…

Thank you, Holly, and good luck with that imminent life event!