Today's Q&A features Amy Fellner Dominy, author of OyMG! (Walker, May 2011) and the newly-released AUDITION & SUBTRACTION (Walker, Sept. 4, 2012). She is a former advertising copywriter and playwright. You can learn more about her work (and order her books) at amydominy.com. She’s got a fun blog there, too, and a recent entry tells the good and bad of a book launch.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing career, and how you moved from copywriter to playwright to YA/MG author?
A: I always loved to write, but I knew I needed a steady job out of college. Advertising was a perfect fit: I could write and get a paycheck every two weeks. Funny enough, I became known for my campaigns aimed at teens. I also got really good at catchy headlines, and writing dialogue for TV and radio spots. Little did I know these things would come in handy down the road….
|Amy Fellner Dominy|
Q: The title and cover copy for your first novel, OyMG is so fun and clever. Did you come up with the title? Was it something that came to you early in your writing process, or did you mull and fret and fuss over it (like I do!) for months? AUDITION & SUBTRACTION, is great, too! I'm always curious to hear the story behind the title. (And, if I put your books under my pillow, will I wake up with great title ideas for my books, too?)
A: First of all—thanks for the nice words!! And yes, I mulled and fretted and fussed. J When it sold, the title was Honestly, Ellie but my editor wanted something else. With my copywriting background, I figured no problem. I came up with lists of titles. Here are a few:
Sizzle, Secrets and Matzo Ball Soup
Love, Hate and Debate
Still, nothing was quite perfect. We were reaching the 11th hour, when I came up with OyMG. Immediately, everyone at Walker loved it. Truthfully, I was worried about using a title with slang, but ultimately the publisher felt strongly about it.
For Audition & Subtraction, that wasn’t the first title, but it came to me pretty quickly. For me, it’s always a matter of combining the familiar in unfamiliar ways. (Or putting books under your pillow might work, too.)
Q: I hope I'm not the only one who loves to hear the "how I got my agent/publisher" story. I'm amazed at how many different ways this happens. Can you share yours?
A: I love these stories, too, and I love sharing mine! I was at an SCBWI conference and the first page of OyMG was read out loud in front of everyone as part of a First Page Panel. Everyone laughed, two editors said they’d love to see the book and so did the one agent who was there: Caryn Wiseman with Andrea Brown Literary Agency. About a month later, I signed with Caryn—partly, I think, on the strength of that first page.
Q: Your first novel is geared toward a 12 and older reader, and the second is 10-14. How would you describe the differences in writing for those slightly different target audiences, and do you think about the age of your reader as you're writing?
A: You’ve hit on what’s been my greatest challenge /difficulty as an author—and that’s writing for the slippery category of “tween.” Truth is, I wrote both books about 14-year-olds and in the case of OyMG, my publisher felt it should be marketed YA and in the case of Audition & Subtraction, it should be marketed as middle grade. In both cases, I went in and tweaked a bit to fit the proper ages. For instance, the word “crap” was okay for YA but I had to delete it in the MG.
I really like writing about 8th graders, but I’m not sure it’s wise from a marketing standpoint. I don’t know if anyone else feels the same way or has had different experiences with this. I keep hoping the market will adjust to make room for a separate category of tween.
Q: As a former clarinet player myself, I always love a book with great clarinet-playing characters. I'm starting a list... I've got two such books on it so far (your new book and Jandy Nelson's THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE). Considering the prevalence of vampire-werewolf-faerie-angel-demon-dystopian books out there, I'm thinking clarinet players are woefully under-represented in YA literature. Your thoughts?
A: LOL! I love it--the next big thing in YA: Clarinet players. Finally, a trend I’d be ahead of. J
Q: Tell us about your marketing efforts. What has worked best for you?
A: Well, there’s strength in numbers and that’s certainly true of marketing. One of the best things I did was join The Class of 2k11, a group of debut authors. We banded together to help share each other’s news, we traveled to BEA together, appeared at conferences and we’re still running giveaways through our newsletter. I’ve seen writers accomplish the same thing through joint blogs and things like that.
The rest of it—who knows. I’ve created SWAG and trailers, done school visits, launch parties, conferences, posted on blogs, given away books, and anything else I could think of.
For Audition & Subtraction, I’m trying public humiliation. I’ve created My WORST Blog Tour—starting the 17th—in which I share my WORST memories (and pictures) of middle school on a different blog each day. I’m hoping it creates some interest. I’ll let you know!!
Q: Finally, what are you working on now/next?
A: My editor at Walker is excited to see my next middle grade book. The only problem is my next book has a main character who is 15. (Which technically makes it a YA.) It’s called BAD KAT and I was trying to write it as a middle grade, honest, but it refused to cooperate. So, hopefully, what’s next is a home for Kat, and a new middle grade that will be fabulous and funny and not full of “crap.” J