Pen Friends ~ You are in for a treat! We have the lovely Caroline George, both an agent and YA author, with us today for an inspiring and insightful interview talking about her upcoming book, Dearest Josephine, her 3 book-deal with Harper Collins/TN, social media, agent life and the hardcore pursuit of writing!
SP: Hi Caroline! I’m so excited to have you -for the second time- on the Spinning Pen! And, with more amazing news! Congrats on your 3-book deal with Harper Collins/TNZ! Before we get into all the new juicy book stuff, here is Caroline’s new bio:
Caroline George is a multi-award-winning
author of YA speculative fiction. Her first book released when she was fifteen
years old, a feat which led to more publications and internships with
HarperCollins and Hillsong in Sydney, Australia. She graduated from Belmont
University with a degree in publishing and public relations, and now travels
the country, speaking at conferences and writing full-time.
A Georgia native, Caroline aspires to one day host The Great British Baking Show and delights in being best known for writing the phrase, “Coffee first. Save the world later.” When she’s not glued to her laptop, she can be found hiking in the Appalachian Foothills, sipping a lavender latte, or chatting with young writers. Find her on Instagram @authorcarolinegeorge and Twitter @CarolineGeorge_
SP: Now, a question for the author, can you share any details regarding your upcoming book? Are the three books connected/a trilogy?
First off, thanks for asking me to do an interview! I adore the Spinning Pen and think it’s a great resource for both readers and writers.
Although I don’t have an official blurb, I do have an unofficial one I’d like to share. My book is titled Dearest Josephine. It releases from TNZ Fiction, HarperCollins in February 2021. I would describe it as Wuthering Heights meets The Lake House for YA readers, perfect for fans of Melissa De La Cruz and Alix E. Harrow. The story blurs time and reality to create a Jane Austen-esque romance set on the English moors.
Chocolate and Earl Grey tea can’t fix Josie De Clare’s horrible year. She mourned the death of her father and suffered a teen-life crisis, which delayed her university plans. But when her father’s will reveals a family-owned property in Northern England, Josie leaves London to find clarity at the secluded manor house. While exploring the estate, she discovers two-hundred-year-old love letters written by an elusive novelist, all addressed to her.
Elias Roch loves a woman who doesn’t exist. Born the bastard son to a nobleman and outcasted from society because of his skin color, Elias seeks refuge in the pages of his novel, with the quirky heroine who draws him into a fantasy world of scandal, betrayal, and unconditional love. Convinced she’s his soulmate, Elias writes letters to her, all of which divulge the tragedy and trials of his personal life.
As fiction blurs into reality, Josie and Elias must decide: How does one live if love can’t wait? Separated by two hundred years, they fight against time to find each other in a story of her, him, and the novel he wrote.
I thoroughly enjoyed writing this book. It was the most challenging project I’ve ever attempted since the story is told via emails, texts, letters, and a book styled after 19th century novels. However, I believe it’s my best piece of work. I’m thrilled to share it with people!
To answer your last question, the three books are not connected. Nelson signed me for three standalones, none of which were specified during the contract-signing process. Later this month, I’ll pitch several book concepts to the pub board and see which one they want next!
SP: What comp titles! Love it. So, how did this book deal unfold? Was it tortuously slow? Or sudden and unexpected?
The answers to these questions could fill an entire page! In short, Nelson expressed interest in my YA action comedy in March 2019. The book went to pub board and resulted in a phone call with the TNZ team. After we talked, they asked me to pitch more book ideas. I pitched over ten concepts. During that process, I turned my Women’s Fiction novel concept (previously titled 200 Years Until You) into a YA book. To be honest, I didn’t think Nelson would like the idea. It seemed complex and different. But the team liked it the most. Go figure! That concept turned into the lush, immersive YA book now titled Dearest Josephine.
Nelson offered a contract in July. I signed it in September. The team confirmed they wanted Dearest Josephine later that month. And on January 15th, I sent the full manuscript to my editor. I somehow managed to write the book in four months!
The deal was rather unconventional. The process took about seven months. It was unexpected!
I love the Nelson team and couldn’t ask for a better situation. They were worth the wait.
SP: How is working with HC/TNZ different than your past experiences?
Nelson values their relationships with their authors. They want long-term partnerships, not just single book contracts. I admire their market savviness, their attentiveness, and futuristic mindset. Never have I felt more part of a team! For example, I’ve chatted with the sales/marketing team. I’ve had lunch with my editor. Few publishers offer that level of accessibility. Fewer publishers emphasize the authors more than the books.
I’m beyond honored to a HC/TNZ writer!
SP: You are truly a mover and shaker. This last year, you lectured at so many writing conferences as an author and agent. Can you tell us more about that? What were some highlights?
Thank you! I don’t feel like a mover and shaker right now. All I want to do is lie on the couch and binge The Office. Whew, the writing deadline fried my brain.
Yes, I spoke at fourteen writing conferences in 2019. I traveled across the country, met hundreds of talented writers, and had the pleasure of speaking on an author panel with Angie Thomas.
Two years ago, I wanted to get onto the conference circuit, so I prepared a professional CV with a list of possible workshops I could teach. I sent that CV to over a hundred conferences. (I always do things the hard way! Enneagram 3w4 right here.) I started to receive bookings. Writing Day Workshops asked me to join their faculty, which led to more opportunities.
If you’re interested in speaking at conferences, I recommend you pitch workshops to various conferences. Make sure the conferences offer honorariums, travel compensation, and lodging.
SP: You’re pretty open on social media with your followers. The last year or two, you shared about walking through hard times & disappointments & unmet expectations etc…What kept you going and writing?
The writing journey is difficult! It’s a rollercoaster of emotions and doubts. It puts us in vulnerable situations. On social media, I try to be real about the process because it’s not a highlight reel. Writers are in the metaphorical valley longer than they’re on the mountaintop.
Over the past two years, I experienced a lot of dark, doubtful moments. I considered giving up on my author dreams. However, each time I inched close to giving up, I asked myself, “What if breakthrough happens tomorrow or next week? If I give up now, will I miss out?”
The thought of walking away scared me more than the thought of failure, so I kept moving forward. I knew God had called me to write, so I believed He would make a way for me.
To the doubtful writers out there . . .
Writing isn’t like modeling or acting. You don’t have a small window of time to make the dream happen. I’m a firm believer that if you stay in the writing business long enough, you will experience success. Keep writing and growing your platform. Look for new opportunities. Believe in your work. And don’t walk away too early.
Breakthrough may be around the corner.
SP: Speaking of social media. You do such a great job! Any tips for those authors out there struggling with it? Tips on marketing? Balancing writing time and social media? Whatever you got in this department, we’ll take it!
Social media is all about the follower! Some advice . . .
– Know your author brand. Who are you? What’s your message, voice, color scheme? Why should people follow your account?
– Be consistent! Quality over quantity. Make sure all your posts connect to your author brand and offer some sort of takeaway/call-to-action.
– Community sells books! Anything you can do to welcome people into your journey will help foster platform growth and generate sales.
– Launch or join an Instagram pod. Do giveaways. Team up with other accounts.
– Pinpoint where your target audience (possible readers) hang out and work to reach them.
– Set aside time each week to write your captions and curate photo content. I can’t easily switch from “social media brain” to “writer brain,” so I give myself one or two mornings each week to prepare my social media content.
I could talk about social media for hours. Overall, I recommend you experiment with different social media platforms to see which one works best for you. And yes, if you want a deal with a large publisher, you need platform.
As authors, we do the business so we can tell the stories!
SP: Agent Caroline Question–Are you open to submissions? If so, which genre/story line are you currently dying to find in your inbox?
Great question! I’m not currently open to submissions, but I would love to see more YA light fantasy with unique worldbuilding, adult and YA romcom titles, and high concept nonfiction for all age groups.
SP: Agent Caroline: What makes you scream YES to a manuscript? What turns you off?
I scream YES to a manuscript when it fits its designated genre, has a distinguishable voice, and meets an obvious need in the market. I love fresh concepts and unique characters. Other elements that capture my attention: A professional query letter with comparable titles, author platform, and a strong hook.
Turn offs: Cliche plots, opening the book with a character waking up, gimmicky query letters, too much telling, unrealistic dialogue . . . I could go on.
My advice to aspiring authors: Do your research before you query agents! Treat your book like a product you’re trying to sell. And approach the process with humility. Not everyone will love your book, and that’s okay. You only need one YES.
SP: Agent Caroline: How hands-on are you with a client? What’s your M.O.?
I am not an editorial agent. I work with my clients to polish their proposals and help them take next steps toward their publishing goals, but I do not edit their whole manuscripts. I’m passionate about educating authors and empowering them to advocate for their books. What matters most to me: Platform, marketability, and concept!
At the moment, I’m not open to submissions. I love my clients and want to give them as much attention as possible while I balance my own writing career.
SP: Now to lighten things up: (optional)
SP: Caroline is a — plotter/pantster? Early bird/night owl? Last minute / week early? Loves/dreads feedback?
Hardcore plotter. Neither—I like my sleep. Last minute but always on time. Loves feedback.
Last book you read?
A Dress for the Wicked by Autumn Krause.
Current dream vacation spot?
Hard question! I love to travel, so I have a whole list of dream destinations. Right now, I really want to visit Scotland and Northern England to take promotional photos for Dearest Josephine. I also want to visit Iceland and Switzerland.
Would you rather be a professional: Marine Biologist? Spy? Opera Singer? Brain Surgeon?
Spy! No doubt about it.
Current fictional crush?
Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey. I would marry that boy.
Favorite childhood books?
Peter Pan and the Nancy Drew series.