Pen Friends ~ Please welcome YA Author Caitlin Lambert talking about her upcoming novel, WHAT LIES ABOVE, publishing journey, and amazing design skills! I’m so excited to have Caitlin here with us today. Her debut novel is gorgeous and can you believe she made this cover?!
SP: Hi Caitlin! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, please tell us more about you and your writing journey.
Hi! Thank you so much for having me! I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains and have been writing novels for over a decade. I first got the idea for WHAT LIES ABOVE eight years ago, but it took me two years before I started drafting it.
Since then, it’s taken me on a crazy journey. I pursued traditional publishing for years, queried dozens of agents, and had an offer of representation. I added a second narrator, rewrote the book practically from scratch, revised it countless times, and ran into my fair share of discouragement. But this story would never let me go. I’m grateful it didn’t. Despite having an offer of representation from an agent, it wasn’t a good fit for my journey, and eventually, the creative control found in indie publishing won me over. The experience of designing and preparing WHAT LIES ABOVE for release has been so special! Other than writing, I enjoy playing piano, teaching, and traveling.
SP: WHAT LIES ABOVE releases May 22, 2021. Here’s the book blurb:
Eva’s world is buried in secrets. No one talks about the Surface—the mysterious world above. But after Eva follows a dead man into the crypts, she finds more than a body. She finds the truth. The Surface isn’t a place of blue skies and star-lit nights like she always imagined. It’s a place of destruction and death. In her city, she is safe. But as more lies entangle her and as the people she loves begin slipping away, she discovers that life inside her city might be more dangerous than what lies above it.
Eli’s world is stained in blood. Traitors of a 40-year-long war are sent to a distant, frozen planet to die. Eli’s mother was one of the condemned. To avenge her death, he enlists in the Regime that killed her, vowing to destroy them from the inside. If he is discovered, his family will pay for it with their lives. But when he is tasked with punishing the very defiance he stands for, he must decide if avenging his mother is worth the blood on his hands.
When their worlds collide, Eva and Eli discover that they are both caught in the same trap. All they want is to save their families and escape their prisons.
But freedom is never free.
SP: The book cover is outstanding! What made you decide to design it and where did you learn such amazing skills?
Thank you so much! I have always loved graphic design. I taught myself how to code my own website when I was fourteen and then designed two other websites after that. I’ve always had a creative streak!
I love to design marketing graphics and I’ve had a YouTube channel for several years. I acquired a lot of skills from those things, but I’ve also found that in most cases, with all the tutorials and resources out there, if I don’t know how to do something, I can usually teach myself. That’s part of the reason I love sharing advice on my Instagram and tutorials on my YouTube channel, so I can help other writers who want to learn some of these skills too! So when it came to designing my book cover, I learned how to design in Photoshop and researched all the properties and requirements for book printing. I also looked at dozens (if not hundreds) of young adult book covers in my genre to get ideas. Book covers are one of the first things readers see (and we all know that we *do* in fact judge books by their covers haha). My vision for the cover always included some kind of border around the outside, and I figured that fractured glass fit well for the tagline: “The walls will shatter. We will be free.” I just started building from there!
SP: How long did it take you to write What Lies Above? Where did you get the idea for the story?
I first had the idea for WHAT LIES ABOVE eight years ago. At that time, I was querying my first book, so I put the idea on the back burner. Two years later, that idea hadn’t let me go, and I started exploring it more. It took me about a year to draft and another year to edit, then I started querying it. Over the next three years, I went through all the things I mentioned above (agents, rewrites, etc.). The story changed immensely since the first draft. In fact, there are only a handful of lines from the original draft that are still in the final. But the core of the story remained!
SP: What surprised you most in your publishing journey?
There were lots of surprises! Switching from traditional to indie publishing was probably one of the biggest, simply because I had spent so long pursuing traditional. For a long time, I also bought into the stigma that indie publishing was somehow inferior or not as legitimate as traditional. I thought that if I signed with an agent and got a book deal, I would have “made it”, but that self-publishing was for those who couldn’t make it. My view has completely changed! Traditional and indie publishing are both completely viable and legitimate forms of publishing! They are just different. It definitely takes a lot of work to indie publish, especially if you want a professional book that blends in with its traditionally published peers. But there are so many resources now for indie authors, and there are lots of freelance editors, cover designers, and formatters who can help authors that don’t feel confident doing some of the preparations themselves.
Another surprising thing was how long it took me to get to this point. I do not regret anything, and I am grateful to God for every single moment, now that I can look back on them from here. However, in the moment, there were a lot of hard things. When I started my first novel, I was twelve, and I truly believed I would be published before I was 18. I am 22 now, which is pretty young compared to many of my author friends, but I have been blessed with so many amazing experiences (both positive and discouraging) that have shaped me and grown me and given me a lot of expertise. If I could go back and tell my younger self that it would take ten years for her to be on shelves, I would probably have been surprised and discouraged. But I would also tell her that everything she will go through will be so worth it!
SP: What part of the writing process do you most enjoy? The first draft? The development in revision? The final touches?
I enjoy drafting the most because it is very freeing. Everything is new, and there is an excitement that is so motivating. I often discover new ideas and twists as I write, and there is so much creativity and imagination during this stage. I try not to worry about perfection. I also used to never use outlines when I started drafting, and would instead write about half of the book before stopping to outline and work out the ending. However, now that my debut is coming out and deadlines are tighter, I use and love outlines. They help me structure and work through plot twists (which are one of my favorite things!). Even with a thorough outline, though, drafting is always exciting! I will say that revising is often the most stressful stage for me, because it often requires me to rework and rewrite and cut out entire chunks of the book. However, seeing the polished book shine through those revisions is always special! And the feeling of finding the answer to a difficult plot point, after struggling with it, is unmatched. Finally, I absolutely love the marketing aspect of writing. I have an amazing community, particularly on Instagram, and that aspect of being an author is incredible. I am so grateful.
SP: Any writing tip you’d like to share?
There are so many, but the one I almost always share when asked this question is this:
The same exact book can get both 1-star and 5-star reviews. The book didn’t change. People’s opinions did. Feedback can and should be used to strengthen a book, but no writer will ever please 100% of their readers. So, I encourage all writers to embrace their writing and their voice, and to not allow negative feedback to define their passion. Remember, you are literally the only person who can tell the story you are telling. Even if someone had the exact same plot, they would never tell the story the same way. Embrace that, and realize that there will always be readers that just don’t connect with your story. Instead, think of the readers that will love and be touched or changed by your writing. Those are the readers I am writing for.
SP: A few fun questions. Is Caitlin a…
Plotter/pantster? – I used to be a pantser, but now I use an outline to make sure my story structure is right and that all my plot twists are executed properly.
Last book you read? – I reread An Ember in the Ashes so that I could finished the series, and now I reading A Torch Against the Night.
Current dream vacation spot? – Italy! I’d also love to visit New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland.
Current favorite K-Drama? – I have never seen a K-Drama. I get asked about this and anime, and I follow lots of people who absolutely adore K-Dramas, but I’ve never tried them!
Would you rather be a professional: Marine Biologist? Spy? Opera Singer? Brain Surgeon? OR? My brother is a marine biologist, and I love him dearly, but you couldn’t bribe me with a million dollars to go into the deep ocean haha. I love marine animals, though, and I think it would be fascinating to study them without actually getting in the water.
Favorite childhood book? – For early chapter books, I loved the Magic Treehouse series and the A-Z Mysteries books. I read anything and everything I could when I was young.
Thank you so much for having me, and thank you, readers, for joining! I am the most active on Instagram, and I also send out exclusive content monthly through my newsletter.
SP: If you’re interested in finding out more about Caitlin and her debut WHAT LIES ABOVE, you can find her on IG at @authorcaitlinlambert and check out her YouTube channel and website! Thank you so much for joining us today!