SP: Hi Brianna! Thanks for joining us! Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to hear a bit about you and your writing journey!
BT: Thank you for having me! My writing journey feels like a voyage I’ve been on my entire life. I’ve always loved stories, and I have several old notebooks filled with my early attempts at novel writing. While they’re highly entertaining, the partial novels I wrote in elementary and middle school aren’t likely to ever see the light of day. I started treating being an author as a career in 2015, after finishing my degree and getting a few years of work experience under my belt. Going to conferences, networking, learning from my peers, and steadily writing that entire time resulted in a lot of growth for me, and definitely led to all my successes so far!
SP: Word on the street is you just signed your first book deal! Wahoo and congrats! How does that feel? What was your response? Crying, sitting in shock, partying all night, or…?
BT: Yes, thank you! I’ve signed a book contract once before, for a children’s novel called The Knight in Battered Armor (released in 2019). This new contract is for my first ever full-length novel though, so it definitely feels like something big, new, and exciting! Because of an email I’d already been sent the week prior to the offer, I knew that a decision was coming soon, and I was on pins and needles, constantly refreshing my inbox. I was hoping for an offer, but didn’t know for sure what to expect.
I only told my editor that I was expecting a decision from the publisher, mostly because I needed another level head to keep me from getting too excited or talking myself down too much. She waited eagerly with me over text message until that offer email finally came. It arrived on my birthday, which was apparently unintentional, but so much fun. I definitely had a fist-pump and wild grin reaction, then immediately called my editor to let her know. The only (potentially) wild and crazy thing I did that week to celebrate was something I’d promised myself I would only do if I ever signed a contract for this book – I made air fried tequila. For the uninitiated, that’s angel food cake dipped in tequila and lime juice, then air fried. It was delicious.
SP: Any words of wisdom to other writers trying to get that first book deal?
BT: Be patient, and never stop writing! When you finish a book and start querying, that’s the time to start writing the next book. It’s so much easier to deal with manuscript rejections from agents and editors when you can be excited about your next project. It also helps to be on the journey with others. I have a group of ladies I (virtually) meet with every other week who are also all in the query trenches to varying extents, and we all support each other through rejections, full manuscript requests, and any other sort of ups and downs our careers or lives bring us.
SP: Ok, now it’s time to hear about your BOOK! Tell us all about it! How long did it take you to write and how did this story come about?
BT: It took a while, and it had to go through many evolutions to reach its final form! Here’s the background: About ten years ago, when I was in university, one of my writing assignments was to write a short story combining two genres I had never written in before. I chose to write a romantic tragedy. I got a good grade on the assignment, saved the file, and didn’t look back until after university.
I remembered the short story in 2013, and decided to polish it up a little and throw it up on Amazon, just to see what would happen. I knew nothing about the publishing industry at the time, and even less about how to successfully self-publish. I was just curious to see if my little story would sell at all if I put it out there. Of course, I also didn’t tell anyone I’d put it out there, so it languished at the bottom of Amazon’s sales charts for a while before I chose to take it down. However, that didn’t stop my grandmother from finding it. She was upset with me for choosing to end the story on a tragic cliffhanger, and would often bring it up when we spoke on the phone. I’d always had an idea in my head of what came after the tragedy part of the story, but I hadn’t actually written it.
So, for NaNoWriMo 2016, I rewrote the story as a novella. At a writing conference in 2017, I won a manuscript critique from the incredible Lindsay Franklin, so I cashed that in for my new novella, and used her feedback to whip it into what I felt was query-ready shape. At that point, I discovered exactly how few agents and editors were interested in novellas. A few asked to see it (including the publisher I just signed a contract with!), but all ultimately said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
After getting some inspiration during a conference in 2018, I re-wrote the book again, this time shooting for novel length. I ended up with an 85,000 word manuscript, and a story that was in better shape than it ever had been before. To ensure all the new elements of the story made sense to anyone other than myself, I hired Jen Lindsay, of The Writer’s Wellspring, as my editor. Her help was invaluable, and when I began querying this version of the story, I was far more successful than before. I still got rejections, but I also got full manuscript requests. I even got a request from Uncommon Universes Press, who had rejected the novella, and ended up signing a deal with them shortly thereafter!
When Jacob’s father developed a degenerative mental condition, fear that the hallucinations might be hereditary led nineteen-year-old Jacob to put his whole life on hold. After meeting Sevencea, a mermaid, on the beach, Jacob is sure she’s proof his worst fears are coming true. The two grow close as Sevencea convinces him she’s just as real as he is. When Sevencea doesn’t show up for a few days, Jacob’s new world comes crashing down around him, and he flees his home in search of the treatment he’s certain he needs. Sevencea returns, having found a way to visit Jacob on land, only to find him gone. They both must face their fears and find their purpose to have any hope of finding their way back to each other.
SP: What was your favorite part about writing this book?
BT: I loved working on scenes that showcased my characters’ senses of humour. I realized early on that one of the big differences between Jacob and Sevencea is their outlook on the world. He’s often a pessimist, she’s mostly an optimist, and that difference informs their humour. Jacob, despite being a bit of an Eeyore at times, is definitely not humourless. His brand of dark, dry, clever snark is the kind of humour I tend towards too, so it made him a lot of fun to write. In contrast, Sevencea’s snarkiness is bright, cheerful, and generally warm. I really enjoyed finding ways to play those differences off of each other, even in scenes where the two characters aren’t together.
SP: What part of the writing process do you least enjoy and why?
BT: It depends on the book, actually. Sometimes just drafting wears me out, sometimes editing is the bane of my existence, and sometimes it’s proofreading because at that point I’m usually sick of reading my own book. I will say, the worst part for any manuscript is after the actual book is done and I have to write a proposal. I don’t know if that counts as part of the writing process, but I hate it anyway.
SP: What excites and terrifies you about your book coming into the world?
BT: I’ll tell you the first thing that pops into my head – I can’t wait for my grandmother to read it. I’m excited to hold it, to see people share about it on social media, to hear from readers who loved it, and to know that it’s finally out there. I’m finding that I’m randomly thinking of new things to be terrified of all the time. There’s the obvious, which is just a general anxiety at the thought of anyone I know personally reading the book. There’s always that fear that even if they say they liked it, they could be lying to be nice. I’m also pretty sure I’m going to have to stop looking at Goodreads reviews. It’s been fine so far to look at the reviews for my children’s book, but my YA novel is likely to reach a broader audience, which means inevitably there will be reviews I don’t like or agree with. And that’s okay – reviews are for readers, not for authors. I’ll just have to remind myself not to look so I don’t let it get to me. There’s also the small, terrifying thought that I think accompanies every book launch: What if no one buys it? What if no one likes it? What if my family, friends, editor, and publisher have all been lying to me and it’s just not a very good book? That’s usually the point at which I can snap out of that line of thought, because I know it’s ridiculous. For every thing that is potentially terrifying about launching a new book, there’s something worth being excited about, and that balance helps keep me sane!
SP: How involved in marketing and promotion do you think you’ll be? Any marketing tips for other writers?
BT: Very! I’m working on the pre-order campaign now, and I have a lot of marketing ideas for the launch, some of which I plan to do, and some of which the publisher will probably help with. The best marketing tip I can give to other writers is to figure out where your readers are and master that platform. There’s no point in having a mediocre presence everywhere. If your audience is on Instagram, get really good at Instagram. If they’re on TikTok, get really good at TikTok! Same goes for any other platform. If a publisher or agent is going to look at your existing following, they want to see proven engagement with your audience, no matter what size it is. Don’t exhaust yourself by doing everything, just put your energy into the thing that’s going to have the largest benefit for you and your brand!
SP: Sadly, we’re running out of time here. ☹ What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
BT: Thank you so much for having me! As for advice, I cannot say enough good things about networking and writing conferences. Almost every author I have a personal relationship with I met at a conference. I’m Facebook friends with authors I read growing up, which is crazy, but they’ve been eager to pass on knowledge from their careers to help younger up-and-coming authors. There’s so much that can be learned from conferences and your peers, and it’s also a great way to learn what to avoid as well. There’s a lot of information on the internet, but it’s not all accurate, so being connected to peers and mentors in the industry can help filter that information.
SP: Ok, speed round. Favorite TV show?
BT: Doctor Who has been my favourite for over a decade, but I’m also going to say The Blacklist, which I fell in love with as an adult.
SP: Plotter or pantster?
BT: Sort of both! I plot the big points, then discovery write (pants) my first draft from point to point. After that, I usually outline that first draft after the fact to choose what of my pantsing is worth keeping and what to change.
SP: Most obscure hobby?
BT: Probably Diamond Painting. It’s not exactly obscure, but it’s only really started taking off in the United States within the last five years or so. I also knit, crochet, and cross stitch, but those are definitely not obscure hobbies!
SP: Early bird or night owl?
BT: I’m a night owl forced to get up at 7:30 AM every day due to the demands of my day job. Or, to quote a meme I saw once, I’m some sort of permanently exhausted pigeon.
One thought on “Author Interview with Brianna Tibbetts”
Absolutely fabulous interview Brianna. I love your enthusiasm and creativity and all that you do. So anxious to read the new book.