A writer in the spotlight – Lauren DeStefano

Welcome to the Dystopian Survival Week Hop – Final Day !

This Hop is hosted by Kristen @ Seeing Night Reviews and Ali’s @ Ali’s Bookshelf. It started on Monday, April 23th and it ends today Friday, April 27st.

There are 9 participating blogs and I strongly suggest you visit each of them because we all give you the opportunity to win awesome Dystopian books if you’re willing to take part in our challenges. Today you can win Blood Red Road @ One Book Per Week and The Hunt @ Sharon Loves Books and Cats.

You can also still enter my own Challenge/Giveaway here and have the opportunity to win The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Enter now!


So, since it is Dystopian Week on my blog, my “Writer in the Spotlight” had to be a dystopian author this week. The idea behind the “Writer in the Spotlight” feature is that published (and bestselling) authors are the best source of advice for us, would-be-published writers. Today I am putting Lauren DeStefano in the spotlight: just to be clear, this is not an interview, because Lauren has already answered all my questions on her great website. Below is therefore just an extract from the tons of good advice she gives on here: http://www.laurendestefano.com/faq.php

A writer in the spotlight – 5

Author : Lauren DeStefano

Genre : Dystopian, young adult literature

Location: Connecticut, USA

Website : http://www.laurendestefano.com

Books : The Chemical Garden Trilogy – Wither (2011), Fever (2012).

Bio: Lauren DeStefano (pronounced: de STEFF ano) graduated Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT in 2007. Her debut novel, WITHER, the first in The Chemical Garden Trilogy, published by Simon & Schuster BFYR, came out in 2011.

About writing:

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer, and how long did it take you to get published?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid, long before I concerned myself with words like “publishing” and “marketing.” I kept my writing to myself for the most part, but I had a teacher in the 5th grade who suggested I might want to pursue it when I got older. That teacher is mentioned in the acknowledgements for my debut novel, Wither, as I consider that conversation with her a life-changing moment. In 2008, shortly after college, I began querying. 140 rejection letters later, I found a wonderful agent who stuck with me through two adult manuscripts that didn’t sell. In October of 2009, Wither and its two sequels were sold less than a month after I’d completed the first draft. It was published in March of 2011.

Who is your agent and how did you find one?

My agent is Barbara Poelle at Irene Goodman Lit Agency. I found her in the 2008 Publisher’s Market book in the writing section of Barnes & Noble. A new version is published every year with updated information, and I recommend it because it provides details about what each agent is looking for.

Any tips for an aspiring author?

Be 100% true to yourself. Write for yourself, your characters, and for the story that’s in your head. Take advice if you’d like, but don’t do anything that compromises your vision for your writing. What works for one bestselling author might be poison for another.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Step away from the project. Writer’s block, for me, is an indication that I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere, and I can’t go forward until I locate that wrong turn and fix it. Over-thinking it will only make it worse, but stepping away, taking a walk or anything else will usually help me get my thoughts straight.

How do you get through the first draft blues?

For me, this usually happens somewhere around the middle. I’ve heard this referred to as the “great swampy middle” so you’re not alone. The beginning, for me, has the most momentum and everything is shiny and new and there aren’t as many facts to sort out yet. Around the middle, things get overwhelming, and there is no conclusion yet to prove that this story will be worth telling and that it will all come together. Maybe it will be, and maybe it won’t be. The only way is to push through and finish it. And if you can’t hold enough interest to do that, maybe this isn’t the right story and you should step away from it to see where your ideas take you.

What will you write next?
I am always writing. If I’m still alive, you can bet I have something in the works. It’s just that it’s a secret right now…


About “The Chemical Garden Trilogy”

How did you get the idea for Wither?

This is a question I get often, and I’m never sure how to answer. I don’t know. Insomnia. Flu medication. A story I heard (maybe it was on the news?) involving a genetically altered potato and children being born without the genes for certain cancers. The idea of altering nature fascinates me. Eliminating one problem might create a different problem. Maybe stripping the carbs from a potato means introducing a new sort of food allergy. Maybe altering human genetics to eradicate cancer will make humans more vulnerable to other ailments, or new ailments entirely. I don’t stand on any particular side of the argument. I’m just a weaver of what ifs.

Also, back in 2008, my agent had me write up 20 hypothetical synopses as an exercise, and this was #15:

In the not-too-distant future, women grossly out-populate men, and in the new nation, self-proclaimed to be genetically superior, men take two wives or more. But the world is still ending despite the efforts of the World Leader and environmental activists. When a vaccination to promote longevity turns sour, the ensuing chaos may just be enough to end the world.

I recall my agent writing back that #15 was among her favorites. As you can see, there was no indication that it would be YA. I remember that this was my favorite of the 20 ideas, but I didn’t pursue it at the time because there were too many unanswered questions. More than a year later, I decided to give it a shot as a short story, with an intended word count of 3,000-5,000 words. After a lot of brainstorming and rewriting, I found the story through the eyes of a young protagonist, whose name, it turned out, was Rhine. Rhine wasn’t alone; there were two other girls with her, and I knew that one of them would be despondent and tragic, and I knew that at least one of them would have a child. In the short story I’d intended to write, I saw the three girls being executed as they clung to one another. Spoiler alert: that’s not how Wither ends. However, I think the girls have maintained that strength and stoicism, and I think they are absolutely loyal and brave enough to have remained at one another’s side if things had gone down that way.

When people ask me how I stumbled upon an idea, I like to say that all of my life’s experiences go into this big cloud inside my brain, and every so often an idea emerges like a fortune in a Magic 8 Ball. I’ll never completely know.

How long did it take you to write Wither?

The first draft took under a month, under the influence of the flu, followed by several months of editing.

Any particular reason males live 5 years longer than females?

The point is that nobody within this world as of yet understands why the virus does what it does, and why males have a longer life span.

Are your characters inspired by actual people you know?

No. The characters in my books have nothing to do with the people in my life.


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