On the back of Cynthea Liu’s business card, it says, “WARNING: Cynthea may overexcite your kids about reading and writing.” I believe it, and we’ve only communicated via email. Even through email, I can FEEL enthusiasm. It’s what children’s and YA authors should be like, because boring people aren’t inspiring. Boring people won’t get a kid to read, and we need kids who read. So Cynthea, more power to you, girl.
Cynthea Liu is the author of teen novel THE GREAT CALL OF CHINA for Speak’s bestselling S.A.S.S. series; a humorous middle-grade mystery novel PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE (G.P. Putnam’s Sons); and WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS: A CRASH COURSE (Pivotal), a popular nonfiction book for aspiring writers. She is also the founder of AuthorsNow!, the largest collaboration of debut children’s and teen book authors in the U.S., and the woman behind Writing for Children and Teens, a top ten Web site on the subject: www.writingforchildrenandteens.com. Here’s her personal website: http://www.cynthealiu.com/. Allow me to introduce her to you…
An H and Five Ws with Children’s Book Author (and website mogul) Cynthea Liu
How did you get published?
My road to publication was a bit atypical; getting an agent and landing a contract happened fairly quickly. I had written PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE (then called THE DARE) at the tail end of my first year as a writer and got an agent not long after it was drafted. About a year later, the manuscript went for auction and received a two-book deal from Putnam.
From the outside, it may seem like I had the easiest time of it, but to me, my journey to publication hardly felt easy at all. During the submission of PARIS PAN, the manuscript was rejected about 13 times, with positive yet varying opinions from editors. I revised that manuscript tirelessly during submission, about 5 times to be exact, and when I thought it would never go anywhere, I was even thinking about changing careers. Not long after my darkest point of desperation, it sold.
After PARIS PAN sold, I revised the manuscript with my editor four more times before we finally had it! Phew!
Who is your biggest literary influence?
Not to sound cliché or anything, but J.K. Rowling is the author who I credit for having the most influence on my career. If it weren’t for her, I may have never decided to go into the field. She single-handedly brought me from the adult world I was living in, back into the children’s world. I seriously had no idea that I wanted to be a children’s book author until I read HARRY POTTER as an adult. I remember thinking to myself, how awesome it would be to do this for a living? Create whole worlds people can get lost in? Her books awakened this part of me that had been sleeping for so long—my imagination!
What was it like going from a corporate career to writing children’s books?
Wonderful! I mean, at first, it was wonderful. Then it got really really hard, and now it’s wonderful and really really hard at the same time. I have not regretted my decision once to leave my job, making some decent bucks in the corporate world to becoming a children’s book author who is scratching her way onto the scene. I love practically everything that’s involved with being an author. And it’s not just writing the books—the school visits, and everything I do online and on the ground to help other writers achieve their goals. I only wish I had more time to do it all!
Where did the idea for http://www.AuthorsNow.com come from?
I thought the community could use a resource like http://www.AuthorsNow.com to make it easier to go to one place to find all of our debut authors. Why stop at MG and YA? Let’s include picture books and non-fiction as well. Let’s get everyone together online. Not just the authors as individuals, but the debut groups, too, like 2k9, The Debs, and The Tenners. It’s a chance to provide something really valuable to our members and readers alike. AuthorsNow! has become a fabulous go-to place to find out what’s coming out from totally new voices for our readers.
When have you been most frustrated with being an author?
Currently, I am most frustrated by the amount of administrivia associated with post-publication activities like organizing school visits, following up with booksellers, etc. I REALLY need a personal assistant. Any volunteers? Must have loads of free time, superior organizational skills, and is willing to accept payment in the form of unlimited writing advice and foot massages from the Snooper himself. I’m serious. Email me.
WHY are you a WRITER?
I’m a writer because I love that I can put myself out there in the form of books so that kids can read it, be entertained by it, laugh from it, maybe even cry. Books made a significant part of my childhood, and to know I have the ability to affect children emotionally, and in positive ways, that is soooo rewarding. I also love being a writer because I actually enjoy helping other writers find their way (a side benefit I didn’t know I would have until I started doing it at http://www.writingforchildrenandteens.com.) And lastly, there is nothing cooler than hanging out with people in our industry who share the same passion for children and teens, and the enjoyment that reading brings to all. (Also, book people really know how to party!)*
*Note from Sara: YEAH we do!
If you want more, here is the electronic equivalent of Cynthea’s digits:
For loads of free writing advice and a Cynthea free-tique opportunity, visit http://www.writingforchildrenandteens.com.
And where to find her books:
PARIS PAN TAKES THE DARE is available from your local independent bookseller and Barnes and Noble locations throughout the country. You can also buy PARIS PAN online at Indiebound.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, or Borders.com. CANADIANS: Amazon.ca.
Thanks so much for this interview, Cynthea! You ROCK.