Ooh, boy have I got something good for you today. My friend, querying mentor, and kick-ass writer E.C. Myers is here on the blog to talk to us about his YA Sci-Fi debut novel, Fair Coin, which releases from Pyr this week! And we’re even giving you a chance to win an ARC (advance reader copy), which he’ll sign and personalize himself!
THE (SUPER)MAN AND HIS BOOK
So, yeah, there are some rumors flying around the Internet that E.C. Myers is Superman. I mean, he’s got two novels coming out this year. He’s represented by the super-selective Eddie Schneider over at JABberwocky Literary. And, of course, there’s the photographic evidence…
(credit for the coolest engagement photo ever: Ellen Wright)
But rather than speculating further about his secret identity, I bet he’d rather I just gave you the lowdown on Fair Coin.
Sixteen-year-old Ephraim Scott is horrified when he comes home from school and finds his mother unconscious at the kitchen table, clutching a bottle of pills. The reason for her suicide attempt is even more disturbing: she thought she’d identified Ephraim’s body at the hospital that day.
Among his dead double’s belongings, Ephraim finds a strange coin—a coin that grants wishes when he flips it. With a flick of his thumb, he can turn his alcoholic mother into a model parent and catch the eye of the girl he’s liked since second grade. But the coin doesn’t always change things for the better. And a bad flip can destroy other people’s lives as easily as it rebuilds his own.
The coin could give Ephraim everything he’s ever wanted—if he learns to control its power before his luck runs out.
Eugene (that’s the “E” in “E.C.”) was gracious enough to answer my questions about the book, his writing process, and his tips for aspiring writers. Here goes!
Tell us about the process of writing Fair Coin. When did you start, where did you write, and how long did it take you to finish?
I started writing the book at the end of February 2007 and finished at the end of July, so it was about five months to a very rough first draft. At the time, I didn’t have to be at my day job until 10:30 a.m., so I went to Grounded, my favorite coffee shop in NYC, to write at 9 every morning. On a good day, I can write around 1000 words in an hour, and they really add up when you write every day. I revised the book for another eight months, through several more drafts, before it was ready to submit to agents.
Did you have the whole book plotted out before you started writing?
Not at all! I knew the beginning, the middle, and the very last scene, and I had ideas for a few scenes throughout, but I wrote it organically from start to finish. I didn’t even have all the characters worked out yet; minor characters ended up becoming much more significant, and their personalities asserted themselves as I wrote the rough draft. The last three chapters of the book were completely different from what’s in the final book. I like the freedom of drafting, knowing that I can fix or change everything during revision. I just concentrate on finding the story and getting it all down as quickly as possible.
From the sample chapters I’ve read of Fair Coin, I know that you’re exploring a rather dark, sinister concept with some funny, quirky prose. Did you find it challenging to strike the right balance in tone in writing this book?
I think it’s important to keep a good sense of humor even while awful things are happening, and I try to convey that through my characters. Most of the humor comes in dialogue, even while they’re in the middle of dire situations. That just feels more honest to me. At the same time, it can be a problem if they’re being too snarky, or too irreverent—and especially too punny—at really inappropriate moments, because that undercuts tension and deflates the emotional impact when you need it. So it’s definitely a balancing act. I didn’t set out to write a grim book, but the characters are dealing with serious matters. My early drafts probably start out with too much humor and then I have to pare it back when my beta readers point out areas where it’s getting in the way.
What’s your favorite scene in your book (and why)?
My favorite is probably a conversation between Ephraim and his mother as she’s getting ready to go out on a date. He shows her a present he’s received from Jena, the girl he likes: a book, naturally. He’s a bit underwhelmed by the gesture, until his mother tells him that his father wooed her with books, and that this gift was the most personal thing Jena could have given him. I kind of love all of their moments together in the book, but I that’s the one I keep thinking about.
I think I was probably a mix of Ephraim, Nathan, and Jena, which is an interesting realization to have. I’ve never really thought about it before. Of course, there are bits of me and my experiences and people I know in all of my characters, but I think I sort of divided myself up between those three main characters, and that might explain why they work so well together.
For the still-aspiring authors out there, any advice regarding keeping your sanity during the querying or submissions process?
Work on your next book! I drafted the sequel to Fair Coin while I was querying agents, which was not the most practical thing to do considering I didn’t know if it would ever sell, but years later I’m glad I wrote it while I was still close to the characters and setting. And when I had that exciting phone call with Eddie, when he offered representation, I think he was encouraged by the fact that I had just completed the first draft of Quantum Coin a couple of days before. I’d say that most agents are already thinking beyond your first book, and having the discipline to write every day and having a demonstrated ability to write more than one book counts for something.
While Fair Coin was on submission, I decided to ignore the sequel until I had to think about it again. Instead, I started writing a completely different, standalone book, a YA alternate history book about reincarnation titled Who We Used to Be. It kept me busy and gave me hope, because even if Fair Coin didn’t sell, I knew I would have another chance at publication. It was a way to make myself less invested in the fate of Fair Coin. And in some ways, I think Who We Used to Be is a bigger and even better book, even though I still love my first two. Basically, don’t just pin all your hopes and dreams on one book, whether you’re querying agents or on submission. You have a lot of stories to tell, and very often, your first novel (or your first several novels) will not sell.
I know that you have a sequel in the works for Fair Coin. When can we expect for it to be released?
Quantum Coin is planned for fall 2012, which feels pretty soon. I just turned in my final draft, but there’s still a lot of copyediting and proofing ahead of us, and there may be other changes to the manuscript throughout the production process, so I’m not nearly done with it yet!
WIN THIS BOOK!
After all that talk about Fair Coin, it seems only fair (heh heh) to give you a chance to win your very own signed ARC. To enter this giveaway, all you have to do is be a resident of the US or Canada and leave a comment on this blog entry. But there are several easy ways to get extra entries, too!
1) Post about this contest on Twitter (+2 entries), Facebook (+2 entries), and/or your blog (+4 entries!) for up to EIGHT extra chances to win! (Right? Right. Ah, math.) Please paste the link(s) to your Tweet, post, etc. into your comment here to get credit for them.
Meet YA author @ecmyers and win a signed ARC of his debut, FAIR COIN! http://bit.ly/xEd3kf
Sample FB status update:
Meet YA author E.C. Myers and enter to win a signed ARC of his debut, FAIR COIN! http://taradairman.com/2012/03/05/get-ready-to-flip-for-ecmyers-and-win-his-book
2) “Like” Fair Coin on Facebook at www.facebook.com/flipthecoin. Let me know you did in your comment for +1 entry!
3) Follow @ecmyers on Twitter, and paste your Twitter handle into your comment for proof. (+1 entry!)
4) Add Fair Coin on Goodreads and paste your username into your comment here. (+3 entries!)
Last note: If you’ve already left a comment but then do something else to spread the word that earns you more entries, just leave another comment with links to whatever new posts you’ve made. Thanks!
This contest is open until midnight on Thursday, March 8 (EST). I’ll count up all the entries, flip a coin 400 times to pick a winner (or possibly just feed the entries into random.org), and announce the lucky recipient of the signed ARC on Friday.