Please welcome Sarah Darer Littman, author of multiple YA novels, including the Sydney Taylor Book Award winner, Confessions of a Closet Catholic. Today we celebrate her newest book, Charmed, I’m Sure, (S&S Aladdin) which comes out next Tuesday!
You’ve all heard the proverb “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again,” right? Well sometimes again isn’t enough. Sometimes you have try again….and again…and then again once more before you succeed. That was the case with my novel CHARMED, I’M SURE, which comes out on 9/27/16 from S & S Aladdin.
The original inspiration for this humorous middle grade wasn’t all that funny. I was watching the Disney Cinderella video with my then nursery-school age daughter – said daughter is now going into her junior year of college, so this gives you an idea of just how long this idea has taken to come to fruition! Things weren’t going so well in my marriage, and as I watched the final image of Cinderella and Prince Charming kissing in the rear window of the pumpkin coach to live “Happily Ever After,” I sat there with my daughter snuggled up next to me thinking, Why am I letting my daughter watch this garbage? I mean, let’s get real. What really happens is that Cinderella ends up doing all the work around the castle, and Prince Charming takes her for granted!
I’d only just recently given myself the permission to follow my high school dream of being a writer after spending my entire life doing what everyone else expected me to do, and I was writing a much too autobiographical adult novel about a woman who was unhappy in her marriage. In one scene, she drinks too much chardonnay one night and burns all of her young daughter’s Disney videos because she doesn’t want her daughter to grow up believing in all the Prince Charming as savior stuff. This was one of my practice novels and it will never, ever see the light of day. I would also like to state for the record that a) none of my daughter’s Disney videos were harmed in the making of that practice novel, and b) I don’t even like chardonnay.
Eventually I wrote something that was good enough to be published, CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC, but following that I through a dreadful second book blues period – probably not helped by the fact that this particular Cinderella decided it was time to divorce Prince Charming, leave the castle, and get back to earning her own living. One of the many, many, many books that I proposed and had rejected during that fraught period was a “real story of the Princesses” idea. The Princesses were mad about how their stories had been Disneyfied and became radicalized. Unfortunately, the way I was presenting the idea was little too radical, and not all that well thought out.
But those darn Princesses and my frustration with their story never left my mind. About nine years later, I had a brainwave: I would tell the story from the perspective of their teenage daughters. I fell in LOVE with this idea. I loved it SO, SO much. I wrote 10,000 words in no time. But I thought it had to be Olde Worlde Fantasye, which to put it bluntly, isn’t really my strong suit as a writer.
I sent my baby off to my wonderful agent, Jennifer Laughran, to get her thoughts, expecting her to call me back telling me that I was a genius and that she was going to sell it for a gazillion dollars with film rights. I imagined myself fixing the patio and taking a vacation! I could practically taste the umbrella drinks!
I love my agent Jenn because she tells it to me like it is – and what she told me was: “Honey, if you want to write this book, you need to go to fantasy boot camp.”
At that point I did what I always do when I get bad book news. I allowed myself a time-limited pity party. I wrapped myself in a Snuggie on the sofa, cried, ate chocolate and felt EXTREMELY sorry for myself. But only for a few hours.
Then I got on with writing the next book, the one that would sell and in fact has done better than all my other books – BACKLASH. Because that’s what you do if you want to write for a living. You pick yourself up and write the next book.
But I still wasn’t ready to give up on the idea that had been nagging at my brain for so long. My daughter tells me I can be stubborn. She might have a point.
One day, I was whining about it (what me, whine?) to my friend Cindy Minnich, and like all brilliant teachers, she didn’t tell me what to do, she asked me just the right question: “Why does it have to be Olde Worlde Fantasye? Why can’t it be contemporary?”
OMG! Why didn’t I think of that?!!!!!
I told Cindy she was a genius, offered her my first-born child, (thankfully she refused, so I dedicated the book to her instead) and set off to rewrite the idea to my strengths.
This time when I sent my baby to Jenn, she loved it. Not only that, she sold it to Simon & Schuster in a two-book deal. The second book, FAIREST OF THEM ALL, which tells the story of Sleeping Beauty’s daughter Aria, comes out in May 2017.
As Winston Churchill, one of my oratory heroes, who shows up in IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, my upcomingYA novel from Scholastic (comes out on 10/15/16) once said: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”
Who knows, you might just get a two-book deal out of it some day!
Sarah Darer Littman is the critically acclaimed author of Backlash, Want to Go Private?; Life, After; Purge; and Confessions of a Closet Catholic, winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award. When she’s not writing novels, Sarah is an award-winning columnist for the online news site CTNewsJunkie. She teaches creative writing as an adjunct professor in the MFA program at Western Connecticut State University, and with Writopia Lab. Sarah lives in Connecticut, in a house that never seems to have enough bookshelves.