Friday, June 10, 2016

The Writer's Voice: Where Are Kati Bartkowski and Heidi Lang Now?

In all my years of doing "The Writer's Voice," I only worked with one pair of coauthors, Kati Bartkowski and Heidi Lang. I'll admit that I wasn't sure what to expect, but if there was any conflict on their end, they kept it well hidden from me:) Their entry garnered multiple votes, and their manuscript, now titled LAILU LOGANBERRY'S MYSTIC COOKING, went on to land an agent and sell to Aladdin. I asked them back today to talk about that process and what it's like to work with a coauthor (especially a coauthor you're related to). Enjoy!

KV: Congratulations on the sale of LAILU LOGANBERRY'S MYSTIC COOKING! What inspired you to write it?

KB: I had the idea of a chef who opens her own restaurant and serves fantastical things, like kraken calamari and gourmet gryphon linguini, and then I was planning on writing a different book about a fantasy world slowly being taken over by science, where the elves are actually gangsters fighting to keep control of the city as the scientists gain more and more power.

HL: Kati and I often discussed our writing ideas with each other long before we ever tried co-writing. So when she told me these ideas, I started coming up with suggestions for her. I proposed the idea of combining both stories, so the chef would be working in that fantasy versus science world. I also suggested that the scientists be steampunk scientists, because I thought that would be the most awesome. And then I kept thinking of things she could do with that story--I was really excited about it, until finally she asked me if I wanted to just write it with her.

KV: What was it like to work together, and what tips do you have for other coauthors?

HL: It was (and still is) really fun to work together. Our first draft flew by so quickly because we were just having fun with it, passing it back and forth. As far as tips go, I’d say cowriting can be really tricky because you have to trust the other writer, and you also have to be willing to be completely honest about anything you don’t think is working. For us, it’s worked out because Kati and I have a lot of complementary skill sets. For instance, she likes to plot everything out, and I’m a total pantster.

KB: Chiming in here to say that was one of the hardest things to work with. I’d have this whole story planned out, and then Heidi would add in something…unexpected.

HL: But usually awesome!

KB: …usually. ;)

HL: I think it also helps that we’re sisters, so we’ve had many, many years of being forced to work together one way or another. But for other coauthors, I’d say it’s important to find someone who you trust, who you have fun working with, and who you can be honest with without worrying about it destroying your relationship. Having similar goals for the story and similar tastes in books is also important. For instance, both Kati and I love stories with kick-butt female protagonists who are not afraid to chase their dreams. We also both like a little bit of romance, lots of unique magic, and characters who are not exactly evil, but not exactly good, either.

KV: Tell us about the submission process. Did it move fairly quickly, or did it take some time? And if it took some time, what did you do to stay sane? :)

KB: I know a lot of authors really hate the submission process, but I didn’t mind it. After the stress of querying agents, it was kind of nice to kick back and know someone else was taking over for a bit. And both Heidi and I felt really confident in our agent--she was so excited about our book and did a fantastic job of putting it out there. We figured it would either sell, or it wouldn’t, but at least it was in good hands now.

HL: It did take kind of a long time, with some really close passes. I wasn’t as zen about it as Kati, but mostly I tried not to think about our book out there, circling, potentially never selling. Instead, Kati and I started working on a completely new story in order to pass the time.

KB: We managed to finish the first draft, too. So we’ll have that to go back to after we’re done with revisions on MYSTIC COOKING.

KV: Now tell us about getting the good news. Were you aware of Aladdin's interest beforehand, or did the offer come out of the blue? And how did you find out?

HL: We were not aware of their interest, but Kati had told me when we were first on submission that she felt like Aladdin would be the perfect place for our story.

KB: I still feel that way. :)

HL: Me, too! Anyhow, as you can tell we’re both still really excited about it! We found out when Jennifer, our agent, sent us an email basically asking if we were free to talk that afternoon because she had “news.” Kati was at a play-date with her toddler, so she didn’t see the email right away and I had to call her about twenty times--

KB: Or a hundred times.

HL: It might have been closer to a hundred. ;) Eventually she answered the phone, we set up a call with Jennifer, and the rest is history. I remember there was a lot of dancing around the house and squealing after we hung up.

KV: Once you officially accepted the offer, what were the next steps? And are you working on edits now?

HL: Once we accepted the offer, we didn’t hear anything from Aladdin for a couple of months. I hear this is really typical, but part of me worried they bought our book by mistake and were trying to think of a nice way to tell us.

KB: Luckily it didn’t come to that, and eventually we received our first edit letter and our first deadline. Most of their edits were more bigger picture questions about the world and the roles of some of the side characters, so before making any changes we had to spend a lot of time thinking about it and outlining it, much to Heidi's pleasure. ;)

HL: We actually just received our second edit letter a few weeks ago, so we’re going through that whole process again. There aren’t as many things to change this time, though, so we’re getting closer. And then we need to really get moving on the sequel, which we’ve been slowly, slowly plotting and writing on the side.

KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you'd like to share with us?

HL: Don’t give up! We finished our first “final” draft of MYSTIC COOKING back in 2012. It was originally YA and was over 100,000 words long…when we signed with Jennifer we had it down under 60,000, and it’s MG now, which is definitely a much better fit. But it took a while to get to that point.

KB: Which leads to our second big advice: learn how to take and apply criticism. We had a lot of people take a look at our story and offer suggestions for improvement. We made it into Pitch Wars back when our story was YA, and then the Writer’s Voice contest after we revised it to MG, and through those we found a lot of wonderful critique partners who all helped make our story much better.

HL: That’s about it. Writing is sometimes so frustrating, and the whole process can feel like it’s taking forever, but it’s so worth it. We love creating these worlds and these characters, and we’re so excited that other people are going to get to read the stories we created.

KB: Exactly. Write on, everyone! And thanks so much for inviting us to chat with you, Krista!

It was my pleasure, ladies. If the book is half as charming as this interview was, it will be charming indeed:)

1 comment:

RC Hancock said...

Great interview! Can't wait to read Mystic Cooking! Go #teamKrista