Saturday, October 31, 2015

0 Marcy Beller Paul, author of UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING, on struggling to finish a novel

We're thrilled to have Marcy Beller Paul join us to share more about her debut novel UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING.

Marcy, what was your inspiration for writing UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING?

Well, the first draft of UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING was a traditional love triangle between two boys and a girl. Then, during revision, I got to a scene between the main character and a female friend of hers. That scene immediately stood out to me as more intense and interesting than anything else.

I think maybe I was trying to tell that story in the first draft, but I was afraid to face it, so I buried it in the subplot. I’d had my own toxic friendship in middle school and high school, and I’d gotten through it, but I’d never forced myself to examine it. If I was really going to write this story, I knew I’d have to go back there, mentally. I also knew it was going to take a lot of work. I was going to have to cut off the second half of the novel, rewrite it, then heavily revise the first half.

I didn’t have an agent or editor then, so even though I thought I’d found the heart of the story, I still had doubts. Then I hung out with a good friend from high school. When I mentioned the new direction for the book, she immediately told me three stories about a girl in our class. I had assumed we were talking about the same person, but it turns out we weren’t. That’s when I was sure of the idea. That’s when I realized we all have our Jolene. We all have our reasons for being friends with that person. I wanted to figure out what they were.



What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

I love atmospheric books with lush language that are tense and psychologically complicated. I think readers that are into UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING would love LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL by Jo Knowles, AMELIA ANNE IS DEAD AND GONE by Kat Rosenfield, THE FEVER by Megan Abbott, THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers, and anything by Nova Ren Suma and Laura Kasischke.

How long did you work on UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING?

It took me about a year to write the first draft, then a year to revise it. I wasn’t writing on deadline then and my kids were very young, so I was taking as much time as I needed and also putting my family first. Once I got an agent, we revised for a few months and sold the book, then I revised with my editor. So from the first words of the first draft to the finished manuscript (which was turned in almost a year before publication), I’d say I worked on the book for about three and a half years.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

I had tried to write a novel a bunch of times, beginning in high school. Each time I would get fifteen or twenty pages in, get overwhelmed, and give up. Then I got a job in book publishing, which you’d think would be inspiring, but was completely the opposite. I couldn’t stomach adding more words to the slush piles. And the truth is, I didn’t know the very basics of fiction writing. It wasn’t until I’d gotten some distance from the industry and took a YA novel writing course through MediaBistro with the fabulous Liz Van Doren that I developed a writing habit, found amazing critique partners, and thought about my own writing critically and seriously for the first time. I found out that even if you don’t want to outline, you should have a firm idea of who your characters are, what they want, and what they need. You should know where they begin and where they’re going to end up.

But even with all that support I still wrote 50 pages of something then stopped. It was farther than I’d ever gotten before, but I couldn’t help thinking, “Here we go again, I’m going to hit another wall and give up.” And I did give up that story. My heart wasn't in it. I struggled for a few weeks, trying out different things. I was really discouraged. Then in the last two weeks of the class I wrote the opening pages to UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING. Months later when I looked back at some of my failed novel attempts from high school and college, I realized I’d been trying to write this book for years—a story about girls and friendship. I’d even used some of the same names. This story had been in me for years and I promised myself that this time I would finish it. That was the first goal—to finish. For me, that was the key.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul
Hardcover
Balzer + Bray
Released 10/27/2015

Underneath Everything is a seductive, gorgeously written debut about two girls bound by an obsessive and toxic friendship, perfect for fans of Lauren Oliver and Courtney Summers.

Mattie shouldn't be at the bonfire. She should be finding new maps for her collection, hanging out with Kris, and steering clear of almost everyone else, especially Jolene. After all, Mattie and Kris dropped off the social scene the summer after sophomore year for a reason. But now Mattie is a senior, and she's sick of missing things. So here she is. And there's Jolene: Beautiful. Captivating. Just like the stories she wove. Mattie would know—she used to star in them. She and Jolene were best friends. Mattie has the scar on her palm to prove it, and Jolene has everything else, including Hudson. 

But when Mattie runs into Hudson and gets a glimpse of what could have been, she decides to take it all back: the boyfriend, the friends, the life she was supposed to live. Problem is, Mattie can't figure out where Jolene's life ends and hers begins. Because there's something Mattie hasn't told anyone: She walked away from Jolene over a year ago, but she never really left.

Purchase Underneath Everything at Amazon
Purchase Underneath Everything at IndieBound
View Underneath Everything on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


7224014Marcy Beller Paul is a young adult author, former editor, and full-time mom who still has all the notes she passed in seventh grade (and knows how to fold them).

She graduated from Harvard University and lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children. Underneath Everything will be published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins, in Fall 2015. It is her first novel.


Have you had a chance to read UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING yet? Have you ever discovered a subplot in your work that actually needed to be the main story? Have you stopped writing a novel because your heart wasn't in it?

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Shelly, Martina, Erin, Lisa, Susan, Sam, Lindsey, Sandra, Kristin, and Anisaa

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