Q) How did Shatter Me happen, from idea to deal?
SHATTER ME started as little more than a voice in my head. I just heard this girl -- I could see her in my mind -- trapped, locked up somewhere. I knew she was scared and afraid to speak and that she'd been locked up for something she never meant to do. That's really all it took for me to start writing it all out. I followed her voice, allowed her character to develop and open up to me -- to tell me what her story was and where it would go.
It always sounds crazy, talking about the voices in our heads, but really, that's how it happens. I just listen to the imaginary people living in my brain and wait for them to tell me what to do.
Once I had a finished, polished book in my hands, I set out to find the right agent for it, and Jodi took over from there. It's been a lot of fun. :D
Q) If you could offer one piece of craft advice to other writers, what would it be? What most made the difference for you in writing a "big book?"
This was the first manuscript wherein I'd ever truly allowed myself to let go. To allow my mind to dictate the story; to be unencumbered by what I was conditioned to believe was the "correct" way to write a book. I didn't think about whether or not it would be a "big book" -- I had no idea whether or not it would sell at all -- and I certainly didn't plan for it to amount to much more than a transcription of the story trapped in my head. And I think it's in those moments -- when we grant ourselves the freedom to let go, to surrender completely to the characters, to the passion for painting pictures with words -- it's in those moments that we write from the truest parts of ourselves. That's the only advice I could ever give a fellow writer: don't think about creating the Next Big Thing.
This industry is so subjective; a book you hate is a book someone else loves and a book that made you want to sing from the rooftops is a book that made another want to fling it at the wall. You'll never be able to please everyone. So don't try to.
Q) What was the biggest "aha" moment of your road to publication?
The minute I learned to be okay with things outside of my control, everything became easier.
Publishing is a business, and we tend to forget that sometimes, because writing is such an intensely personal experience.
But learning to accept very little from everyone but myself really gave me peace. I focus on my own work, and everything else is extra. The good things are unexpected delights; the hard things will hopefully serve to make me stronger. But at the end of the day, my job is to write the best book I can.
Q) What craft books or workshops would you recommend to other writers?
I've never actually read a book on craft, or attended a workshop on writing, so I don't know what that's like. I can only recommend that writers read books. All books. All kinds of books. Good books. Bad books.
Read within your genre, read outside of your genre, read magazines, DVD packaging, the backs of cereal boxes; read street signs and song lyrics.
Read poetry and memoirs and history books and picture books and romance novels and instruction manuals. Read everything. Inspiration is everywhere, and your writing style will develop as a result of what you read and learn to love and hate. You'll learn to write by reading a lot and writing a lot and doing that over and over and over again. That's it.
Workshops are great, and craft books are great, but the only way to learn is to try, to be ready to fail, and then to fail, and then to try again and again until it works. Don't be afraid to fall flat on your face; don't be afraid to write a bad book; don't be afraid to be a failure and don't be afraid to be a success. Because each attempt is a learning experience in and of itself; your efforts are never ever wasted.
So just let go. Write what feels right even if it's all wrong and keep doing that forever.
SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi
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The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.
Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.
In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.
Sounds great, right? Want to read it? Enter below by November 15th (release day) and you could win a copy. U.S. and Canadian entries only.