Saturday, August 12, 2017

0 Mary Taranta, author of SHIMMER AND BURN, on cringing over the first chapter

We are happy to have Mary Taranta swing by to talk about about her debut novel, SHIMMER AND BURN.

Mary, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

The opening chapter was one of the hardest things to write. I had to find a balance of backstory, character development, and worldbuilding while establishing high stakes and a forward motion to keep readers interested in continuing on. Even after the book sold and I'd gone through my first round of edits, I cringed over that first chapter and saved editing it for last. It got nitpicked far more than any other scene in the book, but I think it paid off: I love it now!

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

It was long, but it also wasn't. I queried my first book in 2010, wrote a second book and shelved it, queried my third book in 2011, and my fourth book in 2013, which is what got me my agent. But the book never sold. So I wrote another one, which also didn't sell. So I wrote another one that got shelved because I knew it wasn't right, and then I wrote SHIMMER AND BURN. So it was my seventh finished manuscript--and my fourth book with my agency. I am very grateful for their patience in me!

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 can't pinpoint the exact moment I realized it, but after five or six books, I began to trust my instincts a lot more. I'm an outliner, so when I start a new project, I generally know how to connect the beginning, the middle, and the end, but the details in-between are still a surprise. As a result, if I start writing and keep stalling, or lose interest, or find any excuse to walk away, I know something's wrong and I made a poor authorial choice somewhere. Rather than push through it to fix it later, I stop, reassess, and try again in a new direction. When I'm on the right track, the writing is always easier!

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I write first thing in the morning, and again after dinner, sometimes sneaking in sentences during my day job. No music, though--I tend to get caught up in what I'm listening to and can't focus on words! I have a dedicated office space but if I need a change of scenery, I take my laptop to another room. Going for a walk helps me puzzle out any plot holes or inconsistencies, and I always keep two pens and some receipts in my car for when inspiration hits while I'm driving (although I safely wait until I'm stopped to write anything down)!

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Be patient, as hard as it is. After my first agented novel didn't sell, I was in such a hurry to "catch up" to other debuts that were signing and selling within weeks that I ignored a lot of my instincts with the next two projects--both of which ended up being scrapped. There is no deadline to your personal success, and it took me a long time to accept that.


Shimmer and Burn
by Mary Taranta
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Released 8/8/2017

To save her sister’s life, Faris must smuggle magic into a plague-ridden neighboring kingdom in this exciting and dangerous start to a brand-new fantasy duology.

Faris grew up fighting to survive in the slums of Brindaigel while caring for her sister, Cadence. But when Cadence is caught trying to flee the kingdom and is sold into slavery, Faris reluctantly agrees to a lucrative scheme to buy her back, inadvertently binding herself to the power-hungry Princess Bryn, who wants to steal her father’s throne.

Now Faris must smuggle stolen magic into neighboring Avinea to incite its prince to alliance—magic that addicts in the war-torn country can sense in her blood and can steal with a touch. She and Bryn turn to a handsome traveling magician, North, who offers protection from Avinea’s many dangers, but he cannot save Faris from Bryn’s cruelty as she leverages Cadence’s freedom to force Faris to do anything—or kill anyone—she asks. Yet Faris is as fierce as Bryn, and even as she finds herself falling for North, she develops schemes of her own.

With the fate of kingdoms at stake, Faris, Bryn, and North maneuver through a dangerous game of magical and political machinations, where lives can be destroyed—or saved—with only a touch.

Purchase Shimmer and Burn at Amazon
Purchase Shimmer and Burn at IndieBound
View Shimmer and Burn on Goodreads


Born the youngest save one in a family of ten, I grew up notoriously quiet but secretly wild, playacting my favorite stories and writing some of my own in the woods behind my family's farmhouse. Originally from a small (very small) town in Ohio, I moved to the larger (much larger) Orlando suburbs kicking and screaming at the age of fifteen. It turned out all right in the end and I'm still here, now with an adorable husband, two useless cats, and an unhealthy reliance on air conditioning. While I'm not old enough to be President, I am too old to sit on the floor without cracking joints when I stand. As a Midwestern Southerner, I've attained Level 9 Politeness and prefer my iced tea sweet.

Still notoriously quiet, though. Not nearly so wild.


Have you had a chance to read SHIMMER AND BURN yet? Have you gotten caught up in trying to sell a book and forgotten to trust your instincts? Are you able to accept there's no deadline to your personal success? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Emily, Jocelyn, Anisaa, Sam, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, and Lori Ann

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