Today, debut author C.J. Daughtery is stopping by my blog as part of the Night School Blog Tour! Read on to find out about the different drafts Christi wrote before the story became Night School!
Night School: If at first you don’t succeed…
I wrote Night School on a whim – or more honestly on a dare. My husband dared me to write a novel, and I was determined to win. So I sat at my laptop, tapping away after work and on weekends for about five months.
Since I was writing it for fun, neither of us took it particularly seriously until about halfway through, when it suddenly struck both of us that, well, it didn’t completely suck.
The book I wrote was about vampires – the only character who was not a vampire was Allie. And I have to say, in all humility, as vampire books go, it wasn’t too shabby.
When I’d finished it, my husband and I had a glass of champagne and then sat looking at each other.
“What do we do now?” I asked.
“We find you an agent,” he said without a hint of hesitation.
To me, it seemed like a crazy dream. My on-a-whim book about boarding school vampires couldn’t possibly get published. But at his insistence I started researching agents. One day I stumbled across the Darley Anderson Agency’s website and found a page on Madeleine Buston. She represents precisely this genre and the agency has a stellar reputation. So I put together a submission package.
I mailed it to her on a Thursday in October 2009, and went on about my life. I didn’t expect to hear from her for weeks, if at all.
The next day she called and asked to see the whole manuscript. The day after that, which happened to be my birthday, she signed me to her agency.
But that was just the beginning. Madeleine was concerned that it would be hard to sell the book as a vampire book – there were too many on the market and publishers were overrun by the little bloodsuckers.
So I re-envisioned it as a book about gods, of a sort – immortal teenagers with limited powers. I revised it over the course of a couple of months, and then resubmitted it.
She thought it worked, and she had an editor in mind at Atom, Sam Smith, who she thought might like it too.
Sam did like it… But.
She thought the first half of the book – when it was not paranormal – worked better
than the second half, when it was. She asked if I would consider rewriting it as a straight psychological thriller. No vampires. No immortals. Just kids taking things too far, and adults who fail to guide them.
With my heart in my shoes, I said I’d try.
I’m not going to lie to you. When I sat down to revise it again I cried for an hour.
I wasn’t sure I could do it. I was losing half of my book and scenes I dearly loved. But I wasn’t going to turn down the chance to work with an amazing, talented editor without at least trying.
So I spent two months revising. When I was halfway through it just took off. It wrote itself. It felt right. I was writing thousands of words a day. Plot tangles would snarl up and I would untangle them. Problems developed and were instantly solved.
It was magical.
When I’d finished it, I knew it was a much better book than the one I’d started with. It had gone through so many changes but each layer of transition made it better – by the end the characters were more believable and the plot was more exciting.
What’s happened since has been overwhelming. So far it’s been picked up by publishers in 18 countries. It’s being translated into 16 languages. It’s all so unbelievable that I don’t actually believe it myself and I’m the one getting all the paperwork.
I’m writing the second book in the series now, and while much has changed in my life since I wrote that first version on a dare, I’m writing this one for exactly the same reason I wrote the first one: For fun.
Thank you, Christi, for such a brilliant guest post! I think it's a bit of an eye opener, that writers to keep going and not give up, no matter how discouraging things may seem sometimes. Night School was released yesterday, on 5th January 2012. Be sure to check out Christi's website.
Come back later today for a guest post from Josefine Jönsson, the photographer and model behind the photo used on the Night School cover.