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Monday, January 28, 2013

Never give up! An interview with Stephanie Blake

by Amy

We've had a bit of a theme working here in the Tubro Monkey Treehouse lately. Motivation, healing, aiming for the stars...all of these resonate with my "Never, never, never give up" magnet. In the same vein, I'd like to share a success story.

Today, I’m pleased to welcome my long-time virtual friend Stephanie Blake. Steph’s truly awesome middle-grade novel, The Marble Queen, has been climbing charts all over the place. I just read it and LOVED it, but what I love even more is the story behind the book. And here's Steph...

 Thank you for the warm welcome. Yes, the book has been well received, much to my relief. The first two weeks of its release were kind of fun. It was neck and neck on the Hot New Release list with the new James Patterson book, I FUNNY. It was also up and down on the top 100 of the Best Selling Children's books for a couple of weeks. My family had fun checking on the numbers every few hours. We were #1 on the Children's Hot New Releases on New Year's Eve. I got a screen capture of that.

So, when did you write The Marble Queen of Idaho Falls (which is what it was originally called, right?)

The long title was a mouthful, but I loved it! My editor thought it would be better shortened. She won. I started writing it in 2006. The manuscript came together quickly, but it needed a lot of work, especially the plot.

Am I right in remembering that you had a lot of 'near misses' with this -- agent interest, publisher interest—early on? Did you have other books on submission at the same time?

TMQ wasn't my first book, it was my 4th manuscript. I had a funny, heartwarming boy book about three friends who start a summer business together--picking up dog poop. I submitted that thing everywhere. Got some close calls, but no offers. I landed an agent with my second manuscript, another funny boy book about a kid who gets into all kinds of trouble when he acts out after finding out he is expecting a new sibling. The agent and I parted ways when that ms didn't sell. I wrote a manuscript about a tween witch and revised with an agent for a year. The, I revised again for another agent. I wrote TMQ and garnered a handful of "too quiet" agent rejections before working on it with an editor at FSG. She helped me through two revisions, but in the end, no offer. I was so discouraged.

Ah, yes. The ‘too quiet’rejections. You and I must have a monopoly on those…

Actually, your writing life mirrors mine so much. We had our ‘no query pact’…I think that lasted about 6 months. And before that, when I went on my soul-searching Year Of Lamentation And Whining, you actually quit writing and became a phlebotomist. How did you come to the decision to step away, and what brought you back?

That No-Query pact was awesome! I think more writers need to do that when they start to feel desperate. And desperate I was! Honestly, I went to a dark obsessive place. I was spending all of my time on the internet. I got sick of the whole thing. Sick of submitting to black holes of nothingness. Sick of spending money on conferences. Revising over and over for agents, only to have them decline to represent me. Sick and tired of being jealous of my writer friends who were breaking in.

Oh man, I so get you on the jealousy. Not that I’m not thrilled for my friends, but sometimes I can’t help wondering, “When’s it gonna be my turn?”

Finally, when The Marble Queen was picked up by Marshall Cavendish, it turned out there were a few more surprises in store, right?

I subbed the manuscript to Marshall Cavendish as a last ditch effort. And when I didn't hear a peep, that was it for me! I went back to school and got a certificate in phlebotomy. I was working in a hospital and out of the blue, a year after mailing off that manuscript, an editor emailed to ask it if was still available. My short answer was "Hell yes!" I quit that job about two weeks later. Good thing, too because I didn't realize that revisions were going to take eighteen months! Then came the announcement that all of the Marshall Cavendish titles were bought by Amazon. That was scary. I worried that the book wouldn't be reviewed, that it wouldn't be on shelves in physical stores, and mostly that I wouldn't sell another one! (That last worry is still alive and well).

Argh...proof that the grass is never completely green.

Now that your first book is out and doing SO WELL…was it all worth it? Was there any one thing you wish YOU had done differently?

I wish I wouldn't have deleted my blog.

Oh, me too! I loved your blog!

I had a great following and some really useful and memorable posts, but when I quit writing, I quit blogging and deleted it one day without saving any of the posts. I also kind of wish I wouldn't have spent so much money on conferences!

What are you working on now?

I am waiting to hear from my editor on a proposal for a companion to The Marble Queen. I have also been revising a contemporary middle grade, and have clogged up a couple of slush piles with a picture book that I wrote on a whim.

Last thing...what's the one thing you cannot write without?

I need complete silence when I'm writing! My husband just started working from home, so that's been tough.

Someday we’ll meet in person! Margaritas on me!

It's a deal. I'll bring the chips and salsa!


To learn more about Steph and The Marble Queen, visit her website and check out her book.

And also...

Never, never, NEVER give up!
-Winston Churchill




  1. Replies
    1. It was great to chat! Thanks for dropping in. I look forward to margaritas in the future!

  2. I love this true to life horror story of the path to publishing. We always hear about the Angel that is plucked from obscurity and becomes J.K. or an extra in the movie of THEIR book. But Stephanie's story i think is closer to reality for most.

  3. So enjoyed reading this. Writing a book is such a journey.

    1. Always. I'm glad I can share the journey with my writer friends!

  4. Hi Stephanie! Thanks for sharing your tale. I'm in for margaritas!

  5. Hi Stephanie--thanks for sharing the inspiring story of your journey! And I love that you and Amy are friends but have never met in person :) Wishing you all the best with your proposal!

  6. Hello Stephanie! Thank you for sharing your journey! Very inspiring :)

  7. Thanks everyone for dropping by and meeting Steph! She's a super monkey, as you can see! :)