People Behind the Story of a Book

Still in Maine.

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Still canoeing.

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Still reading and writing.

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A few years ago I entered one of my manuscripts in the annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award – ABNA for short.

I figured that it would be a good way to get a reality check. Even brutal, the competition would position my work in comparison to other manuscripts.

Initially I had written the story for middle graders, but ABNA doesn’t have a children’s fiction category.

No problem, I thought, I will boost my characters’ age to fit the YA fiction category.

I didn’t win the jackpot but made it far enough through the competition to receive valuable feedback from the team of reviewers.

Not surprisingly the recurrent negative comment was related to the age of my characters.

 

Advice #1

Never, ever, think that writing fifteen instead of twelve will instantly morph your pre teens into teens.

 

Advice #2

They say to never take it personally but everything is personal, isn’t it?

So when I read this: “I wish you well and hope to complete this by buying this novel one day,” I thought that: One day I should give this story another chance.

Don’t turn a completed manuscript into an eternal Sleeping Beauty.

 

Over the last year, among other projects, I revised and edited this manuscript. For various reasons, I also changed the title and the name of my female protagonist (Sylvie instead of Françoise).

Today, I’m happy to give you a snippet of Chronicles From Château Moines, my novel for middle graders.

When the mother of twelve-year-old Scott dies, his father gets the crazy idea to move his family from California to Normandy. Now Scott must come to terms with his mother’s recent death while adjusting to life in France. He has no clue that his arrival is also a challenge to the locals, particularly to Sylvie. She doesn’t like this boy who turns her life upside down and threatens peace at school and through small town Château Moines.

Yet Scott’s intriguing and cute, and when the two of them share their love for music they slowly become friends. Their paths ultimately merge when Sylvie’s sister Elle momentarily disappears at the peace walk that Sylvie and Scott organize to protest the Vietnam War.

Set in 1970 and told from the perspectives of Scott and Sylvie, Chronicles From Château Moines is a middle-grade story about loss and friendship, about music and peace, and also about parents’ secrets.

 

I don’t want to brag, but in case you decide to read my book or suggest it to a child when it’s out,  here are some additional comments I received from ABNA Reviewers:

“I really enjoyed the relationships between Scott and his sister and Françoise and her sister. Most siblings don’t seem to have much of a role in books so I was glad to see some nice close families here.  
I was also anticipating what was to come with Scott and Françoise or Scott and Annie.”

“I really enjoyed what I read. I couldn’t wait to see what relationships were going to transpire. There were some really nice family relationships here as well. I would really enjoy reading the rest of this book. It seemed very well written.”

“This entry has some lovely prose that divides into two languages. I found this entertaining as I was learning French slowly while enjoying a tale. 
I believed the relationship between siblings as well the parental/child connection rang true. It seems the loss of a parent is germane to children’s writing; I am sure it sets the emotional tone for the story.
Good sentence structure. Dialogue was flowing, not stilted. 
The plot is charming and piques interest. I’d like to see what happens with both families.”
“This is a gentle story of culture shock, coming to terms with loss, and feeling the outcast. Françoise feels it as acutely as Scott though she has lived in France all her life. There are many forms of alienation in a teenager’s life and that is studied here. 
Warm story, worth reading.” 

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Words of encouragement, like the gentle nudge of a friend on a steep hiking trail, go a long way. Thanks to the reviewer who wrote that he hoped to buy my book one day, I was able to give my story a second chance.

The copy-editor I hired provided much more than line editing. Isabel Stein was my partner for my first novel Trapped in Paris. She has worked for many years with renowned publishers; she knows what she’s doing.

Writers who share their publishing adventure through their successes and challenges, and share their referrals are generous. Katie Cross not only published the excellent Miss Mabel’s School For Girls, the first book in the Network Series, she also created a special tab on her blog, just in case people like me searched for editors, copy editors, book designers, cover book designers, etc.  Thanks to Katie, I selected Jennifer to design the book cover of Chronicles From Château Moines. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with!

Anyone who believes in your writing deserves special recognition.

My husband was at the front line and backstage for Trapped in Paris. He did it again for my new book. It’s great that he favors technology to fiction writing. We don’t fight about who is more creative or less technical. I owe my husband countless hours of work and a few occasional funny French bad words that I had forgotten. Formatting a manuscript for a printed version and an e-version can be a real pain. I want to add that Chronicles From Château Moines and Trapped in Paris are printed by Createspace but not designed by the company. The choice of font and paper as well as the interior design are solely my husband’s work. I am really happy to share the life of a French man turned into an American entrepreneur. A keeper, I’m telling you.

Of course, you are also crucial to my writing journey. When you read one of my posts, either in French or in English (some brave ones do both!), when you like one of my posts, when you comment on one of my posts, you push me to write yet another post and moreover to improve my writing skills.

Thank you for being part of my journey.

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I will share more of my book as the launching date approaches, so stayed tuned and bear with me.

Meanwhile, here is the song that plays when Scott and Sylvie dance together for the first time.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. I am so envious of your writing and entering the awards! for the longest time I’ve wanted to write a novel of sorts but never managed to get past the first couple or so chapters 😦

  2. Wonderful writing Evelyne – I love having a glimpse of characters, the anticipation is being built in. Isn’t is great the reviews you’ve received already – can’t wait for it to be published, I’ll be looking forward to reading it. I’m thrilled for your success and you’ll received loads of it!

    • Thank you, Mary. I am looking forward to this new book and to sharing it with readers. The whole process is a journey, with ups and downs, and as any journey anticipation and anxiety too. So thank you for your trust.

  3. It’s so interesting to learn a bit more about the process behind the scenes. Thank you for sharing that. I am still reading Trapped In Paris, and I am enjoying it. I can echo many parts of the comments you included above. The characters are interesting, believable and I am eager to see what happens next to them and between them.

    • Thank you, Dan. As I write above in response to Mary’s comment, the whole process is a journey with its mix of ups and downs. I am grateful for any word of encouragement and of course to anyone who has purchased my first novel. It means a lot to me. Thank you.

      • It’s hard for me to understand the process. I think about how you must have had a plan for all these (seemingly) random occurrences of characters right from the start, and it seems like a huge organizational task. I have blog posts that bounce from one thread to another and sometimes I get confused in under 1,000 words:) I have been most impressed with the action scenes that I have read. They move along so quickly, with almost no wasted words, that I get caught up in their world. I don’t know what to say other than “you do that very well.”

  4. Sounds great. Is there a link or am I missing it?

  5. Congrats, Evelyne! Looking forward to seeing the book in print. How wonderful that writers all provided resources to you–and now you’re doing the same 🙂 (And what a great husband!)

    • So nice to see you, Jennifer. Thank you for your encouragement. Sharing is good, isn’t it? And yes, I’m lucky to have a very supportive husband. We actually enjoy this shared venture since we each have a different role to play.

  6. Congratulations Evelyne – what wonderful feedback you received and I’m pleased it made you keep going with this book. It sounds like a great story and I wish you lots of luck with it 🙂

  7. Thank you, Andrea, for your support and kind words. I’m impatient to see the book in print and to get some feedback. More to follow…

  8. Evelyn, you’re going to do beautifully in your writing career, and I say that because you’re really open to feedback. I’ve met plenty of authors who aren’t, trust me, and it’s really quite sad to see. Humility is not an easily served dish, but it’s about as needed as water in a creative-type job, so good for you!

    Also- Jenny told me that you were going through her. You will NOT regret it! Seriously. She is fabulous to work with. The hundreds of emails I sent her can attest to that, because she responds promptly to all of them. I love her, and her work, and her prices. She’s phenomenal.

    And also- I’m super glad you’re giving that MS another chance. I, for one, want in on that launch party because I want to read it ASAP 🙂

  9. Great read and resources. Wishing you much success on your second novel. I’m always amazed at the amount of time and work a novel requires.

  10. Many congratulations on your new book Evelyne. You encourage me greatly, not only in the way you take the time to read my posts and leave such considered and meaningful comments but also in sharing your journey here, reminding us not to become discouraged and to press on despite the initial discouragements. I’ve received a few of those lately, but reading what you share here urges me to not give up and press on with my writing. You deserve your accolades and wonderful reviews on what is obviously a finely written book. But then I would never expect any less from you 🙂

    • I blush! Really, you are too kind, Sherri. Living in the States has taught me many important life lessons. One is: don’t give up until we’ve used each and every possibility.
      Another: failing is okay as long as you try.
      It doesn’t mean that it’s easy, and I’m anxious to see where the journey will take me.
      As for you, I’ve no doubt that you will come up with a way to get your story out.
      See you soon!

      • Thanks Eveylne! And yes, I agree. Living in the States gave me a lot of good life lessons too and I will never forget them. Got to keep pressing on no matter what 🙂

  11. still in Maine… lucky you, guys! 🙂 bravo et congrats, young lady! eh oui, écrire – c’est comme on dit “un travail de longue haleine”(a long-term work?)… la réalité dépasse et “bat” souvent la fiction… bon courage, bonne continuation et un splendide “été indien” à tous… my very best and cheers! 🙂

  12. Glad to see you’re still reading, writing, and . . . canoeing. Your pictures make me want to revisit Maine sooner rather than later. Thanks for sharing advice from Amazon’s contest. So true about ages of characters-it’s more than just a number.

    • Thank you, Nance, for stopping by and adding your voice to my post. Maine is gorgeous and although too distracting to write as much as I want still inspiring. I wanted to take advantage of the feedback I received from the reviewers to revise and give my story a chance to be read. Thanks again for your visit. See you.

  13. I think writing for teens is not easy and certainly is a niche market.

  14. Well done on this encouraging critique. It makes me want to dive into read your story. I love your comment ‘Don’t turn a completed manuscript into an eternal Sleeping Beauty.’ these are motivating words. I had been just checking out your brilliant reviews on Goodread for your novel.

    The writing tips you share here are evergreen. I love returning to your site.

  15. c’est très sympa cette chronique d’auteurs 🙂
    Je fais aussi des articles sur certains auteurs francophones : https://paradisfiscalblog.wordpress.com/

Trackbacks

  1. […] The work of a book cover designer is different from a magazine illustrator. There are many elements to a novel. It’s impossible to depict all of them on a cover. Based on the detailed synopsis and the author’s questionnaire that I provided to Jennifer, she came up with several design options for my middle grade novel Chronicles From Château Moines. […]

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