**UPDATE: We are so delighted to have J.S. FIelds back to answer a few follow-up questions about the experience since #DVpit. J.S., you are our very first published success with ARDULUM: FIRST DON! Catch us up on what’s happened since #DVpit.
J.S.: Thank you! It’s been a whirlwind! Since that first #DVpit (where I contracted direct with my publisher, Ninestar, for the Ardulum trilogy), I finished cleaning up the second in the series, wrote the third, and went through the whole editing / marketing process on book one. The first book came out February 27th, and the second will come out August 7th. Since I’m now ahead of the game, I’ve started up a new fantasy series. So, yes, busy busy!
What has the lead-up to publication been like? Tell us about the process!
J.S.: It’s a lot of editing. So much editing. I had three solid rounds with my editor, one with a copyeditor, one with a proofreader, and then another clean up round. I got to tweak and approve cover art, which is SUPER exciting, approve the maps and timeline frontmatter for the book (also amazing, to see a map someone has made of fictional places in your head), and fill out a bunch of marketing and interview forms.
Once you’re about a month out from publication, everything becomes really tangible. Things like the cover, the frontmatter, they turn your manuscript into a book you could actually envision on a store shelf. That is the best feeling in the world!
Looking back, is there anything you wish you knew or prepared for when you were first entering #DVpit and getting ready to pitch?
J.S.: I think it would have been helpful to be better versed in Twitter beforehand, but I did manage to survive regardless. Having signed through a Twitter contest, however, Twitter will always be pivotal to my platform, so it would have been nice to have a firmer grounding in it before everything started happening.
There are a number of things I’m glad I did. I’m glad I had a fully polished manuscript ready to submit, because when the likes came, and offers followed, I was completely ready for both. I’m glad I spent a lot of time working on my tweets, because I think the variety spoke to different audiences.
What’s next for you?
J.S.: I’m working on another #ownvoices series, this time through a gender lens instead of a sexuality one. Fantasy this time, but still with a heavy science component, and integrating my extensive forestry experience to hopefully bring more realism to the setting. Also, fungi. There are fungi in all my books because fungi are amazing
Congratulations once again, J.S.! Thank you for sharing your journey with us, and best of luck with the ARDULUM trilogy and the Fantasy WIP. We’re all excited to see more from you!
Everyone should check out ARDULUM: FIRST DON right here.
[The original interview follows.]
J.S. and NineStar Press, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, J.S., I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.
J.S.: My book is a space opera, something in-between Firefly and The Rowan series by Anne McCaffrey. The main character is a pilot on a tramp transport who has been exiled from her world for refusal to worship the gods. During a run she inadvertently rescues a slave who bares a striking resemblance to the gods she swore didn’t exist. The pilot now has to come to terms with her exile and lost religion while simultaneously protecting a child who has the ability to telekinetically manipulate cellulose – the primary component of all spacefaring tech in the galaxy.
I work with trees, from research in the Amazonian rainforest, to basic anatomical microscopy. Cellulose is my world, with some mycology thrown in. With all the advances I see running through my university that involve the integration of cellulose into processors, plastics, digital printers, it was interesting to imagine a world where cellulose is the polymer that matters. What would that world look like? And if cellulose is the answer, and we rely on it so heavily, what does that mean for the biological organisms that eat it?
I also adore the feel of space operas, and cut my reading teeth on Anne McCaffrey books. Of course then there had to be telekinesis in my books. Of course.
NineStar, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
SASHA: The characters, certainly! It’s one thing to craft an intricate plot—it’s another to create characters that can carry it to fruition. I could hardly stop reading. I simply had to know whether the protagonists would prevail…despite having already read a detailed synopsis. Needless to say, I was invested.
J.S., how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?
J.S.: I’d been subbing this manuscript for about a year. I’d just hit a sort of breakthrough, where rejections were coming back with detailed feedback, and I was getting an R&R here and there. So I knew I was getting close, and I was working through a number of revisions just before the contest.
To get to that point, however, I used a ton of betas, a few CPs, and a sort of beta reading co-op group over on the Brandon Sanderson fansite 17th Shard.
My only deadline was the contest itself!
And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?
J.S.: Just….wow. I joined Twitter just a few weeks before, to participate in my first pitch contest. I only pitched once, and I had no idea what I was doing. So when #DVpit came around, I figured out TweetDeck, worked out my pitches, and was prepared. Except I wasn’t. The feedback was outstanding. The support was outstanding. I was brand new to Twitter, and it was all so overwhelming. I had no idea that level of community existed, let alone for a pitch contest! I’ve done a few pitch contests since, and nothing came anywhere close to the magic of #DVpit.
How was the experience for you, NineStar?
SAM: Honestly? At first, it is a bit nerve-racking for even us as the editors and publishers. We can like all these amazing pitches, but in the end, the authors have to choose us too. It’s a mutual decision. At the same time, it’s also very exciting to get to see what people are working on, and we feel honored to be able to participate.
J.S., did you receive pitch help? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?
J.S.: My best friend from high school, now a big fancy librarian and who has been my beta reader since the very beginning, was amazing at helping me perfect my pitches. We did it over Facebook, just on my wall, and I’m sure the rest of our friends thought we were ridiculous.
Wisdom for future participants: keep it varied. All but two of my pitches were completely different, and certain ones appealed more to agents, some more to editors, some more to large press over small. Having a variety of pitches means you can get a variety of interest!
And NineStar, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
SAM: Like the first paragraph or page of a book, a pitch should capture the audience and leave them wanting more. Put what makes your book unique in that one little sentence as much as you can. You should treat the pitch like a taste test and give the publishers or agents a little bit of what is to come while leaving them wanting more.
On a more practical note, utilizing hashtags is incredibly important. With so many pitches coming in, it’s easy to miss them, so we often search based on the categories we are looking for (ex: #LGBT, #Asexual).
Tell us about The Call, J.S.!
J.S.: Well, bucking the trend as we do, there wasn’t a call. I was walking back from the campus library on a very hot afternoon. I’d just received two Rs from agents who’d requested more material post #DVpit, so I was feeling down. I saw there was an e-mail from NineStar and opened it, assuming another R. Except the e-mail was from Sasha, saying she’d love to offer me a contract.
I had to sit down, and I did, right on the sidewalk. It was just so sudden. Over the two mile walk home I went through various stages of panic before e-mailing Sasha to chat more. I was in a strange place, because I still had two R&Rs pending from agents. I took a few weeks, got myself a literary contract lawyer, and considered my options. During the whole thing I stayed in contact with Sasha, and the more I chatted with her, the more comfortable I became. I liked the ease with which we communicated. I liked how professionally the entire NineStar team operated.
Sasha’s enthusiasm for my book was what really sealed the deal. I’d gone through so many R&Rs and I wasn’t certain what else could be changed about the book while still keeping the original vision intact. Sasha loved it the way it was (with edits, of course). Combine that with the lightning fast e-mail returns (I’m pretty certain I could e-mail Sasha at 2am and she’d still get back to me within 20 minutes) and I was sold. Once the lawyer gave me the go-ahead, I signed.
Give us the pitch that hooked your publisher!
J.S.: Another difficult answer here. I actually didn’t submit to NineStar immediately after #DVpit, even though they liked my tweet. I had so many to go through that they got lost in the shuffle. I participated in #PitMad a month? two? later, and they favorited again, on a different tweet. The name looked familiar and when I scrolled back through I realized I had missed them during #DVpit. So below are both tweets.
The one from #DVpit: “There is no gender binary in space, just mythological gods, pirates, and women who curse a lot. #scifi #LGBT #OWN”
The one from #PitMad: “Cellulose is the polymer of the future, but can it unlock the web of lies and tech surrounding an ancient religion? #A #SF #LGBT”
NineStar, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
SAM: The pitch was immediately intriguing because it was so unique. It made us curious to see what the story beyond was.
What else are you looking for these days? Is there anything specific on your wishlists that you’re hoping to find, maybe at the next #DVpit?
RAEVYN: We are looking, of course, for great character-driven stories. That said, we would love to see more stories with characters beyond lesbian and gay. Transgender, bisexual, asexual, aromantic, pansexual, genderqueer, etc.—characters who are severely underrepresented in books today.
Warm congratulations to J.S. and NineStar for finding each other! I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Follow them on Twitter so you can do the same!
J.S. Fields (@Galactoglucoman) is the author of Ardulum, First Don, and is a scientist who has perhaps spent too much time around organic solvents. She enjoys roller derby, woodturning, making chain mail by hand, and cultivating fungi in the backs of minivans. Nonbinary, but prefers female pronouns. chlorociboria.com
Raevyn is a lover of books…just about any type. She is also Hispanic, panromantic, asexual, and genderqueer, which gives her a different view of the world around her. Her life-long goals have been to make a modest living doing something with books, visit Machu Picchu, and most importantly, build social consciousness in herself and others.
Editor, Promotions Coordinator
If there’s one thing you must know about Sam, it’s that she’s just a little bit weird—but in a totally balanced way. She’s a social activist with a love for animals and a master’s degree in helping people. She loves to read and write, and while she’s all for a sunshine at the end of the tunnel, she enjoys the bumpy journey that it takes to get there. Sam lives on the East Coast with her dog, and if there’s an animal nearby, she’s probably somewhere close too. Her favorite color is purple, and she believes that her job as an editor is to help an author make their story shine. Have questions? She doesn’t (usually) bite, so please feel free to send her an e-mail!
Sasha knows far too much about ravens and will certainly never shut up if you ask her about fandom. Best to avoid that. She will, however, go through your stories with a fine-tooth comb, and will wonder where the character development is even in short narratives. In fact, she’s probably at your home right now—rifling through your books and looking for fantasy or historical fiction—muttering to herself.