Hello everyone! I have another great author interview for you today. This time I’m interviewing Libbi Duncan from the Indie Eden Book Club about her debut novel, The Scorching. It is a Young Adult sci-fi/fantasy novel about a girl who has to save her parents from a post-apocalyptic Earth. Let’s see what Libbi has to say about the book, and about her writing process.
Hi Libbi! Let’s start with what I might have left out. What is the one question that you wish people would ask you about The Scorching?
If I had to choose one question to be asked, it would be: “Why is Vesper [the main character’s ex-boyfriend in The Scorching] such a jerk?” I would explain that he had the misfortune of being raised by an authoritarian father and an alcoholic mother; he was unloved and yet given everything he ever wanted, causing him to grow into an entitled, selfish person. His flirtatiousness and promiscuity are the result of his character combined with the normal features of being a teenager. Of course, he may also be inspired by every bad relationship I ever had. Haha!
So it’s a bit of writer’s revenge too! Nice. ;) Which typical author interview question do you hate the most?
I dislike questions that are condescending toward the Young Adult genre. I love reading and writing YA novels, so I might take it a little personally. This genre, while directed toward teens and young adults, is for anyone. To me, the genre is defined by the fast pace, themes of love, friendship, authority, and finding yourself just as much as it is about teens and the worlds they live in.
Can you give us a short description of your book?
The Scorching is a YA sci-fi novel that follows Madi, a teenager from Pax Lunar Colony. When her parents go missing and the government refuses to help, she takes matter into her own hands and returns to a post-apocalyptic Earth to find them. Instead of a barren wasteland, she finds a garden paradise and a mutant war that will change everything.
Is there any famous author that inspires you, or that you admire?
I will gladly add my name to the list of authors who idolize JK Rowling. I grew up with the Harry Potter series, so naturally I love her incredible world, story, and characters, but I’m also inspired by her rags-to-riches comeback story. She overcame rejection, hardship, and fear to find success. It’s every writer’s dream to follow her footsteps, but very few actually will. I’m also a big fan of Anne Rice’s novels, and especially how she still interacts with fans on her Page.
I love J.K. Rowling too, for exactly those same reasons. Your book is in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. What drew you to these genres? Do you also like to read sci-fi/fantasy books?
I’m a huge nerd. I love sci-fi and fantasy books, movies, TV shows, and video games. I love escaping to incredible new worlds as a both a reader and writer. A big part of my love for these genres is in the creativity and imagination involved. Every genre involves both of those things, but with sci-fi and fantasy it’s on a much grander scale.
Who is your target audience for this book? What do you think will appeal to them about your book?
The Scorching trilogy is YA sci-fi/fantasy, so the primary target audience is young adults. I’ve had readers from 7 to 70 say they love the fast pace, action-packed story and the complex, relatable characters. I think teens in particular appreciate the romantic subplots, while anyone can enjoy the vivid world and beautiful settings of this adventurous tale. It’s PG-13, so it might not be right for younger audiences, but there are exceptions of course.
Thinking about your writing process now, when you write a book, do you plan out everything beforehand, or do you let the story follow its own course?
I use a mixture of both methods. I write a really fast, short rough draft that follows a general outline, but oftentimes the story takes a path I didn’t expect because the characters reveal things as it progresses. If a new idea comes to me while I’m writing, I embrace it. In fact, it’s one of the best feelings I get as a writer.
Do you have any quirky writing habits?
I’m a method writer. For example, if I’m writing a fight or battle scene, I’ll chug a mug of coffee, put on fast-paced electronic music (I love The Glitch Mob for this), do some sit-ups or push-ups, and then bounce my legs as I sit down to write. Or if I’m writing a sad scene, I’ll drink sleepytime tea, put on slow music, and make myself cry by thinking about a sad event in my past. It’s weird, but it works!
Oh wow, that’s really interesting! I like that idea! I’m sure it makes those sections of the book a lot more realistic and intense. Aside from method writing, do you have any writing tips for other writers?
a) Read Stephen King’s “On Writing.”
b) Join a writing group (either online or in real life).
c) Read and write every day, even it’s not much.
d) Find what works for you. Every writer does it differently, so take advice with a grain of salt.
What would you say is the best way to market your book? With which method have you had the most success so far?
As a debut author, I’m still figuring this out as I go. So far my favorite method has been going to Comic Conventions and bookstore signings. I love getting to meet readers in person, sign their copies, and take pictures together. It’s probably not the most cost-effective marketing technique, but I guarantee it’s the most fun and memorable!
That really does sound like fun! So how did your book come to be published? What was your journey to publication like? Did you get a lot of rejection letters before you finally saw your name in print?
I spent about a year querying agents and publishers before I got an offer. My method was to send a batch of about 20 query letters out at a time, then wait a couple months to see what happened. I did that three times. The first time, I got mostly form rejections with a couple small personal rejections thrown in. I revised my novel and my query letter, then tried again. The second time, I got more personal rejection letters and several partial manuscript requests. I revised again. Finally during my last set of query letters, I had several agents and small presses request the full manuscript. One of the indie publishers offered me a contract, and I accepted. Six months later I held The Scorching in my hands for the first time.
Is being a published author everything you dreamed it would be? If not, how is it different? Is there anything you would change about it?
I spent a long time researching what being a published author is like, so there weren’t many surprises, good or bad. I knew that most aspiring authors never finish a book, and most who finish a book never get published, and most who get published never sell more than a thousand copies, and even when they do, most don’t make enough for it to be their primary source of income. I knew that it’s a HUGE amount of work that may never pay off financially. Not only writing, but also editing, revising, querying, working with a publisher, working with bookstores and event coordinators, promoting, social media, and managing to find time to read and stay involved… it’s all a bit overwhelming at times, but guess what? It’s totally worth it. Even if I don’t become the next JK Rowling, I love every minute of it. The bitter challenges make the rewards taste sweeter.
I think that’s the perfect attitude. Thanks so much for sharing your advice and experiences with us! :)
Libbi Duncan is an English teacher and US Army veteran. She graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Modern Languages. When she’s not reading, writing, or teaching, she enjoys hiking, painting, video games, movies, music, cosplaying as Wonder Woman, Black Widow, Lara Croft, Bulma, and Princess Leia, and traveling to beautiful places.
About the Book
Gravity generators and college classes make living on the moon boring. All eighteen-year-old Madi wants is to finish her training to become a shuttle pilot and explore the solar system. But when her parents disappear and the government refuses to help, she’s forced to take matters in her own hands. Her search leads her to Earth, long-abandoned after an apocalypse. Instead of a barren wasteland, Madi finds a garden paradise and a war that will change everything.