Friday, November 11, 2011

Interview with Nansi Kunze

Today I'm happy to have Nansi Kunze, the author of Dangerously Placed, here on Pica Reads to answer some questions about the publishing process for Dangerously Placed. You can click here to read my review of Dangerously Placed.

Nansi Kunze grew up surrounded by books in Australia and the UK, but (strangely) never had a childhood ambition to become a writer. After studying languages and ancient history at university, she spent several years teaching overseas-trained doctors how to pronounce rude words and teenagers how to mummify each other, whilst cultivating a taste for manga and video games in her spare time. Unsurprisingly, her early attempts at writing serious adult fiction failed. Fortunately she proved to be much better at writing slightly zany Young Adult fiction, and her first YA novel, Mishaps, came out in 2009 and her second, Dangerously Placed, is coming out in December. She lives on a small farm overlooking the Victorian Alps in Australia with her husband and son and their cat, Schrödinger.

What is it like going through the process of publishing a book? Is it fun, exasperating, exciting, exhausting or all these and more? What makes it so?

I can certainly be all of those things! I’m very lucky with my editors, though – they’ve made the fun and excitement outweigh anything else.

One potentially frustrating aspect of publishing a book is that it’s a very long process; after all those long months of working on a novel manuscript, you could well be waiting another year to see your book in stores from the time it’s accepted. There are good reasons for this: the amount of work your manuscript will still need, the number of other books your editors will be working on at the same time, typesetting, cover designs and so on. As the author, the most exasperating thing about it is that you’re usually working on another manuscript by then, so you don’t really want to be dragged back to your previous story for edits. The amount of time it actually takes bothers my friends a lot more than it does me – they’re all excited when my novel’s accepted, but then can’t believe how long they have to wait before they can actually read the book!

The publishing process has a lot of ups and downs. Receiving a structural edit covered in corrections and suggestions can be terrifying, and sometimes embarrassing. When I got the structural edit for Dangerously Placed, I discovered that the rules I’d set up for my virtual office system, Virk, made it impossible for the murder to happen the way I’d planned! The upside to awkward things like that, though, is that quite often the solution you find for a gaping plot hole can have added benefits, like allowing you to strengthen a character’s motivation or add in another fun scene, which is a great feeling. Getting page proofs and ARCs in the mail is thrilling, too, but the most exciting part for me is the dizzying moment when the publishers accept my novel. Nothing beats that.

How did the publishing process for Dangerously Placed differ from that of Mishaps, your first published novel?

It was both faster and slower. I wrote Mishaps before my son was born, so I’d had the time to do three complete drafts of it before sending it to the publishers. Dangerously Placed, on the other hand, was written while I was a stay-at-home mum with a toddler. It took so long for me to complete the first draft that I sent it straight to my editor, asking if she could tell me if I was even on the right track before I tried to do a second draft. I was completely shocked when she emailed to say that they’d decided to buy the novel after reading that first draft! So the novel’s acceptance happened faster, but the time it took to then be published was longer, because I had to do another draft before it was ready for proper editing.

How much say did you have in choosing the cover for Dangerously Placed?

Not much, which I think is pretty standard. Apart from the ones who self-publish, I don’t know any authors who’ve been heavily involved in the cover design – our job is to do the words, not the pictures! There were some problems with the early designs for Dangerously Placed, so there wasn’t much time left once the publishers had resolved those. My editor sent the final design to me to see what I thought, and if there was something I’d really hated about it they’d have tried to address that in the short time before the books had to be printed, but I was quite happy with it. The process we went through with Mishaps was more usual: there were three cover designs, and I basically got to vote for one, as did the editorial team and the marketing team. I think we all agreed on that cover, though now I’m wondering what would’ve happened if we’d each chosen different designs!

What kinds of images did you and your publisher/cover designer consider before settling on the final cover?

After the final design had been agreed on, I did see the earlier designs. They were beautiful, but way too scary for this story! The images in them included a body in a business suit lying on the floor, close-ups of eyes, part of a computer motherboard and sinister shadows lurking in the background. My editor had also suggested beach images and pictures of Alex that were pixellated around the edges.

How well do you think the final cover fits your story?

Pretty well. I like the way it encapsulates the murder-mystery and virtual reality elements. A couple of reviewers have said they thought the cover was a bit misleading, because it makes Dangerously Placed look like a very dark, serious story, which it certainly isn’t! I’d have liked the design to hint at the humour that I think is a major part of the story, but I must confess that I don’t know how that could have been done.

Did you have any idea what the formatting of the book would look like before you received ARCs? Did you have any say in that process?

Yes, I knew what the formatting would look like. I was sent page proofs to check for typos as the final stage of the editing process – they’re printed exactly as they will be in the finished copies, but uncut and unbound. I didn’t have any say in that process. Short of discovering my book had been typeset in some kind of scary gothic font, I don’t think I’d have objected to anything much about the formatting!

Was there anything surprising that came up during the publishing process for either of your books? Any good stories to share?

The whole process was kind of surprising to me the first time round, since I really had no idea how big publishers worked! A couple of months after Mishaps was accepted, however, I had the chance to visit Random House Australia’s office in Sydney. I was incredibly nervous, but the editors were really lovely, introducing me to everyone and even giving me a bunch of YA novels from their shelves as presents. One of the editorial staff told me she’d read my manuscript and was ‘speechless at the awesomeness of it’ – which left me speechless with embarrassment and delight! But the most startling part was when my editor mentioned that they liked to get video interviews with their authors whenever one came to visit. My heart-rate went through the roof, until she kindly pointed out that they’d realised being filmed might be a bit much for me that day. Phew! I’ve gotten more used to being a ‘real’ author now, though. Hopefully when I next visit my publishers I’ll look a bit less clueless!

Thank you, Nansi!

Check out the other stops on the Dangerously Placed blog tour:
Nov 7 (Monday) – Jex at Everything and Nothing
Nov 8 (Tuesday) – Lyndsey at Strangemore
Nov 9 (Wednesday) – Kellie at Reawrite
Nov 10 (Thursday) – Bonnie at A Backwards Story
Nov 11 (Friday) – Pica at Pica Reads (here!)
Nov 12 (Saturday) – Lacey at Owl Love You Books
Nov 13 (Sunday) —Sarah Guthall at Inklings Read

And click here to read my review of Dangerously Placed!

Want to win a copy of Dangerously Placed? Sarah at Inklings Read is giving away a copy here! Ends 11/13.

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