Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pub Story: Diana Peterfreund

Author guest blogs + publication paths = Pub Stories. It's a Tuesday thing. Click here for more info (esp. if you're an author wanting to participate). Click here for a list of all participants.

Diana Peterfreund has been a costume designer, a cover model, and a food critic. Her travels have taken her from the cloud forests of Costa Rica to the underground caverns of New Zealand (and as far as she’s concerned, she’s just getting started). Diana graduated from Yale University in 2001 with dual degrees in Literature and Geology, which her family claimed would only come in handy if she wrote books about rocks. Now, this Florida girl lives with her husband and their puppy in Washington D.C., and writes books that rock. Visit her online at http://dianapeterfreund.com.

The Story
The urban legend goes something like this: Author's friend pitches three chapters of Author's book at a local writing conference and ignites a storm of interest. Less than a month later, Author's brand-new agent lands a six-figure, two-book deal for the author in a heated, six-way auction - based on a partial manuscript.

The reality is a little more complicated, though no less exhilarating. In early 2005, I was feeling very “close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades” about my fiction writing career. I had a stack of unpublished writing contest honors to my credit, and an even larger stack of rejection letters. My latest manuscript (#4) had been submitted to 21 agents, and rejected by 20. I was currently between jobs and without apartment, having just moved to Washington, D.C., and I started manuscript #5.

After I finished three chapters, secured a job and apartment, and felt pretty comfortable with the story, I shared the premise (Co-ed gets tapped into an Ivy League Secret Society kinda like Skull & Bones) with my critique partner, Marley Gibson (GHOST HUNTRESS: THE AWAKENING). Like me, she was still waiting for the big brass ring of publication. That weekend, she went to a writing conference and sat down at dinner next to an editor who said she was looking for a book set at Yale. A light bulb went on over Marley's head. “My friend has a book about secret societies at Yale!”

Well, by the end of the conference, Marley and her cohorts had garnered me three requests from editors and agents. This was the year of The Da Vinci Code. This was the year after the big Skull & Bones head-to-head in the U.S. Presidential election (both Bush and Kerry had been Bonesmen). Secret societies were hot. Nervous, (both due to the requests and it being my first week at my new job!) I sent out the partial to those who had asked for it. I also emailed that one agent who still had #4 and tried to convince her to read this one first. Then I turned off my work computer and took the Metro home.

When I got home, I grabbed my then-boyfriend (now husband) to show him that I had been exchanging emails with a Real Live Agent. Well, I had a new one waiting for me in my inbox. That agent had been convinced. She'd read the manuscript while I'd been in rush hour subway crowds, and wanted to represent me! Yay!

A few days later, I signed with her, and she took the book out widely. Because of the “crossover” nature of the book (it was, quite literally about a young adult, a 21 year old girl in college, but it was far older than the “teen” that usually signifies “young adult” books) we sent it to both YA and adult houses. Some YA houses passed, saying they thought the book was great, but it really wasn't YA. Other YA houses offered on the condition that I make the story about a teenage freshman in college instead (it would have been a very different story had that come to pass, one that would have been far less true-to-life about the secret society experience).

We already had an offer from that very first editor (the one at the conference), so my agent went about setting up an auction, which occurred nine days after I signed with her. Six houses (mostly adult) came to the auction, and at the end of the day, I accepted an offer from Bantam Dell. SECRET SOCIETY GIRL was published in 2006, and was followed by UNDER THE ROSE in 2007, RITES OF SPRING (BREAK) in 2008, and the conclusion of the series in 2009, TAP & GOWN.

And yet, I still wanted to break into actual young adult fiction, so I made sure that my new manuscript was about a teenager. I was madly in love with the growing subset of YA fantasy, and decided to write an adventure story about a girl who hunts killer unicorns. I sent it to my agent. Her response: “Killer WHAT?” But then she read it and loved it and sent it out. A lot of editors went: “Killer WHAT?”

But some folks were totally into it, and we sold it to Harper Teen (also at auction) in 2007. I announced it on my website. People thought I was joking: (“Killer WHAT?”) People thought I was joking so much that my friend Justine Larbalestier started making fun of unicorns on her website. And thus, the great zombies vs. unicorns debate was born.

But I'm not joking, and RAMPANT, my first true young adult novel, will be out in fall of 2009.

Further: The Rampant cover changed and there's not a new one out yet for us bloggers and the likes to exploit, so that's why that's not included.


Lenore Appelhans said...

Great story! I loved Rampant so I really have to check out the Secret Society Girl series.

anilee said...

Fun story!

Secret Society Girl was a great read. I really enjoyed it. :-)

BookChic said...

That's a really interesting pub story! I love reading these! :) Can't wait to see more in the future.

Alea said...

It really pays to have a crazy book concept, people do not forget killer unicorns! :D

Amee said...

Awesome story. The cover is changing? Hmm...wonder why and what it will now be.

Diana Peterfreund said...

Thanks, Steph! And thanks, guys, for reading!

Amee, I can tell you. They shot the original cover, and when they sent it out with the ARCs, the response was, "Wait, this is the killer unicorn book? Why isn't there a unicorn on the cover?"

So they redid it. The new version has a unicorn on it. I can't wait to show everyone!

Alea said...

Haha! That was kind of my first reaction as well and then it grew on me.

But I was just thinking, if they are redoing it they best put a unicorn on it! So I'm very glad that is the case and can't wait to see it! I feel the workings of a great cover story going on here!

Diana Peterfreund said...

An *epic* cover story, to be sure, Alea! I figure it's my destiny. I had *three* different covers for my first book (one for the ARC, one for the hardcover, and one for the paperback), so here we go again.

BTW< for those of you who did see the ARC, there is a unicorn on the back of that one. There wasn't one on the original design of the final jacket.

The way they do the unicorn on the new cover is super cool and very unexpected. But I can't say anything more, because being cryptic is cool... ;-)

Alea said...

Ahh torture! I hope we don't have to wait TOO long to see the new cover!

Diana Dang said...

I want to say Mrs. Peterfreund, you have quite an impressive profile. My parents would be the most joyous parents yet if they I went to Yale. (But we're Canadians so they only know of Harvard).

The cover for Rampant changed? Oh my, the original cover caught my eye a few months back. I still haven't read it but I do look forward to it! Maybe I'll move out of my zombie phase and into a killer unicorn one. ;)

Liviania said...

I rolled with killer unicorns when I heard about it, because they do have built in swords, pretty much.

I still haven't read Secret Society Girl, but it sounds cool. (Especially as I'm now closer to twenty-one and like the YA feel with older protags.)

Rebecca Herman said...

I was like "killer WHAT!" too but now I think the book sounds really cool! That was a great publication story.

Heather Zundel said...

What are you talking about? Killer unicorns sound AWESOME. I've got my eyes on this one. And I am really loving these pub stories Steph. The questions you ask are fantastic.

(And here is a link to a really cool contest I'm holding, for any book you want. No joke. Not sure if you want to share it or keep it for yourself, but I've loved your reviews and contests and thought I should share the love)

Rin said...

Great pub story.
And killer unicorns..well who wouldn't want to read about those? :)

Michelle Zink said...

Great story!

Amee said...

Ooh, sounds good. I'm glad they decided to change it and put a unicorn on it. Can't wait to see the results! :)

VioletReads said...

This totally reminded me that I wanted to read the Secret Society Girl series! Thanks! And I think I'm glad they're changing the Rampant cover, but I'm certainly curious what it will be!

Megan said...

Great Interview. I already have the first Secret Society book and it's in my ever growing TBR pile.

Carolina said...

This was a great pub story! I can't wait to read Rampant and her Secret Society series! :)

Aimee said...

Great story, thanks!

katayoun said...

Hurrah for marley!

Melissa Walker said...

Can't wait to get the RAMPANT cover story!

Summer said...


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Hey! For some reason, this embedded comment form makes most people click twice before the comment is processed and published. It's not you - it's just that it's a new Blogger feature with kinks and all that. (But I adore it and don't wanna get rid of it!) I removed Captcha to make the process easier. You don't have to rewrite the comments twice; just click on SUBMIT twice and it should work. If not, email me. Thanks! -Steph