If you read my Friday collections of interesting blog posts about writing, the name, Nathan Bransford, will sound familiar. A former literary agent, Nathan's hugely popular blog has helped thousands of writers around the world to improve their writing and understand the world of publishing better.
His debut novel, JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW (Dial Books for Young Readers) came out last month.
Nathan kindly agreed to answer some questions about himself and his writing.
1. As an agent, you’ve seen lots of your clients’ books go through the publication process. How did that help prepare you for the launch of your first novel, Jacob Wonderbar?
Well, I thought that seeing my clients go through the publication process would make me cool as a cucumber when it was my turn, but that wasn’t the case at all. I didn’t make it more than a few weeks into the submission process before I started cracking! It’s one thing to see other people go through the process, it’s quite another to go through it with your own work. I think it was helpful just because I knew generally how to approach the publication process and know how important it is to listen to your agent and editor, but I still live the same ups and downs as any other author.
2. What made you decide to write middle grade fiction?
It was really driven by the idea itself. I had an idea for a novel that featured a kid trapped on a planet full of substitute teachers. That felt middle grade to me so I just went with that.
3. What’s your current WIP?
I’m working on the third book in the Jacob Wonderbar series, tentatively titled JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE INTERSTELLAR TIME WARP
4. Are you a pantser or an outliner?
Definitely an outliner. I don’t plan out every single little thing, but I always have a sense of where I’m going.
5. Of all the characters you’ve made up, which is your favorite (and why)?
Ohhh, that’s like choosing between favorite children. I don’t know that I have a favorite necessarily, but Mick Cracken, nefarious twelve-year-old space pirate, is probably the most fun to write because he’s so gleefully devious and egotistical. I always feel like it’s a little strange when authors talk about their characters as if they are real people that exist outside of their own head, but if you’ll forgive that type of talking for a moment, I feel like I know Mick and he never fails to crack me up.
6. What was the last story/novel you pitched/submitted?
JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE INTERSTELLAR TIME WARP
7. What was the last story/novel you read?
SWANN’S WAY by Marcel Proust
8. What’s your take on self-publishing?
I think self-publishing is awesome for authors and the world of books. It’s a great thing that manuscripts don’t have to disappear into a drawer never to be heard from again, and having more choice is positive for readers as well. I don’t think self-publishing is for everyone and I think authors should really do their research and decide if it’s right for them before going down that path, but for the writers who approach it with the right level of research and expectations I don’t think there’s much of a downside.
9. What was the best writing advice you ever heard?
“Writers write.” I know that seems simple and obvious, but it always gets me through tough stretches where I’m procrastinating and don’t feel like writing. I’m a writer. I write. Even when I might rather be doing something else.
10. What was the worst?
I think there’s a lot of misguided advice out there about grabbing the reader right off the bat. It’s definitely important to grab the reader, but you do that with your writerly voice and by starting to weave an interesting world, not necessarily by overdoing it in the beginning. Writers groups and inexperienced authors tend to advise people to move their most exciting material to the first page or even the first paragraph. I feel like there needs to be more patience and confidence that your writing and steady world building will be enough to hook the reader.
Click here to read questions 11-20
Nathan Bransford is the author of JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, a middle grade novel about three kids who blast off into space, break the universe, and have to find their way back home, which was published by Dial Books for Young Readers in May 2011. He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd., but is now a publishing civilian working in the tech industry. He lives in San Francisco.