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Andrea Cremer: ‘The key to writing well is discovering the process that works for you.’

closenecklaceAuthor Andrea Cremer has transitioned from a career as a historian and college professor to being a full-time writer. Her latest book, The Inventor’s Secret, is the first installment of a new young adult steampunk series. Check out the highlights from our interview below…

Q: Given your background as a historian and professor, what is it like re-imagining American history for this book?
A: It’s a bit like sneaking into a museum after it closes and rearranging all the exhibits! Writing The Inventor’s Secret proved both a delight and challenge; while I wanted to keep the narrative loosely tied to ‘real’ histories, I gave equal import to creativity. This new series truly blends historical fiction and fantasy.

Q: Can you describe your research process for this book?
A: The Inventor’s Secret takes place in 1816 in North America, where the political landscape is shaped and reshaped by competing empires of Britain, France, and Spain. My background in early American history gave me most of the information I needed to reimagine the outcome of the Revolutionary War, but I spent quite a bit of time researching the Napoleonic Wars and European histories relevant to the novel’s plot.

Q: Not too long ago, you collaborated with David Levithan on a young adult novel. How did that project differ from writing solo?
A: David and I have a very similar process –neither of us outlines, so writing Invisibility felt very much like creating a story through the exchange of letters. David wrote a chapter, then I’d send him the next chapter, and so on. We only met twice to discuss plot points – mostly to get into the nitty gritty of world-building questions and to confirm that we both thought the book was going to end the way it did. Luckily we agreed on all of it!

Q: In your opinion, what’s the best way to self-edit?
A: In my experience the key to writing well is discovering the process that works for you. Every writer functions differently, some of us can’t outline, others of us are paralyzed without mapping out every chapter. I think editing works in a similar way.

I know writers who review their work as the go and make changes. I prefer to binge-write a draft and then go back to edit the whole manuscript. Either method (and probably others!) will serve –where I think most writers get tripped up is convincing themselves that they’re doing it wrong. Don’t fight your creative style, instead figure out who you are as a writer and then write that way. My only caveat on this point is that there is no such thing as a perfect draft, so even if you’re a writer who edits while drafting you will eventually need to stop editing. Editing, while noble, can be a horrible trap of procrastination if it becomes obsessive.

Q: Any predictions about the future of the young-adult genre?
A: YA seems to be having a bit of a wild card moment. Paranormal and dystopian both had their dynasties, and it could be argued that contemporary literature currently wears the crown. I’m not sure what will come next, but I think it will be something very different and exceptionally compelling in ways that no one expected – at least that’s what I hope for.

Q: What’s next for you?
A: The Inventor’s Secret is the first book in a trilogy and I’m currently writing the second novel in that sequence. I’m also working on the follow-up to Snakeroot, which will continue to expand on the Nightshade world and particularly the fate of Adne.

(Photo Credit: Gina Monroe)

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