So when I actually met Greg this past summer at SCBWI-LA, Drew was thrilled (and jealous!). He insisted that I buy the newest title and get it autographed. And Greg, being one of the nicest guys around, was more than happy to comply.
This fall Greg will make the leap from illustrated chapter books to YA. It's quite a change, but not as big a leap as you might expect. I'm thrilled to welcome author Greg Trine to the blog today.
I think I read in an interview with Reka Simonsen that she pulled Melvin Beederman from the slush pile. I love slush pile success stories! How long did it take from when you submitted until you heard back from her?
Reka was amazingly fast. She emailed me within a month that she was taking my story to her acquisitions meeting. After twelve years of rejection, I'd begun to believe that the slush pile wasn't being read at all. Silly me.
Twelve years of rejection? Wow. It must have felt great to finally get that email! So once she made the acquisition, how long did it take for the first book to come out?
She acquired the book in March of 2004 and it came out in June of 2006.
You scored with the great illustrator. Did you guys ever work together, or were you completely independent of each other?
As you know, they usually keep the author and illustrator apart. After the book came out, though, we did a mini tour together in Napa, CA. The following year we were sent on a nine-day tour to the midwest. Not everyone gets sent on tour with the illustrator of their books, so I was happy to have that kind of promotion.
You were actually writing YA before you took the Melvin Beederman detour, right? So where did this funny superhero come from?
I have to admit that Melvin was a great idea. My previous, YA, stuff was strong on voice but weak on story. With Melvin, I had a good story, which came from an old picture book of mine called Superhero Bob. It received one rejection, then sat on my desk for about five years. But the story stayed with me and kept growing to the point where I eventually realized that I needed more room to tell it. I wrote it in chapters and sold it to the first place I sent it.
I love that the story stayed with you and grew and changed. And how cool that you only received one rejection for Melvin. Did you pitch the book as a series or did it just turn into one?
I thought I was writing a stand-alone book. The publisher proposed the series...not a bad way to break into this industry, with an eight-book contract.
Not bad at all! I know you are represented by the amazing Caryn Wiseman. What made you decide to sign on with an agent?
I sold Melvin on my own. I then signed with Caryn because I have a fair amount of stories and ideas that Holt probably won't publish, either because it's too close in age and humor to Melvin, or it breaks away from my humorous roots. Having an agent gives me a second set of eyeballs to look at what I'm working on. It's also great to have her redirect me, if I'm working on something that isn't marketable.
My very first short story was about a teenage boy trying to make progress in the girl/guy department. It always seemed like it should be a novel. Over the years, I tried it as a novel, once in free verse. Then, a few years ago, I was trying to find something to submit to Writers' Day, and I seemed to have found the real voice. I story won the top award in the YA category. My agent sold it base on forty pages and an outline.
Wow! Very cool! Do you have some more YAs up your sleeve?
I'd love to do another YA, but right now I'm working on humorous middle grade/tween novel. Humorous junior high stuff.
Now that I think about it, you've got Terror in Tights and Traveling Underpants -- maybe the cover for Second Base Club isn't that much of a departure for you!
How different is it going from a chapter book with lots of visuals, to writing a YA novel?
It was difficult to break out of Melvin's voice. My editor's comments on the early drafts were, "This sounds like Melvin!" I find chapter book writing way easier. I can be lighthearted, which is where my mind goes naturally. With YA I have to make sure the humor doesn't kill the tension of the book. I naturally want to go to the humor, which doesn't always work if it's overdone in an older book.
Do you think it’s hard to change people’s perception of you as a writer between such different books?
Good question. I'm not sure, but if you read The Second Base Club, my YA, you'll see that it's not as edgy as it sounds. It's lighthearted in it's own YAish way. I think everyone will say, "Yep, sounds like Greg."
I get tons of emails from mothers of reluctant readers who are now readers because they discovered Melvin Beederman. I seem to be reaching kids who are exactly like I was as a child. So Melvin's saving the world is his own way...kind of cool.
The last Melvin Beederman book comes out this summer. Are you sad to see the series end?
I have mixed feelings about it ending. On the one hand The Magic Tree House has over 40 books...who wouldn't want that kind of success? On the other hand I get to move onto other things. I think there's a lot of me in the Melvin books, but where my heart is is realistic fiction...real kids doing real stuff. Funny stuff but real stuff. So I'm excited to see where that leads me. And I'd like to do more true middle grade and YA.
What superpower would you choose for yourself? Why?
I'd like to be able to turn invisible so I could get into the movies for free.
Do you have a release date for Second Base Club? Have you put a chapter up anywhere that people could link in to read?
The Second Base Club will be out in October, 2010. I haven't put up any sneak peeks yet. But good idea.
Well, let me know when those sneak peeks are available and I'll put up a link. It's been great having you here, Greg!
You can read more about Greg and his books at his website and on his blog.