Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Interview with Middle Grade author Steven Whibley!!

I'm very excited to present our very first Middle Grade Minded interview! Meet Steven Whibley, author of The Dean Curse Chronicles!

What inspired you to write The Dean Curse Chronicles?

Steve:  I’ve always been a fan of freaky adventure stories, and most of the stuff I write falls into that category. But the actual premise behind the Dean Curse Chronicles came the way most of my ideas come: via daydream—or night-dream… but since I don’t sleep a lot, it’s mostly daydreams. I distinctly remember it:
There was a boy, about 13 or 14 years old, sitting in history class while his teacher droned on about the War of 1812. He was only half paying attention when suddenly his teacher was beside him… only not really, because she was still at the front of the class too. He straightened up and blinked at the new teacher, and then glanced at the teacher at the front of the room, then back to the new teacher, then over his shoulder at his best friend sitting behind him, who, it seemed, hadn’t noticed the arrival of the peculiar twin.

The twin-teacher slowly began to shift… She dropped a shoulder and twisted her waist. Then she hunched forward, and her right arm stiffened and twisted upward. Her face became the color of wet clay, and her mouth slowly opened until she resembled a crumpled, zombie-like version of herself.

Then she screamed.

It was a terrifying shrill cry that sent the already horrified kid to the ground. And, just like that, it was over. The kid was on the ground, panting and sweating, but the twisted version of his teacher was gone. More than that, it was clear he’d been the only one to notice the apparition.

My daydream ended, and I just knew the teacher had 24 hours to live and the boy was the only one who could save her.

Only… if you’ve read the story, you know that Dean had a bit of a learning curve to overcome when it came to saving people.

Wow, that sounds pretty intense (and awesome!) Have you always written Middle Grade? What drew you to that category?

Steve: I have written books for adults and older young adults, but for some reason the majority of the storylines and characters I come up with are middle grade (or lower young adult). I really enjoy that market as a reader as well.

One day I think it would be fun to write across genres and for a range of readers, right now I’d like to establish myself as a writer of books geared for the middle grade, and lower young adult audience.

Was there anything in particular you did to get into the head of a Middle Grader while drafting?

Steve: Hmm, I ate a lot of sweets, but that wasn’t consciously to get into the middle grader’s head… that’s just because I have a horrible sweet-tooth. Truthfully, I credit growing up in a big family, and being surrounded by kids as the reason I’ve had some success getting into the head of middle grade characters in my books. I have over thirty nieces and nephews, who range in age from toddler to late teen and when I’m stuck on how a kid would act in a certain situation I usually just have to sit back and watch the little monsters beauties for a while.

Tell me about your journey to publication. How long did it take, from writing the first draft, to publication?

Steve: The very first draft of GLIMPSE (Book 1 in the Dean Curse Chronicles) was written in 2010. I released it on my own in 2013, so it took a while. When I started out I went the typical route of querying agents and publishers. I ended up getting a couple offers from publishers and accepting a contract with one publishing house. Unfortunately that publishing house went out of business shortly after I signed on.  

Losing a publishing contract before the ink has dried can be a rather disheartening experience to go through, and unfortunately it happens all too often to writers. I did my best to learn from the experience, and move on.

I put GLIMPSE on the back-burner for a couple years, and wrote other stuff. In 2012, after signing on with my agent for an unrelated novel, I decided I wanted to do something with GLIMPSE. I talked with my agent about our options given the manuscripts history, as well as where we’d place it in the queue of novels I had waiting for him to pitch, and ultimately I decided it might be best to put it out on my own. My agent represents a number of well-known self-published authors, so they were very supportive of my decision.

Fast-forward a few months to 2013: I’d done my homework about the self-publishing model, and I’d lined up experienced people (editors, designers, formatters…) I knew could help me make my book the best it could be. And at that point, I jumped.

The good news is, I haven’t regretted my decision yet.

What we're your worst fears about publishing The Dean Curse Chronicles yourself? Did any of them end up being sound?

Steve: I think every author worries their work won’t be received well. That’s especially true when you self-publish something. You, the author, have to wear the hat of writer and publisher, so you’re responsible for quality control. You have to look at the production of your book the way a publisher (and their teams) would look at them, and that just isn’t something your average Joe—i.e. me—has experience with. I was worried I wouldn’t have the skills to put out a quality product.

So far the books have been received pretty well, so I don’t have any horror stories yet.

If you could go back, would you change anything about your publishing process?

Steve: I wouldn’t announce my release dates until I had an approved proof copy of my book in my hands. It’s shocking how you can have the book written, edited, laid out, designed, and even uploaded to printers, and STILL have weeks and weeks before the book is ready for release. It takes one hiccup with formatting, or an error with trim size to push the release weeks back.

When you announce the release date in advance, that added pressure isn’t fun, and when you’re talking about a printing error, there’s not a whole lot you can do other than correct it and request a new proof… and wait.

Where do you see your writing career going from here? How would you like to publish next? And will you stick to Middle Grade or move into other categories?

Steve: The goal is, and has been, to go hybrid. I would love to sell one (or several) of my manuscripts to a trade publisher, but one of the things I really love about being a writer is that there are options. If I write something that’s not a great fit for a trade publisher, I can release it myself.

As for what’s next: I have two more Dean Curse books that will be released this year (though #4 might be pushed to early 2014 if some scheduling issues can’t be worked out). My agent is pitching a couple of my novels to publishers too, so with a little luck I’ll have some good news in the near future.

Thanks so much for inviting me for this interview. I really appreciate it.

 Don't forget to check out Steven's website and add his books on goodreads:

Have more questions for Steve? Drop them in the comments and he'll be back to answer them!


  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us Steve! Good luck with your series and your other novels with agent.

  2. I want to echo what Rob said. Thanks for taking time to answer questions and share your journey with us! I look forward to picking up your books.

  3. It was my pleasure, Thanks for having me on.