|J. Anderson Coats|
Class of 2K12 website
J. Anderson Coats's website
Synopsis (from Indiebound): The year is 1293. The setting: Wales.
Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house.
Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl.
While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach the breaking point.
Oh, that sounds intriguing! I'm lucky to have friends who live in Wales and I've visited them there. Welsh history is fascinating.
Jillian, welcome to My Brain on Books! Do you outline before you write? If so, does it end up changing before you finish the first draft? What change surprised you the most?
For W/J I didn’t outline; I really didn’t have to. I had a skeleton of historical events to follow and a series of conditions to impose that just required some research to dust off and spit-shine. All that remained was creating some characters and populating the world. All the stuff in W/J – the corruption and unfair laws and extortion – all of it was real, and I just gave it voice.
Tell us a little about getting your agent. How many queries did you send out? How long did it take before you got an offer of representation?
I queried four different books over ten years before I sold W/J. The Erin Murphy Literary Agency was always at the top of my list, but they don’t take unsolicited queries. I queried like crazy all around them – I have something like two shoeboxes filled with rejections - and I came close to getting an offer of representation a number of times, but I always kept one eye on EMLA’s requirements for any change.
So when I got the chance to query Joan Paquette, I leaped on it. What followed was a sort of courtship over nine months where she kept on asking for revisions and I kept making them, preparing for the eventual “no.” But that “no” never came, and the ink wasn’t quite dry on my agency contract when W/J sold to Harcourt. It was something like ten days between being unagented and my first sale.
Wow! That's fantastic. Congratulations! And I must say I really admire you for sticking with it for ten years and never giving up.
So tell us, how much of your main character is really you in disguise?
Very little, actually. I’m not nearly as bold as either of my protagonists. I don’t have Cecily’s overwhelming hubris (although it was fun to write) and I don’t have Gwenhwyfar’s singleminded ferocity. I can only dream of having Gruffydd’s pragmatism, and I’m quite a bit brighter than Emmaline de Coucy. But even my secondary characters share parts of me, because human beings are complicated creatures and we go through phases and have experiences that shape us. It’s those feelings we draw on when we create characters, not necessarily the traits themselves.
Tell us what darling you had to kill that you really really wish you could have kept.
Definitely the kids next door. Cecily’s neighbors originally had a slew of kids that made her life hell, but I had to cut them (and a lot of other small details of medieval urban life) because they didn’t advance the plot. Oh, and Cecily’s kitchen disaster. That one’s going to get recreated sometime in the future.