Guess who’s here…? I’ll give you three hints: most authors need them, most writers stalk them, and they make the literary world go round.
Did you guess it yet? Of course you did, it’s none other than agents. Today, we have an exclusive interview with author and agent, John Cusick!
John is not only a literary agent for Scott Treimel NY, he’s also a debut author himself with his new YA novel, Girl Parts. In addition, John is also the managing editor for Armchair/Shotgun, a biannual journal that publishes fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. He’s here to give share his advice for aspiring writers and tell us what its like to be on both sides of the publishing desk:
1) How did you become an agent for Scott Treimel NY?
I saw a listing on Craigslist for an agent’s assistant. I knew I wanted to work in children’s publishing, and had interviewed for editorial positions (I didn’t even know what agents did). My interview at STNY was a complete disaster; Scott insisted I didn’t really want the job, and I insisted I did. A week later I got a phone call essentially saying, “I like how you argue. Come work for me.”
2) What’s it like being a literary agent?
I absolutely love it. It’s completely different from writing, which I’ve been doing since I was a kid. To me, being a writer means observing, absorbing the world without judging, taking everything in. Being an agent means constantly evaluating, negotiating. But there’s no better education for a writer than reading and selling a manuscripts.
3) As an agent, what advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to be published?
Write all the time, write book after book. Do your research, find out which agencies represent your kind of writing, and follow their submission guidelines to the T. Be courteous, patient, and most importantly, keep at it!
4) You recently became a YA author. How did you become a published?
Though I wanted to work in children’s publishing, I’d only ever written for adults. Scott suggested I try my hand at YA. My rough draft of GIRL PARTS was in the present tense, first person, and took place 17 years in the future (so it changed a great deal). The trickiest part was having Scott, now my agent, read the manuscript literally ten feet from my desk. He’d click his pen or go “hmm” and I’d hit the ceiling.
5) What has been your favorite author experience so far?
I did a book signing at the 2010 Book Expo America in New York. That was true bliss. GIRL PARTS hadn’t been released yet, but there was already web buzz, so bloggers, teachers and y.a. fans came to get advanced copies. My editor Deb Wayshak was there to hand me copies from a big stack, and friends and family showed up, too. But— after ninety minutes of signing I was so dazed and exhausted I spelled my friend’s name wrong when it was finally her turn. I don’t think she’s forgiven me yet.
6) As a writer, who has been your biggest influence?
As a kid I adored Douglas Adams, author of THE HITCHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, and through him discovered Lewis Carroll and ALICE IN WODERLAND. In college I studied the adult writer Vladimir Nabokov, with whom I’ve remained obsessed ever since. All three built their books like puzzle-boxes, which I find fascinating.
7) Describe your writing space:
I write at home in Brooklyn. My “office” is tucked into one corner of the living room— my girlfriend’s recording studio is in the other. My desk is a door turned on its side supported by four metal legs. I have a framed picture of Stephen King (another big early influence), and a postcard that reads “Write Your A** Off.” I can access my roof through the a window, and whenever I get blocked I’ll climb outside and look at the Manhattan skyline. That’s usually inspiration enough.
8 ) Tell me about your novel, Girl Parts:
GIRL PARTS is a story about disconnected people in a hyper-connected world. Rose is a mechanical “girl” proscribed for spoiled 16-year-old David when he is diagnosed as “disassociated.” Their relationship blows up when he discovers she is missing “girl parts.” Rose, programmed to love David forever, must reinvent herself with help from David’s misfit neighbor, Charlie. I’m currently working on a sequel, as well as a stand-alone GIRL PARTS short story.
9) Where did you get the idea for a futuristic robot girlfriend for a troubled teen?
I’m a big sci-fan fan since way back. I can’t help it; I think robots are cool. On a deeper level, Rose was literally born yesterday, and that’s how I felt at sixteen. Finding your place in the world, and feeling a little alien, is something most of us go through, I think. Rose also helped me tell a story about how we relate to technology, how it can help and hinder our connections to other people.
10) Is it anything like the movie, Lars and The Real Girl?
I haven’t seen that one. GIRL PARTS has also been compared to the film Weird Science, which I also haven’t seen. If Rose has an on-screen inspiration, it’s probably Vicki from the old T.V. show Small Wonder, about a dad who builds himself a robot daughter.
11) What are a few things you can’t live without?
Like many authors, I can’t live without coffee. I also can’t live without writing. I’ve tried— it was messy for all involved. Writing everyday (or nearly everyday) keeps me grounded, and exercises a part of my brain that nothing else can. I also can’t live without a day job. I’ve had long stretches with nothing to do but write and read, which can become lonesome.
12) If you could meet any author, who would it be?
Douglas Adams, Vladimir Nabokov, Lewis Carroll are my big three. I’d want to have tea with Doug, go butterfly hunting with Vladimir, and play chess with Lewis.
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*What did you do for Valentine’s Day?
For example: My husband and I went on a hike (a very cold, wintery one) and celebrated with champagne, chocolates, and the lilies he gave me. We also made a year-long pledge and challenge for ourselves (more on this coming up later!).