This week I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing the young writer Sydney Scogham. Her debut novel Chase is due out soon. I’m told the target audience for this YA fantasy novel is geared towards horse lovers, old school video games enthusiasts and those who have a soft spot for original Disney movies. So, without further adieu… Sydney Scrogham.
I’ve read on your website (www.sswriter.com) that you have a book coming out with a publishing house in Virginia Beach, VA. Can you tell us a bit about this book?
Two worlds will collide under one reigning Promise.
He’s chosen to die.
She’s destined for Snix skin.
Financial strain from her mom’s lost job means Lauren has to sell her horse. In a desperate attempt to keep her beloved animal, Lauren pursues an escaped genetic experiment worth a ten thousand dollar reward—a bright red horse.
With the red horse in sight, Lauren disappears into Agalrae and comes face-to-face with Chase, a man raised by Alicorns. Lauren wants to return home, but the Snix, Chase’s enemy since birth, has other plans. The Snix confronts Lauren with an ultimatum: Kill Chase for ten times the red horse’s reward money, or sacrifice the lives of her mother and horse.
Forced to stay in Agalrae until she decides, Lauren wrestles with possible outcomes. But she can’t hide the truth from Chase forever.When destiny splits, which path do you follow?
Chase has been through a rocky publishing road, and you can’t tell that from reading the back cover copy. I had to wait until my 18th birthday to sign a traditional contract for publishing with a small press. I was so excited—I still have the pen I signed the contract with. But a little over three years later, the contract was broken on the publisher’s end, and my dreams were smashed.
In the midst of that fallout, I was worried that the small press I’d been signed with had published Chase and sold it without my knowledge. (Very stressful time that took me forever to get to the bottom of things.) Now in the present day, I know that’s not the truth, but at the time in 2014, I was so worked up about “the scandal” that I decided to scrap the entire manuscript (which received so much negative feedback at this point I was sick of the thing) and rewrite the whole story for NaNoWriMo 2014. That means I rewrote the story in 50,000 words during the month of November—while I was a senior in college—yes, crazy, but it happened.
Since my fresh version of Chase didn’t have a publisher yet, I experimented with writing query letters and sent countless e-mails to agents and publishers. Three months-ish later (a very short window of time, in my opinion), Nora Firestone, an acquisitions editor for Koehler Books, got connected with me, and as they say, the rest is history. I’m currently on the Emerging Author Program track that Koehler Books offers (a hybrid publishing deal that could lead to a traditional door), and everything is going beautifully. This is how it should’ve been the first time around!
It’s hard to believe that, finally, four years later, after all the tears and struggle, I’m going to hold Chase in my hands. Yes, it’s for the rest of the world, too, but this book means so much to me especially after losing the story’s main inspiration, my first horse named “Blue,” back in March 2015 because he broke his leg. Koehler Books has allowed me to include a picture with Chase’s dedication to Blue, so I’m not only sharing my story with the world, I’m sharing my horse. And I know when I hold Chase, Blue’s going to come galloping back to me.
How did you come up with the idea for this story?
I was home schooled between second and ninth grade, so I had a lot of time to think and write as a kid, and I loved it. Oftentimes in the quiet playground of my room (littered with Bionicles and Breyer model horses), God would snap his fingers and story ideas would pop in my brain. He still does that. When He snapped the idea behind Chase into my brain, I had a friend who was going through a particularly hard time and debating whether or not God really cared about her. I wrote Chase because I felt God wanting me to show that He wants to romance people rather than force religious regulations on them. But be warned, Chase reads like a hard-core YA fantasy with romantic sparks. You won’t see any inspirational Christianese unless you’re looking for it. (I think the traditional Christian market would turn me away.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating this book?
Well, for one, I didn’t know publishers backed out of contracts. I’ve also been enlightened behind how much has to be done with a book outside of the writing process. Writing the beast is the easiest part! As a student fresh out of college, coming up with the finances to do this hasn’t been easy. I wish that, for all the young writers out there, that money will never be a defining factor in whether or not you can publish your book. I’ve had incredibly supportive family as well as understanding people on the Koehler Books end. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, even if you have to beat that way through a brick wall.
Lastly, about the writing process itself, I’ve learned… Nothing will ever be perfect. There comes a point when you’ve just got to let your story go. Not even the best sellers are perfect, which is refreshing, because it means indie authors can have just as much success.
How did you come up with the title?
It’s the hero’s name, and he’s possibly my favorite part about the book. Chase was raised by the Alicorns, and so he thinks like a horse. Writing his parts was so fun! That’s where Blue’s influence really shines on the pages.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Amazon Author Page: (coming in July)
WattPad (to read a free story that’s about the history of Alicorns before Guardians like Chase arrived in Agalrae): http://www.wattpad.com/story/40692041-nephtali%27s-gift
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was 12, I wrote 30+ “books” in a series within a year. I had never felt so alive, but my writing wasn’t heavily encouraged and was often met with phrases like, “You’ll never have any money.” That deterred me. I let my writing gift go unused after Chase because I used all my extra time trying to get the manuscript ready for print while I pursued a “real job.” Redoing Chase last year cracked open the closet on my writing gift, and I’ve had words spilling out of me regularly again since then. At the ReWrite 2015 conference in Austin, Texas, I knew yet again that I’m meant to be a writer, and I’d been running from it trying to find that “real job” so I can “have money.”
Life’s too short to be governed by having money. Even though it’s scary, I’m pursuing what I know I was made to do. And yes, it’ll probably be a few more years before I can work from home. But that’s okay.
Do you have any suggestions on how to become a better writer?
Write and read. It’s that simple. And don’t ever force yourself to write something you don’t like. You are your first audience. Write to please you. The world will come later, and you’ll see that you weren’t alone.
Are there any new authors out there that have grabbed your attention?
I’m in love with Tamara Shoemaker’s debut fantasy Kindle the Flame. http://goo.gl/Rgi7nh
And I’m excited to read Margaret Locke’s debut romance, A Man of Character. http://goo.gl/8yLC4o
Tell us a bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image?
I… don’t have it yet. I’m waiting with just as much enthusiasm as you are! The team at Koehler Books is working hard for me, and they’re expecting to get something to me by late June.
What’s your favorite movie and TV show?
TV show: Hands down, ABC’s Castle. That was one of the things that encouraged me to write again. I’ll still be watching episodes from my rocking chair when I’m 80.
Movie: Oh, it’s so hard for me to juggle between Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor… But if you’d asked me when I was way younger, I’d have told you my favorite movie is Pocahontas.
Are you reading anything right now?
I’m doing reviews for a lot of people right now, and currently I’ve got my nose in an advanced reading copy of E.D.E Bell’s The Banished Craft. https://goo.gl/q3Qhql
Who is your favorite author and what strikes you about their work?
Maggie Stiefvater—The Scorpio Races http://goo.gl/5eX2d0
Anyone who’s read that book knows I don’t need to say anything beyond that. Everything about the style and tone of The Scorpio Races influenced my second draft of Chase. Stiefvater’s voice is incredibly poetic. She could write about making toast and I’d be happy. I’ve gone back and reread my favorite lines so many times. It’s beautiful.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I love connecting with people, especially if you’re a young writer people. I don’t care how old you are, if you write a My Little Pony inspired story and ask me to read it, I will. I promise to recognize that your book is your baby, and I won’t crush your hopes. Everyone’s got a story inside of them.
TRUST YOUR VOICES. You can and do write great things.