I recently spoke with author Libbi Duncan about getting her first novel The Scorching published. And this what she had to say…
What inspired you to write your first novel and what was the writing process like?
First of all, thanks for inviting me to answer some questions for GeekNerdery. I’m a huge fan of all things sci-fi and fantasy so I’m excited to get involved. You’re going to laugh when I tell you what inspired me… I watched a documentary called Wild China during the fall of 2013-my junior year of college-and the incredible variety of landscapes and animal evolution just blew me away. Weird, right? I was also studying Mandarin Chinese and taking comparative literature and film analysis classes, and in my free time I played a lot of Fallout: New Vegas. All of that combined with my love for adventurous stories like The Hobbit and young adult sci-fi novels like The Hunger Games and somehow this story began to unfold in my mind. It took me three years to get from an idea to a polished novel. Writing the first draft was the easy part. You have to sit down and write every day, set reasonable goals, and never give up. It was a huge challenge, but it was a wonderful, fulfilling experience.
Here’s a brief(ish) look at my writing timeline:
Fall 2013 – I found inspiration, did research, created character notes, and made an outline.
Spring 2014 – I wrote the rough draft during Camp NaNoWriMo (the spring version of National Novel Writing Month, which is held during November).
Fall 2014 – I printed the draft and read it, highlighting and making notes on what was garbage and what was decent.
Spring 2015 – I rewrote the entire novel during Camp NaNoWriMo with a new beginning, new ending, and big-picture plot changes throughout.
Summer 2015 – I sent the manuscript to my beta readers, submitted a chapter to reddit for critique, and cried a lot (haha).
Fall 2015 – I revised again; this time I focused more on scene-level changes to characters, dialogue, thoughts, and style.
Spring 2016 – I sent the manuscript and a query letter to agents. There was some interest, a few requests, but no offers.
Summer 2016 – I polished the manuscript again, tightened up the dialogue and formatting, and tried again. This time I got an offer from my publisher, Black Rose Writing. I signed a two-year contract and began the publishing process.
Fall 2016 – I received editing notes from my publisher and got rid of a few thousand words of repetitive or redundant words and phrases, and I added some more figurative language and imagery. Then I worked with them and a proofreader to catch all of the little mistakes and do final copy edits. I also teamed up with a cover artist and approved all final formatting and changes in early December.
From what I read, The Scorching takes place in space, how much research was there to get everything accurate when it came to spacecraft, gravity generators, and how they all worked?
I don’t want to include any spoilers, but only part of the story takes place in space, and there is a blend of science fiction and fantasy. I did tons of research on the concept of a lunar colony, the main engine for the Madi’s “flyer”, and one type of technology in particular that I can’t talk about because it would give away too much. It’s something currently being researched and developed, but I took it to the furthest extreme of its potential as a way to really connect the realms of science fiction and fantasy.
Your target audience is young adults, why is that the age group you chose to write for?
“Write what you know,” or so goes the saying. I have four younger siblings, I’m a middle school English teacher, and I’ve always enjoyed reading young adult books, so I feel pretty confident in saying that I know young adults and young adult literature. However, I didn’t really set out to write YA specifically. I knew the story I wanted to tell, and I knew the setting, but the characters, style, and voice sort of developed along the way. It didn’t take long for me to realize the book I was writing was meant for the young adult category, but that doesn’t mean adults won’t enjoy reading it as well. I still read YA books for fun. I just recently finished the Across the Universe trilogy by Beth Revis; I highly recommend it for readers who enjoy my book.
Now that you got your first book published, what’s next for Libbi Duncan? Another book, maybe?
The Scorching already has a sequel and a prequel in the works. I’m about halfway through the first draft of the sequel and I have a rough outline for the prequel. I’m even toying with the idea of a standalone companion book that follows a different character that stays on the lunar colony during the timeline of the main series. I think there’s a story there. Beyond that, I have ideas for new stories ranging from dystopian sci-fi to urban fantasy. I get new ideas from dreams, daydreaming, movies, books, TV, or even from witnessing an event in real life that inspires me. If all goes well, I’ll be writing for the rest of my very happy days.
How can readers stay in touch or watch for updates on future books?
Where is your book available to purchase?
You can order the paperback version of my book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or directly from my publisher’s website. The e-book will be available on Amazon sometime in early February. It will be available in select bookstores as soon as possible.