June 14, 2013

Casual Friday: Interview and ARC Giveaway with Author/Agent John M. Cusick!

Happy Friday All!

Because we Misfits love to bring you the latest on authors and agents and books, today's post is a triple treat - we're interviewing Greenhouse Literary agent John M. Cusick (a superstar, I can assure you, as I am one of his clients) about his agenting wish list, getting the scoop on his brand new book, CHERRY MONEY BABY, and - wait for it - we're giving away a signed ARC!

So without further ado...

Thanks for joining us today, John! We’re all kind of drooling over your newest book, CHERRY MONEY BABY. Tell us a little bit about it and what inspired you to write it.
So many things inspired CHERRY MONEY BABY— it developed from an amalgamation of thoughts, images, stories and people that were rattling around in my brain at the time. I drew a lot of inspiration from Anton Chekov’s play, The Cherry Orchard, as well as the Sondheim musical A Little Night Music. The paintings of Edward Hopper were also a big influence (and a few even made it into the book). So many things I read, saw, and thought about surfaced in the story, from She Hulk to Nabokov. I grew up in Cherry’s town, in a neighborhood like hers, and experienced a lot of the excitements and fears she does. I suppose to find the book’s root you’d have to go all the way back to my childhood.

Do you have a favorite line or excerpt you can share with us?
Here’s a bit I like. Cherry and her boyfriend Lucas are having an intimate moment under a train bridge.
“Cherry’s breath quickened. Tiny freight trains coursed in her veins, rushed through the hub of her heart. Her bones vibrated with the approach, the engine, the wheels, the noise, the track humming all the way from now into the endless future and she had to hop on or let it blast by because life would not slow down for her. And really there was no question because there was only one place she wanted to go, an inner place, a place with Lucas.”
Love that! CHERRY sounds like quite a departure from your last novel, GIRL PARTS.  What common themes do you want your readers to take away from the different stories you write?
There are no robots in CHERRY, but both books are about relationships, and how we define who we are. Like Rose, Cherry has a strong sense of who she is, but that image is challenged by others, by circumstances, and she’s forced to grow, adapt, and change. I think the role of fiction is to promote understanding and empathy; I find myself writing primarily about people doing the best they can. I suppose I hope my readers share this interest in understanding why people do the things they do.
What’s the strangest/least likely thing you’ve ever drawn inspiration from? (For example, mine was an empty field I used to drive by on my way to the grocery store.)
I’ve had inspiration arise from lots of sources. I find images very inspiring. I keep a Tumblr of photographs and illustrations that get me writing: IThoughtYouSaidGoForIt.Tumblr.com. Many times the initial inspiration for a story has no apparent relationship to the finished product. The first spark for GIRL PARTS came from a YouTube video I saw of a young deaf woman who, thanks to an implant, was hearing sound for the first time. When the med tech asked her “What do you hear?” she signed “I can only hear myself crying.”
You’re both an agent an author. When do you sleep How do you balance the two?
Phew. Good question. I typically write early in the morning, then switch into agent mode. The two inform each other, which helps keep things balanced. I write y.a., I rep y.a. I spend my morning building stories, and the rest of the day helping others build theirs. It’s all related. I work long hours, but I take lots of little breaks throughout the day to sort of defragment my brain.
Also, caffeine.
  And while we’re on the subject of agenting….
You represent YA and Middle Grade. What kinds of stories are you dying to see in your inbox?
I’m rabid for great middle-grade, something with excitement and heart, and a great voice. I see a lot of National Treasure / Indiana Jones m.g. comps, which are great, but I’m more interested in totally fresh and original worlds, like Adam Rex’s COLD CEREAL series. Similarly in y.a., I love quirky, odd-ball concepts, as well as speculative and fantastical elements used to explore human stories.
What is your biggest pet peeve when reading queries/submissions? On the flip side, what makes a project jump off the page and scream, “REPRESENT ME!”
It may seem pedantic, but when authors don’t follow the submission guidelines (available at www.GreehouseLiterary.com) it drives me absolutely bonkers. Also, I occasionally see writers claiming to be “the next John Green” or “the next Suzanne Collins.” I love the confidence, but remember those authors weren’t “the next” anybody, they were just themselves.
Usually I fall in love with an author’s idea first. I read the query letter, and something about the story just grabs me—it’s got a great hook, or a totally fresh concept. That’s when I dash off a quick please oh please send me this e-mail. I want to work with writers who love to write, who want to work and build and grow; you can usually tell whether someone has the passion from their query letter. Those are the dream clients.
You have a blog (http://johnmcusick.wordpress.com/) where you talk about your own work, as well as dispense writing advice, and have taught several webinars aimed at helping authors sharpen their writing. What other resources do you recommend for aspiring authors, and what do you think is the most important advice they can follow?
Find a trustworthy critique partner who shares your tastes and isn’t afraid to break your heart. (Personally, I prefer critique partners to critique groups, but that’s just me.) There are hundreds of articles online about building characters and constructing stories—read them. Writing is like any other skill in that practice and education can and will help you develop and improve. The most important advice I can give to writers— in addition to keep writing— is this: make time and space for writing in your life. You’ve got to build your garden and tend it regularly. You can’t expect your work to grow up between the cracks in the pavement.
Now for the fun questions….
If you could live one day as any character in any book, who would it be and why?
I want to be Sherlock Holmes. How cool would it be to see the world the way he does? Who wouldn’t want to be a deductive genius for a day?
Excellent point. Or should I say, "Elementary?" No one escapes my interviews without talking food. What is your favorite kind of ice cream? Favorite cookie? Any particular food you can’t live without?
The sad truth about me is I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. But I do love to eat. I love the salty and savory stuff: chips, pizza, etc. My death row meal is absolutely buffalo wings—specifically the ones from Mario’s Pizza on Waverly in Brooklyn. I’d eat them day and night if my metabolism could handle it.
And last but not least, fill in the blank: If I see ____ in one more YA novel, I will scream.
“a Chosen One”
Thanks John! CHERRY sounds amazing and we wish you the best of luck with both your writing and agenting endeavors!
So, Misfiteers, if you'd like to learn more about John, are looking for some great writing advice, or would just like to be entertained by his general hilariousness, you can follow him on Twitter (@johnmcusick) or on his blog (http://johnmcusick.wordpress.com/).
AND - if you'd like to win a signed ARC of CHERRY MONEY BABY, just leave a comment on this post! One winner will be chosen at random but be sure to leave either your e-mail address or Twitter handle so we can contact you!
Cherry Kerrigan loves her simple life, her family’s tiny trailer, even working at Burrito Barn. Forget college — she’s marrying her sweetheart from next door. But here comes Ardelia Deen, a glamorous starlet who sweeps Cherry into a world of fast cars and penthouse parties. Now Cherry’s small-town life just seems so . . . small. When Ardelia drops a bomb of an offer — one involving a baby — Cherry knows her life will change forever, no matter what she decides. John M. Cusick focuses his signature wit on Hollywood royalty and the wide-eyed dreams of Small Town, U.S.A. in a novel about discovering who you are . . . and changing your mind.
Winner will be announced on Wednesday June 19th. Good luck!


Veronica Bartles said...

I love the comment that we don't have to be "the next" anyone, but just ourselves. :) Thanks!

Vivien said...

Thanks for the spotlight!! I hadn't heard of this book until now. I adore the cover and it sounds like a really promising read!

deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Maggie Hall said...

I love the CHERRY MONEY BABY cover, and the book sounds so good! And also, I completely agree that it would be awesome to be Sherlock Holmes for a day.

Anonymous said...

I'm so excited about this book! Glad to see it featured here!

Twitter: @olsonkayla
Email: olsonkayla (at) gmail (dot) com

Dahlia Adler said...

Are Misfits allowed to enter?? Because I freaking need this book, ASAP. Thanks for coming by, John!

Jessica Taylor said...

So excited about Cherry Money Baby. It's one arc I've been unable to snag.

Twitter: @novelista85

Jaye Robin Brown said...

This book sounds fantastic! Yay small town girls!

Twitter: @jayerobinbrown

Kate Larkindale said...

Sounds like a fascinating story!

Twitter: @vampyr14

Neurotic Workaholic said...

Interesting interview, and the book sounds interesting too! I especially like the part about how he said we should make time and space for writing; that's something I've been struggling with for the past several weeks. And I would like to be Sherlock Holmes too, because he's a fascinating character. And it's clear that the world fascinates Sherlock too, because he's so observant.

rosemond cates said...

I would LOVE to win! I've heard so much about this book!



rosemond22 AT aol dot com

Meredith said...

Great interview! And the book sounds fantastic :)


tammy216 said...

This book sounds really great! I'm excited to read it :)


karin said...

Sounds amazing

Messi Jessi said...

What a great book! John sounds like a dream agent. Lucky you, Gina. :)


Valynne E. Maetani said...

Can't wait to read this book!


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