Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Interview with Genevieve Graham-Sawchyn author of "Under The Same Sky"

Welcome Genevieve, I always like to begin by discussing some personal things.  
Are you married?  
Hi Soooz. Yes, I've been married to the same wonderful, patient man since 1993. We met skiing. We were in a chairlift line-up and he called “single”. Neither of us has been able to say that ever again.
Do you have children.? We have two beautiful daughters: Emily (12) and Piper (10).  

When did you begin writing? Six years ago.
Is “Under the Same Sky” your first novel?  

Yep. Before that I'd only really written notes like “Please excuse Emily from class because she has a doctor's appointment” ...
What inspired you to begin writing? I am a HUGE fan of Diana Gabaldon's “Outlander” series. When I'd finished book six or seven or something, and had to wait for her next one, I missed the characters and the period and the adventure so much I felt compelled to create my own.
How long did it take to complete “Under the Same Sky” from 1st word till final draft? Well, I thought I finished it in eight months. Printed off ten copies, passed 'em around and basked in the glory. Then I met author and mentor Rona Altrows, who introduced me to the world of editing. Five years later I can finally say the book is finished – until the publisher asks for edits, that is.
Where did you first have your book available for critique? My hubby read it first, then some friends, then I posted on It's a fantastic site. No hidden agendas, only excellent feedback. Like anyone else, the initial comments on my book made me react defensively … until I settled back and understood what they were suggesting. Overall, the comments were very encouraging. I basically had to start sweating the small stuff. Then I heard about and posted there. Two awesome authors on there, Jane Alexander & Jared Conway picked up my book right away and it shot up the chart like a comet.
Did the reaction to it surprise you? Yes! I was sure I would have the worst book up there. After all the months of self-criticizing, deletions, hair-pulling, to finally see people saying “wow!”? That was immense. When a couple of the Authonomites suggested I contact their agents, I was blown away.  
How long did it take you to get a nod on publishing?
About a month after I contacted one of the two recommended agents, Jacques de Spoelberch, called me. I was so thrilled I thought I might pass out. When I hung up I was a mess. He suggested I change the ending, so I did. I sent it in, and he suggested I try something else. Between the two of us, UTSS changed quite a bit, and we settled on the fourth ending. He was amazing, and exactly right. He approached Berkley (a division of Penguin USA) a few weeks after that, and they got back to him immediately. I never would have even dreamed of approaching a major publishing house. I was shocked when he did without hesitation. I recommend anyone who is serious to keep querying agents. He has made the road smooth for me.
You have since written 3 more books, firstly tell us a little about “Sound of The Heart” the follow up to “Under The Same Sky.”
I had no intention of ever writing “Sound of the Heart”. Berkley insisted on a companion novel when we were discussing “Under the Same Sky”. That was a surprise! Fortunately, my male protagonist in UTSS had a brother, who he assumed was dead. Guess what? He's not! The books are based in the 18th century, set both in Scotland and the Carolinas. They are a blend of historical adventure and romance with fantasy woven in. In “Sound of the Heart”, the hero, Dougal, can hear the unspoken thoughts of men. He survives the Battle of Culloden but becomes a prisoner of war.

We follow him through that hell, then into the French Indian War where he has to survive the elements as well as the battles. He constantly searches for his beloved, who was taken by the English, but the only way he knows she is still alive is through unclear messages he receives in his dreams. When he arrives at the colonies, he starts to hear another voice – one that will lead him to something he never could have dreamed.  

How did it feel writing the companion novel knowing that it had to meet the standard already set by “Under The Same Sky’?  

Good question. Terrifying. I had so many problems trying to get the story flowing and I was never sure if it was just the interruptions around me or if the story just wasn't there. Just last week I read my first draft to my husband, who is a terrific critic. He pointed out the places that didn't work (he was exactly right), and assured me that the rest of it is every bit as good as UTSS. What a relief.  
What other books have you completed?

My editor at Berkley is reading my latest, “Tides of Honour” right now. It's also historical fiction, but this time it's during WW1. I love the book. I hope she does! Hmmm... “completed”, huh? I'll say that I've written another 18th century historical adventure/romance (without the fantasy aspect), but it needs a major re-write because the plot's way too weak. I'm excited because the main character in that book has three siblings, and each of them is demanding their story be told. I've also written a chick lit, which felt silly at the time, but might just be a good one after I've gone over it again.
Are you disciplined in your writing approach? Nope. I wish I could be, but I'm undisciplined in just about everything I do. The most disciplined thing I do is mute my computer so I'm not tempted to check email, facebook or twitter. I'm so susceptible to Time Suck tools!  
How many hours a day on average do you spend writing? I'm extremely fortunate, because I don't work outside of the house (I teach piano, but that's only a couple of nights a week) and my kids are pretty self-sufficient. I write and edit almost all day, which is wonderful. I love to get sucked into my keyboard.  
You have also edited many books including my own, You have a wonderful ability in that area. When did you realize that editing and assisting authors to bring their works to life was something you wanted to do?  
When I started making suggestions on I was shocked when people agreed with what I said. I did the same on Authonomy and, and a few people emailed me asking for input. The editing I was doing on my own books was getting easier and easier for me, and when I got the opportunity to help out some authors – like you! - in their publishing quest, I jumped on board. That was a great experience, working with such completely different books, learning how to work with Voice, among other things.  
You have begun your own editing business, tell us about that? Well, when I was editing those books, I learned, but never earned. I'll never do that for free again! Editing is fun for me – like a puzzle. But don't get me wrong. It's hard work that demands attention to detail. The authors for whom I edited seemed happy with my work. So I thought … hmmm... let's see if people would be willing to pay me for that. And they are.
Where can people wishing to utilize your services contact you? They should come see my website first: then email me at  
As both a writer and editor what do you suggest for those people who are seeking an agent for their work? Choose the single shot theory, not the indiscriminate bullets of a machine gun. What I mean by that is that authors need to cherry pick the agents they think would be suitable, research them, find out who else those agents represent, ask questions and write queries that will actually touch the agent. Get personal, like: “The reason I approached you specifically is ...” Then, as my friend Jane Alexander suggested, send out five every week. Five!!! I thought she was nuts, but turns out I got lots of requests when I did that. And finally … rejections? So what? If your book is publish-worthy, someone will want it. Don't give up.  

The query letter and synopsis seem to be an area that many authors let themselves down in, do you have a formula that you use? I think they both have to be written in a similar style to how you wrote your book. So the agent knows what to expect. Show them your confidence, but also your humility: “I would be honoured if you would consider my work ...” That's definitely true with a synopsis. I go through the entire book, chapter by chapter, writing down important points. Then I connect them in a manner similar to how the book is written, then delete anything that isn't imperative to the story. I write three kinds of synopsis, for use in different situations: 2 pages,1 page and 1 paragraph. They need to really engage the reader, using the same intensity you used in the book. This is your main selling tool.  

Are you currently working on a new project? I'm fixing up “Sound of the Heart” and editing for a few clients right now. I've also started working on my first YA book. That's a totally different experience, and one I'm looking forward to.  
Where do you visualize yourself both personally and professionally in 2011? Personally, I'll be chewing my non-existent nails, counting down to the release of UTSS. I've also been asked to speak to school kids about writing and editing, and I've discovered I'm not as bad at that as I thought I'd be. So maybe I'll do more of that. Professionally, more of the same: writing and editing and learning more every day.  

The book is due for release in January 2012, it seems a long wait, is the time taken to reach the end market nerve racking for you?  

YES! But that's a price I gladly pay to be affiliated with Penguin Books.  

The publishing industry as a whole is undergoing enormous change. Where do you see the paperback book in these changes? I don't think it's going to be as drastic as everyone thinks. Satellite radio is everywhere, and yet people still have their favourite “terrestrial” (regular) radio stations. Sure, e-books are cheap to produce and easy to transport, but some of us still love turning pages with more than a mouse.  

Do you ever see a time when books in paperback and hardcover will only be found in libraries? I sure hope not. If that day ever comes, you can come to my place and borrow a couple if you'd like.  

Please list all the sites below that my readers may access a preview of your work? Where can the readers access your editorial information?  

Genevieve on a personal note I would like to express my thanks for the remarkable job you did on editing my biography Empty Chairs. The book benefited hugely as a result.  

It was a huge honour and pleasure for me to work on Empty Chairs. Your story is one the likes of which I've never read, and opened my eyes to what is really going on out there behind closed doors. I wish you great success with the book.
I am going to pencil you in for another interview after “Under the Same Sky” is released. I wish you every success and thank you for joining me.  
Thanks, Soooz!  

What people are saying about "Under The Same Sky": "Under the Same Sky is an amazing piece of work. Maggie's character is established immediately, as she relates her gift of "The Sight" in such a matter-of-fact way that it is completely believable and natural. Her bond with Andrew is never explained, it just is. They each have their own story, somehow linked. Your setting descriptions are detailed and full, but not overdone. The voice of the narrator seems to come to us from another time and place, or to take us there." Karen Eisenbrey, "Crane's Way", "Time Squared"  

"The depth of your characterization of Maggie is astonishing. She's fully fleshed out and absolutely priceless as a heroine. Your descriptions quickly evoke the era and are painted with an artistic intregity. Everything we need to see and hear and smell is there. Your eloquent, fluid prose is mesmerizing. Whether soft or hard, your word choices are spot on. You shower us with lovely metaphors such as 'eyes as dark as rain-soaked mud' and superb similies like 'brush against my thoughts like a feather falling from a passing bush.' Magnificant imagery there. Your delicate handling of the metaphysical element makes it believable ... and chilling. I shivered on reading of the death at the stake of Maggie's grandmother. I cried when the Wolf came and Maggie whispered, "Help me." This is an epic love story in the hands of a masterful writer." - Alan Chaput, "Savannah Passion"

"There is no way to describe how deeply this story affected me. Particularly in the last few chapters where the scenes of such tranquility and the beauty of nature, cast a soothing balm over the troubled lives of Andrew and Maggie. I sense there are more stressful times ahead, because that makes a good story. The pacing in this book is so well orchestrated that it has a resonance that just feels right.""When the times of my life bring me to a place where I can no longer read and my aged fingers refuse to move on the keyboard, I will retreat to my mind and recall those wonderful stories I have enjoyed, and I will always remember this one." Mary Enck, "A King In Time"  

"Under the Same Sky is beautifully written and tells a story that even feels like a different time and place. The imagery is breathtaking, the characters rich and well-defined. Maggie’s voice is particularly warm and inviting, the reader wanting to trade places with Wolf. At first, I wondered about using Maggie in the first person when I read your pitch but it works effectively, the transition seamless in chapter 6. The Scottish voice used in the subsequent chapters (I’m in chapter 10 at the moment) is distinctive and authentic. This is a novel I would recommend without hesitation."  Richard Allen, "Hard Target"  

"I have no idea how much work went into this book. I can not image the research, and the time and effort. I hope you find success with it. I have read many published books that didn’t hold my attention half as well. Honestly, this story... kept me as engaged as the [Gabaldon] Outlander series. - Shannon Ouellette, "Sex On The Beach"
Testimonials: On Editing. "Genevieve Sawchyn's editorial skills are top notch. She recently edited my novel, Kaya Stormchild, and I found her comments and suggestions sensitive and helpful in every instance. Genevieve takes pains to understand fully where each author is coming from and is dedicated to helping writers achieve their goals. She is also blessed with a warm and encouraging personality, and a good sense of humor. She is a pleasure to work with!" Lael Whitehead “Kaya Stormchild”  

"Genevieve Sawchyn-Graham's stellar editing skills became truly apparent to me as we worked upon my first book. As with many first novels, there was an excess of ideas - often unrelated and seemingly difficult to coordinate - and I was rather at a loss until Genevieve's superb guidance and expertise came into play. A million 'standard' editors would have stripped the atmosphere from my novel - there's an incredibly fine line between critique and cajoling a writer into writing like oneself; Genevieve displayed the poet's sensibility in allowing my flourishes to remain, while avoiding the fussy traits of 'ordinary' editors. That's a fine art, and shows a deep understanding of writing and editing. It would be wholly true to state that she 'rescued' my book, a feat above and beyond the duty of an editor, and as important in this case as her unparalleled ability in the more fundamental aspects of editing. I would not hesitate to recommend her to any writer, aspiring or established." Steven Jensen “Poison of a Smile”  

"A few weeks ago, I completed my biography, and like a proud parent, I presented it to a publisher. I was delighted that it was accepted. I was so naive and expected no editing apart from an occasional missed comma would be necessary. I could not have been more wrong. Genevieve Graham-Sawchyn contacted me in her role as editor, and gently informed me that edits would be needed. Like any proud parent, I reacted with ... What? Where? And Why? Her response was that as an editor she was responsible for my work being showcased in the absolute best manner possible. She offered suggestions in such a way that my pride was salvaged and she worked with me every step of the way. Frankly, she was quite amazing, given that I am a volatile author. She calmly and firmly showed me how the work could be improved. Each step of the way she remained utterly professional yet warm and comfortable was the way she made me feel. I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending her Editorial Services. She inspired trust, because she so obviously knew exactly what she was doing. The finished product is still my work, yet now it shines. The professional edge is now present, and it is a work that can be held up for critique and hold its ground perfectly." Suzannah Burke "Empty Chairs" Written under the pen name of Stacey Danson  

"I had the privilege to work with Genevieve recently in her capacity as editor. I was anticipating a nerve wracking experience, but she immediately put me at ease after explaining the whole process fully and clearly. Throughout the editing journey her input, insights and observations were invaluable. Demonstrating ultimate patience and approachability, she guided me through the entire work, pointing out and correcting punctuation and grammatical errors and helping to refine and polish the story. Her responses to even the most trivial of my queries and problems were always prompt and extremely helpful. I would have no hesitation in recommending Genevieve."
  Jillian Brookes-Ward “Saving Nathaniel”  

"I have a very irritating habit of using too many words ending in 'ing'. Genevieve has the patience of a saint and not only sorted out my awful gerunds and frequent pleonasms but also immediately understood my writing style and where I was trying to go with Simon's choice and edited in accordance. I have absolutely no doubt that Simon's Choice is a far better book today, thanks to Genevieve's help. I'd recommend her sensitive and insightful approach to editing to anybody." Charlotte Castle “Simon's Choice”

1 comment:

  1. Genevieve's interview was very informative. Her editing services sound terrific and will be kept in mind.

    Arthur Levine


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