I was lucky enough to connect with the author of The Treadwell Academy Series Caitlyn Duffy via Twitter (@caitlyn_duffy) and she was gracious enough to grant little old me an interview! Check it out
Tell us a little bit about yourself growing up.
I went to elementary school in LA and by junior high, my family had started moving around a lot, so much that sometimes my brother and I would go to three different schools during the course of one year. By high school, I was really desperate for some stability and I begged to go to boarding school so that I could just be in one place for four years and make some friends. It was really expensive, and I was definitely an anomaly among my classmates as far as my parents' income level.
Do you have a day job?
These days, I have a day job; I'm a copywriter at an advertising agency that specializes in pharmaceutical products, so I spend my days writing ads about psoriasis and macular degeneration (it's very glamorous stuff, let me assure you).
How long have you been writing?
It had always been my dream to somehow get into children's entertainment. Basically, I had been toiling away for about seven years writing boring ads for medical conferences and putting my heart and soul into creative writing at night. I had built up a pretty massive collection of manuscripts in various stages of completion, and spent two or three years doing the whole query process.
What was the querying/publishing process like for you?
Querying was dreadful for me. I always would hear back from agents that they didn't identify with Taylor, that they weren't really looking for anything that wasn't paranormal, etc. I think I received the same response that a lot of writers hear these days; which is all valid and fair because publishing is a business, and editors think they know what will sell in any given quarter. It's hard not to take rejection personally, though. Fortunately, two former colleagues of mine from digital advertising were starting a new venture about a year ago that explores literature for kids, delivery via e-books and how digital accessibility is changing children's appetite for literature and our perception of storytelling. That venture became Lovestruck Literary, LLC (my publishing company) and the owners, Lauren and Alex, asked if I'd be willing to allow them to use some of my writing as an experiment in pricing models. It was a big decision, because I knew if I released the Treadwell Academy books with a micropublisher - especially if we released the first book free of cost - I'd effectively be ending any possibility of a big publishing company ever wanting to touch my work. But I'd have to say looking back on the last few months of watching Book #1 blow up in terms of reader response that I'm really happy that I trusted them to publish it. Otherwise, it would still be on my hard drive collecting dust!
It seems your personal experience with boarding school inspired you to start the Treadwell Academy series, does that mean you were rubbing elbows with a real rock star's daughter?
Oddly, no! The daughters of actors & actresses, yes... the daughters of politicians yes, but no rock stars' daughters come to mind (and I tend not to share which boarding schools I attended - there were two, one more famous than the other). What really inspired me about my boarding school experience was the interactions that girls have between the ages of 13 and 18. Whether you're a celebrity or not, emotions run so high during those years, and girls can be so unreasonably mean. The celebrity angle on the series, quite honestly, was added because I know that teen readers (in the U.S., especially) find celebrities and the lives of the wealthy to be more interesting than the lives of regular people. So while the books are about rich girls, the subject matter always boils down to very simple topics like having parents who let you down, jealousy with friends, not understanding why boys can be such idiots.
Will there be/is there already a Treadwell student that is autobiographical?
They're all a little autobiographical. With Taylor's story, I wrote about the difficulty of gaining acceptance from a step-parent and falling in love for the first time with someone who has a lot of emotional damage. With Grace's story, I wrote about how painful it can be if your beliefs differ from those of your parents, which is a broad topic, but anyone who has grown up in a very religious household can probably identify with how hard it is to establish your own boundaries. In Emma's story, which hasn't been released yet, she struggles significantly with body image disorders, which is certainly something that I dealt with at that age. None of the characters are purely autobiographical because I'm afraid my own life has been pretty boring.
What/ who inspires you?
From a writing standpoint for kids, definitely Lois Lowry and Sarah Dessen. I admire Reese Witherspoon and Drew Barrymore enormously for being female producers in Hollywood and aspiring to do so much more than act. My mom inspires me daily. She has, throughout her lifetime, had more energy for more projects than anyone else I have ever met. Whenever I feel like being lazy or giving up on something, I know my mother is halfway across the country, no matter what hour it is, perfecting some arts & craft project. She only operates at warp speed.
What genre of writing would you love to try but never have?
Paranormal or dystopian, since those are the hot genres right now. But I don't know if I have any dark stories in me. I like ice cream, funny dogs and fancy handbags too much to get my head around the apocalypse.
What advice would you give to others who have a creative dream that maybe doesn't fall in line with their day-to-day careers?
Someone at one of my worst advertising jobs once gave me the best advice ever: "Quit complaining and work." And it's so true. At the time, I really bristled upon hearing that. It's the easiest thing in the world to feel overwhelmed by a day job and get home at night and be creatively drained. The only thing you can do - really, the only thing, unless you're lucky enough to have a rich spouse or find some kind of insanely lucrative freelance work - is just put your head down and put whatever you can into your craft whenever you have the time.
What do you do to prepare yourself before writing? How do you get in the right head space? How do you overcome the dreaded writer's block?
When I sit down to write, I re-read the last few pages where I left off to try to remember what I was thinking. I'm a runner, and I try to run at least four times a week. While that has really nothing to do with writing, I find that whenever I'm not running regularly, my writing suffers. My head is a lot cloudier and I get more easily distracted when I'm supposed to be focused. So, if I sit down to write and the words aren't coming, I know it's time to go to the gym in the morning.
How many books do you have planned for the Treadwell Academy Series?Right now there are three books completed (Taylor, Grace, Emma). I have an outline developed for a book about Lauren and Alyssa, about half of a book written about Juliette, and a few pages of a side project about Betsey Norfleet. But kids on Wattpad are demanding a Taylor sequel, so that may take priority over everything else.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? If so, what changed your mind?
Oh yes, I felt like giving up all the time! After I wrote the Taylor book I felt like I had really written something unique and poignant even though it is a genre that's been done to death. I got rejection after rejection, and at a time when I was working at a day job that was slowly draining away my will to live. Honestly, even allowing Lauren and Alex to take the book and run with it was kind of a version of me giving up, like saying, "Oh well, no one is ever going to read these books anyway, so just take them." Without a doubt, the reviews that the book has been receiving from anonymous raters on iTunes and from readers on Wattpad have given me a completely different attitude about my work. I had decided with the help of Lauren and Alex that having my work read was more important to me than getting a six-figure book deal, and nothing is better than receiving email from young readers telling me how much they loved the book.
Since you are currently writing YA do you feel locked into that genre?I do feel a little locked into the genre, but for now, that's OK with me because I feel like I have a lot of subject matter to explore with this audience.
What do you enjoy reading? How do you find new authors to read?I will admit to reading a lot of YA because I like to see what other authors are up to. I really like Maggie Stiefvater's work. I am totally all over the map when it comes to reading material, though. I live a few blocks away from a great book store in Brooklyn called Book Court and I typically find new authors' work there; they have great employee recommendations. I also follow Publishers Weekly and I'm always curious to read work by any first time author.
And lastly, a fun one! What is your current obsession (absolutely anything)?
I am ashamed to admit that anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I'm more than a little obsessed with AMC's The Walking Dead. Also, Jennifer Aniston perfume. That stuff smells so good, I wish I could use it as breath freshener.
Many, many thanks to Caitlyn for chatting with me! I have to admit, somehow being a part of 'the club' now as a fellow author has me a little geeked out!
Be sure to pick up the first two books in The Treadwell Academy Series here : The Rock Star's Daughter and The Believer's Daughter