This week’s featured author is Heather Anastasiu. I discovered Heather through the Dear Teen Me website, and her entry blew me away–I contacted her and found out she wrote this awesome book called GLITCH, and the premise was so compelling I had to feature it. GLITCH will debut this August. See below for more:

From Goodreads:

 In the Community, there is no more pain or war. Implanted computer chips have wiped humanity clean of destructive emotions, and thoughts are replaced by a feed from the Link network.

When Zoe starts to malfunction (or “glitch”), she suddenly begins having her own thoughts, feelings, and identity. Any anomalies must be immediately reported and repaired, but Zoe has a secret so dark it will mean certain deactivation if she is caught: her glitches have given her uncontrollable telekinetic powers.

As Zoe struggles to control her abilities and stay hidden, she meets other glitchers including Max, who can disguise his appearance, and Adrien, who has visions of the future. Both boys introduce Zoe to feelings that are entirely new. Together, this growing band of glitchers must find a way to free themselves from the controlling hands of the Community before they’re caught and deactivated, or worse.

In this action-packed debut, Glitch begins an exciting new young adult trilogy.

Below are some questions I asked Heather:

GLITCH is your first published novel (congratulations!). Can you tell us a bit about your journey toward becoming a writer?
I started writing about seven years ago after my son was born and I had some chronic health problems that put me in bed for half a year. There wasn’t much to do except watch tv, read, or fritter away time on the internet, none of which was very fulfilling. So I went back to an old childhood dream—one of the few things I could do from bed—writing. I’d wanted to be a writer when I was a kid, but other concerns and career goals had redirected my focus, so I’d never seriously written before.

I started writing a book, finished about half of it before I decided to rewrite it for a young adult audience. After I finished, I fired off query letters but got only one request for a partial, then never heard from the agent again. I applied to MFA programs and got rejected. Message received: my writing wasn’t quite there yet. So I rewrote the novel again, getting a little better at pacing and dialogue and writing scenes each time. More query letters sent, and this time I even got a handful of manuscripts request. Followed by—you guessed it—rejection! After trying three times with the same story idea, I decided to finally start something completely new—the book that turned out to be Glitch. I wrote it in about a month in the summer of 2010, and when the query letters went out, I got more requests than ever before. I’d finally created a unique voice in my main character, figured out how to tell a compelling story, and frankly, I had good timing. I’d written a dystopia at a time when dystopias were hot.

One agent in particular, Charlie Olsen at Inkwell Management, wrote that he’d read the first hundred pages and loved it and wanted to set up a phone call. A phone call! With an actual agent! I literally jumped out of my chair when I read his email. When we finally talked, he wasn’t ready to offer representation because the second half of the novel had some problems, so we talked revisions. I reworked the second half and a couple of revision rounds later, he took me on as a client. We did a couple more rounds of revisions together, then we went on submission to editors in January of 2011 and got a pre-empt offer from St. Martin’s Press a few weeks later.

Your journey shows that perseverance definitely pays off! On your website page “The Science behind GLITCH”, you talk about how you got the idea for the book. What other scientific elements did you use, and what do you want readers to take away when they’re finished reading it?

I had fun with all the tech I created for the world of Glitch, and I think some of the trends today in our dependence on technology might create unique ethical problems in the future. At the same time, I certainly don’t think that being heavily dependent on technology is inherently bad. I tend not to go for more than a few hours with checking my email, can’t imagine going back to a world without text messaging, and do a good deal of my shopping online. But any good dystopian writer will try to imagine the ways that things that start out as beneficial can turn sideways, especially if they are used as a means of manipulation and control by those who are in power.

Really, what I was most interested in exploring in Glitch is the way that the human spirit can overcome external attempts at control. Even without a dystopian setting, we can fall into certain patterns of living that are drone-like. Commute back and forth to work, come home with only enough energy to watch tv, fall into bed, then wake up the next day and do it all over again. But I believe what makes life meaningful are the relationships we have with family and loved ones that bring a sense of connection and joy that can transcend any circumstances. In writing Glitch, I was excited to explore what it would be like to watch a person wake up from a lifetime of emotionless monotony and discover those connections for the first time.

Such a universal theme–and a completely relatable one.Your “On Writing” page gives a lot of useful advice to aspiring authors. Is there any other advice you’d like to add to supplement what’s already there?

DON’T GIVE UP. Writing and publishing is a wicked hard business, and every step along the way—from writing a draft to querying to writing the next book on deadline—brings its own highs and lows. I faced piles of rejection throughout every stage of the process, and it was definitely disheartening at moments. Okay, disheartening is too tame a word. Sometimes it has been soul-crushingly difficult!

I imagine it’s the same with anything that’s worth doing. The trick is, after every rejection, especially the ones that hurt the most, to give yourself a wallowing pity-party period, then when you are able to, start moving forward again. Sometimes this means more critical revisions of an existing project, other times it means starting over from scratch or letting an idea go completely and writing a different story. Even after the book deal, I wrote the second book in the series and the first draft was horrible, though my editor tip-toed around saying so directly, bless her. I had to rewrite most of it from scratch in a couple of months on tight deadline earlier this year, and that was one of the most difficult things I’ve done yet. The trick of being a writer, I’ve come to believe, is getting back up again after one thing or another knocks you on your butt. 

It’s great you were able to learn from your rejections to figure out what was/wasn’t working instead of giving up. Aspiring writers, take note! 
I love the look and feel of your website. Where did you come up with the designs, and what advice to you have for aspiring writers building an online platform?

Lol, my website, like my writing, has been a series of trials and errors. I’ve done the design work myself, fiddling around with Photoshop and a semi-user-friendly website service (GoDaddy). I studied the things I liked and didn’t like in other author websites. I wanted my site to be bright and colorful, and while I wanted the basic block layout with tabs up top of many author sites, I didn’t want it to have such rigid square lines. So I used one of the website program’s premade layouts, then put in my own banner and background (background image was one in the free GoDaddy image library that I tweaked in Photoshop to match my color scheme). I redid the banner about twenty times before I finally got familiar enough with Photoshop to know what I was doing. I’m not sure I would exactly recommend GoDaddy, because there are a lot of bugs in it and sometimes it makes me curse and want to pull my hair out in frustration. A couple times I’ve relied on my programmer husband to rewrite some of the code so I could make the site do what I wanted it to do. At the same time, it was a fairly inexpensive way to create the website myself without relying on (or paying) someone else to build and maintain it for me.

It’s true–web design, like writing, takes perseverance and an ability to work through frustrations! What other projects are you working on? Will GLITCH have a sequel?

Yes! It’s the first in a trilogy. I just finished writing the first draft of book 3. The books will be releasing about every six months, so it’s been a tight writing timeline. I have daydreams about what project I’ll work on next, but the foreseeable future will be taken up with edits on book 2 and 3.

Thanks, Heather! Keep on the lookout for GLITCH, debuting August 7. You can also pre-order it from Barnes and Noble.

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