Every other Wednesday, I’ll be showcasing authors who got an agent in the last couple of years. If you’d like to be a part of this, let me know in the comments or contact me via Twitter @judi__Lauren
Today I’m so excited to be interviewing Adam Schmitt! I mentored him during a contest and his voice in this realistic MG is amazing! Welcome, Adam!
What was the hardest part about writing your book?
Finding the voice of my main character. I didn’t really find it until several revisions and beta readers had gone through it. I spent so much time on the auxiliary players that impacted my MC, I had neglected to focus on him. Once I did, it felt like a new manuscript to me.
How did you meet your agent?
I met Marcy Posner during a pitch session at a writing conference. She was one of 4 agents I met that day. She was very direct, professional, and personable. She requested a full and later asked for a revision. Her feedback was spot on to where I needed to strengthen the piece. I agreed with her 100% on what needed to be done, but wasn’t sure how to do it. It took a year, (and an amazing mentor in Judi) to help me get to where I needed to be.
Do you have a rough number of how many queries you sent out before being offered representation?
Somewhere around 30. I never kept track though. I sent the bulk of those out in the first year and fully admit my manuscript was not ready. The more it took shape, I sent out fewer and fewer. I think when I started getting personalized feedback instead of form rejections is when I knew I was on the right track. In the six months before signing with Marcy I don’t think I’d even sent out five. I respect the query process, but didn’t want my time to be spent on querying and research instead of revising. I think that’s an easy trap I fell into the first year I sent Speechless out.
What inspires you to write?
Anytime I hear about a person and think, “I could have never made that up.” When I witness something people do that sounds far-fetched and fictional…yet somehow make me believe this is reality…that’s what I want to create. It’s always people that inspire me to write though, and usually not the ones I see coming.
Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process? Where do you get your ideas and characters?
I’m definitely a plotter. I need to have a skeleton mapped out with basic plot structure and character motivations. I am incredibly envious of writers who can sit down and start hammering out their story. Being drawn to realistic fiction, I always focus on character. The tricky part of the creative process for me is developing a character enough so I know where they are going, but I don’t know what they will do when they get there. When I wrote Speechless, I knew the set up of the ending, but had no idea what the characters would do until I wrote it.
My ideas and characters, that’s where working in a middle school gives me a wealth of inspiration. Public schools see everything (kids and adults alike) ranging from the brilliantly gifted socialite to the emotionally imbalanced homeless. Every one of these kids has a story. All of them. When I hear something from one of them I couldn’t make up, it goes in the journal.
You also work as a middle school teacher. How do you balance that schedule?
Depending on the time of year, not very well. I’ve been a middle school educator for 16 years now. So there is no finding time in the day, and I’m usually too tired at night. My wife and I have two boys and I am careful to not lose that time with my family. I keep a journal in my bag at all times, so during the week I will write notes and ideas down, but rarely sit down to do any serious work. Depending on where I’m at with a WIP, I’ll go to the library on the weekend (I do almost all my writing there). For the last couple of years that journal has filled up until June. That’s the flip side of being an educator; I don’t get a lot done during the school year, but then I have all summer to write. So I try to take full advantage of my summer schedule to be dedicated to writing.
Is there a fictional character or book you wish you had created? Why?
Max Fischer from Rushmore. Hands down, every day of the week. I am so jealous of the writers for creating such an amazing character. I have always been fascinated with people who have an altered sense of reality and how they are perceived in the world. I love that Max Fisher is all at once the best and worst student in a school where he changes the dynamic of every room he’s in. He’s the perfect balance of headstrong and vulnerable.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
To me it’s a challenge. It’s not relaxing, it’s work. I enjoy the challenge of trying to make some kind of harmony out of a group of broken instruments. My characters have flaws and I truly enjoy seeing how those flaws impact the characters they interact with. It takes a lot of effort for me to see a character and not know what they will do, but put them through some trials to find out. It’s a great feeling to step back and look at a world you created.
We both know I love your MC a lot. Can you describe him in three words?
observant, articulate, arrogant
Before you leave, would you share the first sentence of your query that got you an agent?
Thirteen-year-old Jimmy has an answer for everything. Despite his parents’ wishes to keep his quick lips quiet, he’s learned it’s the only way for his voice to be heard.
Thanks for stopping by, Adam!
Adam’s days are spent as an educator in a middle school, his nights as a husband and father, and weekends as a writer. He lives in the town of Oswego, IL where the race of suburbia meets the quiet of farm country. He and his wife have two boys, Aidan, and Anderson, who keep them busy with sports, cat videos, and traveling anywhere they can (in that order). Adam began writing Speechless a few years ago after witnessing a profound moment at a wake of a former student. That seed grew into the novel it is today. Adam is represented by Marcy Posner of Folio Literary Management where Speechless is currently out on submission. You can connect with him on Twitter or at his website.