Name: Annie Sullivan
Author of: A Touch of Gold (HarperCollins Publishing, Available August 14, 2018)
Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?
I started out writing short poems in grade school, and one even got published in a local poetry book. But the first short story I wrote definitely had a princess in it, so I haven’t strayed far from that! But looking back, I don’t think that story quite holds
up today. I’ve definitely come a long way.
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?
When I was trying to decide what I wanted to major in in college, I remembered how much I enjoyed writing, so I got a degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. I’ve always loved reading stories, so it only seemed natural that I start telling them.
Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?
I had some great advisors at Butler University, where I got my master’s degree in creative writing. I also had a lot of support from everyone at the Midwest Writers Workshop, and it was there I met a lot of my critique partners, who have helped me in more ways than I can count. I’ve also had the opportunity to talk with some great authors like John Green and Brenda Drake, who have both given me great advice over the years. And I definitely couldn’t have done it without my family too!
Do you exclusively write young adult fantasy or have you written in other genres?
I pretty much write YA fantasy. I would love to do some sci-fi or something set in the old west. I also want to start dabbling in picture books, but my heart will always belong to YA fantasy. I just love everything I can do in that space—like inventing new worlds and creatures.
What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?
I strive to write a minimum of 500 words a day. Some days I can write 3,000, and some days those 500 can be a struggle. Usually when I’m writing, I try to take the weekends off so I can have some work life balance. When I’m on a deadline, like when I’m revising, then it becomes a little harder to maintain a balance.
How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?
It takes about 3 months to write a first draft if I’m keeping to my writing goals. I like to then do revisions with a few different critique partners. Then, I revise after my agent has read it. Finally, I revise again after I get an editor. So I feel like I spend countless hours revising. But the better you know your story, the easier it is to revise. So I’ve gotten better at it over the years.
Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?
I’m pantser, so I don’t plot out my stories ahead of time; I fly by the seat of my pants. I basically get an idea and just start writing. Granted, I end up doing a lot of rewriting later because I slowly discover how I want the story to go, which sometimes means reworking the beginning over and over again.
I basically consider all the stories and fairytales I’ve read over the years as research, and I do some research as I go along depending on the topic.
Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?
Well, I know it would drive some people crazy, but I like to listen to the same song over and over again when I’m writing. I change the song after a few days, but I’ve probably listened to some of them a few hundred times in a row.
Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?
I wouldn’t say I’ve done a literary pilgrimage, but I love to travel. I’ve traveled to every single continent—yes, including Antarctica—and to over 50 countries. As a writer, I think I have to take advantage of every opportunity to travel that I can. Seeing the world can inspire new settings, and I’ve even based some characters on people I’ve met during my travels.
Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?
For some of my projects I can, but not for all of them. For A Touch of Gold, I came up with the idea after watching Pirates of the Caribbean. I was thinking about all that cursed gold the pirates had to track down, and that got me thinking about gold and having golden powers. That led me to thinking about King Midas, but I typically write about strong female characters. So I got to thinking about his daughter and whatever happened to her after she was turned to gold. And that was that! A story idea was born.
Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?
Just as I love to write YA fantasy, I love to read it too. Some of the books I’m loving right now are Frostblood by Elly Blake and Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. Some of my other favorite authors include Meg Cabot, Jane Austen, and Madeline L’Engle.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?
Haha! Yes, I actually do. I hide family stories, family names, and fun little Easter eggs. I enjoy hiding these little details even if I’m the only one knows they’re there.
Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?
All of my characters have some small part of me in there, and some have characteristics of people I might know. But I wouldn’t say they ever hold too much a resemblance to real people.
Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. I know this book published a long time ago, but it has stayed with my since I read it as a kid. And I hope it will affect others the way it did me.
Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.
Nicola and the Viscount by Meg Cabot. It was just such a fun short read that reminded me of Pride & Prejudice, so of course I knew I was going to love it. Swoon!
Be honest: Do you Google yourself?
Ha! I have before, but honestly, if I do it now, it’s mostly to find my blog or my book on Amazon so I can share the link with people. Although, I do have to note that since I share a name with Helen Keller’s teacher who is named Annie Sullivan that I’m just glad I can find myself at all because for years I couldn’t!
As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?
I would choose a goat! I love goats because they have really cool rectangular pupils (Google a picture!). Also, I’ve been told goats are social creatures that like to eat, which pretty much describes me. Desserts are my weakness!!!
Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?
I love coming up with plots. My characters are always secondary, so I always have to spend extra time making the characters feel real and unique. Luckily, I have an agent who is amazing at characters, so she always keeps me on track!
What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?
Don’t give up. Seriously. I started this book in 2010. I finished it in 2012. It’s coming out in 2018. That’s 8 years from start to finish. There were so many times I wanted to give up during those eight years—times when I was getting rejection after rejection. But I stuck with it. I wrote multiple books while I was waiting. And because I didn’t give up, I ended up where I am today.
What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?
Enjoy it. Being a debut author is a crazy, thrilling, confusing time. It’s like everything is happening at once, but the day your book comes out, nothing truly changes. Yes, you have a book out in the world, but it’s not the earth-shattering event you think it’ll be. So just enjoy what you can and then get back to writing the next book.
In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?
I try to help aspiring writers any way I can. I judge writing contests, help out in mentoring contests, and guide as many authors as I can through the tricky path to publication. I had to figure out how to write query letters and pitch agents all on my own, and I know how difficult that process was. So anything I can do to make it easier on others I’ll do gladly!
Looking for more information on Annie?
A Touch of Gold
Gold is wealth. Wealth is power. Power is a curse.
King Midas once had the ability to turn all he touched into gold. But after his gift—or curse—almost killed his daughter, Midas relinquished The Touch forever. Ten years later, Princess Kora still bears the consequences of her father’s wish: her skin shines golden, rumors follow her everywhere she goes, and she harbors secret powers that are getting harder to hide.
Kora spends her days locked in the palace, concealed behind gloves and veils, trying to ignore the stares and gossip of courtiers. It isn’t until a charming young duke arrives that Kora realizes there may be someone out there who doesn’t fear her or her curse. But their courtship is disrupted when a thief steals precious items from the kingdom, leaving the treasury depleted and King Midas vulnerable. Thanks to her unique ability to sense gold, Kora is the only one who can track the thief down. As she sails off on her quest, Kora learns that not everything is what it seems—not thieves, not pirates, and not even curses. She quickly discovers that gold—and the power it brings—is more dangerous than she’d ever believed.
Midas learned his lesson at a price. What will Kora’s journey cost?
From author Annie Sullivan comes A Touch of Gold, the untold story of the daughter King Midas turned to gold, perfect for fans of Cinder and The Wrath and the Dawn.