Today, we have the great pleasure of welcoming Hilary Wagner, debut middle grade author of Nightshade City series on Printsasia. Founder of Project Middle Grade Mayhem, Hilary lives in Chicago with her husband and two kids. Here in this interview, the author talks about her inspirations, childhood, her life, her special childhood moments, her popular Nightshade Chronicles and the new follow-up novel, “Lords of Trillium” that has been released today. So, enjoy the interview and go and check out her books everyone!
Sherry: You seem to have always been interested in the animal world. So, before we get started, we would like to know about your background—your studies and interests when you were younger?
Hilary: Funny you should ask that. I grew up with many animals in my household. My mother bred dogs, so we’d have anywhere from seven to seventeen afghans and salukis running around our property. We also had three horses, five cats, four birds, and my older brother loved exotic fish, so yes, many, many animals in my background. I guess you could say I went for the smaller more creepy variety!
Sherry: How would you review your middle grade debut for those unfamiliar with your work? What was it that sparked your imagination? What were your favorite aspects about this book series?
Hilary: It actually started as a picture book I was going to write for my daughter, who I was pregnant with at the time. I had no plans to get it published. It was just something I wanted to do for her. The minute I started writing it, I knew this kind of book was not for me. I needed a little less sugar and a little more spice. In nutshell, the cute little mice became rangy city rats and the quaint sunny forest became a dark, dirty city, and suddenly my picture book morphed into a middle-grade novel.
My favorite aspect of the series is that constant search for justice, that relentless need to fix the wrongs in the world. My rats persevere through the worst of times, knowing that a better life awaits, a life beyond mere survival.
Sherry: Briefly describe your journey to publication. How long did it take, from writing the first draft, to publication?
Hilary: I rewrote the novel three times before sending out. I was rejected by nearly 200 agents in a 13-months span. Yes, 200. It was hard–no–horrible, but it taught me to persevere, just like my rats. I had writer friends who just gave up after a few (and I seriously mean a few) rejections. I didn’t want to be like that. I was going to exhaust every avenue possible. Luckily, a wonderful agent took me on. My agent, Marietta Zacker of Nancy Gallt, sold my book in six short weeks after offering representation. Now I’m on the final book in the series (US) and the first book just came out in France.
Sherry: Where did you get such a gorgeous book cover for the Nightshade Chronicles? It is what drew me to the book.
Hilary: The fantastic and utterly amazing Omar Rayyan! He’s known as the “Animal Guy” and with good reason. The first cover for Nightshade City blew me away and each subsequent one has done the same. He and his wife are both artists and you can find out more about their work on their website, StudioRayyan.com.
Sherry: What do you hope your readers will gain from reading your book?
Hilary: I really want kids to realize we should never let a few decide the fate of many. When we see wrong in our world we need to work together to correct it, to make things better. On a less profound note, I just hope they love the story. What more could any writer ask for?
Sherry: What books can we look forward to seeing by you in the future? And will you stick to Middle Grade or move into other categories?
Hilary: The third and final book in the Nightshade Chronicles series, Lords of Trillium, releases on March 2014, so that will be hitting the shelves any day now! I’m also working on my first YA novel as well as starting a new middle-grade series. I’m a busy girl!
Sherry: Are you affected by other people’s appraisals of your work?
Hilary: Of course! It’s hard not to be. Writers have to be realistic. Not everyone is going to like every book. It’s all a matter of taste. Some of us like rats. Some of us don’t. Mine walk on two feet, sometimes wear cloaks, battle, and talk though, so what’s not to like?
Sherry: Do you have anything specific message that you want to say to the readers who are reading this interview?
Hilary: Wow, that’s a tough one.
To my readers out there, I say thank you so very much for supporting the Nightshade Chronicles, from Nightshade City to the final novel, Lords of Trillium. Without your readership the series would never have been possible. I only hope my words will entertain you in the many years to come.
And to writers out there, those who really want to get published, please don’t give up. Keep trying to improve and keep sending out those query letters to agents and editors. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you. In the words of John Steinbeck, “I will go so far as to say that the writer who is not scared is happily unaware of the remote and tantalizing majesty of the medium.”
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. You can know more about her book on www.nightshadecity.com.