He’s a fellow 19 year old writer who’s the author of the MG novel THE PECULIAR
Hello! My name is Stefan Bachmann, I’m 19, I was born in the US, live in Switzerland, and wrote THE PECULIAR, which came out on September 18th from Greenwillow/HarperCollins and several other publishers around the world.
It’s a gothic/steampunk/faery fantasy set in an alternate 19th century where faeries and English have been forced to form a fragile society. This society is suddenly threatened when changelings begin appearing in the river, dead and covered in sinister red markings. A young changeling named Bartholomew Kettle, and a spoiled aristocrat, set off on an adventure to right wrongs, save their lives and those of their families, and perhaps rescue their entire city . . .
What is the first story you remember writing?
A really, really terrible fan-fiction story based on The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings. I did a blog post about it at one point, so you can see the full extent of the bad. It had sticker illustrations. And typos.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When the book sold, about a year ago. I’d gotten a few short stories and flash fiction pieces (stories under 1,000 words) published before that, but a book feels so much bigger. I was very, very happy when I got the news.
How did you get the idea for your book?
I’ve always liked history, 19th century and English history especially, and after a while I got really into European folklore and steampunk as well. I suppose the premise came from wanting to write a book with all my favorite elements in it, which is what The Peculiar ended up being.
What is the best piece of constructive criticism you ever received?
It was probably a note from my editor next to a crossed-out sentence during the revision process. I’m not sure of the exact words she used, but it was something along the lines of“Your sentences have to mean things. They have to be necessary.” That sounds super obvious, but it’s so important. It’s important to delete things that aren’t necessary – words, sentences, scenes – and make sure everything in the book is relevant and ties in with something else. I always try to go through a book or story at least once and just get rid of everything that doesn’t need to be there. There’s usually a lot more than I expected.
How do you overcome “writer’s block” ?
Writer’s block for me translates to “I don’t think I can do this, writing is hard, I’d rather watch a movie, maybe I’m not cut out for this after all.” So basically I just have to force myself to sit down and write. I write even if it’s all lame for the first hour. Because it gets better after that, and I can always go back and edit the first hour of junk.
Are you a full time writer?
I’m not. I might like to be someday, but right now I split my time between being a music student and a writer. Both are notoriously unstable professions, but I suppose this way I always have a different unstable profession to fall back on.
Coffee or tea?
Water. (Such a rebel… )
Fun Fact about yourself most people don’t know?
I used to take rock-climbing lessons, and would scurry up vast artificial walls. This may not sound particularly fun, and it wasn’t, but if you know me now you’d never guess I did anything like that.
What was your writing & publishing process for your book like, from start to finish?
I started writing The Peculiar in 2010 when I was sixteen. I finished it in the fall of that year, polished it until December 2010, and then sent off my very first query to a UK literary agency. I waited for three months. I got my first rejection. That rejection was very, very good for me. I polished the manuscript, queried a different agency, was rejected again, polished all through 2011, and on my tenth query, Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency offered to represent me. After a quick round of edits, she submitted the manuscript to publishers in New York. We had a great response, and the book went to auction one week later with several large houses competing for it. Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, won the auction, and now I’m with them. They’re great, and my editor is the best. I feel very lucky to be published by them.
What is some advice you would impart to teen writers who wish to be published?
Read a lot, write a lot, always try to improve. And don’t pay attention to people who tell you you should wait, or that teenagers are awful writers and shouldn’t bother. Everyone is terrible at first, adults, too, but that’s no reason not to start early and work to become better.
If you could have breakfast with anyone dead or alive, who would it be and what would you eat?
I don’t think I’d much enjoy having breakfast with a dead person, so I’d have to say breakfast with John Williams of film music fame. And we’d eat CAKE, of course, because this is John Williams.
What is the next book you want to write?
I just handed in THE PECULIAR’S sequel, so once revisions on that are done I have a bunch of other ideas buzzing around that I’m looking forward to working on. I’d like to try some YA, and maybe another middle grade, a standalone this time. We’ll see!
Thanks for having me on the blog! 🙂
Thank you Stefan, and best of luck with your two “unstable” professions 🙂 Thanks for the great advice!
Check out the other Teens Can Write TOO! week posts!