I was still querying my debut novel, Alice in Wanderland at this point and I wanted all the help I could get. So I had the audacity to ask James if he would be willing to make an exception for #11.
With gracefulness and generosity that I did not deserve, James agreed. Not only that, but he made my query SHINE. After his help, I entered #Pit2Pub and I had 5 requests for my query and from there, had FOUR publishers request my manuscript, and THREE offers of representation. (One of which I SIGNED with!)
Basically, James is my author hero. And he should be yours too. So without further adieu, I would like to introduce you to my friend and personal query genie, Mr. James Stryker.
What is your favorite book?
Since I read it during my sophomore year of high school, I’ve been in love with Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. I actually collect copies of Gatsby and, yes, sobbed like a baby when he died. I identify closely with the themes of disillusionment, dreams, and fulfillment. The idea of a “self-created man on a quest for a dream” appears in many of my books and stories, most prominently in my upcoming release, Boy: A Journey, where the transgender character specifically takes the name Jay from The Great Gatsby.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been a lifelong reader/writer; however, I didn’t start to get serious with the intent to publish until 2014. I felt like I saw something missing- a realistic portrayal of transgender individuals and other underrepresented points of view- that I could give a voice. So I set the goal of sending my writing out into the world, and two years later, here we are.
My primary genre/age group is adult literary fiction for both short and novel-length works even though Momentum/Pan MacMillan lists my first published book, Assimilation, as a “dystopian sci-fi thriller”.
A majority of my writing is controversial and deals with taboo subject matter that I don’t feel always translates well to younger audiences. With the expansion of the young adult age group, two of my books could fall into that category, but in addition to content, I have what is probably an unhealthy love of the “f” word.
Assimilation was published by Momentum/Pan MacMillan in June 2016. I’m thrilled to now be working with NineStar Press on releasing two more books within the next six months.
Absolutely! Boy: A Journey is currently slated for release in December, and, like Assimilation, gives a unique narrative of the transgender experience.The book follows Luke, a young man whose self-centric lifestyle is thrown into turmoil by not only the death of his father, Jay, but the knowledge that Jay had a hidden past as a transgender man. His search for an explanation leads him to abandon his family and seek answers from an enigmatic stranger from his father’s past, Tom. Faced with his own imminent death, Tom is reluctant to reveal the truth, and Luke is challenged with earning his trust before the secret past of both men dies with Tom.
Boy: A Journey is a very special book to me, and I hope people find Luke’s journey of self-discovery as meaningful to read as I found it to write.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I have a couple favorite tidbits I customarily throw around – brutality with edits and using a text-to-speech program to review a manuscript. However, if honing in on that key word “aspiring,” to an individual who has the desire and ultimate goal to be an author I’d pass along one of my favorite quotes by Winston Churchill – “Never, never, never, quit.” For me, there’s always somewhat of a “danger zone” when starting a new project. Before it becomes inconceivable to not finish a book, it feels so much easier to call it quits. Do not give up! It may take a while, it may not be perfect, and it could be interrupted by other projects (I worked on Boy: A Journey for seven years. Assimilation popped up demanding to be written before Boy: A Journey was even ¼ complete). But don’t doubt yourself to the point of walking away from your dream.
Probably line editing. The manuscript is already written – a block of granite that I then have the pleasure of sculpting. I love not having the weight of “need to finish this” and being able to focus on the artistry of images and prose. Ripping the hell out of my own work is fantastic.
The necessity of time. Allowing space after finishing a project to gain an objective distance is critical. In multiple instances I’ve finished editing a draft (not even necessarily the first or second!) confident than its solid and there’s no way it could be improved on, only to find issues when it sat for a month or so. Besides letting a manuscript “air out,” I find that breaks while I create/edit something else are important periods of growth for my writing. There are so many cringe-worthy parts of my early work. I’m even a little afraid to pick up Assimilation in its book form for fear that something on page one will cause me to crawl under a bridge.
I probably would’ve started with Twitter much earlier on. I didn’t used to be a believer, but in addition to being the route through which I picked up three book contracts, Twitter is home to such a great, supportive writing community. I’ve made fantastic connections all over the world and locally (shout out to @Avenue209coffee, home of First Fridays Folios!) It’s a relief to know I’m not the only crazy writer out there.
Follow the links below!