Sep 17, 2020

Catching Up with Lindsay Lackey–a debut author’s first year

Get to know our September featured author, Lindsay Lackey! Lindsay’s debut middle grade novel All the Impossible Things came out on September 3, 2019. We wanted to get behind the scenes of a first year, and Lindsay obliged. Read on to find out about everything from her book launch to school visits to writing the next novel, as well as the biggest surprise moment of her 2019.

Lindsay Lackey! Congratulations on the one-year birthday of ALL THE IMPOSSIBLE THINGS! We’d love to hear about what your publishing and writing life have been like this past year.

Your book launched with a tour. What did that involve for you? How did you prepare?

I was very excited that my publisher decided to support All the Impossible Things by sending me on tour! It was an amazing experience–one I am even more grateful for now, in the midst of the pandemic. I’m so glad I got the chance to visit cities, schools, and libraries all over the U.S. to talk to students about my book before travel became so risky.

I spent two weeks on tour, traveling to six cities and twelve schools before returning to California for my West Coast event. I launched All the Impossible Things in Denver, CO, where the story is set, at a fabulous little indie called Second Star to the Right. My launch event even included a real tortoise named Savannah as part of the crowd! 

Lindsay Lackey at her book launch with Savannah the tortoise.

After my events in Denver, I traveled to Chicago, Milwaukee, Houston, Oklahoma City, Portland, and then ended the tour with a fabulous event at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, CA. I ended up speaking to over two thousand kids! It was the best possible way to begin my journey as a published author. I learned a lot about speaking to large audiences, dealing with surprises (like when you expect 5th graders and wind up with 8th graders! That’s a huge difference!), and I got to meet so many amazing young readers. It was truly a dream!

What was the range of services your publicist and marketing specialists from your publisher offered? How and how often did you interact with them?

I truly had the best team with Macmillan! My marketing and publicity team was amazing. They were in communication with me pretty regularly from early 2019 on, ramping up around the time I started traveling to conferences and on book tour, of course. 

Honestly, I felt like I could turn to them with anything and they’d be there to support me. The marketing team made posters for me to give to schools, did tons of online promotion, and encouraged and often implemented many of the ideas I came up with (last minute, usually) for promotion! 

On the publicity side, I was well cared for, too. My publicist, Morgan, booked media, guest posts, interviews, you name it. The whole publicity team also just took really good care of me whenever I was traveling with them. I felt like I could completely relax and trust them to arrange transportation to and from things, bring me water if I was busy with a signing, or even occasionally run interference. I felt like a movie star every time I was with my publishing team! Not gonna lie: it was really fun! 

What kinds of events have you planned on your own?

I’ve planned a lot of things on my own. I enjoy planning events, so it comes pretty naturally to me. I planned a mini-tour that I was able to complete in February before everything shut down for the pandemic. For that, I went to Colorado and worked through several different indie bookstores to visit a bunch of schools. I’ve also done a lot of virtual visits, and recently overhauled my in-person author visits to be entirely virtual for the 2020-21 school year. 

The thing about marketing yourself is that it takes a lot of time and energy, so my advice is only do what you actually enjoy doing. I enjoy planning programs and speaking to kids, but I don’t enjoy doing certain online things, like Twitter chats. I choose to put my energy into the promotional efforts that bring me satisfaction, and avoid the ones that just feel draining. That’s the only way to survive!

What has been the biggest honor this past year?

Gosh, I’ve been overwhelmed by how many times I’ve felt honored over the last year! It’s truly an incredible and humbling thing to see young people react with such joy and enthusiasm to a story you’ve written. Having kids tell me mine is their favorite book is such an honor because I remember what it is like to be that age and really fall in love with a story.

I’ve also been so honored by the generosity of other authors, particularly those whom I deeply admire. I was fortunate enough to meet Katherine Paterson in October of 2019, and I gave her a copy of All the Impossible Things to thank her for writing so many stories that inspired me. I happened to see her again at a conference in November, and she actually kissed my cheek and told me she’d read and loved my book! I still feel a rush of butterflies and joy when I think of that incredible moment in my life!

Lindsay Lackey with Katherine Paterson in November 2019.

What has been the biggest struggle this past year?

 I really, really enjoy the promotional aspect of publishing. I love engaging with readers online, making graphics, coming up with wild ideas (like the Author’s Dance for Indies video I spearheaded for Independent Bookstore Day). And honestly, it took me so long to write All the Impossible Things and see it published that I want to spend a lot of time supporting and promoting it. I want people to know about this story, and I love putting in the time promotion requires.

But, no surprise here, promoting a book takes a LOT of time. Time, often, that should be dedicated to writing my next book. 

I’ve learned that I have to give myself specific promotional projects, otherwise I’ll go down rabbit trails trying to do every little thing I think of. I allow myself time to play and promote, but I also have to set writing goals and try to stick with them. It’s not that I don’t love writing–I do!–but sometimes it just isn’t as fun as interacting with readers online. If I’m ever going to have another book to promote, though, I have to build in time to write and focus on the stories I’ve yet to tell.

I’ve often heard the advice to move on to your next book before the first one is even published, and a lot of authors are pushed to be on a one-book-a-year schedule. Have you felt these pressures? What decisions have you made about the next year or two of your writing and publishing life?

Ooooh boy. Have I felt the pressure? Heck yes, I have!

When I was on “the call” with my agent, before even signing with her, I told her I already knew I was not a “book a year author.” I just don’t write that fast. I labor over every word, and move forward at a snail’s pace most of the time. My agent won my heart by responding, “I’d rather you have four books you’re proud of in thirty years than thirty books you believe are mediocre.”

Like my agent, my editor is a dream. I haven’t felt an ounce of pressure from either of them to move faster than I do.

But that doesn’t stop me from putting pressure on myself, of course. 

I see many of my fellow Novel19s (my debut group) publishing their second books less than a year after their debuts. I see them revealing covers for their third books, due out next year. Some of them have sold multiple picture books on top of their multiple novels. 

Nobody is telling me to be like these amazingly prolific writers. But I can’t help but feel like the tortoise with the sting of dust in my eyes behind that lightning-fast hare.

All I can do, though, is continue to be myself. To plod slowly forward. To focus on my craft, on the stories swirling in my heart, and to do my best by them. And on days I feel like I’m falling so far behind that I’ll be forgotten…well, I let myself lament a little. I complain to my husband, eat extra chocolate, and stare miserably at my to-do list.

And then, I get back to work.

For people who have read and loved your book, what other books would you recommend?

A few of the books that inspired me to write All the Impossible Things are:

  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  • Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  • Savvy by Ingrid Law

A few books I’ve fallen in love with since:

  • The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
  • Something to Say by Lisa Moore Ramee
  • Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
  • A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
  • Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Thanks for the recommendations! Looking ahead toward 2021, what’s up next for you?

I’m working hard on my next novel, which is currently scheduled for early 2022. In the meantime, I’m available for virtual visits to schools, libraries and bookstores all this year and next! I offer a variety of virtual programs, including writing workshops for kids, on my website (lindsaylackey.com). Speaking to kids is one of the very best parts of this job, and I am really looking forward to visiting as many schools (virtually) as possible this year!

Read an interview with Lindsay on writing craft:



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