Swanky debut author Chelsea Bobulski recently caught up with Meghan Rogers to talk about her YA spy thriller, CROSSING THE LINE (April 12, 2016 from Philomel Books).
If Jason Bourne were a teenaged girl…
Jocelyn Steely was kidnapped as a child and raised in North Korea as a spy. When her agency sends her to the U.S. to infiltrate the very group her parents once worked for, Jocelyn jumps at the chance to turn double agent and finish off her kidnappers once and for all. She convinces the head of the American spy agency to trust her, but it’s not quite as simple as that: Jocelyn has to fight the withdrawal symptoms from the drug that the North Koreans used to keep her in line, and her new fellow spies refuse to trust their former adversary. Worst of all, there might be some new information to uncover about her parents – if she even wants to find out.
This action-packed spy thriller is part Gallagher Girls, part Alex Rider, and part Bourne Identity.
Meghan Rogers has been telling stories since she could talk and writing creatively since she was first introduced to the concept in third grade. She spent her high school years completing her first novel and has been actively writing ever since. After college, Meghan went on to work with high school writers while earning her MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College. She is currently living in the Philadelphia area and working on the next Raven Files novel.
Chelsea: Congratulations on your fantastic debut! I couldn’t put it down (which was not very conducive to being on a deadline myself!). What was your road to publication like?
Meghan: Oh my gosh, thank you so much!! I am, perhaps, not as sorry as I should be that I made your deadline more difficult!
It took me about twelve years from the moment I decided I wanted to write a book to publication. I was fifteen and a freshman in high school when I made this decision. I spent the next three years of high school planning, drafting, and editing my first novel. I queried that book the summer in between high school and college. Shockingly, I couldn’t get an agent with my lightly edited first draft, so after some college writing classes (and a strong introduction to concept of revision) I wrote a different story, set in the same world as my first book, but from a different character’s point of view. I finished the first draft as I wrapped up college, and then went on to workshop this second book in my MFA program.
After some actual revision, I queried this book. It didn’t get me an agent, but I did receive a lovely rejection from an agent, Michelle Wolfson, who saw some potential in me, even if she didn’t think I was quite ready. I really felt like she got me and that she saw what I was trying to do with my book, even if I wasn’t quite doing it yet. I went back to her when I finished CROSSING THE LINE a year and half later and she offered to represent me. We submitted the book to about ten editors, and the first to respond was Jill Santopolo from Philomel. She ultimately passed, but said if it didn’t sell, she’d be interested in seeing a revision. It didn’t sell, and we went back to Jill, who had some killer notes. She liked the changes and ended up buying the revision.
Chelsea: Do you have any advice for writers who are working on their first book, or who perhaps have written several books but haven’t quite made it to that next level of finding an agent/publisher yet?
Meghan: Every writer is different, but for me, I think the biggest key in both instances was that I started and continued writing mainly because I loved to write, not because I loved the idea of being published (which, I mean, I did love that idea, it just wasn’t my key motivation).
If you’re working on your first book, the road to publishing can be long. But that time will matter a lot less if you’re genuinely enjoying the process. I kind of can’t believe it took me twelve years to get here because I learned and grew and had so much fun that it really didn’t feel that long.
But in March of 2014 I was that writer with several books written who hadn’t gotten an agent. At that point, it was ten years since I had decided to write with publication as a goal. I had written three books that didn’t feel finished enough to query, two books that I queried unsuccessfully, and I had queries out for CROSSING THE LINE, which after six months had only gotten one request (which was fortunately from my top choice agent). Yet, even after ten years with very little significant progression towards my publishing goals, the act of writing still made me happy. I don’t know how to quit something that makes me happy, even if the end result wasn’t what I wanted it to be or in the time frame I wanted it to be in. So focus on writing and getting better because you love the act of writing. The writing is what you can control, and if you don’t quit on the writing, the agent, publisher, and everything else will come.
Chelsea: CROSSING THE LINE reads like a heart-stopping cinematic spy thriller, with Jocelyn being the perfect strong-but-flawed heroine to pull it off. What made you want to write this type of story?
Meghan: It’s kind of fitting that you called it cinematic because CROSSING THE LINE was, in fact, inspired by a movie. I saw The Avengers in May of 2012. I’m not much of a comic book person, so I had no real background for the world or characters, but where Joss Whedon goes, I will follow. As I was watching the movie, I found it really interesting to realize that one of the main characters, Black Widow, (who is a hero in the movie) used to work for an enemy agency. I found myself captivated with what the enemy to ally transition must have been like and that’s what became the backbone for CROSSING THE LINE.
Chelsea: You’re currently working on the next book in THE RAVEN FILES series. How many books do you have planned for the series, and do you think you will continue to write in this genre once the series is done, or do you have other genres you would like to explore?
Meghan: Right now, I’m contracted for two books, but I’m hoping there will be more! I definitely have ideas for more. I have a number in mind, but I think it’s a little too soon to share. And yes, I’d love to write in other genres in the future. Fantasy, in particular, has a special place in my heart.
Chelsea: If you worked for a top secret spy agency, what would you be doing? (Related: How do we know you don’t work for a top secret spy agency? Your world-building for CROSSING THE LINE seems a little too knowledgeable for anyone to think you’re a normal civilian like the rest of us).
Meghan: Um, yeah, I really can’t comment on this. 😉 But hypothetically I think I would be more of a planner or strategist. I’m a big picture person, and I love to make plans and come up with creative ways to fix problems. So, I think I would be best suited for a job that takes in the situation/problem at hand and then creates a plan that using the available people and tools to reach the desired outcome.
Plotter, Pantser, or In-Betweener?
Total, serious, hardcore plotter.
Morning, Afternoon, or Night Writer?
Ideally morning or afternoon, but I can do night if I have to.
Go-to writing reward?
TV—whatever I’m behind on or binge watching at the time.
Favorite spy movie?
I’m actually more of a TV person, so I’m going to cheat little here and pick Alias. 🙂
Favorite book or series to re-read?