Today I’m pleased to introduce Euterpe–that’s Musa’s YA imprint–author Cornell Deville.
1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, Lost in the Bayou?
The setting is Louisiana in the summer of 1963. When Robin Sherwood’s parents’ private plane disappears in the Voodoo Swamp, her uncle moves in as trustee of the multi-million dollar Sherwood Estate. It doesn’t take long for Robin to figure out there’s something not quite right about Uncle Conrad — besides having a metal claw where his left hand used to be. But his obsession with The Lone Ranger and the fact that he knows every episode by number? That’s just weird.
Weird changes to crazy when he explains the bizarre game he has planned — a game that will leave Robin dead and Uncle Conrad the sole heir to the Sherwood fortune. In order to escape his devious plan and its deadly consequences, the bayou may be Robin’s only chance. It’s a risky choice, but becoming alligator bait seems a lot less terrifying than what’s waiting for her in the cellar.
2. Why did you decide to write YA fiction instead of adult fiction?
That’s a great question. But I don’t have a great answer except to say that, perhaps, it provides a return to my younger days when I took off on great adventures with Jules Verne or Robert Louis Stevenson.
3. Who are some of the authors that you admire?
In addition to the two I just mentioned, I have a great respect for Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Harper Lee, Rex Stout, Anthony Horowitz, Suzanne Collins. There are so many great writers to read. And that list keeps growing. New authors are being published every day, and Musa is doing a lot to keep that ball rolling. There’s some great, new stuff out there. And more coming right behind it.
4. How do you plan a novel?
I begin with a premise or a what-if situation. Then I try to work all the possibilities out in my head before I type the first character. I don’t have all the details when I begin, but I have a good idea of the situation and how everything is going to be resolved at the end. Of course, it doesn’t always work that way. My characters sometimes get themselves into situations I wasn’t expecting.
5. What is the hardest part of the writing process for you, and how do you get through it?
The hardest part is starting. Coming up with the initial idea. Someone once said that there is nothing new under the sun. That may be true. But there are certainly new ways to look at the old stuff. It’s all about seeing something that wasn’t there the first time you looked.
6. Can you tell us a bit about how you wrote your query letter?
Ah, the dreaded query. Maybe I should scratch that last answer and replace it with the query letter as being the hardest part of the writing process. Anyone who’s ever written a query will concur that it’s very difficult to condense a story of 50,000 words into a couple of paragraphs. It’s sort of like trying to stuff 10 pounds of potatoes into a five-pound bag. Or you could compare it to childbirth: painful while it’s going on, and such a relief when it’s over.
I typically start out with a single sentence in the main character’s point of view. I try to keep the Hero’s Journey stages in mind: Orphan, Wanderer, Warrior, Martyr. I build the query based on those stages, sprinkling in just enough backstory and a villain so that it makes sense and leaves the hero/heroin in a rather sticky situation at the end, hopefully enticing the reader to want more.
7. Do you write anything other than novels?
I’ve written several picture books, and a lot of academic writing. I also do some ghostwriting.
8. What do you think is the most important thing for aspiring authors to remember?
Read. Read as much as possible of the genre in which you want to write. That’s critical. And spending a lot of time writing would be right below that.
9. What are you reading right now?
I’m finishing Thinner, by Stephen King, and waiting ever so anxiously for his 11/22/63 to come out. November 8th is the release date on that one so the time draws near. I can’t wait.
10. What are you going to write next?
My next project is to finish up a sequel to a steampunk novel that Musa is publishing. They’re releasing Cannibal Island in March. As I said, it’s a steampunk adventure, very boy-centric, and I’m hoping it will be a hit. If it is, I’m sure there will be a lot of interest in this sequel because that novel was created as the first in a long series of adventures based on the same premise with the same characters. I don’t want to give anything away here, so I won’t say any more. It’s probably one of my favorite books so far.
I also have another sequel in mind. The premise for this one just popped into my head last night, so it’s only in the embryonic stage right now. There are plenty of things to keep me busy for the foreseeable future. I’m looking forward to all of it.
My writing career began in elementary school—Mrs. Carmichael’s third grade classroom. Unfortunately, I had to give it up for a while and spend some time working as a freelance graphic designer. That freelance gig blossomed into a small corporation with 20 employees providing design and printing services nationally to Fortune 500 companies including Disney, Sprint, Prudential, Hallmark, Russell Stover, McDonald’s, and all four branches of the military.
After 18 years, I got out of that business and became a Certified Project Management Professional. I returned to writing when I was contacted by the Project Management Institute and asked to help revise the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide). That ended successfully, and although I had expertise in that field and continued to work as a project manager, my heart was actually in the middle grade and young adult fiction genre.
During a California vacation, a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway led me to Morro Bay. The view of the fog-shrouded Morro Rock planted a seed in my mind which resulted in the first book of the Treasure of Morro Bay series. The sequel followed soon after that, and I just kept writing.