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This blog was featured on 01/03/2019
Karen M. McManus Talks Writer Friendships and Second Book Syndrome
Written by
She Writes
January 2019
Written by
She Writes
January 2019

Karen M. McManus burst onto the YA scene in 2017 with her bestselling debut novel, One of Us is Lying, which is currently being adapted for television by E!. Now, with her latest novel soon to be released, she's in the spotlight as fans anxiously await Two Can Keep a Secret. Here, she shares about her process and her struggle with “Second Book Syndrome,” and offers advice for aspiring writers.

What Readers Can Expect

Two Can Keep a Secret takes place in a small town with a dark past, where history threatens to repeat itself.

“I wanted to create a very layered, twisty story with this book,” says Mc Manus. “There’s one big mystery – what’s happening to the girls of Echo Ridge? – but also lots of smaller, more personal mysteries that characters need to unravel before they can understand their town’s secrets, and their own family histories.”

On Advice for Struggling Writers

Like many successful authors, McManus relies on peer support throughout her writing process – a great reminder about the value of an encouraging community.

“Find writer friends at the same stage of the publication journey as you, and exchange work with them. My work improved so much by both giving and receiving thoughtful critique. Plus, writing can be very solitary, and it’s nice to have friends.”

“Publishing a book is hard at any age, but it’s also possible at any age,” she continues. “You’re never too young, or too old, to pursue the dream of being an author.”

On Second Book Syndrome

With the fast-approaching release of her second book in mid-January and a sequel to One of Us is Lying slated for early 2020, McManus is feeling the pressure.

“Second books are notoriously hard for lots of reasons: first time writing under contract, first time writing to a deadline, lots of new voices (editor, agent, reviewers, readers) in your head,” she confides. “I wrote two drafts of Two Can Keep a Secret that I absolutely hated until I took a step back and reminded myself of the story I wanted to tell. Then it flowed, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. But ‘Second Book Syndrome’ is real.”

These excerpts were originally published on Sarah’s Scoop. Read the full interview here.

On Her Publishing Journey

McManus connected with other writers on social media – mainly Twitter – and sharpened her skills through feedback and critiques. From there, she did her homework and found that persistence pays off.

“I think what helped me along the way was connecting with other writers through social media. I started exchanging and giving feedback and recognizing where I needed to improve. I learned about the business and how to get an agent. I only sent a handful of queries. Luckily, my dream agent, Rosemary Stimola, requested quickly. She offered quickly, too. I had queried two other novels with no success, so it took a while to get to that book, but things went quickly for that book. We revised a little bit; no substantial changes. The book went on submission and sold in a couple of weeks.”

Throughout her publishing process, she encountered several learning opportunities and came to understand more about her own strengths and weaknesses.

“From a craft perspective, I learned that I was great at characters and dialogue, but I needed to think hard about plot. My early stories would teeter out in the middle or go in strange directions. I learned I had to outline more and plan more ahead of time. Then, it was just understanding publishing as a business. Understanding how agents work, how agents approach editors, and how it takes a long time from your book deal to seeing your book on shelves.”

On Rejection

Like most writers, McManus dealt with her share of rejection along the way. How did she cope? With the help of writer friends, she told Reader’s Digest.

“You commiserate, complain, wonder, ‘Will this ever happen for me?’ You lift one another’s spirits, and you keep going,” she says. “You have to love writing and love the process of putting a story on paper, or you couldn’t possibly cope with the process of finding an agent and getting published.”

These excerpts were originally published on Reader’s Digest. Read the full interview here.

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  • This interview is encouraging, informative and inspiring. Also, congratulations on "One of Us is Lying" to be televised. Thanks for sharing.