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This blog was featured on 10/23/2019
Renée Ahdieh on Querying, Getting Published and Writing for Teens
Written by
She Writes
October 2019
Written by
She Writes
October 2019

Renée Ahdieh is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger. Her latest novel, The Beautiful will be released this month. It’s a romantic murder-mystery set in 19th century New Orleans, and kicks off a new series, marking a major return for vampires in the YA space.

On Writing a Vampire Story

Really this all comes down to love,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “I fell in love with books even before I could read. But I fell in love with writing when I read Anne Rice’s The Queen of the Damned. That sinister sexiness, that rich history, and the madness of a life without end captivated me. Some of the first short pieces I ever wrote were about vampires, simply because I was fascinated by the lore and the world of shimmering darkness. The Beautiful is a book that has lived in my imagination for years.”

Since she announced that her forthcoming novel would be about vampires, YA fans have been buzzing – a reaction that happily confirmed her instinct that the time was right.   

“I think there is always room for great stories, especially told from ever-widening lenses. I write best when I write from a place of fiendish love for a project, and I’ve loved vampires since I was 12 years old. Now I’m craving more tales about all kinds of otherworldly creatures, from all over the world."

This excerpt was originally published on Entertainment Weekly. Read the full interview here.

On Writing for Teens

Ahdieh studied poetry in school as an English and political science major, but after graduating, she lacked an outlet for her creativity. That’s when she turned to writing short stories.

“People recommended that I try to have something published. I originally tried to publish an adult novel, but was told that I had a young adult voice. I distinctly remember this moment when I turned to look back at my shelves and thought: ‘That makes sense.’ Considering authors I loved as a kid and returned to again and again – Lloyd Alexander, Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley – writing for teens wasn’t even a conscious decision, I was just always writing for my teen self.”

This excerpt was originally published on Publishers Weekly. Read the full interview here.

On Influences

Ahdieh fell in love with books at an early age, but that wasn’t her only inspiration for the path she took towards writing.

“Music is a huge part of the way that I tell stories. I always listen to things on very low volume. And I love the noise cancelling headphones. It’s like, I don’t know, I would probably work well if I could be a mermaid and write underwater.”

In college, Ahdieh sang in a jazz ensemble – a time of her life that she credits for developing a love for all types of music, including post-rock such as Explosions in The Sky and Russian composers like Rimsky-Korsokov’s Sheherazade’s op. 35, which she listened to while writing her first series.

“The things I like to listen to are very big mirrors. But I also love rap, and I will often write really action-packed scenes to rap. And it’s always rap that I feel has beautiful writing too. I love Nas, I think Nas is one of the greatest poets of the last 20 years in the U.S.”

The excerpt above was originally posted on First Draft. Listen to the full interview here.

On Querying

“I remember reading a few horror stories when I first began researching agents, and I promised myself I would be smart about this. Yeah. That died a pretty quick and epic death.”

The rejections and the waiting became exhausting.

“And I can’t caution a querying writer enough: NO AGENT > SHMAGENT. Any semi-literate nutjob can hang a shingle by his/her front door. How can a writer tell the difference? ASK QUESTIONS. Check online for reputable sales. Newer agents should be working at agencies with clear track records of success.”

She also advises aspiring writers to take their time and be deliberate.

“The other thing I found most helpful was the simple advice of a published friend: You spent a long time writing your book. You took your time. Dotted every ‘i’; crossed every ‘t’. Why would you do any less for querying? Don’t kick in the saloon door and fire off some buckshot, utterly blind to your target. Be deliberate. Be smart.”

The excerpt above was originally published on Write For Apples. Read the full interview here.

On Getting Published

“I sold my soul for a bag of magic beans,” she jokes. “The truth is that I refused to give up. This industry is full of fantastically talented individuals, and each of the ones I’ve been privileged to meet has a limitless talent floating around the space they occupy. And yes, a few of them were also blessed to have a wonderful book at the exact right moment.”

But every single one of them, she says, refused to take ‘no’ for an answer, she says. And every single one of them heard ‘no’ many, many times.

The excerpt above was originally published on the author’s website. Read her full post here.

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