Tuesday 27 December 2011

Author Interview - Liz Coley

Today, I'd like to give a huge welcome to Liz Coley, one of my fellow Lucky 13 authors whose debut novel, PRETTY GIRL-13, is out from HarperCollins in 2013. Liz has also self-published a YA novel called OUT OF XIBALBA, so I've asked her a bit more about both books and about the differences between the self-publishing and traditional publishing processes.

Hi Liz. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Liz Coley, mother of three teenagers, changing careers mid-life from volunteer extraordinaire/chauffeur to author. It’s going to be crazy interesting.

When did you start writing, and why?

I started writing seriously in 2002, when I wanted to create a sci-fi novel my two boys could enjoy. The Captain’s Kid was born over the next two years during piano lessons and taekwondo classes. It has never sold. I kept writing, though, because I was determined to give it a solid effort, and, I reassured myself, I was setting a great example for my kids of standing up in the face of rejection and plowing ahead with my dreams.

What is your writing process like?

First I have to go grocery shopping on the way home from school drop-off, then prep the vegetables or start a soup simmering. Some dusting or bill paying or sorting things or laundry might enter into it. Then there’s catching a missed episode of Daily/Colbert. Make a latte. Oh bother--it’s almost lunch time. You get the drift. Procrastination often steals the morning, but the afternoon can be a productive rush of writing frantically packed in before carpool.

You have a debut YA novel, PRETTY GIRL-13, coming out from HarperCollins in 2013, but you’ve also self-published a YA novel, OUT OF XIBALBA. What made you decide to self-publish XIBALBA, and what made you decide to pursue a traditional publishing deal for PRETTY GIRL-13?

I have written eight manuscripts by now, all with the goal of traditional publishing. OUT OF XIBALBA was a true labor of love, a story involving a lot of historical research about the Mayans, a sophisticated civilization that fell into ruins in the jungle a millennium ago. I drop a teenaged girl from Ohio alone into that world of human sacrifice, bloody warfare, and palace politics. As a time travel/alternate history/romance/2012 apocalypse story, it wasn’t something hot on the radar for teens, and in fact, many of my readers have been adult men and women. It refuses to be niched, which makes it impossible to sell traditionally. However, I knew I’d regret it forever if XIBALBA languished on my hard drive, so I made the decision to self-publish before the world ends.

Can you tell us a bit more about the process of self-publishing XIBALBA?

Using Createspace for my print platform and Kindle and Smashwords for my ebook editions, I learned so much from self-publishing--lessons that I believe make me a better author for my publishers. Since a self-pub author makes all the decisions, I now have a better appreciation for both cover and internal design--fonts and style decisions and typesetting. I appreciating what it means to be the final copy-editor and proofreader. I get the really important differences between e-pub and print, including use of images and fonts. Most of all, I appreciate the sizable challenges of promotion and distribution. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, and Nook all carry OUT OF XIBALBA now, and it is getting nice reviews. I’m working to get it into some libraries and schools. (see LCTeen.com)

And can you tell us a bit more about PRETTY GIRL-13’s journey to publication?

PG13 was my 2009 Nanowrimo novel. I had spent a year thinking about it, the prior summer doing the research, September and October clearing my plate of other projects, and November diving into what was a dark and difficult subject. I delivered the story to my agents in early 2010 and spent half a year in revision with them. They took the manuscript out on submission at the start of 2011, and I signed with HarperCollins in July.

If you could only own one book, what would it be (and why)?

This is too hard. Maybe the Oxford English Dictionary (with the magnifying glass and a really bright light) or maybe a favorite that I have reread to shreds but never get tired of--The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis or Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold.

If you could only own one album, what would it be (and why)?

A recording of Handel’s Messiah, because I could sing along.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

In terms of writing, I am always inspired by the stories and interviews I hear on NPR. In terms of how to live your life, I am inspired by my mom.

And finally, what’s next for you?

For Nanowrimo 2011, I am digging into another dark psychological story I hope will please PG13 readers. If PRETTY GIRL-13 is about secrets you can’t even tell yourself, this one is about a guilty secret that has to be told, even if it means losing everything.

Thanks for letting me interview you, Liz! It's been great to have you on the blog and to find out more about your books - they both sound fab!

You can also find out more about Liz here:







  1. A great interview and inspiration for keeping pushing forwards. Thank you both.

    I like the sound of Pretty girl 13 and will keep a look out for it.

  2. I can really relate to the structure of your day Liz - the school run, the pots, cooking etc etc. Learning to touch type was one of the best things I ever did, because in those short spaces of time I get to rattle out a lot of stuff - frantic is a good way of describing it! Good luck with Pretty Girl 13, I hope it does well for you.

  3. It sounds great, doesn't it? I can't wait to read it. And I agree - it's a very inspiring interview. Many thanks again to Liz for dropping by. :)

  4. You've always been such an inspiration to me, Liz! Congratulations on your incredible success--it is so well-earned.

    :) Heidi

  5. Thanks all! I have to stare at my fingers but I type quickly. Maybe it's a matter of confidence. Heidi has always been an inspiration to me--a step ahead in publishing articles and short stories and her self-pub novel sci-fi romance novel Ambasadora, which is a great read.