Today, meet Margo L. Dill, author of CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO CURSES, a YA Paranormal Romance. Margo is a freelance editor and indie-published author with a unique perspective on the writing and publishing processes. Check out the interview for her thoughts on the best editing resources, her tips on surviving school visits, and what it's like to work directly with a publisher.
But first, here's a little more about Margo:
Margo L. Dill is the author of Caught Between Two Curses, a YA light paranormal romance novel about the Curse of the Billy Goat on the Chicago Cubs, and Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg, a historical fiction, middle-grade novel. She currently has two more books under contract--both are picture books--with High Hill Press and Guardian Angel Publishing. Publication dates of both are to be determined. Besides being a children's author, she is also a freelance editor with the business, Editor 911: Your Projects Are My Emergency! and she is part of the WOW! Women On Writing e-zine's staff as an editor, blogger, instructor, and social media manager. She is also an editor for High Hill Press and specializes in memoirs, historical fiction and children's and YA novels. Find out more at: http://margodill.com/blog.
In case you're curious about CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO CURSES, here's the synopsis from Goodreads. (Add it here!)
Seventeen-year-old Julie Nigelson is cursed. So is her entire family. And it's not just any-old-regular curse, either-it's strangely connected to the famous "Curse of the Billy Goat" on the Chicago Cubs. Julie must figure out this mystery while her uncle lies in a coma and her entire love life is in ruins: her boyfriend Gus is pressuring her to have sex, while her best friend Matt is growing more attractive to her all the time. Somehow, Julie must figure out how to save her uncle, her family's future, and her own love life-and time is running out!
Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the interview for a chance to win a copy!
What brought you to make the transition from teacher to writer and editor?
It was actually a move from Missouri to Illinois that made me take the big plunge. I was teaching full time and writing on the side, like everyone does. Then my husband got transferred. I also wanted to try and have a family, so it seemed natural to build a writing and editing business from home with the move. For a while, I subbed, too, and I still teach online writing classes and a few writing seminars in-person in the St. Louis area, too.
What types of books do you like to read?
I read a wide variety of books from picture books to adult novels in any genre. This is because I have a 3-year-old daughter and write picture books AND I write a weekly review column for The News-Gazette in Champaign, IL. So, what I love to read is either a funny book (fiction or nonfiction) that makes me laugh out loud, like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus or Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan. I also like novels with interesting characters or set in interesting worlds, like The Hunger Games, The Whole Golden World, and Almost Perfect.
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
I used to think it was the drafting process, but actually, I just realized the other day how much I like taking the feedback from my critique group and revising. Their advice REALLY makes my words shine.
Would you mind sharing your inspiration for CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO CURSES?
Two news stories in 2003 finally inspired me to explore a question I had always wondered: why do some people survive accidents or tragedies and others don’t? Are the survivors supposed to DO SOMETHING before they die? The two news stories were when Steve Bartman interfered with a foul ball at a Chicago Cubs playoff game, and everyone blamed him for the Cubs not making it in the World Series. I thought, It’s not Steve Bartman’s fault (of course); The Curse of the Billy Goat strikes again. The second story was about a little girl who had survived a car crash where her parents died. She was actually in the car for a few days before the police found her, and she ate snacks from her diaper bag. So I created 17-year-old Julie whose parents both died under mysterious circumstances in a fire when she was three. When the novel opens, Julie thinks her only problem is that her boyfriend wants to have sex, when she’s not ready. But it turns out she seems to be the one in her family destined to break two curses that are killing her loved ones.
Ooh, I love that. Sounds like a great start for a story. :)
As an editor, you must have some special insight into the writing process! For those who would like to improve their editing chops, do you have any resources you would recommend?
First, I have to say IT IS MUCH EASIER to find how to “fix” other people’s manuscripts than it is my own! But for writing-related questions, I do use WOW!’s archives all the time. You can go to WOW! Women On Writing’s home page (http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com), search for any subject such as tips for picture books, and articles and blog posts by experts will pop up. For grammar questions or to brush up on punctuation rules, I use the Chicago Manual of Style OR Grammar Girl. Finally, my very favorite writing book full of great advice is Stephen King’s On Writing.
On your website, you mention that you love visiting schools. Would you mind sharing a few pieces of advice or tips for those who are intimidated by school visits?
I think it is important to 1. Teach the kids SOMETHING either about your subject, writing, or illustrating 2. Entertain them So, I usually have a power point because you will have children who are visual learners as well as auditory learners in the audience. I try to find photos of the points I am trying to make, and I also share photos about my personal life—my dog, my family, going to the Cardinals games. Besides this, I always have one activity in my presentation that connects to my books and that uses children as volunteers. This breaks up me just talking at the kids. Finally, you have to have some way to reign the kids back in—I usually say, “If you can hear my voice, clap once. Now, clap twice.” By the third time, most everyone is with you and you can go on. This works up to about 6th grade. I have talked to junior high kids, but that was in individual classrooms and they were all really well-behaved. With older kids, I talk to them honestly and let them ask a lot of questions to guide the talk.
Such great advice! I'll be bookmarking that for sure. :)
How did you meet your publisher, and what brought you to decide to publish with her?
I pitched to her at the Missouri Writers Guild Conference in April of 2013. I also ate lunch with her and discovered she owned a bookstore as well as a publishing company, and she was just nice and down to earth. When she said she would like to read my entire manuscript and she seemed to understand my story (where other professionals often questioned the Chicago Cubs/baseball aspect), it was a no-brainer when she offered me a contract.
What has it been like working directly with your publisher? Have there been times when you wished you had an agent to help you with the legalities, negotiations, or other aspects of the publishing process?
Robin Tidwell at Rocking Horse Publishing is amazing. She juggles all of us authors with ease. She has ideas for marketing. She creates opportunities for us in the community. She is on social media. I mean she is awesome. So, I have not “wished” for an agent for this reason. I AM trying to get an agent because I have negotiated four book contracts on my own, and I think it’s just time to find someone to help me manage my career. Everyone who has an agent talks about what a partnership it is, and I would just like to explore that avenue next. But working directly with Robin has been nothing but easy.
For those who are considering working directly with a publishing house, what advice would you give to them?
Go to the website, find a couple authors that have published with them in the last couple years, and try contacting the authors on social media or through their websites. Explain you are interested in ABC company and wonder what their experience has been like. You are getting advice straight from the trenches then, and that will be the most honest advice you can get. Also, ALWAYS check Preditors and Editors before signing with anyone.
Great advice, Margo! Thanks for sharing it.
Is there anything I didn't ask that you would like to add? (Feel free to promote past or future books, your editing services, whatever!)
Besides CBTC, I also have Finding My Place out from White Mane Kids. It is a middle-grade, historical fiction novel set during the Civil War in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and tells the story of 13-year-old Anna Green. I won an award last year for this book—the Eloquent Quill Award from the Literary Classics International Book Awards, and that was pretty exciting!
Wow - congrats on winning that award! :) How wonderful! And thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. I appreciate it!
To win an e-copy of Margo's book, BETWEEN TWO CURSES, use the Rafflecopter below.
Do you have questions for Margo? Let us know in the comments!