As the Social Media Coordinator for the SCBWI Oklahoma Region, I host a monthly Twitter Chat for our members (and anyone else who’d like to participate) where we talk for an hour with someone from the children’s publishing world, be it agent, editor, author, illustrator, etc. The conversations are always lively and enlightening.
We meet from 7-8pm CST using the hashtag #okscbwichat. If you’ve ever been curious about a Twitter Chat, stop on by! We love meeting new people.
This month’s chat session was Tuesday, May 26th.
CLICK HERE to view our full #okscbwichat 2020 schedule.
Brad McLelland is an Oklahoma author who joined us this week for our latest monthly Twitter chat. He has co-written an award-winning Middle Grade series with long-time friend Louis Sylvester.
Here’s an introduction to Brad:
May 26th– Brad McLelland – Children’s Author
Brad McLelland was born and raised in Arkansas. He spent several years working as a crime journalist in the South before earning his MFA in creative writing from Oklahoma State University. A part-time drummer and singer, Brad lives in Oklahoma with his wife, stepdaughter, a mini-Aussie who gives hugs, and a chubby cat who begs for ham.
Brad co-wrote his Middle Grade debut, LEGENDS OF THE LOST CAUSES, with Louis Sylvester. This book won the 2019 Oklahoma Book Award and is a Junior Library Guild Selection book. The pair teamed up to write the sequel, THE FANG OF THE BONFIRE CROSSING, which was published in Feb 2019. Book three THE KEY OF SKELETON PEAK was just released in Feb 2020.
We had a fascinating conversation with Brad. He talked about his writing journey beginning at the age of 8 when he wrote his first story, the ambitious ideas he and his writing partner had for their series in the beginning, and how they work as a team to write their series.
***Interested in the rest of our conversation with Brad?
Tara Hudson, author of the spooky Hereafter trilogy, was the honored guest and speaker at our Tulsa schmooze anniversary dinner earlier this month. She discussed her writing journey and spoke frankly about the realities of publishing and what happens after you get a book deal. She began by telling us all about her childhood reading habits – mostly magical and paranormal books by Christopher Pike and R.L. Stein – and how these books later influenced her writing. She said a good tip for any aspiring author when picking their genre is to pay attention to the books you devoured as a kid.
“There’s a reason you picked those books. You’ll spend a lot of time with your stories, so you have to love the world you’re writing about.”
Tara went through many ups and downs with writing during her college years, bouncing from being a science
major to a writing major, then finally settling on the law. “I fall in love with something, then panic and move on to something else.” She almost did this with her first novel, instead she pursued in further.
While working as a lawyer at an unsatisfying job, Tara began tinkering with an old short story she’d written in college about a girl walking through an old Texas town who doesn’t realize that she’s dead. Tara was inspired to write this story when she drove through a small, creepy town and she really wanted to capture the memory down on the page. This was the first time an experience, an idea, had compelled her to write, to record it on paper before it vanished into the ether.
So she started writing her first book, one chapter at a time. She shared each one with some co-workers, friends who begged her for the next chapter. She thought at the time, “I can write a second chapter – not a fifth, maybe, but I can write a second”. She wrote this way, with a growing list of readers – her first beta readers, she later realized – until the book was finished. She left her job shortly afterwards and began the long, arduous editing process. The result was Hereafter.
Tara then began researching agents. As a lawyer, she said it is great to have an agent: “Those contracts are slippery little minnows.” She said she was so excited about getting published that they could’ve asked for the blood of her first born and she would’ve said, “That sounds reasonable”.
After 38 rejections, she changed her approach and soon caught the interest of Catherine Drayton from Inkwell Management. When she finally got the call, Catherine told her that after chapter nine, it was crap. She wouldn’t represent her. She said it “needs more ominous and sense of community”. Revise and resubmit. Tara went through a few days of just being angry. That direction was too vague to of any real help, but then she realized Catherine was right; she started revising.
Luck finally fell on Tara’s side. A few days after her initial rejection, Catherine called her back. Harper Teen was putting together a book tour and they needed one story set in a rural location. Tara’s book fit the bill. Catherine asked if she could pitch it, although it still needed work and there was no promise of representation. Tara agreed and Harper Teen bought her book eight days later.
“You’ll be put through a rigorous writing schedule after a book deal.” Once you’re signed up, you’re expected to have ideas for what to write next. You’ll have to write up synopses and submit them right away.
During her querying process, Tara had returned to work full time and had learned that she was pregnant. To keep her health coverage, she had to continue working full time. On top of that, she now had three months to revise book one and then write a draft of book two.
She wrote book two during her maternity leave. “That’s why it’s the best and so dark”.
The Hereafter trilogy begins when Amelia Ashley, a ghost just awakening to her spiritual consciousness, saves a living boy when he almost drowns in her river – the same river she drowned in twenty years earlier. The trilogy continuing with Arise follows the tale of their haunted love to an intense conclusion in Elegy, the final book of the series.
The final book, Elegy was just released this month. I raced through the first book and cannot wait to read the rest of the series. Here’s the plot summary for Hereafter, the first book, from the author’s website:
Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she’s dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she’s trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.
Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.
Tara’s website has lots of extra goodies for fans of her Hereafter series. There are pictures from different settings, including the town of Wilburton, Oklahoma, the setting for the first book, and playlists of songs that inspired Tara while she wrote the books. There are also spine-tingling book trailers that make you want to pick up each book right away.
To learn more about Tara Hudson and the Hereafter trilogy, visit her website here.