So you want to be a writer. Your notebooks are filled with words, stories you’re sure people will want to hear. When you close your eyes, you can see your name on the cover of the next big thing to hit book clubs across the country.
Well, good luck. As young adult novelist Ryan Graudin ’09 is the first to admit, it takes a lot more than talent and an idea.
“Without the hard work, you won’t get anywhere,” says the author of All That Glows (HarperTeen 2014) and its sequel All That Burns (HarperTeen 2015), The Walled City (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 2015) and the acclaimed Wolf by Wolf (Little, Brown 2015). “It also helps to have luck. But, even then, the odds are skewed against you.”
So, how did Graudin beat the odds? Here’s how the English department faculty at the College of Charleston helped:
Graudin didn’t go straight from graduating from the Honors College to being a published young adult fantasy novelist, however. By the time All That Glows was published, the 24 year old already had two manuscripts rejected.
“It’s like throwing spaghetti at a wall to see if it’ll stick. You just never know what a publisher is going to love and what they’ll pass up,” she says, noting that the moment she got HarperTeen’s email saying they were publishing her first book was “possibly the most exciting point of my career so far.”
And that’s saying something, considering that her Wolf by Wolf — which imagines a world where Axis powers have won World War II – has been named the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults, Amazon’s Best Young Adult Book of 2015 and a Junior Library Guild Selection. Its sequel, Blood for Blood, will be published in fall 2016.
To hold her fans over until Blood for Blood comes out, Graudin also wrote Iron to Iron, an e-novella available on Kindle, which ties into the series.
“It’s really cool having fans that are excited about my books,” says Graudin, who met some of her fans at YALL-Fest in Charleston last fall. “It’s special when readers are moved enough to make fan art – when what I’ve done inspires their own creativity. To be on the other side of fangirling is really cool.”
(For those unfamiliar with the world of young adult enthusiasm, fangirling is when fans obsess over some celebrity or entertainment/media to the extent that they join online message boards, create fan fiction and attend conventions.)
Fangirl followings can be fickle, though.
“I’m paid to write now, sure, but there’s no guarantee. You can’t rest on your laurels,” says Graudin. “I’m always growing as a writer – always looking for a way to stretch myself as a writer. That might mean playing with different perspectives or using braided narratives exploring new subjects. My subject matter has definitely gotten heavier. I really like a new challenge.”
And so she keeps on pushing herself. Because, truth is, that’s what it takes to be a writer.