I’m SO excited to share that I’ve sold another book to my fantastic editor Pam Gruber at Little Brown Books for Young Readers. It is a complete and total dream to have the opportunity to work with her and the whole Little, Brown team again, and on THIS book!! Here’s the official announcement:
And here’s a little story about A SEASON OF SINISTER DREAMS. I started writing this manuscript back in 2011. I remember exactly where I was and the circumstances: my first agent was shopping my third manuscript, and it was looking increasingly likely that this one was going to fail to sell, just as the first two had. I knew my agent and I were likely going to have to part ways. I’d written three books, including the book of my heart, without any luck selling to publishers. I was at my lowest point, in terms of my writing career. I was grieving my publishing hopes and dreams HARD. I was also on vacation, at my parents’ cabin in northern Ontario, with my husband and my dog. My dog, Scrabble, my baby. And I decided…screw it. I wanted to write a traditional fantasy with a giant dog that looked like my Scrabble. I’d probably reread a Robin McKinley book recently – she is so good at writing animals in her books, and that was probably partly the inspiration. I wanted to write something JUST for myself. I knew no one would want it – they didn’t want any of my other stuff, and this certainly wasn’t “high concept” – it was basically a story about my dog, and grieving.
And….something weird happened. The writing was GOOD. Like, level up good. Not necessarily the plotting or pacing or any of that. But the WRITING itself was the best I’d done. I fell in love with my characters and words and just had fun with it. Until I got to the part of the story where I had to do something really bad to my main character and I didn’t want to. The writing slowed down. By this point I was back home, I was pregnant, I was self publishing my first three books. I left this ms for a while, because I didn’t want to write the hard stuff. I didn’t want to get to the grieving part.
Somehow, over the course of two years, I did eventually finish the draft. And…the book languished. Because I loved the writing so much that I couldn’t seem to revise it. I couldn’t tell what it needed. I knew it needed SOMETHING, but I didn’t know what.
Fast forward six years. I really wanted to work with Pam at Little, Brown again. We’d talked about a few different projects but we hadn’t landed on anything yet. My agent asked if she wanted to take a look at A SEASON OF SINISTER DREAMS. And…she did! And this is where the magic of editors comes in, you guys. After she read the manuscript, we had a phone conversation, and without actually telling me exactly what to do to fix it, our discussion sparked so many ideas and opened my eyes to so many things, that I turned around and wrote a new outline in 24 hours, and revised the first 50 pages in a matter of days. And that coming off one of the worst dry spells/writers blocks I’d had in years. All of a sudden, this book had new life…and then it REALLY had new life, when Pam and Little, Brown loved the new direction and decided to buy it.
You can’t imagine that feeling, knowing this manuscript that had been my outlet, my grief, my love letter to my freaking dog…that had some of my favorite writing I’ve ever done…was going to be a real, honest to God book. I’m still living in a state of grateful disbelief. The story itself has changed a lot over the years, and will change a lot more before becoming what you’ll see in bookstores, but this baby saved me years ago, and it’s saving me again now.
I’m sharing this story because I want you to know that you NEVER KNOW…no writing is ever wasted, even if it never sees the light of day. It’s always teaching you something…and it could find the right editor, the right reader, the right critique partner, even YEARS LATER. You just. never. know. Also, write authentically, for yourself, whenever you can. It will make what reaches the page better. And, lastly, never EVER question the value of an awesome editor. I’ve done pretty much all the ways of publishing: self-publishing, intellectual property, digital first, traditional, and the one thing that I’ve learned and feel the MOST certain about in this vastly uncertain industry, is that having good editors, people who understand your vision and know how to ask the right questions (not necessarily give you answers!) are worth their weight in gold.
So, there we are! I can’t wait to share A SEASON OF SINISTER DREAMS with you. And don’t worry. I promise it’s about way more than grief and a dog. It’s a Tracy Banghart book after all – you know that means there’s badass girls, killer feminist vibes, and smooching!
PS. NO, the grieving is not because I kill the dog. I WOULD NEVER DO THAT COME ON.