Alison DeCamp is a newly-published Michigan author, and we're celebrating her success! Her debut middle grade novel, MY NEAR-DEATH ADVENTURES (99% True!), was released on February 24 by Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House. I asked her to tell us about her book and her journey to publication. Here's Alison:
MY NEAR-DEATH ADVENTURES (99% True!) is the story of Stanley Slater, an 11 y.o. boy spending the winter of 1895 in a lumber camp in the U.P. with an overbearing Granny, a meddling cousin, his sweet mother, and a mess of quirky lumberjacks (one of whom may be a cold-blooded killer. Or a pirate.). Stan is on a quest to a) prove his manliness, and b) find his “long-lost” father, the man he recently thought was “dearly departed.” He has quite the over-active imagination which can be seen in the pages of his embellished scrapbook—almost 200 19th century images are interwoven into the book.
I’ve had the seed of an idea (a boy in a lumber camp) swimming around in my brain for years, but in the fall of 2012 I ordered myself to actually sit down and write the story. I had very little idea what I was doing, but I had witnessed my wonderful friend’s journey (Kate Bassett - WORDS AND THEIR MEANINGS) and, with her encouragement, felt like the time was right. I won’t belabor the details (let’s just say it was a learning process!), but by March of 2013 I had an agent (the fantastic Sarah Davies of the Greenhouse Literary Agency) and by the first of August (after many more months of revision) I had a three book deal with Phoebe Yeh of Crown Books for Young Readers.
How did you find your agent?
I found my agent the old-fashioned way—a query letter. Kate Bassett had already signed with Sarah the previous summer so I knew how Sarah worked (she is not one to give undue compliments, but is an exceptional professional and wonderful editor), and I knew I would love her as an agent, but I was scared to query her right away. I waited until I thought I’d be getting an offer of representation from another agent (who was also really lovely but didn’t specialize only in children’s books), queried Sarah and then nudged her with my other offer. Oh my gosh! I’m just now realizing how calculating that all sounds! It honestly wasn’t.
What has been surprising or challenging about your experience?
I know it shouldn’t be surprising, but the kid lit community always impresses me with how giving it is. From the minute I started this process, people have been so kind. I think the challenges lie in the amount of waiting. I signed with Random House in August of 2013 and my book came out in February 2015. In the meantime there have been many times where I needed to hurry up and wait. I’m also surprised at the learning curve—I have no idea what I’m doing. In some ways it will be a relief to no longer be a debut author.
What's next for you?
I am working on book 2. Same characters, different setting (St. Ignace, where I grew up. Although I didn’t grown up there in 1895.). And I signed for a third book as well, but I’m not sure what they’re intending for that one.
Alison DeCamp grew up in the U.P., attended Michigan State University, taught for eight years in Pellston (which, she was surprised to find out, has more than an airport), and spent the last 16 years raising two children. She loves dogs but not dog hair, the thought of exercise, reading everything from labels to dictionaries to novels (with a special love for kids’ books). MY NEAR-DEATH ADVENTURES is her first book.
Find Alison here:
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