About the Book
Title: Girl At the Grave
Author: Teri Bailey Black
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Genre: Young Adult — Historical Fiction, Mystery
Valentine has spent years trying to outrun her mother’s legacy. But small towns have long memories, and when a new string of murders occurs, all signs point to the daughter of a murderer.
Only one person believes Valentine is innocent—Rowan Blackshaw, the son of the man her mother killed all those years ago. Valentine vows to find the real killer, but when she finally uncovers the horrifying truth, she must choose to face her own dark secrets, even if it means losing Rowan in the end.
About the Author
Teri Bailey Black grew up near the beach in southern California in a large, quirky family with no television or junk food, but an abundance of books and art supplies. She’s happiest when she’s creating things, whether it’s with words, fabric, or digging in the garden. She makes an amazing chocolate cherry cake—frequently. She and her husband have four children and live in Orange County, California.
Q&A with Teri Bailey Black
Thank you so much for stopping by on the blog, Teri! I’m so excited to host you here today! Girl at the Grave is absolutely stunning!
1. One thing I love hearing authors talk about is their inspiration for their books. What inspired you to write Girl at the Grave?
I’m a very visual person (I grew up in a family of artists), so for me a story usually starts as an image in my mind. This book began with the image of a little girl in the 1800’s, with wild hair and dirty feet, looking through a schoolhouse window. The teacher tries to draw her inside, but she runs away. Most of the kids call her names, but one boy watches her with piercing attention. I wondered why that little girl was an outcast and decided her mother was hanged for murdering a prominent man—the father of the boy who watches her. After I’d written about a hundred pages of that little girl’s story, I realized I was more interested in the 17-year-old girl she becomes. So I started writing a new book where the handsome son of the murdered man still watches her, and it became a love story as well as a murder mystery. I thought up a few interesting plot twists and secrets—and I was off and running. Well, typing.
2. Every writer has a different writing experience. What was your writing experience like? Did the story come naturally or all at once or did you have to claw the story out of your characters? Or was it something else entirely?
I’m a “seat of the pants” writer by nature (start with a vague idea and make it up as I go) but I do WANT to be an outliner (sigh) and I do TRY to outline ahead of time. My first draft of GIRL took about a year and was quite different than the final printed story. The first quarter of the book was Valentine’s childhood (seeing her mother hanged but not understanding why), and then the story jumped to her teen years.
I sent out queries to agents and got several requests for the full manuscript, followed by rejections with some encouraging compliments. One agent asked for a revision and resubmit, with a suggestion to make it either a full children’s story or a full YA story. Seemed so obvious, suddenly. I spent about six months completely rewriting it, even changing the underlying murder mystery quite a bit.
I sent the new version back to that agent, who replied with some looovely compliments about my writing abilities that gave me hope—but now had issues with the characterizations. Sigh. I set it aside for six months, then attacked it again with fresh eyes. And THIS time, I was able to fly through it fairly quickly because I really knew my characters and story, so it was easy to move the pieces around.
After I signed with an agent (the amazing Barbara Poelle) and sold it to Tor Teen, my editor Amy Stapp had some powerful insights that made another major revision necessary. And then it became a book. Looking back, this book took several years because I was learning to write as I wrote it. The book I’m working on now is flying together much more easily.
3. Which one of your characters do you resonate with the most and why?
I feel a strong connection with my main character Valentine. She’s grown up as an outcast, never fitting in, and I think most of us have had those moments in our life when we feel like we don’t fit in. I love Valentine’s hard work ethic. She lost her mother at age six (or was it five? funny how I’ve forgotten!), so she’s had to learn how to cook and clean and survive on her own. (In my first draft, she spies through town windows watching other mothers, but that was cut.) I’m quite crafty myself and love the way Valentine sews a vest for Sam and bakes gingerbread for Birdy. Oh—and Birdy!! Valentine has such a warm, generous heart. She knows what it feels like to not fit in. She cares about those even less fortunate than herself, which is why she wants to work with Alina Lunt.
4. What is a quirky or unique habit you have?
I start writing at 4 or 5 in the morning—yes, really! The world is asleep, the house is quiet, and I can disappear into my story. Then, alas, the sun rises, the house gets noisy, time to shower and make the bed and throw in a load of laundry. I still write throughout the day, but I’m much more creative and productive in those early morning hours. The downside: my brain melts at 8pm.
5. If you could choose one character from your novel to spend a day around town with, who would you choose and why?
I love creative people, so I’d love to hang out with Rowan Blackshaw. I would enjoy watching him draw and paint. (Three of my sisters went to art school, and I always love watching them work.) Rowan is a deep-thinker—and smart—so I’d love to listen to him ramble about just about anything. And yeah, he’s gorgeous, so that doesn’t hurt.
6. This is another question I love to ask authors! What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Writing advice! Mostly—keep it fun. Join writing groups and go to conferences and make personal connections, because that’s the good stuff. I know . . . most of us are closet introverts, but it’s worth the effort to find some writing friends. My critique group meets once a week and we have a blast. In the past, I had a critique group that only met online (living across the globe, literally), and that was also rewarding.
Listen to your critique partners and DON’T BE OFFENDED. Listen and learn. Nobody starts out great. You have to figure out your weaknesses before you can improve. You want critique partners who point out both the good and the bad. It’s not very helpful if they only say, “Wow, this is great.” And it’s discouraging if they only say, “Um . . . no.”
Publication seems like an obvious end goal, but that adds a truckload of pressure, both getting there and then getting through it, so decide if you’d rather just write for personal enjoyment—which is a worthy goal. I repeat: keep it fun!
Thank you again for stopping by, Teri! 🙂
Prize: Wonderland Book Beau, size XL for a standard hardcover (USA only)
Thank you, Fantastic Flying Book Club for hosting this wonderful book tour!