Author Spotlight: M.K. England
December 7, 2018
We are excited to feature debut young adult author M.K. England! M.K. is the author of THE DISASTERS (HarperCollins Children's, Fall 2018). Enter to win an ARC of the book!
|Cover design by Jenna Stempel-Lobell, artwork by Filip Hodas|
I’m your pretty typical nerd, I think. I play games of all kinds (video, tabletop, D&D, etc.), read and write fanfic, love sci-fi TV shows, all the usual. I also love to garden and hike—being outside is key to my mental health! I’m a YA librarian as my day job, and it’s a perfect fit career for me.
My love of YA came before either authoring or librarianing, though now that I think back on it, I think most of the ideas floating around in my head have always been YA-ish. I used to work for Books-a-Million, and that’s when I really first started to love and understand YA as its own category. I read Sabriel, Eragon, Tamora Pierce, and more. When I finally started to attempt writing for the first time in 2009-ish, it was YA.
Those first attempts were completely shut down by my severe anxiety issues, though. I’d get 5,000 or 10,000 words in and hate myself so thoroughly that I’d quit and not muster up the courage to try again for another year or two. I finished my first book in February 2014 and, though it wasn’t very good, I proved to myself that I COULD actually write a whole book, that books are finite things that can be finished in finite amounts of time. Once I learned that, I was off to the races.
Congrats on your debut YA novel, THE DISASTERS. Tell us about it and what inspired you.
Yay, thanks! THE DISASTERS has a little something for everyone. Even if you aren’t a sci-fi reader or don’t like books set in space, I’ve been told there’s enough humor, loveable characters, and plotty mystery elements to please any reader.
It’s about a hotshot pilot named Nax who fails out of his dream academy on the first day, only to witness that academy’s near destruction right as he and his fellow washouts are about to be shipped home forever. They’re the only survivors, and thus the perfect scapegoats, which kicks off a wild adventure with heists, crashing spaceships, arguing, getting shot, family drama, and a desperate attempt to stave off the biggest threat the galaxy’s ever faced.
All my books start out as a vague little idea seed that appears out of nowhere and sits around in an Idea Dump google doc for months or years until it meets the right catalyst. In this case, the seed was “a hotshot pilot fails out of a space academy on his first day” and the catalyst was seeing Guardians of the Galaxy in the theater in summer 2014. It wasn’t a perfect movie by any means, but it was so much fun, and it solidified for me what I wanted THE DISASTERS to feel like. I wrote it during NaNoWriMo later that year!
Was your road to publication long and windy, short and sweet, or something in between?
Fairly short-ish pre-book deal, I think, and positively eternal post-book deal!
I was very lucky to get an agent and book deal with the second book I wrote, especially because THE DISASTERS was a total mess at that point, in hindsight. Though I’ve loved reading and writing all my life, for the reasons mentioned above (and that I talk about more here), I didn’t start seriously writing until early 2014.
I revised THE DISASTERS throughout 2015 and was accepted into Pitch Wars with it late that summer. After PW, I got a call in late November 2015 from my now-agent, Barbara Poelle, who’d I’d reached out to with a regular old cold query. She gave me a Revise and Resumbit and hooked me up with two of her amazing clients for feedback. I resubmitted in early 2016, we signed and went out on sub very quickly, and had a book deal done that spring! Pretty quick, all things considered.
From then, things slowed down a LOT. I’m a pretty type-A person, so I don’t handle dead time with no specific goal very well. Average turnaround from deal-to-debut is 18-24 months. For me, it’s been more like...31 months? Two and a half years-ish. Now, of course, I’m finishing up Book 2 deadlines, promoting for THE DISASTERS, pitching new projects, but there were definitely long stretches of time where the urge to just DO SOMETHING was overwhelming.
What projects are you working on now?
I just finished line edits on my second book for HarperTeen, which will be out in January-ish 2020. I can’t say much about it yet, but I can’t wait to reveal the title! It’s a sci-fi/fantasy mashup with similar pacing and humor to THE DISASTERS, but a little more emotionally intense, in my opinion. It’s very Final Fantasy 7 meets Six of Crows. Right now, I’m turning my attention now to writing a proposal and sample chapters for another stand-alone YA sci-fi that’s grabbed my heart, plus whittling away at an adult f/f romantic comedy!
Who would you cast in the movie of your book?
Ask my friends and they will all tell you—I know absolutely NOTHING about actors and such unless they’re in one of my major fandoms, and I’m totally infuriating to talk to about movies or celebrities because of my complete ignorance. I imagine grown-up Nax to look a lot like Riz Ahmed, though! (He was in Star Wars once—see? Fandom connections.)
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same you'd give to aspiring authors?
My younger self really needed a lot of advice on life in general, but if we’re talking writing advice: Just finish something. Young me desperately needed to know that finishing a book was possible, even if it was awful at first, even if their garbage brain tried desperately the whole time to tell them how awful they were. Finishing that first book was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and it’s still one of my proudest moments. I wish that same moment for every aspiring writer.
What is something most people don't know about you?
Even though I can come across as distant or prickly sometimes, I’m really a total softie. I’m a friend-cuddler, I cry at emotional commercials, I get choked up at some point in almost every book I read, all that. Friends who are into astrology tell me this is a typical cancer crab thing? I guess I’m a crab. *makes crabby hands*
Where can people find you online?
I’m most active on Instagram (@m.k.england) and Twitter (@geektasticlib). The best way to get the most crucial updates is via my monthly newsletter. My website is www.mkengland.com, and I can occasionally be found lurking on goodreads and tumblr. Come say hi!
M.K. England is an author and YA librarian living in the mountainy parts of Virginia. When she’s not writing or librarianing, MK can be found drowning in fandom, going to conventions, rolling dice at the gaming table, climbing on things in the woods, or feeding her video game addiction. She loves Star Wars with a desperate, heedless passion. It’s best if you never speak of Sherlock Holmes in her presence. You’ll regret it. THE DISASTERS is her debut novel. Follow her at www.mkengland.com.
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