Author Spotlight: Candice Marley Conner
Oct. 8, 2021
We are pleased to feature author Candice Conner and her two debut books, the young adult novel, THE EXISTENCE OF BEA PEARL (Owl Hollow Press, June 2021) and her picture book, SASSAFRAS AND THE TEENY TINY TAIL, illustrated by Heath Gray (MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing, June 2021). Enter to win a copy (2 winners will be picked, 1 for each book)!
|cover design by Owl Press design team
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children and teens.
Hi! I’m Candice, mom of two, and I write children’s books from picture to teen and everything in between. Books had such a big impact on me as a child (and still do!). Through books, I could travel through time, see other countries, and experience all sorts of things. I was fascinated at seeing the world through someone else’s perspective, and at a young age, decided I’d like to do the same thing: show others the way I see the world and share what I care about. It’s such an amazing feeling.
Congrats on your two debut books, your YA novel The Existence of Bea Pearl, and your picture book, Sassafras and Her Teeny Tiny Tail! Tell us about each of these books and what inspired you.
Thank you! Bea Pearl is my love letter to the swamps and river I grew up in, as well as my childhood obsession with Nancy Drew. It’s about a girl searching for her brother who mysteriously disappeared in a flood. So it’s about existence, holding onto hope, and believing in yourself.
Sassafras was inspired by an actual squirrel with a teeny tiny tail. As soon as I saw it I wondered if it had difficulties with communication and balance. But once I looked at it from a different angle: what abilities could this squirrel have because of its difference, her story was born!
How did you juggle writing on two ends of the kid lit spectrum, as well as debuting them so close to each other?
Changing up age groups really helps combat writer’s block! With picture books I have to be so concise with my words and leave room for the illustrator to shine, and with young adult, it’s totally cool if a whole paragraph describes the way sunlight filters through river birch leaves. The different rules of the age groups help keep the writing fresh and from feeling stagnant.
Sassafras was originally set to debut in 2019 and Bea Pearl in 2020, so it was absolutely hilarious when they both ended up debuting a week of each other in 2021. It made June a very exciting month. Since they’re on opposite ends of the kidlit gamut, I launched them differently so I wouldn’t feel too overwhelmed or redundant on social media. For instance, I did a #ThisOrThat in my Instagram stories for Bea Pearl’s countdown, and posted seven squirrely fun facts to countdown the week before Sassafras released. I had an in-person craft and story time for Sassafras, and a virtual author chat with local author friends and my indie bookstore for Bea Pearl.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
I’m sure it might appear short and sweet with three books coming out in one year (THREE, I know! It’s such a surreal feeling!) but it was definitely long and winding with revise & resubmits that didn’t work out, an agent change, and many so-close-but-not-quites that I sometimes felt I was drowning in them.
What are you working on now?
I have a picture book releasing next Tuesday (shout out to my adorable dyslexic alligator named Chompsey!), a STEAM chapter book series currently on sub, and my work in progress is a witchy middle grade set in a haunted book store.
What advice would you give your younger self? Is this the same you'd give to aspiring authors?
My advice to both is to not give up. Stick with it. To the aspiring author, I’d tell them that all that time in the query trenches, and then the submission trenches, are such valuable times for growth. I would not be the writer I am today without it. It forced me to learn more craft, read more books, and connect with more of the wonderful kidlit authors that make up the writing community.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I can’t whistle! So when my sister and I were growing up on our parents’ fish farm, if we needed to locate each other over long distances, she’d whistle and I’d crow like a rooster back in response. 😀
Where can people find you online?
Growing up between swamps, a river, and the Gulf Coast, Candice Marley Conner’s stories emerge from cypress knees, muddy water, and salty air. She is the kidlit haint at a haunted indie bookstore (but not haunted how you’re thinking), a Local Liaison for SCBWI, and an officer for her local writer’s guild. Her short stories and poems are in various anthologies and magazines including Smarty Pants Magazine for Kids, Highlights Hello, Cabinet of Curiosities, Babybug, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and more. Her picture book, SASSAFRAS AND HER TEENY TINY TAIL, and her YA Southern mystery, THE EXISTENCE OF BEA PEARL, both debuted this June. She lives in Alabama with her husband and two children (one of whom is possibly feral).
Candice is represented by Katelyn Detweiler at Jill Grinberg Literary Management.
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