The Journey Begins

The below interview is with Annie England Noblin, discussing her debut novel, SIT! STAY! SPEAK! (September 2015, William Morrow).

Please describe what the story/book is about.

SIT! STAY! SPEAK! is about a woman from Chicago who inherits a house in the Arkansas Delta. She intends to fix up and sell the house, but when she finds an abused puppy in a trash bag on the Mississippi River levee, her plans change. Ultimately, this story is about a woman who saves a dog and how the dog saves her right back.

Where do you write from? 

Physically? I usually write from underneath a snuggly blanket on my couch. My couch is my favorite place on earth.D

Briefly, what led up to this book? 

I spent a year teaching Developmental English for the University of Arkansas in a little town called Helena, which is in the Arkansas Delta. I fell in love with the people and the culture. This book is a product of my experiences there.

What was the time frame for writing this book? 

I wrote the first draft in about 6 months from August 2012 to January 2013. I did two major rewrites in December 2013 and March 2014. The book sold in May 2014.

How did you find your agent?

I read a press release online about Lotus Lane Literary, which was a new agency in 2013. Then I did some research on Priya Doraswamy, and after checking out her website, decided to submit.

What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?

It amazed me (and continues to amaze me) how much work goes into one, little book. My agent, editor, publicist, and countless other people have been working with me for over a year to get SIT! STAY! SPEAK! to publication. They answer every stupid question. They’re involved in the process from start to finish. I know they all work this hard on every book, and I’m in awe of them on a daily basis.(

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?

I researched the publishing industry. I read about the market. I read entire books on the querying process. I bought the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and carried that sucker around with me everywhere. I had a system, complete with highlighters, and kept track of every agent and agency I queried. I didn’t send out a single query until I understood each step of the process.

On that note, what would you have done differently if you could do it again?

The first draft of my novel could have been better. I should have taken more time with it, but I was so excited to begin querying, that I didn’t make it the best it could be. I should have listened to that little voice inside my head that told me when a certain scene wasn’t right, and I would have gone back and fixed it. Now I listen to that voice, and I don’t worry so much about getting my work out there until I am satisfied with what I’ve created. (Which is probably why it took me nearly 2 years to finish my second novel.)

Best piece(s) of advice for writers trying to break in?

Be willing to take rejection and take it well. Use those rejections to make your writing better, but don’t let it discourage you from doing what you love. You are going to be told “no.” Over the years, I’ve gotten over 500 rejections, and some of them stung. I’ll likely be rejected again. But all it takes is one “yes.” Keep writing until someone says it.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I have a big personality, and I think that most people would say that I’m an extrovert. The truth is, however, that I’m extremely nervous around most people. I get anxious and constantly worry that my awkwardness is going to eek out every time I speak. I would much rather be at home than out in public socializing.

Favorite movie?

Pretty in Pink

Website?

I don’t have an active website right now, but I do update my Facebook author page regularly.

What’s next?

I just finished my second novel, which is set in the Missouri Ozarks (where I live, and where I’m from). I’m currently working on the third, which is also set in Missouri.

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