Saturday, January 23, 2010


Swati Avasthi is the author Split.

1. What has been the most exciting part of getting published?
The conversations about Split have been incredible to me. When readers / bloggers discuss it, I am thrilled that these characters that existed only in my head now have a life of their own, that people have opinions about Jace, and that they cared about what happened to him. When I discuss Split with my editor or agent, I am tickled that there are people who take my work as seriously as I do and who want the novel to succeed the way I do.

2. How long did it take you to get published?
My fabulous agent, Rosemary Stimola, sold Split at auction in three weeks. (I've nicknamed her my fairy godmother.) That was in October, 2008. Split will come out on March 9, 2010. The good people at Knopf put a lot of time and energy making sure that their books are published well and that takes time.

3. Were you faced with rejection at first? How did you handle it?
Sure, I've faced rejection. Primarily for the short stories I've had published. First, my husband and I decided that someday we'd press all the little slips into a dart board. Then, I realized that rejection is one of the rites of initiation into the biz and started just tossing the slips. That's what I tell my students -- might as well start collecting them.

For Split, I had very little rejection: I suppose, a couple of the houses we sent it to didn't bid on it, but that feeling was lost in all the excitement of an auction. It was an amazing process. I was looking down at Cloud Nine for months.

4. Where did you get your ideas for this book?
Split is about a 16 year old boy who has been thrown out of his abusive home and needs to start over. The idea germinated when I was coordinating a domestic violence legal clinic in Chicago. People -- primarily women -- came in seeking orders of protection. Once, when a victim was telling me about about a pretty brutal incident while her kids were in the room, I asked her I should have an intern look after them. She said no, that they had seen it. And that bothered me and what bothered me even more, perhaps, was that I felt angry at her for failing to protect her kids. Of course, what I was doing was victim blaming and I knew that didn't make sense; I knew I should be focusing my blame on the abuser. The incident helped me realize the extent of helplessness women face. I understand that a parent can't give to her child what she doesn't have for herself. If you don't have food, you can't give some to your child; if you don't have a safe place, you can't make one for your child, but I still struggle with what a mother's responsibility is to her kids. In that struggle, I gave the problem to Jace to see what he could make of it.

5. What do you think or hope readers will gain from your novel?
First and foremost, a good story. I hope readers stay up late because they can't put it down and I hope at the end of the journey, they feel satisfied with the book. A reviewer recently suggested that Split asks the reader to imagine and that, to me, is a great source of satisfaction; I hope for fan fic, re-imaginings, and characters who have staying power.

Second, that an abuse story isn't over after the escape; it many ways, that's only the beginning. Third, I hope the book forces readers to decide for themselves what to do with Jace's conundrums, all of them.

6. When writing do you outline or just begin?
I begin. As I'm writing it, I document what I've written in something like an outline so I can keep track of where I've been. Then I use that outline to help me as a revise.

7. What authors inspire you?
Laurie Halse Anderson, Harper Lee, Pete Hautman, John Green, Julie Schumacher, Gene Huang, Tom Stoppard, Aaron Sorkin, William Styron, William Faulkner, Nicholson Baker, Jim Moore, Billy Collins, Emily Bronte, Emily Dickinson... so many.

8. Complete this: While writing this book I learned...
The difference between a Polar Star mock orange tree and a double mock orange tree; how complicated it is to keep a secret when writing in first person; the extent of my family's patience with me (a lot); how to transition between sections and chapters; that the average YA novel is around 60,000 words; the difference between the marketing and publicity department and so much more.

9. Complete this: You should buy my novel because...
a) It will bring peace and good will to mankind.
b) It's not that expensive.
c) "You like me. You really like me."
d) You want to know what Jace is hiding, you like Jace's voice, and you want to find a new author that might give you a good book; it's worth the risk.

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