Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Interview with Caitlyn Duffy, CENTER STAGE

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
Center Stage! is a spin-off of the Treadwell Academy series. It focuses on Allison Burch, the best friend of Taylor Beauforte, who’s the main character of The Rock Star’s Daughter. Allison’s very jealous of the lifestyle that Taylor leads when she goes on tour with her father. Out of desperation to explore her own singing talent, Allison tries out for an American Idol-style vocal competition reality TV show, and shocks herself when she’s chosen as a contestant. But of course, she wasn’t expecting that Taylor’s rock star dad, Chase, is one of the judges.

Do you have a favorite character?
I love Allison’s mom, I must confess! Mothers are often killed off or described as slightly villainous in YA literature. As an author, I’m guilty of propagating this trend, too, because Taylor’s mother dies on practically the third page of The Rock Star’s Daughter. For this reason, it was really important to me to develop a solid relationship between Allison and her parents in Center Stage that lasted throughout the book. Mrs. Burch is somewhat conservative and over-protective, but she’s also really cool.

Have you ever had a minor character evolve into a major one? Did that change the direction of the novel at all?
That’s exactly how this novel came to be! When The Rock Star’s Daughter came out in 2011, I received literally thousands of emails from readers. One question that was raised repeatedly was about what had happened to Allison after she and Taylor had an argument. It was a loose thread I’d left dangling in that first book, and I’d planned to address it in the sequel to The Rock Star’s Daughter. The more I thought about Allison’s position and how difficult it might be to maintain a friendship with someone who’s living the life of a celebrity, it became irresistible to write Allison’s own story.

Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
Yes – I’d sent out a query for The Rock Star’s Daughter the year before it was published to probably three or four agents. I don’t think I ever even received a reply from any of them! My friends who run a tiny digital publishing company asked if they could publish it as sort of an experiment to see how many downloads the book could get if it were offered for free—purely to measure how many kids share books they like on social media. At that point, I was discouraged, busy at my job, and didn’t particularly care what became of the book, so I said, “Sure.” As of November, 2015, that book has been downloaded over 1.5M times (it’s not free anymore, although you can still read an early draft on Wattpad). I like to think that a traditional publisher probably could have made a pretty penny off of it, but it was also totally awesome watching it take off the way it did.

How long before you got your offer of representation/your first contract? Was it for your first novel?
There are now four books in the Treadwell Academy series in addition to Center Stage, and I still don’t have representation or a publishing deal with a major publisher. And that’s fine with me! I’m friends with a lot of YA authors, and I think there’s a misconception about publishing among writers that landing a book deal means you’re going to get a windfall of cash and suddenly be living the Oprah lifestyle. Most first-time book deals are for a couple thousand dollars. Publishing with a micropublisher, I know that the profits come directly to me and I retain control over the final manuscript and marketing efforts.

Are you currently under a traditional publishing contract for future books or do you have manuscripts that you will self-publish? Are you doing both?
I have two finished manuscripts that aren’t part of the Treadwell universe. They’re both much more serious and would probably appeal to an older reading audience. I’ve honestly been sitting on those for quite a while because I’m not sure what to do with them. On one hand, I think that if they were to be published by a major publisher, there’s a chance that they’d reach a wider audience just because of the exposure that offers. On the other, they’re both deeply personal books and it might be painful for me to make the type of copious changes that typically agents and editors request. Neither of those books may ever see the light of day!

If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
I was pretty involved; the cover for The Rock Star’s Daughter changed a few times before a format was established for the entire Treadwell series. My only major concern with that was not showing a face on the cover. That’s just a personal preference; I think when readers see a character’s face, they make judgements about the character that may or may not be true to the book. I prefer for readers to use their imaginations!

Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
I used to belong to a writing group a few years ago when I lived near Columbia University. Receiving feedback from readers is extremely valuable to me. Writing is a very isolated exercise, and sometimes when I write something that I think conveys a sentiment with perfect precision, I’ll receive a note from a reader expressing confusion. It’s kind of like the golden rule of business (the shopper is always right); the reader is usually right. I’ve personally found to be a fantastic resource for getting truthful feedback on my writing.

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self- publishing arena?
I’d tell anyone who’s considering jumping into any level of publishing – whether it’s self-publishing or starting the query process, to remember that publishing is a business. You may feel passionately about your manuscript and think it’s the most brilliant thing ever written, but for anyone else to want to invest their time and resources in bringing your book to market, it must have commercial appeal. When you’re self-publishing, you have to be your own business manager and marketer, so anyone who wants to self- publish a book should be prepared for at least a year of hard work that isn’t the least bit creatively satisfying (most of the time). Reviewing your sales reports and managing all of the different types of e-book files and sales platforms can be overwhelming. I’m very fortunate to have help with that, but quite honestly, I’d much rather be writing than thinking about numbers. On the flip side, getting a traditional publishing deal can sometimes take years, and even after your manuscript is purchased it probably won’t be added to the release calendar for another year or two. It’s a slow-going business.

What’s next for you?
A proper sequel to The Rock Star’s Daughter is long, long overdue, so that’s my next writing project. And since it’s been almost five years since the first book was released, I’m planning to revisit in 2016 and maybe overhaul the cover art for the whole series to introduce it to the next wave of young readers. A reader who had sent me a fan letter three years ago recently emailed me just to say hello, and I had a pretty profound realization: girls who read that book when they were 13 are now preparing to graduate from high school! It kind of blew my mind to think about how much I’d personally
changed between ages 12 and 17. There’s a whole new wave of girls just starting high school who haven’t met Taylor Beauforte yet.

Book & Author Details:
Center Stage! by Caitlyn Duffy
(Center Stage!, #1)
Publication date: September 14th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Allison Burch’s wildest dream is to become a famous singer. She can hardly believe her own good luck when she auditions for the reality television singing competition, Center Stage!, and is chosen as a contestant. She finally has a legitimate shot at fame, fortune, and a chance to go on tour as the opening act for her favorite boy band on their world tour.

However, Allison wasn’t counting on one of the celebrity coaches being Chase Atwood, the famous rock star father of her former best friend. Allison’s terrified that Chase is going to find out that she and his daughter have been in a fight for months, and it’ll ruin her shot at the grand prize. Making matters worse, Allison’s own coach, Country Western star Nelly Fulsom, intends to groom her into a Nashville superstar.

As Allison struggles to decide if she really wants to win on the show if it’s by resorting to dirty tricks and assuming the image that Nelly wants to create for her, she find herself falling hard for her biggest competition on the show: a brooding songwriter named Elliott Mercer. She’s not sure if Elliott’s interest in her is genuine, or if he’s just playing along with the producers’ strategy.
It’s up to Allison to decide: how much is she willing to lose in order to win?

Fans of Caitlyn Duffy’s The Rock Star’s Daughter will enjoy this tale about Taylor’s friend Allison and her journey to fame.


Caitlyn Duffy is a private boarding school survivor and the author of The Treadwell Academy Novels, a series about privileged girls in an elite boarding school setting and the challenges they face. The series addresses issues common to teen readers including eating disorders, divorce, grief, heartbreak, first love, drug addiction and disagreements with parents. It was Caitlyn’s dream to create a series that mixed glamour and celebrity with the real-life problems that kids endure that could be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Her writing experience includes freelance editing for publishing houses and copywriting in the advertising industry.

When she’s not writing about the girls of Treadwell, she’s walking her semi-famous dog Maxim around Park Slope, Brooklyn and drinking too much coffee.

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