Thursday, April 21, 2011

Divergent: Behind the Scenes with Molly O'Neill

Continuing on in our DIVERGENT lovefest, today we have a very sexy guest in our midst. A wonderful woman who helps bring amazing books to our needy hands as part of her job. I'd like to present to you: Molly O'Neill! She's Veronica Roth's editor and has been so kind to share some behind the scenes info about Divergent. Read on, it's fascinating!

What was yours/Harper Collins first reaction when you read the manuscript? Did you sense something 'big'?

Veronica’s literary agent knew I was hungry for a great teen/YA project that asked interesting “what if?” questions, so when she told me about DIVERGENT, it sounded really like it could be exactly the sort of story I’d been waiting for. She sent the manuscript to me just before the end of work on a Thursday, and I started reading it on the subway ride home that night. I was hooked by Tris’s voice in just the first few pages—the tone of her voice is as clipped and careful and controlled as the Abnegation world around her, but underneath, there’s this quiet undertone of her yearning for something more, and I found that split of her persona so tremendously compelling and well-crafted.

By the time I was getting off the subway forty minutes later, I had cancelled my dinner plans because I knew I had to keep reading—I could tell that the manuscript was something special. I finished DIVERGENT at about 3:30 a.m. and stumbled into work the next morning and started babbling in a slightly incoherent and sleep-deprived way to my boss about a girl called Tris, and factions and choices and Chicago, and a mysterious boy called Four. Luckily, my boss, Katherine Tegen, recognized that an editor doesn’t have that kind of impassioned reaction to a book very often, but when she does, it means something. (And publishing may be the only job in the world where “I was up too late reading” is sometimes considered a valid excuse for coming into work late!) And once Katherine read the manuscript, she wholeheartedly agreed that Veronica was an incredible writer and that we had to publish her books!


What was the publication process like? Did you have to fight hard alongside other publishers to secure rights?

The agent told us that there were many other editors and publishing houses who also wanted to publish DIVERGENT, but everyone at HarperCollins really rallied around this book. Veronica’s agent sent me the manuscript on a Thursday night, and we closed the deal the following Monday. It was tremendously exciting for everyone involved (well, except for the other editors/publishing houses, I suppose), and a little over a year later, we’re incredibly honored to be introducing DIVERGENT, and Veronica Roth, to the world. As an editor, I feel really lucky to be working with an author like Veronica—someone who is so talented and so dedicated to the craft of writing, and also just a pretty amazing human being overall—and I hope we get to work together on many more books to come!

The cover art is incredibly well fitting for the novel, can you give us a little insight how the design process went?

Thanks! All credit for that stellar cover goes to our fantastic team of Designers—Barb Fitzsimmons, Amy Ryan, and Joel Tippie. The cover-making process is very collaborative between editors and designers and many of other people on the HarperCollins staff, too. Our Sales team, our Subrights team, and our Marketing/Publicity team all weigh in along the way, because covers are one of the most important selling tools a book has. Sometimes it’s a tricky decision because everyone wants something different, but in this case, it was entirely (and happily!) unanimous. Our designers mocked up a number of different approaches to what the cover could look like, and all of them were fantastic, but as soon as we saw this possibility we knew that this was “the one.” We love that it’s a cover that will appeal to and intrigue an incredibly wide range of readers—boys, girls, adults, and teens alike. My very favorite part of the cover is probably the most subtle detail of all, because it makes you “look again”—the fact that Lake Michigan isn’t a lake at all, as it appears at first glance, but a marsh, just as it is in Tris’s world.

If you had to choose a faction, which would would it be?

I’ve had this conversation with pretty much every person I know who’s read the book thus far, and I never get tired of it! I’d say that I was probably born Abnegation, but I’d have chosen Candor.

Thank you SO much for your time, Molly! We really appreciate you sharing these insights.

Tomorrow on my blog: Divergent forces us to face our fears!

4 comments:

  1. I hate you Brodie. You might as well shove the book under my nose and snatch it back before I get to sniff it!! LOL that was a good one, can't even lie ;)

    It was so nice of Molly do agree to an interview! What gets me most excited is that Molly was going CRAZY for Divergent when she read it. That means a lot because editors obviously read a lot of manuscripts and the ones that jump out are bound to be fantastic! I. NEED. DIVERGENT!!

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  2. Great interview! I stayed up until 4am reading Divergent. You are absolutely correct about cover art being the best marketing tool a publisher and author has. I think the cover for Divergent is exceptional, and I am waiting on the edge of my seat for book two!

    Jen @ I Read Banned Books

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  3. What an exciting story for all involved! I can't wait to get my copy of DIVERGENT. It's in the mail :-)

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