2021 Debut Author Interview: Candice Marley Conner!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and to spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun for years to come! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2021 debuts and chat with them about their writing process and what it's like to be a new author. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats, and more!

At the end of 2020, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Candice Marley Conner and her novel THE EXISTENCE OF BEA PEARL, and we have been interested in it ever since! We are so excited to have Candice on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Growing up between swamps, a river, and the Gulf Coast, Candice Marley Conner’s stories emerge from gnarled 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, Under the Full Moon’s Light, Babybug, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and more. Her picture book, SASSAFRAS AND HER TEENY TINY TAIL debuts June 8, 2021 and her YA Southern mystery, THE EXISTENCE OF BEA PEARL, releases June 15, 2021. She lives in Alabama with her husband and two children (one of whom is possibly feral). 

Keep up with Candice: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads

The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author? 

Candice: Thank you, Jessica, Amber, & Emily! I’m excited to be talking to y’all! Being a debut author feels like an in-between place. Sometimes like a quiet, dew-covered morning before dawn breaks, other times like a rickety rope swing platform as you ready yourself to swing out and let go, splashing down into the river. It’s scary and exhilarating and your favorite dream come true.

The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest? 

Candice: To me, the best part of the writing process is getting the idea out of yourself and down on paper or a word doc. Making thoughts tangible things. I call it the Divine Spark because it feels almost like you’re tapped into something bigger than yourself. Conversely, the hardest is when the Divine Spark dims, the inner editor kicks in and throws rotten vegetables at you, but you still need to keep writing.

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the idea for THE EXISTENCE OF BEA PEARL?

Candice: The idea-sparks that ignited the original inspiration were an amalgamation: a writing prompt from a 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest to write what scares you (losing a loved one), write what you know (the swamps and river I grew up in), my childhood adoration of Nancy Drew books, and wanting to explore a place that doesn't exist anymore.

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?

Candice: Favorite character was definitely Bea Pearl. It was effortless to hear her voice and I enjoyed being in her head. It was such a dreamy place to exist. Most difficult was her mother. In earlier drafts, I thought of her only through Bea Pearl’s eyes, until a critique partner urged me to see her grief from a mother’s point of view. Since I was a new mom when I first started writing this, it was tough to get in her headspace, even being removed as I’m only in Bea Pearl’s point-of-view. I had to understand why the mother did/reacted the way she did, even if Bea Pearl couldn’t.

The Book Bratz: What surprised you the most about the publishing process?

Candice: How important those years in the query, then submission trenches are, to be honest. I learned so much about patience, tenacity, and believing in myself. I feel like I’m a stronger person and writer due to that formative time. I mean, it took me almost a decade to claim the title of WRITER, lol.

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from THE EXISTENCE OF BEA PEARL?

Candice: I hope readers get outside and fall in love with wild spaces. I hope they fall in love with Bea Pearl and Honey’s friendship and have their own too. But most importantly, I want readers to takeaway that this story is about believing in yourself and those you love. About hope and existence and what kind of life you choose.

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of THE EXISTENCE OF BEA PEARL in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?

Candice: No plans for future Bea Pearl books at the moment, though I’m totally not opposed to the idea! I like writing short stories set in her world. I have a deleted prequel-turned-short-story as one of my preorder prizes, and the short story “The Levee and Bea Pearl” is in my publisher’s anthology, CABINET OF CURIOUSITIES. As for other projects, I’m working on a STEAM chapter book series now, and have a picture book releasing in three days. Writing across the kidlit age groups keeps the writer’s block away.

Title: The Existence of Bea Pearl
Author: Candice Marley Conner
Publisher: Owl Hollow Press
Publication Date: June 15th, 2021

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Bea Pearl knows her brother isn’t dead. Even if her parents don’t agree. Even if the entire town doesn’t believe her. She knows it’s true. When orders came to evacuate Lake George due to rising floodwaters, Bea Pearl saw Jim head toward the river. She followed him. Only she returned. When her parents have Jim declared legally dead, Bea Pearl decides it’s up to her to figure out where her brother could be if he is alive, and so begins to unravel the mystery of his disappearance. But it seems like someone else wants to know what he was hiding when his bedroom is ransacked. More clues come together: a scrap of paper, mysterious numbers that may lead to swamp monkeys, Jim’s shoes turning up in unexpected places. Bea Pearl can’t figure out what connects them all until she’s stolen from her bed in the dead of night. Bea Pearl’s insistence that Jim’s alive and her quest to figure out why he went down to a flooding river in the first place takes a toll on her shattering family. But she must unearth the truth surrounding her presumed dead brother. Otherwise, the rumors are true and she has killed him. Because if Jim can stop existing, could she too?

Thank you so much to Candice for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about THE EXISTENCE OF BEA PEARL and can't wait for it to be out in the world on June 15th

Celebrate So Excited GIF by Hey Violet

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