Behind the Scenes Writing of Court of Fives by Kate Elliot

Behind the Scenes Writing of Court of Fives by Kate Elliot

Posted by: Lisa Parkin August 26, 2015 0

As a huge fan of the debut series Court of Fives, I’m excited to share with you a behind the scenes look at the journey author Kate Elliott took to publish her new YA fantasy book.

For you aspiring writers out there, Kate’s insight is definitely eye-opening!

Court of Fives was published August 18th. It’s a new series I highly recommend.


From Idea to Publication: The Journey of Court of Fives

by Kate Elliott

People are often surprised at how long it takes for a novel to travel from idea to publication. I think of novels as slow cookers, both in terms of how long it takes me to work the first fragment of an idea into a full blown novel and in the care and work required to turn a first draft into a publishing-quality book. Some of my novels took longer and some shorter, but here is the time frame for Court of Fives.

I first started toying with the idea of writing a Young Adult novel in about 2008 when I wrote the early chapters that eventually became Cold Magic. However, the Spiritwalker Trilogy had a clear adult epic fantasy feel even with a first person protagonist, so I wrote it as adult fantasy and it was published by Orbit Books in 2010 (followed by Cold Fire and Cold Steel).

Meanwhile, my spouse became co-director of an archaeological dig in the Delta region of Egypt, a site called Tell Timai that flourished during the Greco-Roman era (about 300 B.C.E to 600 C.E.). Naturally I got interested in the history because of his work, and over the next few years I began reading research books and articles on the period and jotting down ideas. Other inspirations also came together at this time, merging into a larger plot. I wrote about some of these inspirations at Once Upon a Twilight.

Eventually I sat down to write, and I completely a first draft between November 2012 and February 2013. After a quick polishing edit, and knowing that I could expect to do a great deal of revision, I turned a draft into my agent Russell Galen.

[For a longer discussion comparing my experiences writing and revising adult sff with YA, I wrote about My Writing Process at The Book Wars]

He pitched the book, then called MASK, to Senior Executive Editor Andrea Spooner at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on March 6, 2013.

LBYR made an offer, which I accepted on April 16, 2013.

Andrea and her then-Assistant, now Associate Editor Deirdre Jones sent me an extensive revisions letter. I turned in the first major revisions pass in Fall 2013. They followed up with a second extensive revisions letter, and I turned in a second major revisions pass in early February 2014.

A third revisions pass followed that consisted mostly of line editing and fine-tuning. The manuscript was finished and sent to the copyediting department on March 31, 2014.

On April 18, 2014 we changed the title to COURT OF FIVES.

Copy edits and page proofs were complete by the end of June 2014, after which LBYR’s marketing and publicity team got to work.

COURT OF FIVES hit the shelves on August 18, 2015.

From idea to publication? About four years.

No time to rest, though: I’m currently revising book two, scheduled for August 2016. On we go!