Originally Published: October 25, 2015 12:54 a.m.
Prescott High School graduate Amy Lukavics is living an author's dream.
Critics have said the 28-year-old's debut novel, "Daughters unto Devils" - published Sept. 29 by Harlequin Teen in the U.S. and Canada and Simon & Schuster in the United Kingdom - is "Stephen King meets 'Little House on the Prairie.'" It was recently included in iBook's list of Best New YA Fiction.
She's represented by agent Joanna Volpe of New Leaf Literary & Media Inc., who also represents powerhouse authors Veronica Roth of "Divergent" fame and Leigh Bardugo, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Grisha Trilogy.
And she leaves today for a six-day, six-city book tour with fellow YA authors Gena Showalter and Kady Cross, both multi-published veterans of the writing biz. They'll hit Salem, Massachusetts; Houston and Austin, Texas; Santa Monica and San Diego, California; and Phoenix before Lukavics rushes home to take her children, ages 3 and almost 6, trick-or-treating on Halloween.
"I was surprised," Lukavics said of getting to go on tour. She, like many other authors, had heard that as a first-time author, she shouldn't expect that kind of attention. (There was, however, initial talk of a three-stop mini-tour.) "I was ecstatic."
All her success didn't come overnight, though.
"It is hard," she said of publishing. "It is the business of 'close but no cigar.'"
Lukavics was 19 when she started writing seriously.
"I finished a book that I wish had ended differently," she said, explaining that she decided to write a story that went along with the ending she came up with.
She soon discovered writing wasn't as easy as it looks.
"It is much harder than it seems but you can do it," she said. "If you love reading enough, then you're qualified to write."
She landed her agent with her first completed manuscript - after nine months of querying and countless rejections. When her first three manuscripts - dark contemporary - didn't sell, she thought to herself she might as well write exactly what she wanted.
That was horror.
"It was always my favorite to read, even as a kid," Lukavics said. She cut her teeth on Alvin Schwartz's "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" and R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" series. "They sort of provided the bridge to Stephen King for me."
Today, she counts King and Shirley Jackson as her biggest influences.
"It's lyrical but still very scary, which I like," she said of Jackson, the 20th century Gothic author known for "The Lottery" and "The Haunting of Hill House."
She knew she wanted to write a period piece. She started wondering "what if Little House had been horror?" and "Daughters unto Devils" was born.
She finished her first draft in four months. "But I had to revise it and rewrite it for over a year before I was able to sell it."
After eight or nine rounds of edits - including a rewrite requested by Penguin that resulted in rejection - Harlequin Teen picked up the story, as well as a second novel that Lukavics can't say much about yet. It's a modern-day horror story set on an estate in Colorado.
She was on her couch playing "Tomb Raider" in 2013 when her agent called her with news of the sale. Already having been through three acquisition meetings that ended in rejection, she was trying to keep expectations in check. After receiving her agent's call, she did a happy dance, called her husband and arranged a special celebratory dinner - wine and Chinese food.
The book debuted on Sept. 29 and she had a launch party at Peregrine Book Company on Oct. 17.
"It was such a long time to get here that I'm still sort of shell-shocked," she said. "I'm still processing it."
She said she's looking forward to getting to travel more but has no plans to leave Prescott.
"I'm going to stay in the area," she said. "I grew up here. It's beautiful and small and I love that."
Readers can find Lukavics online at amylukavics.com, on Twitter (@amylukavics), Instagram (@amy.lukavics), Pinterest (amylukavics) and Tumblr (moonbeams-and-ink-stains.tumblr.com). She also blogs at YA Highway (yahighway.com).
The members of YA Highway, all in different stages of their careers, function as Lukavics' writing support group. They get together for writing retreats, read for one another and offer each other advice.
"It's so nice to have people to talk to," she said.
With her second book turned in, she's working on a new book proposal. She has no plans to give up writing anytime soon.
"I can see myself doing it for a long, long time," she said.
Follow Arlene Hittle on Twitter @ahittle_dc. Reach her at 928-445-3333, ext. 2036, or 928-830-2928.
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