Interview with Paper Lantern Lit’s Lexa Hillyer

Last year I worked at Paper Lantern Lit – and left after I almost drowned on a company retreat, but that’s a story for another time – and today I’m interviewing my former boss, the awesome Lexa Hillyer, about all things PLL. The literary development company is responsible for discovering fantastic authors, such as Lauren Morrill (MEANT TO BE), Jacqueline Green (TRUTH OR DARE), Avery Hastings (FEUDS), and plenty more! Check out some of their other talent here.

ADAM: First off, I’m sure you’ve answered this 10,000 times since the company’s inception, but could you detail what exactly a literary development company is and how it differs from a literary agency and publisher? 

LEXA: Sure! PLL is a small creative group of “story architects”—editors trained in the mechanics of concept, character, voice, and plot—who work closely with writers to develop ideas. Our primary business model starts out with PLL developing a big exciting concept, then collaborating with a writer to turn it into a book. However, our approach varies depending on whether we’re working with debut or established authors, and whether we’re aiming to sell the project to a traditional publishing house or publish it ourselves as an e-book first on our new imprint, The Studio.

ADAM: How does PLL go about selecting writers? 

LEXA: We have a very straightforward and simple auditioning process for our concepts, but many of our collaborations also arise organically, based on connecting with writers whose voices we admire. While we started out primarily as a destination for new writers, we’re now collaborating more and more often with experienced authors as well.

ADAM: Back in March PLL launched The Studio, an innovative e-first imprint. By publishing e-first has this allowed you to take chances that might be too risky for traditional pub? And what kind of support can writers expect from PLL if selected as a writer?

LEXA: The Studio is definitely a place where PLL can experiment, play, bend genre and explore new niches. That said, we’re always looking to reach a broad audience with our projects, sometimes it’s just a matter of deciding what pool of readers might be the first to take notice and celebrate the book. For Studio titles, PLL produces the book, from cover and interior designs to editing and proofreading, to pricing and publishing strategy, to pre- and post-pub promotion. We’ve done some really fun campaigns and are very excited for the publication of this season’s headliner, ETERNAL NIGHT by Carina Adly MacKenzie, which comes out later this month. Carina is a writer on the hit TV show The Originals; she’s a phenomenally talented first-time novelist and the book is epic, romantic, and pulse-pounding. Part of the reason we’re excited to publish her first on the Studio is that we believe that both adults and young adults will be drawn to this title; she, like us, is interested in reaching readers in the most dynamic ways.

ADAM: How did you juggle writing your YA debut, PROOF OF FOREVER, while running PLL? And what inspired the book?

LEXA: I’ve always worn multiple hats; prior to selling PROOF OF FOREVER, I wrote a book of poems, ACQUAINTED WITH THE COLD, which came out in 2012, and I’m now writing a second collection in addition to a second novel. My business partner Lauren Oliver and I both like to stay creatively challenged and invigorated; we believe this makes for stronger and more rewarding work across the board. I knew for a long time that I wanted to write a novel for teens, but I kept putting it off. When I finally felt ready, PROOF OF FOREVER came together really quickly—I wrote the proposal (about 80 pages) in ten days. The book has a number of inspirations. At Paper Lantern Lit, we’d been discussing developing a project about four friends receiving a second chance at the summer of a lifetime, but we’d been stuck on the how, where, when, and most importantly, the who. My mom got a cottage on a lake in New Hampshire that used to be a girls’ camp; I went up there to write, and the characters really began to speak to me—so much so that I knew this couldn’t be a project for another writer—it had to be my own.

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Lexa! I’m looking forward to PROOF OF FOREVER, ETERNAL NIGHT, and future PLL projects.

PubCrawl readers, Paper Lantern Lit is generously giving away a e-copy of ETERNAL NIGHT to one lucky winner. Leave a comment below and one winner will be randomly selected on Friday!

low res headshotLEXA HILLYER is the co-founder of literary incubator Paper Lantern Lit and the author of Proof of Forever, forthcoming from HarperCollins in June  2015. Before PLL, she edited numerous bestselling YA authors, first at HarperCollins and then at Penguin. Lexa is also an award-winning poet: her first collection, Acquainted with the Cold won the Melissa Lanitis Gregory Poetry Prize as well as the 2012 Book of the Year Award. Her poetry has been anthologized in Best New Poets 2012, and has recently appeared in several journals. She’s currently working on her second collection of poetry, and her second YA novel. She lives in Carroll Gardens with her extremely loveable husband and a very skinny orange tree. Twitter: @Lexa_Hillyer


14 Responses to Interview with Paper Lantern Lit’s Lexa Hillyer

  1. Anna-Maria Crum Aug 13 2014 at 10:59 am #

    I’ve been curious about Paper Lantern so this blog was timely for me. Very informative. I wasn’t sure what a literary development company was. It sounds like they aren’t just a straight packager, but rather more interested in developing authors. That’s good to know.

    • Adam Silvera Aug 16 2014 at 12:08 am #

      Anna, they’re definitely more than your typical packager. They provide essential weekly editorial guidance for their others whereas some packagers will assign you the plot and check in with you weeks – sometimes months – later.

  2. Chris Bailey Aug 13 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    What a cool publishing concept! Thank you both for the info. Adam, please don’t leave us in suspense too long with the near-drowning story.

    • Adam Silvera Aug 16 2014 at 12:09 am #

      Haha! Story for another time, but short version: don’t drop off into the deep end if you can’t swim. Being tall will only keep you above water for so long.

  3. Rose Aug 14 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    This was such an interesting article! I’ve known of PLL for a few months now and never realized what a unique and interesting way they have of doing things. Definitely look forward to reading whatever they put out.

    • Adam Silvera Aug 16 2014 at 12:15 am #

      They are so awesome with many more awesome books on the way!

  4. Kristina Hammock Aug 15 2014 at 4:29 am #

    PLL is awesome! I’ve been really looking forward to Eternal Night for a while now & would love to win a copy. Thank you for the opportunity! 🙂

    • Adam Silvera Aug 16 2014 at 12:07 am #

      Hi Kristina! You won the copy of Eternal Night! Please email me at AdamRLsilvera AT gmail to claim your prize. Congrats!

  5. Claire Aug 15 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    The concept of The Studio is really interesting, it’s a nice way to draw different people to books!
    Big fan of Carina MacKenzie (and The Original), so I’m really excited to get to read Eternal Night and would love to get that e-copy.

    • Adam Silvera Aug 16 2014 at 12:16 am #

      The Studio totally draws different people to books and also people to DIFFERENT books!

  6. Heather C. Myers Aug 15 2014 at 11:16 pm #

    I had never heard of PLL before, but I love the idea of having people you can bounce ideas off of that specialize in particular parts of a novel, whether it’s plot, dialogue, etc. I do wonder how PLL finds their contributors. Great, informative article. Thank you for sharing!

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