Today we're celebrating Ingrid Sundberg's evocative debut novel, All We Left Behind (Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse)!
For fans of Simone Elkeles and Courtney Summers, this haunting debut novel is about two teenagers battling their inner demons as they fall in love for the first time.
When Marion Taylor, the shy bookworm, meets sexy soccer captain Kurt Medford at a party, what seems like a sure thing quickly turns into a total mess. One moment they’re alone in the middle of a lake, igniting sparks of electricity. The next, they’re on dry land, pretending they’ve never met. But rather than the end, that night is the beginning of something real, terrifying, and completely unforgettable for them both.
As Marion and Kurt struggle to build a relationship from the fractured pieces of their pasts, every kiss they share uncovers memories both would rather keep buried. Marion desperately wants to trust Kurt and share the one secret she’s never told anyone—but some truths aren’t meant to be spoken out loud. Kurt is also still haunted by his mother’s death, by the people he hurt, and by the mistakes he can never take back.
Explosive together and hollow apart, Marion and Kurt seem totally wrong for each other—but could they turn out to be more right than they ever thought possible?
Welcome, Ingrid! Tell us about how you sold this book. What was it like when you found out? Do you have an agent? Were there a lot of revisions along the way?
I do have an agent, and there were three major rounds of revision with my agent before we went on submission. It took around eight months from signing with my agent to actually going on sub. Once we went on submission, it miraculously only took two weeks to sell All We Left Behind! I think that goes to show that you just have to find the right person who loves your story. I was really surprised when I heard the news. It had taken so long to get an agent, then revise, that I was ready to wash my hands of this book and move on. It was spectacular to realize that after ten years of writing, I was finally going to have a published book!
Ingrid signing at the AWLB book launch!
What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why?
All We Left Behind was originally written in poetic vignettes from two different characters' POV’s. It was similar to a verse novel, with short scenes that created emotional moments. One of the biggest revisions was with my agent. We decided to change the book from vignettes to longer sections of prose within each character’s viewpoint. The biggest challenge was creating transitions and deciding which character POV a scene should be told in. In the early drafts, you flipped between each POV so quickly; you got both sides in each scene. Now, I had to choose which character perspective would be the most effective.
What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?
There’s so so so many! But the biggest one was probably from my semester with Amanda Jenkins. She told me to forget what was happening in a scene. Forget about the plot, and focus on how my character feels in a scene. This caused me to finally get inside my character’s skin and be honest.
My writing mantra became: “What does your character feel in this scene. Now what do they want to do about that feeling.” What’s amazing is that the plot takes care of itself when you do this. Your characters start to act in honest, surprising, and powerful ways.
Tell us about something special you keep on your desk/wall as you work.
Remember those class photos we took at residency? Well, I have mine hanging up next to my desk! My class is always looking over me and helping me keep my momentum!
Ingrid's class, the talented and photogenic Dystropians.
Who were your advisors at VCFA?
Laura Kvasnosky, Amanda Jenkins, Mary Quattlebaum, and Shelley Tanaka. All of my advisors taught me so much and were instrumental in helping All We Left Behind become the book it is. But I never would have written this book without Amanda Jenkins. The novel is actually dedicated to her.
How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?
It completely revolutionized my writing. It showed me how much I had left to learn, and then gave me the tools to address any problem that came my way. It broke down my bad habits. It made me brave in a way I didn’t know how to be before. It was transformative. Plus, it gave me an incredible community that I will always be grateful for.
What was special about your VCFA graduating class?
My graduating class is very close. We’re the Dystropians, named after the impending Mayan apocalypse that was supposed to happen when we graduated in 2013. But we also had a lot of challenges that caused us to be very close: class members dropping out, deaths in the family, divorces, house floods, and more. Coming together every residency was a ray of sunshine for all of us! The Dystropians have become some of my best friends. In fact, three were bridesmaids in my wedding! We all really adore one another and we try our best to meet up once a year as a class to keep supporting each other’s writing.
Some love from classmates at the AWLB book launch.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Ingrid. Congratulations on your amazing debut! Welcome to the world, All We Left Behind!
Ingrid Sundberg holds an MFA in writing for children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman University. She grew up in Maine, but now lives in sunny California, where she misses the colors of autumn. She loves polka dots, baking, and dying her hair every color of the rainbow. All We Left Behind is her first novel. Find her online at: www.ingridsundberg.com
You can also catch up with Ingrid on Twitter (@ingridsundberg), Facebook (ingridsnotes), Instagram (@isundberg), and Pinterest (ingridsundberg).