CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

RUBY IN THE SKY through February 9th
FOUR DEAD QUEENS through February 23rd

Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Guest Posts w/ Debut Authors & Query Critique Giveaways

Holly Root & Taylor Haggerty/Victoria Lee Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 3/11/19

Katelyn Uplinger Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 3/25/2019

Mary Cummings Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 4/10/2019

Devin Ross Agent Spotlight Interview & Query Critique Giveaway on 4/29/19

Jim McCarthy/Remi Lay Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 5/14/2019

Brent Taylor/Rajani LaRocca Guest Post & Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2019


AGENT SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH AMY STAPP AND QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY


Today I’m thrilled to have agent Amy Stapp here. She is a literary agent at Wolfson Literary Agency.

Hi­ Amy! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Amy:

1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.


Hi, Natalie! Thanks so much for having me. I’m quite new to agenting actually. I spent seven years on the other side of the aisle, working as an editor with Macmillan, where I was lucky enough to work with a few of Michelle Wolfson's amazing authors. I knew firsthand how much Michelle's authors loved her, and I knew WLA had a great reputation among editors, so when I decided to move into agenting last fall, Michelle was my first call. 

About the Agency:

2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

Wolfson Literary is a full-service literary agency. We represent both adult and young adult commercial fiction, as well as select nonfiction. Many of our New York Times bestselling authors have been with WLA almost since its inception over a decade ago. Since we are a small agency with a small list, we are proud to offer very focused, personalized attention. Michelle has a business degree and built the agency with an eye toward managing careers versus just selling one book at a time.

What She’s Looking For:

3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?

In YA I’m looking for mystery, thriller, romance, historical fiction, and contemporary coming-of-age. I tend to gravitate toward upper-grade, more mature voices with adult crossover appeal.

4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?

Right now, I’ve been loving YA suspense and psychological thrillers. I’m a big mystery reader on the adult side, and it’s fun to watch this genre grow and evolve in young adult fiction as well. I am always looking for YA romance; there’s just something about that first love story that never gets old. But I’d also love to see more friendship stories; maybe there’s still a romance, but the central plot is an amazing friendship. I want to see more stories about kids from blue-collar families, farming communities, small towns, or a unique region I’ve not seen before. I’d love to find a YA Indiana Jones, or a story with an international adventure. I also have a soft spot for vintage Hollywood, and I’d love to find a historical that captures this era.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

I’ve grown a little weary of hyper-insecure, bumbling protagonists who don’t know they’re pretty. Ha! You’d be surprised how much of this I still see. I’m always open to fairytale/myth retellings or magical realism, but I’m leaning away from epic fantasy right now. And I’m probably not the best fit for science fiction.

Agent Philosophy:

6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?

I want to represent career authors—true professionals who get excited about revisions and always have a new idea simmering on the back burner.

Editorial Agent:

7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?

Oh yes… Ha! It’s in my DNA. I get excited when I can tell how talented an author is but can immediately spot the little ways to take a solid manuscript to the next level. It feels like a puzzle and it’s incredibly rewarding when those pieces click together. I think the process varies each time, but having worked at a publishing house, I know what it takes to get even the best manuscripts through an editorial board, and it’s my job to ensure your manuscript is as close to perfect as I can get it.

Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)

8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?

You can reach me at amy@wolfsonliterary.com, and check out our full submission guidelines at wolfsonliterary.com. Just keep query letters simple: as they say—the hook, the book, and the cook. And if you need a little more help, we post advice, insider tips, and publishing news on the WLA blog.

9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

Just keep it professional. Your hook should tell me everything I need to know. And I read every query I’m sent.  

Response Time:

10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

This can vary, but we tend to respond to queries that interest us very quickly, usually in under a week.

Self-Published and Small Press Authors:

11.  Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?

Absolutely. A great book is a great book, and while I definitely want to know about previous publications, I judge each manuscript on its own merits.

12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?

Yes and no. We are our clients’ fiercest advocates and biggest cheerleaders, so that hasn’t changed. We want authors to succeed in whatever their personal career goals may be. At the same time, self-publishing, hybrid publishing, more small publishers, etc., have opened up more opportunities for authors and we are here, as always, to help our clients evaluate opportunities and take advantage of the ever-changing landscape.

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

Well I’m just a couple months in, so I’m still eagerly looking for my first client. (So query me!) But some of WLA’s best-known clients include Kiersten White, Kasie West, Lauren Blakely, Lindsey Pollak, Tawna Fenske, and up and coming star Jessica Pennington, whom I acquired as an editor and am thrilled to still be working with on the other side.

Interviews and Guest Posts:

14. Please share the links to any interviews and guest posts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.

Feel free to check out the Wolfson Literary website and blog for more specifics on what we’re looking for. We love connecting with writers there. And I’ve posted a little bit more about some of my favorite topics and tropes on my Manuscript Wishlist page.

Links and Contact Info:

15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.

Writers can query me at amy@wolfsonliterary.com (just be sure to write Query in the subject line), and feel free to follow me (@AmyStappNY) on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest where I share my manuscript wishlist, current books I’m loving, writing tips, and publishing advice.

Additional Advice:

16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?

The biggest mistake I see is writers submitting their work before it’s ready to be seen by an agent. It’s really exciting when you finally finish a manuscript you’ve worked on for months or even years. But take your time to workshop the manuscript with a critique partner or writers circle. Then attend a few writers conferences to learn as much as you can about the industry, taking time to think about what your long-term publishing goals are. Once you’ve done your homework, you can submit your work confidently, knowing agents like me are eager to find your unique voice.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Amy.

­Amy is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follower button if you're not a follower) and leave a comment through March 2nd.  If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an international giveaway.

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.

ROMANCE IS IN THE AIR GIVEAWAY HOP



Happy Tuesday Everyone! Today I am excited to participate in the Romance Is in the Air Giveaway Hop hosted by by BookHounds. This time I need to make my giveaway super simple and just offer an Amazon Gift Card. I'm really sorry, but I had no Internet for five days during the frigid cold weather the week before last. In addition, we've been dealing with a personal tragedy this week. I hope you understand.

To win some upcoming fantastic MG and YA books by debut authors, I hope that you will enter my contests listed above and in schedule below.

I'm already planning to participate in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop that starts on March 15th and will offer a good selection of new books then.

For this this giveaway, one winner will win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.



To enter, all you need to do is be a follower anyway you want and leave a comment through February 27th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is International.

Here's what's coming up:

Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 13th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Amy Stapp

Monday, February 18th I'm off for President's Day

Monday, February 25th I have a guest post by Mary Kole who has her own editorial service

Wednesday, March 6th I have an interview with debut author Gail Shepherd and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE TRUE HISTORY OF LINDIE HAWKINS

Monday, March 11th I have a  guest post by debut author Victoria Lee and her agents Holly Root and Taylor Haggerty with an ARC giveaway of Victoria's YA fantasy THE FEVER KING and a query critique giveaway by Holly and Taylor

Monday, March 18th I have an interview with debut author Sabina Khan and a giveaway of her YA contemporary/multicultural the love & lies of rukhsana ali 

Hope to see you  tomorrow!

And here's all the other blogs participating in this blog hop:


ASTRID SCHOLTE INTERVIEW AND FOUR DEAD QUEENS GIVEAWAY


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Astrid Scholte here to share about her YA fantasy FOUR DEAD QUEENS. It’s got high stakes, a murder mystery, and forbidden romance—three things that make me excited to read it. It releases February 26th in the U.S.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads


A divided nation. Four Queens. A ruthless pickpocket. A noble messenger. And the murders that unite them.

Get in quick, get out quicker.

These are the words Keralie Corrington lives by as the preeminent dipper in the Concord, the central area uniting the four quadrants of Quadara. She steals under the guidance of her mentor Mackiel, who runs a black market selling their bounty to buyers desperate for what they can’t get in their own quarter. For in the nation of Quadara, each quarter is strictly divided from the other. Four queens rule together, one from each region:

Toria: the intellectual quarter that values education and ambition
Ludia: the pleasure quarter that values celebration, passion, and entertainment
Archia: the agricultural quarter that values simplicity and nature
Eonia: the futurist quarter that values technology, stoicism and harmonious community

When Keralie intercepts a comm disk coming from the House of Concord, what seems like a standard job goes horribly wrong. Upon watching the comm disks, Keralie sees all four queens murdered in four brutal ways. Hoping that discovering the intended recipient will reveal the culprit – information that is bound to be valuable bartering material with the palace – Keralie teams up with Varin Bollt, the Eonist messenger she stole from, to complete Varin’s original job and see where it takes them.
 

Hi Astrid! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Thanks so much for having me! I used the Literary Rambles website all the time during my years of querying.

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be an author, writing my first "novel" at age 5. Another love of mine was drawing so I thought I should be a picture book illustrator. Back then, I thought I could write and illustrate my own books. It wasn't until years later that I found out most authors don't also illustrate their work.

While my passion for writing existed from a young age, I pursued a career in 3D animation and visual effects as I also had a love for the magic of movie making. I studied 3D animation at university and have worked (and still do) in the film, TV and animation industry. Working in film production is a taxing job, with long hours, so my writing took a backseat for a few years. It wasn't until 2012 that I finally finished a novel. It was a YA paranormal romance and I thought for sure it would be published!

I attempted to be published here in Australia, where you can submit directly to publishers. After getting close with one publisher (or what felt like close as they gave a detailed, positive rejection) I decided to query agents in the USA. Over 100 rejections later, with only one full request, I realized that like many of the characters in YA paranormal novels, the genre was dead.

That year, I attempted Nanowrimo for the first time and wrote 50K words of what would become my second completed YA novel, an elemental YA fantasy. This time, I went straight to agents in the USA, as I'd been told that speculative fiction was a difficult sell in Australia. I amassed around 80 rejections with that manuscript, but received 12 full requests and some positive feedback. A common response was that YA fantasy was oversaturated and my book wouldn't stand out in the market.

So I decided to try one more time. (In truth, I'm sure I would've kept going!) I wanted to combine all the things I loved about YA and fiction, including twists, morally gray characters, forbidden romance, secrets and murder mysteries. I also wanted to query as quickly as possible as I'd spent years on failed manuscripts. This book was Four Dead Queens. Luckily I didn't give up!

2. Yes it is good that you kept at it. Where did you get the idea for FOUR DEAD QUEENS?

This might sound a little cliché, but I had a dream where I was sitting in a horse-drawn carriage when a futuristic silver car flew past. When I woke, I wondered what kind of world would exist with such contrasting technologies and how this would impact the vocations, personalities, and dreams and desires of the people who lived there. I'm also a huge fan of murder mysteries and had this image in my head of multiple queens sitting back-to-back, discussing a murder from their shared court.

3. You have this fantastic teaser on your website: One big lie. Two forbidden romances. Three days to catch a killer. It makes me immediately want to read your book. How did you come up with this and all these fantastically compelling stakes in your story?

Thank you! The tagline was something Penguin Random House asked me to do and they had the idea of the 1, 2, 3 list leading up to Four Dead Queens. Luckily there were elements in the book that fit that numbering!

As for the stakes, I’ve always been drawn to high-concept and high-stake novels and it was something I wanted to create within my own work. I wrote a list of all the things I love in YA, fiction and movies/TV shows, a forbidden romance is something that I love in any story. I also love twists and turns and like keeping the reader on their feet, which required each queen to have a dangerous secret—or two! The secrets themselves evolved organically as I wrote the book. I wanted the secret to not only fit with the character but be in response to the quadrant they grew up in.

4. I love forbidden love too. What was your world building process like? How did you keep track of basically four different worlds?

In truth, there were originally six queens to keep track of, so four was much more manageable! J I
always knew I wanted the world to be divided and have distinct qualities that influenced the characters and their personalities and beliefs. I wanted the regions to be exact opposites of each other, as this always creates great drama! Eonia was the first quadrant that was solidified, with their focus on technology and medicine but with a repressed, controlled society. From there, I wanted a quadrant to be contrasting that, which was Ludia—the pleasure quadrant with a people who revel only in the lighter things in life. It was a bit of a balancing act, creating enough push and pull between the different quadrants.

The queens themselves are the embodiment of the quadrants, so I could develop both the characters and their regions at the same time, making sure their personalities rang true to where they came from.

5. This is a mixture of  two genres: fantasy and murder mystery. What were the challenges in writing the mystery of Keralie trying to find the culprit out to kill the four queens? What advice do you have for other writers?

The challenge of a murder mystery is always going to be figuring out who the murderer is and why they would do it. You don’t want readers to be disappointed with the killer’s motives or have them figure out the culprit too easily. At the same time, you don’t want the reader to feel like they were misled. It’s a balancing act of hiding things from the reader while revealing clues in order to figure out the mystery. The reveal payoff has to be surprising as well as realistic—within the world you’ve built.

I actually didn’t know who the killer was myself until 1/3 of the way through the first draft. I then went back and put in clues, as well as red herrings!, so the reader wouldn’t feel cheated when they found out the truth.

6. The mystery part of it sounds complicated. Can't wait to see how you kept the good balance you describer. Did you plot this story out or wing it? How did this process work for you and what will you do differently next time?

I’m a pantser, so I never outline the plot. Most of the time, I have no idea where the book is going! I find that this works well for me as the book and characters evolved organically and I can discover the murderer as the reader would. Working this way means I revise more than other authors might, but revising is my favorite part of the process, so I don’t mind. I write all my books this way, and can’t imagine doing it any differently. I get creatively blocked if I try to write an outline before I’ve finished a first draft.

7. That must be hard with a mystery. Your agent is Hillary Jacobson. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I signed with Hillary through PitchWars in 2016. She was one of the participating agents and she requested my novel through the agent round. A week later, she offered representation. It was surreal! Therefore, I didn’t actually have to query this novel, which was a relief after years of querying. I can’t recommend PitchWars enough!

I was very lucky that my road to publication with Four Dead Queens was so smooth. In under a year, I wrote the novel, got an agent and signed a two-book deal with Penguin Random House. But this was after five years of being in the query trenches with around 200 rejections over two different books, so I know the pain of querying!

8. You live in Australia, which must really impact on your marketing of your book in the U.S. How are you planning to promote it here? What do you think are effective ways to promote a book without being able to schedule many events in the U.S.?

It can certainly be difficult with timezones and I’ve spent numerous evenings up till 4am so I can participate in online promotions, such as cover reveals and pre-order campaigns. I’m very lucky that my day job takes me to the USA at least once a year, and I love Disney Parks so I try to go as much as possible, which has allowed me to attend some events in person, such as New York Comic Con and Yallwest. I definitely recommend international authors visit the USA in the lead up to their release, if possible.

As for promoting remotely, much of it has to do with timing. I’ve found posting late my evening/early morning EST works well for Instagram posts as does early my morning for Twitter posts. It’s not as easy as being in the USA, and I often feel behind the eight ball, but it’s certainly doable!

9. I saw on your website that you already have publishers of your book in nine countries. That’s so awesome! How did that come about? Any advice on getting a book published in other countries for other writers?

I am beyond excited to see my book written in another language! It’s an author’s dream come true! I have an amazing foreign rights agent, Roxane Edouard, at Curtis Brown UK who organizes my foreign rights. Roxane loves my book and has been a wonderful advocate from the beginning.

My advice would be to look at foreign rights departments and agency partners when you’re researching agents. ICM Partners use Curtis Brown UK for all their foreign rights and they’re very strong in the market. The other piece of advice I would recommend is to try to only sell North American or World English rights to the USA, that way your agent can sell foreign territories themselves, rather than selling these to your publisher.

10. That's great advice about finding a good foreign rights/agent team. What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on what I hope will be my third published book, another YA fantasy about family, identity, and—of course—murder. I think fans of Four Dead Queens will really enjoy it. Next year, Penguin Random House will be publishing my second book which is another standalone YA fantasy/sci fi mashup which explores grief. I’ll be finishing the edits for this book later this year.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Astrid. You can find Astrid at:

Pre-order links:

 Astrid has generously offered a pre-order of FOUR DEAD QUEENS for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through February 23rd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is International to anywhere that the Book Depository ships for free.

Here's what's coming up:

Tomorrow I'm participating in the Romance Is in the Air Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, February 13th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Amy Stapp

Monday, February 18th I'm off for President's Day

Monday, February 25th I have a guest post by Mary Kole who has her own editorial service

Wednesday, March 6th I have an interview with debut author Gail Shepherd and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE TRUE HISTORY OF LINDIE HAWKINS

Monday, March 11th I have a  guest post by debut author Victoria Lee and her agents Holly Root and Taylor Haggerty with an ARC giveaway of Victoria's YA fantasy THE FEVER KING and a query critique giveaway by Holly and Taylor

Monday, March 18th I have an interview with debut author Sabina Khan and a giveaway of her YA contemporary/multicultural the love & lies of rukhsana ali 

Hope to see you  tomorrow!

ADDIE THORLEY & KATELYN DETWEILER GUEST POST W/ QUERY CRITIQUE & AN AFFAIR OF POISONS GIVEAWAY & IWSG POST

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I'm excited to have debut author Addie Thorley here with her agent Katelyn Detweiler here to share about Addie's upcoming YA historical fantasy AN AFFAIR OF POISONS that will be released February 26, 2019. It's about a major murder scandal in Paris in the reign of King Louis XIV. It sounds fantastic!

But before I get to our post today, I have my IWSG post. And I'm excited to be a co-host for the first time.



Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

The co-hosts this month are:  Raimey Gallant,Natalie Aguirre, CV Grehan, and Michelle Wallace!

Optional Question: Besides writing what other creative outlets do you have?

I never saw myself as very creative until I started writing. It's one of the reasons that I enjoy it. It lets me express a party of myself that I didn't know existed. My only other creative endeavors are backstage work on community theater productions. There is some creativity to it, but it's also a lot of grunt work.

What about you? Do you have other creative endeavors? 

Now onto my post by Addie and Katelyn. Here's a blurb of AN AFFAIR OF POISONS from Goodreads:


After unwittingly helping her mother poison King Louis XIV, seventeen-year-old alchemist Mirabelle Monvoisin is forced to see her mother’s Shadow Society in a horrifying new light: they’re not heroes of the people, as they’ve always claimed to be, but murderers. Herself included. Mira tries to ease her guilt by brewing helpful curatives, but her hunger tonics and headache remedies cannot right past wrongs or save the dissenters her mother vows to purge.

Royal bastard Josse de Bourbon is more kitchen boy than fils de France. But when the Shadow Society assassinates the Sun King and half the royal court, he must become the prince he was never meant to be in order to save his injured sisters and the petulant Dauphin. Forced to hide in the derelict sewers beneath the city, any hope of reclaiming Paris seems impossible—until Josse’s path collides with Mirabelle’s, and he finds a surprising ally in his sworn enemy.

She's a deadly poisoner. He's a bastard prince. Together, they form a tenuous pact to unite the commoners and former nobility against the Shadow Society. But can a rebellion built on mistrust ever hope to succeed?


Here's Addie and Katelyn!

Addie’s questions for Katelyn –

1. Katelyn, you're a literary agent AND a YA author, which means you’re basically Superwoman (I don't know how you have enough hours in the day!) How do you balance both careers and how do you feel they compliment one another?

Ha! Superwoman. I wish! Honestly, I’m the kind of writer who goes days/weeks/months sometimes without actually writing—I don’t need to do it every day, and I usually can’t do it every day. I have swirls of writing where I’m really caught up in a project and it feels great, and then times where I value TV binges and human interaction and reading other people’s words way more. But hard deadlines always take priority, whether it’s a time sensitive read for a client, or a submission that requires all my energy and attention, or a revision due date for one of my own books. That’s when sleep might take a hit! But that doesn’t happen too often—I’m usually pretty decent at compartmentalizing and making sure my work days are agency focused, and my nights and weekends are for writing and reading (…or Neflix). Personally, I think the two jobs go hand in hand well and it’s hard at this point to imagine one without the other—being an agent and reading so many other words makes me a better, more aware writer, and being a writer makes me a more understanding and sympathetic part of the process for my clients. The insider publishing knowledge also came in handy when writing my latest book, out this July, The Undoing of Thistle Tate, about a bestselling teen “author.” (Quotation mark use very intentional. ;))

2. I love the fact that you're both an agent and an author because you really understand the struggles and anxieties that come with querying, being on sub, and the revision process. What's one thing you wish authors/querying writers knew about agents? If you can, give us a peek behind the veil into some agent insecurities or things we might not know that effect whether or not you decide to represent an author.

I definitely understand those struggles and anxieties! Honestly, I feel all the same emotions for
my author’s submissions as I do my own. It’s hard not to feel those rejections on a deep personal level—I love the projects I send out, and I know all the tears and sweat authors have poured into their work. We agents may act cool, but we’re feeling all the feelings right there with you. And that goes for the good stuff, too! All the big and little victories. We truly are in it together.

I also truly feel the pang of sadness whenever I reject a submission I’ve received. I know the kind of love and time and determination that went into those words. Please know—it’s never easy to press send on those kinds of emails.

3. Since you have experience on both sides of the author/agent relationship, what would you say are the most important factors in a successful partnership? What do you look for in a client, and as an author, what do you expect of your agent? 

COMMUNICATION. Definitely communication. Always. As an agent and as an author, I think transparency and honesty and openness are essential in a healthy, productive relationship. I really value an author’s opinions every step of the way, from what revisions to make, what the submission list will look like, what deal points matter most. I always want it to feel like a true partnership, like we are both sharing our insights and coming to the strongest possible strategy from there.

4. You represent authors of all genres and age categories, is there anything on your wish list that you're especially eager to find at the moment? 

Honestly, I never know what I’ll love until I’m reading it. It’s all about the quality of the writing and the voice itself—does it feel fresh, unique, inspiring? I’m a sucker for a good retelling, using an old story and giving it an inventive twist that makes it feel totally new. And I’m always looking to read about different cultures, different places, perspectives outside of my own lived experience. Overall, I’m all about balance, as an agent and as a reader—fantasy and contemporary, adult and children’s, a little of this, a little of that. It keeps things interesting!

Katelyn’s questions for Addie –

1. Was becoming an author always the dream for you, or were there other career paths you had in mind? Was there a moment where it really clicked—that feeling that writing was your path, that you just had to do it, no matter how long/hard the journey to publication might be?

When I was young, I was determined to become a racehorse jockey. (I was absolutely obsessed with the Thoroughbred series!) Unfortunately, I grew waaaaay too tall (I’m 5’ 9’’) so when that dream died, I decided to become a journalist/reporter instead. I worked in radio and television news before becoming a YA author, and while I’ve always loved writing, I did not love writing hard news. It was just so dry and depressing. When my husband suggested I try my hand at fiction, I laughed and insisted I could never write anything as long as a novel. Fast forward seven months, and I’d written my first rough draft (which clocked in at 112k, so I clearly didn’t struggle in the length department!) It was such a fun and freeing experience. I could have as many opinions as I wanted! It could have magic! And kissing! I knew then that this was the career for me, no matter how long it took. And it took a looooong time! An Affair of Poisons is the fifth novel I’ve written. The other four will never see the light of day!  

2. AN AFFAIR OF POISONS is one of the most wildly creative spins on a true historical event I’ve ever read. What was the inspiration behind the novel? What piece of the story came to you first? A character, a scene, the idea of alchemy, the time period?

This sounds totally creepy, but I have always loved poison. Something about smoky laboratories and bubbling cauldrons and dangerous, colorful bottles really calls to me, so I devoured every poisonous book and movie I could get my hands on. When I eventually began writing novels of my own, I knew I wanted to write a poison book. I just wasn’t sure who or what it would be about. One day, while doing research for a different project, I happened to read about the sorceress La Voisin and the scandalous event known as L'affaire des poisons (here’s a quick run-down: basically, members of the French nobility began hiring witches and poisoners to get rid of their bothersome husbands and rivals at court. It turned into a huge scandal that reached clear to the king’s inner circle.) I immediately felt that spark; I had found my poisoner at last.

I dove head first into research and was even more fascinated by the underground network of poisoners, magicians, and alchemists that La Voisin managed. I had a very clear picture in my head of a girl with crazy hair running around a laboratory, trying to make her mother, La Voisin, happy. The rest of the story spiraled out from there. One funny fact: in the first draft, Mirabelle made a love potion in the opening scene…which didn’t set the right tone AT ALL.  

3. I must admit, I know very little about this period of French history—and I’m all for learning some of the basic elements with a little alchemy and magic and, of course, swoony romance! Has history always been a passion of yours? What was the most interesting part of your research?

Yes! I’m a total history nerd. As a kid, I ran around dressed like an orphan straight from the gutters of Victorian London (complete with the British accent!) and I could often be found scaling the rock walls in our backyard, pretending to cross the Rocky Mountains with a wagon train. (According to my sister, I was a horrible embarrassment.) I was just certain I had been born during the wrong time period; the past felt so much more magical and compelling. As I grew older, I immersed myself in historical fiction, biographies, and documentaries, as well as some truly stellar TV shows (Shout out to White Queen and The Tudors!)

Research is one of my FAVORITE aspects of writing historical fiction, and I learned SO MUCH while working on An Affair of Poisons. I think I enjoyed studying alchemy/herbalism most, though. I read alchemy books, of course, but I also read about 17th century medicine, and wiccan spell work, and poisons, and the medicinal and spiritual properties of plants. I wish I could be an actual alchemist. 

4. As noted in the previous question: SWOONY ROMANCE. You wrote such a convincing, layered love story here, and somehow managed to do it without ever taking away from all the brilliant scheming and plotting and magical drama surrounding Mirabelle and Josse. Did you always know it would be a dual POV story? What was the hardest/easiest part of putting their love story on the page?

Ahhh I’m glad you think the romance is swoony! It only took me a million drafts to get it right. I knew from the get go that I wanted this to be a dual POV story, and I specifically crafted Josse and Mira’s characters so that they would challenge each other—both in good ways and bad. They are wildly different people, and certainly know how to push each other’s buttons, but they still have enough common ground to connect on a deep, emotional level. 

Getting that deep connection to come across on the page, however, was probably the hardest part of bringing their love story to life. I knew in my head why they were perfect for each other, but slowing the plot down enough to let them have those moments to really connect was something I had to work on during edits.

The easiest part was definitely their snappy banter. There were so many times while drafting and editing when I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.  

Thanks so much for all your advice, Addie & Katelyn! You can find them at:

Addie’s Links:
Twitter: @addiethorley

Katelyn’s Links:
Twitter: @katedetweiler

Addie has generously offered a pre-order of AN AFFAIR OF POISONS and Katelyn is offering a query critique for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through February 23rd. If you do not want to be included in the critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is International to anywhere that the Book Depository ships for free.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, February 11th I have an interview with debut author Astrid Scholte and a giveaway of her YA fantasy FOUR DEAD QUEENS

Tuesday, February 12th I'm participating in the Romance Is in the Air Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, February 13th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Amy Stapp

Monday, February 18th I'm off for President's Day

Monday, February 25th I have a guest post by Mary Kole who has her own editorial service

Wednesday, March 6th I have an interview with debut author Gail Shepherd and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE TRUE HISTORY OF LINDIE HAWKINS

Monday, March 11th I have a  guest post by debut author Victoria Lee and her agents Holly Root and Taylor Haggerty with an ARC giveaway of Victoria's YA fantasy THE FEVER KING and a query critique giveaway by Holly and Taylor

Monday, March 18th I have an interview with debut author Sabina Khan and a giveaway of her YA contemporary/multicultural the love & lies of rukhsana ali 

Hope to see you  tomorrow!


JEANNE ZULICK FERRUOLO INTERVIEW AND RUBY IN THE SKY GIVEAWAY


Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo here to share about her MG contemporary RUBY IN THE SKY. It sounds like it has a diverse cast of characters and deals with hard issues while staying positive. I can’t wait to read this! I even entered the Goodreads giveaway when writing out Jeanne’s questions, something I rarely do anymore.

Here’s a blurb:
When twelve-year-old Ruby Moon Hayes and her mother move to Vermont, Ruby’s goal is to stay as silent and invisible as a new moon in the frozen sky. She doesn’t want kids at school asking about her missing father or discovering that her mother has been arrested. But keeping to herself isn’t easy when Ahmad Saleem, a Syrian refugee in her class, decides he’s her new best friend. Or when she meets “the Bird Lady,” a recluse named Abigail who lives in a ramshackle shed near Ruby’s house. No one in town understands Abigail — people whisper about her, about her boarded-up house and the terrible secrets she must be hiding.

As Mom’s trial draws near and Abigail faces eviction, Ruby is forced to make a choice: break her silence or risk losing everyone she loves. Ruby’s story is about the walls we hide behind and the magic that can happen when we are brave enough to break free.
Ruby in the Sky has won the SCBWI Work-in-progress Award for Middle Grade Fiction (2016), the PEN-New England, Susan Bloom Discovery Award (2016), the Tassy Walden, New Voices in Children’s Literature Award (2015), and the Ruth Landers Glass Scholarship at the spring NE-SCBWI annual conference (2016). It will be published by Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan February 5, 2019.

  
Hi Jeanne! Thanks so much for joining us!

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Hi! Thank you for having me! I don’t feel that I became a writer – as much as writing has always been a part of who I am. Growing up, I dealt with challenges by writing about them in journals (most of which I still have!). Writing gave me the perspective I needed to get through difficult times. But when I “grew up,” I didn’t know how to translate my love of writing into a career (or maybe I just didn’t have the confidence to try…) anyway, I ended up working in the United States Congress, and later as an attorney. In both settings, I experienced the power of the written word, firsthand. Ultimately, I returned to writing for my favorite audience – kids.

2. You're part of the trend of attorneys becoming writers! Where did you get the idea for RUBY IN THE SKY?

There are so many parts of Ruby that come from my life. The “spark” that ignited Ruby’s story emerged from a memory of an elderly neighbor who, every afternoon after school, would bring my brother and I to handfeed chickadees at an abandoned house in our rural town. It seemed so normal at the time (didn’t all kids do that?).  But now, amidst the noise of my present-day world, I think back to the quiet solitude of those visits – the neglected house in winter and the fact that this lonely man took time to make sure the birds were fed – and I realize how magical it all really was. That memory was the initial idea that outlined Ruby’s story, but so many more of my experiences have colored in the lines – especially the years I spent as a public defender.

3. That's great that you've drawn on your legal career. Your book tackles some hard issues—homelessness, a missing dad, and a mother who was arrested. Yet I’ve read that you kept a good balance of Ruby feeling sad and staying positive. How did you create this balance in your writing? What advice do you have about tackling hard topics like this in a middle grade novel?

I once heard an interview in which Natalie Babbitt was asked if she thought children should be exposed to difficult topics (such as death in Tuck Everlasting). She gave a marvelous answer about how children face tragedy all the time, and are much more resilient than given credit. I completely agree. As a public defender for many years, I met the children of my clients who came to criminal court with their parents. In my experience, these kids were incredibly brave and resilient. Beauty and strength can be found in some of the most difficult situations. I wanted to make sure Ruby realized that strength, too.
  
4. Ruby’s new friend is Ahmad, a Syrian refugee in her class. How did you learn about his culture enough to feel like you could accurately portray him in your story?

I love this question because I get to talk about the AMAZING refugees I have been so honored to
meet through the organization, Integrated Refugee & Immigration Services (IRISCT.org) in New Haven, CT. A group of young men and women refugees read Ruby as paid cultural consultants. Over several months, we met and discussed the story. I learned so much from these amazing young men and women and am still in awe of their stories, insight, intelligence and courage. I am so lucky that I’ve been able to continue to work with IRIS and continue to meet people who inspire me every day.

5. That's great how you connected with refugees. Your story is really about memorable characters that grow with the story, especially Ruby. What did you learn about character development from writing your story and what advice do you have for the rest of us?

I learned a lot about the value of time – especially taking the time to live with your characters. Over the course of writing Ruby, I took time to live with each character and get to know them. I don’t know how else to explain it, but it got so that I was so excited to get back to my manuscript just so I could re-enter their world and spend more time with each of them.

6. Your book has won the SCBWI Work-in-progress Award in the Middle Grade Category (2016), the PEN-New England, Susan Bloom Discovery Award (2016), the Tassy Walden, New Voices in Children’s Literature Award (2015), and the Ruth Landers Glass Scholarship at the spring NE-SCBWI conference (2016). Wow! Share about how this all came about and how this helped you improve your writing and story.

For me, submitting to contests was a way to critically improve my writing. But, it is important to know that with each of the aforementioned successes came many rejections. But I never gave up. With each submission, I revised, tightened and re-worked Ruby’s story, making it better and better. The Tassy Walden Award was Ruby’s first success and it changed everything for me. I am so honored that Ruby has been recognized by each of these organizations and am so grateful for each vote of confidence that kept me writing, revising, submitting, and ultimately led to publication.

7. Your agent is Stacey Glick. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?
8. I read on your website that you were part of Brenda Drake’s pitch wars community in 2016. What was that like and how did it help your writing?

The answer to both of these questions actually go together! PitchWars was an incredible experience. My mentors were the amazing authors Laura Shovan and Tricia Clasen. When I think of those months working with them on Ruby, I seriously tear-up with nostalgia because it was such an incredible experience. Ruby in the Sky had won a lot of awards, but the story still wasn’t working. Laura and Tricia really dug into my manuscript to help me find the heart of Ruby’s story. The entire PitchWars community was kind and nurturing and so amazingly supportive…and let’s not forget talented! It was a phenomenal experience that led me to my wonderful agent, Stacey Glick! Stacey requested my manuscript from the Agent Showcase at the culmination of PitchWars. I had seen Stacey speak at the Rutgers One-on-one conference and already admired her so much. So, when she offered representation, I was beyond thrilled.

9. That's a great story! How are you marketing your book when it releases? What made you decide to promote your book in this way?

I am a member of the #Novel19s and would highly recommend joining a debut group. Even though I haven’t had the opportunity to meet any of my fellow debut novelists in person (yet), I already feel like I know them. Everyone has been so supportive and encouraging – like a big kid-lit family. I’ve reached out to area schools, bookstores and libraries and have already begun setting up talks and even a graduation address! Additionally, I was a Girl Scout leader for many years and have reached out to scout organizations. My goal is to meet as many young readers as possible!

10. What are you working on now?

I am currently working on another middle grade novel titled A Galaxy of Sea Stars:
As Izzy Vitale (12) begins sixth grade at the new regional middle school, she wants nothing more than to keep her tight-knit group of friends – dubbed the Sea Star Posse since kindergarten – together. But when Sitara (12) and her family leave Afghanistan and move into the upstairs apartment at the marina where Izzy lives with her father and grandmother, Izzy begins to realize there exists a world much larger than her small, safe harbor in Seabury, Rhode Island. When someone starts leaving hateful notes in Sitara’s locker, Izzy is determined to find their source. But what she learns will force Izzy to make a decision:  remain silent and betray Sitara or speak up for what she knows is right and possibly lose the Sea Star Posse forever.  A Galaxy of Sea Stars is a story about family, loyalty, and the hard choices we face in the name of friendship.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Jeanne! You can find Jeanne at:






Jeanne has generously offered an ARC of RUBY IN THE SKY for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through February 9th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, February 6th I have a guest post by debut author Addie Thorley with her agent Katelyn Detweiler with a giveaway of Addie's YA historical fantasy AN AFFAIR OF POISONS and a query critique giveaway by Katelyn

Monday, February 11th I have an interview with debut author Astrid Scholte and a giveaway of her YA fantasy FOUR DEAD QUEENS

Wednesday, February 13th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Amy Stapp

Monday, February 18th I'm off for President's Day

Monday, February 25th I have a guest post by Mary Kole who has her own editorial service

Hope to see you on Wednesday, February 6th!