CURRENT GIVEAWAYS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

EVERY SHINY THING through May 19th
SWEET BLACK WAVES through May 19th
THE BIRD AND THE BLADE through May 26th

Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Query Critique Giveaways

Natascha Morris Agent Spotlight Interview on 5/21/2018
Gabrielle Piraino Agent Spotlight Interview on 6/13/2018
Colleen Oefelein Agent Spotlight Interview on 6/27/2018
Larissa Helena Agent Spotlight Interview on 9/10/2018

AGENT SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH NATASCHA MORRIS AND QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY


Today I’m thrilled to have agent Natascha Morris here. She is a literary agent at BookEnds Literary Agency.

Status: Open to submissions.

Hi­ Natascha! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Natascha:

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

SO, I’ve been an agent for a little over a year now. After working at Simon & Schuster, I started to feel creatively stifled by the need to “buy on brand”. As an agent, I could just follow my passion and represent a range of books and creatives.

As to what I have been doing? What haven’t I been doing. As an agent, I have to wear many hats and keep a lot of plates spinning. From getting manuscripts out the door to editors, to helping my clients plan for the next book, to find the next client; there are just a lot of hats to be worn.

About the Agency:

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

Since opening its doors in 1999, BookEnds Literary Agency has never strayed from the original goal: Achieving dreams and doing what we love. Representing fiction and nonfiction for adults and children alike, BookEnds agents continue to live their dreams while helping authors achieve theirs.

As for working with me specifically, authors can expect to enter a community. I set the bar high, but I am very much in the trenches, working along side my authors so that we all can achieve success.

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?

I represent all areas of kid lit. The only area I am no longer looking for is sci-fi in MG and YA. But I love picture books and young adult novels the best.

Right now, I am looking for more historical fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romances. I am looking for diverse characters living their lives, and authors I can champion.

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

MERMAIDS!!! I am dying for a contemporary about professional mermaids or a creepy mermaid book that feels like Neil Gaiman.

I also love court intrigue in fantasy so that is a perennial love. Basically, check out my #MSWL to see what I am currently hoping to find.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

Sci-fi is really not my thing. I am also very picky when it comes to novels in verse. And dark, graphic abuse books are never going to be right for me. 

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?

My philosophy is that literary should not be boring. To that end, a lot of my authors have “upmarket commercial” books, a literary style writing with a commercial hook.

When it comes to my authors, I want people who understand this is a business. They write with an awareness of the market, and when times are hard, don’t give up. After 6 months on sub and 40 rejections, that is when you need grit to keep going.

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?

I would say I am an editorial agent. Probably more editorial than I should be. 😊 When a manuscript first comes in, I start editing. Authors usually get a marked-up manuscript and an edit letter for their first round, and then I spot check. That is why it is so important authors have CPs. I’m the final gatekeeper before the editors see something, but at the end of the day, my job is not to do intensive editing. I only polish.

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?

BookEnds uses Query Manager and authors can query me at http://QueryMe.Online/1067. The form has all my requirements, but I will say this: don’t just phone in the letter. That is your sales pitch.

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

I really hate the phrase “standalone with series potential”. Also if you are comping to Harry Potter, Twilight, or The Hunger Games, I can tell you are not current on your YA reading.

Response Time:

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

Ideally, I am for 4-6 on a query and 10-12 on a full manuscript. Sadly, I don’t always make that. But BookEnds policy is that you will always get a response so don’t assume no answer means no.

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?

I’m fine with that. I will say I am not going to be looking at book 2 for the self pub series or the book that is published. It needs to be a brand-new thing. Self-publishing doesn’t change how I evaluate.

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?

I don’t see the role changing that much. Publishers uses agents because we are the first line of gatekeepers. I can say from experience that I was unprepared for the wave of manuscripts. With all that editors do, they need me. 😊 As for smaller presses and self-publishing, that is really a conversation that I have with my clients. Agents are author advocates, first and foremost. Just because an author wants to go to a small press, doesn’t mean they don’t need an insider who can fight for them.

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

So a lot of my authors are debut, and some of my sales must remain SECRET for the time being. 😊 But here’s a few of the awesome people I was blessed to find:
Raissa Figueroa: http://rizzyfig.com/ Debut picture book: SOPHIE AND LITTLE STAR coming October 2018
Viviane Elbee: http://vivianeelbee.com/index.html Debut picture book: TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI coming November 2018
Katrina Moore: https://www.katrinamoorebooks.com/books.html Debut picture book: ONE HUG coming December 2019
And many more to come!

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.


My Pinterest, for a better look at the time of books I am looking for:  https://www.pinterest.com/nataschamorris/

Links and Contact Info:

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


Additional Advice:

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

Keep learning and working on your craft. As the Gatorade commercial said: “If you want a revolution, the only solution: gotta evolve.”

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Natascha.

­Natascha 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 June 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.

MEGAN BANNEN INTERVIEW AND THE BIRD AND THE BLADE GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Megan Bannen here to share about her YA fantasy THE BIRD AND THE BLADE. I am super excited about this because of the Chinese setting, which I always love because my daughter is adopted from there, and the impossible love. Can’t wait to read it! But first I have some follower news to share.

FOLLOWERS NEWS

C
. Lee McKenzie's new MG SOME VERY MESSY MEDIEVAL MAGIC is being released. Here's a blurb: Pete’s stuck in medieval England! Pete and his friend Weasel thought they’d closed the Timelock. But a young page from medieval times, Peter of Bramwell, goes missing. His absence during a critical moment will forever alter history unless he’s found. There’s only one solution—fledgling wizard Pete must take the page’s place. He travels to 1173 England accompanied by Weasel and Fanon, Pete’s alligator familiar. But what if the page remains lost? Will Pete know what to do when the critical moment arrives? Toss in a grumpy Fanon, the dukes’s curious niece, a talking horse, and the Circle of Stones, and Pete quickly realizes he’s in over his young wizard head yet again. 

And some links:

Now onto today's interview!

Here’s a blurb of THE BIRD AND THE BLADE from Goodreads

As a slave in the Kipchak Khanate, Jinghua has lost everything: her home, her family, her freedom … until she finds herself an unlikely conspirator in the escape of Prince Khalaf and his irascible father as they flee from their enemies across the vast Mongol Empire. On the run, with adversaries on all sides and an endless journey ahead, Jinghua hatches a scheme to use the Kipchaks’ exile to return home, a plan that becomes increasingly fraught as her feelings for Khalaf evolve into a hopeless love.

Jinghua’s already dicey prospects take a downward turn when Khalaf seeks to restore his kingdom by forging a marriage alliance with Turandokht, the daughter of the Great Khan. As beautiful as she is cunning, Turandokht requires all potential suitors to solve three impossible riddles to win her hand—and if they fail, they die.

Jinghua has kept her own counsel well, but with Khalaf’s kingdom—and his very life—on the line, she must reconcile the hard truth of her past with her love for a boy who has no idea what she’s capable of ... even if it means losing him to the girl who’d sooner take his life than his heart.

THE BIRD AND THE BLADE is a lush, powerful story of life and death, battles and riddles, lies and secrets from debut author Megan Bannen.
 

Hi Megan! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Hi, Natalie! Thanks for inviting me to interview. I’m a children’s librarian in the Kansas City area, and I was also a middle school English language arts teacher for a few years. I always had it in the back of my mind that I would write a book someday, but I didn’t actually get around to doing so until, in my late thirties, it occurred to me: “Hey, Megan, you’re never going to write a book unless you sit down and write a book.” So, I started writing. Six years later, I sold The Bird and the Blade. It’s never too late to try something new or go after a dream, people!

2. I'd love to be a librarian. Where did you get the idea for THE BIRD AND THE BLADE? 

I was listening to Puccini’s opera Turandot and stewing for the millionth time over the rather unsatisfying ending when it occurred to me that retelling the story from a different point of view had potential to be a good YA novel. As I researched the possibility, I read several versions of the story, many of which give the slave girl character a meatier backstory than the opera gives her. I decided to create my own version of this character (Jinghua) and to tell the story, based on François Pétis de la Croix’s version, from the slave girl’s point of view.

3. Tell us a bit about your world building process and your research into China as you developed your world. 

There’s some scholarly evidence that links the Turandot tales to the Mongol Empire, which is how I chose my setting. So my early research focused on learning as much as I could about the Mongols of the thirteenth century. Additionally, the slave girl’s backstory in “Prince Khalaf and the Princess of China” has an interesting link to the demise of the Song Empire—the last emperor, a six-year-old boy, was thrown overboard a ship to drown rather than fall into the hands of the Mongols—which is why the protagonist, Jinghua, comes from Lin’an, the capital city of the Southern Song Dynasty (modern day Hangzhou). Consequently, I needed to learn as much as I could about the Song as well. I wrote and researched concurrently, so that as world-building questions arose, I could track down the answers through research. Once I had the book as close to finished as I could get it, I worked with my publisher to have a combination of sensitivity readers and academic scholars read the manuscript and offer feedback on authenticity and historical accuracy. Their thoughts and suggestions were invaluable, and the book is much better as a result, in my opinion. My favorite sources of information, however, were two friends who were incredibly generous in answering my many, many questions regarding the representation of a Muslim character (Prince Khalaf) and best practices in the use of Pinyin (Romanized Mandarin Chinese), respectively. When it comes to research, books and articles are great, but people are even better.

4. Yes, that's great you had friends that you could ask. I read that longing is an important emotion for the three main characters in your story. Did you plan that out or did it evolve as you wrote the story? How did you weave it into your characters’ stories?

Personally, I love character-driven novels that make me feel something emotionally, so when I set out to write The Bird and Blade, that idea went without saying. I don’t visualize world or action or even characters very clearly when I write. I tend to feel my way through the creation of a story. Because the focus of the writing is on the characters’ internal lives, their hopes and desires drive the plot (I hope!), which leads to the reader experiencing the characters’ deep sense of longing (I hope!).

5. Your book has gotten great reviews as a beautifully written book that is heartbreaking and makes you cry. Share how you really delved into your characters to make your story pull so much at readers’ hearts. 

The characters’ evolving wants and needs drive the action of this story, so I think it’s only natural that it hurts when things don’t pan out the way the reader might want. Both Jinghua and Khalaf have opportunities to make choices that would greatly improve their personal happiness, but frankly, they both kind of suck at the whole personal happiness thing for different reasons. That can be painful for a reader to watch (read?). And, quite honestly, my favorite scenes to write are the ones that I design to make readers ugly-cry. Sorry, all, but I’m drinking your tears with a heart full of joy. Mwah-ha-ha!

6. You are also a librarian and have a family. What has your writing schedule been like and how have you stuck to a writing schedule that keeps you productive? 

I’ve spent the past five years supporting a family of four while my husband has been working on his Ph.D. (You may all call him Dr. Mike now.) Between work and soccer practice and basketball games and music lessons, it’s been tricky carving out time to write. When I’m on deadline, my alarm is set for 4:45 am. I preset the coffee pot the night before and I have a half-pint jar of oatmeal waiting for me in the fridge when I get out of bed. I write until about 6:30 at which point I have to walk the dog and get ready for work. Since I work Wednesday evenings, Wednesday mornings are a time when I can get a lot accomplished. Unless I have to work a weekend shift or take my kids to a soccer and/or basketball game, I write until noon on Saturdays and Sundays as well. Depending on my writing workload, I put in anywhere from 20-30 hours a week toward my writing career. This schedule is so thoroughly engrained that 7:00am is now “sleeping in” for me, and I turn into an anxious, cranky person when I’m not actively working on a writing project.

7. Sounds like you are incredibly discipline. Your agent is Holly Root. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like? 

My agent is Holly Root! How fantastic is that?? I queried nineteen agents between April and June of 2016, and Holly was the first to ask for more pages. I was over the moon when she offered representation. (Because, seriously, Holly Root.) I signed with her in mid-July of 2016. We went on submission at the beginning of August that year, and right after Labor Day, we had an auction and a book deal. So while the book took me a bajillion years to write, querying and selling didn’t take long at all. I consider myself extremely fortunate in that regard. (By the way, my editor is Kristin Daly Rens! How fantastic is that??)

8. What are your plans for marketing your book and what advice do you have for others who are hoping to debut in terms of the planning they should do in the year leading up to their book release? 

My advice to fellow debuts is to do whatever makes you happy. At the end of the day, unless you’re some kind of marketing guru, I suspect that it’s unlikely that your own marketing efforts will tip the needle on sales. Find your jam and stick to that. And don’t do stuff you don’t want to do. Some people love making swag and running pre-order campaigns, and more power to them. Personally, I would rather poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick. I’m sticking with marketing and promotion that I enjoy, particularly public speaking and meeting people. I’m a recovering theater nerd, so I plan to find as many opportunities as I can to talk to readers in person through classroom visits, book signings, panels, etc.

9. That's great that you are comfortable with public speaking. Okay, here’s another librarian question. How can authors connect more with libraries around the country to help get the word out about their books?

Just walking into your public library and saying hi to the librarians is a good start. Of course, library conferences are a way to meet a lot of librarians all in one place, so if you have the funds to send yourself to ALA, PLA, etc. have at it. One avenue I think a lot of authors fail to explore is investigating their state library association. Most, if not all, states have an annual library association conference that is like ALA but on a smaller scale. That’s a great opportunity to interact with librarians on a local level, and it’s usually easier on your pocketbook, too.

10. What are you working on now? 

I have a several projects going. My primary focus is on revisions for a young adult fantasy novel, but I’m also puttering away on a humorous middle grade fantasy between edits, and I’ve started research on a possible young adult historical fiction novel as well. I’d really like to write down the bones of a new project sometime this year if I can swing it.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Megan. You can find Megan at:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/megan.bannen

Megan has generously offered a signed hardback of THE BIRD AND THE BLADE. 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 May 26th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.t

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. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, May 21st I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Natascha Morris

Monday, May 28th I'm off for Memorial Day

Thursday, May 31st I'm participating in the Beach Reads Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, June 6th I have an interview with debut author Adrienne Kisner and a giveaway of her YA contemporary DEAR RACHEL MADDOW

Monday, June 11th I have an interview with debut author Kit Frick and a giveaway of her YA contemporary thriller SEE ALL THE STARS

Wednesday, June 13th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Gabrielle Piraino

Thursday, June 14th I'm participating in the Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop 

Hope to see you on Monday!

AGENT SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH AMANDA AYERS BARNETT AND QUERY CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY


Today I’m thrilled to have agent Amanda Ayers Barnett here. She is a literary agent at Donaghy Literary Group

Status: Open to submissions.

Hi­ Amanda! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Amanda:

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

Hi, it’s great to be here—thanks so much for having me. I became an agent about a year and a half ago, but I’ve spent my entire career in publishing. I first worked at Random House, then as an editor at Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster before freelance editing on my own. I decided to join Donaghy Literary Group after reading that they were specifically looking for an agent with editing experience from a major publishing house.

About the Agency:

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

The Donaghy Literary Group provides full-service literary representation to all of our clients and prides itself on guiding and supporting our authors through every stage of the publishing process. We specialize in commercial fiction of all kinds and have represented a number of New York Times and USA Today best-selling authors.

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?

I am currently representing MG and YA authors and am looking for MG’s of all kinds and contemporaries, historicals, and mystery/thrillers in YA.

4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to see in the genres you are interested in?
I love coming of age stories, especially those that feature gifted (traditionally or uniquely) characters looking to rise above their circumstances. I am drawn to magic realism and the occasional fantasy in MG and mysteries in both categories.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

While I say I’m interested in MG’s of all kinds, I am actually NOT interested in those that feature animals as main characters. I love animals, I just don’t want to read stories from their point of view!

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?

Any author that I offer to represent will tell you that one of the first questions I ask them after discussing their current project is what else they’ve written or want to write in the future. I am interested in the depth of an author’s career and shaping it in the best possible way for them. I don’t believe in encouraging authors to write according to current trends but to write what they truly want to write. Publishing can be a long, arduous process so it’s imperative that their hearts be in the projects they put out there.

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?

I like that description—editorial agent—because it’s exactly what I am. I read every query like an editor and love tackling revisions and going through this process with authors. Any of my clients will tell you that I am happy to go through as many rounds of revisions as needed and don’t believe in rushing a project or submitting one until it is as ready as it can possibly be. I am an editor at heart and love shaping and perfecting a story.

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?

The best way to query me is through my page on the Donaghy Literary Group website. It’s important that writers follow our guidelines—I’m not likely to consider a query if it’s lacking one of our requested components. Obviously a query letter is very important—writers should focus on including those elements that make their project stand out—but I know from experience how hard they are to write so I sympathize!

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

Query letters should include a paragraph or two of description but not more; we request that you include a synopsis so further details can be included there. Don’t make the mistake of turning your query letter into a synopsis!

Response Time:

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

I’m responding to this question with chagrin.:)  When I first started as an agent, since I was new and unfamiliar to people, I felt like I should accept every category, and that was a big mistake. I was completely overwhelmed by thousands of queries! As a result, I closed for a time being so I could catch up. But when I reopened, I was far more selective in my categories and hope to be much timelier in my responses going forward. The one good aspect of reading so many queries is that the process made clear to me those projects I gravitated toward, which is when I decided to represent MG and YA projects only.

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?
I know what a jungle it is out there so I am open to representing authors who have previously self-published or been published by smaller presses. But I’m not interested in representing those projects themselves. I’m only interested in reading their new projects since they give us a clean slate from which to start.

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?

With all of these changes—and there will only continue to be more of them—I think the role of the agent is more important now than ever. Writers need someone to help them navigate all of these options, someone they can count on to give them good advice. I think it’s great that there are so many ways for writers to get their work out there; it’s all about finding the right fit. But if I’ve offered to represent someone, it’s because I think they have real commercial value so we will always try traditional publishing houses first and go from there.

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

My first client was Léonie Kelsall, who wrote an enchanting contemporary/historical YA set in rural Australia. She is very prolific and has written three other projects since then! My first MG client was Scott Taft who wrote a wonderful story about a boy who is obsessed with Charles Darwin and uses his theories to help him adjust to a new school; Scott is currently working on an MG fantasy. Maya Creedman writes lovely contemporary YA’s—the kind I would’ve loved to read as a teen! Emma Nelson’s novel is set in Salem, Massachusetts and features a ghost tour guide who can commune with the witches of the town’s past. And Jennifer Dillard and Tom Kowitz write fun MG’s featuring precocious and heart-warming main characters. I feel blessed to work with each one of them!

Links and Contact Info:

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


Additional Advice:

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

The best advice I can give any author is to persevere! Publishing is constantly changing so, while they might need to adapt, they should have faith that they will ultimately find their place. Oh, and when searching for inspiration, read read read! It will feed their craft at the same time that it feeds their soul.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Amanda.

­Amanda 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 May 26th.  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.

KRISTINA PEREZ INTERVIEW AND SWEET BLACK WAVES GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! I’m excited to have Kristina Pérez here to share about her YA fantasy SWEET BLACK WAVES. It’s gotten great reviews as a real heartbreaker with a fantastic but hard-in-a-good-way ending. It sounds fantastic.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what's right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she's ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.
 

Hi Kristina! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I was born and raised in New York City. As an only child, I often told stories to myself and my many stuffed animals. The first “book” I wrote was in second grade about a time traveling stamp.

2. Your book is a retelling of Tristan and Eseult, but you write the story of the princess’ cousin, Branwen. Why did you decide to tell her story?

I’ve been fascinated with Branwen since graduate school. In the medieval legends, it’s Branwen who is responsible for the safeguarding the infamous love potion and it’s her fault that Tristan and Eseult drink it! I wanted to know how she felt about the chaos she causes––and I may have added an extra gut-wrenching twist. In life, I find that we often learn and grow the most from our biggest failures. I wanted the chance to explore that through the character of Branwen.

3. So agree that this is true in life about our failures. Share a bit about your world building process. What advice do you have for other fantasy writers about creating their worlds?

The world is perhaps the most important character in my fantasy novels. I consider the topography first: is it mountainous or by the sea? What kind of agriculture and economy would that lend itself to? The economics lead inevitably to political power structures, i.e. who controls the wealth, and why?

Simultaneously, I think about what the people believe in––if they live by a river, for instance, they might have a river goddess. The next question is whether these beliefs give rise to an organized religion or not, and how the religious power structure interacts with the political one. Once I have all of these basics worked out, I know the framework in which all of my characters will operate!

4. So interesting that you see your world as a character. You’ve written a non-fiction book for adults, THE MYTH OF MORGAN LA FEY. What drew you to write YA?

THE MYTH OF MORGAN LA FEY is a non-fiction title based on my PhD thesis that analyzes
Morgan la Fey’s devolution in Western culture from a Celtic Sovereignty Goddess to a wicked witch. The legend of Tristan and Eseult has also become attached to the Arthurian canon, so I drew on a lot of the same folklore and mythology in the creation of my magic system for SWEET BLACK WAVES.

I read The Mists of Avalon as a teen and it left a huge impression on me. I suppose, in a way, I wanted to give Branwen a voice in the same way that Marion Zimmer Bradley brought a young Morgan la Fey to life.

5. You also have a career as a journalist. How has that helped you when making the leap to writing fiction?

The discipline of writing to tight deadlines has been a very useful skill. Especially this year, when I’m juggling multiple projects. First drafts don’t have to be perfect. You just have to get them done!

6. I have a lot of deadlines too as a contract writer. You're giving me hope that I can apply the skill to a book contract if I ever get one. Your book sounds like it has really compelling characters and a plot that makes you want to turn the page. How did this come together so well for you?

My starting point was to reread and compare all of the most important medieval versions of the Tristan and Eseult legends. I looked at how many overlapping plot points they had and then I tried to think of them from Branwen’s perspective. From there, I began to craft Branwen’s story and it just really flowed.

7. Your agent is Sara Crowe. Tell us how she became your agent and what your road to publication was like.

Sara fished me out of the slush pile a number of years ago and I’m so lucky that she did. She’s a fierce and loyal advocate for her clients. If I can mix my Shakespeare quotations, the course of publication, like true love, never did run smooth––but all’s well that ends well!

8. Ha! Ha! What are some of the things that you are learning about debuting and releasing your book that you think would help other aspiring authors?

The most important lesson I’ve learned is to keep your eyes on your own paper. Your path to publication won’t look the same as anybody else’s. The only thing you can truly control is the writing itself. Just focus on that. If you believe in your story, eventually somebody else will too.

9. That's great advice. What else are you working on?

Writing as K. K. Pérez, my first YA Sci-Fi, THE TESLA LEGACY is coming from Tor Teen in March 2019. LEGACY follows a precocious young scientist named Lucy Phelps whose fateful encounter in the Tesla Suite of the New Yorker Hotel unlocks her dormant electrical powers. As Lucy struggles to understand her new abilities, she is thrust into a centuries old battle between rival alchemical societies. One wants to help her. The other wants her dead.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Kristina. You can find Kristina at www.kristinaperez.com as well as Instagram and Twitter: @kkperezbooks.

Kristina has generously offered an ARC of SWEET BLACK WAVES 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 May 19th. 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 U.S.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, May 9th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Amanda Ayers Barnett

Monday, May 14th I have an interview with debut author Megan Bannon and a giveaway of her YA fantasy

Monday, May 21st I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Natascha Morris

Thursday, May 31st I'm participating in the Beach Reads Giveaway Hop

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

LAURIE MORRISON AND CORDELIA JENSEN INTERVIEW AND EVERY SHINY THING GIVEAWAY AND ISWG POST



Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I have a fantastic interview with debut author Laurie Morrison and Cordelia Jensen to share about their MG contemporary EVERY SHINY THING. It sounds like a real page turner that has gotten great reviews. Before that I have my IWSG Post and awesome Follower News!

Follower News

I'm excited to share about Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime, the new IWSG anthology. Many followers have stories in the anthology. A special congrats to Gwen Gardner, Rebecca Douglass, Jemi Fraser, Yolanda Renée,  and C. Lee McKenzie who are followers and everyone else in the anthology!
Here's a blurb:

The clock is ticking...
Can a dead child’s cross-stitch pendant find a missing nun? Is revenge possible in just 48 minutes? Can a
killer be stopped before the rescuers are engulfed by a city ablaze? Who killed what the tide brought in? Can a soliloquizing gumshoe stay out of jail?
Exploring the facets of time, eleven authors delve into mysteries and crimes that linger in both dark corners and plain sight. Featuring the talents of Gwen Gardner, Rebecca M. Douglass, Tara Tyler, S. R. Betler, C.D. Gallant-King, Jemi Fraser, J. R. Ferguson, Yolanda Renée, C. Lee McKenzie, Christine Clemetson, and Mary Aalgaard.
Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these eleven tales will take you on a thrilling ride into jeopardy and secrecy. Trail along, find the clues, and stay out of danger. Time is wasting...
Release date: May 1, 2018
And here's Buy links: 
IWSG POST

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 of the month is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.

The co-hosts this month are:  E.M.A. Timar, J. Q. Rose,C.Lee McKenzie, and Raimey Gallant!


I'm going to skip the question and just say that I know that I am going through those frustrating times when you have to take care of your family and accept there isn't time to write. My mom just moved to her apartment in independent living from Florida the end of last week. And I've just had to focus on all the details of her move and now getting her adjusted. 

It's frustrating because my contract writing job is slower but all my extra time is sucked up with the details of my mom's move. Soon, soon, I tell myself, I will have time to write. That's my mantra this month. What about you? Are you getting lots of inspiring time to write?

Now onto my interview with Laurie and Cordelia.

Here’s a blurb of EVERY SHINY THING from Goodreads


In this beautifully constructed middle-grade novel, told half in prose and half in verse, Lauren prides herself on being a good sister, and Sierra is used to taking care of her mom. When Lauren’s parents send her brother to a therapeutic boarding school for teens on the autism spectrum and Sierra moves to a foster home in Lauren’s wealthy neighborhood, both girls are lost until they find a deep bond with each other. But when Lauren recruits Sierra to help with a Robin Hood scheme to raise money for autistic kids who don’t have her family’s resources, Sierra has a lot to lose if the plan goes wrong. Lauren must learn that having good intentions isn’t all that matters when you battle injustice, and Sierra needs to realize that sometimes, the person you need to take care of is yourself.

Hi Laurie and Cordelia! Thanks for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourselves and how you became writers.

Cordelia: Thanks for having us! I have always been a writer. I wrote lots of stories and poems growing up and then majored in Creative Writing at Kenyon College, where I mostly wrote poetry. After working with kids as a counselor, I decided to try writing stories for young readers. This led me to Vermont College of Fine Arts to earn my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and there I worked on a manuscript that became my first published book.This is also how Laurie and I met!

Laurie: I always loved to read, but I didn’t think of myself as a writer until I was in my twenties. During my first year of teaching middle school English, I re-read a lot of the books I’d loved as a kid and discovered some wonderful new MG and YA novels. Over my summer break that first year, I was inspired to try writing a middle grade novel of my own, and I’ve been writing ever since. I was eager to develop my writing craft since I’d never really studied creative writing, so I went to VCFA, where I grew so much as a writer and made some incredible friends, including Cordelia!

2. Where did you get the idea for EVERY SHINY THING and what made you decide to write it together?

In 2015, Cordelia was on a panel for her first novel, and two of the other panelists had co-authored their book. Laurie was at the event, and Cordelia remembers looking into the audience and thinking, “Laurie and I could write a book together!” Laurie thought that sounded amazing, and, just a few days later, we had come up with an idea and had written the first chapters. Our characters came to us first: Cordelia envisioned Sierra and then Laurie worked off of that vision to create Lauren. We already both lived in Philadelphia, shared the same agent, and were great friends and critique partners, so all of that helped to make the process run smoothly. 

3. That's just such a great story of how you started writing together and getting the idea for your book. Your book is told in alternating POV and in both prose and verse. Did you always plan to write the story in prose and verse and what were the challenges in writing your story this way?

We always planned to write the story this way, in part because Cordelia was already a verse novelist
and Laurie writes in prose, and in part because those styles fit our two characters. Sierra is going through a hard time emotionally, and verse is a great form to gently guide readers through a character’s intense emotional journey. Lauren’s chapters carry the bulk of the plot of the story and it made sense to give her as many words as possible! Using these two forms helped us make the girls’ voices easily distinguishable from each other, but in early versions we did have trouble making the transitions between sections smooth enough. They were kind of jarring in places, so we had to work hard to finesse them.

4. I’m always curious how co-authors write a manuscript together. Share what that process was like for you.

Well, Laurie wrote Lauren’s sections and Cordelia wrote Sierra’s sections. We wrote in chronological order in a shared Google doc. One of us would write a chapter and then the other person would write and so on. We had some big brainstorming and planning sessions throughout, so we knew which plot points would come up in each chapter. And each time we revised, we made a plan together but then took turns making the edits to our individual character’s sections,.

5. Sounds like a really organized way to work together. Tell us a bit about your two main characters—Lauren and Sierra. They both sound like compelling characters that have really drawn readers into your story. What are your tips for developing characters that make the reader want to turn the page?

Lauren is a compassionate, determined seventh grader who is just beginning to examine her own privilege and see the injustice in the world. Her new neighbor and classmate Sierra is a loyal daughter and friend who is resilient and used to being a caretaker for her mom and, now, her new friend. In terms of developing characters that will draw in readers, one thing we recommend is to think about the situations that would be hardest for your characters and put them in those situations and see how they react. At the start of our novel, both of our girls have temporarily lost someone they care about greatly, and these losses fuel their emotional journeys and lead readers to feel empathy for them. It also helps to give characters a clear desire, even if that desire is misguided, so that readers will understand what’s driving them.

6. That's great advice to put your characters in challenging situations. Your agent is Sara Crowe. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Cordelia: Sara became my agent soon after graduating from VCFA in 2012. Although she was the first agent I queried, acquiring an editor for my first book took ten months. It also took about that long to find the right editor for EVERY SHINY THING. Being an author means being patient!

Laurie: I signed with Sara in 2013, soon after I finished the novel I’d started during my time at VCFA. Cordelia recommended that I query Sara, and Sara immediately requested my full manuscript and then very enthusiastically offered representation within 24 hours of my query. I was so excited and so hopeful that my book would soon sell after what seemed like such an auspicious start! But unfortunately that book didn’t sell, and neither did the next two books I wrote. EVERY SHINY THING was the fourth book I had on submission to editors. I was basically on sub for two and a half full years with three different books before I got my first book deal! So, yeah. Being an author means being patient...and persistent!

7. Awesome how you both had separate journeys to the same agent. Cordelia has a YA book in verse, SKYSCRAPING, that was published in 2015 and was an ALA best book for young adults in 2016. Congrats! How have you drawn on Cordelia’s experience as a debut author in terms of planning the release of this book and your marketing?

Thanks! Cordelia knew some about event planning and swag and social media, and we were able to get the ball rolling on things like ordering bookmarks and reaching out to bookstores pretty early on thanks to her prior experience. But a lot has changed in just three years, and some things are different for MG than YA. Laurie also learned a lot from participating in her own 2018 debut group and could draw upon her experiences and connections from teaching middle school for ten years, so she does a lot of social media outreach with educators and librarians.

8. What are your marketing plans for EVERY SHINY THING and what advice do you have for other authors debuting about marketing their 

We’re doing a lot of interviews, guest posts, bookstore events, and school visits! We also made an educators’ guide and some fun swag that we love sharing with readers. Through the Electric 18s debut group, Laurie has connected with some other MG debuts, and those connections have led to some great opportunities for us. Our book is part of an exciting 2018 MG Scavenger Hunt that we’re just beginning to share with kids, librarians, and teachers, and it’s also the May selection for the Middle Grade at Heart book club That means the MG @ Heart team, which Laurie is part of, is creating a newsletter with some great content about the book, posting about the book on mgbookvillage.org, and hosting a Twitter chat about the book, and we’ll also be guests on Corrina Allen’s Books Between 

Our advice is to develop a strong network of other writers. They are your best allies in this business that is quite competitive but also can be quite supportive. Also, decide what’s most rewarding and important to you, and prioritize those things. For us, that’s been anything that connects us directly with teachers, librarians, and kids.

9. You both have other books that you are writing alone that have been just released or will be released in the next year. Share a bit about them and how you worked on them while also working together on EVERY SHINY THING.

Cordelia: My second YA verse novel, THE WAY THE LIGHT BENDS, just came out in March. It is a bit dizzying having the books come out almost simultaneously. Fortunately, however, in terms of the editing process I managed to not have to work on them both at the same time very much. Mostly (by some stroke of luck) it would flip flop and I would have to work on one and then turn it in and work on the other. THE WAY THE LIGHT BENDS was also sold on proposal, so I was starting with a first draft from the beginning of the editorial process. So, overall, that project was more time consuming than EVERY SHINY THING. 

Laurie: I have a middle grade novel called UP FOR AIR coming out in spring 2019. It’s about Annabelle, a thirteen-year-old struggling student and swimming star, who is thrilled when she gets called up to swim on the high school team and gets a lot of attention from older teens, but has to navigate some social situations she isn’t quite prepared for. I wrote some of it before EVERY SHINY THING sold and some of it between rounds of edits for EVERY SHINY THING. The only tricky part has been working on edits for that book right around the launch time for EVERY SHINY THING, but I’ve mostly been able to spend some days focused on one and some days on the other, and it’s energizing to be doing two very different types of work (revising one while promoting the other). As you can imagine, after all those months on submission with close calls and kind passes but no book deal, I’m extremely excited and appreciative to be juggling two books now!

Thanks for sharing your advice, Laurie and Cordelia. You can find Laurie here: https://twitter.com/LaurieLMorrison

And you can find Cordelia here:

Cordelia and Laurie have generously offered a hardback of EVERY SHINY THING 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 May 19th. 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 U.S.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, May 7th I have an interview with debut author Kristin Perez and a giveaway of her YA fantasy SWEET BLACK WAVES

Wednesday, May 9th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Amanda Ayers Barnett

Monday, May 14th I have an interview with debut author Megan Bannon and a giveaway of her YA fantasy

Monday, May 21st I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with Natascha Morris

Thursday, May 31st I'm participating in the Beach Reads Giveaway Hop

Hope to see you on Monday!