Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Agent/Author Marlo Berliner and Refe Tuma Guest Post With Frances and the Monster and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/15/2022
  • Lynette Novak Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/17/2022
  • Sarah Fink Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/12/2022
  • Jazmia Young Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/21/2022

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • All Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated in 2023.

Literary Agent Interview: Monica Rodriguez Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Monica Rodriguez here. She is a junior literary agent at Context Literary Agency.

Hi Monica! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Monica:


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

I started as a writer! The more I queried, the more curious I got about agenting. I also realized there weren't enough Latinx agents out there and I wanted to use my marketing skills and writing experience to find a way to open doors for others and create more seats at the table. I applied for an internship at Context Literary where I met Tamar Rydzinski, we later discussed a marketing position and I started at Context as the Director of Brand Management. In February of 2022 I knew I was ready to open for queries when I was listening to a writer talk about a poetry collection and visualized a potential career path for them and thought, wait a minute, am I agenting? I signed my first client, Jassyel Gomez who is a picture book author and recently signed Jozette Allah-Mensah as my first adult author! I'm super excited to help share their stories with the world.

About the Agency:

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

I get to work with some of the kindest agents out there. The Context team has been super supportive and provides mentorship in a collaborative environment. We love helping authors and illustrators bring books to life and are extremely passionate about uplifting authors whose stories allow readers to feel seen. We love to maximize our client’s career potential, helping them stay ahead of the curve. As the Director of Brand Management for the agency, I get to help Context authors with their brand, offer advice, and support their books throughout their writing career. Every author at Context gets this as part of being at our agency!

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 children’s literature, I am actively looking for PB, MG, YA & Graphic Novels. I am also open to adult and non-fiction submissions. I represent most genres in all categories. I like contemporary, romance, low fantasy, mystery, time travel sci-fi, and literary fiction. For nonfiction, I tend to lean towards memoir, travel, pop culture, self-help, and psychology.

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

I gravitate towards stories about identity, family relationships, and travel. My mission as an agent is to uplift underrepresented voices, including, (but not limited to) authors who identify as People of Color (BIPOC), disabled, neurodiverse, and LGBTQ+. If you identify as an underrepresented voice in publishing, I want to see your query!

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

I like to keep things open because I like to find things that surprise me. My queries are open to discovering and finding treasure so I’m not closing any doors right now.

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’m really interested in finding books that reflect our world. Anything with a first-gen lens or a sibling relationship plot will immediately peak my interest. These were books I wanted growing up and my mission is to help make space for stories that we aren’t as familiar with. Whether that’s with an identity story or a fantasy novel that explores a culture or folklore that isn’t a household legend yet, I want more stories where people feel seen and less alone in the world. As far as the authors I’m looking to represent, my mission is to be a literary fairy godmother to underrepresented voices so those queries will always be first priority in my inbox.

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?

Yes! As a writer myself, it’s hard not to be an editorial agent. I will usually do 1-2 internal revisions with my authors before we go out on submission. While my authors are working on edits, I start building my list of editors and meet with some of them to get a feel for who would be the best editor for the project. I’ll work on the pitch and keep updates pretty organized. I like to be transparent with my clients and share updates on a GoogleSheet. While I’m pitching, we’ll agree on a project to work on in the meantime. I like to meet quarterly to brainstorm what’s next!

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

Context only accepts queries via email (see next question below). There’s also a form on our website for accessibility under our Submissions page.

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

Check out my Manuscript Wish List! If you feel it aligns with my list, please send a short description, short bio, and 5-10 pages of text pasted into the body of the email to querymonica@contextlit.com. I do not open attachments. If you are an author-illustrator or have a graphic novel, please send a portfolio link and a query. If I’m interested in seeing more of your work, I’ll let you know. Something that isn’t required but is super helpful for me is seeing the category and genre in the subject line of your query.

As far as your query letter, tell me what your story is about! What are the stakes? What makes your main characters worth loving? I want to know about your book. You can end your query letter with a quick bio and anything that ties to my list. I also love to see the category and comps to give me an idea of where you think your book belongs on the shelf. Above all, keep it simple. Let your first pages speak for themselves.

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

Make sure you send me your first pages. I know it’s tempting to send a chapter from later in the book but I want to know how your book starts. If you don’t feel confident about your first pages, they might need some revising. There’s no need to add too much biographical information in your query letter. Pitch me your book! That’s really what I’m looking for.

Response Time:

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

I try to respond to all queries within 1-2 weeks. I like to respond to all full manuscript requests within 60 days.

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 only represent unpublished work as an agent but I don’t mind if you’ve self-published before! In fact, I think it shows that you know how much work it takes to bring something to life and continue giving it life. I would advise to mention it in your query letter if you’ve self-published before, you never know what will peak an agent’s interest.

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 think the agent role will forever evolve into how we can best support our clients. Whether that’s as a hybrid author or for brand partnerships to help their brand, I can see the role evolving to help our authors with the marketing side of things as social media continues to be on the rise. Every agent is different but that’s why we added an in-house brand management arm at Context Literary, to help authors manage the marketing side of their careers.

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I currently represent Jassyel Gomez and Jozette Allah-Mensah! I loved both of their stories instantly as well as all their other WIPs. Jassyel Gomez is a Mexican-American picture book author who is inspired by her daughter, community, and her experiences growing up in Eagle Pass, TX, a town on the US-Mexico border. Jozette Allah-Mensah is a Ghanaian-American writer, reader, and happily ever after aficionado. You can read more about my clients on my website.

Interviews and Guest Posts:

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

Along with novel writing, I run a blog called Find A Lovely Life where I write about self-love, books and travel. You can follow our official book club for the kinds of books I like to read. I was recently featured on LatinxInPublishing’s blog and hosted a #SalaSunday Takeover on their Instagram page. Check out the blog post here!

Links and Contact Info:

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

Check out our Submissions page on the Context website. Please send a short description, short bio, and 5-10 pages of text pasted into the body of the email to querymonica@contextlit.com. I do not open attachments. If you want a more detailed MSWL, check out my website. Be sure to follow me on Twitter for #MSWL tweets and my Instagram for updates!

Additional Advice:

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

I thought I knew how slow the publishing industry moved until I looked behind the curtain. I think patience is a great virtue you’ll need to master for this industry. There are always things moving behind the scenes and the best way to cope with timing is to never lose touch with why you’re doing this in the first place. Keep writing, find other creative ways to keep you inspired. Everything happens when it’s meant to.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Monica.

Monica is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment through August 20th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Revise & Submit Requests From Publishers by Agent/Author Kari Sutherland and Rimma Onoseta & How You Grow Wings and Query Critique Giveaway and IWSG Post

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Rimma Onoseta and her agent Kari Sutherland here to share a guest post to celebrate the release of Rimma’s YA contemporary debut, How You Grow Wings. It sounds like a powerful story about the lives of two sisters, and it’s set in Nigeria. I’m really excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

 

An emotionally riveting novel for fans of Ibi Zoboi and Erika L. Sánchez about two sisters in Nigeria and their journey to break free of an oppressive home.
 
Sisters Cheta and Zam couldn’t be more different. Cheta, sharp-tongued and stubborn, never shies away from conflict—either at school or at home, where her mother fires abuse at her. Timid Zam escapes most of her mother’s anger, skating under the radar and avoiding her sister whenever possible. In a turn of good fortune, Zam is invited to live with her aunt’s family in the lap of luxury. Jealous, Cheta also leaves home, but finds a harder existence that will drive her to terrible decisions. When the sisters are reunited, Zam alone will recognize just how far Cheta has fallen—and Cheta’s fate will rest in Zam’s hands.
 
Debut author Rimma Onoseta deftly explores classism, colorism, cycles of abuse, how loyalty doesn’t always come attached to love, and the messy truths that sometimes family is not a source of comfort and that morality is all shades of gray.
 


Before I get to Rimma's and Kari’s guest post, I have my IWSG Post.

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

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!

The awesome co-hosts this month are Tara Tyler, Lisa Buie Collard, Loni Townsend, and Lee Lowery!

Optional Question: When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

For me, it’s some of both. I want to create a unique magical world, but I want to create a story that readers would want to read and would expect in the fantasy genre. It wouldn’t be worth writing something really different if I didn’t think readers would like it.

I also think it’s harder to make some genres super unique. For example, I think this is true of mysteries, where you can make them really interesting by creating unique settings and memorable characters. But you do have to follow certain rules about how to create and solve the mystery.

What do you try to do?

Getting R&R Requests From Publishers by Rimma Onoseta and Kari Sutherland

RO: Hi everyone, I’m Rimma Onoseta, and my contemporary YA debut, How You Grow Wings, releases from Algonquin Young Readers on August 9, 2022. Today I’m talking with my agent, Kari Sutherland, of KT Literary Agency.

KS: Hi everyone! Hi Rimma, it’s an honor to be here with you today. The topic we’ve chosen is R&Rs which stand for Revise and Resubmit. This is when an editor enjoys a manuscript, but feels as though changes need to be made before they can bring it to acquisitions and offer editorial suggestions with that goal in mind. I think it’s reassuring for authors to hear that an R&R can have a happy ending. Like yours did!

RO: As an agent, when do you advise an author tackle a revision after getting an R&R request from an editor?

KS: A lot of it depends on where we are in the submission process. If it’s really early, I’d advise holding off and waiting to see if anyone else is invested enough in the story as it is because I don’t want my client to edit it to one editor’s specifications if there might be others who wouldn’t want the changes that have been suggested. So unless it’s the author’s dream editor and publishing house, if it’s the first round, I’d hold off.

RO: What is the editor’s expectation when they ask for an R&R?

KS: Sometimes an editor will ask for an exclusive R&R before they spend a lot of time and energy providing detailed feedback. We might hop on a call with the editor, make sure the editor and author click and get a rough idea of the scope of the changes they’d request. Or we might have feedback from multiple sources or more than one R&R request, so we won’t agree to an exclusive and don’t get detailed notes as a result. If we do give an exclusive first look, if that editor winds up passing, then we can take that revision out wider. Often an editor only gives topline notes and doesn’t ask for an exclusive, and then we can take it out wide once it is ready.

KS: I know it’s easier for me, as an agent, to agree to an R&R, but you’re the one doing the work! Including the emotional work. What advice would you give to an author when they get an R&R from an editor?

RO: It depends on how the author sees it. I love feedback. Even when I was querying looking for an agent a lot of times it was just passes then sometimes an agent would say I’m passing on this, but this is why and then I’d know I was on the right path. So I really enjoyed R&Rs because it made me feel like there was hope and I just need to focus on certain things and just hearing that feedback made me think about what was working and what wasn’t working and why is a particular editor seeing something this way and whether it wasn’t what I wanted to convey.

RO: When you and a client do decide to take on an R&R what are the steps?

KS: I look at the notes from the editor who has requested an R&R and I also look at all the other feedback that has come in from editors who passed. Did they point out something similar or something that can work in tandem with the notes? If you’re going to revise then you may as well go in and do a bigger massaging of the book because if it came close enough, you want to make it as strong and irresistible as possible. I coalesce all the feedback and take my own notes from my read and put them together in an edit letter. But as with all my edit letters I really want my authors to be the guiding force of the manuscript and take only the notes and directions that resonated with them. RO: From your experience, have you seen any patterns in R&Rs in terms of what issues come up? Is it the pacing, the characters, the general vibe of the story? What do editors typically give R&Rs for in terms of what’s not working for the story?

KS: Oh, wow, I should look through some notes to see if there is a pattern! But it won’t be voice. If an editor is going to ask for an R&R, they already love your voice. And plot is often something they’d be willing to tackle in a revision themselves, post-acquisitions. A common one is chemistry between characters. So an editor might say, “I don’t believe the relationship between these two characters.” Sometimes it’s an age-related market concern: “this felt young for a YA to me, can you make it edgier, bring it up to be truly YA because there’s a romance storyline so we don’t want to put it in middle grade.” Pacing is another one because it’s really challenging to edit. Would you agree?

RO: Oh yes, for me pacing is such an issue with my writing because I want to spend so much time getting to know the character so it slows down the storyline.

KS: I love your characters! But yes, it can be so tricky to pinpoint where the pacing is off. I’ve had feedback from multiple editors on the same project where some thought the pacing was too slow and others thought it was too fast! When you’re given revision notes, how do you tackle a revision?

RO: I typically start at the beginning or focus on the section that note is tackling. For me personally, when I get notes I take some time with it and think about it and look at different directions it could go in. If I do revise it in this way, how is it going to affect this character, this situation, this scene? I really take my time with it to see if I necessarily agree with the notes. There’s certain notes where I’d thought about it, but I hadn’t been able to pinpoint the point I was trying to make and then I’ll get feedback and it’s exactly what I was feeling but I couldn’t put it into words or into action and so the feedback is seeping into those original thoughts so I finally know where this is going. Other times I’ll say “No, I want to keep this.” And if I do want to keep this or I didn’t agree with that note, why, why didn’t I agree with it?

KS: I’m really glad you brought that up because I want to remind authors that their stories belong to them and feedback is important because it helps show what the audience reaction is going to be and how readers are going to perceive the story. So if someone says this scene didn’t feel necessary and I didn’t want to get back to the story. Then you say okay this scene maybe isn’t compelling enough and how can I make it compelling? Or do I need it? Is it essential to the arc? What can I add to it to pull the tension into this chapter? But their voice is the most important in deciding what revisions to make.

RO: When would you not recommend an author revise based on an R&R?

KS: First and foremost, when the editorial notes don’t align with the author’s vision, as we discussed above. But I want to be candid there are some times when I have noticed a particular imprint or publisher is asking for R&Rs a lot and if I feel like a revision request wouldn’t carry through to acquisitions in the end, I look at those notes very carefully. Because I don’t want to waste my client’s time on a revision that I don’t think will result in a sale or that doesn’t make the book stronger. For any editor feedback I pass along, I always try and provide context for my clients. Sometimes if I get an R&R and I know it’s not what an author is going to want to do because it changes the heart of the story too much, I’ll say “hey, this is this editor’s vision of the book, but I don’t think it lines up with yours so let’s discuss.”

RO: Worst case scenario, you get a bunch of R&Rs and the author revises but it doesn’t sell. What comes next? Do you keep working on it? Work on something new? What comes after the R&Rs if there is no sale?

KS: It’s going to depend on what the reasons were that it didn’t sell, or the reasons we can pinpoint anyway. If it’s a book that the editor acknowledges that we addressed what they wanted addressed, but they are passing then we’d take it out on a wider submission because it’s already been acknowledged that it’s a stronger book. If it still doesn’t sell, I’d recommend the author channel their energy into something new. Even while it’s out on submission, I’d suggest my author be working on something new both to distract them and also so we have something else to take out if the previous one doesn’t sell for some reason.

KS: When we were on sub for How You Grow Wings, what were you doing to keep yourself busy?

RO: I was trying to write and not quite writing. I was just so anxious about being on submission and just wanting the book to sell so badly so I sort of got in my mind too much: “If this first book doesn’t sell, why do I think I’m a good enough writer to even write a second book?” So it stalled my writing. I had also started a new job, so that was taking up more of my time.

KS: Your book sits between YA and adult, there’s a lot of crossover appeal. Your characters are on the cusp of adulthood dealing with things both in the peer world of the YA but also in the grown-up world in how they break free from their past and their home life and this dysfunction they’ve experienced all their childhood. So it was an interesting title we could take out to both adult and YA editors and we had several editors interested in it. For one it was new, but two of them had actually seen the previous version and while they had reacted positively to the earlier one and given some suggested edits, they loved this and both offered. That’s a hopeful thing for authors to hear. How did it feel that editors who hadn’t taken it before were offering now?

RO: The feedback that I had gotten from the editors was feedback that I did agree with and there were notes that I could see working out so when it panned out and they did want it, it reinforced my belief in myself as a writer. Writing and revising are two very different muscles. I knew I could write and after taking on those notes and then having editors be interested afterwards I knew that I can revise, too!

KS: Even before revise and resubmit notes from editors, how do you navigate feedback from readers you know, critique partners or friends and family who read your story, etc.? What’s your advice?

RO: Getting feedback from readers versus editors felt different in that it felt more personal when it came from writer friends or family because it felt like “You of all people should understand what I’m trying to do with this story!” Try to take the personal out of it and look at it objectively and sincerely. I feel like the first reaction is always defensive, to defend the story or defend the characters, but taking a step back and looking at it from a different viewpoint is helpful.

KS: When an author gets a note that doesn’t resonate with them and they really disagree with – what’s your advice for when to incorporate a note and when not to?

RO: I tend to go by a feeling. Writers need to be very honest with themselves are they looking at the feedback objectively or are they taking it to heart? It can be difficult when you really want something, like especially if it’s an R&R and you feel like you’re so close, so you think “let me just do this and I’ll get a book deal,” at that moment it can be hard to stay true to yourself and your story. But be sincere and be honest when you’re taking in the feedback and if it’s something that doesn’t feel right for the story, it can be hard to say no, but your future self will thank you for staying true to the story.

KS: Definitely. 😊

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Rimma and Kari. You can find them at:

Rimma Onoseta:

IG: @rimmaonoseta

Twitter: @rimmaonoseta

Website: rimmaonoseta.com

Kari Sutherland:

Twitter: @Kari Sutherland 

MSWL: Kari Sutherland - The Official Manuscript Wish List Website

Query Manager: Query Submission (querymanager.com)

Website: www.ktliterary.com

Giveaway Details

Rimma has generously offered a hardback of How We Grow Wings and Kari has offered a query critique for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by August 20th. 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 the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is U.S. and the query critique giveaways is International.

Upcoming Interviews and Guest Posts

Monday, August 1st, I'm participating in the Apple a Day Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, August 3rd, I have an agent/author guest post with Kari Sutherland and debut author Rimma Onoseta and a giveaway of Rimma's contemporary YA How You Grow Wings and a query critique by Kari and my IWSG post

Monday, August 8th, I have an agent spotlight interview with Monica Rodriguez and a query critique giveaway

Monday, August 15th, I have an agent/author guest post with Marlo Berliner and debut author Refe Tuma with a giveaway of Refe’s MG contemporary fantasy Frances and the Monster and a query critique by Marlo

Tuesday, August 16th, I’m participating in the Old School Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, August 17th, I have an agent spotlight interview with Lynnette Novak and a query critique giveaway

Monday, August 22nd, I have a guest post by debut author Christyne Morrell with a giveaway of her MG science fiction Rex

Hope to see you on Monday!

 

 

Apple a Day Giveaway Hop

 


Happy Monday Everyone! I'm excited to participate in the Sparkle Time Giveaway Hop hosted by MamatheFox. I hope you're having a great August. I have a cousin coming for a short visit, but no other big plans this month. It's okay with me. I want to read a lot, see friends and family, and work on my manuscript this month.

Here are the newly released MG and YA books I'm offering in this giveaway hop. Many are by debut middle grade and young adult authors with book releases in July. You can also choose another book in the series by these authors. You can find descriptions of these books on Goodreads. Here are your choices:








If you haven't found a book you want, you can win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.


Giveaway Details

One lucky entrant selected by the entry form will receive a book of their choice listed above or a $10 Amazon Gift Card. Open to entrants internationally as long as Book Depository ships to you for free, 13 years and older. Open for entry from 8/01 – 8/15/2022 at 11:59 pm EST. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. The selected winner will have 48 hours to respond to the notification email to claim this prize or a new winner will be selected.

Please note that you must be a blog follower and leave a blog comment to enter the contest. 


Upcoming Interviews and Guest Posts

Wednesday, August 3rd, I have an agent/author guest post with Kari Sutherland and debut author Rimma Onoseta and a giveaway of Rimma's contemporary YA How You Grow Wings and a query critique by Kari and my IWSG post

Monday, August 8th, I have an agent spotlight interview with Monica Rodriguez and a query critique giveaway

Monday, August 15th, I have an agent/author guest post with Marlo Berliner and debut author Refe Tuma with a giveaway of Refe’s MG contemporary fantasy Frances and the Monster and a query critique by Marlo

Tuesday, August 16th, I’m participating in the Old School Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, August 17th, I have an agent spotlight interview with Lynnette Novak and a query critique giveaway

Monday, August 22nd, I have a guest post by debut author Christyne Morrell with a giveaway of her MG science fiction Rex

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

Here are all the blogs participating in this blog hop:


MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.







Debut Author Interview: Derrick Chow and Ravenous Things Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Derrick Chow here to share about his MG contemporary fantasy Ravenous Things. Lately, I’ve been enjoying reading contemporary fantasies, so I’m excited to read Derrick’s book.

Here’s a blurb Derrick provided to me:

Twelve-year-old Reggie Wong has a quick temper that’s always getting him into trouble at school, while at home his mom struggles to get out of bed--let alone leave their apartment. That’s why Reggie desperately needs his dad back. One problem: His dad is dead.

Enter the Conductor, a peculiar man who promises to make Reggie’s wish to see his father just one more time come true. All he must do is climb aboard the man’s subway train, which leaves St. Patrick Station promptly at midnight. Desperate to have his dad and happy family back, Reggie takes him up on the offer, only to discover the train is filled with other children who have lost a loved one, just like him. As he speeds through the wild, uncharted tunnels beneath the city, Reggie meets Chantal, an annoyingly peppy girl obsessed with lists and psychiatry, and Gareth, his arch-nemesis and bully since the fourth grade. As each kid steps off the train and into the arms of their lost family member, Reggie can’t believe his impossible wish is about to come true.

But when Reggie comes to the end of the line and sees his father waiting for him, he soon discovers all is not as it seems. He and his unlikely new friends have been ensnared in a deadly trap. Together, the three must find a way to foil the Conductor’s diabolical plot and find their way out of the underground subway where horrors worse than they have ever imagined lurk around every corner. The rats of St. Patrick Station have taken over and they’re absolutely ravenous.

Hi Derrick! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Since I was a little kid, storytelling has been an obsession of mine. From drawing and painting, to making comics, to acting in school plays, to writing prose stories. It has always felt like powerful magic to me – the act of crafting a story and making an audience believe in it, making them feel invested in a wholly invented world. There’s nothing more mind-blowingly awesome than that.

That’s why my artistic career has involved various forms of storytelling. As an illustrator, I augment stories by creating artwork to accompany articles in newspapers and magazines.

The short comics I wrote and illustrated for various anthologies was a very satisfying combination of two storytelling tool sets: writing and art.

And although my debut horror novel, Ravenous Things, is a prose novel, it also includes some of my artwork, as I created the chapter illustrations.

2. That’s so cool that you’ve been drawing and writing since you were a kid. Where did you get the idea for Ravenous Things?

My father’s death was very hard on me. Even though I was a fully-grown adult, that loss knocked me down a few pegs, making me feel like a little kid again. My grieving process included a lot of fantasizing about impossible scenarios in which I could see him again. Then one day, I was struck by a very vivid image of myself as a young boy in an underground cavern, walking towards a sunlit recreation of my childhood home where my dad was waiting for me. My entire novel sprung up from that one image. And it’s why my book isn’t just a fantastical horror, it’s also very much an exploration of grief and the different ways we process it.

3. Yes, big losses in our lives can have a huge impact on us. I know from my own experiences too. What made you decide to set your story in modern times rather than a new fantasy world?

Most of the fantasy and horror stories I enjoyed as a child were those with one foot rooted firmly in the real world. This reminds me of a piece of advice my favorite art professor gave me in university. Although she was talking about conceptual art, I think it pertains to writing as well. She said that art tends to create an emotional response in an audience when there is friction, and the thing that causes friction is the push and pull that results when contradictory elements are placed together.

In stories like mine, I think a lot of that friction, that ‘push and pull’, comes about from placing the fantastical in close proximity to the familiar and prosaic.

4. Even though Ravenous Things is set in current times, you have definitely created the world the story is set in, including changling-rats and a subway labyrinth. What was your world-building process like?

I wanted to take the real-world city of Toronto and add various fantastical outgrowths that seem entire plausible. And by that, I mean that I wanted the reader to feel as if they are discovering fantastical parts of the city that have always been there, located just beyond the edges of any reliable transit map. So even though a lot of my locations are entirely fictional, and perhaps even architecturally unfeasible, they have a look and feel that scream ‘Toronto’. For example, in the opening chapter of my book, my protagonist is in a small gothic cemetery squeezed in between a highway overpass and a cookie factory. No such cemetery exists, but I would not bat an eye if I discovered one just like it on one of my rambling night walks in the city.  

5. I’m looking forward to seeing how you created your world in Toronto. What was your plotting process like for this story? Did it work for you or are you changing how you plot out your stories in the future?

I’d say mine is a tale as old as time, in that I started off as a pantser but became a plotter. When I began writing Ravenous Things, I had a few particular scenes fixed clearly in my mind. I also knew how I wanted the story to begin and what my protagonist’s character arc would be.

But my first draft was pure pantsing –  akin to running headlong into the fog with a flickering flashlight. This meant I had to do several rounds of edits and rewrites before it was presentable. I think a lot of the plot inconsistencies and pacing problems I encountered would’ve been solved more quickly had I plotted things out. That’s why I’m firmly in the plotting camp now.

6. I’ve heard a lot of authors say they switched from pantser to plotter for the same reasons. What was a challenge you faced in writing Ravenous Things and how did you overcome it?

I rewrote the climax several times over several drafts. My book is a horror, but there are also a lot of thrilling action sequences and a mystery-solving element. I felt that the first version of my climax didn’t quite live up to the creepy, magic-infused scenes that populated most of the book. It was more like the wrap-up of a whodunnit, complete with the villain speechifying about his motivations. I tinkered with that ending quite lot, and it was quite frustrating for a while there.

The thing that knocked the cork free, so to speak, was going back to the beginning. I honed-in on a magical event that happens earlier in my book and found a way to amplify it in the climax. I feel it works because I’m giving the audience something thrilling and heightened, but something that also feels earned because it piggybacks off of earlier elements.

7. Your agent is Theo Le. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Thao was in the first batch of agents I sent Ravenous Things out to when I started querying. She had requested the full manuscript and eventually asked for a revise and resubmit. The thing that really impressed me about her was her very insightful feedback. She not only shared her wholistic opinion of the book, she also essentially gave the manuscript an edit pass with very finely-tuned notes. That was the moment she flew to the very top of my agent list. A good while later, she ended up signing me for a completely other project I submitted to her.

While this other book was on submission to editors, she asked about Ravenous Things. She gave it another read and decided it was ready to give that a go, too. Suddenly I had two manuscripts on submission at the same time. There was multiple publisher interest in both manuscripts, so within the space of a month, I was nail-biting my way through two auctions for two different books.

8. What are you doing to market your book?

I’ve been doing my best to be active and engaged on social media – tweeting and making videos that share insights about my writing process and the origins of my book. I also joined a wonderful debut author group which has really given me a great sense of community. Marketing aside, this group has really been a highlight of my publishing process, as I’ve gotten to know a lot of people I count as friends.

9. What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a graphic novel project I’ll be able to talk more about in coming months.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Derrick. You can find Derrick at @DerrickChow2 on Twitter and @derrickchow.official on Instagram. Go to ravenousthings.com to learn more about the pre-order campaign.

Giveaway Details

Derrick has generously offered an ARC of Ravenous Things for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by August 6th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

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

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

Upcoming Interviews and Guest Posts

Monday, August 1st, I'm participating in the Apple a Day Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, August 3rd, I have an agent/author guest post with Kari Sutherland and debut author Rimma Onoseta and a giveaway of Rimma's contemporary YA How You Grow Wings and a query critique by Kari and my IWSG post

Monday, August 8th, I have an agent spotlight interview with Monica Rodriguez and a query critique giveaway

Monday, August 15th, I have an agent/author guest post with Marlo Berliner and debut author Refe Tuma with a giveaway of Refe’s MG contemporary fantasy Frances and the Monster and a query critique by Marlo

Tuesday, August 16th, I’m participating in the Old School Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, August 17th, I have an agent spotlight interview with Lynnette Novak and a query critique giveaway

Monday, August 22nd, I have a guest post by debut author Christyne Morrell with a giveaway of her MG science fiction Rex

Hope to see you on Monday!