Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024
  • Alex Brown Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/9/2024
  • Leslie Zampetti Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/7/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


First I’m going to announce the winner of FOREVER.

The winner is:


Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book.

Today I’m excited to interview Hilary Wagner, a friend I’ve met through her blog, about her book THE WHITE ASSASSIN. It’s the second book in The Nightshade Chronicles series and will be released on October 11, 2011. To be honest, I don’t usually like books with animals as main characters. But I LOVE this series. My ARC came on a Thursday and I finished it by Saturday. Hilary created such fascinating characters that I couldn’t put it down.

Here’s a blurb of THE WHITE ASSASSIN:

Book II in the Nightshade Chronicles begins three years after Juniper and his rebel band of rats liberate the Catacombs and defeat their oppressors.

A sense of peace has settled over Nightshade City, but it is a false one. Billycan, the white assassin, has been found. Deep in the southern swamps, he now rules a primitive horde of savage swamp rats eager to overrun Nightshade City and claim it for their king. With the help of an ancient colony of bats and an uneasy alliance with the swamp snakes, Juniper and his Council set out to thwart Billycan’s plans. When an old secret is revealed—one so shocking it shakes both Billycan and Juniper to the core—the fate of Nightshade City and the life of Juniper’s only son depend on Juniper’s decision: should he help his mortal enemy? The past resurfaces with devastating impact in this exciting sequel to Nightshade City, a dark tale of intrigue, deception, and betrayal.

Nightshade City, Book I of the Nightshade Chronicles is a CBC Best Book of 2011 and a Crystal Kite finalist.

Hi Hilary. Thanks so much for joining us. 1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

When I was in the fourth grade our teacher had us all write a story. When she said, "write a story," I took it as "write a book". So, that's what I did. It was about Mouse and Ladybug who were best friends, and the villain of the story was Spider, who was trying to trap Ladybug in his web and eat her. I made it into a fully illustrated book, stapled it together, and the "binding" of the book was pink construction paper, which I cut into the shape of a mouse's head. I went all out! My teacher loved it, even called my parents to tell them about it, and that's how I got hooked.

2. That’s so funny you started out writing about animals as the main character given that your first published book stars rats. I’ve read that you really like to write about villains. And it really shows in this series, especially in THE WHITE ASSASSIN. I don’t want to tell any spoilers, so I’ll just say Wow! I could not put it down wanting to read more about Billycan. Can you tell us how you developed him as a character and did you know his whole story when you started your series?

Yes, I LOVE a good villain! Billycan has a rich history and I like to consider him one of my most layered characters. Villains are villains for many reasons. Some are mentally unbalanced, others come from a horrible upbringing, and some are just born bad. In Nightshade City, I get to share some of Billycan's back story, but in The White Assassin, I get to share it all. This is his book! I always wanted to give a villain a book and I was so lucky to do it with him. He is one of my all time favorites and despite his "badness" I adore him! Will he be in future Nightshade Chronicle books??? Brings us back to the spoiler issue...so can't say! ;)

3. Oh, you’re torturing me! THE WHITE ASSASSIN is the second book in your series. Do you have any advice on writing a series and how much did you plot out at least in your head before you wrote NIGHTSHADE CITY, the first book?

From my editor I learned that each book in a series has to be standalone great. There is no getting by on a simple continuation of the first book. It needs to special and unique, and because it's the second book, perhaps even more special than the first. I had no outline for Nightshade City, not even a mental plan of attack. It actually started as a picture book, but after the first scene, I realized it was going to be a novel. I like to say I write by scene building, wherein one scene leads to the next. I build books the same way a video goes viral, each new scene is a new person watching on YouTube! ;)

4. That’s such great advice on writing a series. And I love how you create each new scene. You’ve written THE WHITE ASSASSIN from multiple POVs as the story dictated. Yet we feel close to many of these characters. How did you accomplish this?

I have no idea! Honestly, the characters are all very close to my heart and in some way are much like the people in my life, so hopefully that shows. It's so huge to me when someone tells me one of the characters from Nightshade City is their favorite. It's thrilling! Ironically, I get a lot of emails from boys telling me how much they love Billycan! One boy actually emailed me and informed me I was "not allowed" to kill him off, ever!

5. Oh that’s so funny about the e-mail. And it’s great that boys have a series like yours that they can really get into. I know you juggle writing with your family life and working full time. What’s your writing schedule like and how do you stay so productive?

I write every day, usually very early in the morning, when it's still dark out, or after my little ones have gone to bed. Sometimes it may only be one paragraph, but for me it's the quality of the words, not the quantity. Then there are those great mornings or nights when I feel like I'm a freight train plowing through an entire chapter! As long as it's good writing, I'm happy either way!

6. I need to get that disciplined with my own writing. Tell us a little about your road to publication.

I received roughly 175 rejections on Nightshade City over the course of about 14 months, two offers of representation (I received one offer after I already signed with Marietta Zacker of Nancy Gallt). Marietta sold the book in about 7 weeks after I signed. It was very exciting!

7. You’re inspiring us to remember the mantra: Never give up! How are you marketing THE WHITE ASSASSIN and how did you choose the blogs for your blog tour?

In all honesty, I simply approached some fantastic writer friends and bloggers (i.e. you and Casey) who I thought might enjoy the book. It was very unscientific! There is such a great community of writers out there and I'm so thankful to everyone who has shown such support. I've been lucky enough to return the favor to quite a few writers and hope to do so for even more soon, as lots of debut authors are coming out! As far as other marketing, I'm doing a lot of school and conference visits this fall. I have sent out postcards to all those wonderful indie stores, letting them know the book is out, and other than that, I have sufficiently pestered everyone else I know!

8. Oh I hope someday on your blog you’ll do a post on advice on doing a school visit. What are you working on now?

I'm working on Goblin Shark Rising (Fall 2012). It's an undersea adventure that takes place in modern day Tokyo. I'm sure you guessed from the title goblin sharks (among others) will be involved! I'm very excited about this book. Not only will kids get to learn a lot about sharks and other sea creatures, but they'll get to explore Tokyo and learn about the Yōkai, which are a group of Japanese demons, ghosts, and monsters--very exciting stuff!

Wow! It sounds fantastic. Thanks for all the advice Hilary. Good luck with your book. You can visit Hilary on her website and blog.

Hilary has offered one signed ARC of THE WHITE ASSASIN for a giveaway. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on October 15th. Please leave your e-mail address if it’s not on Blogger. I’ll announce the winner on October 17th. International entries are welcome.

If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Whitney Messenger to spotlight middle grade authors.

And check out these other Marvelous Monday Middle Grade Reviewers:

Shannon O’Donnell
Joanne Fritz
Sherrie Petersen
Brooke Favero
Myrna Foster
Anita Laydon Miller
Barbara Watson
Just Deb
Kit Lit Frenzy
Michael Gettel-Gilmartin
Pam Torres

Here’s what’s coming up. On October 5th, I’ll be blogging again so I can interview Jean Nadol and give away a copy of THE VISION. Then on October 10th, I’ll be interviewing Janice Hardy and giving away a copy of DARKFALL. The next Monday I’m interviewing another teenager who’s also an aspiring 9th grade author who follows our blog for my Ask The Expert series and giving away an ARC I know you’ll want. I’ll tell you about the rest of my awesome October later.

Hope to see you on Wednesday and next Monday!


Anne Gallagher said...

Excellent interview Natalie. Thanks so much for hosting Hilary.

I've been a big fan of hers since almost the beginning and it's been great watching her through the process. Yay!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Anne, glad you enjoyed the interview.

Hilary, thanks so much for letting me interview you. I loved THE WHITE ASSASSIN and am so happy I could be part of your blog tour.

Hilary Wagner said...

Natalie, thanks so much for having me! This was a fun interview! I don't like rambling on about myself so much, but get me going on writing and you'll never shut me up!

Thanks to you and Casey for hosting me and your wonderful questions!!!

xoxo -- Hilary

Rebecca Gomez said...

Great interview! It's amazing to me that she can write and be a mom and work full time. I can barely manage working three days a week!

Michael G-G said...

Great interview, Natalie. Hilary is inspiring!!

Shilpa Mudiganti said...

Congratulations Jill! and great interview..

Barbara Watson said...

Thank you, Natalie, for the thought-provoking questions, and thank you, Hilary, for filling in the details about your writing. I was 40(!!) before I knew I wanted to write, so I'm amazed when writer's knew early on in their lives.

Beth said...

I love the story of how she got started! And how inspiring that she kept going after so many rejections to achieve success.

E. Arroyo said...

Congrats Hilary! Can't wait to read!


Shannon O'Donnell said...

I have been so excited about this interview, and it was NOT disappointing. I adore Hilary, and my kids and I all love her books--BOTH of them. I'm hosting her your on my blog tomorrow! :-)

kathrynjankowski said...

I so enjoyed NIGHTSHADE CITY and love the idea of giving Billycam his own book. Great interview, thanks!

Kelly Polark said...

Fun interview!
Hilary is beautiful inside and out!

Unknown said...

I love that you make each book in your series standalone -- books that leave me hanging for the sequel are a pet peeve of mine.

Anyway--I'm off to check out the first in this series with the hope that I'll win the second.

Stina said...

When Hiliary's first book came out, my oldest wasn't interested in it. But since he wasn't, that means my second born might be.

Apparently there's some rule that if your sibling likes a book, you can't. :P

Hilary Wagner said...

Okay, it boggles that my mind that I know so many of this lovely folks that have commented! Like I said, we've such a great writing community! Can't wait to see who wins!!! ;)

Llehn said...

Thanks for sharing.


Rosi said...

Terrific interview. Hope I win the book!

i'm erin. said...

Wow Excellent interview! Hope I win a book also. I just came across your blog. Love it.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Great interview with Hilary. Publishers do want each book in the series to be stand-alone great books by themselves. Animal stories are my favourite. Wishing Hilary loads of Good Luck.

AmieSalmon said...

Wow just an interesting and in-depth interview!


Martha Ramirez said...

What a great interview! Congrats. I love hearing success stories.

Nice to meet you, Hilary.

Darcy said...

This looks great! Love the interview.


Matthew MacNish said...

How in the world did I miss this? Hilary is one of my all time favorite people!

Casey McCormick said...

Hilary is so fantastic!! I love that her books are unique in the current market but sort of speak to classic children's lit. I bet kids are loving them!

TimJasonWallis said...

Great stuff!! 175 rejections. That is inspiring! Thanks for the interview!

Myrna Foster said...

Thanks for the interview and giveaway!

TerryLynnJohnson said...

excellent interview! I have Nightshade City waiting on my bookshelf. I've heard lots about this author! Thanks!

Rachel said...

Thanks for the chance to win this book. I love series and will get the 1st one as well.

No One said...

Is commenting all I have to do to enter for the book? I'm already a follower! I write MG, so I'd love to read this!

Gayle C. Krause said...

Since I loved Nightshade City and I'm a follower of both you and Hilary, I'd love to win The White Assassin.

Thanks for this contest and all the valuable information you offer authors. :)

Bish Denham said...

I LOVED Nightshade City and am eagerly awaiting the day when I can read The White Assassin.