Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • 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

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 have some winners to announce.

The winner of DARKFALL is:


And the winner of CROSSED is:


Congrats! E-mail me your addresses so I can send you your books.

Today I’m excited to interview Anna Staniszewski about her debut book MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE. One of the things I loved about this book was that it was not only a fantasy, which you know I love, but it was also funny. You get the sense it’s going to make you laugh right away from the cover.

Here’s a description from Goodreads:

"You know all those stories that claim fairies cry sparkle tears and elves travel by rainbow? They're lies. All lies."—Twelve-year-old Jenny has spent the last two years as an adventurer helping magical kingdoms around the universe. But it's a thankless job, leaving her no time for school or friends. She'd almost rather take a math test than rescue yet another magical creature! When Jenny is sent on yet another mission, she has a tough choice to make: quit and have her normal life back, or fulfill her promise and go into a battle she doesn't think she can win.

Hi Anna. Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I was born in Poland and raised in the US, so I grew up loving stories in both Polish and English (especially fairy tales). After studying theater at Sarah Lawrence College, I worked at the Eric Carle Museum of Picturebook Art where I realized my true calling: children’s books. I went on to study writing for children at Simmons College and left the program determined to become a “real writer.” Being chosen as the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a 2009 winner of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award gave me the courage to keep pursuing my writing dreams. All that work finally paid off when I signed with my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, in 2009 and sold my debut novel to Sourcebooks a year later. Currently, I teach at Simmons College and live outside of Boston with my husband and our adorably insane black Labrador, Emma.

2. Wow! You’ve had an interesting life that I’m sure you must draw on in your writing. You’ve chosen to use humor and clichés, both magical and ones that pops out of Jenny’s mouth on occasion in your story. Why did you decide on these and what challenges did you find in making them fit your story? And are you funny in real life?

As I was working on My Very UnFairy Tale Life, I wanted to play with the role of the traditional fantasy hero who’s whisked off to another land to save the day. I liked the idea of a hero who’s been saving the day for years now, and is sick and tired of it. What better weapon to give her in a stereotypical quest than the power of cheesy sayings?

I did find that it was difficult to come up with clichés for Jenny to say in various situations; I didn’t want to force them into scenes, so I had to try out different ones to find ones that fit. I never thought I’d be Googling “cheesy sayings” but you never know where book research will take you!

Am I funny in real life? Well, I’m a total goofball and love making people laugh. I’m also a huge lover of puns, as is my husband; in fact, the mutual friend who introduced us told me: “You both like puns, so I think you’ll get along.” He was right.

3. Well, you’d never guess from reading your book that you had any trouble coming up with the humor. I’m no good at it so it’d be torture for me. That’s awesome you share your love of puns with your husband.

Besides questi
oning being a superhero, Jenny has to face some pretty hard challenges in her real world. Tell us a bit about how you developed Jenny’s internal struggles.

When I started to learn more about Jenny, I realized she was very isolated. Her parents disappeared when she was young, so she lives with a guardian who doesn’t understand her. Her friends have long since abandoned her, so all Jenny has is her adventures which don’t make her happy anymore. Not only is Jenny lonely but she’s also unsure of her identity and place in the world. I realized there was much more depth to her than her sly humor and cheesy sayings.

4. I loved that Jenny’s enemy is a crazy clown sorcerer and that his evil fortress is circus tent. That’s so original. Where’d you get the idea for him?

To be honest, I’m not really sure. When I was first writing the scene in which Jenny meets the bad guy, I hadn’t quite figured out his identity. But when Jenny saw him unmasked for the first time, I guess one of my subconscious fears came out because suddenly she was faced with a super creepy clown.

5. Interesting how it just sort of came to you. Your agent is Ammi-Joan Paquette. Tell us about your journey to find an agent and to publication.

When I first started querying agents, I had no clue what I was doing. I also had a manuscript that was not ready. I finally did my research and learned the right way to write a query letter, and I also kept working on new manuscripts until I had one that was strong enough to catch an agent’s attention. In the midst of the querying process, I was lucky enough to meet Joan at a PEN New England reception, and I saw right away what a great person she was. When she was as excited about my manuscript as I was (a book that, sadly, never sold) I knew we were a good fit. She’s been an amazing mentor and cheerleader ever since.

6. That’s awesome that you got to meet Joan at a conference before you picked her as your agent. What was the revision process like with your editor? Do you have any tips on tackling revisions suggested by your editor?

When I revised the manuscript with my agent, I spent a lot of time cutting out unnecessary subplots and characters. By the time the book got to my editor, it was almost too slim. That meant much of the revision process involved fleshing scenes out. I also rewrote the ending after my editor pointed out that the ending didn’t feel “big” enough. She was absolutely right. I went back and completely rewrote the last few chapters to try to make the ending bigger and more satisfying. One tip I took away from that revision is that the ending should never be too easy for your character; we as readers need to feel like there’s a real possibility the character won’t succeed.

7. So interesting that your book was too short. Most of us struggle with the opposite problem of having too many words. That’s a great tip about endings. How are you marketing your book? Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Much of my marketing has been online. I’ve been blogging, Facebookin, and Twittering for a while, so I’ve met some wonderful and supportive people that way. I’m also involved in online communities such as The Enchanted Inkpot, The Elevensies, and The Blueboards.

Everyone I’ve met along the way has been amazing in helping me spread the word about the book. When I asked a few of my real-life and online friends to take part in an informal ARC tour, I was so grateful at how eager they were to help. Marketing-savvy people always talk about the importance of making personal connections, and I’ve found that to be absolutely true. If people know you on some level, they’re much more likely to help spread the word about your book. And, of course, you have to be willing to return the favor.

8. Yes, you’re right. It’s so important to pay it forward and help other authors. What are you working on now?

I have a few different things in the works: a light middle grade fantasy, a somewhat bizarre picture book, and a dark, fairy-tale-inspired YA novel.

Thanks Anna for all your great advice. Good luck with your debut. You can find Anna at her blog and website.

Anna’s publisher generously offered an ARC 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 November 12th. I’ll announce the winner on November 14th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. 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. Check it out here.

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
Jennifer Rumberger

Here’s what’s coming up the next few weeks. Next Monday I’m interviewing Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson and giving away a copy of THE FAMILIARS SECRETS OF THE CROWN. On November 14th, I’ll be interviewing debut author DJ DeSmyter and giving away a copy of HUNTED. Then on November 21st, I’m interviewing a teenager from Asia who blogs for my Ask the Expert series and doing another book giveaway.

Hope to see you next week!


Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for the great interview, Natalie. I always love to find out about how an author develops a story.

Theresa Milstein said...

Congratulations Barbara and Miranda.

Anna, what an interesting premise. Paranormal creatures can be so thankless!

Happy Halloween!

Laura Pauling said...

I loved this book! I think readers, esp. middle grade and elementary will love it!

Victoria Lindstrom said...

Natalie - Your interview with Anna was great; I especially enjoyed hearing about her journey to publication - and her book sounds wonderful. Thanks.

Kim Van Sickler said...

Sounds like a great read! Right up my alley. Thanks for telling us about it. It's going on my Good Reads "to read" shelf. Pleased to meet you Anna and congratulations on the book!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Congratulations Anna!! I so wish I could attend your book signing next week. Heather is heading over with her kiddos!! I can't wait to get a hold of your book.

My best always...

Anna Staniszewski said...

Thanks so much for having me, Natalie!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Wow, you worked at the Eric Carle museum--how cool is that! I love learning more about you in this interview and getting insight into your writing journey. Great stuff here, Anna and Natalie!

AmieSalmon said...

This book sounds so good, and I loved the interview! Very interesting.


Unknown said...

Great interview. This looks like such a fun book. Shared on Twitter

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Congrats to the winners!

Fascinating interview, Natalie. "The power of cheesy sayings." That's so funny! Looks like a great read.

LTM said...

Yay! I saw the review for this on Matt's blog, and it sounds too cute. I struggle with underwriting, too. So empathy-city. Best of luck to you, Anna! This sounds like one my daughters will like~ :o) <3

Lydia Kang said...

Thanks Anna for sharing your story. I'd love to read this!

KatieC said...

Looks like a blast! Can't wait to read it : )


Anonymous said...

I'm a follower and would really love to win a copy of this! Thanks for the interview you two!

Barbara Watson said...

Such a neat twist to the fairy tale!

Thank you for the interview, both Natalie and Anna. Great questions and answers I will study as I revise and prepare to query!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I absolutely LOVED this book! It was a joy from beginning to end. I loved Jenny's character and Prince Lamb's, but my favorite character was Jenny's aunt--loved her SO MUCH!! And I never thought I could enjoy cliches as much as did in this story. They were perfect. :-)

Christine Sarmel said...

Congrats Anna! Already bought the book, but I'd love to win one to donate to my favorite library:)

Michael G-G said...

I need to rustle up my own fairy godmother to make sure I absolutely positively win this book. And if that spell doesn't work, I may just have her turn me into a clown...

Anita said...

This is a fantastic interview...may have to break down and actually BUY this book...haven't won one of the million contests I've entered for it, hah. I so want to go the Carle museum...very cool that she worked there. And I also write short...it's good to finally someone else who has a similar problem. Much luck with this book!!!

Kristin Lenz said...

My daughter would love this book!

"...the ending should never be too easy for your character; we as readers need to feel like there’s a real possibility the character won’t succeed." Thank you - this is a great tip to keep in mind as I write.

Natalie said...

Fantastic interview! I can tell both of you put a lot of time into it. I feel like the best interviews are the ones that ask interesting and different questions, instead of the same old ones that everyone asks. It's one of the things I struggle with occasionally. But you've given me some inspiration!

P.S. A crazy clown sorcerer? I'm intrigued...and possibly terrified. Clowns..**shudders**

Ghenet Myrthil said...

Great interview! This books sounds so fun and I'd love to read it. :)

Kelly Polark said...

Excellent interview, ladies!
I've heard amazing things about Anna's book! Would love to read it!

E said...

Hurray for Sarah Lawrence grads!

Anyone else having issues with the links to Anna's website and blog? I had to google her to get there :-(

Anonymous said...

Great interview. I look forward to reading My Very UnFairy Tale Life. I also had Anna over at my blog recently, and now I learned more about her here.

I'm haunting you after seeing your comment on Theresa's blog. Boo. :)

Jennifer R said...

Great interview, Natalie! I loved hearing the process behind the book. And the concept is so original, sounds like a good read!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by. And Elissa, thanks for letting me know about the links. I corrected it but both links go to Anna's website. There's a link at the top of her website to her blog.

Reading Mind / The Loyal Book said...

Nice interview! I always like to get to know the author a little bit more. Would love to win the book!

Creative A said...

I'm a follower of both Anna and Literary Rambles, and I'm excited for her that her book is out! Go Anna!



Llehn said...

Yay, Anna.

GFC follower.


Stina said...

I'm planning to buy this book to read to my 7 year old daughter. :D

Thanks for the great interview. I always love hearing about how authors landed their agents.

erica and christy said...

And here I thought the "Eric Carle Museum of Picturebook Art" only existed in my office (I'm a Head Start center manager). Love, love, love that job!! Best of success with your book, too!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Wonderful interview, Natalie! I'm putting My Very Unfairy Tale Life on my TBR list. :D

Ali B said...

I love, love, love Marvelous Middle Grade Monday! As a writer and reader of middle grades fiction, I 'm always on the lookout for another great writer and their new book. Gracias, Natalie! ~ Ali B

Linda A. said...

Thanks Natalie and Anna. I am drawn to this title and cover. I definitely want to read it. Thanks for offering an ARC to a lucky winner--maybe me.

Linda A.

jpetroroy said...

This sounds adorable. Would love to win!
jpetroroy at gmail dot com

Beth said...

This book sounds fantastic!

Coleen Patrick said...

The book sounds great. I'm a follower and I tweeted about the giveaway :)
coleen at coleenpatrick dot com

Jill the OWL said...

Great interview! And I agree - we all need to pay it forward!

themgowl at gmail dot com

K. L. Hallam said...

I very much enjoyed this interview. Thank you for the great tips. follower & tweeter

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Great interview, and I love the premise of this book! I love the idea of cheesy sayings from an underappreciated saver of magical beings. I'm already a follower, but I'm tweeting the contest, and my tweets go to Facebook and my blog as well. Whether I win the contest or not, this book is a "must read" for me.

Kelly said...

Thank you for the giveaway!

collkosinski said...

Great interview. Would love a copy of this book.

ebunadewumi said...

I would love a copy of this book. Im actually checking to see if my library has it!

Julia Maranan said...

This does look like a very fun MG book--I can't wait to read it! I posted the contest on Twitter and FB.
julia_maranan at hotmail dot com

JessWiz said...

My students would love this book! I"m looking forward to reading it first, though!

Jessica Wisniewski