Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • 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.


Today I’m excited to interview Kristen Simmons about her debut book ARTICLE 5 which was released on January 31, 2012. Being an attorney, I loved how Kristen explored a world where the Bill of Rights were revoked and replaced by the Moral Statutes. And Kristen created a world more frightening than I could imagine.

Here’s a description from Goodreads:

New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned.

The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.

There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don't come back.

Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren’t always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it’s hard for her to forget that people weren’t always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. It’s hard to forget that life in the United States used to be different.

Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow.

That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings…the only boy Ember has ever loved.

Hi Kristen. Thanks so much for joining us.

Thank YOU Natalie! I’m so excited to be here! I’ve been a fan of your blog for a long time. It was so helpful to me when I was looking for an agent!

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

I’m originally from the West Coast – I grew up in outside of Reno, Nevada. My dad is a cowboy, which meant that I spent a lot of time feeding horses and cattle, and my mom was once a math teacher, which meant I got to go to Math Camp when I couldn’t pass my times tables tests. I like good stories, big dogs that like to sleep on your lap, and most anything chocolate. I do not, however, like bees, bigots, and beer (allergic to all three). I began writing when I was a little kid when I learned stories on paper got you in less trouble than lying to grownups, and have been doing it ever since.

2.      I bet there’s a story behind the writing is better than lying lesson. You created a world where violation of the Moral Statutes results in immediate arrest and never coming back. You show this right away with Ember’s mom being arrested and then Ember being taken away. What made you decide to create your society the way you did?

In Article 5, the Moral Statutes are a very rigid set of rules, enforced by a very rigid organization. It seemed only right that the punishments for these rules be just as severe. The world in A5 has become so polarized in terms of wealth and politics, and the middle has become so thin that there is no room for shades of gray – unless you’re in the resistance, of course.

3.      You can say that again about the society being completely rigid. It made me appreciate that ours isn’t so black and white. Ember goes through a lot of internal doubts about herself and whether she can trust anyone, including Chase. Tell us how you developed her as a character and how your training in social work helped in creating her reactions in light of all the danger she was constantly in.

Ember has been through some traumatic things, and as a result, is dealing with some pretty hefty emotional consequences. Things that anyone might feel after experiencing what Chase and Ember have. But she’s resilient. Perhaps the most important thing I learned from a career in social work is how resilient we all are. How much we can take and still fight back. Witnessing someone recover after they’ve lost everything is awe-inspiring, and that is what I wanted to capture with Ember’s character. In the beginning of Article 5, she’s fairly naïve to the way the world outside her community works, but she learns quickly. Sure, she makes mistakes and tests her boundaries, but isn’t that how we all learn? By the end, she’ll either have to adapt or give up, and ultimately, that’s a choice many of us will have to face in our lives.

4.      That we’re resilient is an important lesson most of us have to learn at some point in life. And I agree that Ember was naïve at first. And occasionally I wished I could tell her not to make a decision she was making. But you’re right, that’s how she and the rest of us learn. I’ve read that ARTICLE 5 is part of a trilogy and that you’re already working on book 3. Did you have the whole trilogy figured out when you started ARTICLE 5 and do you have any tips on writing a trilogy?

Writing a trilogy is harder than I thought! Each book has to have its own arc (and each character their own arc within the story) while being part of a larger, complete arc. When I set out to write the trilogy, I knew how the overall picture would look, but was a bit fuzzy on the details of the second and third installments. I was never much of a plotter, and had to learn quickly! My advice to those writing trilogies is to plan ahead. Even if the finer points of the plot are unclear, try to figure out where your story and characters are going (in terms of motivation and change) in each book, and where the story and characters need to be by the end.

5.      That’s great advice to plan ahead. Because I think you have to plant threads in book 1 for book 2 and 3. But it’s a hard challenge for our first time around. Okay I’m dying to know the answer to this next question. Your agent is Joanna MacKenzie. I read that when you obtained representation the word count of your manuscript was 154,000 and through revisions with her that you cut that down to 96,000. How did you obtain representation with a word count that was so much higher than the range for YA books? Any tips on getting an agent?

I firmly believe that Joanna finding my query (naively boasting my word count of course) and still agreeing to do a read was some kind of divine intervention. What followed, however, was persistence and hard world. A5 in its original form was long (obviously), but it also had never been read or critiqued (at the time, I hadn’t heard of beta readers or critique groups). Joanna took a huge chance and agreed to do a full crit. If the manuscript was in better shape after revisions, she’d consider offering representation. It wasn’t. But she didn’t give up on me, and I didn’t stop trusting her. I liked her style – the way she offered support and criticism, her availability when I needed to work through something. She loved the characters, and believed in the story. We learned to work together. It seemed like a long time, but after three rounds of revisions, the manuscript was finally streamlined and ready, and she offered representation.

It took me 7 years to find Joanna, and a year to sign a contract once I did. My advice to those in the same boat is not to give up. This takes time, and a willingness to take some big risks. Doing revisions with an agent before a contract doesn’t always work out well for people, but it did for me.

6.      That’s amazing that you were able to get her to take you on. And that you submitted before having the manuscript critiqued. How did you cut your word count so much and what advice can you share for those of us who may be too wordy?

This was mostly done in the editing process with Joanna, but even after we signed a contract with Tor, my editor (very sweetly) asked me to cut 50 pages. Ouch. Here’s the thing about cutting: it sucks. I feel for you if you’re in that position. I still feel like some of my best writing was cut. But if I can’t answer in 10 seconds why a scene needs to be in the book (how does this relate to the story?), or if the answer is something like, “this scene HAS to stay because, well, it’s AWESOME,” then it’s got to go.

7.      Yes, cutting over 10,000 words is a lot. I know. Because my manuscript was about 20,000 words too long for a MG book. And it took a number of revisions to cut it down to the acceptable word count. And word count does matter in this competitive market. What are you doing to market your book, including marketing plans for down the road?

Ooh! Riding the marketing train in my newest adventure! I’m doing several guest posts and fun online interviews. I’m on a blog tour (with Teen Book Scene), and have several appearances in the Midwest lined up – all places featured in Article 5! (Louisville, Lexington, Cincy.) My launch party is 2/2/12 at 7PM at Inkwood Books in Tampa, FL (more information can be found at www.kristensimmonsbooks.com/events). Otherwise I blog at www.kristensimmonsbooks.com/blog, at YAFusion (http://yafusion.blogspot.com/), and at Brave New Words (http://www.bravenewwordsdebut.blogspot.com/), and am on Facebook (www.facebook.com/author.kristensimmons).

8.      That’s so awesome that you’re appearances are tied into the settings in your story. What a unique idea I hadn’t thought of using something like that in marketing. What are the plans for publication of book 2 in your trilogy? Are you working on other projects besides book 3?

Book 2 comes out in January of 2013, and yes! I’m in the midst of writing Book 3. Because this industry can be fairly slow, I did have time to write two other manuscripts, one between A5 and the sequel, and another before starting the third. My agent and I are currently in revisions with one of them. It deals with child labor issues. The other is still top secret!

Thank you for having me Natalie! Like I said, your blog and community of readers have been a great inspiration to me over the years!

Thanks Kristen for sharing all of your advice. You can find Kristen at the links above and at her website and on Goodreads.

Kristen 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 February 25. I’ll announce the winner on February 27th. 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.

Here’s what’s coming up in the next few weeks. Next Monday I’ll be interviewing a teenager who’s a debut published author for my ASK THE EXPERT series and giving away a copy of her book and a recently published YA book I know you’ll want. Then two weeks from now I’ll be interviewing Merrie Haskell and giving away a copy of her debut book THE PRINCESS CURSE.

Hope to see you next Monday!


S.A. Larsenッ said...

Kristen, it's great to meet you! I've heard about your book. Sounds fabulous. Congrats on working on book II and it's release next year!

Thanks Natalie for sharing Kristen with us.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks so much Kristen for letting me share in your debut.

Giada M. said...

Thank you for the interesting interview and awesome giveaway! :D Article 5 sounds so soooo gooood! I'm dying to get my hands on it. Thank you for this chance!

GFC follower: Giada M.

fabgiada (at) gmail (dot) com

Carina Olsen said...

Oh, awesome interview :D Thank you both for this awesome giveaway. <3 I would love to win it :D
GFC as Carina Olsen.
Love, Carina ~ carina-olsen@hotmail.com

Kristin Lenz said...

Kristen already knows I'm a huge fan. No need to enter me in the giveaway - I already have my copy of the wonderful Article 5. Thanks for sharing, Natalie!

Valia Lind said...

Thanks so much for the awesome interview! I love gleaming from other peoples knowledge!! And thanks for the chance to win!

GFC follower & valialind(AT)yahoo(DOT)com

Ishta Mercurio said...

This is the second time I've seen this book mentioned in two days! I'm definitely reading it.

And 7 years to find your agent - wow. That's persistence. It's encouraging, too - it's a reason to never give up.

Kristen Simmons said...

Thank you so much for the chance to visit Natalie! So honored to be here!

Lori M. Lee said...

I'm so, so excited for this book. I keep hearing amazing things about it. And thanks for the interview! It sounds like Kristen and Joanna were truly meant to find each other :)

Marta Szemik said...

Great interview and I Love the blurb for the book! Nice to meet you Kristen.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

You always have the best interviews, Natalie! I've been looking forward to reading this one. :-)

P.S. Legend arrived safe and sound. THANK YOU!!

Barbara Watson said...

This sounds great! It also sounds like something my son, who's just entering YA could find interesting. Thank you for the time and thought put into this interview, Natalie and Kristen.

cleemckenzie said...

Wow! This sounds like great adventure. Looking forward to reading it.

Ali Cross said...

What a fantastic blurb! I SO want to read this! And I love how your questions were inspired by the story, it was cool to read the answers.

I'm a GFC follower! Thanks!

Jeigh said...

Kristen, I can't wait to read your book! I'm still hoping to win one of the contests, but I might not be able to wait that long :) Great interview! Thanks, Natalie!

KatieC said...

Kristin, your book looks great, and is definitely on my list! Hope I win :)

And yes, I am mentioning it on my FB page!


AspiringAuthorSarah said...

This book sounds awesome. And such a great interview :D

Lydia Kang said...

This sounds like a great read! I'm also trying to work on a trilogy and am having the same issues with book 2 and 3. It's so hard!

Jana said...

Thank you so much for the chance to win! I loved the interview!
GFC: Jeanne

Laura Pauling said...

Wow, that's a lot of pages to cut! I love the cover of this book - makes me want to read it. I'm a follower!

laurapauling at yahoo dot com

Llehn said...

Thank you for the interesting interview and awesome giveaway!


Khanada said...

Thanks Kristen and Natalie. I'm glad Kristen and her agent worked so hard cos this looks like a GREAT book to read!

Stina said...

Joanna must have really believed in the book to give it so many chances. She is a superstar!


Sherrie Petersen said...

This is like the third time I've seen this book mentioned just today! Makes me very curious, especially since I'm partial to these dystopian novels :)

Sophia Chang said...

Wow I had no idea the background of this book - I'm really curious how she made contact with Joanna!

Wonderful giveaway I'm so excited for this book.

sophiathewriter at gmail

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=272736072797691&id=100002692737184

Mary Preston said...

I would love to read ARTICLE 5 thank you. I've seen it around on the Internet & it looks amazing.

GFC: Mary Preston

Email Subscriber:


CYP @ A Bookalicious Story said...

Cool interview!! I've heard so much raves about Article 5 from other readers and bloggers, and I really can't wait to get my hands on this book! Haha. Thanks for this giveaway!

+1 (https://twitter.com/#!/CYPyeti/status/169381614286143488_
+1 (http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=244229878995167&id=266372250057160)

Linda A. said...

Kristen and Natalie,

Wonderful interview. Great book! You've created a USA that is scary to conceive. Please place my name in the drawing. Thank you.

Miri said...

What an interesting interview! I heard a lot of good things about Article 5 and I really hope I get to read it soon.

Thank you so much for this awesome giveaway, too!

Alexandra Loewen said...

Wow- ARTICLE 5 sounds like a fascinating read, I am looking forward to seeing it! Thanks, Natalie, for sharing this great interview.

Samantha Jean said...

I'm looking forward to reading Article 5. I would llove to win a copy. Thanks for the giveaway!

Anonymous said...

This book is high on my to read list. Thanks for the chance to win the ARC! And double thanks on the interview and insight into Kristen's journey! Wow.

Veronika said...

Wow, amazing interview! You make the best interviews! I love reading them! Also I can't wait to read this book!
GFC name: Veronika
(also subscribed by email)
verusbognar (at) gmail (dot) com

Casey McCormick said...

Fantastic interview, girls! Loved learning some background info on Article 5. Can't wait to read it!

mimz said...

Thanks for the interview and the great giveaway! I've wanted to read Article 5 for so long! :)

Reading Mind / The Loyal Book said...

so glad you feature this author! I am very curios about the book and as always, you did a great job!

aliasgirl at libero dot it

Jessy said...

I just wanted to say you're not the only one who is allergic to beer, I swear I am too!

Tweeted @emma015

Findjessyhere at gmail dot com

Grace said...

Oooooh, wow! I've heard so much about this book! Thanks for the chance to win for your followers. :)

sharpestsatire @ gmail . com

TayteH said...

:D Article 5. Interesting name, and I <3 five. :D Thank you!

Lexie@BookBug said...

I can't wait to read this book! It looks terrific! Thanks for the giveaway!
I tweeted at https://twitter.com/#!/LexieBookBug/status/169670987586080769
GFC: Lexie@Bookbug
lexie.bookbug at gmail dot com

Lilly Bear ♡ said...

Thank you so much for the giveaway! I've been wanting to get my hands on this book, and her interview really just cinched it for me. I love her persistence. It gives me hope that I might one day be a published author, too, if I keep working hard and not giving up!

lillyisabear (at) gmail (dot) com

Jill the OWL said...

Super interesting to hear about her publishing story! Thanks.

themgowl at gmail dot com

ham1299 said...

Great interview! Thanks for pointing me this way! :-)

Carmen said...

It sounds like a great book! Thanks for sharing such an inspirational story!

Natasha Areena said...

I adore dystopian and I’ve wanted this one for ages! Such a cool premise

Carrie said...

I want this book soooo bad!

GFC Carrie Ardoin

celjla212 at aol dot com

Tiffany Drew said...

I've been waiting for this book for months! Every time I read another review for it, I get a little more anxious to get my hands on it. I love dystopians, I can't get enough, and this one sounds very promising. Thank you for the excellent interview and for the chance to win a copy!

Tweeted: https://twitter.com/#!/enterthedrew/status/171016272417529856

GFC Tiffany Drew

Ali B said...

I try to be picky about the dystopian novels I read. I love dystopia and don't want to burn out by reading anything but the very best reviewed offerings. Article 5 has definitely made my TBR pile. Looking forward to it.


FireStarBooks said...

OMG! I really want to read this book! My GFC is Firestarbooks.

You can find my at catchingashootingstar at hotmail dot ca

FireStarBooks said...

I blogged about it along with other giveaways at http://firestarbooks.blogspot.com/2012/02/great-book-is-cheapest-vacation.html

Beth said...

What a great interview! I loved reading about how she cut down her word count and finally found an agent. It really does take a lot of perseverance.

Kate said...

I can't wait to get my hands on this book. I'd love to win a copy.
kebirch (at) hotmail (dot) com

TerryLynnJohnson said...

wow. interesting interview! thanks. I'm loving reading dystopian right now. I'd love to win a copy.

Anonymous said...

just finished cory doctorow's little brother, which seems a similar dystopia and was a great book, and can't wait to read article 5. i just hope i can win a copy because my library isn't getting a copy. ah, the joys of living in the very literary state of GA!
mangrel365 at gmail.com

Emily said...

Thank you for the giveaway! I have read a lot of reviews on this book and most reviewers really enjoyed it. Can't wait to read it.
emilymeimei204 at yahoo dot com

Lilian said...

I don't know what's gone into me, but I am so addicted to dystopian novels right now.
I would love to score my own copy! *o*
thank you so much for the giveaway~

lilianxcheng AT gmail.com

musicismagic.6549 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
musicismagic.6549 said...

I absolutely love this book! Kristen, you are an AMAZING author. I hope you write more.


I also put this on my facebook, twitter, and my myspace.

The Reader said...

Dystopia Novels are all the rage, and there are so many now. I am drawn to your book because of the replacement of the Bill of Rights with the Moral Statutes. It does not seem so surreal or far fetched when we see people getting away with murder, the words" In God we Trust", removed from our coins, and the change of things that were set in place by our founding fathers. This story is also a great springboard to reintroduce the Bill of Rights at the High School Level.. The giveaway would be great for our literature circle.