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.


Before I get to today's interview, I wanted to share two links that you might be interested in. First, Andrea Mack, one of our followers, posted on her blog that MiG Writers, a group blog she participates in, is interviewing their agents Andrea Cascardi of the Transatlantic Literary Agency, Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown Ltd,  Marie Lamba of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency, and Jeff Ourvan of the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency, LLC this week about the market, misconceptions, and what they are looking for in MG and YA submissions. You might want to check it out. I plan to.

Second, Darcy Pattison at Fiction Notes did a post on the top literary agent for middle grade authors based on their sales here.

Today I’m super excited to help celebrate Tracy Bilen’s debut. Her YA book WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND releases tomorrow. I’ve become friends with Tracy through our Michigan SCBWI so I’m even more excited than normal to be able to share in her debut. I LOVED this book. Once I started it, I read it at every opportunity till I finished it. I don’t usually read contemporary novels but I was riveted from page one. I loved Sara, the main character. Tracy really nailed her voice and her way of handling her family situation. I wanted to know as much as her what happened to her mom.

Here’s a description from Goodreads:

 In this suspenseful thriller, Sara and her mother are going to secretly escape her abusive father—when her mother mysteriously disappears.Sara and her mom have a plan to finally escape Sara’s abusive father. But when her mom doesn’t show up as expected, Sara’s terrified. Her father says that she’s on a business trip, but Sara knows he’s lying. Her mom is missing—and her dad had something to do with it.     With each day that passes, Sara’s more on edge. Her friends know that something’s wrong, but she won’t endanger anyone else with her secret. And with her dad growing increasingly violent, Sara must figure out what happened to her mom before it’s too late…for them both.

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

I live in the suburbs but I’m a country girl at heart (though I must admit I love having a bookstore within a ten minute drive!) When I’m not reading or writing, I enjoy biking (with my five-year-old on a connector bike behind me) and traveling. I’m also a high school French teacher and love re-watching my favorite French movies. I’ve been writing since I was in high school myself and have always wanted to see my own book on the shelves of a bookstore or library. So I’ve worked steadily toward that goal – taking writing classes, attending conferences, and joining professional organizations such as SCBWI and RWA. It was while I was querying the second book that I had written that I came up with the idea for What She Left Behind. Writing this book was an excellent distraction from the querying process, and as it turned out, it was the one that sold!

2. Your advice to write another book is such great advice and something I’ve heard other published authors recommend. And look how well it worked for you. Your book is not only a thriller, but takes on an intense issue—abusive families. That’s why I’m dying to read it. How did you come up with the idea for your story and what research, if any, did you do to on the issue of domestic and family abuse?

The idea for the book came from an image I saw in my mind – of a girl, a suitcase, and a gun…and it just took off from there. The hardest part in doing research for this book was going to the library – I felt so uncomfortable checking out books about abusive relationships that I felt compelled to tell the librarian that it was for research….I remember her being so relieved!

3. Oh yeah, I can see feeling weird at the library since it’s such a sensitive topic. Sara is a strong character determined to find out what happened to her mom and dealing with her father’s increasingly violent behavior. And like most people in this situation, she tries to hide it from her friends. Tell us a bit about how you developed Sara as a character.

Character development was a gradual process for me. As I wrote, I felt I learned more and more about Sara and was then able to go back into the earlier sections and add details. Some details I would mention just once, but others (such as the way she twirls her ponytail when she’s nervous) I tried to weave in throughout the book. When faced with a tough emotional scene, I tapped into times in my life when I dealt with similar emotions.

4. I like the idea of going back and layering the character details in as you revise a manuscript to deepen the character. And you did such a great job with it. I loved Sara from the first page. And felt like I was right there with her. I’ve read in reviews of your book that you did a really good job balancing the romance with the mystery elements of the plot and creating Alex, Sara’s romantic interest. Share some of your tips on writing a good romance.

I’m such a sucker for romance. I just loved writing the scenes with Alex! My tip would be to go for the sigh factor…scenes that make you sigh (in a good way!) or smile when you re-read them. I also like the tips in this blog post at Dear Editor .

5. Lucky you that you loved writing the scenes. I’m still scared of writing that first kiss scene. You won a mentorship through the Michigan SCBWI chapter a few years ago. How did that help you take your novel to the next level of getting published?

Shutta Crum was my mentor for this fantastic experience. Shutta worked with me much like an editor…she helped me tackle over-arching big picture issues as well as the tiny details. Shutta read my entire manuscript at least four times over the course of the year (which was going beyond her duties!) and gave fresh insights each time. I am especially grateful to her for helping me better understand character arc. I really believe that it was this intensive mentoring experience that made What She Left Behind agent-ready!

6. Shutta’s an amazing person so I can imagine what a great mentor she was. And it’s so great to have a mentor or critique partner who can really help take your manuscript to its best level. Your agent is Kevan Lyon. Tell us how she became your agent and your road to publication. 

I met Kevan at a meeting of our local chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America). From there I queried her, which led to this whole incredible journey. Kevan was instrumental in helping me make those pre-submission revisions and she’s always so on-top of things – whether it’s reading a new proposal or brainstorming about marketing – I couldn’t ask for a more perfect agent! Throughout the whole querying process I used www.querytracker.net to keep track of the queries I sent and the responses I received.

7. I know you’re doing a two week blog tour to celebrate your debut. How did you set that up and chose the blogs, especially the book review blogs, to use for your tour?

Actually most of the work was done by Teen Book Scene, which does a fabulous job setting up blog tours…I just told them how many stops I wanted to make and what types, and they took it from there. Of course, as I got other requests from bloggers, I added them into the schedule where they fit best.

8. I always wondered how author blog tours get set up. That’s great to know about Teen Book Scene setting up the blog tour for you. What are you working on now?

I’m working on another YA thriller and hope to be able to share more details soon!

Can’t wait to hear about your new project. Thanks Tracy for sharing your advice. And Happy Debut! You can find Tracy at her website , twitter: @tracybilen, or Facebook, her blog, and YA Fusion, a group blog where she participates and is doing another giveaway of her book this week.

And here's Tracy's trailer:

Tracy's publisher generously donated a signed copy of WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND for a giveaway, To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on May 12th. I’ll announce the winner on May 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.

And don't forget to enter my contests for two ELLIE MCDOODLE books and my giveaway last week of CINDER, A MILLION SUNS, and THE DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. The links are at the top of the blog.

Here's what's coming up. Next Monday I'm participating in the Children's Week Holiday Hop. I can't wait to share all the awesome YA books I've chosen for the giveaway. On Wednesday next week I'm interviewing Kim Harrington and giving away a copy of her YA mystery PERCEPTION and two books in her new middle grade series PARTNERS IN CRIME. Then the following Monday I'm interviewing Christina, a 6th grader who blogs with Kristi at the awesome THE STORY SIREN and giving away a few newly released YA books.

And don't forget our Tuesday Tips tomorrow and Casey's Agent Spotlights on Thursdays.

Hope to see you on Monday!


jpetroroy said...

Oh, this sounds like a nail-biter!

Donna K. Weaver said...

*shudders* What a scary sounding story! How old is the protag?

Stina said...

I can't wait for this one. I'm hoping it actually makes it into my local bookstore (so I can nab it sooner).

Theresa Milstein said...

Good luck, Tracy. What a gorgeous cover!

Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for this interesting interview! Tracy, I love the advice to keep on working on your next book while you query and the way you layer in more detail after you get to know the character -- I need to do more of that in my own writing.

Natalie, thanks so much for mentioning our agent week at MiG Writers. We're very excited about it!

Carina Olsen said...

Ohhh, loves this cover :D And the book seems awesome! :D Really wish to read it. <3

Vivien said...

Ooooohhh...This book looks the right amount of creepy. Thanks!


deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Creepy Query Girl said...

wow, this sounds like such an original (and intense) story! thanks so much for introducing us to Tracy and her work! Loved learning more about them!

Lydia Kang said...

This book sounds incredible. Nice to meet you Tracy, and thanks Natalie!

Kristin Lenz said...

Yay for SCBWI-MI writers! Save the giveaway for someone newly discovering Tracy's book. I've been fortunate to follow it from a one chapter idea to the multilayered story it has become.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

This looks so good, and I love the cover! :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks so much Tracy for letting me share in your debut. Enjoy your release day tomorrow.

Jemi Fraser said...

This book sounds awesome! Sounds like tough subjects are approached with care and honesty! Great cover too :)

Barbara Watson said...

The cover is amazing! This sounds like an great look into an issue teens face--and I can imagine the research was a bit tricky.

Romance Reader said...

The cover is good and the story seems somthing I'd love to read!

All the best!


Christina Farley said...

Oh this sounds like a chilling read. I can't wait to read it.

And thanks Natalie for the shout out for us over at the MiGs during our Agent Week!

mshatch said...

wow, this sounds like an awesome book!

Tracy Bilen said...

Thanks everyone! The protag is 16.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Thanks for the links for the mid grad agent info.

Tracy's book sounds really good. I'm putting it on my TBR list.

Unknown said...

Interesting interview! It was great to hear Tracy's story and her book sounds really good.

PuttPutt1198Eve said...

I appreciate the fact that the character development here was gradual but full. It sounds like a story to really keep your interest. Thanks for the chance to win it!

Natasha said...

Great interview! Sounds like a really good book!
Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Carl Scott said...

This sounds like a great YA thriller. The kind of book that young readers will remember for many years. Please enter my name for the chance to win a copy.

I also follow Literary Rambles by email: carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

and I tweeted the giveaway: https://twitter.com/#!/carlrscott/status/197185719528194048


Doodle said...

I'm dying to read this!!! It sounds amazing!
I follow via GFC: Doodle
Shared on FB: https://www.facebook.com/erencich/posts/375698992472358
Thanks for the giveaway!

Julie DeGuia said...

Sounds like a heart-pounding story... and I'm so impressed that you made this happen with a little one underfoot! Way to go!

Reading Mind / The Loyal Book said...

ohh, a thriller! That's so good! I love thrillers :) And the thing I love the most about the interviews here is how you describe your journey to publication. Lots to lear!!

Mary Preston said...

I would love to read WHAT SHE LEFT BEHIND thank you. It looks amazing.

GFC: Mary Preston



Psyche said...

Include me too. I want to read this book. I like the blurb.
GFC: maly
email: msbookworm22(at)yahoo(dot)com

Unknown said...

Fantastic giveaway - I can't wait to read this book!

GFC - Claire-Louise

Tweet - https://twitter.com/#!/clairelouisef/status/197291576676990976

Lisa Marie said...

Sounds great! Thank you for the giveaway.


lisalueddecke at yahoo dot com .

Christina said...

Guess who's looking forward to the romantic scenes? This guy!

cynicalsapphire at gmail dot com
GFC: Christina Franke

Unknown said...

Wow--the books sounds very exciting and tense. Can't wait to read it.


Rosi said...

Ooooh. This looks like a really good book! I've posted a link to this blog on my Facebook page for an extra entry!

Rachna Chhabria said...

The book sounds great. Would love to read it!

Carmen said...

This sounds like another great book. Natalie, you are so good at finding the best ones!

cerickson at integra dot net

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Gosh, Natalie. That's a lot of giveaways you've got going on! I'd love to win this one. I shelved the book yesterday and was instantly captivated by the cover and the jacket copy.

Great interview. Tracy, you're so lucky to have had that mentoring experience with Shutta.

Rachel said...

Great interview. Tracy's book sounds really intense and well-written (as well as well-researched!). I've been wanting to read this book since we heard about the release date. May 1st. May 1st is also my birthday. I would love to win a copy, as I am a college student who sadly can't afford every book she wants to read. :)

And wow guys....lots of giveaways going on!

Unknown said...

Wow -- I had chills all over my body by the end of that trailer. It sounds gripping. I'd love to win a copy of this! :)

I tweeted the link to this post too. URL is: https://twitter.com/#!/rebeccaberto/status/198361005527543808

Jennifer R said...

Thanks for the interview and giveaway! I hope to read Tracy's book soon! So proud of our fellow SCBWI-MI member! I'm going to post a link to your post on Facebook too.

Nikki said...

Thanks so much for the giveaway! This book sounds so good!

Linda: Book Ninja said...

Definitely cool to learn how she came up with the idea of the book. Romance? Yay!

Rachna Chhabria said...

This book has a very intriguing title. Sounds good!

Natalie said...

I loved the book trailer! The background music was so deliciously creepy! I always enjoy a book with a good amount of suspense, so this one's definitely on my radar now!

Priya said...

Gimme this book!!!

Enbrethiliel said...


The more I hear about this book, the more I want to read it!

Thanks for the giveaway. =)

Linda A. said...


Reading What She Left Behind could be a great back door approach to discussing a very tough subject. Enter my name, please.

Anonymous said...

This is actually already on my Goodreads to-read list, it sounds like a really incredible read! Though I can imagine how checking out library books on abuse could be a bit awkward... ;) Also, I didn't realize there was a website like Teen Book Scene that set up blog book tours, that's awesome!

I'm already a follower, and my email address is taylor.cope96@yahoo.com. Thanks so much for hosting such a great giveaway!

Anonymous said...

And I just tweeted about it here: http://twitter.com/#!/NovelingMuggle/status/199504832644644864. :)


Lauren Loeffel said...

This looks amazing! Thanks for the awesome giveaway!

collkosinski said...

Sounds great!

colleen at myartsite dot com

collkosinski said...

Sounds great!

colleen at myartsite dot com

Suzanne Furness said...

This sounds like a brillant read with lots of different layers to it. Congratulations, I look forward to reading it. http://suzannefurness.blogspot.co.uk/

Beth said...

Sounds like a great book. I'd love to win!

Sermento said...


Anubha said...

this book sounds amazing... pls enter me i follow u GFC: Anubha
tweeted: https://twitter.com/miliminni/status/199765133587783680


Amethyst said...

I love YA thrillers. Thank you for the giveaway! ^_^

alicia marie said...

this sounds like a creepy scary thriller i'd enjoy : ) i've read only good things about it everywhere i've seen it! it's definitely one i need to add to my tbr list!

Reading Away The Days said...

Thanks for the giveaway! The book sounds awesome thanks for making it International!

GFC: Megan @Reading Away The Days


Tweeted: https://twitter.com/#!/TeamWolf1988/status/200332951018409984

Darlene said...

Thanks for the giveaway!

GFC Darlene
darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com

+1 for tweeting:


Tiffany Drew said...

Thank you so much for this giveaway, I've been wanting to read this book since first reading about it months ago :)

Tweeted: https://twitter.com/#!/enterthedrew/status/200621918792065024

GFC follower Tiffany Drew

sweety said...

+1 Tweeted:


Anonymous said...

It's me again, back for another entry! I mentioned this giveaway in a blog post - check it out here:

My email address is taylor.cope96@yahoo.com.

Thanks so much for hosting this awesome giveaway!

terluon said...

This sounds good :)
GFC: Teresa


aldelei89 said...

the books sounds very thrilling. i might be reading this on the edge of my seat. lol the book trailer is great too :)

tweeted: https://twitter.com/#!/aldelei89/status/200929834195628032

aldelei89 at yahoo dot com

LisaILJ said...

This book sounds wonderful. I would love to win a copy. Thanks!

GFC follower: LisaILJ
leyser73 at gmail dot com

Dori Dumont said...

I love your webpage! Congrats on your first book! I would love to win of copy!! I also enjoyed your interview with my friend Katy Longshore! How exciting for you! I'm still working on getting a story published in a magazine.. : -)) Congrats again Tracy! Good luck.