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 super excited to help Elana Johnson celebrate her new book SURRENDER that’s being released tomorrow. I’ll be honest. When I interviewed Elana last year when POSSESSION debuted and she said she was doing a companion book, my daughter and I weren’t so sure we’d like it as much. But when my ARC came, we had to share read it because we both couldn’t wait to start it. (Being the nice mom, I got to read when my daughter went to bed and she got the book all day.) We both had the same reaction—LOVED IT. Seriously guys, it’s one of the best second books in a series I’ve read. It’s action packed with lots of plot twists and full of super awesome characters like the main characters Raine and Gunner.

We’re not going to talk about Elana’s debut today, but if you want to read my interview with Elana last June, go here.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Forbidden love, intoxicating power, and the terror of control…

Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi.

All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn. Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque....

Hi Elana! We’re so excited you’re here!
1.      Tell us why you chose to write a companion novel rather than a sequel spotlighting Jag and Vi’s life.

Well, for those who haven’t read POSSESSION – spoiler alert! – it’s a tragedy. In a brainwashing society. So Vi, the narrator, couldn’t really mentally handle another novel. I really had no idea what to do when the topic of writing another book came up, but I knew it couldn’t be a direct sequel. So the thought of doing something companion-y like Carrie Ryan’s THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH came to mind.

I even tried to write the book from the POV of Jag Barque’s son. Yeah, read that again. Ha! It obviously didn’t work—in fact, there were many attempts that didn’t work until I finally thought to start with brand new characters.

2.      That's so funny what you said about Vi not being able to handle another book. But you did such a great job making this book a part of the series. It seriously blew me away One of the things I loved about SURRENDER is Raine and Gunner. Raine is so smart and brave in defying her dad, who is the creepy director. And Gunner is such a nice, dependable guy you can’t help falling in love with. Tell us how you developed them as characters and share some tips on how to create really memorable characters like you’ve done.

Um. Shoot! I don’t know. I wanted Raine to be strong yet vulnerable. She actually gets weaker and weaker throughout the book, and that was hard to write, because most characters grow and change and overcome their weaknesses. I think we sometimes connect to that, because sometimes we can’t overcome our weaknesses, even when we try.

I wanted Gunn to be steady, but sort of wild too—in an under-the-surface kind of way. I wanted him to hold his own against Jag Barque, so that was something I worked toward as I developed Gunn.

I think character development can be a difficult thing to do, but it’s something that can be achieved by thinking of the character as a whole person, a person who existed before the story, during the story, and will continue to exist after the story. That’s how I think of my characters, and that helps me formulate them into what I hope are fully developed.

3.      That's great advice about thinking about your character's past and future, because you're right they do have it. What were some of the challenges in plotting the second book of this series and when did you plot it out in relation to POSSESSION? Do you have any tips on writing a series?

Oh, I don’t plot. I just sit down and write—usually. I will say that my agent wanted an outline for SURRENDER, so I wrote one for her. It took me 3 months to write a 20-page outline. It was the single hardest thing I’ve done in my writing career.

Then I wrote the book in 25 days. (I learned a lot of valuable lessons during this time, so I don’t regret it, but I don’t outline anymore either!)

I outlined/wrote SURRENDER in the fall of 2010, about 8 months before POSSESSION came out. I was able to adjust the ending of POSSESSION slightly to mesh with what I had planned in SURRENDER, so that was nice.

Tips for writing a series: Uh, well, I didn’t know POSSESSION was going to turn into a series, and I just said I don’t outline. I think having SURRENDER be almost a brand new book helped a lot. My best tip for writing, which can be applied to writing a series, is to keep writing. Try lots of different things—I probably wrote 30,000 words with 6 different characters as I was trying to figure out whose story needed to be told in SURRENDER.

4.      I think one great piece of advice you've given is to write the second book before the first book comes out. That way you can change things in book 1 before it's set in stone. We get a whole new sense of the world you’ve created because Raine and Gunner live in the city of Freedom like all the other citizens. Was this world developed in your head when you wrote POSSESSION or did it come as you wrote SURRENDER?

It definitely came as I wrote SURRENDER. I really like that the lens is widened in this second book, even beyond the city of Freedom.

5.      I have to admit that one of the things that drew me in was the new setting from the totally different perspective of citizens who functioned there. Let’s talk about marketing. When you debuted last year, you were all over the Internet. This time it seems like you’re taking a slightly different approach. Please share your marketing plan this time and why you decided on it for your second book.

Dude, this year I wasn’t going to do anything. But things changed in February, and I decided I better get some stuff done. This time, I decided to do a three-week pre-release tour with only YA book bloggers. All other promotion is going to be done POST-release, AFTER the book comes out, when people can actually BUY it. This is different from POSSESSION, when everything seemed to be focused on building buzz for the book BEFORE it came out.

6.      I'd be a little scared if you had to do the same amount of work for the release of book 2. Because you worked so hard when book 1 came out. I don't think I could do as much as you did. Having gone through your debut, what advice do you have for the rest of us on marketing our debut book? Just thinking about it, I get more than kind of overwhelmed.

I do think that for a debut, generating buzz is the best way to go. People haven’t read your work before, so you need to get them excited. I think the most important thing to remember in marketing a debut is to remember that you can only do so much. I think establishing an Internet presence and building authentic relationships before the book comes out helps a lot. Of course, there are people who do nothing and become bestsellers—but I believe most of that comes from the publishing house. For the average author like me, building and maintaining your friendships online can go a long way.

7.      That's such great advice. One of the things I admire most about you is that you have a full-time job as a teacher and a successful writing career. I have to do both too. How do you juggle it all and get in enough writing time to produce a book in a year like you’ve done?

Okay, well, I only teach part-time. I’m sure that diminishes your view of me. I think there has to be a sacrifice if you have a life outside of writing—and everyone should have a life outside of writing. For me, I sacrifice sleep so I can write. I sacrifice an hour or two in the evening to go to the library to write. Other than that, I drive my kids around and I make dinner and I watch movies with my family.

It also helps that I don’t work for June, July, and most of August, and get every major holiday off, 5 days in October for fall break, and an entire week in April for spring break. If there’s a job to have as a mother/writer, it’s a teacher.

8.      I so agree about the sacrifices. I sacrifice most nights to work on my blog or reading blogs and other times to write. And no, I don't think less of you. But can you find me a job like that when my company closes in 2 years and I need to find a new job? What are you working on now?

SO MANY THINGS. I hope to be able to share more of my writing after the POSSESSION series. Of course, I’m perfecting the third book in the series. I have a science fiction thriller that involves time travel (it’s kicking my butt). I have a contemporary verse novel that I love. A fantasy that has a character I love writing. And a futuristic fantasy about a girl who can control fire. They’re all in various stages of completion, and they all take a certain mindset to work on. 

Wow! You're writing in a lot of genres. Can't wait to hear more news and I'm really excited to hear about your fantasy. That's my favorite genre.
Thanks Elana for sharing all your great advice. You can find Elana at her blog, website, and Twitter

Before I get to our contest, I want to shout out about Elana's awesome NEVER SURRENDER BLOGFEST. It's happening all next week. All you have to do is post about a time you didn't surrender to some hard thing in your life. If you don't blog, Elana's got a way for you to post to Facebook or Pinterest. And if you participate, you can enter her contest for 3 $15 B&N gift cards and will get a SURRENDER swag package

Have you signed up yet? I have! I'm busy next week so I'll have to wait till Friday to post my story. But I'm super excited to participate. And I hope many of you will participate too. Elana has given so much to us all--organizing WriteOnCon, giving query critiques and advice, and being a good friend. 

I'd love to see her have a big Blogfest with LOTS of participants all week. So if you sign up for her Blogfest (that means post a Blogfest post that week), I'll give you 5 extra entries in my contest. And if you shout out about the Blogfest on your blog or Facebook, I'll give you 2 more extra entries for that too. Go here to sign up.

So now onto the contest. Elana's publisher generously offered an ARC for a giveaway. And thanks to Elana for helping me get the ARC. I am only allowed to give it away because I pre-ordered a copy of Elana's book for my daughter. And I just won an e-book of REGRET. Since I already have it, one lucky winner will win that too.

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 June 23rd. I’ll announce the winner on June 25th. 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.

If you mention that you've signed up for Elana's NEVER SURRENDER BLOGFEST, I'll give you 5 extra entries. If you mention the BLOGFEST on your blog or Facebook, I'll give you two extra entries.

On WednesdayI'm interviewing Elle Strauss and giving away a copy of her YA time travel book LIKE CLOCKWORK.

Then on Monday, I'm interviewing debut author Jennifer Bosworth and giving away an ARC of STRUCK, another awesome dystopian book. 

Next Wednesday I'm participating in an Indie Book Giveaway Hop. I have an awesome giveaway planned.

And Friday I'll be posting my NEVER SURRENDER BLOGFEST post. I'll be sharing a very personal story so I hope you'll stop by.

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

Hope to see you Wednesday!


Creepy Query Girl said...

Fantastic interview- loved learning more about how SURRENDER came about. 25 days? Holy Crap! And I teach part time too- english to french primary students and I agree, it's definitely helped me keep a balance when it comes to writing. Thanks for sharing Elana!

Emily R. King said...

Congrats to Elana. I can't wait to read SURRENDER. The new setting sounds like it will make for an all new adventure!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the interview and giveaway! I hadn't realized Surrender is actually a companion novel, not a sequel. Can't wait to read it!

bookwormsusanna AT gmail DOT com

Kristin Lenz said...

Wonderful interview! I've followed Elana through her blog for awhile now, but I didn't know her books weren't originally intended as a series. Interesting to learn how she determined the direction for the second book. I mentioned the release of Surrender in my blog post today, but I'll go edit it to include this giveaway!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Eek! Eek! And eek!! So thrilled for E! LOVED the book. It was fabulous. And most peeps already know how much I heart Gunner. I haven't shut up about him since I met him between the pages. lol

(Don't enter me in any giveaway, please.)

Barbara Watson said...

Just had to stop by before I head out the door for vacation so I could shout a HUGE Yay for Elana! What an exciting time.

I love that you write in such varied genres, Elana. And it's always refreshing to know that writing kicks other writer's butts too.

Thank you for the interview, Natalie and Elana.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I can relate to the part about not expecting to write a sequel! Sometimes fans have other ideas.
Takes me forever to outline a story and to finally start writing. Now that I'm working on my third and final book, I'm making good progress.
Wishing you huge success, Elana!

Angela Ackerman said...

Great interview, Elana! Really sound advice. I was surprised to hear you don't outline...so many people push outlining, and so it was good to know there's a successful Pantser out there, too!


Unknown said...

Raine sounds like a great character and I love the cover. This will be on my to read list! Holly

Vivien said...

What a wonderful interview. Elana is such a sweetie!!!! I'm really in love with these covers. They are just perfect :)
You never really realize how much you may have to sacrifice to be able to accomplish one of your dreams.
Not sure if I could as having signed up for Never Surrender. I don't have a blog, but I changed my twitter Avatar :)

GFC: Vivien
deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Great answers, Elana. Fascinating questions, Natalie. I have heard many say: "Don't start reading a trilogy until all 3 books have been written." Apparently to forestall the suspense factor!

But it is always a good idea to have the sequel (or the companion novel) in the computer before trying to sell the first ... as you said. I wish you the highest of sales tomorrow, Roland

Lydia Kang said...

Hooray for Elana, and I really enjoyed reading her interview, especially about the marketing. I took mental notes! Thanks you two!

Rachna Chhabria said...

25 days, that's super fast. Good luck to Elana!

Lisa Gail Green said...

Elana is one of those AWESOME people that you just want the best for. I'm so excited for her and her SECOND book!!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Woot! Woot! Woot!! GREAT interview, GREAT book, and a FABULOUSLY GREAT author!! We love you, Elana! :)

Laurisa White Reyes said...

This series caught my eye a while ago. I love the covers.

LTM said...

la la la!!! I'm not reading this b/c I haven't started Possession yet! It's up next on my hit parade, and I'll be snagging SURRENDER, too. Very exciting. Best to Elana~ :o) <3

iLuvReadingTooMuch said...

Loved Possession, so can't wait for this one! Thanks for the amazing giveaway and great interview :D

GFC: iLuvReadingTooMuch

iliveforreading AT hotmail DOT com

Chey said...

Thanks so much for the giveaway! I can't wait to read this one. :D

GFC- Chey
Tweet- https://twitter.com/ohaiitschey/status/209685907811483649


Vivien said...

I tweeted about the Never Surrender blogfest :)


Angela said...

Congrats to Elana! She has such a fun personality.

Jessy said...

I hope Elana finishes her time travel novel. I don't know what it is about time travel that intrigues me so, but I need a good one thrown in every now and then.

tweet: https://twitter.com/Emma015/status/209726665285308418

findjessyhere at gmail dot com

Marsha Sigman said...

I cannot wait to read this!!! Who doesn't LOVE Elana?

Natalie said...

Aww...that's so adorable (and fabulous!) that you and your daughter share read. I love my mother to pieces, but she's not much of a reader, so that's one thing I always wish we would have had in common.

Thanks for the interview!

Jemi Fraser said...

Awesome interview, ladies. I loved Surrender too - such a great story!! Loved hearing more about it :)

erica and christy said...

These interviews must take you guys forever with all the back-and-forth exchanges - they're always a lot different than what I see on other blog interviews. Congrats to Elana!

Angela Brown said...

Woot! to Elana. Blogfest keyed and ready. Preorder of Surrender done. Enjoyment factor rising with excitement.

Oh, and loved the wonderful interview Elana and Natalie.

Jessie Humphries said...

I thought I already knew all there was to know about Elana (that sounded super creepy). But I guess not. Consider me signed up and I will be participating in her blogfest for sure.

Stina said...

It's great hearing what Elana is doing for promotion now that she's no longer a debut author.

Awesome interview!

Leslie said...

Great interview! I'm excited to read her new book!

erica and christy said...

I learned so many things. I look up to Elana more than any other blogger/author/teacher/mother I "know". I had no idea that SURRENDER was a companion novel. BUT I STILL CAN'T WAIT TO GET MY EYES ON IT. :0) christy

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

So excited for Elana's new book. What a great interview!

Carrie Butler said...

I absolutely adore Elana. What a wonderful interview! :)

Martha Ramirez said...

Oh, what an awesome interview! You mentioned you don't outline but you still are a Save the Cat fan, right?? Yes, of course you are:) How exciting!! Tossing confetti°∞•°•°•°∞

ghulam sarwar said...

thank you for sharing

sameer said...

nice work

Mary Preston said...

I know for myself that when a buzz is created about a book I take notice.

GFC: Mary Preston


Anonymous said...

Great interview! And thanks for the international giveaway :)

GFC Koll


Evie said...

What a great interview! And it must be hard for her to conciliate her job and writing.
Thanks a lot for the giveaway!
by.evie at yahoo dot com dot br

Steph said...

Great interview! I can't wait to read this book. Thanks for the giveaway!
I posted on FB and tweeted this too!


Natasha said...

Great interview! Thanks for the chance to win!!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Carina Olsen said...

Awesome interview :D This book sounds so good. <3 See, I have book one. Haven't read it yet; but I do have it :D And it seems awesome :) Thank you for this giveaway. <3 :D
Love, Carina

Carmen said...

I'm a big Elana fan! I love to win!
cerickson at integra dot net

collkosinski said...

Yay, Elana!!!

colleen at myartsite dot com

Kiki Hamilton said...

Congratulations Elana! Loved the interview, Nat, - can't wait to read SURRENDER!

Suzanne Furness said...

Congratulations, sounds like a great read.

Jen said...

Ahhh i can't wait to read these books:)

Krista McLaughlin said...

Great interview! I can't wait to read her books! I participated in her blogfest and read a lot of good entries!

Denise Z said...

My nutbunny brain is a bit behind the curve and I will definitely have to look up Possession as well. Thank you for sharing with us today and for the awesome giveaway opportunity. I think this world looks like a fun place to explore and I am looking forward to getting to know these characters :)
GFC Denise Zaky

Sarah Elizabeth said...

This looks great and I loved the interview :)
gfc - sarah elizabeth

KatieC said...

This looks awesome, a definite must read! I also mentioned the giveaway on FB (Katie Clark). My email kclark0637 @ yahoo . com

London Judge said...

This book looks really good, thanks for the giveaway!
I tweeted about it also


Diana said...

I love Elana Johnson! She's really a great and fun lady.

Diana said...

Shared on Facebook!

Kelley said...

I'd like to win! Yay writtled(at)gmail(dot)com

Galena said...

This is on my TRB list :)