Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Natalie Lakosil & Tracie Badua Guest Post & Freddie vs. The Family Curse & Query Critique Giveaway on 5/23/2022
  • Mary Moore & Ema Watanabe Cohen Guest Post & The Lost Ryū & Query Critique Giveaway on 6/1/2022
  • Chelsea Hensley Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/6/2022
  • Kayla Cichella Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/13/2022

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • All Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated in 2023.


First, in case you don't know this, WriteOnCon has scheduled their free, online conference for August 14th and 15th. There will be new agents at this conference. It sounds awesome. You can get the details here.

Today I’m excited to interview Leigh Bardugo about her debut book SHADOW AND BONE that was released June 5, 2012. When I read the description of her book on her agent’s blog, I immediately contacted Leigh about an interview. I loved Leigh's world building, which she'll share more about, and her main character Alina, who is a normal girl who suddenly discovers her magical powers. I love fantasies and this is one of my favorites this year.

Here’s a description of SHADOW AND BONE from Goodreads

Photo by Kevin Rolly
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

Hi Leigh. Thanks for joining us.

Thanks for having me back! Literary Rambles was a big part of my agent search, and I'm glad to be here.

1. From your bio I read that you were born in Jerusalem and raised in Los Angeles. You’re also a makeup artist. I’d love to know a little about that, especially the makeup artist part, and how you became a writer.

Honestly, when my dad died, I went a little crazy. I'd been working as a copywriter and the days alone in front of the computer were just too much. I'd always loved makeup and costuming, so I took a leap and switched careers. That turned out to be a very good thing for me and for my writing. I met new people pretty much every day, I was thrown out of my comfort zone, and I found that when I came home, even after long hours on set, I had a new determination and focus when I sat down to write.  

2. So sorry about your dad's death. But it's great that you took the leap to do what you want with your career. It's certainly worked well with your writing. SHADOW AND BONE is a fantasy. World building is so important in fantasies. Tell us a bit about your world building process and how your book is different from other fantasies.

Many high fantasy worlds resemble medieval Europe, but Shadow and Bone takes its cultural inspiration from Tsarist Russia of the early 1800s, so the world has a different feel. I think another difference is that the bulk of the story is written from Alina's point of view. She's pragmatic, prickly, and has a modern sensibility that I hope will make it easier for readers who might not ordinarily pick up fantasy to enter the world. 

In terms of process, I don't really think that world building for fantasy is much different from world building for anything else. Whether you're writing a political thriller set in DC or a smalltown murder mystery, or a swords and sorcery epic, the reader needs a clear sense of order (how power functions in the world) and place (the texture of a world). When I wrote the first draft of Shadow and Bone, I really only had the key elements of order in place: the Darkling's power, Alina's power, the Shadow Fold, the basics of how the Grisha (the Kingdom's magical elite) operated. I didn't want to slow my momentum, so I didn't worry about the naming of things or what my characters were eating or wearing until I got into the second draft. When I did delve into those elements of world building, I was surprised at the way they impacted the plot and some of my fundamental ideas about the characters. 

3. That's great advice to leave some of the details until the second draft. I know those kind of details can slow me down when writing the first draft. Alina is an interesting character who doesn’t start out doing things right. What were some of the challenges in developing her as a character?

I think there's often a temptation to create heroines who are infallible­— tough, wise, brave. But in real life, those traits are hard won. Alina has spent most of her life without much power or say in her fate. She has to learn how to be strong and how to use the gifts she's been given. Her hunger to belong guides a lot of her decision making, and that level of vulnerability wasn't always comfortable to write. 

4. I confess I made that mistake in the first draft of my first book. I learned that it's important to show that heroes and heroines are not perfect. Because no one is. Tell us about the magical powers in SHADOW AND BONE and why you chose them. Any tips on creating the magical powers in a fantasy and setting limits for them. 

For me, the impossible seems a lot more possible when it's constrained by rules. The Grisha practice what is known as the Small Science, the manipulation of matter at its most fundamental levels. It's essentially a magical version of molecular chemistry and bound by many of the same rules. So a Fabrikator doesn't mutter spells over a piece of metal to create Grisha steel, he's actually forging the metal and honing the blade at a molecular level. 

I think my best advice when it comes to creating a magical system would be to let the larger questions of the work guide you. In Shadow and Bone, I wanted modern warfare to be a real threat to this kingdom and to the Grisha. But a repeating rifle isn't very scary if you can just magic up some big ass dragons or an Uzi. That led me to a constrained magical system and I found that inspiring. When you create limits, you can begin to ask how people might work around them, what innovations might have resulted from those constraints, and also what the consequences might be to breaking the rules. 

5. I’d normally ask you to tell us about how you got your agent Joanna Volpe and your publishing post here. But you shared it all in an awesome guest post on how you got an agent and a book deal in 37 days in January 2011. (Guys you can read Leigh’s post here. You want to read it because it’s full of tips on querying.) So instead I’ll ask you to share how you’re marketing your book and any advice you have for debut authors.

My best piece of advice is to join a debut group like the Apocalypsies. The support of other authors is invaluable. 

Also, don't panic. Early on, I felt totally baffled and overwhelmed by the options out there. Should I make bookmarks? A trailer? Did I need a web site or would a blog do? How much did I need to be tweeting? Which conferences should I attend? Just remember that you don't have to do everything. Try to find a strategy that fits with your interests and plays to your strengths. I hired a great designer to build my web site (Denise Biondo) and focused on creating content there. My friend Gamynne and I designed buttons inspired by the book. My friend Aaron and I wrote a song. If you can have fun with it, promotion doesn't feel quite so burdensome. 

6. The thought of marketing fills me with panic. Thanks for making it seem manageable. What are you working on now?

The second book in the Grisha Trilogy, Siege and Storm, will be released next year so I'm currently finishing up those revisions. After that, it's on to Book 3, Ruin and Rising!

Can't wait to read them! Thanks Leigh for all your great advice. You can find Leigh on twitter and her website. You can also check out some of the inspiration for the Grisha Trilogy on Leigh's pinterest boards

I'm giving away my copy of SHADOW AND BONE (with a few tears because I like it so much).  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 August 4th. I’ll announce the winner on August 6th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. 

Here's what's coming up:

On Friday, Casey is sharing about a writer in residence opportunity that sounds really interesting.

On Monday, I'm interview Natalie Lorenzi about her middle grade book FLYING DRAGON. It's a multi-cultural story about a Japenese-American girl who has to give up her soccer dreams to study Japanese and help her cousin, who just came here from Japan, with his English. I was memorized from the first page. I know a lot of you will really like this.

Next Wednesday, Casey has a post with Laura Lascarso with a giveaway of her book COUNTING BACKWARDS.

The following Monday I'll be interviewing Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi and giving away a copy of THE EMOTION THESAURAS. It's a great resource for writers. I love it just for the introduction.

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

Hope to see you on Monday!


  1. How interesting that she's also a makeup artist.
    I can't wait to read this book! Thanks a lot for the chance to win it.
    GFC follower: Evie
    by.evie at yahoo dot com dot br

  2. Great sounding book. I'm definitely adding this to my to read list. Make marketing fun. Isn't that a contradiction in terms? lol But it's a great suggestion.

    "second draft. When I did delve into those elements of world building, I was surprised at the way they impacted the plot and some of my fundamental ideas about the characters."

    Yeah. I'm facing this right now.

  3. I keep seeing this book everywhere. I've heard wonderful things about it, and I'm really looking forward to reading it.



  4. Great tip on creating limits in magic and how people work around them.

    And I glanced back, and a year and a half ago I commented on your guest post with this: "Your blog needs excerpts! Okay, so the book's over a year from being published, but it sounds awesome and you definitely got us curious."

    I still couldn't find an excerpt, but your site looks awesome, and Amazon lets us take a look inside your book, and so that's where I'm going now.

  5. The molecule magic sound fascinating! I've been thinking a lot about how to make meaningful limits in magic, and it's not always easy.

    reinadeer (at) hotmail (dot) com
    I tweeted: https://twitter.com/ReinaLaaman/status/225547471911268352

  6. Your book sounds fascinating, Leigh! I've always been a huge nut about Russian history (as an American, I just find the antiquity of the land so amazing), so a fantasy set in a world similar to Tsarist Russia has me hooked right from the premise.

    Great tips about world-building, too. Thank you for sharing!

  7. I'd LOVE a copy of Shadow and Bone! I've heard such great things about it. Great interview Natalie! I also went back and read her guest post on how she got published. That was a really great post as well. I'm off to check out her website!

  8. I like that idea of leaving the details for the second draft. I admit I can easily get hung up on some of those details! And I'd love to win a copy of this book. It sounds delicious :)

  9. This is one of the top books I am excited about for this year. Every little thing gets me more excited! Now I just need to be able to afford a copy.

  10. Great interview! The book sounds awesome! I love that she used Russia rather than Europe for the feel of the world, and that she sticks to science rather than just avera-kadavera magic. Sounds like this will be a really fleshed-out story, which, of course, always makes them awesome! :D

  11. The title alone is a grabber. It's already on my TBR, so winning a copy would be totally wonderful. I enjoyed the interview and learning more about the book and the author.

  12. I've heard a lot of great things about this book. Of course, I'm dying to get my hands on it! Haha. My favorite genre has always been fantasy. And Russian inspiration? YES PLEASE. Ever since we had Russian history, I've always been fascinated with any piece of literature influenced by it. So, yes, yes, yes please! :D

  13. What a great interview, thanks! I'm not a big-time high fantasy reader, but this book looks amazing. I'm becoming a follower to enter your contest, and am off to Tweet about it.

  14. What a great interview! And Leigh, your website is awesome. I went back and read your querying post--I guess I missed it when it was first posted. What an awesome story!

    Best of luck to you and Shadow and Bone!!


  15. This looks so so good. I especially love the Russian inspiration. How weird that such an enormous country hasn't influenced our fictional worlds more, especially when it's had such a profound impact on the IRL western world.

  16. Yay!!! I'm an enormous fan of the fantasy genre and always love seeing more fantasy books hitting the scene. I'll definitely be checking this one out.

  17. This sounds like a fantastic book! And the reminder about developing a character who ISN'T perfect is helpful. We want our characters to be likable, but still real and flawed and relatable. Can't wait to read it!

  18. Another great interview - and interesting-sounding book! Can't wait for WOC - it's where christy and I first "met" and we love it every year!

  19. I can't wait to read this! And I love the titles of the following books too! Thank you for the interview and giveaway! :)
    GFC: sarabara081

  20. Great interview! I've been DYING to read this book! Thank you for the giveaway and the chance to read this book.

    GFC: Molly Frenzel
    Tweet: https://twitter.com/dg_molly/status/225717395262693376

  21. Fantastic interview.The world-building tips Leigh gave are pretty intriguing.
    Shadow and Bone a while back read a immensely positive review on it, so excited to enter the contest.

    GFC Follower- Cassandra Ruiz
    Twittered this post(+1 Extra Entry)-https://twitter.com/BookLoverC/status/225742585820479488


  22. Awesome interview. Leigh's tips on world building and the rules of her magic system are great!

  23. I'd love to play please.

    Already a follower.


  24. Great interview! I can't wait to read this one! Thanks for the chance to win!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

  25. I'd love to win your copy of Shadow and Bone, thanks for your generosity.


    I tweeted a link to this post for the extra entry: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/225810253579710464

  26. Awesome interview! And wow what a story on your query process with Jo. Super congrats!

  27. I cannot wait to win this book! Ah, I meant, READ. I cannot wait to READ this book. :)

    Thanks for the awesome interview and giveaway. I've heard so many great things about this book. I'm dying to get my hands on it.

    erittelking at gmail dot com

  28. nice interview... :)

    GFC: Anubha

    anubha56 at gmail dot com

    tweet: https://twitter.com/miliminni/status/225812063191179264

  29. Lots of great advice here! Looking forward to reading it.

    I twittered this interview to my tweeps! : )

  30. Guess I should leave you my email for when I win...uh...I mean, IF I should win. Thanks for all you do. I don't comment too often, but I do read your postings and enjoy them a lot. Keep up the great job. (*I really do mean it; it's not just shameless kissing up on my part.) : )

    sherryparker3 (at) gmail (dot) com

  31. Wow this book sounds fantastic!!! Thank you so much for giving it away.

  32. I adore Leigh!


  33. OMG, Thank you! You Rock! :D
    Follower name: TayteH
    +1 I tweeted: https://twitter.com/Tayte5/status/225915339161100288

  34. That is what I love about this blog. You read about a great book and at the same time, you pick up precious advise on the trade of writing. Thanks!

  35. I have to get my hands on this book. I have been reading such gushing reviews on it.

    Tweet: https://twitter.com/Emma015/status/225963134324723712

    findjessyhere at gmail dot com

  36. I'd like to enter :)


    Greetings from Germany!

  37. Great interview and I've been hearing suuch amazing stuff about this book that I cant wait to get it in my hands!!!

    GFC Follower: Maneesha Haroon
    Tweeted: https://twitter.com/Mad4bookss/status/225975092138627075

  38. Ooooh, SHADOW AND BONE just went to the top of my TBR pile! This is such an inspiring, not to mention insightful, interview. Thanks to you both! You made my writing week. ;-)

  39. Thanks for the interview and I love to read this book!


  40. I would love to read SHADOW AND BONE thank you. It looks amazing.

    GFC: Mary Preston


  41. Great interview. Would love a copy of the book!


  42. I have been hearing a lot about Shadow and Bone. Would love to read it.

  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

  44. I keep hearing so much awesome stuff about SHADOW AND BONE! I was already excited to read it, and now even moreso. Thanks for the interview and giveaway!

    nirnaeth7 @ gmail.com (I follow via email with this address)

  45. What an awesome interview! I am so curious about Shadow and Bone and I have heard such great things about it. I enjoyed finding out more about the author. Thanks for the giveaway.

    GFC: Jess/DMS/Fairday (Google keeps changing the name- not sure why)

  46. I would adore a copy of this book! Creative, bold, and not-your-average YA books are my absolute favorite.

    Thanks for the giveaway and the interview!

    email (from which i follow, too): sofiasolid @ hotmail.com

  47. I really want to read this one. Thanks for the interview and giveaway!

  48. First of all, thank you for the chance to win your own personal copy. That speaks volumes. I'm absolutely salivating to read this and after reading this interview, I got the impression with the magic and the rules it was almost a Russian-like steampunk story. That makes me want this even more. I love the idea of magic rooted by rules. It makes it feel more real. That's so awesome. I'd love to read and review this book.


    1. I tweeted about the giveaway and interview here: https://twitter.com/gdcribbs/status/227556632761094146 I can't wait to read and review this book!! :D

  49. Oh, I'm so hoping to read this book! Everyone I know love this book very much, so I'm having peer pressure right now LOL! I can't wait to meet Alina, she sounds amazing and such a heroine to look up! I love imperfect heroine, they're perfect in their imperfection! :D

    Thank you for the amazing giveaway! :)

    my_saphira (AT) yahoo (DOT) co (DOT) id

  50. Great interview! I don't know if there is anything I love as much as real fantasy!

  51. Loved this! I knew as soon as I saw this cover for the first time that I wanted to read this. Since then I have seen so many positive reviews and fun interviews like this one that just keeps upping my interest. I can't wait to finally read it for myself! Thank you for the opportunity :)

    Tweeted: https://twitter.com/enterthedrew/status/227586185483149312


  52. Awesome interview! I'm so looking forward to reading Shadow and Bone. Love the cover!
    GFC: laceyblossom
    tweeted: https://twitter.com/laceyblossom/status/227646618160226304
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  53. The cover of this book is so amazing and vibrant too! I am also a follower: GFC Read to my Heart's Content

  54. Would love to win this book. I hear such good reviews about it.
    bookaholicholly @ gmail . com

    Also, I shared this on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/KinomiyaMichiru/posts/369558723116219

  55. This comment has been removed by the author.

  56. This book seems really excellent. I shared it on twitter :)

  57. Shadow and Bone was already on my TBR pile for a while and I think it will be my next read! I'm so excited about this book I can't wait to read it!
    GFC: Veronika
    and email subscriber
    verusbognar(at)gmail (dot)com

  58. Putting Shadow and Bone on the TBR list!

  59. I've heard SO many good things about this book! I really need to get my hands on it! Thanks SO much!

  60. This book is amazing! I don't know how I'll wait the long wait for book 2.

  61. Sounds amazing! jenna.vincentquentinATgmail.com

  62. I love to read about other writers' world building process, especially now that I'm doing my own world building for one of my novels. Discovering the workings of the world can change the plot in unexpected ways, and for me it's always for the better.

    Thank you for a nice interview and for giving away your copy of the book!


  63. I have been following Shadow and Bone for a while now and really enjoyed the interview. Thank you for taking the time and effort to share with us today, as well as for the awesome opportunity to win a copy of this awesome sounding book :)

  64. Another informative interview - thanks so much! Also appreciate the opportunity to win a book!


  65. Can't wait to read Shadow and Bone. It sounds good.

    GFC: Nickle Love
    email: nicklelove at gmail dot com
    shared in twitter: https://twitter.com/nightowlreads/status/231767785062158336

  66. Shadow and Bone is on my To Be Read Really Really Soon list. Thanks for the great interview.

  67. I follow via GFC as Samantha Deen!

  68. This is at the top of my TBR pile! I thought that the book description was good, not amazing, but after reading your review I'm so much more excited for this book!

    Brilliant review :)

    Zaira Lynn (Ptarmigan Hunts)

  69. Teens and adults alike will fall in love with Alina and the characters in Shadow and Bone. I can't wait to read it again!

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