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.


Hi everyone! Before I share my fantastic interview with you today, I want to mention a few things.

First, I may not be around blogs too much today. My daughter has her summer swim championship meet and I have to be a timer. So we have to stay to the end. So I'll be gone from early morning today until mid afternoon. It's not going to feel like much of a day off work. But I'm hoping she and the team does well and it'll be fun to be on deck. And that's what mom's do--help out--right?

Don't forget to enter my contest for Leigh Bardugo's SHADOW AND BONE if you missed the interview on Wednesday. It's a fantastic book I know you'll love. I'm giving away my copy. The link is at the top of the blog.

Next, if you haven't read author blogger Roni Loren's post where she shares about getting sued for using a picture on her blog, you want to read the post and beware. You can find the post here.

Finally all the books for last week's winners and this week's winner will be mailed out later this week or early next week. Sorry, but I'm trying to mail as much as possible each time I go to the post office so I go less often.


Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book.

Today I’m excited to interview Natalie Dias Lorenzi about her debut book FLYING THE DRAGON that was released July 1, 2012. I loved this book. Natalie did such an excellent job portraying the POV’s of Skye, the Japanese American girl who wants to play in the soccer championship rather than learn Japanese and her cousin Hiroshi who comes here from Japan and struggles with American culture and must learn English. I loved all the characters, especially their grandfather. I got a real feel for Japanese culture and how it’s different here from Japan. Plus the conflicts and struggles were so what middle graders experiences. I can’t say enough good about this book.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

American-born Skye knows very little of her Japanese heritage. Her father taught her to speak the language, but when their estranged Japanese family, including Skye's grandfather, suddenly move to the United States, Skye must be prepared to give up her All-Star soccer dreams to take Japanese lessons and to help her cousin, Hiroshi adapt to a new school. Hiroshi, likewise, must give up his home and his hopes of winning the rokkaku kite-fighting championship with Grandfather. Faced with language barriers, culture clashes and cousin rivalry, Skye and Hiroshi have a rocky start. But a greater shared loss brings them together. They learn to communicate, not only through language, but through a common heritage and sense of family honor. At the rokkaku contest at the annual Washington Cherry Blossom Festival, Hiroshi and Skye must work as a team in order to compete with the best.

Hi Natalie. Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Growing up, my dad was in the Air Force so we moved around often. I went to five different elementary schools, which meant starting over as the new kid time each time. The characters in the books I read felt like friends, especially in the interim between leaving old friends behind and making new ones. I decided when I was nine that I wanted to become a teacher, which I did. I’d always dreamed about what it would be like to be an author, but I never really saw it as a viable career when I was a kid.

It wasn’t until after my second child was born that I decided to take a break from teaching and stay home. During those four years, I researched the children’s publishing business and started writing! I took an online class for children’s writers, connected with other writers on Verla Kay’s message boards and joined SCBWI. After that, I was hooked! I’ve been writing ever since.

2.  That's great that you were able to stay home for a few years and focus more on writing. And I agree that Verla Kay and SCBWI are great resources for writers. Are Hiroshi and Skye patterned after anyone you know? How did your experiences teaching in Japan and in a multicultural school in the United States influence your development of them as characters?

Hiroshi and Skye are based on my students, my family, and my own experiences living abroad. Like Hiroshi, many of my ESL students come to the US with very little English and are bewildered by American culture and slang. They tend to have that deer-in-the-headlights look for at least the first month or so of school, and my heart always goes out to them. Once they adjust to life in America and learn English, they often struggle with speaking their home languages, which makes it difficult to communicate with relatives who still live in their home countries.

In my own family, my husband is Italian and we lived in Italy from 2003-2008. Our oldest daughter went to Italian schools through 3rd grade, so her language skills in Italian are still fairly solid. Our second child, however, only went to Italian school through Kindergarten. At the time, she refused to speak English even though she understood that English that I spoke with her. Within a few months of moving back to the US, however, she had regained her spoken English, but her spoken Italian really suffered. We go back to Italy each summer, but even so, we saw that she would struggle to keep up on the phone with her Italian relatives, so we enrolled her in Saturday Italian school this year. Like Skye in Flying the Dragon who has to attend Japanese Saturday school, the other students in my daughter’s class were much more proficient with the language, and my daughter often felt embarrassed to speak Italian in class. Her spoken Italian has greatly improved thanks to those classes, though, so even she can see that her hard work has paid off.

Finally, parts of me, both as a kid and an adult, have woven their way into Hiroshi and Skye. Living in Japan, I was at a total loss when it came to looking up words that I would see on signs out on the town, since everything was written as a Japanese character (in Kanji, Hiragana, or Katakana). Several times I would misread things about the culture that caused confusion. For example, I had no idea that it’s considered rude to shake your head when saying no—they tap their hands in an “x” to communicate “no.” So when I would ask for something in a store using my careful Japanese, I interpreted their smiles as, “Yes! Of course we have that!” when actually they didn’t.

3.  You really did have a lot of personal experiences--teaching, your own travels, and your daughter's experiences to draw on. Maybe that's why you really got Skye and Hiroshi's POV so accurately. Even though you’ve lived in Japan, I’m guessing you had to do some research to portray the cultural aspects of your story accurately. Tell us about your research process.

Yes, research was a huge part of bringing this story to life. I wanted it to feel authentic to readers who were familiar with the Japanese culture and/or kite fighting, and for those who aren’t, I wanted to portray an accurate picture of the Japanese language and culture as well as the sport of kite fighting. Even though I lived in Japan for two years, I had no idea what Japanese home life was like on a day-to-day basis. In the school system where I teach, there are two elementary schools with Japanese language immersion programs. I contacted the principals there and asked if any Japanese teachers at their schools would be willing to look over my manuscript to check for linguistic and cultural accuracy. Two teachers offered to help, both of whom were born and raised in Japan. I’m so thankful for their careful and thorough work on the manuscript.

I also knew I needed an expert to look over the kite-making and kite-fighting scenes in the book. When I’d read Linda Sue’s historical middle grade novel The Kite Fighters, I saw that she’d thanked a man named David Gomberg who had helped with the kite-fighting scenes in her book, so I sent him an email. He was extremely gracious and helpful, and the kite scenes in my book would not have been the same without his guidance.

4.  I've been to China and India, so I know what you mean about feeling it's hard to really portray such different cultures accurately. That's a great idea to reach out to someone like David Gomberg if you find him/her in someone's acknowledgements. I wouldn't have thought of that.

Getting the voice right in a middle grade book is so important. I know from your bio that you teach, so I’m guessing it’s easier for you to nail middle school kids’ voices. Share your tips on this and any challenges you faced in developing Hiroshi’s voice since he came here from Japan and his voice must be very different that Skye’s.

In the early drafts of this book, Hiroshi was the only main character; Skye was just a girl in his class named Susan. My experience with teaching ESL children did help in honing Hiroshi’s more formal voice. The challenge with Hiroshi was making his voice relatable to American readers while staying true to his culture. For example, in the scene where Hiroshi is upset with Grandfather, he doesn’t yell or lash out like an American child might. Hopefully I showed Hiroshi’s anger in a way that American readers will understand, yet readers familiar with the Japanese culture will also recognize.

5.  I think you did a really, really good job with that. And I'm so glad that Skye didn't stay as Susan. Tell us how Erin Murphy became your agent and your road to publication.

When I first discovered Erin, she was closed to queries except through client referral or attendance at a conference at which she was presenting. As I didn’t know any of her clients and I was living in Italy at the time, I thought that my chances for getting to query her were nil. Then SCBWI announced an online chat with Erin, and I jumped at the chance to sign up. The live chat was from 1:00-2:00 in the morning Italian time, but it was worth it! I sent her my query, which led to a request for the first few chapters, then a request for the full manuscript, and then an offer of representation!

6.  You're the second person who I've interviewed who went through hurdles to connect with Erin. Lynda Mullaly Hunt, who wrote ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, drove 5 1/2 hours to meet her. I know you have a lot on your plate. You teach, are working on becoming a librarian, write and now must market your book. And you mentioned to me that you’ll be in Italy this summer. How do you juggle it all and how are you planning to market your book?

My biggest strategy for marketing is to do things in small chunks. Months ago, I spent some time researching blogs that had reviewed other middle grade books, including multicultural ones. I reached out to them (including Literary Rambles :-) ) and people like you have been kind enough to feature my book on their blogs.

I also presented at the Gaithersburg Book Festival last month  and will be doing the same at other local festivals in the fall. And although I teach full-time, I’ll be using my three days of personal leave to do three school visits in the coming school year.

Some of my agent-mates are throwing a virtual book launch on the Emus Debuts blog  from June 25-29, where they’ll post interviews of my agent, editor, cover jacket illustrator Kelly Murphy, another author/ESL teacher Melanie Crowder, and David Gomberg, the kite expert I interviewed while I was writing the manuscript.

My in-person book launch party will be at a Barnes and Noble near the school where I teach, so I’m looking forward to celebrating with family, friends, students and colleagues. If any of your blog readers are in the northern Virginia area on Sunday, July 1, I hope they can drop in! 

7.  That's great advice to do the marketing in small pieces. Makes it feel less overwhelming. What are you working on now?

I’m always tinkering with something, but I’m hoping to spend much of my summer writing time revising a YA novel and tweaking some picture book manuscripts.

Thank you so much for hosting me on Literary Rambles! :-)

Thanks for sharing your book and advice with us, Natalie. You can find Natalie at her website and blog

Natalie's publisher generously provided a copy of FLYING THE DRAGON 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 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 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 ShannonWhitney Messenger to spotlight middle grade authors. Check out the other Middle Grade group:

Here's what's coming up:

On Wednesday, Casey has a post with Laura Lascarso with a giveaway of her book COUNTING BACKWARDS. It's about a teenage girl who gets in trouble and is forced to go to a psychiatric correctional facility. Doesn't it sound good?

Next 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.

On Wednesday that week I'll be interviewing Rachel McClellan and giving away a copy of FRACTURED LIGHT, a paranormal story dealing with Auras, Vykens, and Guardians. 

 On Friday that week, I'm excited to participate in Alyssa Sheinmel's blog tour for her book THE STONE GIRL, a story about a teenage girl with eating disorders. She'll be sharing a guest post and giving away an ARC. I'm really looking forward to sharing this book with you because it's sadly a timely issue for our teenage girls. One of my cousins who is my daughter's age almost died from this last year and I know another teenage girl who borders on having this problem. You may know someone with this problem too.

The following Monday, I'm interviewing C.J. Redwine and giving away an ARC of her debut book, DEFIANCE, a fantasy/dystopian novel I loved!

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

Hope to see you on Monday!


Angela Brown said...

Interviews here are always insightful and educational. Thank you Natalie and Natalie for sharing these questions and answers. Gives me a more in-depth view to another author's writing and research process and helping to generate ideas on how to improve my own processes.

Andrea Mack said...

Natalie D-L, your book sounds fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing the story of how it came to be written. And Natalie A, thanks for such an interesting interview!

Donna K. Weaver said...

What a great interview and fun-sounding book. And such a great multicultural experience Natalie and her family have had. I've got a son living in China with his family right now. *jealous*

Anonymous said...

Wow, this sounds like an amazing book, and what fantastic life adventures have brought you to the place where you could write it, Natalie! Definitely going on my TBR list.

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds like a great book! I've taught many ESL students over the years, but rarely those who hadn't been in an English community before ours. Our language has so much slang, it's hard for them at first! But what incredible world experiences some of these kids get!

Barbara Watson said...

This one is going on my to-read list immediately!

It's so encouraging to hear agent stories that just click and work out. Love that.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Natalie A. -- good luck to your daughter! Natalie D. L. -- what a fascinating story. Can't believe I haven't seen this book yet.

Kristin Lenz said...

Thanks for sharing Natalie's book - it sounds wonderful. Also thanks for sharing the link to Roni Loren's blog post - very good information.

DMS said...

First- I hope the swim meet went well.
Second- Thanks for linking to the blog post about copyright. Very helpful.
Third- This story sounds delightful. I loved hearing aobut how the author got her ideas. It was amazing to learn how she connected with her agent. How cool! Thanks for the chance to win this book. :)

GFC: Fairday/Jess/DMS (google keeps changing the name- but it is always the same drawing as the picture)

Ruth Donnelly said...

Awesome interview, and the book sounds fascinating!

Natalie Dias Lorenzi said...

Thank you to Angela, Andrea, Donna, Louise, Jemi, Barbara, Joanne, Kristin, DMS, and Ruth for stopping by, and thanks so much to Natalie A. for hosting me here at Literary Rambles!

Demi, I know what you mean about slang--it's so difficult for newcomers (or even for mothers of 13-year-olds, like me. ;-) )

Donna--do you have plans to visit your son in China? We've been to Beijing and Hong Kong, but I know that's only scratching the surface--so much to see!

Thanks again, all. :-)

Natasha said...

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

Rosi said...

Thanks for the interview. Very interesting. The book looks terrific.

Natalie Dias Lorenzi said...

Thanks for stopping by, Natasha and Rosi. :)

Anubha said...

books sounds awesome... and thank you for the interview... :)

anubha56 at gmail dot com

Mary Preston said...

I would love to read FLYING THE DRAGON with my daughter.

I follow.


Christina Farley said...

I'm so excited to read this book. I've been to Japan twice to visit my sister while she was living there and I loved it. This is definitley a book I want to read!

Jayne Moraski said...

I would love to read this book. As a former military brat, and as a trailing spouse of an academic, overseas travel and exposure to other cultures is of high interest. Good luck with the book Natalie!

Kimberly Gabriel said...

I hope your daughter's swim meet went well! Thanks so much for another great interview and rec!

Wendy said...

Great interview. Loved Natalie's story about getting up for Erin Murphy! Looking forward to reading...
wbgreenley (at) gmail (dot) com

C. K. Kelly Martin said...

I can't wait to hear more about the YA novel! Great interview!

Anonymous said...

This one sounds _great_! Thanks for the interview and the opportunity to win a copy.


Hope the meet went well, Natalie.

Natalie Dias Lorenzi said...

Thanks Anubha, Marybelle, Kimberly, Wendy, and Deb!

Christina, I know from Verla's that you've spent a few years in Asia--there's so much to see , isn't there??

Jayne, we have lots in common! I'll bet you have some amazing stories to tell. :)

C.K., the YA has possibly morphed into a MG...we'll see. ;-)

Christine Sarmel said...

Looks like a terrific book. Congrats on persevering so we all get the chance to enjoy it!

marc zucker said...

book sounds great, would love to read it.

Natalie Dias Lorenzi said...

Thank you, Christine and Marc!

Yolanda Ridge said...

I am really looking forwRd to reading this book - I love the name Skye!

Olívia said...

Great interview! This book sounds like something I would truly enjoy. Japanese culture has always fascinated me, and I've officially been admitted as a Japanese major for a week now, woohoo! :D

Thanks for the giveaway!


Jennifer Jensen said...

THanks for the interview, and thank you, Natalie, for sharing. I write middle-grade, and love multi-cultural stuff even tho that's not my forte, so I'm looking forward to Flying the Dragon. And the idea for finding an expert is great!

Sideline note: When you put a link in the text, could you make it open in a different window so it doesn't take me away from your page? Thanks.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I wish I could Jennifer. But that's how blogger does the links. Sorry.

LTC said...

I enjoy reading books about other cultures. This sounds like a fascinating read, one that I'll definitely add to my list.

Natalie Dias Lorenzi said...

Thanks, Yolanda. Skye was actually renamed while I was working with my editor, so I'm glad you like it!

Natalie Dias Lorenzi said...

Olivia, congratulations on your admission, and best of luck to you!

Natalie Dias Lorenzi said...

Glad you enjoyed the interview, Jennifer, and best of luck on your middle grade manuscript!

Natalie Dias Lorenzi said...

Thanks, LTC!