Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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

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 Laura Ellen about her debut book BLIND SPOT that was released yesterday. Laura was a Michigan SCBWI who recently moved to Arizona. Roz, the teenage main character, grapples with macular degeneration, an eye disease that robs her of her central vision. It was fascinating seeing the world as she does. And I loved that this is a contemporary murder mystery/thriller that kept me turning the pages.

Laura had her debut party last night at Nicola's Bookstore in Ann Arbor, my favorite Indie bookstore.. She lived in Ann Arbor until this summer. I went to the book signing with a friend of mine who is also a friend of Laura's and was one of her beta readers. It was so much fun watching Laura debut and seeing so many neighbors and friends from our SCBWI group there. 

Here’s a description from Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Tricia Farni’s body floated to the surface of Alaska’s Birch River six months after the night she disappeared. The night Roz Hart had a fight with her. The night Roz can’t remember. Roz, who struggles with macular degeneration, is used to assembling fragments to make sense of the world around her. But this time it’s her memory that needs piecing together—to clear her name . . . to find a murderer.

This unflinchingly emotional novel is written in the powerful first-person voice of a legally blind teen who just wants to be like everyone else.

Hi Laura. Thanks so much for joining us.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer.
Thanks for having me Natalie J

I grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska and for most of my childhood we lived out of town where there really wasn’t much to do. My sisters and I used our imaginations a lot – looking for monstrous villains or renegade gnomes or passageways to a parallel universe – we spent a lot of time making up stories and acting them, especially in the summer when we had all day and night to play. I was an avid reader too and loved listening to Mystery Theater on my transistor radio at night. All that imaginative play and fascination with story was bound to manifest somehow. I think I was around seven when I wrote my first story and I’ve been making stuff up and writing it down ever since. 

  1. I've always wanted to see Alaska. Living there must have been amazing in the summers. Roz is diagnosed with macular degeneration at 16. I know you were also diagnosed with this disease in your teenage years. Share how your own experiences with the disease helped shape Roz’s experiences and how her experiences are different than yours.
My teen days were full of anger and frustration, and I channeled all of that into Roz’s character. Most of what she deals with I did too in some fashion. I was never placed in a Life Skills class –but I wish there was something like that for me when I was growing up (one without a Mr. Dellian that is!).  I struggled to find my way mostly on my own and it was a hard journey for me.  

 Dellian though was definitely something I experienced. Actually he is fashioned after three different teachers I had. These teachers not only didn’t accommodate me, they seemed to take pleasure in humiliating me. I never understood their motives for treating me with such animosity and condescension – but I gave Dellian a motive in the book. 

Unlike Roz, I sat and took it for quite a while, thinking there must be something wrong with me for my teachers to treat me that way. I wanted that part of Roz’s experience to be different from mine; I wanted to give her the voice I didn’t have. 

  1. You really did draw from your own experiences. So sorry for how your teachers treated you. That's terrible. You tackle a lot of difficult issues in BLIND SPOT like how kids with disabilities are treated, drugs, and teenage sex. What were some of the challenges in portraying these issues and what advice do you have for the rest of us who may want to include them in our stories?
It is always a challenge, when writing edgier material, to keep it on that line of ‘acceptable’. I try not to be crass or vulgar but I also try to keep it real. These things do exist in teens’ lives – not everyone’s but in many it does, especially in the lives’ of teens who have low self-esteem. My advice to writers is: if you aren’t comfortable, don’t write it. Teen readers aren’t naïve and they can smell a phony. But if you are comfortable writing that edgier material, do so with purpose. Don’t put it in just to be edgy. It has to belong in your story; it has to make sense there. If it can’t be justified, don’t write it.

  1. Great advice to use these difficult issues with purpose in your story and not just throw them in. Roz is a great, independent character who doesn’t want to be treated differently just because she’s been diagnosed with macular degeneration. I have to admit that there were times I wanted to shout at her though “No, don’t do that!” Did you have that feeling sometimes and how did you resist the urge to make things easier for her?
When I decided to make Roz have a visual impairment and use my own experiences to do so, I told myself I would have to lay it all out there if I wanted to make her experience real. I made so many stupid, idiotic mistakes when I was a teen -- when I think back I want to shake me and say “what were you thinking?”  The reality is teens make mistakes that, when they look back on, are shake-worthy, but in the moment they seem right. Often these wrong choices are made because we are so focused on an imperfection we think we have – we all have a ‘blind spot’ and those ‘blind spots’ can make you do dumb things. That’s what I wanted for Roz. I know, I’m so mean to my characters!

  1. So awesome you incorporated the theme of your story into Roz's actions. You're right. Teens do make a lot of stupid decisions. I confess that I made many and it's a miracle in some ways that I'm alive to tell it.Your agent is Jill Corcoran. Share with us your journey to obtain an agent and to find a publisher.
I met Jill at a SCBWI LA conference through one of my critique partners, but I didn’t query her right away. I’d read that she liked ‘lyrical’ writing and I didn’t think that was me. At my friend’s urging though, I finally did. Two minutes after submitting the query, she requested the full. But I’d had a few almosts with agents reading my full at that point, so I didn’t let myself get too excited. When she started reading it though, she kept emailing me, giving me updates “I’m on such-and-such page and loving it” etc. Then with her page updates, she started talking specifics in the novel and if I’d be willing to revise.  I said yes, and next thing I knew, she’d made an offer of representation. 

We revised the novel twice and then started sending it out. I was lucky enough to have a few offers so I was able to choose which house to go with. I chose Karen Grove of HMH because she understood my vision for Blind Spot (wanting it to be a thriller first with the heart about Roz’s struggle) and because she related so intensely to the story (there are a lot of Dellians out there, unfortunately).

  1. Sounds like you had a great road to publication. How are you marketing your book? Are you tapping into any markets that might be interested because of the macular degeneration issues of your story?
Ah marketing! It is so hard to know what to do when it is all new! So far I am doing blog interviews, a few appearances at bookstores, libraries, and conferences – whatever I feel comfortable saying ‘yes’ to I am doing! I will be reading at the LA Central Library tomorrow night (October 25) with three other authors. My blog tour kicked off today over on Authors are Rockstars, and I’ll be at Xpresso Reads tomorrow. You can go to my website for the entire blog tour schedule.
Also, I ran the ‘What’s Your Blind Spot’ campaign October 2-October 16th. Teens and authors sent me their own ‘blind spot’ stories – that thing they were so obsessed with, it made them lose sight of something else. We will be announcing the 5 winners and sharing the stories Friday October 26th over on I Read Banned Books

  1. What are you working on now?
I am writing another murder mystery/thriller, also set in Alaska, but this time the main character’s senses are fully functional! 

Thanks Laura for sharing all your great advice. You can find Laura at her website,  Twitter, and Facebook. 

Thank you Natalie, it was fun!

Laura's publisher generously offered an ARC of BLIND SPOT for a giveaway. And I just purchased a book to give away too. Both are signed by Laura.  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 November 3rd. I’ll announce the winner on November 5th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. 

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

 Here's what's coming up:

On Monday I am SO excited to share an interview with New York Times best selling author Cinda Williams Chima and give away a copy of THE CRIMSON CROWN, book 4 in The Seven Realms series. This is a fantastic fantasy series as good as George Martin's A GAME OF THRONES. Even if you haven't read the other books in Cinda's series, you'll want this book and you'll want to read Cinda's awesome advice. She's an amazing  writer that I was lucky enough to meet at a SCBWI conference.  

Next Wednesday, I'm interviewing our follower Angela Brown about her debut book NEVERLOVE and Gwen Gardner about her debut book GIVIN' UP THE GHOST with book giveaways. They are both paranormal books and Angela and Gwen have joined forces for their book releases. It's going to be a fun interview.

The following Monday, I'll be interviewing a teen for my ASK THE EXPERT series and sharing THE SPINDLERS by Lauren Oliver with you. I'm a huge fan of Lauren's and I was excited to get an ARC. The world building in her new book is amazing and it's a great story.

And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's Thursday agent spotlights.

Hope to see you Wednesday!


Steve MC said...

What an interesting story. And great to see how she turned the hurt of what she went through into a compelling book.

JennaQuentin said...

Great real life inspiration. Thanks for sharing your agent/editor/publishing story too!

Carrie Ann Pearson said...

What a nice interview. Thank you for being so open, Laura. I'm waiting for my copy to arrive so I can see what all the fuss is about! :) Enjoy the debut moment!

Donna K. Weaver said...

What a great interview. The premise of this story is kind of chilling, both for MD of the main character and for what she faces otherwise. Love the cover.

Linda Gray said...

Novels like this are so compelling and important. I love the setup, with it being a mystery/thriller but with the pro tag suffering from an affliction that is very real for a lot of people and needs to be better understood. Great interview, thank you.

Theresa Milstein said...

Oh, I like the idea of having a protagonist with those issues.

Danielle H. said...

Great interview! I always love to hear about an author's path to publication. I posted a link on my facebook page.

Creepy Query Girl said...

Sounds like a really unique read! Great interview- I enjoyed learning more about Laura and her book!

Kristin Lenz said...

Yay for Laura! Nice to see you at the launch party last night, Natalie. No need to enter me in the giveaway - I've got my own copy.

Miles of the Journey said...

Good interview. I like it that Laura used what caused her pain as part of her work; the old "scars into stars" theme.

Apart from the book, there is a message in that for us all.

Ann Finkelstein said...

Congratulations, Laura. I'm looking forward to reading Blind Spot - whether or not I win. :-)

Kathy H-C said...

REally enjoyed hearing Laura speak at the SCBWI-MI conference in Detroit. Her book is on the top of my must read list. Thanks for the chance to get to know her a bit better!

jpetroroy said...

What an inspiring background story!

Lisa Gail Green said...

What a cool story! Both of my grandmothers had Macular Degeneration so it runs in my family.

Vivien said...

Had my eye on this book for months!!! Great interview. It's great she understand that teens aren't perfect. It makes it more realistic.
GFC: Vivien

deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

warisha_jayanti said...

The books sounds really good!

thank you for this giveaway!


Jill the OWL said...

Sounds fantastic and I LOVE the cover!

themgowl at gmail dot com

Stina said...

You had me at the blurb. :D

Jennifer R said...

Great interview, Natalie and Laura. I'm sorry I didn't make it to Nicola's, it would have been great to meet Laura. And see you again, Natalie! :) Thanks for the giveaway!

The Clements Family said...

I love to read a book where the author has actually lived aspects of the novel. I would love to win a copy! I don't know if the right e-mail will come up, but my follower e-mail is meganclements4[at] yahoo [dot] com. Thanks!

Beth said...

This book sounds incredibly moving, and so personal. Thanks to Laura for sharing her story with us, and congratulations on being published!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Congrats Laura. I look forward to reading Blind Spot.

Jeanie Franz Ransom said...

I love books with suspense. I also love books with main characters who are struggling with something that could happen to anyone. This book looks like the perfect combination. I'm a former Michigander,as well. Best of luck to the author as she begins her next project!

Jemi Fraser said...

Wow! Sounds like a great story - love the plot lines and the thriller at the heart of it all.

As a teacher I get so sad when I hear stories of teachers who do that kind of thing. Our job is to help, encourage, bolster & sometimes drag kids into seeing their strengths and abilities and believing in themselves. I hope there were some positive teachers as well. Good luck with the book!

molly.frenzel said...

I've been dying to read Blind Spot! This book sounds fantastic.
GFC: Molly Frenzel

Enbrethiliel said...


I love mysteries that are solved by young detectives! Please enter me in the giveaway.

I'm an old GFC Follower and my e-mail address is on my profile. Thanks. =)

Lydia Kang said...

Sounds like such a great book. I liked reading about how Laura is going to deal with the marketing stuff. That makes me nervous!

erica and christy said...

Such an interesting interview!! My sister and her husband live in (rural, about 25 miles out) Fairbanks (and yes, he's a teacher there). I've had the opportunity to go there and have read a few non-fiction books about the area, but nothing near this. I will definitely seek it out, thanks for the recommendation!

Dorine White said...

This is a great book. Thx for the info.

Evie said...

Great interview! Now I'm even more interested in reading this book.

Jessy said...

Growing up in Alasks must have been amazing! Thanks for the great interview.

Tweet: http://mobile.twitter.com/Emma015/status/262190086609829889?

Texas Book Lover said...

Blind Spot sounds like a book that would grab my attention from the first page and not let go until long after I am done reading!

Tweet: https://twitter.com/TexasBookLover/status/262362255302201344

GFC: Texas Book Lover

mmafsmith AT gmail DOT com

Laura Ellen said...

Thank you all for your great comments and well-wishes. Good luck to the winners :)

Heather said...

Blind spot sounds like a great book and Laura sounds like an amazing person. I'm adding this to my to-read list!

LTM said...

Wow--this sounds like an amazing book! I'd love to visit Alaska, too! :o) But what an interesting idea to follow... blindness trying to find a murderer. Very cool. Best to you, Laura! :o)

Ryan Snyder said...

:D wowza!

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Such a touching novel.
Tweet: https://twitter.com/queendsheena/status/263330496300326913
GFC: Sheena-kay Graham

Blog: http://queendsheena.blogspot.com
Email: queendsheena@hotmail.com

Kath Roswell said...

The book has great reviews. I just purchased a copy and after reading your post, I can't wait to start. I can't wait to be inspired and touched.

cassettelisette said...

This book sounds extremely inspiriting. I can't wait to read it (hopefully I win a signed copy! *crosses fingers*). I am studying to be a teacher so this will certainly teach me further on the "don'ts." I can't believe there were human beings who worked with children that could do something like that. How horrible!

Definitely can't wait to read this story.

cassettelisette said...

Oops forgot my email: tvandbookaddict [at]gmail[dot ]com

Natasha Areena said...

Oh My ! I'd love to be entered. THANK YOU :)


Veronika said...

The book sounds great! Thank you for giving away a copy!
GFC: Veronika
verusbognar (at) gmail (dot) com

Neysa Kristanti said...

This book sounds interesting! And great interview too :D

GFC : Neysa Kristanti