Welcome to Literary Rambles! While you’re rambling around and exploring the site enter for a chance to win:

ACID through April 26th here

AGENT TINA WEXLER QUERY CRITIQUE & CAMISAR giveaway through May 3rd here

SALVAGE through May 3rd

KINDLE & ELECTED giveaway through May 31st

Agent Spotlight: Katherine Boyle

This week's Agent Spotlight features Katherine Boyle of Veritas Literary Agency.

Status: Open to submissions.

katie_boyleAbout: “Founder Katherine Boyle attended Stanford and Berkeley and worked at a variety of Bay Area independent publishers and literary agencies before establishing Veritas in 1995. A member of the AAR and the Authors Guild, she is an inveterate champion of the written word and hopelessly addicted to the hundreds of books lining her shelves.” (Link)

About the Agency:

“Veritas is a full-service literary agency specializing in select literary and contemporary fiction and nonfiction. Founded on the premise that literature is one of the best carriers of truth—both emotional and literal—in the world today, the agency cultivates strong, innovative books that extend the boundaries of thought and expression.

“With active contacts in film, media and foreign markets, we actively pursue the channels that enable a title to reach its widest audience and realize its full potential. Veritas maintains the structure and spirit of old school literary agencies, where a close relationship between author and agent continued through all stages of a writer’s career. By maintaining a selective, manageable list we can ensure that every author and title receives enough energy and resources. Accessibility is always a priority.” (Link)

Web Presence:

Veritas Literary website.

Veritas Literary on Twitter.

AAR profile.

AgentQuery, QueryTracker.

What She's Looking For:

Genres / Specialties:

Literary Fiction, Commercial Fiction, Biography/ Memoir, Narrative Nonfiction, Popular Science,  Popular Culture/ Cultural History, Health and Wellness, History, Natural History, Mysteries/ True Crime, Politics/ Current Affairs, Historical Fiction, Women’s Issues, Science Fiction, Fantasy , Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Young Adult. (Link)

“Specialties: narrative nonfiction, both dramatic and humorous; adult and YA literary fiction; select art, business, science and health books.” (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

Romance, erotica, military history, Christian literature, horror, puzzles/games, western, home/garden, professional/reference, sports, technical/how-to, textbooks, picture books, poetry, dramatic works. (Link/Link)

Editorial Agent?

A few clients have mentioned doing revisions with her (Link, Link, Link).

Clients:

There is a list of representative titles on the website.

Ms. Boyle’s clients include: Lawrence Allen, Frieda Arkin, Kathy Braidhill, Robert Friedel, Meredith Gould, Julie Gregory, John Haule, Marc Hartzman, Jay Kinney, Joy Jordan Lake, Janine Latus, Sylvia Lewis, Demitria Lunetta, Joe Loya, Tom McAllister, Melissa Mohr, Rachel Pine, Ty Roth, Franklin Schneider, among others.

Sales:

As of this posting, Ms. Boyle is listed on Publisher’s Marketplace as having made 4 deals in the last 12 months, 4 six-figure+ deals, and 16 overall. Recent deals include 1 debut, 1 thriller, 1 narrative, 1 young adult.

NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes.

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

Fiction: Please include a cover letter listing previously published work, a one-page summary and the first two chapters.

Nonfiction: If you are sending a proposal, please include an author biography, an overview, a chapter-by-chapter summary, and an analysis of competitive titles.

“If you are sending a proposal or a manuscript after a positive response to a query, please write ‘REQUESTED MATERIAL’ on the subject line and include the initial query letter.” (Link)

Please see the Veritas Literary website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines. 

Response Times:

“We do our best to review all queries within 4-6 weeks. However, during periods where there is an especially high volume of queries, we may not be able to respond personally. If you haven't heard from us within 12 weeks please assume that your project was not a match for the agency.” (Link)

Stats on the web show Ms. Boyle responding to most queries within 1 week, though not always, and requested material within 1-6 weeks.

What's the Buzz?

Katherine Boyle specializes in mostly adult fiction and non-fiction genres, but she is also actively seeking young adult projects. Her clients appear loyal and happy with her representation. Veritas Literary has been in business seventeen years now and represents several bestselling authors. 

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

Ask a literary agent: Katherine Boyle at Examiner (03/2009).

Around the Web:

Katherine Boyle at P&E ($, AAR).

Veritas Literary Agency at P&E ($).

Veritas Literary Agency thread on AbsoluteWrite.

How I Got My Agent: Stacy Pershall at Guide to Literary Agents (03/2011).

How I Got My Agent: Tom McAllister at Guide to Literary Agents (03/2010).

Contact:

Please see the Veritas Literary Agency website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 5/31/12.

Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.

Last Reviewed By Agent? 5/31/12.

***

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's and/or teen fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.

LAURA PAULING INTERVIEW AND GIVEAWAY OF A SPY LIKE ME

Before I start my awesome interview, I've got a ton of winners to announce. Yay!

The winners of Sleuth or Dare are:

Marcy and Vivien!

The winner of PERCEPTION is:

FourheadJen

The winner of STARTERS is:

REBECCA HIPWORTH!

The winner of A TOUCH OF POWER is:

ALI B.!

The winner of FRACTURE is 

NATASHA! 

The winner of CORNERSTONE are:

PUTTPUTT and GALE NELSON!

And the winner of STORYBOUND is:

NATASHA!

 Congrats! E-mail me your addresses within 48 hours or I'll have to pick another winner.

Today I’m excited to interview Laura Pauling, a blogger friend and one of our followers. She independently published her debut book A SPY LIKE ME that was released on May 7, 2012.  I really enjoyed watching Savvy try to solve the mystery of what happened to her friend and her mother and get herself out of some of jams she got into while learning to be a spy. And it’s set in a fabulous setting—Paris.

Here’s a description of A SPY LIKE ME from Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Savvy Bent expects magic on her first date with Malcolm - in Paris! Except over a picnic of sparkling cider and strawberry tortes, he gets shot at. That's only the beginning. From the top of the Eiffel Tower to the depths of the catacombs, Savvy must sneak, deceive, and spy to save her family and friends and figure out whether Malcolm is one of the bad guys before she completely falls for him.

A SPY LIKE ME is a cat and mouse adventure full of spies, a nefarious pastry chef, and a completely innocent teen girl. Well, not completely innocent.

Hi Laura. Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I started out being a spy…I mean teaching. I loved creating fun lesson plans and curriculum and I loved finding new ideas. Just like I always enjoyed planning the big birthday parties for my daughter. Before I started writing I got into scrapbooking - until I realized the expense involved. I dabbled in quilting. In other words, I always needed a creative outlet. I’d been writing on and off never taking it very seriously until I kept getting this feeling after reading a great book or watching a television show. I call it the desire for story.
The next day I started writing more seriously.

2.  Awesome that you're so creative in different ways. Your story is set in Paris and you do a great job of naturally showing us not only some of the well-known sites but also a feel of the city if you lived there. Have you been to Paris or did you rely on research in developing the setting?

I wish I’d been to Paris. In high school, I studied French. I have so many good memories of that class. Poor teacher. We’d crack up at the ridiculous textbook stories we had to read. So I was drawn to Paris. But I did a lot of research: blogs, Google maps, YouTube. I loved the home videos people put up of the Eiffel Tower. The website of The Louvre really helped too. Necessary, but fun research.

3. YouTube isn't something I've heard of doing. But what a great idea. Savvy (what an interesting name BTW) is a complex character. She doesn’t want to be in Paris or help her dad with his spy business but becomes a reluctant spy when she becomes concerned about her missing friend. And she’s independent and not afraid to speak her mind. Tell us a bit about her character development and if there’s any part of you in her. 

I’m sure Savvy is a part of me. There’s a part of me in all my stories. I had a rocky relationship with my parents in high school, especially my dad. So family and working through those relationships is often present in my writing. 

4. Let’s talk about Malcolm for a bit. He’s not the usual love interest that we always love. In fact I wanted to strangle him on more than one occasion. What were the challenges in making him likeable but not completely someone Savvy or the reader likes?

I don’t mind the YA male hottie, the bad boy…etc. But that’s not usually the character I write. Malcolm deserves his own story for readers to understand what he’s dealing with as he tries to work with the fact that his family’s business isn’t exactly legal. He struggles like everyone else, like Savvy, trying to accept his family and figure out what’s going on. I love Malcolm because he’s a mystery; yet, he has a soft spot for Savvy, and she makes him question everything.

5.  I like that he's different. And you've got me wanting to know more about him. Your story is a mystery and you’ve weaved a number of them into your story. That’s one of the things I enjoyed about it. Can you give us some tips on plotting out a mystery?

Thanks! I love some kind of mystery in the stories I read and write. My biggest tip would be that nothing should be as it seems. I know that sounds simple but as a story progresses and new information is revealed, the earlier chapters should take on new meaning.

6. Savvy uses some techno techniques for finding clues, like the trackers and rappelling hooks. How did you come up with them and what research did you do to decide on them or do you have a detective background?

My detective background includes reading and watching mysteries all the time. I love Castle. I loved LOST and all the unanswered questions and the incredible plotting. Part of the fun of writing a spy novel is the gadgets. And no, I’m not expert. Google is my friend.

7.  Well unlike the rest of us, you've got a good excuse to watch TV. Okay here’s a big question. You decided to independently publish your story. I know from your blog that you always really think about things so I’m sure you did the same in deciding how to publish this. Tell us some of the considerations that went into your decision to independently publish A SPY LIKE ME and why you felt it was right for you.

I was ready. I’d been writing for years. This wasn’t my first manuscript. I loved the idea of taking control. The process didn’t scare me - it excited me!

But what really got me thinking was Nathan Bransford’s blog post when he stated that midlisters could make more money self publishing. The other big factor was the extremely low ebook royalties authors receive.
But I’m a firm believer that writers have to make the decision based on their goals. There are many different routes to publishing and there is no one right way.

8.  Yes, I like that there are options. How are you marketing your book and how you are reaching out to teen who would want to read your book?

I sent out early review copies. I tried my best to raise pre-release awareness. I’m hosting a blog series of mystery authors. Social media. Short stories. I’m part of a group blog and we all promote each other. But I truly think that word of mouth is the best way.
Marketing is endless and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot in the next couple years.
In fact, my first short story, The Almost Assassin, written from Malcolm’s point of view is free on Smashwords and it includes an excerpt from A Spy Like Me.
I’d love to reach teens but I’m not actively targeting them because that would require school visits and being in bookstores. Yes, they are on Facebook and Tumblr but I’m not going to go out and stalk them - creepy. If an author truly wants to reach teens and mainly teens, they should probably go the traditional route or think really hard about their marketing plan.

9.  Great advice Laura. One of the things I’ve loved in watching your publication journey is that you continued to seek out different publishing avenues. You recently signed a book deal with a publisher for another book. Tell us about that. 

I signed with Pugalicious Press for my middle grade: How To Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings. Bianca and her cousin endure a cursed 2,000-year-old Ancient May city to rescue their grandfather except he doesn’t want to be saved and the king wants to serve Biance up as an appetizer to the gods. But he’s met his match.
I think the self-publishing market for middle grade is a hard one. But going with a small press is equally as hard because the marketing and promotion is about the same. I was impressed with Pugalicious and knew they would do a good job with my story.

10. I agree that it's harder to just have e-books for a middle grader. What are you working on now?

I’m working on the sequel to A Spy Like Me and a series of short stories based on Savvy’s mom.

Thanks so much, Natalie! I love Literary Rambles!

Thanks so much Laura for sharing all your great advice. You can find Laura at:

Blog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter or @laurapauling

Here's Laura's bio too:  

Laura Pauling writes about spies, murder and mystery. A Spy Like Me, her YA debut novel is available now. Her short story, The Almost Assassin, appeared in the In His Eyes Anthology and is free as a re-release on Smashwords.

Laura has generously offered one free copy of her book on Smashwords. Don't have a e-reader? No problem. I don't either but I've downloaded books onto my computer with no problem. And I enjoy reading them that way.

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 16th. I’ll announce the winner on June 18th. 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.

Here's what's coming up:

I'm so excited for Monday. I'm helping Elana Johnson celebrate the release of SURRENDER. It's one of the most awesome second books in a series that I've read. I'm giving away my ARC (only because I bought a book for my daughter and me. She loves it too and would not let me give it away otherwise). Guys, many of you know Elana so I hope you'll make a special effort to stop by and say hi and spread the word for her and about my contest. 


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

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

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

Hope to see you next Monday!

Tip Tuesday #129

Tip Tuesday features writers' tips on craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

Today I have a great tip from the lovely Laura Lascarso whose debut YA novel COUNTING BACKWARDS comes out in August. Laura’s contributions to the blog also include tips #66, #69, #83, #94, #102, #111, and a guest post. Please visit her site when you’re done here. She’s just posted a link to her first interview!

What’s in a Name?

By Laura Lascarso

If you are stumped with coming up with your characters’ names, I encourage you to visit www.behindthename.com. This website organizes names according to nationality, gender, popularity, meanings and more. It’s one of the more comprehensive and easy-to-use name generating websites that doesn’t feel too dated. And, as a bonus, it has a super fun Random Renamer where you can pick categories such as “fairy” and “witch.”

For instance, when you combine Transformer, Fairy and Wrestler, you get

Gigglecheeks Triple Crippler

Combine Witch, Goth and Rapper, you get

Fearfist Kool-D

The combinations are endless!

And BehindTheName will even name your twins in linguistically logical ways. An example, Aidan and Nadia are each other’s names spelled backwards. How cool is that?

Now, I’ll give you three randomly generated names and you decide what best way to attribute them:

1. Soulhaze Highway

2. Spirit Blaster

3. Spandex Blob Onslaught

I know, right?

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!

Enjoy your day. I hope you get some rest and do something fun, hopefully with you family.

I've got a lot of exciting things coming up:

On Wednesday I'm interviewing debut author Laura Pauling and giving away a copy of A SPY LIKE ME. Laura's a follower so I hope you'll stop by and congratulate her.

Next Monday I'm interviewing Elana Johnson (her book releases the next day) and giving away an ARC of SURRENDER. Guys, this is one of the best second books in a series I've read. Many of you know Elana and I hope you'll come out to support her.

Don't forget Tuesday Tips tomorrow.

See you on Wednesday.


Giveaway of MONSTER TOWN by Garrett Vander Leun

Hey everyone! Today we're hosting a giveaway of MONSTER TOWN by author Garrett Vander Leun.


Bobby Reardon's 13th birthday wish isn't all that different from any year prior: “I wish the humans would come back and finish these monsters off for good.” Only this year his wish finally comes true — and life as Bobby knows it gets much, much worse.

Raised in Monster Town for his entire life, Bobby's the lone human in a town built to contain the 'weeds' in the monster hierarchy — fauns, mummies, leprechauns, ghosts, golems and even drippy little balls of mud called ballybogs.

As the face of the species that locked all the monsters up, Bobby's life is one big fight after another. With his loyal bully, Arbo — a green elemental; with his nosy boss, Enosh — an unemotive clay golem; and with his idiotic dad — a bumbling, has-been vampire who lives for vintage Hawaiian shirts and detests the taste of blood... And when that same wimpy dad is suddenly framed for the first attack in the history of Monster Town, Bobby's faced with a problem that's going to require a lot more than a hot temper.

Bobby might hate monsters, but he's going to hate being their only hope at salvation even more.

Garrett is offering up one copy of the book as well as an original piece of character art for any character not yet featured on the website. If you'd like a chance to win, please leave a comment by June 8th (with your e-mail address if it's hard to find) and let me know if you spread the word in any way for an extra entry. US entrants only, please. 

In the meantime, you can find Garrett at his author website, Amazon, and on Goodreads. There's a book trailer for MONSTER TOWN, too.

Good luck!

Agent Spotlight: Emily Keyes

This week's Agent Spotlight features Emily Keyes of the L. Perkins Agency.

Status: Open to submissions, actively building her list.

Image1.1085937_stdAbout: "Emily is Contracts & Foreign Rights Manager at the L. Perkins Agency. She’s very passionate about YA and teen novels and is looking to acquire in that area.

“Previously, she was a Contracts Administrator at Simon & Schuster, Inc. and a writer for “The World Almanac for Kids.” She is a graduate of the NYU Publishing program and knowledgeable about many areas of publishing, and an expert on all things ‘Sweet Valley.’” (Link)

About the Agency:

"Founded in 1987 by Lori Perkins, a former newspaper publisher and editor, the L. Perkins Agency specializes in many different genres. Currently there are five agents representing approximately 200 authors to the publishing industry. The Agency has agents in 11 foreign countries and works with an established film agency." (Link)

Web Presence:

L. Perkins Agency.

Life Is An Open Book (blog).

Twitter.

QueryTracker.

What She's Looking For:

Genres / Specialties:

Middle grade, young adult, and commercial adult fiction.

Some interests are listed in this 2012 Agent Genre Listing at PNWA.

From A Contest (4/2012):

“I'm looking for YA of all types, story-driven (as opposed to ‘lesson’-driven) middle grade. I'm also looking for a range of commercial adult fiction.” (Link)

From a Blog Post (08/2009):

"I love YA books. I loved them when I was a kid and I still love them now. I want to see manuscripts from people who love it as much as I do. I want to find the books that kids are going to remember with fondness. I inhaled Lois Duncan, LJ Smith, Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley, etc, etc. These days I’m excited by the writing done by Suzanne Collins, Kristin Cashore, Claudia Gray. I’m also into the teen novels by people like Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, Barry Lyga and others. I’m looking for smart middle grade and teen novels. (No picture books, please.) I like fantasy and paranormal, and other odd things. […] I like strong, female heroines and books with fresh voices and a quirky sense of humor. I’m really sick of knock-off 'Harry Potters’ and Twilights.'" (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

Screenplays, short story collections, poetry, picture books (Link, Link).

In the QueryTracker comments on her profile, one writer reports she doesn’t care for sports stories. (Link)

Editorial Agent?

“Certainly, if you work with me, you're going to have to learn to love [revisions]. Although I don't think I could ever be an editor, I do rather enjoy the creative aspect of this business. I want things I send out to be as polished as possible before a real editor sees them.” (Link)

Clients:

Unknown.

Sales:

Unknown.

As of this posting, Ms. Keyes does not appear to be a member of Publisher’s Marketplace. She has assisted the agency in at least one International Rights deal.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes.

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

Send a query letter including a brief synopsis, your bio, and the first five pages in the body of the e-mail. No attachments.

Query only one agent at the agency; a no from one is a no from all. Simultaneous submissions to other agencies are expected.

Please see the L. Perkins Agency website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines. 

Response Times:

The agency’s  stated response time is 3+ weeks for queries and 4-12 weeks for requested material. If you have not heard back in that time frame, feel free to follow up (link). Stats on the web, though limited, show Ms. Keyes responding to queries between 1-6 weeks and requested material 1-4 weeks.

What's the Buzz?

Emily Keyes was an intern then junior agent with the L. Perkins Agency back in 2008-2009 and was accepting submissions at that time. I don’t believe she ever got off the ground as an agent before taking a job at Simon & Shuster in the Contracts department. As of late 2011, she is back at L. Perkins as the Contracts and Foreign Rights Manager and once again seeking clients.  She handles foreign rights for at least two other agencies, including the Blue Ridge Literary Agency and the Mary Sue Seymour Agency.

P&E has the L. Perkins Agency listed with a "Conflict Advisory" as Lori Perkins appears to have financial interest in Ravenous Romance. More info on the L. Perkins Thread and Ravenous Romance thread at AW. This issue does not apply to Ms. Keyes as she is not involved in the company or handling erotica, but I do think this and other conversations in the Perkins thread are worth considering on an agency level.

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

Contest Winners & Interview with Emily Keyes at Operation Awesome (04/2012).

Selected Blog Posts:

How to Read Queries, A Step By Step Guide (05/2012).

Cccchanges (01/2012).

Most of My Favorite Books… (02/2011)

Around the Web:

L. Perkins Agency thread on AbsoluteWrite.

L. Perkins Agency on P&E (listed with "conflict advisory").

Emily Keyes on P&E.

New Agent Actively Seeking Middle Grade and Young Adult at Guide to Literary Agents (07/2009).

Contact:

Please see the L. Perkins Agency for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 5/24/12.

***

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's and/or teen fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.

STEPHANIE GUERRA INTERVIEW AND GIVEAWAY OF TORN


Today I’m excited to interview debut author Stephanie Guerra about her YA book TORN that was released on May 15, 2012. One of the reasons I wanted to interview Stephanie is because she’s had such an interesting life and she draws on this in creating her story. I hope you’ll enjoy learning about Stephanie and TORN as much as I did.

Here’s a review from Kirkus that Stephanie shared with me that tells about the book:

This engrossing story of a good girl’s fascination with her wild new friend strikes chords that will resonate with many teens. Stella has always been popular, gotten good grades and helped her waitress mom with two younger siblings and the housework. She’s dazzled when she meets Ruby, who struts into their high school and simply takes over Stella’s life. Confident Ruby couldn’t care less about conforming to high-school social standards, nor does she mind breaking the law. She dates college men, finding romance a game, and includes cautious Stella in all of her risky adventures. Eventually, however, Ruby falls for a much older man, and Stella’s sure he’s bad news—especially after he introduces Ruby to cocaine. As Ruby’s reputation crashes in school, Stella loyally continues their friendship, losing her own lifelong friends in the process. Finally, when she tries to save Ruby from her mistakes, she stands to lose even Ruby. In her debut, Guerra demonstrates insight into the temptations and troubles of late adolescence, all rendered with nicely flowing prose and dialogue. She grounds her story in reality, and her characters come across as interesting, believable individuals, with Stella especially sympathetic and Ruby a standout original. If her resolution seems a bit rosy, nevertheless it will please many readers. It’s suitable for both conservative and general audiences. A strong new voice. (Fiction. 12 & up) –Kirkus Reviews

Hi Stephanie. Thanks so much for joining us. And I love that you shared a picture of yourself with your friend Carolyn. (Guys, you'll understand the significance of this when you read the interview.

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

I’m a mother of two young kids and I teach in the Literacy for Special Needs Program at Seattle University. Being a writer was my dream early on, and I think it came true (at least in part) because my fourth grade teacher called me an “authoress” and gave me a chance to stay after school to write stories with her. We did this at least once a week for months. Because my teacher took my writing seriously, I did too, and I put in the time and sweat required to improve.

Other than writing, I love to cook, hike, and draw. I’m pretty bad at cartooning, but I really enjoy it. It has also earned me major “cool” points with my kids. They don’t care that my superheroes have weird chins, and my princesses all have the same face.

  2.  You have led a very amazing life from reading your bio. Tell us how you drew on your own experiences and your work background in writing this story.

My own experiences were like Ruby on steroids. I was wild, willful, and stupid, which produced an exciting decade that will probably inform my writing for the rest of my life. More than concrete experiences, I drew on my emotional memories—of fearlessness, curiosity, and thrill seeking—to create Ruby. My work background trained me to understand the literary landscape of young adult fiction, and envision where my voice would fit. 

3.   I’ve read that Stella is based on a very good friend of yours, Carolyn. And that you drew on your own life in creating Ruby. Are there parts of Ruby that aren’t you and how hard was it going back to that part of your life in writing TORN?

Yes, Stella is based on my dear friend Carolyn. I had a tough adolescence, and I had to support myself from sixteen on. I was on my own in Las Vegas, Nevada, and on my first day in school, I saw this girl and thought, She’s going to be my friend. Somehow I knew. 

And she was. We hit it off tremendously, and Carolyn persuaded her mother to let me sleep on her bedroom floor for a month until I could get on my feet. She was also a constant, trustworthy presence in my life. There’s a lot of press about mean girls, and there are even some mean girls in my book, but I think that ultimately female friendship is a much more powerful force than girl bullying, and I wanted to spotlight that in Torn.
 
Carolyn and I went to college together, shared an apartment as young adults, and finally grad school took us in separate directions. She’s in Utah now, happily married, and we keep in good touch.

Ruby is her own character, although I did draw on aspects of my teen self to create her. She is more trusting and vulnerable than I was, even though she keeps up a tough front. In answer to the second part of your question, it wasn’t hard to access that period in my life. The whole time is burned deep into my memory and soul—which is probably why I chose to write about it.

4.    I think that your own life experiences are what makes your book so amazing. I went through hard teenage years and was really wild in secret too. It's too painful to talk about let alone write about. You’ve said that some of the scenes come from real life experiences. Can you give us some examples of these scenes?

The opening scene, where Ruby comes slamming into the classroom furious about the dress code, is taken from real life. Also, the scene where Mike spoke about a woman’s legs by saying “they look like they got run over by a lineman in cleats” really happened. I had a boyfriend who actually said that in reference to a picture he’d seen. It was the last straw for me, just as it was the last straw for Stella. Other than those scenes, the plot of Torn is fictional, but the relationship between the girls is very much based on real life.   

5.    Some reviewers have described your book as incredibly gritty and realistic. Can you give us some tips on how to write about such difficult topics in an intensely realistic fashion, especially if we haven’t lived through the experiences?

I recommend interviewing people who have lived through those experiences with an eye to discovering their emotions and memories. Ask them to describe why they chose the experience (if it was actually a choice), how they felt when they did it, and what happened as a result. If that’s not possible, then it might be helpful to read edgy memoirs to get first person accounts of difficult experiences.  

6.    That's great advice. And it sounds like you have drawn on some of the kids you work with as well as your own experiences. How are you marketing your book? Do you have any tips for us aspiring authors about planning the marketing before your book debuts? 

Marketing has been a challenge for me, because I don’t like to sell anything, much less my own work! Add to that my Luddite tendencies, and I was in a bad spot when I realized I had to make some marketing efforts. All this to say: if I can do it, anyone can. My approach included building a website, making a trailer, blogging on Readergirlz, setting up a blog tour, contacting magazines and review outlets that might be interested in my work, and going to SCBWI events. The biggest learning curve was figuring out the technology behind the website and trailer, but I’m happy that I was forced to do both, because those skills will serve me well in this career. My last holdout is social networking. I’m not on Facebook, and I just can’t bring myself to join. Maybe one day when it’s completely outdated, I’ll give it a try. 

7.    Marketing is going to be a challenge for me too. I don't like selling myself. What are you working on now?

I’m so excited about my current project! It’s tentatively titled Billy the Kid is Not Crazy and it’s a humorous middle-grade novel with a strong graphic element. Billy is a hyper, hapless, imaginative kid with a behavior problem, and the book focuses on how he works through his behavior issues with the help of a psychologist. It will be out in 2013.

Thanks Stephanie for sharing your advice. You can find Stephanie at her website and Readergirlz.

Stephanie has generously offered a copy of TORN 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 June 2nd. I’ll announce the winner on June 4th. 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.

Here's what's coming up. Monday's Memorial Day (can you believe it?) so I'm taking the day off. Hope you do too. I'll be back on Wednesday next week interviewing debut author Laura Pauling and giving away her YA book A SPY LIKE ME.

And in June I have two awesome interviews you won't want to miss. On June 4th I'm helping Elana Johnson celebrate the release of SURRENDER. It's one of the most awesome second books in a series that I've read. I'm giving away my ARC (only because I bought a book for my daughter and me. She loves it too and would not let me give it away otherwise). 

On June 11th I'm interviewing debut author Jennifer Bosworth and giving away an ARC of STRUCK, another awesome book.

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

Hope to see you next Wednesday!


Tip Tuesday #128

Tip Tuesday features writers' tips on craft, research, querying, blogging, marketing, inspiration, and more. If you'd like to send in a tip, please e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com.

This Tuesday I have another great tip from Charmaine Hammond. Charmaine is the author of On Toby's Terms and Toby the Pet Therapy Dog & His Hospital Friends. Please visit her author website as well as her resource site, How To Sell and Market Your Book.
If you are struggling to get writing or to find time to write, jot down 20 questions, have someone you know and trust interview you and record it. You can use a free conference line such as Free Conference Pro.com which records the call/interview or, just record it on a digital recorder. When you transcribe your answers, you will find you have incredible content for your book.
 ~Charmaine Hammond, Professionals Speaker, Author, & Radio Host

MARISSA BURT INTERVIEW AND STORYBOUND GIVEAWAY


Today I’m excited to interview debut author Marissa Burt about her book STORYBOUND that was released on April 3, 2012. I really enjoy fairy tales and one of the things I love about Marissa’s book is that her idea is so unique—having someone from our world go into the fairly tale world.

Here’s a description of STORYBOUND from Goodreads:

In the land of Story, children go to school to learn to be characters: a perfect Hero, a trusty Sidekick, even the most dastardly Villain. They take classes on Outdoor Experiential Questing and Backstory, while adults search for full-time character work in stories written just for them.

In our world, twelve-year-old Una Fairchild has always felt invisible. But all that changes when she stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, opens the cover, and suddenly finds herself transported to the magical land of Story.

But Story is not a perfect fairy tale. Una’s new friend Peter warns her about the grave danger she could face if anyone discovers her true identity. The devious Tale Keeper watches her every move. And there are whispers of a deadly secret that seems to revolve around Una herself....

With the timeless appeal of books like A Wrinkle in Time and the breathtaking action of Inkheart, Storybound has all the makings of a new classic. Brimming with fantastical creatures, magical adventure, and heart-stopping twists, Storybound will leave readers wishing they too could jump through the pages into this enchanting fairy-tale world.

Hi Marissa. Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I have always loved books and have read just about anything I could find since I was a little girl.  I think most people who enjoy reading think about trying their hand at writing.  My time came after my first son was born, when I had the revelation that working toward my dreams would not get any easier – haha!  As any new parent knows, time is at a premium, and I began to make the most of it.  Writing STORYBOUND was so much fun, and I would squirrel away a few hours here and there to write favorite scenes.  As the story took shape, I began to see that it really could be a book, and I started walking down the road to publishing.

2.  I love to read too. But unlike most people who write, I didn't even think about writing until I was in my 40's. I love that Una goes into the land of Story and how she gets there. Tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea for your story.

Some of my favorite stories are the ones that so immerse you in the tale that you find yourself racing ahead to the ending, eager to see what happens on the last page.  But it’s a bittersweet sort of thing, because I never want to say goodbye to my favorite characters!  This idea of a story-world that carried on after The End was written was the inspiration for STORYBOUND.  I wondered what that world would be like and how characters would think about entering books written for them.  That grew to imagining what might happen if a girl from our world fell into theirs.

3.  That's such awesome inspiration for your story. World building is such an important part of a fantasy story. And you’ve done a great job showing us the land of Story and its problems. What was your world building process like and do you have any tips you could share with us?

Great question!  I think world building was an ongoing process for me, and the land of Story grew as the book changed.  In the early days, I had a map of the world (stick figures included!), and I also cut out pictures from magazines that inspired my setting (these were the days before Pinterest!)  I also mock-interviewed most of my key characters, which was a huge help for thinking through the economy and culture of the world.  I’m a fantasy-lover at heart, so some of my favorite scenes in STORYBOUND have to do with the Fantasy District, where I could live out some of my own dreamworlds.

4.  I haven't tried Pinerest, but I best it's great for fantasy world building. Both Una (love her name) and Peter, who’s in training to be Prince Charming, are such interesting characters. Una is smart and independent but vulnerable being all alone in the world. Peter likes to be the hero and is a little full of himself in a charming way. Tell us how you developed them as characters. Which one came to you first?

In a way, they both came to me at the same time.  I had this idea of a Reader who fell into a book world, and I knew the Reader would encounter a character friend along the way.  In the very earliest days of the story, it was actually Peter who was from the Reader’s World, and Una was a character-in-training.  But the more I came to know the characters, it just didn’t fit quite right that way.  Una kept trying to take charge, and Peter was a Hero-to-the-core, so I suppose their Tale couldn’t have been truly written any other way.

5.  Your agent is Laura Langlie. Tell us how she became your agent and about your road to publication.

I can’t say enough wonderful things about Laura.  I feel like I hit the agent jackpot when I queried her!  She has been such an encouraging and helpful guide to this whole process, and I’m so happy to have her investing in STORYBOUND!  She was in the first round of agents I queried with the then-titled THE TALE OF UNA FAIRCHILD back in the fall of 2008, and – as anyone who’s queried Laura knows – she is a speedy responder.  Within a matter of days she had requested the full and offered representation.  It was quite the whirlwind…followed by a bit of a wait.

The manuscript was on submission for several months when Erica Sussman asked if I’d be interested in doing an exclusive revision with her.  Of course I was thrilled with the opportunity!  And what a golden opportunity it was!  Erica has been a pleasure to work with, and STORYBOUND would not be the book it is without her wonderful professional input and enthusiasm.  Erica and I worked through several rounds of revisions before she took the manuscript to acquisitions where –hooray! – it found a home with HarperCollins Children’s.  My suggestion to authors considering a revision is to welcome it.  Revise boldly!  Change things around!  There’s no scarcity of creativity, and trying new things can take your story to the next level.

6.  Great advice to revise boldly. I've come to learn that the hard way but I agree with you. You’re a member of The Apocalypsies and have also banded together with other middle grade authors like Jennifer Lundquist and Laura Reyes in that group to do a book tour. What made you decide to join this group versus any other 2012 debut groups? How did your book tour with the other debut authors come to be?

How happy I am to be a part of The Apocalypsies!  While on submission I had joined another online group of querying authors and discovered what a wealth of mutual support, sympathy, and encouragement can be found there.  Writing can be a lonely business, and having others who understand the process is a lifeline.  A few of the afore-mentioned authors-on-submission were already a part of The Apocalypsies, so I happily joined in as soon as I could.  Because we are all debut authors, we can share tips about the timeline, marketing ideas, and offer each other support for the roller coaster ride.

There are several of us Apocs out in the Pacific Northwest, and we try and meet regularly for coffee and a chat about all things writing.  This has been a great way to network locally and team up for events like the NW Bookfest and author signings. The Words of Wonder Book Tour came about this way as Apocalypsies in California and Washington decided to join forces for signings.  As a debut author, this is a wonderful approach, because it multiplies your effectiveness.  Besides all that, it’s so much fun!  We recently had Part 1 of the Seattle leg, and I toured with Anne Nesbet, the author of THE CABINET OF EARTHS and J. Anderson Coats, who wrote THE WICKED AND THE JUST.  We had a blast and sold some books along the way!

7.  That's great some of you live near each other. What an added bonus! What advice do you have for other debut authors about marketing their debut book?

I don’t how reliable my advice is, since I still feel like I’m in the thick of it and can’t vouch for my perspective – ha!  Even so, I would say to try and be discerning and strategic about your efforts.  There are a great many author to-do lists out there, and hearing about what your colleagues are doing can send you into a frenzy of marketing insanity.  Try and think about your personality, your book, your readers, and what things can get you the most mileage.  Here’s my shortlist in no particular order:

  1. Swag: Bookmarks are the key thing here.  The rest is all just for fun.
  2. Blog tours: I didn’t organize a formal one, but I had plenty of interview opportunities that I scheduled for the weeks leading up to release day.  This was a relaxed approach to a daily tour.
  3. I found Goodreads giveaways to get the most traffic.
  4. Figure out which social media platform best fits you, and stick with it.  Don’t try and do them all.  For example, I happily said goodbye to blogging when I realized I didn’t have the time or energy to do what it takes to build followers and engage with other bloggers.  Instead, I polished up my website and decided to focus more on facebook as a platform.
  5. Try to limit online time.  I found that all the marketing opportunities were quite consuming and, with the prevalence of social media, also became invasive.  Try and stay planted in real-life relationships and be strategic about your time online.  Notice how I say “try”?  ;)  I’m still figuring this out, but I’ve noticed my stress level seems directly related to plugged-in time.
  6. Be appreciative.  I still feel like hugging every person who actually reads my book and especially those who go on to post a review (even the critical ones!) And then there’s the gratitude I have for all the people who’ve worked on STORYBOUND!  Don’t be shy in telling them.
8.  That's really good advice. I really think those Goodreads First Reads giveaways are great. And makes the whole debut process feel a bit less overwhelming. What are you working on now?

STORY’S END, the sequel to STORYBOUND is off to copyedits, and I’m just now beginning a new Top Secret project.  It is a middle-grade book that’s set in our world.  There will be magic.  And sheep.  I’ll keep you posted.  ;)

Thanks so much for the opportunity!

Thanks Marissa with sharing all your great advice. You can find Marissa at her website

Marissa generously offered an ARC 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 May 28th. I’ll announce the winner on May 30th. 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 it out here.

Brennan and Meyrick Murphy
Andrea Mack
Laurisa Reyes
Kim Aippersbach
Akossiwa Ketoglo
Julie from That's Swell
Jemi Fraser

Wednesday I'll be interviewing debut author Stephanie Guerra and giving away an ARC of of her YA book TORN. Monday's Memorial Day (can you believe it?) so I'm taking the day off. Hope you do too. I'll be back on Wednesday that week interviewing debut author Laura Pauling and giving away her YA book A SPY LIKE ME.

And in June I have two awesome interviews you won't want to miss. On June 4th I'm helping Elana Johnson celebrate the release of SURRENDER. It's one of the most awesome second books in a series that I've read. I'm giving away my ARC (only because I bought a book for my daughter and me. She loves it too and would not let me give it away otherwise). On June 11th I'm interviewing debut author Jennifer Bosworth and giving away an ARC of STRUCK, another awesome book.

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

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


Guest Blogger Luke Reynolds: Keep Going

I have a treat for you guys today. A special look at one of the introductory essays of Luke Reynolds new book KEEP CALM AND QUERY ON: NOTES ON WRITING (AND LIVING) WITH HOPE. I hope his words resonate with you as they did with me. You can find Luke at his website and blog and the book at Amazon and B&N. Enjoy!

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In "Keep Calm and Query On," Luke Reynolds discusses his journey as a writer with all of its bludgeoning defeats and small triumphs. Against the backdrop of life abroad in York, England, these reflections on living and writing pulse with hope, wisdom, and conviction.

Luke's journey as a writer is accompanied by 14 interviews he has conducted with powerful and prolific authors, including Jane Smiley, Daniel Handler
(a.k.a. Lemony Snicket), George Saunders, Lindsey Collen, and David Wroblewski. They discuss their worst rejections, their first publications, what keeps them motivated, and why they believe in the power of words.

Luke Reynolds HeadshotKeep Going

By Luke Reynolds

I was one of those kids who always loved writing—finding secret places to scribble poems when the house was chaotic with noise, babies crying, my father’s farting and burping, the dull roar of television. I had a tree fort in the back yard, and in one corner of it I nailed three small, flat boards to make a tiny desk. I brought up a miniature play-chair and sat it in front of that makeshift desk and could feel pine needles tickle my face as I wrote poems. I was seven.

The thing about writing when you’re seven is that you don’t care about publishing. Your mind doesn’t conjure up images of book covers, how your name will look on them, advance amounts, various imprints of various houses, and any kind of bestseller list. When you’re seven, all that seems to matter is the work. The writing. The story. The poem.

Whenever I finished a poem in that tree fort desk, I would read it out loud and, I’ll confess, I would tell myself (also aloud) something to the effect of, Damn! That’s pretty awesome! That’s like the most awesome poem that has ever been written. And there was no one to disagree with me. The pines certainly did nothing but applaud as the wind tickled them, tickling me.

And there’s a certain kind of delight—joy, really—that accompanies creation in this manner. The ignorance of writing for writing’s sake alone kept me coming back to my writer’s desk in that corner of the tree fort. Why not come back, after all? I didn’t get e-mails up there telling me a certain poem was ill-imagined, or trite, or just plain sub-par. I kept coming back to the corner desk because I knew that poems would emerge from my hand and that they would make me smile. I didn’t need anyone else to smile for them to be worthwhile. I didn’t need recognition, money (Mom supplied all the quarters I could carry for lollipops and candy bars at the local gas station), or critical acclaim. All I needed, in short, was the words.

Years later, as a young teacher fresh out of college and working with high school students at a public school in Connecticut, I still loved poetry. But my writing hopes had grown to entail fiction (short stories and novels) and non-fiction (everything from the personal narrative to academic research on the role of the imagination). The world of publishing had lured my heart and I had begun the journey towards obsession: become published! Get your words into print! Without it you’re nothing! I still loved words, but behind the love—underneath the love, oozing up like moss at the base of a tree—was the secret hope that I would become a famous bestselling author.

So it came as a shock when one of my early poems received a curt rejection note:

Dear Mr. Reynolds:

I have read your poem.

No thanks.

Sincerely,

William Slaughter

I read the name over and over again. Slaughter. Indeed, an apt description for how I felt. But this was only the first in a long, long (long) line of rejections that came (and which still come, on an almost daily basis). As all writers know, it was the appetizer of what is a part of every writer’s meal: rejection. Constant, consistent rejection.

One of my most trying periods as a writer was after I had co-edited two anthologies and signed a contract for my first book on teaching. I had started to see doors open, and my heart leaped at the possibilities of sharing words that might be meaningful to others, while also helping to put food on the table. So I tried even harder to write more, send out more work, knock on more doors. And then an odd thing happened: expecting to find more success—even if intermittent—I found less. Everything I sent out seemed to come back with “No thanks” in some manner of words. Pages and pages rolled off my fingertips, but none of it garnered the nod from the all-powerful editors from whom I sought significance.

And then something broke. The first sting that I felt from Mr. William Slaughter, long ago, came back to trap me entirely, with those relentless voices: you’ll never make it. You call yourself a writer? What have you really accomplished? Really? The kid at the corner desk among pine needles had been forgotten, left to his own musings in a world where the words of seven year olds carry power and meaning and weight and faith. But returning to such a world—albeit with a bit more savvy—was exactly what I needed. Perhaps such a return to the words themselves is exactly what you need, too—a return to faith in yourself as a writer and a dreamer and a creator.

This book includes my own journey—both past and present—with all of its ups and downs, it vulnerabilities and its strengths. I share openly my own bludgeoning defeats and small triumphs, and in the process, it is my hope that you’ll find the words of CS Lewis to be accurate: “We read to know we’re not alone.” In reading through my journey, may you find some footsteps of your own, and know that you are not alone.

You have a story to tell. Many stories. And should you allow rejection to get the better of you, that story will forever remain untold, unushered into the world of possibility in which we live. And for a writer, it’s impossible to survive like that. You’ve been given stories because you need to tell them. Period. If you need to regain lost ground, start by letting the pines hear your words. Then, as you gain confidence and faith, begin again to send your work into the world.

I recall meeting Nobel-Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney for a reading he gave in Oxford, England many years ago. He read his poetry with delight, a wide smile never leaving his face. Watching the wrinkled lines that ran up and down his cheeks, it was impossible not to think, here’s a guy who loves what he does. Afterwards, I chatted with him and I asked him to write a note to my father, who had written a novel and struggled to find a home for it for many, many years. I asked the great poet to scribble some words that I might bring back home to my dad in an effort to spur on his faith in words—his faith in himself. Mr. Heaney thought for a while, then gave me a sharp look, uncapped his pen and wrote the following: Keep going. Then he handed me the paper, looked me in the eye, and said, “That’s all that really matters, don’t you think?”

And now, years later, I do. Mr. Heaney, of course, was right. That’s all that really matters. No amount of success, approval, rejection, fear, loathing, worry, acclaim, or anything else should interfere with the most essential of all exhortations for the writer. Today and everyday may you and I make the essential decision that every writer must make on a daily basis.

Keep going.

Luke Reynolds is the author of A Call to Creativity (Teachers College Press, 2012) and is co-editor of both Burned In (Teacher College Press, 2011, with Audrey Friedman) and Dedicated to the People of Darfur (Rutgers University Press, 2009, with his wife Jennnifer Reynolds). Luke is represeneted by the remarkably wise and kind Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. His writing has also appeared in The Believer, The Writer, The Sonora Review, The Hartford Courant, Arizona Daily Sun, Mutuality, Hunger Mountain, and Tucson Weekly. He has taught English in public schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and has also taught Composition at Northern Arizona University. He and his wife, Jennifer, have one son, Tyler. They love family dancing to the oldies in their current home in York, England.

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