Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • 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.


Happy New Year Everyone! I hope you had a fabulous holiday season and hope you have a great year filled with everything you're dreaming for. 

My daughter and I had a fantastic time in China.We saw so many amazing things--The Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Soldiers, the pandas, Li River Cruise, and everyday Chinese life. I'll try to do a blog post and share some pictures in the next month.

Before I get to our fantastic interview today, I want to announce the winners of the December giveaways.



Congrats! E-mail me your addresses so I can send you your books. Please e-mail me by the end of Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.

Finally, here's two awesome happenings you might want to check out.

Operation Awesome just did an online revision conference filled with advice from authors and agents here.

And Miriam Forster is giving away a book a day to celebrate the release of CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS next month. (I'll be interviewing her and giving away an ARC in early February.) You can find the contest here.

Today I’m thrilled to start the New Year by helping Ellen Oh celebrate her debut. PROPHECY released on January 2nd. I loved that this is a multi-cultural fantasy set in a Korea-like world. Ellen did a fantastic job making you feel like you were right there. I found it refreshing that Kira is the only woman in the King’s army and had the important job of being the Prince’s bodyguard. And she has super physical powers and is stronger than anyone else in her world. Plus there’s political intrigue, a fast paced plot with twist, and a prophecy. This is really my kind of book.

Here’s a description from Goodreads:

The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms... is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope...

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.

Hi Ellen. Thanks so much for joining us. Happy Debut!

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

            I’d say I was always a writer. As a lawyer, writing was the bulk of what I did. But of course there is a huge difference between legal writing and creative writing. I used to write creatively when I was younger. My head has always been filled with stories. I have old notebooks filled with ideas – some fully fleshed out others just random thoughts. But I never followed through on any of those ideas until I developed a passion for Asian history and found myself needing to write about it. 

2.  Oh My God, as a lawyer, I can totally relate to writing being so much what I do. Yet it is completely different than creative writing. I read that you did a lot of research on Korean history for this book and it shows. Share a bit about this and how what you learned about Korea that made it into your story.

            I'd become fascinated with Ancient Asian history after reading a biography on Genghis Khan back in the year 2000. It led to years of obsessive research that led to a kernel of an idea -- an idea that I could write a fantasy novel using a mix of history, mythology and legend. It’s actually ridiculous how much I didn’t know about Korea before I began my research process. Growing up in the states, history is very western centric. So I knew about the Pacific Theater of WWII, the Korean and Vietnam War and that was pretty much it. I couldn’t possibly tell you all that I’ve learned, I couldn’t retain it all in my head. But I can tell you this, it was endlessly fascinating. I would begin reading about ancient Asian history (I say Asian because Korean history is so interwoven with both Chinese and Japanese history) and I would be lost in it for hours. And it was amazing how I’d come across something and I’d immediately make a note of it as something I had to write about! There are several scenes in Prophecy that are straight out of history. It’s all so fascinating to me.

3.  That's so awesome how your passion for Asian history inspired your story. Having more multi-cultural books in general and in the fantasy genre is really something needed in both middle grade and YA books. You did a fantastic job of weaving in all the Korean influences for your story. What’s your advice on writing multi-cultural stories, especially for those of us who might not be the same race as the characters we’re writing about?

            It’s all about research. Not just library research but talking to people and watching films and documentaries. Immersing yourself into that culture to your best abilities. Going there if you can afford it, but for those of us who can’t, the internet is our friend. With the internet at our fingertips, it is really easy to travel the world and learn a lot about other cultures without ever leaving home. But I think that the key point is to always treat the culture you are writing about with respect. If you aren’t respectful of it, it will show. 

4.  I never heard anyone suggest watching films and documentaries, but that's a fantastic idea, both to learn about the culture and a setting you've not been too. I read that your story went through some major revisions in your journey to publication. What did you learn about the revision process that we could all learn from?

            Revising with an agent or editor is so different from revising on your own. An agent and editor has a clear vision of how they would like to see your story evolve and it is up to you to make that happen. One of the most important lessons I learned in the revision process was that pacing is king. If there is nothing happening to move your story forward in a scene, then cut it out. And I think this is a key difference between writing for children and writing for adults. Short attention spans. An adult reader is more likely to appreciate beautiful visual scenes and chapters where nothing really happens but some form of character development. Writing for kids meant honing in on the action and always moving the story forward. I remember where I had this great archery lesson scene that was very visual and had layered meanings set within the archery lesson. But it was deemed too slow. It was killing my pace and so I had to let it go. It’s tough recognizing that at first, but now I think I can spot the unnecessary scenes on my own. 
5.  I had a hard time learning the pacing lesson too and I'm sure I have more to learn about it. But I finally had to cut out a bunch of well written scenes that didn't move my plot along. How did you come up with the ideas for the prophecy and the seven realms?

            One morning, while stuck in horrible gnarly traffic on the Washington, DC beltway heading to work, I had an idea that blossomed into a story that just came tumbling out of my head. Since traffic was either at a stop or crawling along, I grabbed every single scrap of paper out of my purse and began scribbling the story down about a young prince who is supposed to be the hero of legend, but then it turns out that the hero is really his cousin, who’s a girl. And that was the idea that ultimately turned into Prophecy. The Seven Kingdoms are based on actual city-states and kingdoms that existed during the Three Kingdoms period. In actual history there was all these smaller city-states outside of the Three Kingdoms – so I decided to make them all kingdoms because Seven Kingdoms is much easier to say then Three Kingdoms plus four city-states. Just doesn’t roll off the tongue as well. Also, historically the Three Kingdoms became One (when the Shilla kingdom took over the peninsula) and the One became what we now know as N. and S. Korea. I wanted what really happened in history to mimic the prophecy in my book, but slightly different.

6.  I love how The Seven Kingdoms is based on what existed during the Three Kingdoms period. And that's a great way to be productive during those hated traffic jams. I loved Kira and how strong she was and yet vulnerable she is because no one liked her. And then you made her go through so many difficult personal experiences. You definitely weren’t easy on her. Share a bit about how you developed her as a character.

            I think it is a fact that girls who are different from societal expectations are treated badly. It has been true historically and still occurs to this day.
            There was so much misogyny in the ancient world, and here we are thousands of years later and we are still faced with a lot of misogyny. I think the reality is that a girl like Kira would have suffered greatly for daring to be a female warrior—for being unfeminine. And I can make parallels to our present world where girls are either girly girls or tomboys and don’t have the luxury of just being a girl. Societal judgments still exist now. And while women have made so much progress, we are still not at an equal footing with men.
            Kira is the only female in the King’s army. She is also the hero of legend, not her cousin. And that is something an ancient patriarchal society would find nearly impossible to accept. It had to be hard for her. She had to be unable to accept her true role because of how ingrained societal prejudices were. I happened across a review that said it annoyed the reader that Kira was being so clueless about her real role. While I’m sorry that it annoyed the reader, that was exactly what needed to happen. Kira has to suffer, has to go through a lot to change and become more accepting of herself, and even then, after all she’s gone through, the hardest thing she has to overcome is her own insecurities and the societal prejudices that have become ingrain in her own psyche.  Yes, I was hard on Kira – and that won’t change moving forward in the other books – but I also believe that girls/women are so much stronger than society gives them credit for being. We are survivors. 

7.  So sad but true about how girls and women having not been treated well in the past and even today. And Yay to strong women! How did Joe Monti become your agent? Share about how you found your publisher too.

            Ok so the process for me was that my original MS featured a boy MC. It was told from the Prince's narrative about his cousin, Kira the demon slayer. It went out on submission and half the editors rejected and the other half said if you rewrite it they would love to have it resubmitted. Well my previous agent and I couldn't come to an agreement on how that revision should happen so after a year, we parted amicably and I started querying agents again in January 2010.
            The second time around was a very different experience from the first time. Instead of querying widely, I queried very selectively and in small rounds. I'd send a handful of queries out (4 or 5) then wait a few weeks before sending more out. I was fortunate that in every round of queries, I would get at least 1 or 2 requests for fulls.
            Those initial requests were critical to me because quite a few of them actually gave me back amazing feedback! In fact, 2 agents, who I won't name but who I will always feel grateful to, sent me detailed notes back. I literally stopped querying for most of March and April so I could revise the entire thing and then I sent out a few more queries. Well, that was the lucky MS because within a week of querying it, I had 2 offers of representation. Joe was one of the agents I had queried early. He had my full but hadn't read it yet because he was backlogged. So I contacted him and several other agents who had outstanding fulls, and also sent the revised MS. I ended up with 2 more offers and I accepted with Joe by Memorial Day.
            Funny thing was that out of all the agents who offered me representation, Joe was candid about wanting to make me do another full revision and telling me how he thought I should go about it. We went back and forth over the MS over the summer and fall until we were finally ready to go back out on submission the beginning of December 2010. 2 weeks later, I had an offer for a 3 book deal from HarperCollins and the absolute best Christmas present a person could ever have hoped for!

8.  That's a great journey to publication. It shows the importance of persistence and the need for a willingness to revise. What advice do you have for us aspiring authors about building a platform and getting ready for a book release?

            I don’t know that there is really that much to do outside of getting it into the hands of your real audience – which is kids. The truth is kids don’t read blogs or twitter and they tend to interact on facebook only with themselves. I still believe word of mouth is the best way to get your books out there and that is something you have to rely on fans and booksellers to do. I think the one thing that I did spend money on is making a book trailer because I had heard from quite a few librarians and teachers that they loved showing their students book trailers. But other than that, I don’t know that there is much else an author can really effectively do. 

9.  I agree that kids are not reading blogs or Twitter. I do think they help by letting their parents, teachers, and librarians know about our books and hopefully some of them tell kids about our books. What are you working on now?

            Right now I’m finishing up Book 2 and drafting up Book 3. 

Thanks Ellen for sharing all your great advice. You can find Ellen at:

Ellen's  publisher generously offered an ARC of PROPHECY and a necklacce for a giveaway.  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 January 19th.  I’ll announce the winner on January 21st. 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. I hope you're as excited as me about it.

Next Monday I'm interviewing Maya, a 5th grader and our follower Kristin Lenz's daughter, and her friend Sarah, for my ASK THE EXPERT series. I'm also giving away an ARC of SHADES OF EARTH by Beth Revis. This is a fantastic end to the Across the Universe series and my favorite book in the series. It's amazing.

Next Friday I'm doing a Dreaming of Books Book Giveaway Hop. I'll have a fantastic list of popular books for you to choose from.  These book hops are really popular so I'm going to try to do a few more of them this year.

The next Monday, I'm interviewing our follower Leigh Moore and giving away a copy of ROUGE, her fantastic gritty, romance set in Reconstruction New Orleans. I don't read any romance books, but loved this one.

Wednesday that week, I'll be participating in Michael Pierce's blog tour and giving away a copy of PROVEX CITY, an urban fantasy told from a male POV,which also has some contemporary issues.

Then, on the last Monday of the month, I'm interviewing Marie Lu and giving away an ARC of PRODIGY, her fantastic second book in her series. I'm SO excited to share Marie's book with you because it's so good. Marie is so kind to stop by for another interview, with her busy schedule. She's already had an amazing career as an author and I can't wait to find out what's been going on with her since she became a debut author a year ago. 

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

Hope to see you on Monday! 


Andrea Mack said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed your trip, Natalie! Thanks for this interesting interview. Ellen, it's so great to hear about your revision process and how much you learned.

Creepy Query Girl said...

Congrats to the winners! Can't wait to hear more about china Natalie! And loved learning more about Ellen and her book. There's a lot of elements in PROPHECY that sound really unique! Not used to seeing a female warrior who everyone hates and the Korean heritage elements make it different too. Congrats Ellen! Great interview Natalie!

Jemi Fraser said...

Ellen's book sounds great - and I love the suggestion to watch documentaries - you'd get a great feel for the era that way :)

Theresa Milstein said...

Congratulations to Nicole Zoltack!

Nice to meet Ellen Oh. I'm looking up her book now.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

I'm going to second CQG!! She summed it up for me.

mshatch said...

Prophecy sounds like a wonderful book! And yay for winning :)

Linda Gray said...

Wow, China!! How fantastic for you and your daughter.
I love Ellen's comments about respecting the culture you're writing about, and searching out resources to illuminate it for your own edification as much as possible. It's not always even possible to find 'truths' you can rely on in what pass for historical documents and presentations, but I do believe if you find enough sources you can probably piece together authentic sentiment to go along with historical fact.

Casey McCormick said...

Natalie, it sounds like you and Anna Li got to do everything you wanted in China. I hope it was amazing. I can't wait to hear more about your trip.

Hi Ellen! I'm so excited PROPHECY is finally out. Really fantastic interview. I loved learning how your obsession with Asian history inspired so much of the book and how you chose Joe despite the prospect of another major revision. Atta girl!

Good luck to everyone entering the giveaway. I love that HarperTeen is offering a necklace too. How fun!

Lisa Gail Green said...

WOOT, Ellen!!! I can't wait to read the book. It sounds AWESOME! Great interview as usual.

Brenda said...

Prophecy sounds wonderful, I like the mix of historical with fantasy. Her suggestion of watching documentaries is spot on.

Barbara Watson said...

Can't wait to hear more about China!

Taking out words we've written is tough, I mean, we WROTE them. :-) But when it's necessary, we must. I put mine in a folder called "Cut (but relocate?)" just in case they fit somewhere, someday. :-)

Myrna Foster said...

I am so excited to read this one! Thanks for the great interview!

cleemckenzie said...

Say hi to Shanghai for me! Will love to see the photos. Thanks for this interview. Very interesting.

Hannah said...

Sweet interview! Totally excited to read this one!
handshake10 AT gmail DOT com

Lydia Kang said...

What a great interview! I'm so excited to read Prophecy now that it's out!

Beth said...

Oh, Natalie, I'm so glad that you and your daughter had a wonderful trip.
Great interview, and the book sounds terrific!

Vivien said...

Congrats to the winners!! I've heard some really good things about Prophecy! Can't wait to sink my teeth into it. And I heard it has maps, which I'm ADDICTED TO!
GFC: Vivien

deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Jill the OWL said...

This book sounds amazing! I love what she had to say about revising for an editor and revising yourself and how they differ. Very interesting!

erica and christy said...

Another great interview - congratulations Ellen! I once asked my 11-year-old (who is in the gifted reader class at school and is always on his iPad) if he reads any author blogs and he said "I have no idea what you are talking about." HA! (and yes, he was totally serious. take that, blogger mom! haha)

Rachna Chhabria said...

Great interview. Like the sound of the book. Ellen's journey to publishing was interesting.

Candace said...

I'm always drawn to Asian inspired fantasy. I'm not sure what it is, but I love the creative twist. And just the whole vibe is different. Fantastic interview!

And I'm glad you had a good trip! I cant wait to hear about it!

Evie said...

Now I can't wait to read this book. I'm really intrigued by the asian concept in it!

Stephanie Garber said...

Glad you had such a great trip, Natalie!

PROPHECY sounds awesome! I loved reading about your writing journey, Ellen! Your perseverance and patience is really encouraging! Congratulations!

Jess said...

Wonderful interview! I loved hearing about Ellen's process and gleaned several pieces of advice from this :) The book sounds awesome!

Anonymous said...

great interview! i did one with her at my site bethanyhensel.com, and she's so awesome! hope i win her book!


Anonymous said...

this is one I cannot wait to read...and look at that cover! thanks for the interview and giveaway from the publisher!

Texas Book Lover said...

This book sounds amazing! So looking forward to read it!

Tweeted: https://twitter.com/TexasBookLover/status/288686672881795073

Thanks so much!
mmafsmith AT gmail DOT com

Carina Olsen said...

Awesome interview :D This book seems so good. I would love to be able to read it. <3 thank you so much for the chance :)
Love, Carina

Kelly Polark said...

I hope you do post some photos from China. What a wonderful trip with your daughter!

And congrats to Ellen. What a great interview. I love the tagline of this book: One girl will save us all.

Martina Boone said...

Fantastic interview, and I hope you had a great trip with your daughter, Natalie! Welcome home. This is my favorite takeaway from this post: "If there is nothing happening to move your story forward in a scene, then cut it out."

Great advice!

MeganC said...

So glad you had a great time and home safe and sound. Can't wait to hear about the adventure. Great interview. I love books that have a lot of research behind them.

Angela Ackerman said...

So glad you had a trip of a lifetime...can't wait to see the pictures. And a big congrats to Ellen! Her book sounds awesome!

Happy 2013, all!


Llehn said...

Looking forward to Prophecy!


David P. King said...

Awesome interview you guys, and it's good to meet you Ellen. This book of yours sounds like a great read. :)

Donna K. Weaver said...

Great interview. City of a Thousand Dolls sounds awesome. I'm always thrilled with the variety of stories out there.

Jessie Humphries said...

As usual, you have so many great things going on. I hope I can keep up with it all. I want to know Ellen Oh! I want to be best friends and open a legal practice with her! She sounds so incredibly cool. Maybe one day I will meet her and we can be bff's. In a non-creepy/stalkerish way :0 haha. But seriously.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Natalie,

HAPPY 2013! Sounds like you had an AWESOME time in China... Looking SOOO forward to the pics, especially of those adorable pandas...

WOW, Prophecy sounds AMAZING... I am definitely putting that on my list.

Thanks for introducing Ellen and her book to us ... HI, ELLEN!!!

Sounds like an amazing read! ALL The best!!!! Off to drop by you blog now!

Thanks again for all the contests and interviews, Natalie!

Emily R. King said...

Pacing is a tough one. That's why having great CPs helps! Great interview and a lovely cover!

Hi, Natalie and Casey. Happy 2013!

Heather said...

Welcome home! I'm so glad to hear that you had a great time. It sounds like it was amazing. And congratulations to Ellen on Prophecy. I love the cover and it sounds great.

Stina said...

LOL I've heard so much about this book, I thought it came out months ago.

Welcome back, Natalie! :D

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

So many exciting things happening for our bloggy friends. :)

I can't wait to see your photos from China!!!

Happy 2013!

Matthew MacNish said...

This book sounds absolutely awesome! Great interview, too.

LTM said...

oh, wow. This book sounds amazing. Ancient Asia is so fascinating anyway! And LOL--hubs is a lawyer, and yes. He writes all the time. He's also my best critter! :D

Best of luck to you, Ellen! :o) <3

Anonymous said...

Great interview! Congrats, Ellen! Looking forward to reading Prophecy:):)
JShawWrites gmail com
Tweeted: https://twitter.com/_Jessica_Shaw/status/289787695088164864

Rachel Hanley said...

I love the quote "not just library research." You really do need more than that.

I'm working on a book with some foreign language sprinkled in there and dictionaries don't cut it; I need to talk to people who speak that language, because certain words have cultural connotations that a dictionary just won't tell you.

I always admire authors who put in that extra work!

Anonymous said...

I'm really looking forward to this one- the mix of fantasy and asian history sounds like just my thing :D


Steve MC said...

Great interview, and I would've liked to have read that archery scene. I remember reading how James Clavell and his editor worked to put many layers into a tea ceremony. But then, his book is really long!

Videoclimber said...

Thanks for the great interview

book queen said...

Thanks for this interesting interview and for the giveaway!
GFC: the_bosix
Tweet: https://twitter.com/the_bosix/status/292330496489316352
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maija.steinbrika/posts/144631189027055

maijasteinbrika AT gm@il dot com

Diana_Dimovska said...

Nice to meet you, Ellen! Great interview, thanks for sharing it.

tweet: https://twitter.com/Diana_Dimovska/status/292331856936964096

dianadimovska1 (at) gmail (dot) com

Lili said...

Oh gosh, I REALLY want to win this giveaway! I was luck enough to borrow a copy of PROPHECY from a friend and since my review posted I have become very great friends with Ellen, but I don't have a copy of her novel for myself! :( I want one so badly, especially since I'm lucky enough to call Ellen a friend.

Thank you for the opportunity!

Sarah Perry said...

I would love to win this giveaway! This book is one Ive been wanting to read for awhile now! I follow by email
oddball2003 at hotmail dot com

Sarah Perry said...

I also tweeted about the giveaway https://twitter.com/slpemdb/status/292428161738764288
oddball2003 at hotmail dot com

Jana said...

Thank you so much for the chance to win!
GFC: Jeanne

Allie L said...

GFC pinkflower
iheartmemorethanyou at yahoo dot com

Reina Laaman said...

Seriously, prophecy sounds awesome! Thanks for the interview and giveaway.

My email: reinadeer@hotmail.com

I tweeted: https://twitter.com/ReinaLaaman/status/292632617797439488

Darlene said...

This one is on my Wishlist!! I love that Kira is a strong heroine. Can't wait to read it!!

Thanks for the giveaway!

GFC: Darlene
darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com

Darlene said...

+1 for tweeting:


GFC: Darlene
darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com

Amber said...

+1 tweet~


GFC:Amber Hsu


Thanks so much for the giveaway! The review was awesome!