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 Monday Everyone! I am happy to report that I survived my 9 days with Anna Li away in Costa Rica. And she had a great time and is back home.

Before I get to my interview, I want to announce the winner of DUALED.

The winner is S.P. BOWERS!

Congrats! E-mail me your address so I can send you your book by midnight on Wednesday or I'll have to pick another winner.

Today I’m thrilled to have Carrie Harris here to discuss writing humor and platform. I met Carrie at her book signing in November for her new book, BAD HAIR DAY. I was so excited when I discovered an amazing fact about Carrie—She lives in the same town as me! I was happy for days after discovering that.

I bought her first book, BAD TASTE IN BOYS, at her signing. I’d always wanted to read it from the intriguing cover. Her main character Kate is definitely funny in a snarky way. But what I really liked about her was how fully developed she was as a character. She has a strong interest in medicine and Carrie weaved this in throughout the plot, which is also a mystery about zombies.

Here’s a description of Carrie’s new book, BAD HAIR DAY, from Goodreads:

Senior year is positively hair-raising.

Kate Grable is geeked out to shadow the county medical examiner as part of her school’s pre-med program. Except when he’s arrested for murder, she’s left with the bodies. And when Kate’s brother Jonah stumbles upon a dead gamer girl, she realizes that the zombie epidemic she cured last fall was only the beginning of the weirdness taking over her town. Someone’s murdering kids—something really hairy. And strong. Possibly with claws.

Is it werewolf awesomeness like Jonah and his dorktastic friends think? Kate’s supposed to be a butt-kicking zombie killing genius...but if she can’t figure out who’s behind the freakish attacks, the victims—or what’s left of them—are going to keep piling up.

It’s scary. It’s twisted. It’s sick. It’s high school.

Hi Carrie. Thanks so much for joining us.

Thank YOU for having me! And for saying nice things about my book. And for coming to my party. And for being AWESOME. I’ll shut up now.

1. OMG, your book signing was the best! I still smile thinking about it. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Well, I’ve had the writing bug since I was in high school, but I always figured it would be a hobby more than anything else. I thought it was one of those wild dreams that would never happen—like the ones in which I can actually carry a tune and surprise everyone who knows me by sitting down at a piano and breaking out into a rendition of my favorite song that doesn’t make everyone clap their hands to their ears and scream. I figured a writing career was about as likely, so I did a lot of freelance work for fun. I’m not exaggerating when I say a LOT. I wrote roleplaying games and websites and sales copy and flash cards and stage plays and poetry and if someone had been hiring people to write cereal boxes, I’m sure I would have said YES.

I figured I might as well try a book, so I wrote one for NaNo that sucked serious suckables, but at least it proved I knew how to write that many words. And then everything clicked when I found YA—my voice hasn’t really changed at all since high school. Neither has my sense of humor. Finally, I started to think of this as something more than a hobby. My first YA got me an agent, and the second one sold. I sound so calm when I say that, but inside? I’m still squealing like a crazed fangirl.

2. That’s such an inspiring story. For those who haven’t read BAD TASTE IN BOYS, tell us a bit about it.

I’m a total nerd, so I honestly think of it as an equation. BTIB is (zombie mayhem + weird science + the dead football players from the movie BEETLEJUICE)/geek saves the day. In normal person speak, it’s about a science geek who discovers that her high school football team has been turned into zombies. Which is bad. And then mayhem ensues, along with a little kissing.

3. I loved that Kate is a science geek. At your book signing, you said that writing humor is one of the hardest types of writing to do well. Why do you think that?

Gah. I had no idea what was coming out of my mouth at that moment. Could you tell? Writing in general is hard, and I think what I meant is that I’ve heard a lot of people say they find humor to be exceptionally tough. I think the issue is that it’s SO subjective. What’s funny to one person may be yawnsville to another, and if you’re going to write humor, you have to be open to the idea that some people will NOT find it funny simply because their sense of humor is on a different wavelength than yours. When you think about it, there are so many different kinds of funny. I like snarky humor and smart humor and slightly gross humor and ridiculous humor. I’m not a huge fan of potty jokes or really disgusting stuff. I think everyone has those lines, and they’re all in different places.

4. I think it’s true that humor is subjective. But a good humor writer can maybe get the humor right more often, which more people will find funny. Where do you get the inspiration for the humor in your stories and what tips do you have for the rest of us trying to write a humorous story?

I surround myself with people who are funnier than me. You probably think I’m being a smart-alecky douchecanoe, but I’m serious. Any time someone makes a wisecrack, there’s a part of my brain that’s making note of it so I can steal it later. BE WARNED, PEOPLE. I WILL STEAL YOUR JOKES.
(I do ask first, though.)

People frequently ask me how to write funny bits, and I honestly can’t give a straight answer. Inevitably, the parts that crack me up don’t get the big laughs when I read, and the parts that I didn’t find funny do. So one of the most important things I think you need when you’re writing humor is a lot of feedback. Ask people to tell you what made them laugh. LOTS of people. Use that feedback to pick the gags with the widest appeal. Because it’s not something you can break down into an equation. Darn it.

5. That’s great advice to get feedback and surround yourself with people who like humor. Okay, I’ll confess I’m not a funny person and I don’t like watching comedy shows or things like that. But I might like to add a humorous secondary character in one of my stories. Is it hopeless or do you have any suggestions on how serious people like me can learn to create a funny character?

Of course it’s not hopeless! Like any part of the craft, it’s something you can work on and develop if that’s where you want to go. I tend to go over the top in my early drafts, and I find that really helpful. Make that silly character SUPER GRATINGLY SILLY. I had so many boob jokes in the first draft of BTIB that my editor asked me to give the manuscript a breast reduction. (That still cracks me up.) But it gives you a chance to figure out which of those jokes are working for your readers and which ones aren’t. Then you can start to cull them down to a level that doesn’t make people want to hit their head against things.

6. That’s good to know. I might be able learn to do sarcastic. I always like to find out how authors got their agent. How did Kate Schafer Testerman become your agent and what was your journey to publication like?

Kate went on my dream agent list the day I read Maureen Johnson’s DEVILISH. I was on the query widely track—I always had 10-15 queries out—but hers was one of the first I sent. I knew the query was working, because I got lots of full requests, but after about 100 rejections, it still hadn’t clicked with anyone enough for them to offer. You know it only takes one yes, but after that many nos, you start to think it won’t ever happen. Then my critique group dissolved, and I started to think maybe this was a sign from the universe that writing would only be a hobby for me. I got The Email a few days afterwards and found Kate to be exactly what I needed—someone totally knowledgeable who would also talk games and geekery with me.

That first book was on submission for about a year, and it went to acquisitions so many times that I honestly lost count. In the meantime, I was writing this goofy zombie book, and we decided we’d send it out to some of the people who had been interested in that first book. BTIB sold in just a few weeks. Which is CRAAAAZY.

7. I’d like to move onto platform and publicity. In retrospect, what worked well and what didn’t work so well in developing your platform as a debut author and the publicity when your book released?

I tried a whole lot of everything, because you don’t want to be in the position where you wonder “what if I’d done X?!?” So I blogged almost every weekday between when I signed with my agent and when the book hit the shelves, and I commented on blogs, and by the end, I had a tremendous group of awesome bloggery friends who helped spread the word about the book. (I was also admittedly a little burned out.) I did an online charity auction, which I found personally fulfilling, but I’m not sure how much it actually resulted in selling books. I did lots of giveaways and promotions and videos…I get tired just thinking about it, but I’m glad I did it. I felt like I really gave my all, and I had a chance to figure out which types of promotion really resonated with me.

8. That’s important to have a wide range of friends to help you spread the word about your book. And personally, I think it's helpful when you have different circles of friends to tap into more prospective readers. You were part of the Class of 2k11 and were its president. How important is joining a group when you debut and did you feel taking a lead role in the Class of 2k11 was helpful? Why?

I am so so SO glad that I did the Class of 2k11. The people in that group are and always will be my family, and the support alone is worth the effort of joining. It’s scary to put yourself out there, so being able to do it in a group—to combine your strengths and support each other through your weaknesses—is invaluable. I learned a lot from them about publishing and about book promotion, and I made some lifelong friends too. I think when you join a debut group you really get out what you put into it, so they really did me a favor by letting me take a leadership role. I really learned a lot—things I did well and things I will never EVER do again!

9. I think the friendships and support would be so helpful in joining such a group. What have you done to keep your name and your books out there in the world since it was released? What do you recommend other authors do?

I’ve been moving away from deliberate book promotion and more towards trying to be open and engaged with readers in general. There are so many contests and so many authors and so many books—I feel pretty overwhelmed myself with all the choices! So I’ve decided to focus on the things I love most, like meeting new people who love books as much as I do, and talking with them rather than at them. I’m an author, but I’m also a real person. They’re readers, but they’re people too. I think it’s important to keep that in mind regardless of what you do.

10. What’s been different in your marketing approach for BAD HAIR DAY vs. BAD TASTE IN BOYS? What are your thoughts on your approach in retrospect?

For BTIB, I threw everything at the wall to see what stuck. For BHD, I really stuck to what I enjoyed the most. I think it does make a difference. People can tell if you’re having fun or if you’re phoning it in because you think you have to do it.

11. Okay, I promise this is the last question. What are you working on now?

Well, I just finished all the work on my next book with Random House, which is called DEMON DERBY, and I’m putting together a really fun event in relation to that book. I’m SUPER excited about it…like using random capital letters levels of excitement. And I’ve also sold a book to a gaming company. I love games. This will be a pulp adventure—think Indiana Jones for kids—called SALLY SLICK AND THE STEEL SYNDICATE, and it’s tentatively scheduled for the end of 2013, which means I should probably finish writing it. In short, I’m a busy, busy girl!

Sure sounds like it. Thanks Carrie for sharing all your great advice. You can find Carrie at her website, blog and Twitter.

So this is a two book giveaway. One lucky winner will win my signed copy of BAD TASTE IN BOYS and Carrie has generously donated a signed copy of BAD HAIR DAY for another winner.

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 and tell me which book you’d like by midnight on March 9th. I’ll announce the winner on March 11th. I’ll try to match the book to the winner. International entries are welcome, but there will only be one international winner due to postage costs.

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. We'd really love if you'd spread the word about this contest.

And don't forget to enter my contests for CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM, THE CADET OF TILDOR, and OBSIDIAN MIRROR, all fantastic books. And be sure to enter our 3000 follower Mega, Mega Giveaway. The links are at the top of the blog.

Here’s what’s coming up:

On Wednesday, I'm thrilled to interview Shannon Messenger about her new amazing YA book LET THE SKY FALL, an urban fantasy. I'm part of her blog tour and the tour is sponsoring a giveaway. And because Shannon's my friend and I loved her book, I have a giveaway too.

Next Monday, I have a guest post by Anna Staniszewski and a giveaway of her new book, MY FAIRY EPIC TALE FAIL, and her first book, MY VERY UNFAIRY TALE LIFE.

Next Wednesday, I have a guest post with debut author Liesel Hill and a giveaway of her new adult dystopian, PERSISTENCE OF VISION.

The following Monday I’m interviewing debut author Steven dos Santos and giving away an ARC of THE CULLING. It’s an action packed dystopian and trust me, Steven has no problem being hard on his characters.

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

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


S.A. Larsenッ said...

Great to meet you, Carrie. What a way to begin senior year. LOL I think I would have a been a bit freaked.

I'd love to win Bad Taste in Boys. :)

mshatch said...

Excellent interview, and I remember those football players! They were funny even if they only had a small part :)

Kristin Lenz said...

Thanks for the interview, Natalie. If Carrie lives near you, then she lives near me too - but I haven't met her yet.

Lydia Kang said...

Three cheers for geeky science-loving girls! I've got an MC like that too. Her new book sounds great. :)

Barbara Watson said...

Sounds great! Thanks for sharing word about (both) of these!

Enjoyed the interview too, especially the getting the agent story.

Jessie Humphries said...

What a great interview! That BTIB cover is so cool! And I love hearing about agenty/acquisitiony/friendshippy things. Yes, I know I could have made that more succint! Whatev. Yay, for geeky girls though. My WIP's MC is so geeky I'm worried... :)

cleemckenzie said...

Love that it's scary, twisted and sick! Sounds like my years in high school.

Angela said...

What a fun interview! Thanks Carrie for all of your insightful information. I was also at your book signing at Nicola's Books,great event.

Thanks Natalie for arranging this interview with Carrie!

brandileigh2003 said...

I haven't heard much about these, but they sound funny and well done. Nerdy girls are amazing!
Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

Stephanie Garber said...

What a fun interview! I love that you used the word geekery. And both of your books sound so fun.

I don't know how I missed Bad Taste In Boys when it came out, but I would love to win a copy of it!

Thanks Natalie and Carrie!

Jessy said...

I totally get what you're saying about writing something funny. I would probably obsess over my writing wondering if it really is funny or not.

Tweet: https://twitter.com/JessyB015/status/306120529130164224

Gina Gao said...

This is a really great interview! The books sound great.


Chey said...

I loved Bad Taste in Boys and I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of Bad Hair Day! Thanks for sharing the interview and giveaway!

Tweet: https://twitter.com/ohaiitschey/status/306140579186761728


Miles of the Journey said...

I like what you said about writing humor. Some things may seem funny to me but readers? Sometimes I go back and read some of my stuff and still laugh and wonder where did that come from?

Jennifer G W said...

Thank you for the great giveaway!! I would love to win a copy of Bad Hair Day! I just got Bad Taste in Boys a few days ago and can't wait to start reading it!

Tweet - https://twitter.com/JenniferGWI/status/306160628249292800

Lori M. Lee said...

Carrie is HILARIOUS. And I love her books. I can't wait for Demon Derby b/c it sounds fab.

I'd love to win a signed copy of Bad Hair Day. Yay!


Robin said...

I LOVE love love BTIBs, so much that I read everything I could find on Carrie on the internet and flipped out that I couldn't get her next book yet. Kate is such a great character. I can't wait to take her for another ride. So I an all for Bad Hair Day.

Such a great interview!

Heather said...

I have somehow missed out on Carrie's brilliant books so far. She is hilarious! I love this interview ladies. If I had to choose, I'd say Bad Taste In Boys to start with.

LTM said...

omg! Fun fun fun!! I want to read Bad Taste in Boys so bad, but now I think I want to read Bad Hair Day even more! They both sound too hilarious, and I love the sciencey, zombie-killing heroine. Too cute! Thanks, Natalie & Carrie! <3

Stina said...

I bought Bad Taste in Boys because of the auction. :D

You have the best covers, Carrie. And I'm glad your editor has such as great sense of humor. Yes, breast reductions can be very beneficial. lol

Darlene said...

Bad Taste in Boys has been on my TBR list forever! I love zombies!! Honestly, I'd be thrilled to win either one :)

Thanks for the awesome giveaway!

GFC: Darlene
darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com

+1 for tweeting:


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Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Thanks for introducing us to Carrie. It sounds like she in one productive writer. :)

I think writing humor is hard too. Particularly if you are a rather serious person.

Lisa Gail Green said...

What an awesome success story! Humor is tough. I always thought it was tougher as an actress too. But when you get it right? Priceless! Loved the interview. :D

mariska said...

I've been wanting to read Carrie's books. she's a new for me author.

and i'm international :)

Anonymous said...
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CG @ Paper Fury said...

Aw, I LOVE a book with good humour in it. Sarcasm is awesome (and kind of awkward when people totally don't realize you're being sarcastic...but that's beside the point!)

I'm a follower!

Lisa said...

Carrie, you worked with me on my query letter ages ago (I think I won you in an auction) and you were SO immensely helpful. Thank you!

I'd love to win either book. :)


Carina Olsen said...

Amazing interview :) Thank you so much for sharing. <3 And omg. BAD TASTE IN BOYS seems like an AMAZING book :) I would love to win it. <3 but would be happy with either book :) Thank you so much for this amazing giveaway :)
Love, Carina

Tyrean Martinson said...

Wonderful interview! Bad Hair Day sounds hilarious!

Vivien said...

Fabulous interview!! I love that she does zombie humor :D We need more of them!!! *huge zombie lover*

GFC: Vivien

deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

middle grade ninja said...

I'm a day late, but I try never to miss one of your interviews, Natalie. You always come across as well researched and informed and you ask great questions. Humor is one of the hardest things to write, which is why I try never to be funny:)

Unknown said...

Well, I'm definitely adding these to my to-read list. I'd love to win Bad Taste in Boys!

I tweeted here:

Kimberly Gabriel said...

I agree - humor is subjective. I'm also convinced her books would crack me up. What a fun, humorous interview ladies!

Texas Book Lover said...

What a great interview! My choice would be Bad Taste in Boys! Love this title and cover!

Tweeted: https://twitter.com/TexasBookLover/status/306791405370621953

GFC: Texas Book Lover

mmafsmith AT gmail DOT com

Llehn said...

I'd love to play for either book please.



Jocelyn Rish said...

I'd be happy with either book, but if I HAD to choose just one, put me down for Bad Taste in Boys. Thanks for another great interview!

SA said...

Great interview. I'd like to go in for both books (phireife@gmail.com)