Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


Happy Monday Everyone! Before I get to my exciting interview, I want to announce winners of my recent giveaways.

The winner of Rouge is MEGAN!


Congrats! I've contacted both winners and forwarded their contact info to the authors.

Today I’m thrilled to help Miriam Forster, my blogger friend and debut author, celebrate the release of CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS. It releases tomorrow! When Miriam’s publisher sent the ARC to me at the November, I planned to save it to take on my trip to China. But then, I started looking at it and immediately began reading it. And I finished it in two days. It was that good.

Miriam did a fantastic job of creating the world of the City of a Thousand Dolls, with all the smaller houses that trained girls in specialized skills, like beauty, music, and pleasure that would be useful when potential suitors came to the City once a year looking for wives and mistresses to purchase. Nisha has a unique role in the City as the Matron’s assistant and moves freely within the houses. Yet even the Matron cannot protect Nisha and Nisha faces a terrible fate if she somehow can’t make herself super useful to the City. She’s such a strong, sympathetic character and I totally was routing for her till the very end of the story. 

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

An exotic treat set in an entirely original, fantastical world brimming with deadly mystery, forbidden romance, and heart-stopping adventure.

Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.

Hi Miriam. Thanks so much for joining us. And Happy Debut!

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
Once upon a time there was an awkward, uncertain girl named Miriam who loved to read. She read anything and everything she could get her hands on. Books were her friends and her teachers, her warm blanket and her magic carpet. Stories became her great love and soon she was seeing stories everywhere, in television and movies and computer games. She even told herself stories, in daydreams on the bus and in the car, and at night, like lullabies, to fall asleep. Stories made her happy. One day the girl told herself a story that was so much fun that she decided to write it down. That was how it started.
It took many more years before she realized she was a writer. But she never stopped making up stories. 
2.  You sound like me only it took me until I was in my 40s to try writing anything down. At the beginning of the book, there’s a two page description of the main characters, the houses in the City of the Thousand Dolls, and the caste system. I loved all the different houses and you did a fantastic job making me feel like I was right in Nisha’s world. Share your world building process for this story and any tips you have for us aspiring authors.
Thank you! Actually, most of that particular description happened in edits. Both my editor and my critique partners wanted more of an idea of the layout of the city. I had originally just jumped into the plot, but the world was so complicated that people were getting confused. I had everything in my head, but it wasn’t coming across on paper clearly enough. 
I think the biggest thing about good worldbuilding is that it’s consistent. All the details fit together and make sense as a whole. I tend to model my worldbuilding on the real world as much as possible for that reason. Good worldbuilding is also very specific. What kind of houses are there? What kind of clothes? What kind of food do they eat? What does the air smell like? Generic surroundings are dull and don’t add anything to the story. 
3.  That's such great advice to add lots of specifics. You sure did. It seems like there’s some Asian influences in this story. For example, the reason for the City of a Thousand Dolls reminded me of China’s one child policy. What Asian influences did you weave into your story and why?
Hahaha. It would be easier to tell you what parts of my story weren’t Asian influenced, honestly. Basically what happened was that I started researching the ancient Indus River Valley civilization and fell in love with South Asia. It’s such a rich area, and severely underrepresented in fantasy. The caste system, clothes and food are all inspired by India and the animals—spotted wild cats, monkeys, cashmere goats—they’re all found in South Asia as well. Because I was dealing with an isolated empire, I took a few cues from Japan as well, but most of the worldbuilding revolved around India and the surrounding areas.
4.  I love India too. That's where I met my husband. I read in another interview that you’re a very detailed plotter. Tell us about your plotting system.
I’m very much a list person. Lists of things I want to happen in the book, lists of settings that need describing, lists of characters and themes, a list of reasons why two people would be good together…. I just write lists forever. Then I take my handy-dandy three-act breakdown sheet which I’ve adapted from the amazing Alexandra Sokoloff’s blog (http://www.screenwritingtricks.com/)  and start building a structure for my story.
Of course, the last book I started writing had none of that. *grin* For a lot of reasons, I just jumped into it and did things on the fly. Now I’m having to impose structure after the fact and that’s a harder thing for me. 
5.  I follow Alexandra's blog too and her advice on structuring a story. But I don't start with nearly as much detail as you. I loved that this is a fantasy and a mystery. And you plant clues and have twists in both aspects of the story. What were some of the challenges in weaving them all into your story and how did you overcome them?
Oh gosh, it was really hard to balance the two, more so than I expected. Mysteries have to be very tightly plotted, in a way that doesn’t usually lend itself to worldbuilding. And fantasy, especially high fantasy needs good worldbuilding. So some parts of the book were too fast and some were too slow. It was hard for me to find a pacing that would work for both, and I’m still not sure I succeeded. Still, getting to write in my two favorite genres at once was worth it.
6.  Your agent is Jennifer Laughran. How did she become your agent and what was your querying process like?
Jenn was a very happy accident. (Sort of) I had queried someone else at the Andrea Brown Agency very early on in the submission process and gotten no response.  A few years and several MAJOR rewrites later, I was on the verge of shelving City of a Thousand Dolls entirely, but I thought I’d send one more query, just to keep my momentum up. I chose Jenn because I loved her Twitter presence and because she’d represented several books that I’d read and enjoyed very much. I thought that might mean our tastes were similar. But I honestly wasn’t expecting her to want the book, and I was bowled over when she fell in love with it.  And she’s been great to work with.  (Plus when she recommends a book, I’m pretty much guaranteed to adore it.) J
7.  So glad you didn't shelf this. It's such a great story.
Let’s switch to the marketer hat authors need to wear. What steps did you take after you got your book deal? What are the essential marketing things you recommend authors do from signing the book deal contract to the release of our books?
Ack! Um…I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask about promotion. My pre-debut year was mostly taken up with two moves, six months of living at my inlaws and some serious couch surfing. I had a second book to write and my husband couldn’t find a job. I was stressed and broke for most of the year, so there were a lot of things that are recommended that I just didn’t have the energy or money to do.  I didn’t do postcard mailings or get a street team or email book bloggers. In fact as of me writing this on the first of January, I still don’t have any swag. (I’m going to try and get some this month, but there won’t be much.)
I do think authors need some sort of website, something that says “This is me, this is my book.” It should be something updateable so you can do things like cover reveals and announcements, but it doesn’t have to actually be a blog. At the very least, people need to be able to find the basic information about you and your book.
As far as social media goes, I say do what you’re comfortable with. For me that meant mostly hanging out on Twitter and Tumblr and running contests—both for my book and other people’s—on my blog. I also responded to as many interview requests as I could. I was lucky enough to be working for the bookstore that’s doing my launch party, so setting that up was easy. I’ve scheduled two other signings, one in my former town and one in my parent’s town. But those are mostly for family and friends.
Honestly, the most essential thing is the next book. Everything else is negotiable. Because a fantastic second book will sell more of your first book than most promotion ever will.  
8.  Actually, your advice is reassuring. Because I'm guessing I would have to juggle my book release with a full-time job and a family that needs my attention. It sounds like it can be done with a lot of other things going on. Phew! I'm not quite so nervous about it all.
What other advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Write the next book. That’s my go-to advice. Having another book in the works makes everything easier. It takes some of the sting out of rejection, it gives you hope and it teaches you things that will help you rewrite earlier books. And before you sell is the best time to build a list of works that you might be able to fix up and sell later. Experiment, take chances and write new things. Because once you sell, the game changes. They’re good changes for the most part, but they’re still changes.
9.  That's great advice. What are you working on now?
Rewriting the un-organized book I mentioned earlier. It’s a companion book to City of a Thousand Dolls and is scheduled to come out sometime in 2014. If I can fix it, that is. *scowls at book *
Well, I'm sure it's going to be fabulous. Thanks Miriam for sharing all your great advice. You can find Miriam at: 

Miriam's publisher generously offered an ARC 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 February 16thI’ll announce the winner on February 18th. 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.

And don't forget to enter my contest for PRODIGY by Marie Lu too! The link is at the top of the blog.

Here's what's coming up: 

Next Monday I'm interviewing debut author Elsie Chapman about her dystopian novel, DUALED and giving away an ARC of her book. It's about a world where everyone has a genetic alternate that you must battle at some point in your teenage years to the death. It is a fascinating concept.

Next Wednesday I have a fascinating interview with Chuck Sambuchino of Guide to Literary Agents about his new book, CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM: THE KEYS TO BUILDING AN AUDIENCE, SELLING MORE BOOKS, AND FINDING SUCCESS AS AN AUTHOR, with a giveaway of his book. His book really got me thinking about how I can improve my platform and social networking. I'm really excited to share Chuck's advice and his book with you. Chuck's interview is filled with awesome advice whether you're an author or book review blogger. I can't encourage you enough to read his interview.

The following Monday, I have an interview with a high school teen for my ASK THE EXPERT series and will be sharing and giving away THE CADET OF TILDOR, a fantastic debut fantasy and OBSIDIAN MIRROR, a fantasy set in our world by one of my favorite authors, Catherine Fisher.

And Wednesday that week, Casey and I have a super awesome 3000 follower mega giveaway. IT'S GOING TO BE AWESOME! You won't want to miss it.

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

Hope to see you on Monday!


middle grade ninja said...

What a wonderful interview. I especially like her advice about having another manuscript ready.

Jemi Fraser said...

I definitely have to pick up this one - sounds great! I wish I could plot like that - still working on it! Thanks for the insights :)

Kris @Imaginary Reads said...

I've been looking forward to the publication of CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS for a while now. I LOVE high fantasy and am always up for a good mystery. I enjoyed learning more about the writing process behind the book. From the sounds of it, it's a must-read fantasy book, and I too am glad that it didn't get shelfed :)


Ashfa said...

I really love the cover, it really captures the essence of South Asia, reminds me of a shoe they had on TV it was called Haathim and they had a bit like the pic on the cover).

GFC Follwer- Ashfa Anwer
Tweeted- https://twitter.com/TopsyTurvy_Ash/status/298430548970438657

Ashfa said...

Erm, I meant show not shoe....

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Thank you, Miriam, for mentioning that most of that description came through editing. Makes me feel better!!!

Rachna Chhabria said...

I wish I could plot like Miriam. City of a Thousand Dolls sounds wonderful. I am looking forward to reading it.

Lydia Kang said...

I can't wait to read this! Also, Miriam is such a wonderful person. Just had to say that. :)

Rose Green said...

I noticed the cover on Jennifer Laughran's blog some time ago, and have been looking forward to this one. Please, enter me! :)

Silverlight said...

I enjoy a book that actually has great world building and realistic settings, as well as Fantasy settings.
Describing fantasy settings is an art, that very few can nail on the head. I love visuals of book settings, and often times wish books could come to life just for the settings alone.
But, when a book takes on realistic settings it can be enjoyable just to be able to connect with the story as a whole through actual places that I've never ventured too, but wish I would.

Thank You for sharing

Pnrurbfantasyreview @ Hotmail.com

LTM said...

First, congrats to Megan! I've sent you an email, girl~ :D

Second, WOW! Miriam's book sounds gorgeous and interesting, and I love India, too. Totally on my TBR list, and BEST of luck with the new book! :o) <3

Kessie said...

This book sounds better and better the more I hear about it! Sign me up!

mshatch said...

Enjoyed this interview and congrats to Miriam on the release of her book - it definitely sounds like something I'd enjoy :)

Linda Gray said...

Another great interview. I love the range of books you cover on this site, Natalie. It's inspiring to see how many great ideas become great books.

Carina Olsen said...

Ohhh, I'm dying to read this book :D Been wanting it for months and months. <3 It just sound so amazing :) Thank you for sharing the perfect interview and giveaway :D
Love, Carina

Heather said...

This sounds like a great book! I'm putting it on my "to read" list right now. Actually my "to read" list is going from mental to physical right now, just so that I will not forget this title!

Barbara Watson said...

Thanks for the feature and the interview! I love the getting-the-agent story. You just never know which one is going to love what you've written.

Kirsten! said...

I don't think I've ever read a south asian-inspired fantasy before- it sounds really good :)


Hong Tran said...

Thanks for the interview!

I haved reading the first few chapters on Harper's website and I want to continue reading to know what will happen next :)

Lori M. Lee said...

I'm sooo excited for this book. I've been following Miriam's story since she first got her agent (and I promise that's not meant to sound creepy lol, I'm just a follower on her blog) and it's so intensely cool that her book is now about to be released into the world :)

Also, all the upcoming awesomeness sounds exciting!

Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats, Mirium! I'm so impressed with your research and persistence.

Laura S. said...

Awesome interview. I've followed Miriam's blog for a while now and it's been wonderful seeing her writing dream come true. Congrats, Miriam!

Sara @ Forever 17 Books said...

I really like the addition of this 2 page description at the beginning. That is so helpful for me and my reading. I can't wait to read this one! Thanks for sharing the interview. :)

CG @ Paper Fury said...

Woah! Looks amazing! I especially like the sound of the Asian influences and the plot sounds stunning. Awesome interview.


MeganC said...

Great interview, Natalie. I have to say that I love the ideas of lists to stay organized. I actually write ideas down on whatever slip of paper I find handy and put it in a box. Yep, an actual paper with a list sounds a lot better. City of Thousand Dolls has been on my "must read" list for a month now. Can't wait to read it, and congrats Miriam!

Vivien said...

I love reading about the Asian culture. So you can imagine how excited I am to read CTD :) Definitely!!
GFC: Vivien

deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for this interesting interview! I'd already heard a little about this book, and now I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Mundie Moms said...

Great interview! I love reading author interviews. They're so fascinating. Congrats on your 3,000 followers!

Candace said...

I just read this book today! I was wondering if there was going to be a sequel because everything was tied up very well. So a companion book sounds fantastic! I also have to say that the mysteries were definitely not figured out by me! I guessed a few things but there was just so much more to it...
Fantastic post and interview!

Robyn Campbell said...

What a funtabulous interview. Sweet! I had not even heard of this book. Congrads. I must read it now. And hey. I'm a list person too. They're everywhere in this office and house. Ha. And hey. Editing. Yeah. I'm glad that most of the description came then. :-)

Stephanie Garber said...

CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS sounds so good! I can't believe this is the first time I've heard of it. I can't wait to read it!

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

Well, I know we are followers and The City of A Thousand Dolls sounds right up my alley. Can't wait to read it. Thanks for the interview and good luck with the promotion. I personally dread that stuff.
Susna at Pen and Ink.

S.P. Bowers said...

This sounds like a great book. I just put it on my good reads list. Thanks for the interview and for sharing it.

cleemckenzie said...

The title fascinates me! Love interesting titles. Here's my best wishes for Mariam.

Lisa Gail Green said...

This sounds like such a cool book! I am excited to read it. I love author stories like this too. Never give up!

Lilian said...

Thanks for the interview!
I've only heard about this book about a week ago and already added it on my TBR list! I need more fantasy in my life =).

Tweeted: https://twitter.com/ctoybox1/status/298875644710879233

Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

Steve MC said...

Awesome advice, and congrats on your novel's release!

Alyssa said...

I can't wait to read what you mean about the descriptions of the city and the houses! It sounds like you did a fabulous job! Overall as well!

Following! GFC - Alyssa Susanna

EMAIL: lilleetleet (at) verizon (dot) net

Shared on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Alyssa_Susanna/status/298906380620951553

Thank you so much for the giveaway!

Jess said...

Loved this interview! City of A Thousand Dolls sounds like an intriguing read~ looking forward to reading it for both the world-building and the characters :) Thanks, ladies!

Stina said...

My cold is making my brain see things that aren't true. I read it as erotic settings. lol

I didn't know you met your hubby in India, Natalie. I bet that's a cool story.

I love that Miriam almost gave up on querying and then she landed an agent when she least expected it. Those are always my favorite query stories. :D

Heather said...

This sounds like a fantastic book! It's going at the top of my list of books to read. And such luck, to find her agent when she least expected it, that's meant to be right there!

Ann Finkelstein said...

Thank your for bringing this book to my attention. I'm ordering it from my library right now - just in case I don't win the contest. :-)

mariska said...

i've been counting the days that i can win this book. love to read it !!

Eli Yanti said...

congrts on the release of your debut book, great book :)

Joni said...

I've been looking forward to this one! Yay giveaway!! ^.^

Naieva Bookist said...

Adventure in a Fantastical World. That sounds great! But, you had me a Book.

Kaye M. said...

To me, Miriam is such an inspiration! Also, being of South Asian blood (well, half South Asian) myself, I can't wait to read through this setting!

Larissa said...

Lovely interview! I'm looking forward to reading this book.

lchardesty at yahoo dot com

Unknown said...

Awesome interview....I have been looking forward to this book for a long, LONG time!
Thank you for the giveaway and the publisher for being generous!

allaboutyanovels at gmail dot com

Melodie said...

I noticed this cover on GoodReads a month or so ago. It looks fab. Thanks for sharing!!

Unknown said...

I've been wanting to read this book for some time now! What a great giveaway. Thank you :)

Kaitlin Michelle said...

Love your interviews and giveaways! Mentioned on twitter @kmichelle1019

Llehn said...

I've heard great things about this book. Am definitely intrigued by it.


Krispy said...

Looking forward to reading this one! Love that the world is influenced by Southern Asia, and I totally agree that it's an underrepresented culture in mainstream fantasy. Thanks for the giveaway!

Unknown said...

sounds facinating!

twittered about the post too :)

Unknown said...

gotta figure out this posting thing, that's me


Marlene Detierro said...

"City of a Thousand Dolls" is an exciting debut novel with a magical, exciting setting that drops you right in the middle of the Bhinian Empire. While the characters weren't as unique and engaging as they could've been, the compelling plot doesn't let you down. I'd definitely give this novel a go--you might find yourself falling under its spell!

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