Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Caroline Trussell Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2024
  • Jenna Satterthwaite Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/10/2024
  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

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


Hi Everyone! Hope you're having a great Monday. I'm so excited that the weather is getting into the 30's and 40's so I can walk outside again. I really feel better when I walk and I listen to audio books while I do it, which I love. Right now I'm reading THE CRIMSON CROWN by Cinda Chima Williams. I've reread the whole series in audio version and have loved it as much as the first time I read it.

Just to let you know, we eliminated commenting as an anonymous person. I was sorry to do that but we're getting too much spam and it's getting into the comments. And this seemed better than the word verification, which I really don't like. 

Before I get to our interview today, I have a ton of winners to announce.

First, the winner of BAD TASTE IN BOYS is Robert Kent!

The winner of BAD HAIR DAY is Jessy!

Now I'll announce all the 3000 follower winners. Thanks so much everyone for entering and for your kind words.

The winner of Casey's 5 page critique is Emily Rachelle!

The winners of Prize Package 1 are Shiela Calderon Blankemeier who chose Days of Blood and Starlight!

And Christie Muurillo who picked Clockwork Princess!

The winner of JUST ONE DAY is Kristin Lenz!

The winner of TEN is Nicole Zoltack!

The winner of THE RUINING is Waugh Wright!

The winner of OUT OF THE EASY is Lisa!


The winner of FEEDBACK is Jill at the O.W.L.!

The winner of 17& GONE is Jemi Fraser!

The winner of THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH is Kim Van Sickler!

The winner of FANG GIRL is Jess!

The winner of CRIMSON FROST is Sierra!

The winner of PAPER VALENTINE is Christine Lee!

The winner of DON'T TURN AROUND is Susie Bookworm!

Congrats to all the winners! Please 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.

Today I’m excited to interview debut author Steven dos Santos about his book THE CULLING, which released on March 8, 2013. Even though I’m not a military person, I found this a quick read as I wanted to find out what would happen to Lucky during the trials and if he’d be able to save his brother Cole. Steven does a fantastic job in making things the worst possible for his main character, Lucky.

Here’s a blurb about THE CULLING from Goodreads:

Recruitment Day is here...if you fail, a loved one will die...

For Lucian “Lucky” Spark, Recruitment Day means the Establishment, a totalitarian government, will force him to become one of five Recruits competing to join the ruthless Imposer task force. Each Recruit participates in increasingly difficult and violent military training for a chance to advance to the next level. Those who fail must choose an “Incentive”—a family member—to be brutally killed. If Lucky fails, he’ll have to choose death for his only living relative: Cole, his four-year-old brother.

Lucky will do everything he can to keep his brother alive, even if it means sacrificing the lives of other Recruits’ loved ones. What Lucky isn’t prepared for is his undeniable attraction to the handsome, rebellious Digory Tycho. While Lucky and Digory train together, their relationship grows. But daring to care for another Recruit in a world where love is used as the ultimate weapon is extremely dangerous. As Lucky soon learns, the consequences can be deadly..

Hi Steven. Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Thanks for having me! I’m originally from NYC but grew up in the South Florida area. I wrote my first “book,” The Enchanted Prince, when I was a 7 year-old at South Beach Elementary School. From that point on I was hooked, and throughout my school experience continued writing stories, poetry, and creating puzzles for the school newspaper.

In Junior High School, I wrote a play, a Whodunit called Murder at Wagner Manor (which featured a fresh take on the butler doing it), and in High School and College, I studied film and television broadcasting and received my Bachelor’s degree from Florida International University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. But as fate would have it, I spent most of my working career in the legal field, even going to law school for a couple of years before coming to terms with the fact it wasn’t for me. I needed a creative outlet and I missed writing. In 2001, a co-worker gave me a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books by Harold D. Underdown and Lynne Rominger, as a Christmas gift, which I still have to this day. She inscribed it “Steven – You Can Do it!” (This Idiot will be eternally grateful!). I was determined to write at least two pages a day minimum. So 10 years, three manuscripts, and plenty of heartache and frustration later, I sold THE CULLING to Flux Books and finally realized my dream of becoming a published author!

2. Awesome, Steven. Being an attorney and looking for a job change next year, you give me hope that my 10 year journey to publication could be realized too. What was the biggest challenge in either the drafting or revising process of THE CULLING and how did you overcome it? What did you learn from it?

I would say my biggest challenge came in the revision process. Originally, the novel was about 520 pages long and 129k words. There was even talk initially by the publisher of splitting the book into two, which I was never keen on as I felt that would severely dilute the impact of the story. So I had to figure out a way to trim almost 40k words and 100 pages and still keep the integrity of the story intact. My editor, Brian Farrey-Latz, was extremely adept at pointing out extraneous material that could be removed without affecting the plot. I actually reworked the entire second act of the novel, streamlined it, and feel it’s much more concise and effective because of it. I definitely learned that even if you’re writing a story in 1st person present tense, there’s nothing wrong with summarizing non-essential events. Writing isn’t like the show “24.” Not every single thing has to occur in real time.

3. I had to learn the power of narration too in cutting abut 20k from my manuscript. That’s so cool that you were able to get a publisher to buy the manuscript with such a high word count. 

You definitely follow the rule about making things as hard as possible for your main character, Lucky. I wonder how you could stand to write some of the scenes where Lucky is going through his horrible training and then the trials just because his world is so cruel. And the choices the recruits are forced to make are absolutely brutal. Was it hard putting Lucky in all these difficult situations and being in this world yourself during the long drafting and revising process?

Great question. Yes, the world Lucky and the rest of these characters live in is extremely bleak and brutal, and there were many times I found myself depressed to be in that place, especially after a long day working the day job and then coming home to write. I would craft these scenes where my characters were essentially forced to make impossible choices and it took its emotional toll as I imagined how it would feel to be them. The idea of being compelled to categorize the people you love into a hierarchy started off as an innocent game when I was a kid and we would jokingly ask “Who do you love more, your mom or your dad?” That type of speculation stayed with me. We would all like to think we love our parents, children, friends, romantic interests in different ways but equally. But the question of what would happen if we were forced to rank their importance and choose who we would spare was both fascinating and horrific. It’s a situation no one would ever want to be in in their worst nightmare—which is why I thought it would make an interesting story.

4. Yeah, you definitely made an interesting story with that question. You’ve done a great job with pacing, upping the stakes, and making the reader want to turn the page. Share your tips on how to do this effectively.

Tension is something I feel is an essential part of story-telling. In THE CULLING, I take this to an extreme because it involves such an extreme situation. Some of the techniques I use include laying out a scenario where the stakes are clear to the reader. Think of it like an intricate house of cards. Then I proceed to pull out the cards one by one, dismantling the character’s hopes and the readers’ expectations by making everything that could possibly go wrong happen. And then, even when the seemingly worst occurs, pulling out that last card until the house collapses. Basically, I want the reader to feel that no one is safe and anything can happen at any time.

5. You’re very talented at making things the worst possible for your characters. Good thing you’ll never have to meet them face to face because they could be really mad at you. One of the things I really liked about THE CULLING was Lucky’s relationship with Digory. It didn’t overtake the story and the fact that Lucky is gay is no big deal in his world. What made you decide to write it this way and why was it important to your story?

Thanks. When I started writing this novel, I didn’t set out to write an issue novel. I wanted to treat the fact that Lucky and Digory are gay as a non-issue, as it is in the lives of real LGBTQ people. They are two people that meet and fall in love, the same as any other couple. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important that there are books out there that deal with the complexities and emotions of coming out, as that is a very difficult process for many. I just feel things have begun to evolve and it’s exciting to have gay characters branch out and be represented across all genres, where being gay is just a part of who they are. That being said, one could make the argument that although the society in THE CULLING doesn’t distinguish between the sexual orientation of its citizens, the story still deals with such issues as hiding who you love in order to protect them and yourself, which is something that a lot of gay people deal with in current society. In any case, despite the growing number of books for young people that feature gay characters, there still aren’t enough titles out there. It’s a little disconcerting to me when I read stories, particularly in the Young Adult post-apocalyptic/dystopian genre that treat LGBTQ people as if they don’t exist, as if they’ve somehow been wiped out in the future.

6. I know what you mean that there needs to be stories about gay characters where being gay is a non-issue. It’s the same with all minority characters. Your agent is Ginger Knowlton. Tell us how she became your agent and what your road to publication was like.

I first met the wonderful Ginger Knowlton in 2009 when she critiqued my manuscript pages at the SCBWI Miami Conference. She liked what she saw and asked me to email her the entire manuscript after the conference, which I did that Monday. By Thursday, she called me up and offered to represent me. Needless to say, I was ecstatic! Within a few weeks I was out on submission and thought it would be only a matter of months before I sold my first manuscript to a publisher. Unfortunately, the manuscript Ginger was submitting, which was called DAGGER, a Young Adult Paranormal/Spy thriller, also featuring a gay male protagonist, never sold. It was during this time that I became aware that having a male protagonist who also happened to be gay, had its own set of unique challenges on the road to publication. I had one industry person tell me that even though they loved my book it wouldn’t sell because I had a gay male protagonist and Young Adult novels were only read by heterosexual females! Despite the obstacles, I forged on and wrote THE CULLING while my other book was still making the rounds. Ginger, ever encouraging, started submitting THE CULLING to publishers in late January of 2011. One publisher even suggested I change the gender of my main character to female to make it more marketable. It was these types of experiences that reinforced just what a dearth there is of Young Adult books featuring gay male protagonist and why it was important that I didn’t give up. Finally, on June 10 of 2011, editor Brian Farrey-Latz of Flux Books (who had come real close to acquiring my previous novel, DAGGER) made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

7. We’d all love to get an agent like you did! Awesome that you stuck to what felt was right. You’re a member of The Lucky 13s (http://thelucky13s.blogspot.com). How has this helped you in the business aspect of writing? Do you recommend we join such a group if we get a book deal?

I would definitely recommend that anyone being published join a group like this. Not only do you get to share in the camaraderie of talented people who know exactly what you are going through, you receive tremendous support, extremely helpful marketing tips, and additional exposure of yourself and your title by being part of a debut group.

8. How are you planning to market your book? Have you found any special niches because of the military and/or gay character aspects of your story?

As far as marketing is concerned, I’m excited because not only do I get too reach out to readers who are fans of post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories, but I also get to reach out to the LGBTQ community who are also looking to find more books with gay characters. So it’s a win-win for everyone.

9. The advice is to tap into your niche in marketing and it sounds like you’ve got that planned out. What are you working on now?

I am currently outlining the second sequel to THE CULLING, Book 3 in The Torch Keeper series, which I will be working on the rest of this year, while also working on revisions for Book 2 which I’m currently awaiting editorial notes on. With the launch of THE CULLING underway, it’s going to be quire the busy year!
Thanks Steven for sharing all your advice. You can find Steven at:


Steve’s publisher, Flux, generously offered a book for 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 March 23rd. I’ll announce the winner on March 25th.

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

Here's what's coming up:

On Wednesday I’m super excited to share THE RUNAWAY KING by Jennifer Nielsen with you. I’ve been dying to read this since I read THE FALSE PRINCE last year, which just made the New York Bestseller list and won the Cybils. THE FALSE PRINCE is one of my all-time favorite books. THE RUNAWAY KING is fantastic and I’ll be doing a giveaway.

Next Monday I'm interviewing debut author Mindee Arnett and giving away a copy of her urban fantasy THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR. I loved the magical world Mindee created that was also grounded in our world. And there's a mystery to be solved, something I always love.

Next Tuesday Maria Dismondy is sharing a Tuesday tip on how to launch a successful book launch and giving away a copy of THE POTATO CHIP CHAMP.

And next Saturday I'm participating in the Kick Butt Characters Book Giveaway Hop. I have lots of great choices for you.

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

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


Donna K. Weaver said...

Holy cow--congrats to all the winners. Makes my head spin to just think about having to keep track of all of them. Go you!

The Culling has a seriously creepy premise.

Linda Gray said...

Congratulations to the winners! And congratulations to Steven on The Culling!

Old Kitty said...

Awwwww I do hope Lucky and Digory's love surpasses all and saves them and little Cole too!! More please - nuff of all this hetero-centred adventure stories!! Yay!!!!

take care

Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats Steven, and kudos to you and your agent for your persistence. It's great to hear your book found a home at Flux.

Lucky me - I won Just One Day! Thanks, Natalie!

LTM said...

woo hoo! Look at all the winners here today! Congrats to them! And congrats to Steven for his new book. It sounds like a great, action-packed adventure. Reminded me a bit of The Hunger Games meets Blade Runner or something... :D Thanks for sharing, and *waves* to Natalie! <3

Stina said...

I'm going to let my 13 year old son know about this book. He loves action-packed adventure from a guy pov. I'm glad you didn't cave in, Steven, and rewrite it from a female perspective.

Barbara Watson said...

Such an intriguing, albeit disturbing, premise.

Martina Boone said...

I love reading about how writers got their start. Congrats to Steve, for the persistence and success! I need to add this one to my list. It sounds awesome, and I love that I can recommend it to readers who are looking for action-packed adventures.

Steven dos Santos said...

Thanks for interviewing me, Natalie! And thank you all for the very supportive comments :-)

Good look to everyone entering the Giveaway!

Jessie Humphries said...

I love how persistent you were, Steven. After all those years, and manuscripts, even the one that came so close...you wrote another! That is so inspirational.

Jess said...

Thanks for the interview! I love hearing about success stories~ Steven's persistence (and willingness to shave down his word count!) is fabulous inspiration for those of us chasing the publishing dream :) And the story sounds amazingly intense. I bet fans of The Hunger Games will love this novel!

cleemckenzie said...

So many winners of so many books! Congrats to all.

Thanks for introducing Culling and the author to us today.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Congratulations, Steven - and to all of the winners! That includes everyone here at Literary Rambles.

Unknown said...

I have to echo the comments above and say that I too love hearing publishing success stories, especially in today's challenging economic climate. Thanks to Steven for his insights on the road to success... and congrats on The Culling. I'm looking forward to reading it!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Whoa, that cover looks intense! This is my favorite kind of post. Hearing the success stories of authors NEVER gets old. :)

Joanne R. Fritz said...

First, congrats to all those lucky winners!

I've heard of this book. It sounds so exciting. Thanks for the chance to win.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Steven, congrats on your book release! And congrats on learning the value of streamlining your book by cutting those non-essentials! That's a lesson I've learned only gradually, and I still write "fat" and bring out the Grim Reaper robe and the word scythe later.

Nicki Elson said...

Congrats to Steven - that was a great, insightful interview. Love that Steven has an agent who didn't demand he bend to fit inside the narrowly defined boxes publishers draw. Here's hoping you prove 'em all wrong and have a best seller!

Lydia Kang said...

As a fellow Lucky13, it's been wonderful getting to know Steven. He's a wonderful person and a talented writer!

DMS said...

Congrat to all of the winners! WOW! I saw a Jess on there- but I don't think it was me (I have entered a lot of the contests on your blog, but I know Jess is a common name). :)

This interview was fascinating. How awesome that a co-worker gave him a book that helped him start writing and that he stuck with it. Thanks for the giveaway. :)

I am an old follower.

Katia said...

Congrats and I will be putting this book on the top of my list.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Congrats to all the winners.

Good luck Steven. The Culling sounds super.

Carina Olsen said...

Congrats to all the winners :D *Jealous* <3 You always have so many amazing contests :) <3 This post is amazing! I would love to win a copy of this book :) It seems pretty great ;p Thank you for the chance. <3
Love, Carina

AdriAnne said...

The Culling sounds amazing--I can't wait to read it! It would also be awesome to win a copy. :)

I tweeted about the contest! (https://twitter.com/adriannems/status/315603793431650304)

Thanks for the great giveaway!