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 start to Fall. I can't believe the summer is over.

I have a few things before I get to our fantastic interview.

First I finally joined Twitter. I said I would before tomorrow's post (see in the What's Coming Up section) and I just did it Saturday.  It'll take me awhile to get the hang of it all. So follow me @NatalieIAguirre and I'll follow you back.

Grammarly generously offered me a $100 Amazon Gift Card in exchange for posting what's below. I appreciate the offer because it will be used for my book giveaways here. So here it is: I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because I can use all the help I can get with grammar. Wish I had paid more attention to grammar when I was in school. 

Next I have a few winners to announce. 

The winner of START YOUR NOVEL is Lexa Cain!

The winner of ICONS is Medeia Shariff!

The winner of THE TESTING is Morgan @Remembered Deservedly!

The winner of DECEPTION is Jill the Owl!


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.

Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Caroline Carlson here today to share about her new book, MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, which releases tomorrow. This was my first pirate story and I really enjoyed it. Caroline does a great job combining a fast paced adventure story with some elements of magic. And I loved Hilary from the beginning of the story when she wanted to be a pirate and not have to go to Miss Pimm’s School for Delicate Ladies. Who wouldn’t sympathize with that?

I accidentally left the ARC of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT at Anna Li’s championship swim meet and am excited my library just bought it so I can finish it. I can’t wait!

Here’s a description from Goodreads:

Pirates! Magic! Treasure! A gargoyle? Caroline Carlson's hilarious tween novel The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot is perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society.

Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors, and she already owns a rather pointy sword.

There's only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.

But Hilary is not the kind of girl to take no for answer. To escape a life of petticoats and politeness at her stuffy finishing school, Hilary sets out in search of her own seaworthy adventure, where she gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn't exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas.

Written with uproarious wit and an inviting storyteller tone, the first book in Caroline Carlson's quirky seafaring series is a piratical tale like no other.

Hi Caroline. Thanks so much for joining us.

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

First of all, thanks so much for having me! I love Literary Rambles and found it to be a wonderful resource when I was starting my agent search.

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I learned to read. Growing up, it seemed to me that writing books for a living would be pretty similar to reading books for a living, which would be my dream job if it actually existed. (It turns out, of course, that writing books requires a little more work than reading them.) I took several creative writing workshops in high school and college, which forced me to stop daydreaming about what life as a writer would be like and produce actual writing instead! They also taught me about rejection: When I wasn’t accepted into a fiction workshop, I was devastated and thought I could never have a career as a writer if I couldn’t even make it into a college writing workshop. I ended up in a poetry workshop instead, however, which was one of the best things that’s ever happened to my writing. Reading and writing piles of poetry for four years straight taught me an immense amount about writing fiction—how to choose the right words, how to pack a lot of power into a small space, how to critique and how to revise.

After college, I worked for a while in educational publishing, writing and editing textbooks and assessments for students. I didn’t get to do a lot of creative writing during that time, but I did learn a lot about the mechanics of the publishing business from an editor’s perspective. Then, when I realized that my own writing had fallen by the wayside, I enrolled in Vermont College of Fine Arts’ low-residency MFA program in writing for children and young adults. For two years, I worked four days a week at my day job and three days a week on my MFA coursework, and I was happier than I’d been in years. I wrote the first draft of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT during my time at VCFA, and it sold a few months after graduation.

2. How interesting that you started out in the poetry program. And you’ve committed a lot of time to learning the craft of writing and the business aspect of writing. Hilary has a great voice as do all the secondary characters like her governess, her two friends Charlie and Claire, and the gargoyle. The gargoyle was such a cool addition, BTW. What was your process like in creating your characters’ voices and what tips do you have for the rest of us?

Voice is a tricky thing for me to talk about because it’s not something that I usually focus on consciously.
The best advice I can give is to know each of your characters inside out, even the ones who don’t have major roles in your story. When you know a lot about a character’s personality, her background, her interests, and her hopes and fears, it becomes a lot easier to imagine how she might speak and what she might say. Some of my characters do have unique speech patterns or a fondness for certain words, and I try to keep track of each character’s verbal quirks as I write. I also do quite a bit of revising to make sure each character’s voice is consistent, since some voices come more naturally to me than others. For example, I had to do a lot of work to find Charlie’s voice, but the gargoyle’s voice was strong and distinctive from the very first draft.

3. That’s great advice to do a revision focusing on your characters’ voices. One of the things I found you did well was to incorporate regulatory forms with information you wanted the reader to know that Hilary didn’t know and letters sent to and from Hilary. Did you always include them in the story or did you decide to use them later? Did you face any challenges in including them and how did you overcome them?

I’m glad you liked the document excerpts! They actually started out as an experiment. I’d been re-reading one of my favorite books, FEELING SORRY FOR CELIA by Jaclyn Moriarty, and I admired Moriarty’s talent for telling a hilarious story entirely through letters and snippets of documents. I wanted to try the technique for myself, but I wasn’t sure I could sustain an entire story through documents alone, so I decided to use letters, forms, and newspaper clippings to supplement a more traditional third-person narrative. The documents were lots of fun to write, and my early readers seemed to like them, too, so I decided to keep them in the book.

The documents in my book appear between chapters, which means that they can potentially slow down the pace of the story or break the narrative tension. To minimize these problems, I tried to make sure that every document provided essential information and that the information was included in the most logical place in the story. Many of the documents in the first half of the book contain backstory to help readers understand what’s going on in the fictional world, but as the story tensions rise and the pace picks up, the documents become tools that raise the stakes for the characters. They also become a little less frequent and a little shorter.

4. Wow! Your experiment worked really well. And you really paid attention to the details of using these documents. Did you need to do any research into living on sea or the pirate’s life in writing this? If so, what research sources did you find helpful?

Since my pirates are descended from fictional pirates like the ones in TREASURE ISLAND, they don’t have much in common with real-life historical or contemporary pirates. I did read a few books about historical piracy, which assured me that real pirates didn’t bury treasure or create elaborate treasure maps with Xs to mark the spot. Oh well. (I did brush up on my fictional pirate history by reading TREASURE ISLAND and watching MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND, though.)

I also did some research about old-fashioned sailing ships, and I did a lot of reading about life in Victorian England. My book takes place in a fictional kingdom, but the setting has a distinct Victorian flavor, so I wanted to make sure that none of the details in my book would be completely out of place in the late 1800s. WHAT JANE AUSTEN ATE AND CHARLES DICKENS KNEW by Daniel Pool is a great resource for learning about the ins and outs of 19th-century English life.

5. I’ve heard other people recommend this book. I’ll have to check it out. I read one of your blog posts where you talk about what you’ve learned from writing a sequel? Can you share a bit about what you’ve learned?

The main thing I’ve learned is that writing a second book is no easier than writing a first book. Each book comes with its own share of craft-related and psychological challenges, and no matter how much you’ve learned from your previous writing experiences, you’ll always have more to learn. I’m very happy with how the second book in the VNHLP series has turned out, but I didn’t expect that I would have to wrestle with it quite so much along the way!

6. Don’t feel bad. Most people say the second book is challenging. It makes me nervous thinking of writing a trilogy. But I have faith I’ll figure it out like everyone else. Your agent is Sarah Davies. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I was incredibly lucky to have a smooth road to publication. I didn’t query the first manuscript I wrote, or the second or the third; those stories are all sitting in drawers, and they probably won’t ever see the light of day. Instead, I waited until I had a book that I felt really confident about. Then I did a ton of agent research, talking with author friends about their agents and poring over reference websites like Literary Rambles. My plan was to query agents in small batches, so I began by querying the top three agents on my list—I figured I might as well go big or go home! Sarah was one of those three agents, and I was delighted to accept her offer of representation. We went on submission to editors a couple of weeks later, and MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT sold in a preempt to Harper Children’s on Halloween 2011. (When Sarah called to tell me the book had sold, I was dressed as a penguin. Sarah said something like, “Harper is going to buy your book!” and I said, “I’m dressed as a penguin!” Not quite how I’d imagined “the call” would go, but wonderful nonetheless.)

7. That’s a pretty amazing road to publication story. And it all went so fast. I read that you went to BEA and that your book was picked as one of the BEA Buzz Books. Congrats! Share what it was like to go to BEA. Has being a BEA Buzz Book helped get the word out about your book?

BEA was thrilling and completely overwhelming. I was thoroughly flattered to have MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT chosen as a buzz book because I know how many excellent novels come out each year, and I could hardly believe that booksellers had chosen mine to highlight. Then I realized that I would have to say actual words in front of actual people. Since I’m a full-time writer and an introvert, I hardly ever talk to anyone! On top of that, I’d never been to a book convention before. Let’s just say I was a little bit nervous. But I managed to pull off my appearance on the middle grade authors’ panel without keeling over onto the other authors, and everyone was ridiculously nice. I loved meeting my fellow buzz panelists and hearing about their books. There was an editors’ panel, too, where my fantastic editor, Toni Markiet, said some lovely things about my book and sent me floating up to Cloud 9 for the rest of the day. I also got to sign ARCs for lots of wonderful convention-goers, and I only misspelled my own name once. I was really happy to be able to meet booksellers, librarians, and readers who love books as much as I do, and who work incredibly hard to get good books into the hands of young readers.

8. I would have been more than a little nervous. How are you planning to spread the word about your book through social media? What tips do you have for the rest of us?

I’m pretty active on Twitter and Facebook, and I have a newly designed author website that houses my sorely neglected blog. In general, I’m sticking to the areas of social media that I feel most comfortable with and trying not to let promotion suck up too much of my time (or my soul). One of the best things I did as a new author was to join a debut group, the Lucky 13s. My fellow Luckies have been a great source of support over the past couple of years, and we all work together to promote each other’s books.

I like social media best when I’m chatting with old friends and making new ones. I am not all that fond of talking about myself or my book, but I do love talking to other writers and readers, so that’s most of what I do online these days.

9. Yes, I think joining a debut author group would be really helpful. I’ll have to check out what you’re doing on Twitter (I just joined!) and Facebook. What are you working on now?

I sent the final draft of the second book in the VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES series to my editor last month; it should be out in the fall of 2014. And I’m just starting to write the final book in the trilogy.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Caroline. You can find Caroline at

Since I lost the ARC of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT that Caroline and her publisher, Harper Children, provided, I’m offering a giveaway of a print version of it to U.S. residents and an e-book copy to International followers. o 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 September 21st. I’ll announce the winner on September 23rd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter. International entries are welcome.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the rest of the bloggers featuring middle grade books HERE.

Here’s what’s coming up:

Tomorrow I’ll have a special Tuesday tip interview with Daniel Alexander who is the 20-year old author of two books and a new picture book, A SWIM THROUGH SPACE, which he’s offering for a giveaway. He has 28,000 Twitter followers and he’s going to share some advice on Twitter. I’m really excited for the tips because I’m not sure exactly what to do on Twitter and I’ve heard this from a number of writers.

On Wednesday, I’ve got a guest post by John Lewis, the co-author of The Grey Griffins series, who is doing a kickstarter campaign to publish a fantastic anthology with the proceeds going to breast cancer research. And there will be a giveaway.

Next Monday I’m interviewing Alex Cavanaugh, one of our followers, and giving away ARCs of CASSAFIRE and CASSASTORM. This is an interesting Sci-fi series that takes Bryon from a young adult into adulthood. I don’t spotlight adult books but I’m a big following and fan of Alex and this is the last book in his series. And he’s a very successful blogger and will be sharing blogging advice with us. In these times when some writers seem to be tiring of blogging, I really feel it’s important to help each other invigorate our blogs and support each other by continuing to follow each other.

Next Wednesday I’m interviewing another follower, debut author Christina Lee, and giving away an e-book of her new fantastic adult novel, ALL OF YOU, a contemporary romantic story with great characters.

Next Friday I’m doing the Stuck In A Good Book Giveaway Hop. I’ll have lots of great choices for you to pick from.

The following Monday I’m interviewing debut author Peggy Eddleman and giving away an ARC of SKY JUMPERS, her fantastic upper grade middle grade post- apocalyptic story. I haven’t seen any post-apocalyptic middle grade stories and I really enjoyed reading about Hope, a girl who thinks she has no talents because she’s not good at inventing like everyone else in her small town.

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

Hope to see you tomorrow!


Beth said...

Congratulations to the winners. And it's so nice to have you on Twitter, Natalie! I don't spend a lot of time there, but it's nice to have.
And this book? Sounds so charming, it makes me wish I was a kid again!

Old Kitty said...

Oh wow - loved that the gargoyle has a voice too!! Brilliant!
All the best Caroline! Hilary sounds like a most worthy pirate and heroine! Yay! Take care

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed the interview. Would love to read the book. Congratulations Caroline on all your writing success.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Excellent interview! I got to read this book as an ARC, and LOVED it. Can't recommend it enough!

Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats to Caroline! Her books sounds like so much fun, and my 11 year old would love it. Caroline was the copy editor for a story of mine in Hunger Mountain, and I've been waiting for her book every since!

Caroline Carlson said...

Thank you so much, Natalie, for hosting me today! (And hi to Peggy and Kristin--both excellent writers!)

Angela Brown said...

Many well wishes for Caroline and for this publication, along with others to come.

I enjoyed the interview and getting to know more of the behind-the-scene road map of getting to this point. It's always interesting because the journeys are so different.

Linda Gray said...

The book sounds wonderful! So great to have fun things to read.

Karen Lange said...

Congrats to Caroline! It's nice to learn more about her book. Thanks for the info! :)

Lydia Kang said...

Can't wait to read this! Caroline is such a sweet author. :)

Reader said...

Wow, this book sounds incredible. Would love love to win it! Very much amazed by Caroline also...she appears SO young and has accomplished so much!
Wondering what the word count/page number of this novel is? Just curious. Anyway, looks great and thanks for the great interview and giveaway!


Barbara Watson said...

I've been hearing about this one for awhile (pre-release even!), so I'd love to win the copy. Thanks for the chance. Now, I'm off to find you on Twitter! So glad you're there!

jpetroroy said...

This looks so, so fun. I love pirate stories!

Jessie Humphries said...

Yay, Caroline! This is a fabulous interview. It's so nice to get to know you better. I can't wait to pick up a copy and maybe even have you sign it in Feb. at the GHL retreat? You've done a really great job on publicity btw, I've seen your title everywhere :)

S.P. Bowers said...

This book is definitely going on the TBR list! You can't go wrong with pirates and I love gargoyles. I so want one of my own.

Great interview!

Joanne R. Fritz said...

I've been wanting to read this book ever since I heard about it months and months ago! Pirates are always fun. And the book has a strong female protagonist to boot.

Fun interview, Natalie. I love that Caroline comes across as so modest, despite such success.

I tweeted! https://twitter.com/JoanneRFritz/status/377174055670931456

Caroline Carlson said...

Thanks so much for the lovely comments, everyone. I hope you enjoy the book!

And Jill, it's about 368 pages--75k words. Heavy enough to use as a paperweight, but not so heavy you'll strain your back.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Caroline for the advice on voice and for all your detailed and gracious answers to this interview. Your book is high on my list and I can't wait for my library to make copies available.
Thank you Natalie for the interview and giveaway. :)


Anonymous said...

And I shared the giveaway on twitter:

Anonymous said...

Fun interview--thanks. I wish I knew grammar rules better as well, but I don't think it's ever too late to learn! Will look for you on Twitter.

Rosi said...

What a wonderful, rich interview. Thanks to you both. This books sounds like one I will definitely have to check out. Thanks for all the great tips and for a chance to win.

Eisen said...

Thanks for the giveaway and for following me back on twitter! The book sounds fun! I also tweeted it here:

Brenda said...

Love the cover and pirates with gargoyles, yep sounds like it will hit the spot.. Great interview Natalie and welcome to twitter. I also tweeted https://mobile.twitter.com/LogCabinLibrary/status/377248519989374976

Liz said...

Really nice interview and I would love to read a book about Victorian Pirates!

Danielle H. said...

Thank you for the interview. I know what you mean about poetry skills helping you find the right words and making every word count. Your book sounds fun and I can't wait to read it! Here's hoping I win (I'll share with my 11 year old too). Putting a post on Facebook.

ro said...

Loved this interview. Just checked out Caroline's website - which look great- and am off to to get her book. Thanks.

Dana Carey said...

Great interview and advice on voice. Book sounds fun. Can't wait to read it.

Barbara Watson said...

Oops. I guess this was all pre-release since the book came out today. My mistake. :-)

Teresa Robeson said...

I'm so excited about winning Itch! Thank you! :)

And huge congratulations to Caroline on her debut novel; it sounds like a super fun read!

Julie DeGuia said...

Great interview and congrats to Caroline on the release of her book! It sounds like a fun adventure. And thanks for the chance to win!

Julie DeGuia said...

Great interview and congrats to Caroline on the release of her book! It sounds like a fun adventure. And thanks for the chance to win!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Congratulations to the winners. Magic Marks the Spot sounds great. I especially like the sound of its bold female protagonist. A girl wanting to join Pirates, definitely my kind of a book.

Martina Boone said...

Love the tips about doing a revision based on the characters voices! As always, a fantastic interview.

Jasmine Stairs said...

This is a really interesting interview, and I'm really looking forward to this book! :D The use of documents in the text sounds really well done. (Wow, can you tell I'm reading blogs before coffee in the morning.) But despite my terrible comment, I think I'm bookmarking this interview to refer back to.

I'm a follower...

Ginger Johnson said...

I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of this! I've been looking forward to it for ages...

Michael G-G said...

Cannot wait to read this book!!!!

Now off to follow you on Twitter, Natalie.

Emily R. King said...

Another great interview! This book just sounds fun. The title says it all. I follow Caroline on Twitter. She's wonderful. Thanks for the giveaway!

erittelking at gmail dot com

Bryann James Almeda said...

I really want this book! wow!
Im from the Philippines! :D