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.


Hi Everyone! I have very sad news. My sweet husband Rudy left us on Friday. He went into cardiac arrest on Monday and had open heart surgery. With all his lung problems, I did not expect him to survive the surgery, but he hung on for a few days. We found out on Friday he had no brain activity so I let him go like he wanted me to do. Anna Li, his parents, and I were with him when he left peacefully.

My heart is breaking, but I must be strong for Anna Li. And she is being strong too.

Besides keeping me in your thoughts, you can be my friend by stopping by and commenting on my posts to support the authors I'm featuring these next few weeks when I will be mostly off line as I deal with everything I need to take care of right now. I have cancelled some of the posts but didn't want to cancel them all. I appreciate your friendship and support through this difficult time.

And please support Maureen today. It is hard having to share my sad news with her post but I knew it was the best way I could let most of my followers and friends know what has happened.

In case you missed it, as part of a debut MG author Skilar Brown's guest post with her agent Tina Wexler on revisions on Wednesday, April 16th, Tina Wexler is offering a query contest. One winner will receive a query critique from her. So get your queries ready. So excited to offer this for you all.

I will hold off announcing any winners of contests until next week. 


Carol Riggs sold her YA novel THE BODY INSTITUTE to Strange Chemistry. Publication is set for January 2015. Go HERE to congratulate her. So excited for Carol!

Today I’m excited to have Maureen McQuerry here to share about her new MG fantasy, BEYOND THE DOOR that released on March 22, 2014. This sounds like a fantastic story blending fantasy and mythology and it’s gotten great reviews on Goodreads. I’m hoping to get a chance to read it. Maureen is also the author of THE PECULIARS, a YA steampunk fantasy.

Here’s a blurb from Amazon:

Beyond the Door, the first in the Time Out of Time duet from Maureen Doyle McQuerry, weaves a compelling coming-of-age story with fantasy and mythology. With his love of learning and the game of Scrabble, Timothy James feels like the only person who understands him is his older sister, Sarah, and he’s fairly certain nothing interesting will ever happen to him. But one night, while his parents and sister are away, the door opens, and mythical creatures appear in his own living room! Soon, a mystery of unparalleled proportions begins to unfold, revealing an age-old battle of Light against Dark, and Timothy must embark on a quest to prevent the Dark from controlling the future and changing the past. But he can’t complete the quest alone. Timothy has to team up with his sister and the school bully, Jessica, to face an ancient evil, and in the process, this unlikely trio discover they are each more than meets the eye.

Hi Maureen! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I’m one of those people who always wanted to be a writer. I was an only child and many of my best friends were in books. In high school I fell in love with poetry and began reading a wide range of poets. In college I was an English writing major, but I went to grad school in education because I was worried about getting a “real” job. I kept writing and began submitting to literary journals which I did successfully for many years, but I never lost the dream of writing a novel. As my own children got older, I thought it’s now or never and I plunged into Beyond the Door.

So you can say I honed my writing skills through poetry. Poetry taught me about the importance of word choice, sound, evoking atmosphere, adding layers, but it didn’t prepare me for plot, tension and pacing. Beautiful sentences do not a story make. I still had much to learn when I started writing novels, and I consider myself lucky that I met people who could help me with that.

2. Books were my friends as a kid too, but I never considered writing. Wish I had. Where did you get the idea for your story and what made you decide to write a middle grade story?

The story began with the character of the Greenman. We had visited Oxford, England and I found myself in a very old church staring up into the face of a carving with leaves for hair and vines sprouting from his nose and mouth. Then I did what writers always do, I asked what if. What if I was turning into a tree? At that point I knew my story had entered the realm of myth.

I was working with middle school students at the time. I knew how much they loved fantasy and that so many of the really bright kids I worked with longed for a protagonist they could identify with. So Timothy became the first protagonist in the novel and then his sister Sarah appeared. Middle school can be a harsh place and kids often cloak their intelligence. Timothy and Jessica deal with that reality in different ways. She hides who she is while Timothy is an outcast because he doesn’t try or know how to fit in.

3. So awesome how your story clicked for you with that one image. I’ve read that this is a combination of fantasy and mythology. Share about the mythology of your story and any research you had to do for it.

After discovering the Greenman, I did quite a bit of research about the history of greenmen. As a reader,
I’ve always been drawn to stories that incorporate myth and fairy tales. See my post about Why Myth Matters. I’m a huge fan of the Inklings. I researched Celtic mythology and decided I wanted to include characters based on the mythology of Ireland and Great Britain. As I mention in the historical note at the end of Book II The Telling Stone… in my books, I have used identities from Celtic, Welsh and British mythology for some of my characters, and kept many of their mythological character traits. However, I have also ignored other traits that did not fit my story. So the characters aren’t completely true to their mythology, but none of the characters are completely foreign to it either.

4. I love that you can pull what you want from myths and create what you want with a fantasy. And I love those Celtic, Welsh, and British myths too. Getting the voice of a middle grade boy can be hard. How did you get the voice of Timothy, your main character, right and what tips do you have for the rest of us on getting our middle grade character’s voice right?

I taught middle school and high school for many years, so I was surrounded by the voices of MG readers. When I wrote the first draft of BTD, my son was in high school. We were the house where all the kids hung out. I listened. A lot. High school voices are different, but I was able to recall all of them in middle school, their quirky sense of humor, insecurities, dreams and surprising insights. I coordinated a program for gifted Middle School students for several years and am very aware of their particular struggles. They were my audience as I wrote.

I think voice keeps people reading. I am always learning more about voice by reading widely, practicing with different POVs and listening carefully to my very honest critique group. They tell me when I’m off.

5. Great tips. Even if we don’t have kids to listen to, reading MG stories widely can help us get the voice right. Share a struggle you had craft-wise—setting, character development, plot, etc.—in writing BEYONE THE DOOR and how you overcame it.

Beyond the Door involved taking two manuscripts, and fitting them together into one. That meant getting rid of some scenes and rewriting others. I could talk about so many things I learned in the process, but one important lesson was keeping tension in every scene. Every scene is a power struggle. Who has the power, who wants the power, does the power transfer by the end of the scene or not? This doesn’t always mean physical power. It can be very subtle, but it must be there. It may mean a character withholding information, asking all the questions or making the decisions. Even dialogue is a jockeying for power as well as a way to make connections. This struggle for power keeps a scene dynamic. It keeps characters off balance. The power struggle makes readers want to keep reading to see how it will be resolved. If a scene doesn’t live up to that standard, it has to be rewritten or eliminated.

6. That’s a powerful lesson about tension. I had to cut a number of scenes in my own first manuscript that didn’t live up to that standard. What was your road to publication like?

For Beyond the Door, the process was very long! I originally sold the manuscript to a small literary press, Idylls, before I even had an agent. This was in 2008, I think. Because the press was very small, they couldn’t do much in the way of distribution and marketing. At the same time I was working on a historical manuscript. These two things, having a novel published by a small press and another manuscript almost complete were enough to catch the eye of my agent, Sandra Bishop. She eventually helped me find a larger publisher for my work, Abrams/Amulet. Idylls graciously said they’d love me to have a bigger audience.

7. That’s great that your small press publisher was willing to let you go with a bigger publisher. How is your marketing different for BEYOND THE DOOR versus your YA story? What tips do you have for the rest of us?

I actually met with three groups of 6th, 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school and asked them how they decide what books they want to read. The number one answer was recommendations from friends, teachers and school librarians. Most MG readers are not on social media. This is very different than marketing to YA’s who have a large social media presence. Marketing to MG means marketing to the “gatekeepers” in their lives: parents, teachers, and librarians. It also means that school visits are a great way to reach MG readers. Free Skype visits offered to classes that read your books are another way to meet your readers. And of course writing a story they love enough to spread word of mouth.

8. So true that we have to reach the gatekeepers for middle grade readers. What are you working on now?

I have a YA SciFi romance/adventure, that is set in a near future Seattle being shopped and am finishing a historical novel set in 1919 NY, 1955 California. There are also excerpts from Hansel and Gretel in the story. I never stray too far from myth and fairytales.

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

She’s also a frequent blogger on http://adr3nalin3.blogspot.com/

Maureen’s publisher Abrams/Amulet has generously offered a copy of BEYOND THE DOOR 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 through April 12th. I’ll announce the winner on April 14th. 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. This is for US only.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find all the other blogs participating this week HERE.

Here’s what’s coming up:

Wednesday Louise Caiola will be here sharing a guest post on writing new adult fiction with a giveaway of THE MAKING OF NEBRASKA BROWN, a NA story about a girl who must reclaim her memory that has gotten fantastic reviews.

Next Monday I have an interview with debut author Katherine Ewell and a giveaway of DEAR KILLER, her contemporary story about a teenage girl who’s a serial killer. Katherine wrote this when she was 17 and it’s one of the most different books I’ve ever read that keeps you thinking.

And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you tomorrow!


Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you have a great start of the week. I just finished my four weekend project of cleaning my basement. I didn't get rid of everything I wanted but it feels so good to see space on the shelves and see my floor again without a bunch of junk all over the place. And after this week at work, things should settle down a bit.

I've got some exciting news! As part of a debut MG author Skilar Brown's guest post with her agent Tina Wexler on revisions on Wednesday, April 16th, Tina Wexler is offering a query contest. One winner will receive a query critique from her. The winner will be selected by random.org. So get your queries ready. So excited to offer this for you all.


Marcy Hatch's first book, WEST OF PARADISE, releases tomorrow. Here's a little blurb:

When Jack McCabe gets the opportunity to go back in time, he jumps at it; it's
the adventure he always dreamed of - until he meets a beautiful but
deadly train robber. Katherine Kennedy can't believe an ignorant bounty
hunter has mistaken her for a criminal – until she sees the picture, which
looks exactly like her. Neither of them can imagine how the past has a way
of catching up with the present.

Go HERE to find out more. Congrats, Marcy!

Next I have two winners to announce.

The winner of my Lucky is Reading Giveaway Hop is Diah Didi who selected ALIENATED!

And the winner of GUILDED is Kristina Vallaste!

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

Today I’m excited to have Elle Cosimano here to share about her debut YA thriller NEARLY GONE that releases tomorrow. This sounds like a fantastic crime thriller that I’m looking forward to reading.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Bones meets Fringe in a big, dark, scary, brilliantly-plotted urban thriller that will leave you guessing until the very end.

Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother's job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone's skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn't trust: the new guy at school—a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance. . . on her.

Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn't figure it all out soon—she'll be next.

Hi Elle! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I wanted to be a biologist, but after three failed years in the hard sciences, I conceded defeat to the Gods of Math and successfully graduated with a liberal arts degree in psychology. I fumbled for a while after college, and finally settled into a long and profitable career in real estate, which I wouldn’t realize until fourteen years later, was deeply unsatisfying. I joked to my colleagues that one day I would have a midlife crisis and leave work to write a novel. I did just that in the summer of 2010, when I took a two-month sabbatical from work to write NEARLY GONE. I never went back.

2. Funny that you joked about it and then did it. Where did you get the idea for your story?

The idea for the mystery came from watching a co-worker read the personal ads at work. She was in the middle of a painful divorce, and she spent her free time making fun of the Missed Connections ads in the local paper. But when she thought she was alone, I couldn’t help but notice how lonely she looked while reading those ads. Like she was hoping that one of them might be searching for her. Nearly Boswell’s character grew from that image, of a lonely woman who was too ashamed to admit that she yearned not to be. And from there, both the character and the mystery were born.

3. That’s a cool way to come up with a story idea. And show how ideas are all around us if we look. I read that you did a lot of research for NEARLY GONE. Share a bit about it and any advice you have for other authors on research for a crime thriller.

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty! It’s so easy (and tempting) to stay home and do all our research
online. Google is safe. Wikipedia is thorough. Online means we don’t have to put ourselves out there and ask questions that make us feel naïve or foolish. I did a lot of my research for book 1 online… probably too much… and it wasn’t until I started to get out of my own head and in front of real people – standing in real places and asking real questions (yes, even the foolish ones) – that I really started to grasp the joy of it. Research is FUN! It’s the frosting! It’s the difference between having to write what we know, and being able to truly know what we write. My advice? Pick up the phone, or drop someone an email. Take a tour, make an appointment, ask permission to audit that class you wish you’d taken. Most people are THRILLED for the chance to help an author write a book.

4. That’s great advice to contact people when you need to for hands on advice. Because this is a thriller, the plot has to keep moving and raising the stakes is important. What did you learn about plotting out a thriller from writing this?

I learned that tension has to come from every direction. It has to be internal, as well as external. It has to be counterbalanced by the desires and needs of an antagonist with his/her own internal and external tensions. It has to be tested by the needs and desires of love interests and friends and red herrings, each with their own internal and external tensions. And I learned that to dig deep enough to find and reveal all these taut threads, I had to give myself permission not to hold back.

5. Awesome advice. Nearly sounds like a fantastic character with secrets to hide. Share a bit about her and what her character development was like for you.

Nearly wasn’t always named so. She had a different name. Maybe a more normal one. But when I sat down and thought through her character – who she was and how she felt about herself – the words almost, just about, and nearly kept coming up over and over again. Nearly had a beautiful ring to it, and a heartbreaking connotation that made me feel for her. Because, let’s face it, we’ve all felt nearly at some point in our lives. We all long to be whole, we all want to be enough, we want to exceed someone else’s dreams and expectations. And so her name began to shape the rest of her character. “Nearly”, and her vehement rejection of her own name, became the microscope through which I began to understand her motivations and self-doubts.

6. Yes, we’ve all been at that “nearly” stage at times in our lives. Your agent is Sarah Davies. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

I queried Sarah in the usual fashion, and she pulled me from her slush-pile. I had never met her, but I’d done my homework and I knew she was high on my list of dream agents. Sarah read quickly, and offered representation within a week. But she was clear that the manuscript needed work. A lot of work. It needed a full re-imagining. I spent the next year re-writing NEARLY GONE. Twice. After a third deep revision, Sarah declared it was ready, and we went on submission right before the winter holidays in 2011. Kathy Dawson at Dial/Penguin pre-empted a deal for the book, plus a sequel, in the early weeks of 2012. Since then, my editor started her very own imprint at Penguin, and NEARLY GONE has been included in the inaugural launch list for Kathy Dawson Books.

7. That must have been a great experience editing your book with Sarah’s advice. How are you planning to market your book? What advice do you have for the rest of us on what to do market-wise in the year leading up to a book release?

So much of the debut experience is trial by fire. There is no Debut Year For Dummies manual. The best thing I ever did was to spend my debut lead-in time building relationships and supporting other authors. I cultivated exceptional critique partners, became involved in several debut online communities, attended retreats and professional events, and I had a lot of great conversations with people who knew more than I did. Then I shared that knowledge with those who were a few steps behind me. We are so lucky to have such a supportive and open writing community in kidlit. The debut year does not have to be a lonely one, and there’s great advice all around us.

8. I’ve heard many debut authors mention the importance of connection with other writers. What are you working on now?

I just wrapped up the first draft of the sequel to NEARLY GONE. NEARLY LOST (working title) is scheduled to release in 2015. I’ve also completed a separate book I’m super-excited about. It will appeal to fans of NEARLY GONE, but it’s too soon to share details yet.

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

Elle has generously donated a copy of NEARLY GONE 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 through April 5th. I’ll announce the winner on April 7th. 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.

Here’s what’s coming up:

On Wednesday I’ve got a guest post by MG Buehrlen and giveaway of her YA novel THE 57 LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE about a girl who has visions of living in times in history. It’s another one I’m hoping to read and MG blogs at YA Book Central, a fantastic blog that helps promote authors and their books.

Next Monday I’m interviewing Maureen McQuerry and giving away a copy of her MG fantasy,
BEYOND THE DOOR. It sounds really good and I hope to read it.

Next Tuesday I’ll be participating in the Fool For Books Giveaway Hop. I’ll have lots of great newly released YA choices and I’m going to add some newer middle grade books as well for my middle grade book lovers.

Next Wednesday Louise Caiola will be here sharing a guest post on writing NA fiction with a giveaway of THE MAKING OF NEBRASKA BROWN, a NA story about a girl who must reclaim her memory that has gotten fantastic reviews.

And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Wednesday!