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.


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!


Janet, said...

First, I am so sorry for the loss of your husband. My prayers are with you. Second, thanks for the great interview with Maureen. It sounds like an exciting book.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Natalie, I'm so sorry to hear about your husband! Take all the time you need.

Maureen, I've been to Oxford - there is so much there that could inspire a story.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Natalie, I am so sorry to hear about your husband. My prayers are with you and your daughter. I just came online today after many days, and the first blog I am visiting is yours. I had been thinking of emailing you, but kept putting it off. I will email you later tonight.

storyqueen said...

Natalie, my thoughts are with you and Anna Li. I am so sorry for your loss.

If there is anything you need, don't hesitate to ask.



Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats to Maureen - thanks for sharing your story with us.

Oh Natalie, I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. Sending lots of love to you and your family.

Amy said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Love and prayers to you.

Beth said...

Natalie, words can't tell you how sorry I am for your loss. I'll be in touch more personally - til then, take care.

Beth said...

Thanks for this interview, Maureen. Like you, I'm drawn to stories that use myth. I'd love to see how you incorporated it in your latest book.

Claire Caterer said...

Maureen, I'm so excited to read your book! It sounds fantastic, especially as I am a big fan of Celtic mythology as well.

Claire Caterer said...

Natalie, I'm so sorry to hear about Rudy. I wasn't aware that he had been struggling with his health. How kind of you to give him the dignified farewell he deserved. I know it doesn't seem "kind" to you--only the right thing to do--but it takes a certain kind of person to do what you've done. I wish you and Anna Li peace and love in this difficult time.

Laurel Garver said...

Natalie: *HUGS* to you. So deeply sorry for your loss. Wishing you and your family comfort and healing

Maureen: I loved hearing how this story was born and appreciated your insight into how tension works in fiction. Great stuff!

Robin said...

Oh, Natalie, I am so sorry. I wish I could bring you dinner and give you good hug. I'm impressed you're blogging at all and will be praying for you and your family. You are one of the kindest bloggers I've been lucky enough to get to "know" in the blogsphere and my heart is aching for you and Anna Li.

Thank you for the interview with Maureen. mythology is always intriguing. I'll be on the lookout for Beyond the Door

Rosalyn said...

Oh, Natalie, I was so sorry to read your news! I can't imagine how difficult this must be for you and your daughter. Absolutely take the time that you need. I'm so impressed that despite everything you are still here (I think I would be holed up in a cave somewhere).

And Maureen's book sounds awesome--I'm a fan of mythological elements in stories, too.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Natalie, I am sorry! Prayers for you and your family and for God to get you through it. Take all the time you need and we are here for you.

Greg Pattridge said...

Stay strong with the help of family and friends. So sorry to hear of your loss.

Thanks for the great interview. It was interesting that poetry was Maureen's gateway to writing. I also like reading about the struggle of other authors as it makes me feel mine aren't so major.

Jessie Humphries said...

Natalie, this is heartbreaking news. I send you all my support and love.
You are still so gracious in the face of adversity. This is a lovely post for Maureen. Xoxo

Angela Brown said...

Thanks so much for sharing about this intriguing story. I enjoy fantasy stories and having them based on myth is icing on the cake :-)

To Natalie, my heart goes out to you and your family. You are all in my thoughts and prayers. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is a unique experience to each individual. May each day, day by day, bring you presence of mind to deal in the best ways you and your family know how.
(((Big Hugs!!)))

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Oh, Natalie... I am so very sorry that you have to deal with this. Prayers for you and Anna Li. You're a trooper to keep up the blog. Take all the time you need. We're here.

Maureen, I love the title of your book! And the fact that it incorporates Celtic, Welsh, and British mythology. My favorite kind. I'd enjoy reading this.

Stasia said...

You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers, Natalie.

Jenni said...

Oh, Natalie, I'm so sorry to hear about your husband. I will be praying for you and your daughter. Please take all the time you need. You give so much to the writing community.
What a wonderful interview with Maureen. This book sounds wonderful--so do the others she's working on.

Ruth Schiffmann said...

So sorry for your loss, Natalie. Glad you, your daughter, and his parents were able to be there with him. Prayers for you all.

Angela said...

Natalie, I'm sorry to hear about your husband....keeping you and Anna Li in prayer.

J Lenni Dorner said...

Big hugs to you in this awful time.

Great point about scenes and conflict. Very fun interview.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Natalie, again I am so very sorry for the burdens that you are facing right now -- so bravely. I hope your family is taking care of you as much as you are taking care of them.

Maureen, congratulations on the release of your book! I've also "borrowed" from Celtic and British mythology and folklore for my upcoming MG book. I did what you did -- kept the elements that worked, ignored the bits that didn't, and added a modern twist. Fun, isn't it?

Charlotte said...

Oh Natalie, I'm so sorry. My heart goes out to you and Anna Li.

Charlotte said...

Great point about MG marketing! And yay for the small publisher for being so gracious!

Christine Rains said...

My sympathy to you and your family, Natalie.

Congratulations to Maureen! Great interview.

Rosi said...

Oh, Natalie, I am so sorry for your loss. I'll keep on reading and commenting if that will help in some way. Please let someone else win this book. My tottering, tottering TBR pile is too daunting right now.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Oh, Natalie. My heart just broke for you and your daughter. I had no idea your husband had health problems. I'm glad you two have each other though.

Maureen, I found you situation of merging two manuscripts intriguing. I have two shorter novels (part of a duology) that I only just wondered if I should merge into a single, longer book. I will have to give this option some thought. Congrats on your release.

Anonymous said...

Natalie, I am thinking of you, sending you prayers. You will get through this difficult time...it will just take time. Thank you for bring us such wonderful authors to read about and learn from.

Maureen...I am so looking forward to reading your book. Have it on my list and this is one gatekeeper who will make sure to share your book!

p.s. I am in Canada, so no entry for me, course I will now buy the book, cause I can!

Denise Covey said...

Natalie, I'm sorry to hear of Rudy's passing. Please take care. Of course I will support your guests. Great interview today with Maureen.

skyduck said...

So sorry about your loss. I know it's hard, but I hope you and family keep strong.

Beyond The Door sound intriguing, I love Irish Mythology! Great interview, Maureen. Glad BTD is finally published in bigger publisher after 6 years passed :D

Susan B James said...

Natalie, my heart and prayers go out to you and your family.
Maureen, I'm a huge fan of mythology and Ive been researching the gaelic ones myself for an adult book I'm working on. I look forward to reading your book. The Gate keepers are definitely the key.

Ann Finkelstein said...

Natalie: I send my deepest sympathies. I'll be keeping you in my thoughts and heart.
Maureen: I look forward to reading Time Out of Time. Thanks for the tips on power struggles.

HeatherCRaglin said...

Natalie, I'm so sorry about your husband. My prayers are with you and your daughter.

Dana Carey said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Natalie. Condolences to you and your family.

Congratulations, Maureen. Looks like a great book.

Danielle H. said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you! I am amazed and inspired by your strength to be able to continue with posting today. The book sounds exciting and thanks for the giveaway. I posted on Facebook. Again, so sorry for your loss.

Rachel said...

Natalie, I am lifting up you and your family in prayer at this difficult time. So so sorry for your loss.

Rachel said...

Natalie, I am lifting up you and your family in prayer at this difficult time. So so sorry for your loss.

Marilyn said...

Natalie, I am so sorry for your loss, and I admire your bravery for sharing your sad news with us. My prayers are with you and your family.

Maureen, I can't wait to read this one! I love books that use mythology and /or fairy tales! Best of luck!

Michael G-G said...

Dear Natalie, I knew Rudy had been suffering with poor health for some time and I am so sorry to hear this sad news. I am keeping you and Anna Li in my heart. Yours, Michael.

Anonymous said...

Maureen: Sounds like the characters will become good book friends to readers.

Natalie: So sorry! Take as much time as you need. Your devoted readers will understand.

Wendy said...

Thanks for sharing your publishing journey with us, Maureen. It's interesting how you think differently about gatekeepers for MG.

Natalie, I was staggered by your news. My thoughts are with you.

Patchi said...

Natalie, I'm so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you and your family.

This was another great interview and the book should be one my son will enjoy.

Lisa Gail Green said...

Natalie, you have my deepest sympathy. I can't even pretend to imagine what you're going through. Know you are in our hearts.

Maureen, Sorry you had to share your good news with tragedy, but I loved the interview and wish you the best with your book!! I have an MGer that might be interested… :D

nutschell said...

Natalie, I am so sorry for your loss. My condolences to you and your family. I can't even begin to imagine just how brave you're being right now. I'm sending you warm thoughts and prayers.

Carl Scott said...

Please accept our condolences on your loss and our best wishes at this difficult time.

I can't imagine how you have the heart to post today but good for you.
Please enter my name in the draw.

I've also tweeted a link to your post: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/451036476835254272
Thank you, all our best.

Unknown said...

Maureen, I thoroughly enjoyed the interview. Thank you for sharing with us.

Natalie, you and your family are in my thoughts.

michelle_willms at yahoo dot com

S.P. Bowers said...

Natalie, I am so so sorry for your loss. My heart is breaking for you. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers and I hope for the best for you and your family in this time of grief.

Maureen, I'll head over to your blog and see you there!

Anonymous said...

Interesting interview, Maureen. Good luck with your book. So sorry to hear about your loss, Natalie.

Nancy said...

Oh dear, Natalie, I am so terribly sorry for your loss! My prayers are with you and your family. I can't even imagine how difficult this must be for all of you.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts during this difficult time.

Jocelyn Rish said...

Natalie, I am so sorry for your loss. I'm thinking of you and your family and sending warm thoughts and heartfelt virtual hugs.

Maureen, congrats on the release of your book. I love the fun adventures conveyed by the cover.

Stephanie Garber said...

Natalie, I am so very sorry about the passing of your husband. You will and your daughter will be in my prayers.

Maureen, congrats on your book, and great interview! I found it especially interesting that your small press publisher was willing to let your book move on to a larger publisher--so interesting.

Krysten Lindsay Hager said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Creepy Query Girl said...

Oh my god, Natalie. I had no idea. I am so so very sorry for your loss and the hardship and grief you and your family are facing. Sending prayers for strength for you and your daughter and all the loved ones involved. Thank you for introducing us to Maureen and her book and congrats Maureen.

Ruth McNally Barshaw said...

Natalie, my deepest condolences in your loss of your dear husband Rudy. Know that you have an army of warriors praying for you and your daughter, and those who love Rudy.
I'll reread this blog post when I can concentrate, and help promote Maureen's interview.
Natalie, may you feel deep and secure love in these tough days.

Chemist Ken said...

Natalie, words can't begin to express my deepest sympathy for your loss. I can't imagine what you must be going through right now. My thoughts are with you. Take care of yourself and your family.

Elizabeth McBride said...

Oh Natalie! I am so sorry! God bless and comfort you and Anna Li in this very difficult and burdened time. What a terrible thing you have been through. My heart is with you and I will keep you and your family in my prayers. Your thoughtfulness of others, even in these times, is such a testimony to your strong and kind spirit. Be blessed. We are all caring about you and sending our prayers and best wishes as well.

S. Willett said...

Natalie, when I think of you I recall your smile. I'm sorry for your loss and the pain you're going through.

Shanda Trent said...

Through your grief, you've ignited a spark to read another promising MG. I'm a sucker for coming of age, but not a lover of fantasy / mythology. HOWEVER, I'm very intrigued by Maureen's blending of genres. I'm particularly curious about the mythology of the British Isles. I'm going to go Beyond the Door asap.

Peace & strength, Natalie and Anna LI.

S. Willett said...

Maureen, great interview. I love that you listened to the voices of your boys and their friends, along with those you taught. It's that attention to detail that makes for a strong story. Best wishes on your books and thanks for sharing.

Lynn Baldwin said...

Natalie, I'm so sorry to hear about your husband.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'm so sorry, Natalie! I can't even imagine what you're going through right now. *virtual hugs*

Maureen - congrats! I'll share your book - I hope you do great with it!

Barbara Watson said...

Natalie, I'm on a blogging break (and mostly off Twitter, too) but I did catch your tweet this morning about your husband, so I stopped in here to find out more. Hugs and prayers for you and your daughter. I have no words, but please know I'm thinking of you.

Maureen's book sounds like a great blend of interesting ideas.

Anonymous said...

I'm sending you and your daughter, and the entire family, my love and prayers. Hugs.


Anonymous said...

I love the premise in Maureen's book.
Thank you for another great interview.


Unknown said...

Maureen, I'm so very sorry! Sending you and your family warmth and prayers. Thanks also for the great interview regarding Maureen's new book.

Laura Pauling said...

Hugs and prayers, Natalie!!!

Jemi Fraser said...

First off I'm so very sorry for your loss Natalie. I know you have many, many wonderful memories to treasure. Hug those and your family close. *hugs*

My students really enjoy when fantasy and mythology are mixed up - this sounds great!

Eisen said...

I'm so sorry to hear this! Please accept my condolences. Take care.

Kelly Polark said...

Oh, Natalie. I'm just learning of this. I'm so sorry for your loss. Hugs to you. I am praying and thinking of you!! XO