Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

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


Happy Monday Everyone! Can you believe it's the end of July? Anna Li had a good championship meet and enjoyed even more being a guest coach for two days of the championships. Then she went to an adoption teen camp for 4 days and I had my first time living alone for a few days. Glad to report that I kept busy and did fine.

I may be a bit late today reading your blogs. I'm taking Anna Li on her last college visit this morning.

Before we get to our interview, I have a few winners to announce.

The winner of MIDNIGHT THIEF is Jamie Ayres!

And the winner of my Just Couldn't Put It Down Giveaway Hop is Paula who picked CITY OF HEAVENLY FIRE!

Congrats! E-mail me your address 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 Julia Mary Gibson here to share about her MG novel COPPER MAGIC that was released on July 1, 2014. I loved the upper Michigan setting since I grew up on Lake Michigan and the touch of magical realism with the copper hand. And the story has a real contemporary feel to it with Violet’s growth through the story.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Can an unearthed talisman found on the shores of Lake Michigan save 12-year-old Violet’s fractured family? Exploring themes of Native American culture, ecology, and conservation, this historical fiction novel comes brilliantly to life.

The year is 1906, and twelve-year-old Violet Blake unearths an ancient talisman—a copper hand—beside the stream where her mother used to harvest medicine. Violet’s touch warms the copper hand and it begins to reveal glimpses of another time. Violet is certain that the copper hand is magic—and if anyone is in need of its powers, it’s Violet. Her mother and adored baby brother are gone, perhaps never to return. Her heartbroken father can’t seem to sustain the failing farm on the outskirts of Pigeon Harbor, on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Surely the magic of the copper hand can make things right for Violet and restore her fractured family. Violet makes a wish. But her ignorant carelessness unleashes formidable powers—and her attempts to control them jeopardizes not only herself, but the entire town of Pigeon Harbor.

In Copper Magic, land and waters are alive with memories, intentions, and impulses. Magic alters Violet and brings her gifts—but not always the kind she thinks she needs. First-time author Julia Mary Gibson brings Violet and her community to life in this impressive and assured debut.

Hi Julia! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became an author.

My parents are both writers and we didn’t have TV, so I inhaled books as a kid and scribbled little poems and stories. I had a buried dream of being a writer that stayed with me as I grew up, but I was intimidated by the idea of being one. I wrote things and some of it got some attention, but I had other jobs and priorities. Later, I began to form a more concentrated vision for what I wanted to write. For a long time I was reluctant to show my work, but thanks to the encouragement and persistence of friends who just happened to know people who knew people, I began to let people read my stuff and wound up with the perfect agent. My first book didn’t sell, but the second one did. I worked hard for years without even thinking about publication. I’m not recommending that others do the same, but that’s how I eventually got published. Luck had a lot to do with it.

2. So awesome your parents are writers too. Where did you get the idea for your story?

The story grew from the place in Michigan where my mother was conceived and where she conceived me. The place has a certain power, a quiet beauty. I spent summers there and read a lot under and in trees. My favorite books were the ones where magic happened to regular, normal kids. E. Nesbit, Edward Eager, Mary Norton, P.L. Travers – those writers shaped me and encouraged my childish beliefs in elemental magic that exists in nature. From a young age I carried the germ of an idea to write a story about magic (or the possibility of magic or a kidlike belief in magic) that would honor those writers and would take place by the woods and water that sustained me as a child.

3. Awesome that you drew on your life to come up with the idea for your book. I loved that you chose the early 1900’s and small town life on Lake Michigan for the setting of your story. What drew you to this setting and what made you decide to write about this era?

I set the story in 1906 because that was the year that my great-grandparents were among the first summer people in the town that was the model for Pigeon Harbor. That was also the year that a fancy hotel was built on the lakeshore and the rich summer people began to come to a place that had been about logging and fishing until the white pine got used up and the sturgeon declined. My forebears were not the rich kind of summer people – they were ministers and teachers and lived very simply. I based some of the characters in the book on them. It was both challenging and fun to braid the real history of the area and of my family into a fictional narrative.

4. You did a fantastic job weaving the copper hand into the story and the symbolism of it granting wishes tied into Violet’s own deepest desires. Share a bit about the idea for the copper hand and any tips on using a symbol like this weaved into your story.

I knew early on that copper would play some kind of role in the story, because copper is such a key
element in Michigan’s story. Copper was mined for hundreds of years by indigenous people to be used in a sacred manner. When the copper started being mined by whites for use in industry, miners from Finland and Cornwall were shipped over to do the work. My ancestors were from Cornwall, so that was another personal connection for me to copper. I chose the symbol of a human hand because, like copper, the hand is a conductor between our humanity and the non-human realms.

As the story developed, I became aware that the copper hand was revealing itself to me just as a human or animal character would do. It had personality, desires, memories. It wasn’t really a symbol to me, but a being. I tried to make Violet as deprived as possible so that she would need magic badly and need to believe that the hand’s power was meant to help make her life better.

5. I didn’t realize Michigan had such a connection to copper. Share a bit about Violet and her Native American roots. Did you have any challenges in developing her as a character or did she just come to you?

I won’t say that writing Violet wasn’t challenging, but she did present herself fairly clearly most of the time. It was a matter of keeping up with her. I didn’t hook into her loneliness right away, even though that’s the part of Violet I can most identify with. I wasn’t exactly lonely as a child because I always had friends, but I was alone a lot and I felt different from other kids like Violet does. I resisted writing Native characters, but much of the story has to do with the history of the land and the way that the power of nature has been decimated, so omitting Native people from the story seemed ultimately disrespectful and wrong.

6. So glad you decided to keep the Native American theme of the story. What’s something you learned craft-wise from working with your editor? What advice do you have for a debut author as he/she starts working with their editor?

I learned a ton from my editor, Susan Chang, who handled the changes to the storyline and character shading with great delicacy. She helped me to be bolder, she showed me ways inside a child’s heart, she articulated themes that I didn’t even see. She showed me how often my scenes were about talking and not about deciding or doing. I thought that was called character development, but it’s really called bringing the plot to a dead halt. I could talk for days about her wisdom and skill.

Editors have boatloads of experience and savvy about storytelling, style, writing for the marketplace, and all other aspects of creating a book. The tougher they are with the work, the better. Try to enjoy the process, even if it’s scary and difficult at times. Go deep. Open yourself up. Let the work expand you.

7. That’s great that you learned so much from working with your editor. Your agent is Ginger Clark. Share how she became your agent and your road to publication.

Ginger was the first agent I queried, because a friend of a friend had dealt with her professionally and told me that she would be the right agent for me. Ginger passed on the project I submitted to her, but I went back to her later when I had found an editor who expressed interest. She and three other agents offered representation. I resonated the most with Ginger. The project didn’t sell, but Ginger stuck with me until another project found the right editor. She is insightful, tough, creative, loyal, patient, and divine and I feel incredibly lucky to be a client of hers.

I was very shy for a long time about my writing. I didn’t like to talk about it. It can be obnoxious and insufferable when people endlessly yap about their work, but I would have been better served if I’d been a bit more upfront – even with myself – about where I wanted to end up. It took me many years to realize that I actually wanted to be published. Despite all that, a lot of people offered me assistance, advice, and resources. I had to learn to accept their generosity.

8. That’s so cool that you contacted Ginger again even though she passed on your first project. Your book was set in the summer and is releasing in the summer. And I read that you’ve got a schedule of book signings in upper Michigan, which sounds fantastic given your story. Did you intend for your book to release in the summer months or did it just work out that way? And share how and why you decided to focus your personal appearance in Michigan at the release of your book.

I had always hoped that the book would release in the summer. My fantasy was that the people who love the midwestern lake country, as I do, would enjoy a summertime read about a story set in the north woods. There are a number of small towns near my summer home that I could easily make a day trip to visit, so I contacted a bunch of independent bookstores in the northern part of the state and everyone has been completely receptive and friendly, as people from that part of the world just are.

9. That’s a great way to spread the word about your book. What are you working on now?

I have a few projects in various stages of development. The one closest to my heart at the moment is a story set in the Vietnam war era about a family of radicals in the midwest, very loosely based on my own family.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Julia. You can find Julia at juliamarygibson.com and @juliamarygibson.

Julia has generously offered a signed ARC of COPPER MAGIC 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 August 23rd. I’ll announce the winner on August 25th. 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 and Canada residents.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. Find all the bloggers participating this week on her blog.

Here’s what’s coming up:

On Friday I’ll be participating in the Beach Reads in August Giveaway Hop. I’ll have lots of great book choices and will also be offering a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

Next Monday I’m interviewing debut author Lori Lee and giving away her YA fantasy Gates of Thread and Stone. I waited for ages for this and it was worth the wait.

Next Wednesday I'm hosting a pick any YA book giveaway to help Martina Boone celebrate the release of of her YA debut COMPULSION in October.

Then I’m taking a blog break for two weeks until Monday, August 25th when I have a guest post by Holly Schindler and a giveaway of FERAL, her new YA psychological thriller.

And don’t forget Casey’s Thursday Agent Spotlights.

Hope to see you on Friday!


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I love that she included Native Americans in her story.

Greg Pattridge said...

Great interview! It was interesting how she used the year her grandparents arrived as the time period for her story. I think we all get ideas from the various relatives and friends who we interact with.

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds like a fascinating story - love the whole concept :)
Have fun with your college visit!

Kristin Lenz said...

This novel sounds wonderful, and a bonus that it's set in Michigan. Julia - you should come to the SCBWI-MI conference in northern Michigan this September!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Don't worry, you're not the only one who was shy about your work for a long time.
Congratulations, Julia!

Unknown said...

This book sounds delightful. It has everything I love in a story; history, magic, a Native American thread and a child who is fighting for what she needs.

Jenni said...

Wow, this book sounds amazing! I love the Native American element and the historical setting. Congratulations, Julia! Thanks for sharing your inspiring story!

Unknown said...

Thanks for great author interview! This book has been on my radar for a while, so I can't wait to read it!

Angela Brown said...

I really enjoyed the interview and learning about this book. Stories with magic are often appealing and Violet's copper hand sounds like something of dreams.

Rosi said...

Terrific interview and the book sounds great. Thanks for the chance to win.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Glad you kept busy and were okay on your own while Anna Li was at camp.

The premise of this book sounds fantastic. Love the cover too. And the fact that the story grew from an actual setting in Michigan. I adore all those authors too (E. Nesbit, Edward Eager, Mary Norton, P.L. Travers). Please don't enter me in the giveaway as I've won so many books lately.

Brenda said...

Glad you were able to find things to do to bide your time while Anna Li was away. Hope you have fun on the college visit. I love these looks at authors inspiration and how Julia picked out events and settings that were near and dear to her. Guess that's why writing what you know about can be so helpful. I'm going to sit out the giveaway, I still have some books I need to get back to the library. The premise does sound fantastic.

Charlotte said...

Oh... I want this one! I"ll be mentioning it on my blog next Sunday's round-up.

cleemckenzie said...

The unearthing of a talisman is very intriguing. I really am interested in that talisman being a copper hand.

Getting used to living alone is hard, so my thoughts are with you on that one.

Christine Rains said...

What a great sounding book. Good luck to Julia! It was a wonderful interview.

Rachna Chhabria said...

The book sounds fascinating. I love the idea of a copper talisman. And battling shyness about sharing our work is something we all do.

Angie Quantrell said...

This book sounds like a great read! Thanks for sharing!

erica and christy said...

I'm glad you kept busy while living alone for a few days! It's so hard when children grow up! I love the history woven into the book. The cover is beautiful! Christy

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Congratulations, Julia! What a fascinating and unique premise, and of course, I always love historicals!

Danielle H. said...

You have an amazing editor! A great match for you. Thanks for the giveaway and I will post on Facebook. Can't wait to read your book!

Heather said...

Glad you were able to keep busy, an empty house can be rough. Congrats to Julia, Copper Magic sounds like one I've got to check out!

Denise Covey said...

Hey, Natalie. Thought I'd pop over and see who you were interviewing today. A very interesting story by the sounds of it. In the interests of time I skipped some of the interview, but what I read was intriguing. I wish Julia well. The cover and blurb sounds great.


Anonymous said...

I could so relate to this interview. I had TV, but no cable, as a child, and the park I frequented by the river seemed like a magical place. This does look like a summertime read.

Crystal Collier said...

Huge kudos to Julia for pursuing the right agent even after she said no. That takes major guts.

Stina said...

I still need to read City of Heavenly Fire!

I love that Julia kept the Native American theme. And that she went after the agent she knew was right for her.

mshatch said...

Great interview, as always, and this sounds like the kind of book I would've loved as a kid. Congrats to Julia :)

S.P. Bowers said...

Congrats to your daughter on her meet and her coaching. That will look great on school applications.

Congrats Julia! Copper Magic sounds like an amazing story.

erin said...

Thanks for such a fun post! Congrats to Julia on the new release!

Jolene and Family said...

Loved this post!!!

GFC follower Jolene and Family

tweeted- https://twitter.com/joleneallcock/status/500392416646397952