Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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  • 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! Hope you're having a great start to the week. I spent all day Saturday in a hot pool deck. But swim season is starting to move toward finishing.


Bish Denham's new picture book, A LIZARD'S TAIL, just released. Here's a blurb: When a feral cat
threatens the lives of all who live at Stone Wall, Marvin knows his destiny has finally arrived. But how can a young, vain lizard get rid of such a dangerous enemy?

And here's a few links:

And I have a winner to announce.

The winner of STRAY is BookNut!

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

Today I'm excited to have blogger friend and debut author Kim Van Sickler here to help celebrate the release of her YA contemporary book, SNATCHED IN GULLYBROOK, that was released in August. It's  about a difficult but important topic, sex trafficking.  Details about the giveaway will be at the end of the post.

So here's Kim!

Crafting an edgy, sexually explicit YA novel

How do you write a book about three teenagers who are kidnapped then sold into the sex trafficking industry without delving into sex?

If the book’s going to have any value at all, you don’t.

Snatched in Gullybrook was a slippery slope of conveying the horror of what befalls these previously sheltered suburban teenagers without sliding into Penthouse forum vernacular. I want readers to be shocked, revolted, and spurred to action, whether that action is adults talking to their children about manipulation, teenagers reading the book with opened eyes, or activists spreading awareness and/or supporting anti-trafficking organizations.

Did I succeed? Some trafficking experts have weighed in and said I have. Dr. Jacquelyn Meshelemiah, a human trafficking professor at The Ohio State University calls Snatched in Gullybrook the best fictional account of domestic minor sex trafficking she’s ever seen. She put it on her recommended reading list for her massive open online course on human trafficking.

Consider this passage from Sissy, who’s reassigned the working name of Iris after she’s captured.

After he's finished, I pat him on his Jell-O stomach. "You are a tiger. My beast of the jungle." The words mean nothing. As empty and routine as the rest of my life.

He laughs. A smoker's laugh. Rumbly and phlegmy sounding. "Get me a glass of water, darlin'," he says as he lights up again.

This time when I return, he drapes an arm around me and pulls me close. His signal that he's done with the sex and wants to spend the rest of our time together snuggling. Now is the time for me to sound interested while he talks about his boring life.

I try to keep the focus on the girls as they are forced to navigate their new lives. Away from explicit descriptions of what they’re doing. But you get the picture.

It’s a picture that disturbs many people. A few beta readers refused to finish the book, saying it upset
them too much. More than a few agents and one editor expressed interest and showered compliments, but backed off offering representation or publishing it because they didn’t think I’d sell enough books.
On the flip side, I’m hearing from readers, like this one, who are drawn into the story and know it’s an important message:

Oh my goodness!!!! I am reading your book and all I can say is that I absolutely "HATE" it!!! I say that meaning it as the greatest compliment to you ever as a writer!!! I have encouraged and recommended your book to every parent that I cross paths with. I have posted the link to order your book in my book discussion groups and it casually became part of conversation at preschool gymnastics!!...

So what advice do I have for other writers who want to delve into difficult topics?

1. Make sure you are truly enamored with your subject matter. You will be fighting to be heard. You will encounter resistance. You need passion to pull it off.

2. Research, research, research your topic. Read, read, read what has already been written about it. Differentiate yourself from what is already published. I found that telling the story of three abducted teenagers in first person present tense was a unique approach. The fictional aspect allows me to interconnect these girls’ journeys and reveal the grimmest of details about their experiences. Maybe more so than a memoir writer is willing or able to reveal.

3. Forge connections with organizations and people who are interested in and embrace your topic. For me, that means seeking out opportunities to introduce myself to people in the anti-human trafficking industry and convincing them to read and hopefully champion my book.

4. Regarding sexual topics: make sure the sex serves a distinct purpose and isn’t gratuitous. Write it so that if your parents read it you won’t die of embarrassment. (My dad read Snatched in Gullybrook and, as Candace would say, “bless his senior citizen heart,” recommended it on Amazon.)

5. Feel free to contact me with questions about writing a story involving your own edgy topic. I’m happy to offer an opinion.

Good luck!!!

Kim will be selling copies of her book at the Not Under Our Roof, Preventing Human Trafficking Within the Tourism Industry conference in Lima, OH on October 15th.

Thanks for sharing your advice, Kim! You can find Kim at:

Links to the book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble: 

Here's a short blurb on SNATCHED IN GULLYBROOK:

Three of Gullybrook’s teens are manipulated and snatched from the local mall. In their new lives as sex slaves, Megan, Candace, and Sissy, strangers before their abduction, forge a bond with one another that becomes their lifeline.

Kim has generously offered a copy of SNATCHED IN GULLYBROOK 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 October 25th. I’ll announce the winner on October 270th. 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. This is an international giveaway.

Here's what's coming up:

Tomorrow I’m participating in the Spooktacular Book Giveaway Blog Hop. I’ll have lots of great choices for you or an Amazon Gift Card if you don’t like what I picked.

And next Monday, I’ve got a huge celebration giveaway because we’ve reached over 4000 GFC followers. They'll be a huge giveaway of both MG and YA books and a grand prize Amazon Gift Card. Hope you'll stop by to help celebrate!

Next  Wednesday I'll be hosting a giveaway of the entire YA urban fantasy Heir Chronicles series by  Cinda Williams Chima, one of my all time favorite authors. So excited about this!

The following Monday 'll be thrilled to share an interview with debut author Martina Boone who so many of us know with a giveaway of her fantastic YA Gothic romance COMPULSION. You'll love the small town Southern setting and the characters who are all so unique.

Wednesday that week I'll have a guest post by debut author M.A. Larson and a giveaway of his MG fantasy PENNYROYAL ACADEMY. M.A. is a television writer so I know he'll have lots of great advice for us.

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

Hope to see you tomorrow!


mshatch said...

This sounds like a great book on a difficult topic. Congrats to Kim for writing it and getting it out!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Congrats to Bish!

Kim, your 3rd point is so important and one many writers don't consider.

Karen Lange said...

Congrats to Bish! It's nice to meet Kim. I admire her for tackling a daunting subject. Hope that it brings more awareness to this horrible practice. Natalie, thanks for the introduction.

I'll pass on the giveaway this time around. Hope you all have a great week!

Bish Denham said...

Wow. Now that's a topic that needs to be written about. Good for you, Kim, for taking it on.

Thanks for showing off my book, Natalie!

Julie Flanders said...

Congrats to Bish! And great to hear from Kim, I am so intrigued by her book but also kind of afraid to read it! Kudos to her for shining a light on a topic most people would like to pretend doesn't exist.

Jemi Fraser said...

Kim is so brave to tackle such an issue - sounds like she's done a great job!

Unknown said...

Yay for Bish's new book! It sounds adorable!

Congrats to Kim for following her heart and writing about something important. I loved the excerpt! Good luck, Kim!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It's a risk to tackle a subject like this, but Kim handled it perfectly.

Brenda said...

Our school district just had a presentation for parents on this very subject, it may be a tough issue but so valuable. I'll pass on the giveaway, hope you have a great week.

cleemckenzie said...

If her book helps one girl out there, it's been worth the writing. Tough topics need to be tackled and handled well. Congrats on doing this.

Robyn Campbell said...

YaY Bish! Woohoo!! You rock! And to Kim, THANK YOU! You did a masterful job on a super tough subject. The excerpt told me that. This book should be read by all teens and parents. Again, thank you. Will buy this one and donate it to my local library.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Kim, you're very brave to tackle a subject like this. But it's such an important one.

Natalie, I'll look forward to your big giveaway next week and congrats on reaching 4000 followers!

Tyrean Martinson said...

That sounds like a really tough book to write, but for all the right reasons. I hope it soars!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Having a teen (with a cazillion friends) and a daughter who is 24, yikes, I see the value books like this tackling tough subjects. I've told my son from the time he was small that just because he's a NOT a girl doesn't mean there aren't sexual predators out there who won't target boys. They do and while as a preteen boy or teen you might think you have the toughness to get away you may not be able to. Even fit men can be overpowered and forced into things they don't want to do. Any unaware person male or female can be. Kids have to be taught to be aware of danger without scaring them to death. That's a fine line that a parent has to walk.

You've approached this the right way. Telling the story from each victim's pov and showing their despair, fear, and what they have to do to survive. It should be shocking. Talking to those involved in saving people from human traficking and showing your book to them is a smart move.


Sia McKye Over Coffee

Denise Covey said...

Egad, this sounds stupendous. I love books which tackle issues and this seems to be well-researched and written with a considered approach. I hope by publishing it, it will make a difference to some extent. The numbers re sex trafficking are mind boggling! Just saw a show on tv the other night which claimed most sex trafficked children are American.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Wow. What a difficult book to write on a topic no one wants to read about -- unless it's at the back-end of the event, when the girls are rescued by a brave do-gooder (a man) and bounce back stronger than ever (with a book deal and an interview on Oprah). Like it's that clean and shiny.

Hats off to Kim for tackling the ugly, unadorned truth.

Suzanne Warr said...

I'm afraid I fall into the category of readers who would find this too much to handle and so will have to pass on the giveaway, but I really appreciate the insights of the interview, and have to express my admiration to Kim for tackling this subject, and bringing it into the light. Best of luck as it goes out into the world!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Natalie, Hi, Kim,

Terrific interview ladies. Tough subjects like these NEED to be written about. Congrats KIM on your success with the story!

I also wrote an edgy y/a which is also having trouble getting published because the subject matter is unnerving. But I am still plugging away. Like you say Kim, we need "passion" for it to pull it off..

All the best and I hope your message helps these children to by constantly aware of their surroundings and the people who enter their lives who SEEM helpful...

Christina Fiorelli said...

It's awesome she decided to risk readers' anger and wrote about such an important topic which rarely gets into YA fiction.

Her advice is wonderful - especially focusing on research and connecting with organizations.

thank you so very much :)

GFC Christina Kit. follower

email subscriber ccfioriole at gmail dot com

Christina Fiorelli said...

I tweeted https://twitter.com/christinafiorio/status/521933209580621824

GFC Christina Kit.

ccfioriole at gmail dot com

Kim Van Sickler said...

Thank you, Natalie for hosting me on your wonderful blog and I appreciate your readers who took the time to comment. I look forward to mailing a copy of Snatched in Gullybrook to one of them!

Kim Van Sickler said...

LOL, I also have to laugh that my book and Bish's book are polar opposites. But Bish's looks adorable. Congrats on the new release, Bish!

Danielle H. said...

You are so brave and now I have to read your book to find out how you did it. I shared on Facebook. Thanks for the interview and advice as well as the giveaway!

Valentina B-v said...

Thank you for the giveaway!
GFC: Valentina BV
E-mail: bv_byby27@yahoo.com
Tweeted: https://twitter.com/ValentinaByVy/status/522023920065474560

Rachna Chhabria said...

Nice to meet Kim. You have some awesome giveaways Natalie.

Rosi said...

This sounds like an amazing book and an important one. I'm sure it will help a lot of people. Please let someone else be the winner, though. I am buried in books right now.

S.P. Bowers said...

Writing about a difficult topic needs to be done with sensitivity. It sounds like you found the sweet spot. It's a subject that people need to be aware of, though I understand why people may not be able to read vivid accounts about it.

Unknown said...

I'm speechless... First of all, congratulations!!! This is a really difficult topic to write about and I admire you for it. I feel like not a lot of people are aware about serious situations like these and maybe they might be if they even read about it in fiction. Thanks for the chance to win!!!

Mary Preston said...

It's a subject that should be highlighted. Good for you.


Carol Baldwin said...

I'd love to win this book. just shared it on Facebook. Carol Baldwin

DMS said...

This sounds like a powerful book! Best of luck to Kim!

So excited for Bish! I enjoyed her last book and can't wait to read this one. :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a fascinating book!

Anonymous said...

Sounds intense. Please enter me for the giveaway.