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.


Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you're having a good week. I'm enjoying my break from working and am busy applying for jobs and going on a few interviews.

I have a few winners to announce.

The winner of THE YOUNG ELITES is Joni!

The winner of the $10 Amazon Gift card for the Gratitude Giveaway Hop is Sheila!

And the winner of THE DISAPPEARING is Jemi Fraser!

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 excited to have Medeia Sharif here to share about her new YA contemporary VITAMINS AND DEATH that releases on Wednesday. It sounds like a fantastic story with high stakes for Deidra as she navigates hard times at school and at home.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Deidra Battle wants nothing more than to be invisible. After her mother, a public school teacher, engages in an embarrassing teacher-student affair at Lincoln High, they relocate to a different neighborhood and school. Being her mother’s briefcase, Deidra joins her mother at her new workplace, Hodge High.

Since her mother has reverted to her maiden name and changed her appearance, Deidra thinks no one will figure out they’re the Battles from recent news and that they’re safe. Neither of them is. Hodge brings a fresh set of bullies who discover details about the scandal that changed her life.

Feeling trapped at home with an emotionally abusive, pill-addicted mother and at school with hostile classmates who attempt to assault and blackmail her, Deidra yearns for freedom, even if she has to act out of character and hurt others in the process. Freedom comes at a price.

Hi Medeia! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I wrote poems and short stories as a child. A few days after I graduated from high school, I received a word processor as a gift and started typing a novel, which I didn’t finish. Then I finished the next one and started submitting it when I was eighteen. It was not publishable, although I thought it was. I kept writing one drawer manuscript after another until my late twenties when nibbles became bites. Although, I didn’t get my first contract until I was in my early thirties.

2. I can totally see you continuing to write constantly knowing how productive you are now. Where did you get the idea for VITAMINS AND DEATH?

I had the idea of a girl struggling in an inner city high school and she had an imbalanced mother. I was fixated on this idea. The plot became clear after I wrote several drafts of an outline. We hear about student-teacher affairs in the news, and I wanted to write a story in the viewpoint of someone living with the teacher in question.

3. Awesome your outline helped clarify the initial idea. One of Deidra’s challenges is dealing
with her abusive, addictive mother. Did you do any research into this type of family situation or did you draw on experience to be sure you portrayed some of the issues Deidra faced accurately?

I used to have toxic acquaintances and friends, people who would drain me emotionally. Looking back on it, they might have had personality disorders, low self-esteem, jealous attitudes, dependency issues, or drug problems. These days I don’t tolerate such people. Sorry, it might sound heartless, but I have to think of my well-being and learned that if I give of myself to someone who’s needy, they keep wanting more. Just like Deidra, I wanted to distance myself from people who are abusive in any way.

4. Yes, it's so hard handling situations like that. What was one of the challenges you faced craft-wise in writing VITAMINS AND DEATH and what did you learn from the experience?

I wrote it out of order, with flashback chapters. This was difficult. I only had a few flashbacks in my previous novels. Also, I used chapter titles for the first time, when I normally only number my chapters. The titles are meaningful to the timing of each chapter since they switch from past to present. It was a challenge, and I learned I could do this. My beta readers were helpful when they saw any discrepancies, such as too much repetition between the switching and things that might not have been aligned.

5. You’ve written a number of contemporary YA stories. What advice do you have for other authors about writing good contemporary stories?

I suggest being as vague as possible when it comes to technology and name-dropping of celebrities. I realize that my 2011 debut novel probably seems outdated since I did this, although years from now readers could appreciate the cultural references. I also suggest researching what teens are into now and what current issues they have. For example, a future release has scenes of cyber bullying, which didn’t exist when I was a kid. Also, listen to how teens talk. I’ve put books down if characters sound like adults.

6. Great advice to keep the technology vague. You’ve worked with a number of smaller presses of various sizes. What’s been your experience working with different presses that are smaller and what advice do you have for other authors considering querying small presses?

Small presses are interested in your social media platform since ebooks won’t make it in a bookstore and POD books can’t be sold in every venue. I believe small presses take risks and are open to all types of books. Overall, I enjoy the small press experience. My books are being published and read, so I’m happy. My advice is to carefully read their submission guidelines. They vary tremendously. I’ve formatted manuscripts and synopses in so many different ways based on guidelines.

7. I didn't realize that about the submission guidelines, but it's always important to check them. One of the things I admire about you is how organized and productive you are. You teach and have been able to write and get published more than one book this year and done the marketing for them too. Plus you’re a prolific reader. What’s your secret for being so productive and accomplishing so much?

I have weekly to-do lists that I usually abide by. Only some items might roll over to the following week. I wake up early and start doing things so I can scratch items off. I’m free during the summer, and I typically can draft two manuscripts during those two months, using the rest of the year to revise and edit them.

8. Wow! You draft fast. How are you marketing this? What have you learned from your experiences marketing other books?

I did a cover reveal and I’m having a book blitz. Also, people are always requesting or I offer interviews and guest posts. I have supportive people who are either reading copies given in exchange for an honest review or those who tell me they are definitely buying the book based on the description. I’m active on Blogger, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. I get modest to tremendous attention on those sites, so I’m getting my books and my name out there. I learned that you have to be in tune and in touch with readers, bloggers, and other writers. They are very giving when it comes to helping writers promote.

9. Awesome you're doing a book blitz. I think that's a good way to reach new readers. What are you working on now?

I have another edgy book, 52 LIKES, that will be published in January by Evernight Teen, so I’m busy with that. I’m juggling some middle grade manuscripts that are in various phases. Two of them are horror.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Medeia. You can find Medeia at twitter.com/sharifwrites, instagram.com/sharifwrites, goodreads.com/sharifwrites, and medeiasharif.com.

Medeia has generously offered an e-book of VITAMINS AND DEATH 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 January 3rd. I’ll announce the winner on January 5th. 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. International entries are welcome.

Here’s what’s coming up:

Next Monday I have a guest post by Trisha Leaver and giveaway of CREED, her YA suspenseful debut book.

Next Saturday I'll be participating in the Midwinter Eve's Giveaway Hop. I'll have lots of great book choices for you or an Amazon Gift Card.

Then I'm off until January 5th when I'll be back with an interview with debut author Lee Kelly and a giveaway of CITY OF SAVAGES, her futurist YA thriller.

Wednesday that week I have a guest post by debut author Maggie Hall and a giveaway of THE CONSPIRACY OF US, her YA thriller.

Hope to see you on Monday!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Medeia, I don't tolerate people like that either.
Small presses are awesome. Never regretted being with mine.
Congratulations on your latest!

Jemi Fraser said...

Woohoo! Thanks for the Disappearing, Natalie - can't wait!! :)

Medeia is awesome!! Love her stories - and this one sounds great too. Those toxic people are so draining - I try to stay away from them too.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Some good advice, Medeia, especially about reading the guidelines before submitting.

As a teen, I was not your usual one using the current vernacular. I spoke as an adult--probably due to my parents influence but, you make a good point about the voice of the book needing to clearly define it's audience by it's tone. I don't think you necessarily have to write exact dialog--it changes so quickly--but you need to have the young adult perspective.

Wishing you success with VITAMINS AND DEATH. Great premise!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I tried hard to keep pop culture references out and limit my mention of technology. It can date a book quickly.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Love Medeia! And I'm glad she doesn't put up with toxic people anymore. I think the confidence to push those people away comes with maturity and, dare I say, age? ;)

Robyn Campbell said...

WONDERFUL interview, Natalie! YEAH! I heart Medeia! She's such a wonderful, supportive blog friend. Not to mention her EXCELLENT writing. Love her books. I have a collection now. Hehe. Super congratulations, Medeia! Hug, huh, hug!!! (Love that pic.)

Jenni said...

What a great interview, Natalie! I'm inspired by Medeia's writing schedule. I also have my summer's free and have to squeeze in what I can during the school year. I love the idea of drafting then and revising the rest of the year. Congrats, Medeia!

cleemckenzie said...

I should talk to Medeia and see if she can instill more discipline in me. My writing schedule is all over the map. Thanks for telling us more about her new book. It's a TBR for sure.

Danielle H. said...

Wow! Informative interview. Thanks for sharing and for the giveaway--I shared on Facebook.

S.P. Bowers said...

I admire people who can juggle multiple manuscripts at one. I keep thinking that's a skill I need to learn but it's not something that comes naturally.

Nas said...

Congratulations Medeia! I'm in awe of your discipline!

Cynthia said...

I follow Medeia's blog and am happy to see her profiled here! Congratulations on your book!!

Medeia, you are absolutely not heartless for recognizing a toxic person when you see one, and knowing to stay away. I've known those types you are referring to, unfortunately, too well.

Bish Denham said...

I need some of Medeia's organizational and disciplinary skills. And for sure, I'd love to read as fast as she does. I too stay away from toxic people. They are not good for my health.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for having me over, Natalie.

Thank you for the wonderful comments, everyone.

dolorah said...

Cool interview Media. Hope all is going well with the book launch.

Christine Rains said...

Great interview! Congrats to Medeia. Wow, she drafts fast. :)

Karen Lange said...

Congratulations to Medeia! It was nice to learn more about her. I admire her ability to write so well so quickly. :) Thanks so much for sharing.

I will pass on the giveaway this time around. Enjoy the week!

Michelle Wallace said...

Congrats to Medeia!
She is an inspiration!
Love her book covers...they're always so atmospheric.

Rosi said...

Fascinating interview and I love the title of the book. I will have to check it out. Please let someone else win. I'm buried in books right now. Thanks for the post.

DMS said...

I loved learning more about Medeia! I am always impressed with how much she gets done. Two manuscripts in the summer! WOW! What an inspiration. I also loved her advice about technology. Definitely better to be vague. Thanks for sharing and for the chance to win. I am Google +ing it. I look forward to reading this one. Great cover, Medeia! :)

Mary Preston said...

A very interesting post thank you. Writing out of sequence would be tough I would think.


Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

A wonderful interview. Congrats, Medeia! I hope Vitamins and Death is a huge success for you.

Stina said...

I love the concept behind Vitamins and Death. Medeia is like the queen of multitasking when it comes to multiple mss. I love her weekly updates on her blog.

Cherie Reich said...

Congrats, Medeia!

And it sucks to have to cut certain people out of your life, but you have to think of your own well being. Wonderful interview!

Tyrean Martinson said...

That sounds like an intense book and I'm totally impressed by your ability to draft two books in two months. Wow! Scheduling seems to be the only way I can get my writing and all of life mixed together well. :)

Romance Reader said...

Hi Natalie,

Thanks for this interview. Congrats to Medeia!

M Pax said...

I've noticed that with submitting short stories. Bet it's worse for publishers. I hope to try my hand at it next year, if I finish the project i have in mind. Congrats, Medeia!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for all the great comments everyone!

Beth said...

Good luck with your job search, Natalie. And congratulations to Medeia!

Unknown said...

Thanks for telling us about your publication journey and how perseverance turned "nibbles into bites." I know many writers who recommend writing out of order, especially if they get stuck on a part. (I'm ashamed I'm so anal I just can't do that.) Good luck on all your novels, Medeia, especially this one!! :)

Vanessa Morgan said...

I could never write so fast. She's an inspiration.

Heather said...

I hope the job hunting is going good, but that you're enjoying your break! Madeia's book sounds amazing, but then hers always do! Can't wait to read it, its going on my wish list!

Carrie Butler said...

I'm in the job-hunting trenches alongside you. Good luck!

Congrats to Medeia!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Congrats Medeia. I hope Vitamins and Death is a huge success. Your book sounds amazing.

Dawn Simon said...

Great interview, Natalie and Medeia! I'm always impressed with how productive Medeia is with her reading and writing around teaching. Wow! I like the advice about technology. What seems so advanced now won't be in a couple of years. Congrats on the book, Medeia! It sounds intriguing!

Good luck with the job hunt, Natalie!