Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • 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
  • Alex Brown Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 9/9/2024
  • Leslie Zampetti Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 10/7/2024

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 those of you in the Midwest and East survived the snow yesterday. I got to Planet Fitness before it really started coming down. And I also survived my first exercise class in 17+ years on Saturday.


Donna Weaver has a new e-book, A SEASON OF CHANGE, releasing on February 6th. Here's a blurb:
It’s a time of change for Jori Virtanen. The former playboy model is about to be married. He juggles wedding arrangements, a bachelor party, and plans for keeping the ceremony secret from the press. But Jori has another problem. He has to figure out how to tell one of his best friends, Marc North, that his girlfriend may not be what she appears.This ebook-exclusive short story includes an excerpt from Swing Vote, Safe Harbors #3. Here's a link where you can order it now: 
And Tyrean Martinson's new e-book, ASHES BURN SEASON 1, was recently released. Here's a blurb:
Fantasy, intrigue, and adventure in 30 episodes of hint fiction. Ashes Burn Season 1: Ashes Away follows the lives of Wend, Teresa, and King Bryant as they flee from their past. And here's a few links:
Amazon Smashwords B&N;Tyrean Martinson online: Blog  Facebook  Twitter
And I have a winner to announce. 
And the winner of THE INQUISITOR'S MARK is Peaches Ledwidge!
Congrats! E-mail me your addresses so I can have your books 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 debut author MarcyKate Connolly here to share about her new MG novel MONSTROUS that releases next Tuesday. It’s based on Frankenstein and the Grimm stories. I really sympathized with Kymera, who had to hide her real self because she looked different from everyone else, but was such a kind and good person inside. I’m a sucker for these types of characters.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

The city of Bryre suffers under the magic of an evil wizard. Because of his curse, girls sicken and disappear without a trace, and Bryre’s inhabitants live in fear. No one is allowed outside after dark.

Yet night is the only time that Kymera can enter this dangerous city, for she must not be seen by humans. Her father says they would not understand her wings, the bolts in her neck, or her spiky tail—they would kill her. They would not understand that she was created for a purpose: to rescue the girls of Bryre.

Despite her caution, a boy named Ren sees Kym and begins to leave a perfect red rose for her every evening. As they become friends, Kym learns that Ren knows about the missing girls, the wizard, and the evil magic that haunts Bryre.

And what he knows will change Kym’s life.

Hi MarcyKate! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

I never really thought of myself as a writer until my late 20s. I was always a great reader and I wrote a lot of poetry in junior high and high school, but I never really tried a big project until college when I wrote an opera as the equivalent of my senior thesis. (I went to Hampshire College in Western Massachusetts and they give written evaluations instead of grades there.) I still focused on music for a few years after that, but I began to realize what I loved most about music is that it can tell a story. That got me back into writing, and finally I decided that if I can write a 2-hour opera, I should be able to write an entire novel. So I did, and I haven’t really looked back.

2. Oh, yeah. If you can write a 2-hour opera, I think you can definitely be a writer. I can't even imagine doing that. Where did you get the idea for MONSTROUS?

I’d wanted to write something that involved fairy tales and the Brothers Grimm for a couple years before this particular idea hit me. And when it hit, I was stuck in gridlock traffic during rush hour on the way to Boston for dinner with some friends. It was just the first line – “I will never forget my first breath” – that fell into my head and made the gears start spinning. Who would say that? Why would they say that? Where are they? And suddenly I had the whole first page in my head. I had to jot it down on my iPhone so I wouldn’t forget! I was so taken with the image of this girl just waking up as a monster that I was very distracted the rest of the evening out and kept jotting down possible plot elements on my phone every few minutes. As soon as I got home that evening, I sat down and wrote the first few pages of the book. The funny thing is, that first page has barely changed since the initial spark of inspiration. I added the last line of it later on, but otherwise, it’s exactly the same.

3. Maybe we should all appreciate being stuck in those traffic jams more. Amazing how you nailed the first page the first time. So many of us struggle with that.

I’ve read a guest post where you describe this as “your little weird story.” Why do you describe it that way and what did you find challenging in writing it? What did you learn from this?

Monstrous is my “weird little book” because it was hands down the most rule-breaking manuscript I’d
ever written, with a protagonist who has wings, a tail, and cat’s eyes and claws. She wakes up and falls asleep 3 or 4 times in the first few pages too, which if you read writing rules is supposed to be a huge no-no (but it worked for this particular story, oddly enough!).

I never thought it would go anywhere – it was a story I began writing just for myself and to distract me from the query process with the book before it. I was so protective of Monstrous that it took me months to send it out to my critique partners. I was so afraid no one else would love the book like I did and that it was too strange to succeed. (Turns out, strange was just what I needed!) I revised and tinkered with it obsessively for months and it wasn’t until my critique partners basically told me, you’re being silly, just send it out already, that I finally did.

Because I was writing it for me, the first few drafts were actually quite freeing. It was my 7th novel, so I’d learned the writing “rules” well enough, but decided that some needed to be broken because it made sense for this character to behave that way. I also divided the story into “days” instead of chapters, which was a big challenge (and something I will never do again – it’s a logistical nightmare during revision!). My big takeaway from the process of writing this book was twofold: 1) first and foremost write what you love, even if it seems too strange or crazy to be publishable – it might be just the thing that sets it apart enough to make it. And 2) learn the writing rules and why they’re rules (largely because people use those things as crutches or easy fixes, not to move the plot forward), and then you’ll have a better understanding of when breaking them can work.

4. Those are great tips. Even though others could perceive Kymera as a monster, she really is a sympathetic character. Share a bit about her and her character development.

Kymera is probably my all-time favorite character I ever written. Her development went through a lot of work during the editing process with HarperCollins because while I initially thought the book was YA, it was bought as MG (and rightfully so – best thing to ever happen to it!). She starts out very naïve since she literally wakes up in a new monstrous form at the beginning of the book with no recollection of who she was before. She has to relearn a lot of things, and her father trains her to help save the girls of a nearby city who have been going missing. She has this literal learning curve where she has to go from zero to hero. It’s gradual over the first half of the book, however, there’s a big twist near the middle that changes everything and forces her to grow up fast. In early drafts this is where the book went from MG to YA, and during revisions with my editor, we aged down some of the more mature themes and evened out her voice so the shift was more believable and less dramatic. It was a lot of work to smooth out her character arc, but I’m very pleased with the result!

5. You're not the first person who I've heard has seen their story as YA but when they start working with an agent or editor realize it works better as a MG story. I’ve read you’re a total plotter who uses outlines in writing your stories. What’s your plotting process like?

It mostly consists of me sitting in my writing cave, fingers steepled, spinning in my chair, and cackling. (Kidding! Sort of…). Seriously though, I have a folder full of potential book ideas, some more fleshed out than others. When I first get the spark of an idea that really grabs me, I almost immediately begin brainstorming and jotting down notes about who the main character is, potential plots, setting, fun details, etc. The best ideas are usually a character with a problem and the inciting incident. When I’m ready to add a project to my queue, I’ll go over my notes and plot out the story using a beat sheet (from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat). I find this helpful for two reasons: 1) it keeps my plot focused and 2) I don’t have to plot in order. I can know something cool happens toward the end and work on that, then later go back and figure out how the heck they got there. (I never write in order either). This gives me a roadmap to draft with, but that doesn’t mean I stick to it religiously. My characters almost always decide to do something that surprises me and then I go back to the beat sheet and reassess the plot based on the potential consequences of those actions. (Consequences are my favorite :D)

Added bonus: having a beat sheet prepared is also very useful when it comes time to write a synopsis. Everything you need is already there -- you can just flesh out the details and polish the writing!

6. I need to go back and read his book. I’ve also read that you love Scrivener. Why? 

I’m a HUGE fan of Scrivener. It completely revolutionized my writing life. I used to have to have a ridiculous amount of documents open when writing – beat sheet, outline, browser tabs for research, etc – and now I only need one. Scrivener is a very powerful, versatile piece of software. There are tons of features. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you first try it, and I found that tends to be when a lot of people drop off. There’s seems to be a fair amount of guilt about not using all the features, but honestly I don’t know anyone who does. One of the wonderful things about Scrivener is that it has all these features because humans have different ways of thinking, especially creative types. It’s built so you can customize it to create a process that works best for you and your brain and writing style. For example, there’s a corkboard feature that many people swear by, but I’ve never really found it useful for me. It’s fun to look at, but I’m more of an outliner, so I use that instead. I can input my beats or outline and have all kinds of notes and comments at my fingertips. I can import word docs from my critique partners along with their notes, too. There’s a keyword feature that lets you track themes and plot points, a name generator – I could wax poetic about Scrivener for hours, but you get the idea!

Basically, I love that it keeps me organized and that it’s flexible so I can customize it to fit my own ideal process.

7. Good to know you don't have to learn all its features. Suzie Townsend is your agent. Share how she became your agent and your road to publication.

Monstrous was the 7th novel I wrote, and the 4th I queried. I queried those 3 other books for a combined total of about 3.5 years. I sent well over 300 queries and got hundreds of No in response. The book I queried right before Monstrous had a huge request rate, and the fact that I kept getting rejections in response had me at a very low point and I almost didn’t query Monstrous at all. However, I entered a blog contest (the very first Writer’s Voice contest back in 2012) and the outpouring of writerly love for my first page and query letter from other writers and the judges was exactly the push I needed (in addition to my crit partners telling me I needed to query it!). I started querying all the agents on my A list (usually in the middle of the night when I was feeling brave), and got a great response. I had my first offer on Monstrous in about six weeks. I nudged all the agents currently reading the book and anyone I had queried who hadn’t responded yet. Suzie Townsend was in the latter group – she responded right away to my nudge with a request for the full, read it in 24 hours, and set up a call for the next business day. I did get a 3rd offer as well, but Suzie really impressed me with her enthusiasm for the book and her vision for it matched mine perfectly.

After I signed with her, we did some light revisions and then went on sub after Labor Day. She sent out the manuscript on a Thursday, and by Monday we had interest from a couple publishers and then an offer on Friday. She sold my book in 8 days, which after years and hundreds of No was pretty amazing!

8. Your story is a great reminder of the importance of not giving up. And awesome that your book sold so quickly.  How are you planning to market your book? How has being part of a debut author group helped you in planning marketing and in the year leading up to your book release?

I’m fortunate that the majority of the actual marketing work is being done by my publisher. However, I’m doing guest posts and interviews, a mailing to local libraries and bookstores, swag giveaways, things like that. I’ve also been reaching out to local libraries and getting to know my local bookstores.

I’m part of two debut groups – the Fearless Fifteeners and Class of 2K15. Both have been (and will be!) very useful in navigating the debut year. The Fearless Fifteeners is a larger group and they are fantastic for helping each other out behind the scenes and generally making you feel like you’re not alone in going a bit crazy. There’s a fabulous sense of camaraderie and they also do a lot of consistent social media outreach and promotion for their members which is great.

The Class of 2K15 is a little different. While the Fearless Fifteeners is free and relies on social media for outreach, 2K15 has a membership fee to join and it’s limited to only 20 books. We pool those funds to create a professional website, and do more material marketing such as print mailings and ads in professional publications. We also have committees dedicated to social media planning and events – past classes have had panels at ALA and SCBWI, and we hope to follow in their footsteps!

In short, debut groups are excellent sources of support and can also be an excellent way to get your name and book in front of a wider audience of people. I highly recommend them!

9. Yes, I think you're right that joining debut groups are extremely helpful. What are you working on now?

Too many projects! I’m putting the final touches on my next book, another middle grade fantasy that will be out from HarperCollins in Winter 2016. I’m also currently revising several projects that will hopefully go on sub at some point including a YA contemporary novel and a YA fantasy. And I have several other books in the idea and first draft stage, too!
Thank you so much for having me on your blog! 

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

MarcyKate generously offered a copy of MONSTROUS 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 February 14th. I’ll announce the winner on February 16th. 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 for for US and Canada.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find all the other participating blogs on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

On Wednesday I'll be reviewing Jennifer Nielsen's new MG mythology/fantasy MARK OF THE THIEF and giving away my ARC. Jennifer is one of my favorite authors and I loved this start to her new series. 

Next Monday I'll have an interview with debut author Laurie McKay and a giveaway of her MG fantasy THE LAST DRAGON CHARMER.

The next Monday I have an interview with debut author Rhiannon Thomas and a giveaway of her YA fairy tale retelling A WICKED THING.

The Monday after that I have a guest post by debut author Karen Bao and a giveaway of her science fiction YA DOVE ARISING.

Hope to see you on Monday!


Jemi Fraser said...

Yay for MarcyKate!!! She's completely awesome!
Can't wait to read Monstrous - I know my students will love it too :)
Off to spread the word :)

Janet, said...

This sounds like a great book. I love the cover! Loved the interview with her, it gives us encouragement to keep trying to get our books out there.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

All it takes is one request. That usually spurs many others as agents/publishers start fighting for the manuscript. Congrats, MarcyKate.

Erin Fanning said...

Great interview and tips!

Bish Denham said...

Wow! 8 days! After years of hard work you're an overnight success! Monstrous sounds like a great story.

Elana Johnson said...

Wow, what a motivational story. It is hard to get told no over and over. To see other people get agents and deals and win contests. I'm thrilled for you and can't wait to get Monstrous!!

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Congratulations, MarcyKate! I love how the first line came to you before anything else, and then you had to figure out who was speaking to you! I think it's a fascinating premise. I'd love to win, and I tweeted about the giveaway.

Greg Pattridge said...

Sounds like a unique and wonderful book. Best of luck with this one MarcyKate! I liked reading about her journey of rejection and how she kept pushing forth. Very inspiring.

Eisen said...

Very inspiring! Thank you for sharing your writing journey, MarcyKate. :) I tweeted this post as well: https://twitter.com/eisen5585/status/562266349066403840

Danielle said...

This book looks so fun! Can't wait to check it out and love that cover! Congrats, MarcyKate!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Fun interview, and the covers are fab. Congrats.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that in-depth interview. I was interested to read about Scrivener.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

So impressed that Marcy Kate's first page stayed pretty much the same. My first pages get rewritten a hundred times. I'm also thrilled to hear you didn't give up after all those rejections over the years, and after six other novels. That gives hope to people like me. I'd love to win this book and I tweeted (twice!).

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Scrivener still confuses me.
Glad you didn't have to compromise your story, MarcyKate.

Brenda said...

Very interesting interview. Especially, that the premise/first lines came from a traffic jam, with character coming later. Also enjoyed the insights into Scrivener. Have a great week Natalie.

Angela Brown said...

I really enjoyed the interview. Congrats MarcyKate on your debut and thank you for sharing your story. Inspiration is anywhere, everywhere and sticking to making your dream come true is awesome.

Karen Lange said...

Lots of good news! Thanks for sharing it. :) It's great to meet MarcyKate. Enjoyed getting to know her better through the interview. I like the idea of a rule breaking manuscript. :)

I'll pass on the giveaway. Thanks again and have a great week!

Patchi said...

This sounds like a wonderful book and MarcyKate's story is very inspiring. Thanks for another great interview!

Carl Scott said...

This sounds like a delightful "weird little book" to me. Who needs all those rules and restrictions anyway? Thanks for the chance to win a copy.
I follow your blog by email: carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx
+1 I tweeted a link to this post: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/562344293310791682

Jenni said...

I loved reading MarcyKate's story--so inspiring! All those years of querying and writing really paid off.
Your book sounds so intriguing, MarcyKate! I love its beautiful cover!

Kayla Beck said...

I've seen the book on a few blogs, but I'm very interested after reading the interview. Thanks for the giveaway! <3

Christine Rains said...

Congrats to Donna and Tyrean! And big congrats to MarcyKate! The book sounds like so much fun. Love that cover!

mshatch said...

I love the premise for Monstrous and I loved hearing MarcyKate's story of how it came to be. Thanks :)

Susan T. said...

I love the cover so much and it sounds like such a great story!
My tweet: https://twitter.com/suekitty13/status/562431866108526594
email: sueterendy at hotmail dot com

J Lenni Dorner said...

Great interview. The book looks really interesting. I love the cover. I have heard of that writing program before, but have yet to try it. Sounds cool though.

Jessica Lawson said...

I've been dying to read this one since I first heard about it (and OMG, I adore that cover)! Loved the interview, thanks ladies!

Rosi said...

I have been passing on a lot of giveaways since I'm always buried in books, but I would love to have my name in the hat for this one. It sounds terrific. Thanks for this interview. Very inspiring and interesting.

Unknown said...

Yes, yes, and yes on the rule-breaking! When I finally pitched out all the rules for my own writing, I finally found my voice. Every author should do this! Thanks for the opportunity with the giveaway. I tweeted this, too! tlcnine at gmail.com.

Stephen Tremp said...

Good luck to Marcykate. I like to hear when writers persevere and finally their querying pays off with an agent and being picked up by a major publisher.

Robyn Campbell said...

WOW, a sweetheart story if I ever heard one. So happy for you.I'm a rule-breaker too. After all, that's what rules were meant for. :-) I'll look for your book. It sounds like just my cup of tea. Best wishes, Marcykate. LOVE your name.

Danielle H. said...

I loved when you told about the first line of your book and how you just had to write it and it wouldn't leave you alone. Thanks for sharing your story and for the giveaway! I shared on twitter: https://twitter.com/dhammelef/status/562676564325052416

Gwen Gardner said...

Enjoyed reading your process very much. Very thorough! Congratulations MarcyKate! I really want to read this now. I might even try Scrivener again. LOL.

I Tweeted! Hope it helps.

Hi Natalie! Hope you're doing well. Good for you on getting to exercise class. I'm trying to get motivated.

Valerie Bodden said...

Sounds like a great book--and an inspiring story of the road to publication! Glad you kept at it! Thanks for the giveaway. valbodden(at)gmail(dot)com.

Carina Olsen said...

Yay :D Great post sweetie. <3 I adored Monstrous SO MUCH :D And MarcyKate is all kinds of amazing. <3 This interview is awesome :) Thank you both for sharing. <3

Jeri Baird said...

MONSTROUS sounds amazing! Thanks for the encouragement - I'm at that discouraged stage now. It was helpful to read your journey.

Peaches Ledwidge said...

Yippee! I really wanted that book, so I'm glad to have won it.

SStokes said...

I'm so excited for you, MarcyKate! I've tracked this story since I saw it making the query rounds on Agent Query Connect, and I'm thrilled to finally see it out in the world. Also, I'm dying to read the final version. Congrats!

Unknown said...

When I saw this book on Edelweiss, I had a good feeling about it. Something told me this would be great. And I'm so glad I followed my guts with this one. Monstrous is amazing!
Top rated Buy Diesel Engines

DMS said...

Oooh- I have been seeing Monstrous around. Great to learn more about it and to hear from the author. What a cover! Thanks so much for sharing this with us! :)

Kayla Murray said...

I've never read it but with the interview and the description this sounds like an amazing book that is right up my alley! :)

M said...

Congratulations! I am having a similar experience- I haven't written anything since my first semester in college and I recently thought of a line that popped into my head before I went to sleep one night and decided to go out and grab my notebook to bring it to bed with me. I ended up not turning on the bedroom light so as not to wake up my fiance... and I ended up with an awesome first chapter that was written sideways in the dark! (Luckily almost all of it ended up on the page.)

I can't wait to read Monstrous. I've been waiting to get my hands on it since I saw the '15 debuts all over Goodreads! theindigoshelf at gmail dot com

Michael G-G said...

Loved this interview. We hear a lot about perseverance, and I enjoy stories where success actually happens when a writer refuses to quit. Looking forward to picking up MONSTROUS!

Charlotte said...

Thanks for the interview! this is one I most definitely want to read...

Anonymous said...

Great interview and looks like an awesome read. Thank you for the giveaway. I also appreciated reading about your publishing journey.

Liz Brooks said...

Thanks for featuring MONSTROUS. I always love hearing about rule-breaking books.

Holly Letson said...

I am loving the cover of *Monstrous*.