Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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  • Caroline Trussell Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 5/20/2024
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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! Today I’m thrilled to have debut author Breeana Shields here to share about her YA fantasy POSION’S KISS. I love the premise of this book—that a girl kills with kisses.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

A teenage assassin kills with a single kiss until she is ordered to kill the one boy she loves. This commercial YA fantasy is romantic and addictive like-- a poison kiss-- and will thrill fans of Sarah J. Maas and Victoria Aveyard.

Marinda has kissed dozens of boys. They all die afterward. It s a miserable life, but being a visha kanya a poison maiden is what she was created to do. Marinda serves the Raja by dispatching his enemies with only her lips as a weapon.

Until now, the men she was ordered to kiss have been strangers, enemies of the kingdom. Then she receives orders to kiss Deven, a boy she knows too well to be convinced he needs to die. She begins to question who she s really working for. And that is a thread that, once pulled, will unravel more than she can afford to lose.

This rich, surprising, and accessible debut is based in Indian folklore and delivers a story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Hi Breeana! Thanks so much for joining us.

Thanks so much for having me!

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

I’ve wanted to be a writer since elementary school, but a few years ago, I finally realized it was never going to happen until I made the time. I kept thinking I’d get to it someday, but really, I was letting the years pass without getting any closer. So, I decided to get serious and start writing toward publication. The first novel I finished got very close to getting me an agent, but it wasn’t quite ready. My second manuscript was Poison’s Kiss and I’m happy to say it found both an agent and a publisher.

2. That's awesome that you got so close to getting an agent with your first book. Where did you get the idea for your story, including the idea of the poison kisses?

I got the idea for the book while listening to a lecture series on espionage. The instructor mentioned a legendary figure in Indian folklore called a poison damsel (visha kanya in Sanskrit). These were women who were fed bits of poison from birth until they were immune, but deadly to everyone else. It was just a tiny portion of the lecture, only mentioned in passing, but it made my imagination take off in all kinds of different directions. When I couldn’t stop thinking about it a few months later, I knew I had my next story idea.

3. Love where you got your idea. It shows how ideas for stories are all around us! What was your world building process like and did you base it even loosely on a country like India?

Because the legend of the visha kanya came from India, it was important to me that whatever fantasy world I built reflected that. I did quite a bit of research, including reading dozens of folktales from all different parts of India, as well as researching its various cultures and languages. That provided a good jumping off point for the rest of my world-building. My goal wasn’t for Sundari to be an exact replica of India—there are many differences—but for it to pay homage to the origins of the visha kanya.

4. I met my husband in India so have a soft spot for all books set there. 😍 Reviewers have described this as a fast-paced story that they read in a day or two. It sounds like a page turner. Describe how you set the pace of the story and how you kept it up so that the reader wants to keep turning the pages.

Elmore Leonard advises writers to “skip boring parts”. I think it’s a great tip and it’s pretty much how I approach pacing. As a reader, I don’t like to be bogged down with too much info-dumping and scenes that don’t move the story forward, and I tend to write the same way.

5. I don't like boring parts either. Share a bit about Marinda. She sounds like a complicated character.

Marinda is full of contradictions. She’s deadly, which makes her enormously powerful, but she’s also
been kept extremely isolated and ignorant about her role in her kingdom, which makes her vulnerable. The combination of those two things was a really fascinating thing to explore as I wrote Poison’s Kiss.

6. Your agent is Kathleen Rushall. Tell us how she became your agent.

I found my agent (who is fantastic and wonderful!) through good old-fashioned querying. Kathleen requested the full manuscript and was in the process of reading when I got an offer of representation on the book from another agent. I informed all the agents who had the manuscript that I had interest and once Kathleen finished reading, she called and offered as well.

I spoke with several different agents before I made my decision—all of whom were amazing—but Kathleen’s vision of the manuscript was really spot on. She understood so well what I was trying to do and how to make the book better, that I knew she would be the perfect partner.

7. Good to know how old-fashioned querying still works. What was your submission process like?

Submission requires copious amount of patience and chocolate! In some ways it’s easier than querying—you finally aren’t going it alone because you have an agent on your side—but in other ways it’s harder. You have to cede control of the process to someone else and trust her to have your back. Luckily, my agent is amazing and kept me in the loop through every stage of the process. Getting the phone call that we had an offer was one of the best days ever.

8. Yes, the loss of control in the whole process of getting a book published can be challenging. What’s something that has surprised you about this last year leading up to your debut?

How easy it is to get bogged down in stress and promotion and forget to really enjoy the fact that this lifelong dream is actually coming true. My advice to any debut author would be this: while you’re trudging up the hill toward publication, don’t forget to turn around occasionally so you can see how far you’ve come and enjoy the breathtaking view that you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

9. That is such great advice. What is something about the way you’re promoting your book that you’re excited about?

I don’t know if it’s anything I’m doing, per se, but one of the most exciting things about the promotion period leading up to publication has been having Advance Reader Copies go out to bloggers and reviewers and then having many of them respond well to the book. Not every novel is every reader’s cup of tea, but the readers who really love Poison’s Kiss, make it all worth it.

10. What are you working on now?

I’m in the final stage of editing the sequel to Poison’s Kiss, and then I’m turning to another fantasy set in a totally different world that I’m very excited about.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Breeana. You can find Breeana at breeanashields.com or follow her on Twitter at @BreeanaShields.

Breanna has generously offered a copy of POISON'S KISS for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower anyway you want and leave a comment through January 28th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

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. The giveaway is for U.S.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday January 30th, debut author Celeste Lin will be here doing a guest post with her agent Rosemary Stimola and a giveaway of Celeste's MG THE BRIDE FROM HUNAN

Monday February 6th, debut author Dana Langer will be doing a guest post with a giveaway of her MG fantasy SIREN SISTERS

Monday February 13th debut author Elly Blake will be here doing a guest post with her agent Suzie Townsend with a giveaway of Elly's YA fantasy FROSTBLOOD and a a query critique giveaway by Suzie

Monday February 20th debut author Ali Standish will be doing a guest post with a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE ETHAN I WAS BEFORE

Hope to see you on Monday!


Unknown said...

The book sounds great, hope to get a chance to read it; following GFC: smurfette/lisa brown
jslbrown2009 at aol dot com

Unknown said...

I've been hearing so much buzz for this book! Thank you for the chance! I follow through blog lovin (Kat vela) and my email is katvela09 at gmail dotcom

S.P. Bowers said...

Nice to meet you Breeana. Congrats on the book!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Congrats, Breaeana. You were fortunate to have so many offers - yo were able to pick just the right agent.

Karen Lange said...

Nice to meet you, Breeana. Enjoyed reading about your writing journey. Love the advice about skipping the boring parts. :)

Natalie, appreciate you hosting, and always bringing us great info. I'll pass on the giveaway this time. Have a great week!

Greg Pattridge said...

Great, almost smooth road to being published. Thanks for sharing, Breeana. The book sounds very creepy. My dad always warned me of thee types of girls when I was in high school! I'll let someone else win as I have a stack of books to read for the next six months.

Ellie said...

Congrats on your book! Poison's Kiss sounds amazing, can't wait to read it! :)

jpetroroy said...

Congrats! Can't wait to read this.

Bish Denham said...

I love it when an author takes an obscure piece of history/mythology and turns it into a novel! Congratulations, Breeana! Sounds like a book I'd enjoy reading.

I've tweeted.

Christine Rains said...

Congrats to Breeana! The book sounds unique and amazing. I do love myths in stories too.

Brenda said...

Poison's Kiss sounds amazing, congratulations on its release.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

What a fascinating premise! And congratulations to Breanna on her amazing journey to acquire an agent. Kathleen Rushall is definitely one of the best.

Cherie Reich said...

Congrats, Breeana! I love when a snippet of information comes in and excites the imagination to create a new story. Poison's Kiss sounds excellent!

cleemckenzie said...

Congratulations to Breeana. Love that cover, but hate snakes, so I'm torn about holding it while reading in bed at night. All kinds of images flash in my head.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Congrats to Breeana. I love the premise of the story. Too bad it's not an audiobook.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You have to remember to enjoy the ride. That's why you signed up for this crazy gig.

mshatch said...

Congratulations Breeana! I love Indian folklore :)

Sussu said...

The premise makes me think of The Nine Lives of Chloe King. I just love the story and was sad the TV show didn't last long. Would love to read this book no matter what.

Unknown said...

Thanks for a great interview. So encouraging that Breeana found representation the old fashioned way! Please enter me in the drawing monicachess26(@)gmail(.)com

Courtney said...

The premise made me think of His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers. I loved that series! Can't wait to read this book!!

DMS said...

I loved hearing where the idea for the book came from. I can see why that tidbit from the lecture stayed with Breeana. Definitely fascinating! Congratulations on the release and thanks for sharing your story with us. :)

M Pax said...

It's great Breena was able to find an agent that she works so well with, and a very cool idea for a story.

Megan said...

Congratulations Breeana! I can't wait to read this book! I love where you got the idea for the book. It's always great when something said in passing or wasn't too important to whoever was talking sparks a great idea in you! Thank you for the interview! mcoppadge07@yahoo.com

Patchi said...

What a wonderful interview! I think this is one of the most creative premises I've read in a while. Adding it to my TBR :)

Danielle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danielle said...

This book sounds really intriguing! Thanks for doing the interview - it's nice to hear some of those ideas fleshed out a little more before diving in :) deduvick (at) gmail (dot) com

Danielle H. said...

I love the cover and idea of this book. The poison immunity reminds of one of my favorite movies Princess Bride, but I never had a story idea come out of it. I must start keeping more open to everything around me for ideas. Thanks for sharing today. I posted to my tumblr blog.

Linda Romer said...

Poisons Kiss sounds great! Looking forward to reading this book Thank you

Natasha said...

Poison Kiss sounds like a great read!!
Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Stephanie Faris said...

Congrats to Breeana! I agree...boring parts suck.

Valerie Bodden said...

Congratulations! Sounds like a great read! Thanks for the giveaway. valbodden(at)gmail(dot)com

Crystal Collier said...

The book sounds fabulous. I too have a soft spot for books set in India. My hubby and I would like to live there for a short time after the kids are out of the house--and not just because we love the food.

K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

I love that Elmore Leonard quote, too. I do my best to follow it. Wishing Breeana much success!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Congrats to Breanna! I love the background idea behind the story and it sounds like a great read!

Lisa Mandina said...

I love hearing about how authors write or come up with ideas. Great interview. I'm a GFC follower, and I tweeted about this post here: https://twitter.com/Buffywnabe/status/825806368602992640

Also, my email address is LisaLovesLiterature at gmail dot com.

Unknown said...

Sounds like a great book, and thanks for the giveaway! I mentioned it on twitter: https://twitter.com/RaynaReveur/status/825840637924765696

And my email is raynareveur@gmail.com

Ruth Schiffmann said...

Thanks for this great interview, Breeana and Natalie. I always love hearing about where a writer's idea came from and how it evolved. And you can never hear too many "how I got my agent" stories.

Darlene said...

Just popping by to say that this 2017 debut is the one that I'm most looking forward to!! I'm in Canada, so not eligible for the giveaway but looking forward to reading this!! It's on my Wishlist :)

Unknown said...

I'd love to check this book out!