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! Today I'm excited to have debut author Laurie Forest here to share about her YA fantasy THE BLACK WITCH. I've always been intrigued by apothecaries.

Here's a blurb from Goodreads:

Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother's legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of misfits…if only she can find the courage to trust those she's been taught to hate and fear.

Now here's Laurie!


About eight years ago, the last thing you would have found me reading is fantasy fiction. I’d never sought out the genre, and preferred to read non-fiction almost exclusively. I was finishing up a series of non-fiction books about Afghanistan when my then pre-teen daughters started putting HARRY POTTER in front of me.

            “No thank you,” I told them, humoring their dogged efforts. “Those are kids’ books, but I’m glad you’re enjoying them.”

            They refused to give up.

            Finally, after watching them devour the books, dress up like characters in the books, style birthday parties around the books and get so excited about the movies, I broke down and cracked open the first book.

            I read through the entire series in a less than two months.

            I was instantly hooked. And stunned that J.K. Rowling was able to tackle so many serious
issues so effectively (and inspiringly) in a metaphorical/fantasy way. I started to read every YA fantasy book my kids handed me, and then some.

            During this time, as I was immersing myself in vivid stories of dragons and werewolves and witches and wizards, a dramatic, real-life story was going on around us here in Vermont – the fight for marriage equality. My husband and I were involved in supporting marriage equality, which was a surprisingly hard battle. Prejudice I never knew existed came out of the woodwork against LGBTQ friends, completely blindsiding me.

This real-life story did have a happy ending - Vermont legalized marriage equality in 2009. But the darkness I had witnessed reverberated in my mind. It set me mulling over prejudice in more general terms (religion-based, gender-based, etc.) as I was reading THE GOLDEN COMPASS series. The spark of a story lit inside me - a fantasy story where people with wings are rejected by pretty much every religion/culture for no sound reason save tradition. On a lark, I started writing that first scene down and found myself as instantly hooked by writing as I had been by fantasy fiction (it felt like magic). My fledgling story rapidly found its own trajectory and rapidly veered off into pure fantasy territory.

That first year of writing was a fertile, breathtakingly exciting one. I wrote almost every day and at the end of the year I had a 1,200 page book (which was later to become Book One and Book Two of the upcoming BLACK WITCH CHRONICLES). I joined a writing group. They loved my hot mess of a rough draft and pushed me to consider publication (which, at the time, I thought was pie-in-the-sky ridiculous). About a year later I landed my wonderful agent, Carrie Hannigan at Hannigan, Salky & Getzler. And the rewriting began.

Over the span of about eight years I re-wrote the manuscript well over thirty times with countless revisions of sections. About 400 pages of material were thrown out and about an equal amount was added. And there were rejections from prospective publishers - a lot of them (and it was a good thing as the story wasn’t ready and I had a lot to learn about writing). I joined a second group of writers/beta readers. I joined the Burlington Writers’ Workshop.

Advice for new writers? Try to write every day. My favorite writing quote is “the muse can’t resist a working writer” and I think that’s very true. If you show up, your muse will show up. Read as much as you can. And do the things that inspire you – movies, museums, listening to conversations in coffee shops, going to plays, meandering in the forest – whatever those things are that set your imagination firing. And after that – join a writing group. You’ll have as much fun watching other people’s novels take shape as you will seeing your own book come to life.

It’s a magical journey – and you’ll come up with a story you could have never predicted. The thrill of discovery is half the fun of it. Enjoy!

You can find Laurie at:

Laurie has generously offered an ARC of THE BLACK WITCH 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 May 20th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either 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 years old or older to enter. This is for U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

Wednesday, May 10th I've got an agent spotlight interview with Lorin Oberweger and a query critique giveaway

Monday, May 15th I've got a guest post by debut author Erin Beaty and her agent Valerie Noble with a query critique giveaway by Valerie and a giveaway of Erin's YA fantasy THE TRAITOR'S KISS

Monday, May 22nd I've got an interview with Kat Zhang and a giveaway of her new MG THE EMPEROR'S RIDDLE

Wednesday, May 24th I've got an agent spotlight interview with Alyssa Jennette and a query critique giveaway

Monday, May 31st I'll be off for Memorial day

Hope to see you on Wednesday!


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Interesting you wrote in a genre you used to never read.

Bish Denham said...

Isn't it wonderful how when you open yourself up to new things (reading fantasy) wonderful new things come to you? Congratulations, Laurie!

I've tweeted about the giveaway.

Christine Rains said...

Congratulations to Laurie! Love the cover of the book and the quote about a working writer.

Brenda said...

Wonderful that your daughters enticed you into reading and then you in turn began writing fantasy. Must be fun to share your books together. Congratulations.

Stephanie Faris said...

Congrats to Laurie. That cover really draws you in!

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Congratulations to Laurie! How great that her kids and Harry Potter got her interested in fantasy. And that the fight for marriage equality played a part in her journey.

Suzanne Warr said...

I love that advice, and I think I'll put that quote somewhere, to remind me of how to make myself irresistible to my muse! Many congrats, Laurie, and thank you both for this post!

Eileen said...

Fun guest post! J.K. Rowling pulls everyone' in ;)

Kristin Lenz said...

And all those years of reading and revising paid off - congrats on the starred reviews!

cleemckenzie said...

Interesting story about how you succumbed to fantasy! As to the "write everyday" I set that intention in the morning and hit it almost 90% of the time. Hate it when I can't get at least some words on the page.

Greg Pattridge said...

What a great post on the writing of this book. Writing and reading can bring many surprises to the direction your books take. The end result sounds like a great read. Let someone else win as I'm waste deep in MG right now.

Meigan Z. said...

Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling do seem to have that neat little trick of sucking readers in to the series in a matter of a few pages, as I'm sure most of us fantasy lovers can attest to. Super interview, and I'm certainly looking forward to The Black Witch.

(Email is TabbieCat576@aol.com)

lindalou said...

I'm a follower (email: lindalou (at) cfl (dot) rr (dot) com)
AND I tweeted (https://twitter.com/linda_lindalou/status/861919515696877568) for an extra entry.
I loved the Harry Potter books and still do... It carries over as We enjoy going to Universal Orlando (we have annual passes) and immersing ourselves in the HP world there. I love witchy stories!!!!! Thanks for the giveaway!

ZaraAlexis said...

I originally subscribed to your blog by email, but I also just followed you through Google. Crossing my fingers to win a copy of THE BLACK WITCH! Thanks for the chance. It looks like a good read and another I'd like to add to my personal library.

Zara Garcia-Alvarez

Tyrean Martinson said...

Yes, when we show up to write every day, the muse starts to hang around and have tea with us, and eventually she sits on the side of the keyboard and helps. However, she's easily offended when we miss ... at least that's my imaginative way of seeing the difference between when I write regularly and when I don't.
Great thoughts on writing! The Black Witch sounds like a great read.

Danielle H. said...

Thanks for the advice for writers. I feel guilty and get down on myself when life seems to take over precious writing time, so I try to do something at least related to writing, including your well-filling ideas. I shared on my tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/160486246817/laurie-forest-guest-post-and-the-black-witch

Natasha said...

The Black Witch sounds like an amazing read!!
Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Rosi said...

Very nice post on writing methods. Thanks for that. Please let someone else win, though. Still buried here.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to check it out! Thanks for the chance!

Taffy said...

Interesting story idea!


Megan said...

I'D LOVE TO ENTER! megan(dot)clarsach@gmail.com